Friday, August 31, 2007

Not What I Had Expected

The original purpose of this blog was to post musings on life in and around Trenton. The idea was to be a digital representation of what one might be thinking about while observing the world. Hopefully there would be some discussion (via comments), but mostly just an expression of those rambling ideas and fleeting inspirations that come from everyday experience.

The blog was never intended to be as political as it has gotten. And it wasn't meant to dwell on the ample negatives and sometimes preposterous situations that seem to arise every few minutes.

So it isn't really surprising that there was an unsettling sense of disappointment sitting on my shoulders after reading this morning's newspapers. No murders overnight (thankfully!); no additional Newark Police Department refugee retirees landing lucrative gigs here in T-town (so far); and no new revelations about underhanded doings in the school system or city hall. Even our city council members seem to be at peace with each other for the moment.

There were also no ads of public apology from outspoken citizens to thin-skinned public officials in either of the local dailies (but there is a very clever advertisement for placing one in the September Downtowner). We're all waiting with baited breath for that next development.

There was a dog-baiting incident in Mill Hill Park last evening that left one animal seriously wounded (and reportedly it had to be euthanized) and could probably be expounded upon in this space. Certainly that is fodder for thought and commentary, but we don't want to rile up one of Trenton's "most decorated scribes" and get another sermon on how Trenton (especially here in "toney" Mill Hill) don't care about the right things or the right people.

Maybe inspiration can be found elsewhere this morning.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Are You A High Roller?

Here's an interesting item found on

Six AC councilmen petition for mayor's recall
by South Jersey News Online

Thursday August 30, 2007, 7:01 AM

ATLANTIC CITY -- Six of this city's nine city council members have signed a petition seeking the recall of Mayor Bob Levy, according to The Press of Atlantic City.

Displeasure with Levy's administration drove creation of the "Atlantic City Committee to Recall Bob Levy," When asked why he signed, Councilman Gene Robinson cited his frustration with Levy's strong support of city Business Administrator Domenic Cappella. Robinson said Levy has turned over city administration to Cappella, "who is letting evil rule his life."

Can you imagine a City Council so fed up with a heavy handed administration that two thirds of it's members opt to form a recall committee for the Mayor?

Talk to anyone in the know at Trenton's City Hall and ultimately a couple of names will be mentioned as the primary source of "evil" within those hallowed walls. These individuals are appointees of the Mayor and he has seemed to abdicate much of his authority to them.

Do you think five of our seven Council members would sign on to a Mayoral Recall movement? Odds are against it since three of the seven explicitly owe their seats to the Mayor's support.

Better odds on winning the MegaMillions. Then if you're still around next election cycle (2010), you can buy your way into City Hall.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fabulous Matching Luggage

In the beginning, there was Joe Santiago: A former Police Director in Newark where he'd risen through the ranks while currying favor with longtime Mayor, State Senator and erstwhile political heavyweight Sharpe James. Despite steady rumblings of questionable associates and less than exemplary behavior, Mr. Santiago was placed in charge of the NJ State Police. Alas, his tenure at the helm of that respected body was marked with accusations of rule bending and more inappropriate behaviors that eventually lead to his dismissal. Like a multi-lived feline, Mr. Santiago resurfaced in February 2003 as the Police Director in Trenton. None less than the esteemed (and since indicted) Mayor James came to the City Council advice and consent hearing to speak on behalf of Mr. Santiago.

A couple of years later, Retired Newark Police Captain Barry Colicelli was given a contract as a special consultant to Trenton Mayor Palmer. The contract appears to be very lucrative: a city police car at Mr. Colicelli's disposal; an office in City Hall with his name on the door; equipment and staff. Mr. Colicelli reportedly does other consulting work as well and may or may not use the City of Trenton supplied and paid for vehicle and gas to get to and from those jobs as well. Mr. Colicelli's credentials as an expert on Gangs have been questioned by skeptics and his financial difficulties have been documented.

Neither Mr. Santiago nor Mr. Colicelli, by the way, live in the City of Trenton. Certainly, the Police Director is supposed to, but all pretense at having a Trenton residence has been dropped by Mr. Santiago. Regardless of where they live, they seem to have been able to relieve themselves of the burden and drop their baggage at the door to City Hall

Now, in the latest round of accepting Newark Police Department cast-offs, the City of Trenton has announced that the new director of the Communications Division (aka "the radio room") will be one Irving Bradley. Mr. Bradley was the Newark Police Chief for two years after being appointed to the position by former Mayor Sharpe James. Bradley retired last year just before current Mayor, Cory Booker, took office.

As with Mr. Santiago and Mr. Colicelli, it seems as though Mr. Bradley comes well equipped with his own load of baggage. Seems as though Mr. Bradley had a little trouble back in 1998 when Rahway Police found him behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Mr. Bradley tried to elude capture by the Police and assaulted an officer when ultimately caught and subdued.

