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 mushrooms...you 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.

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