Saturday, September 29, 2007

Did I Miss Something?

Was I away when obeying the law was made optional? Especially if it was personally convenient or expedient to do otherwise.

For years, decades, I've been under the impression that when a traffic signal is red, it means stop. Stop and wait until the light goes to green before proceeding.

Apparently, this has changed.

While walking through the neighborhood the other morning, I observed the following:

A vehicle west bound on Market Street approached the intersection with Jackson Street. The light was red for the traffic on Market Street. The operator stopped the vehicle...momentarily...and then proceeded through the intersection and on his or her way.

"Interesting approach to a red light," I thought.

And then I observed two more cars do the exact same thing in what I can only presume was a case of "monkey see, monkey do."

I guess the law just doesn't apply to these individuals.

Now Mill Hill residents have been on a crusade to slow traffic down on Market Street and decrease the frequent running of red-lights. It could be argued that this new "stop and go" approach is an improvement. But it still violates the law every bit as much as just blowing through a light.

Another example of ignoring the law for personal convenience: barking dogs.

This is not a reference to dogs who bark occasionally. This is what dogs do.

It becomes a problem when a dog is left to bark, non-stop at all hours of the day and/or night until it becomes a distraction and annoyance to everyone within earshot (except, apparently the owners). And it can't be good for the dog.

For the past several weeks a residents of the northern end of Mill Hill have been treated to this annoyance at all hours of the night. Three in the morning, 6 in the morning, 8 at night, it doesn't seem to matter to the dog's owners. They banish the pooch to the porch and the rest of the neighborhood have to deal with the noise.

How do people get to point where they can ignore not only the well-being of the dog, but the restrictions on noise in the city ordinances and common courtesy as well? Do they not understand that "following the rules" is not optional behavior, but optimal behavior if we are to live, work and play in successful community?

Or was I absent the day they changed that fact?


Tangential to the subject of following the law, New Jersey Governor Corzine signed into law this week a bill aimed at closing a loophole that prevented law enforcement agencies from effectively cracking down on residents with automobiles registered out of state.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner in an effort to increase compliance with the existing, if faulty, statute.

One has to wonder though, is enacting a new law to enforce an existing law really going to be effective? If people are prone to ignore one law, aren't they going to be equally inclined to ignore others aimed at changing the same behavior?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

There Oughta Be A Law

While the great minds around town debate the merits of an ordinance designed to combat the "fashion statement" of exposed buttocks and baggy jeans, a more insidious situation goes on and on.

Not a week goes by that some cafe, restaurant or sandwich shop papers the neighborhood with menu fliers advertising and promoting the goods they purvey. Now I'm not against a business promoting itself, but these menus just about all end up blowing around the streets of Trenton adding to the way to plentiful litter and trash. I'd like to propose that the City make the offending establishments take responsibility for their marketing pieces that go astray.

While the intent is honest and forthright enough, the end result of these "lit drops" is that fliers do just that, fly, around the neighborhood on the slightest of breezes.

How about a "tax" on all businesses that decide they want to advertise by flier? The extra revenue could be applied to the extra personnel required to work overtime to clean our city. Violators would be fined as well as receive a proscribed stint of community service cleaning up the streets.

Or sewing new trousers that fit for the offenders of the "no butt crack" law.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Head Scratching

We took our morning coffee out to the stoop the other day to enjoy the bright and balmy day. An obviously agitated neighbor wandered by.

Noting our friend's distress, we inquired as to why the scowl and this was the response:
I am tired of the crap that is allowed to take place in this city. NO ONE pays attention to red lights, crossing at the right place, parking regulations, speeding, noise violations, GARBAGE AND TRASH ACCUMULATION. When will it begin? If the police would ticket the sweeper violations, parking in the wrong direction, illegal parking around the post office, speeding, red lights and noise violations the courts may have a bit more work ( hello?!?!?!THAT'S WHAT THE DAMN FINE IS FOR!!!) but WE WOULD GENERATE MORE MONEY AND , this is the good part, people would begin to obey the law!