Oh, and it should be mentioned that Mr. Bradley worked in the Newark Police Professional Standards office at the time of this incident. Move over Capt. Messina, you've got competition.

One has to wonder just how the City of Trenton seeks and screens candidates for these leadership positions. Are court records and allegations a requirement? Does a police record help?

Are there no other candidates out there other than retired Newark Police Officers?

Or maybe the Mayor is just trying to collect a complete set of matching luggage from all the baggage his appointees bring with them. I guess he needs it for all his clothes and his out sized ego.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

But What About the Cap?

In yet another example economic silliness, much is being made about the dispute between Mayor "Dapper Doug" Palmer and Broad Street Bank developer Richard Libbey over the amount of rental units available to lower income renters.

The Mayor wants to hold the line at 20% of the units being less than market rate.

The Developer says the market won't support that ratio and wants 40% of the units made available at the lower rental rate.

The Mayor argues that a larger percentage of people who can afford the higher rents will benefit downtown Trenton with their disposable income spent in local restaurants and businesses.

Mr. Libbey counters that the businesses currently downtown will not attract the disposable dollars of the higher income tenants.

What is not being addressed in this standoff is the question of the income cap for renting apartments in the Broad Street Bank building.

That's right...if you were so inclined to rent and move into one of the apartments with those spectacular views of Mill Hill Park, Downtown Trenton and beyond, you had better not make too much money. The funding provided by the State of New Jersey (specifically the NJ Housing Mortgage and Finance Authority) comes with a restriction that applies even to the "unrestricted" apartments.

Tenants cannot earn more than seven times their rent. That is to say, for a top of the line $1500.00 per month apartment in the Broad Street Bank building, must earn less than $126,000 per year.

So, if we want residents to move into the city who can not only afford to live here but have money to spend supporting local businesses, services and restaurants what is the sense in arguing about how many or how few units are "affordable" on the low end of the rent scale in the Broad Street Bank?

As it stands right now we could have a line of millionaires that stretches from Hopewell to Princeton Junction who all want to live in the Broad Street Bank building (I can dream can't I?) but the rules of the NJHMFA would prohibit them from leasing an apartment there.

Now that makes real sense, doesn't it?!?!?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Golden Swan Lays Golden Egg for Developer

Once upon a time there was an early 19th Century building of historical significance located in downtown Trenton. After having served at various times as a tavern, newspaper office, appliance store, locksmith’s shop, etc. it sat vacant for over a decade.

Along came former NJ Senator Robert Torricelli and his real estate development company, Woodrose Properties, to step in to save the long vacant “Golden Swan” (aka “Caola Building”) at W. Front and S. Warren Streets.

Please hold your “huzzahs.”

Yes, it is a positive step forward in preserving a landmark downtown building. But at what cost?

Before Woodrose/Torricelli came along another developer had gotten the rights to the historic property. Enterprise Real Estate Services, Inc., an affiliate of the well-known and highly successful Rouse Company, was very interested in preserving, renovating and revitalizing that down-at-the-heels site in 2002.

Everyone was excited to have such a respected company come to town and do their magic. Best of all, Enterprise representatives said they were not intending to seek tax abatements on the project.

The banners were unfurled, the trumpets blared and the drums were beaten. Signs were hung from the building’s facade. It was the perfect follow-up to the then soon to open Marriott and just what was needed to turn the corner for that part of downtown and Trenton touted it as only Trenton can.

As the story goes, the developer went back to the city and asked for some help with the demolition of a 20th Century addition at the rear of the building, plus some other remediation/stabilization work. Specifically, the City declined to fund some/all of the needed work to the tune of about $500,000.00

Now remember, the developer was going to buy the building and wasn’t going to ask for tax abatements.

The City Father’s balked. The Developer walked.

In March of 2005 Woodrose comes in and gets the property for $1 (the city paid $164,000 for it a few years earlier) plus a five year tax abatement equaling 15% of annual gross revenues once a Certificate of Occupancy is issued. And the demo and remediation work were done at the City’s expense.

At about the same time, Woodrose/Torricelli purchased some property on West State Street, not too far from the Golden Swan. Plans were announced to redevelop those buildings for office space.

Work started and the Golden Swan started looking good. Progress was noted on the West State Street properties. The Mayor was happy. The Once and Future Acting Housing and Economic Development Director, Dennis Gonzalez, was happy. The Developer was happy. Signs went up, trumpets blared, yadda-yadda.

On August 17, 2006 Trenton’s City Council approved the granting of $89,000.00 in Urban Enterprise Zone funds to Woodrose Properties (a for-profit, private developer) for the installation of an elevator in the West State Street project. The vote was 6 to 1 in favor of the appropriation. The lone “No” vote belongs to West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue.

The argument made by the Administration in favor of the funding: “The as yet uncompleted project is fully leased.” As of the last time we checked that building was still vacant.

What wasn’t said, but should have been made clear to the Council and the general public was the fact that this Private, For-Profit Developer has as one of the principals former Senator Robert Torricelli. The same Robert Torricelli who was caught up in a fund-raising scandal that cost him his Senate seat.

Interestingly, in the year immediately preceding the May 9 Municipal Elections, the Torricelli for US Senate, Inc. contributed $6,000.00 to the Mayor’s re-election campaign. Additionally, in April of 2006 the former Senator’s ex-wife contributed $2,500.00 to the Mayor’s campaign and another $2,5000.00 to the Joint Committee to re-elect the Palmer slate of At-Large candidates. In total, $11,000.00 was contributed to re-election campaigns.

Is it coincidental that $89,000.00 in Urban Enterprise Zone funds that could have been spread around to help many more businesses was contributed by the city to Woodrose? And is it equally coincidental that an estimated half a million dollars worth of demolition and remediation work was financed by the city plus a five year tax abatement granted to Woodrose’s “Golden Swan” project? A project, by the way that will probably also qualify for Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

All of this City financed largesse was given to a Private, For-Profit Developer and a principal in that developer is former Senator Robert Torricelli.

It’s no fairy tale.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now isn't that interesting.

The Times had the following story on their webiste tonight (Thursday) and promised a print version in Friday's paper.

City condo development awaits council nod
Posted by The Times of Trenton August 23, 2007 9:57PM
Categories: Development, News
TRENTON -- Builder K. Hovnanian is just a vote away from receiving a tax exemption that would enable it to pay the city a fixed amount of taxes on the former Champale brewery site and other properties, where a condo development is planned, rather than full taxes for 10 years.
The city council recently introduced an ordinance that would grant Hovnanian a 10-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the Villages at Delaware Run, an 84-unit project bordered by Lamberton, Cliff, Lalor and Centre streets.
Under the PILOT, Hovnanian would pay the city 2 percent of the total project cost annually for 10 years instead of full property taxes. That translates into 2 percent of the sale price of an individual unit and 2 percent of the value of the development's common area. The payments would start when a certificate of occupancy is issued.
The project is expected to cost a little more than $20 million.
Dennis Gonzalez, city assistant business administrator, said he expects the city to received an estimated $400,000 a year in payment in lieu of taxes. That is 20 times the amount the city now receives in taxes for the properties acquired by the city through eminent domain, and the properties acquired privately by Hovnanian, Gonzalez said.
See Friday's Times for more on this story.
Contributed by Eva Loayza

Now a couple of things come to mind:

First, is Dennis Gonzalez being the spokesman for the city on this? As reported in the article, Dennis' current title is Assistant Business Administrator. My question is, why is an "assistant" speaking on behalf of the administration regarding this tax abatement? Why not the Business Administrator or the Director of Housing and Economic Development?

Second, why is the tax abatement or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) being proposed.

It is understood that these PILOT's are offered to developers to sweeten the deal and make it attractive to do their work in the city. Similarly, homeowners who make substantial improvements to their properties are entitled (and encouraged) to apply for a five year tax abatement.

What is interesting about the K. Hovnanian proposal is the sentence in the article that reads:
"The payments would start when a certificate of occupancy is issued."

So if a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is not issued, does that mean that no taxes or PILOTS are due? And if that is the case, what about the Nexus Development in Mill Hill where we live? My understanding is that, after two years, the City has not issued CO's to at least some of the owners of the property. So is Nexus or the Sussman family that controls the company making the appropriate tax or PILOT payments?

I'd like a direct and swift response to that question.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How's That Again?

A man received a gunshot wound in a scuffle that was the result of an armed robbery just after midnight, Tuesday morning (August 21). Crime Stoppers of Greater Trenton is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the individuals responsible for the crime (reportedly four youths).

A quick review of the Crime Stoppers website provided an eye opener even for this jaded soul.

The organization has listed over 50 crimes that it is offering cash rewards for. Those 50 crimes only go back five months to late March of this year! That's 10 crimes a month that are serious enough to warrant a special cash incentive to bring forward information that can help solve them.

That's an average of one violent and/or serious crime every three days!

And that's just from one source of information...the Crime Stoppers website.

Odds are there is even a greater number of serious crimes that have occurred that haven't made it onto the Crime Stoppers list. Or that haven't been reported to the Police. Or have been reported but have been classified in a less serious manner.

But let's just stick with the 50 crimes on the website. Fifty crimes in 150 days. One every three days.

If crime is down, what was the old average number of serious crimes committed in the City of Trenton?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who'll Stop the Rain

Well we need it. We've been a little shy on rainfall this summer (but not for the year to date) and the extreme heat of the past couple of weeks didn't help. So we really can't complain about a couple of days of grey, wet weather. It's good for the ducks and the mushrooms.

Speaking of know the old joking way of referring to people left out of the loop on decision making as mushrooms because they are "kept in the dark and fed a diet of manure." Well, sometimes I feel like Trenton is being run like a big mushroom farm.

The leadership of this city is deeply mired in the habit of tightly controlling what it wants people to know and when. And this might not be all bad in theory, but in practice, so far, it pretty much sucks.

Councilman Coston has reported on his blog that directives have been sent out stating that City Council people are not to address concerns with City Department Heads directly and, conversely, Department Heads are not to respond to City Council people directly. All communication, we're told, is to go through the Mayor's Office of Citizen Concerns.

Does that seem odd to you? If City Council people have to take Citizen Concerns through the Mayor's Office, doesn't it sort of defeat the point of electing City Council people? Readers of Mr. Coston's blog know how he feels about this, but we haven't heard anything from the rest of Council. They should be outraged at being neutralized by the Administration, yet we hear nary a peep (except from the representative of the South Ward).

And then there is the most recent round of transfers and reassignments in the Trenton Police Department. Now its always a slippery slope if management decisions are made by public consensus, but some decisions are just plain wrong and should be reconsidered. What possible reason can warrant informing someone while on vacation that he has been reassigned from a job that he thought (and a majority of people seem to agree) he was performing well, if not excelling at?

Further, if the whole operational premise is one of "community oriented policing" where the various officers are assigned to specific areas and meet with the people from those areas regularly, then shouldn't the people be informed of the changes directly and at the same time as the officers are?

Doesn't it make sense to inform the community that they are going to have new "partners" and provide their names and contact information so there is no lapse in communication?

Apparently not in Trenton under the current police leadership. No, the Police Director appears to practice "management at will" (or is it "management by whim?") and he seems to believe there is little to no reason to inform the public of his decisions.

And then there is the situation where Zac Chester was threatened with legal action for doing nothing more than asking for some information about development and redevelopment projects in Trenton. In what is assumed to be an attempt to silence anyone who dares question members of the City Administration, a high ranking official is suggesting he'd rather sue than answer to a city resident and taxpayer.

The underlying theme in all of this is a very strong desire to not let the public know, for fear they might scrutinize and then criticize, what the Administration is doing. The leadership is apparently fearful that the public might not react well to how it's going about the City's business.

"What they don't know can't hurt us," seems to be the mantra emanating from City Hall.

Keep them in the dark and feed them manure.

Well, its' time that the citizens of Trenton stop acting like mushrooms. We need to stand together and demand the accountability of our appointed and elected officials alike.

We need to stop this deluge of indifference to the public's right to know and shed some light on just what is really going on in Trenton.

We need to demand proper, complete and timely answers to our questions.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let My Fingers Do The Talking

Let's just recap all the events of the past week in Trenton that have left my hands exhausted from typing:

The week started with the discovery of a video produced in the manner of a movie trailer for an action film that touted the accomplishments and credentials of our own Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. The video was made by the US Conference of Mayors, a lobby group that Mayor Palmer currently presides over. It was filled with in-jokes and padded with TV and film clips. A DVD with the video plus a longer, more serious one was sent to select individuals in the area.

From this viewer's perspective, the video was in poor taste considering the state of our city. We'll comment on that at a later date.

Following on the heels of the release of the video, the September issue of Esquire hit newsstands. Inside was a pictorial shot at the Conference of Mayors Convention in LA in June. And there was "Dapper Doug" with a full page photo modeling a very expensive suit, shirt and tie.

More inflated that the cost of the clothes were the self-serving quotes that accompanied the image.

In a newspaper article reporting on the Mayor's Publicity Blitz, Mr. Palmer feigned humility and embarrassment at all the attention. A few days later the editors of the same publication called him on it by suggesting he could simply say "No" to these TV appearances, magazine layouts, etc.

On Thursday came the revelation that Dennis Gonzalez, a self-described "loyal employee of Mayor Palmer" sent a letter to a private citizen threatening to sue for libel and slander unless that citizen offered up a spoken apology at that night's City Council meeting followed by publishing newspaper ads with the same apology. And all the Citizen had done was ask for an status update on the various and sundry development projects that had been proposed since Mr. Gonzalez had become a city employee.

Imagine being sued for asking questions of your local government!

And to cap off the week, a dedicated and effective Police Detective was notified (while on vacation no less) that he was being reassigned to patrol in a seemingly deliberate attempt to weaken the Police/Community relationship in the City's South Police District.

Yup, folks. There is plenty of fodder for conversation in the events of last week.

Meet me out on the stoop and we'll talk about 'em.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Citizens

Well it appears as though Doug Palmer's "go to guy" has crossed a line.

Dennis Gonzales, the person who's held more titles in City Hall than the Yankees have won penants, may have just lost his favored status.

Back on May 15, a respected, thoughtful young Citizen by the name of Zachary Chester sent a letter to City Council requesting information on all the development projects that Mr. Gonzalez had been involved with during his multi-tenures as Housing and Development Director (acting or otherwise). The letter opens:

Dear President Pintella:

I am very disappointed by what I read in The Times newspaper on Sunday, May 13, 2007. I would like for this council to look into every redevelopment and development project that Mr. Dennis Gonzalez, Assistant Business Administrator and Acting Housing and Economic Development Director has worked on since his employment with the City of Trenton. I would like to know the outcome of each and every project he has been involved in.

Mr. President, I would like to have this information in writing within the next sixty (60) days.

Mr. Chester then goes on to ask for some specifics on the Trenton Town Center project.

As noted in the letter, the requests were made in response to a lengthy article published two days prior in a local paper which pointed to Mr. Gonzalez as being at least partly responsible for delays in the Trenton Town Center project. Mr. Gonzalez's reported responses were fairly typical: arrogant.

So Mr. Chester asks City Council (with copies to the Mayor, the Business Administrator and the Chief of Staff) do some looking into the situation and report back.

Of course no one from City Hall responds.

On August 15, Mr. Chester received a letter from Mr. Gonzalez. The letter is not sent on City of Trenton letterhead. The letter is sent from Citizen Gonzalez's home address which is just one block away from Citizen Chester's home. And the envelope was post-marked August 14...two weeks after the date on the letter.

The letter from "Citizen" Gonzalez reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Chester:

The purpose of this correspondence is to place you on notice that you are to cease and desist in making defamatory oral and written statements which express or imply that I have personally and/or in my various capacities as an appointed official of the City of Trenton engaged in unethical and/or criminal conduct. I consider your oral statements at Trenton City Council meetings in May, June and July of this calendar year demanding that the City Council investigate me as well as all projects with which I have been associated to constitute slander. In addition, our letter of May 15, 2007 addressed to City Council President Paul M. Pintella constitutes libel for the same reason set forth here as to your oral statements.

Any express or implicit accusations of wrongdoing on my part are absolutely 100% without merit. The deliberate and unsupported perpetuation of falsehoods by you has, and will, damage my reputation , and adversely affect my ability to make a living. I will hold you personally responsible for any and all damages including pecuniary.

You can avoid a lawsuit by making a direct and clear public apology before the City Council on August 16th stating in no uncertain terms that you are aware of no instance or facts which support any allegation of ethical and/or criminal conduct on my part. In addition, I demand that you place advertisements of no less than 1/2 page each in The Times of Trenton and The Trentonian with the same public apology to be published not later than August 31, 2007.

I will not compromise the demands set forth herein. I am able by virtue of my education to proceed with litigation before the Superior Court of the State of Jersey [sic] and, ultimately, before a Mercer County jury.

Most Sincerely,

Dennis Gonzalez

It is clear from this letter that Mr. Gonzalez has already acted as attorney, judge and jury when it comes to the imagined allegations and assertions by Mr. Chester. For all of his education and experience, Mr. Gonzalez seems to have overlooked a couple of basic facts.

Mr. Chester's letter of May 15 never alleges anything. He merely asks for information about any and all development and/or redevelopment project that Mr. Gonzalez has been involved int since he became a City employee.

While I may not have the benefit of Mr. Gonzalez's education, I don't think that Mr. Chester's letter constitutes libel.

Further, Mr. Gonzalez is a politically appointed public official. As such, he certainly must expect if not accept, a certain amount of criticism from the public.

The fact that Mr. Gonzalez has not presided over any sort of economic boom during his various stints in City Hall or at the ill-fated Trenton Economic Development Corporation does raise questions about his competency. If there are any lawsuits to be filed, it should be by the citizens of Trenton against Mr. Gonzalez for failing at his various high-level, well paid jobs.

And if Mr. Gonzalez really wants to go to war, will he be prepared to answer questions about the amount of time he was a City Employee and yet didn't live in the City?

For his part, Mr. Chester is sticking by his guns and has not apologized for the alleged slights.

Mr. Gonzalez should face the fact that it is past time for him to go. He needs to pack his carpetbag and move on.

And leave the good people of this city, like Citizen Chester, alone.

Bad Call, Blue.

Community leaders in Trenton's South District have just been informed via South Ward Councilman Jim Coston that Detective Luis Reyes is being reassigned from Community Affairs to Patrol.

The Councilman, who emailed the news while away on vacation, reports that Patrol Captain Paul Messina has made the determination that Det. Reyes will be better utilized on Patrol.

Now, we don't purport to know why or how this decision was made. But even from this distance, it appears to be a bad one.

Det. Reyes has worked very, very hard at building a solid relationship with the members of the community throughout the South Policing District. From the beginning, with Lt. Gonzalez and continuing through with Lt. Maldonado, Det. Reyes has shown a real passion for building and maintaining that all important bridge between the community and the police.

The fact that he has worked within the community for so long, coupled with his dedication and the fact that he is bi-lingual makes him a perfect fit for his current assignment.

Detective Reyes, along with his colleagues in the other three police districts, has just been recognized by the Trenton Council of Civic Associations as Public Employees of the Year. This must be an indication of the kind of job he and the other Community Concerns Detectives are doing.

Whatever rationale Captain Messina might have for this reassignment needs to be checked.

This is a poor management decision.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

Mayor Palmer's sartorial pictorial in the September Esquire just hit the newsstands. Check out page 220.
Since the copy is a little hard to read, I will transcribe it here for you:
Doug Palmer, 55 Fifth Term
TRENTON Pop. 85, 403
Greatest triumph: Changing the police department through a referendum. You take on the police - and I got rid of the fire chief, too - and they're bonded to kick your butt.
Best part: You know how they say you walk down the street and everybody stops to talk to you? Yeah, well, when they stop doing that is when you've got a problem.
Two-button wool suit ($1,995) by Dolce and Gabbana; cotton shirt ($490) by Domenico Vacca; silk tie ($125) by Dunhill.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Now we know why he doesn't wear hats.

Seems that our beloved Mayor, "Dapper Doug," just can't get enough of himself.

While perusing You Tube for anything related to good old Trenton, we found this interesting clip:

Now we're not sure what the purpose or intent was. We think it was meant as a "joke."

But it's not funny.

As an aside, we sure hope that whoever produced this got copyright clearances for the TV and movie clips incorporated into the piece. There could be some interesting fallout for misappropriating someone else's creative work.

Coming as it does on the heels of the Esquire fashion layout story, one has to think there was really only one purpose to this video: to feed Doug's hyper-developed ego. Too bad his achievements while in office can't match his inflated sense of self-worth. (In fact, his sole achievement may be that he has stayed in office so long).

As the Mayor's head continues to swell it becomes obvious we won't see him modeling hats anytime soon.

What Ever Happened To...

...the Internal Affairs investigation into allegations that TPD Captain Paull Messina was sleeping during his overnight shift back in June?

Oh, I remember.

The Captain copped a mea culpa and took a five day suspension;with his City issued Police vehicle for at least part of the week. I guess he needed it to get to Police HQ the day he is alleged to have been there during his suspension, wandering about the building unescorted in violation of policy (if not actual law).

Well, just in case you missed it, here's the link to a page on the Captain Sleepy website that shows a copy of the initial report to Internal Affairs requesting an investigation. The names of other officers have been redacted.

Now, what were we saying about preferential treatment for certain individuals?

Friday, August 10, 2007

What are they thinking?

The continued management follies in the Trenton Police Department are reaching new heights. Long ago having ceased being amusing or entertaining, the absurd way the department is being run is worrisome. Of course, it isn't just the TPD, but other City Departments as well.

First case:

There continues to be a problem with parking enforcement in permit parking areas. The main issue here is the failure of the City of Trenton to provide for the periodic updates and reissuing of parking permits and visitor passes that would enable the police to then more effectively enforce the permit parking regulations.

While residents wait for the Public Works staffers to implement the "new" permits, they cry for help in the way of stepped up enforcement of the parking regulations...all parking regulations. Since it is technically illegal to selectively enforce parking ordinances those cops who are "by the book" are doing just that: enforcing all parking regulations.

At the same time, City Hall's representatives have stated that "expired stickers will not be ticketed." And this means tickets get issued to individuals who are trying to comply with the law, even when it's not possible.

Further compounding the situation is the detailing of K9 officers to areas such as Mill Hill for a part of their shift each evening with the order to cite all parking violations. While no one would realistically argue against any police presence at any time, we have to ask if this is the best use of our K9 units?

In light of rumored intent by Police Director Santiago to do away with K9's altogether could it be that the police dogs have to make a quota of parking tickets each month or risk termination.
Second case:

Another example of bad management is the recent acquisition of Police Department All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and their questionable deployment on the streets.

ATVs are not street legal in NJ. It's that simple. And it is hard to believe that Police Departments are exempt from the law.

While the ATVs were ostensibly acquired for patrolling the parks, canal tow path, etc., they have been seen "on the street."

Accounts in the newspapers and online forums have indicated that not only were directives given for the ATVs to be used on the streets, inadequate protective helmets and training were given to those assigned that duty.

If the TPD had to use funds from other City Departments to meet the mushrooming overtime costs, where did they find money for the ATVs? How much did they cost? What about other accessories: trailers, helmets, the fuel to run them, the etc.?

Is there no end to the reckless expenditure of the City's scant resources?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

For your consideration

Best line of the day (so far)
Commenting on the story in this morning's Times about Mayor Palmer participating in an Esquire fashion pictorial featuring members of the Conference of Mayors a poster to the Trenton forum said "It's a shame he takes more time picking out quality clothes than School Board members." ---Eddie353

Dressed for Excess
On that story, does it surprise anyone that Mayor Palmer would volunteer to take part in this pictorial that will just happen to hit the newsstands one month before the Conference of Mayors holds meetings in Trenton? He says in the article it's all about Trenton, but we suspect it's really all about Doug.

School Board Approves New Positions; Changes Governance Style
News reports stated that Trenton's School Board voted to create three new positions and to do away with the four year old process that held the Board more to an advisory position than hands-on management. As someone who sat through the presentations explaining the process, I thought it made sense and held promise for our failing school system. As an outsider it is hard to say for sure, but one wonders if the process failed because it was inherently flawed or if it wasn't followed. That is, was it too difficult for members of the School Board to keep their hands off and did their meddling get in the way of education professionals doing better?

Good Sense
Mill Hill resident Dan Dodson has posted some thoughts about the recent vandalism and crime in general in Trenton.

He's absolutely correct that these kids and/or their parents or whatever adult is responsible for them should be held accountable for their misdeeds. Monetary restitution (a lot of City resources went into the cleanup effort not to mention the police work in identifying and capturing the suspects), community service, and a face-to-face apology to those whose property was damaged are in order.

The kids should have the opportunity to learn that there are consequences to their actions and that when they act responsibly they will be treated fairly and given second chances.

More Blue
Trenton's Police Academy will graduate 24 officers this month. Among them will be the son of a current TPD Detective. If the son is half as good a cop as his father, we will all benefit.

Assuming all 24 graduates stay with Trenton, it should help ease the manpower crunch and hopefully ease the mandatory overtime that has been exhausting and demoralizing patrols. Of course, the new officers will need seasoning (we often overlook the significance of losing years of experience when our officers retire or transfer to other departments) but the feet on the ground will help.

Further word, mainly through Councilman Coston's blog, is that the new class starting in November will have 50 members. We may be on our way to having a full compliment of officers in the TPD once again.

Kudos to all the individuals and groups who spoke up and contacted the administration and elected representatives about the Police manpower issue. It would appear your voices were heard.

Anybody Home?
Well it is August and there still doesn't seem to be anyone living in the Broad Street Bank building.

What's the holdup now?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

National Night Out

Ok, so there were eight crimes (assaults and robberies) reported in the local papers as having occurred last weekend. Crime is down.

But we're not going to dwell on that right now.

Tonight is the 24th annual "National Night Out" sponsored and promoted by the National Association of Town Watch.

This is Trenton's 7th or 8th year of participation.

While there will be block parties throughout the city this evening, there is one common theme.

This is the night when the community and those charged with law enforcement for the community come together and revisit, reestablish and restore the bond between them.

Neither side can function well without the cooperation of the other.

Tonight, Trenton and municipalities around the country will demonstrate the power of the Community/Police partnership.

There is no excuse for not participating. Even if your neighborhood isn't holding a big celebration, turn on your porch light and sit out front of your house for a couple of hours.

Demonstrate to those who would take from us our safety and security that you will not let them.

Demonstrate to your neighbors that you are part of the solution and not the problem.

Demonstrate to yourself that you can and will do something positive this evening to take back our city from those who think they "control" it.

Let it start tonight. But don't let it end tonight.

Monday, August 06, 2007

And the hits just keep on coming is a website that contains facts and commentary on some of the more questionable aspects of the leadership in Trenton's Police Department.

For some, it is a rallying point that illustrates the double standards and apparent hypocrisy of the department's leadership under Director Joseph Santiago. By extension, since the Director is a Mayoral appointee, the website also illuminates similar issues with Doug Palmer's leadership of Trenton.

To others, the website is inflammatory and does nothing to help overcome the very problems it highlights. This was especially true in the case of the site's namesake, Captain Sleepy, aka Capt. Paul Messina who received the sobriquet for being digitally captured sleeping on duty. The Captain was being, according to some, unfairly singled out just because he's stepped on the toes of some of his fellow officers.

This writer has weighed in on the "sleeping policeman" policeman issue previously.

What brings this website back to mind is the recent posting of information regarding

a) the apparently excessive use of Police vehicles for personal business by certain officers (and the preferential treatment of those officers that is implicit in such an arrangement)

b) the fact that such use directly conflicts with statements made on the record by Director Santiago about ending the abuse of city resources (cars) for personal use.

Once again "Accountability," the favorite watch word of Mayor Palmer and his followers, is being ignored.

There are those who may claim this is all just another example of the poor Administration/Police relationship and shouldn't be given too much credence.

But if the obvious favoritism and lack of accountability are rampant in the Police Department, can it be that much different in other areas of City Government.

Maybe if we had a few more websites like the public would wake up to the realities of the situation at hand. More people making the effort and taking the time to learn about what is really going on behind the "Crime is down," "Trenton is moving forward" mantras, could stop this nonsense and get the City back on track.

Or maybe everyone is just "sleeping on duty."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What Are the Odds?

A quick trip around Trenton's 7.5 square miles on any given day will reveal a lot.

  • Boarded up properties.
  • Inhabited properites that should be boarded up.
  • People living in (probably illegally) converted storefronts.
  • Trash and litter.
  • Street lights out.
  • Overgrown lots and trash strewn alleys.
  • Tree pits and planters that need attention.

The list goes on.

While not everyone of these issues are the direct responsibility of the City of Trenton, the enforcement of the laws governing these situations is.

Whether it is because of lack of resources (staff) or ineffective work habits (staff training) the City is not doing enough.

Of course, with the U.S. Conference of Mayors scheduled to come to town in a few weeks, watch for some quick "make overs" so that Trenton puts on its best face for the world.

As if a broom applied here, a touch of paint there will show what a progressive leader our Mayor is. Hey, there may even be some directive to sweep the street corners of 'loiterers' and roust the sleeping homeless from our parks.

If it's really effective, maybe this new found way of working will carry through past the weekend visit of the other Mayors.

What are the odds.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Foot Locker a step, but in what direction?

Downtown Trenton welcomed the new Foot Locker store yesterday.

Predictably, there was a lot of hype about it being a good thing; a signal of the capital city's progress; a harbinger of things to come.

And the hype may have some truth to it.

Certainly it is a good thing when a recognizable, brand name chain store chooses to locate in any business district. The bean counters at corporate do a lot of analysis of a location's demographics before granting their blessing to a new store. Foot traffic and disposable income have to be there in enough quantity to make the shop a success or a lease won't get signed.

Let's not forget the incentives (facade improvements, etc.) that can help swing the deal one way or another.

So the numbers worked in Trenton's favor. This is good...but no surprise. Any thinking person can see the business potential downtown (at least on weekdays). And anyone who can remember Trenton 40 years or more years ago knows what it was like when the storefronts were all occupied and the sidewalks were filled with people shopping, dining out, going to the movies, etc.

If the potential is so great, why are there still so many vacant buildings? What drives people to shop "elsewhere" rather than spend their money downtown where they work or in the city in which they live?

The Internet for one. But on-line sales have cut into every business.

How about the environment? What is different about shopping at a large retail center or mall versus downtown?

In our car driven culture, parking is important. But people who live and/or work in Trenton are already here during the day, why run to "the mall" to shop on your lunch break or in the evening/on weekends?

When was the last time you were confronted with panhandlers at the mall? Or had to thread your way through a group of individuals who's 'conversation' was liberally dosed with the "f-bomb" or "N" word? (Note: this author is not a linguistic prude and has been known to use colorful language, but not everywhere, any/all the time).

What about the trash on the sidewalks and in the streets? The Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) crew does a yeoman's job trying to keep up with the seemingly spontaneous re-generation of trash and litter and some days it appears as if they are losing the battle. You don't see the same struggle in the malls and strip centers. For whatever reason, the public seems to take a larger role in helping to "keep things nice" in other shopping districts.

You're not intimidated about braving the "urban wilds" to do a little shopping. Trash, bad language and bums don't bother you. You make it to the front door of the store. Now what?

Is the establishment clean and well kept? Is the staff courteous, helpful, is their speech intelligible? (OK---this one might be a tie. I've had some pretty bad experiences shopping in mall stores for these very reasons).

Are displays thought out and tasteful? Or does it look like a flea market stall?

Does the "background music" greet you from a half a block away?

And we can't forget the issue of Crime. Interesting thing, crime. There are facts and there are perceptions. And there is crime everywhere...even at "the mall."

We've all heard that car thieves love to do their shopping at the suburban retail centers. Those acres of parking lots are like a candy store.

I've personally witnessed fights at Quaker Bridge Mall and know of people who've had purses stolen while sitting in a movie theatre. Oh there is crime.

But somehow, the perception is that the suburban retail/dining/entertainment experience is safer. And that's where the money flows.

Now, I'm not a big fan of chains, franchises or the like. I believe we have to nurture and support as many local businesses as we can. Small businesses are a key indicator of an area's economic health. The men and women who own and operate local, independent businesses put it on the line everyday. Their risk is greater because they don't have the deep resources of the chains. They have to compete on price, service, marketing clout.

Foot Locker coming to Trenton might just be a positive sign. If they maintain the level of service and keep their store presentable, it might just set a higher standard for our Downtown.

If the staff of the local Foot Locker becomes part and parcel of the community, it might make TDA's task of boosting the overall success of the district easier. Other businesses might follow in their footsteps. Downtown could come alive again.

To my way of thinking, our vacant retail space should not become filled with chains and franchises (that's what the Malls are for). But if one or two locate here and raise the retail bar enough for others to seize the opportunity, then its a step in the right direction.