Warming to the topic, our friend continued:
As long as I am on the subject...what about how clean this city is...NOT? Drive anywhere outside the city of Trenton and turn around and come back. You can tell when you get to the city limits because of the trash on the side of the road around homes and disgusting street conditions. NO ONE F*****G CARES. At least when we HAD the bike race that route was cleaned....CLEAN AND SAFE. Dude, when you have company over to the house, if the place is trashed, your guests will not care either. If you have a nice home and company visits, they will use coasters and not trash the homestead. THE SAME IS TRUE FOR A CITY. CLEAN HOUSE; CLEAN CITY. It just upsets me.

"Friend" makes a good point. Tackling the basic "quality of life" issues sends a message and sets a tone. Enforcing the laws, collecting the fines and/or demanding community service from offenders are proven deterrents to not only these seemingly "minor" annoyances, but can actually help decrease more serious crime.

One other note, if we want consistent and effective enforcement of the laws, we have to be ready to suffer the consequences if/when we ourselves are cited for a lapse of adherence to the rules.


This morning's Times has an interesting article by Kevin Shea that catalogues the shortcomings of the City's oft-touted but obviously defective network of video surveillance cameras.

This is the same system that former TPD Officer Butch Osterman was suspended for criticizing publicly on his Trenton Facts website. After a prolonged suspension, Butch was "allowed" to make a plea, and transfer from TPD to the Mercer County Sheriff's department. Fortunately, Butch landed on his feet...or at least on his Segueway Scooter.

After reading Kevin Shea's article, am I the only person who thinks the Administration and Director Santiago in particular owe Mr. Osterman a very large and public formal apology?

Or are they going to seek retribution against Mr. Shea for speaking the same truth?

One of the canine residents of the neighborhood, Baron von Bark-Bark, and his human dodged yesterday's rain showers to take a walk along the dike in Morrisville. The Baron and friend got to thinking about how nice it is to be able to stroll from the Calhoun Street Bridge to the Lower (Trenton Makes) bridge along the red stone path atop the dike.

The walk affords great views of the Trenton skyline (where keen eyes can spot buildings built in the 18th through 21st centuries), not to mention easy observation of the river itself. There are almost always people out sitting and contemplating the water's flow; watching the various fowl that frequent the area; or just getting some exercise by walking or cycling along the path.

And there have been a steady stream of improvements to the area to make it more user friendly. Most recently noted is the installation of mini-pads of pavers that one assumes will be the location for a string of new benches along the dike.

Little Morrisville obviously understands that it's river frontage is an asset and is working to enhance it.

When will Trenton ever get to that point?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Baseball Rules

At least today.

This afternoon the Trenton Historical Society hosted the Flemington Neshanock as they played the Elkton (MD) Eclipse in an old-time baseball game at Cadwalader Park.

If you've never watched one of these games, think reenactors playing baseball as it was played 120 years or so ago. No gloves; three balls is a walk; etc.

Great fun and as good an excuse as any to spend a few hours outdoors.

If that wasn't fun enough, the Trenton Thunder won their first ever league championship in the team's 14 season history by defeating the Akron Aeros, 10-5.

Congratulations to both groups for their historical efforts on behalf of all Trentonians.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

But freedom of speech seems to be another matter. At least on the forum.

Yes, this is the site that has been vilified by Trenton Police Director Santiago as a place where malcontents go to whine and cry about how unfair life is.

Yes, this is the site that has lead to a more than a couple of stories in the Times of Trenton and elsewhere.

Now, posting on the forum has not been high on the list of things to do. Reading it regularly is another thing.

Agree, disagree or just plain get turned off by a post, it was an generally interesting and often informative niche on the web.

The fact that and it's partners the Star Ledger and Times of Trenton seem to be willing to exercise their expressed right to control the content of the forum against any semblance of free speech is upsetting. If these media outlets are willing to stifle discourse, how will they react (or have they reacted in the past) to efforts of others to control what they print?

I'm not only disheartened by this apparent lack of appreciation for freedom of speech. And, if has been suggested, it is merely to keep the lid on anything controversial as Trenton prepares for a visit by the US Conference of Mayors (you know, that lobbying group from Washington DC that has erroneously anointed Doug Palmer their leader), then it's really wrong.

No one is saying that everything printed on "the forum" was right, truthful or pertinent. But we're adults here and if you don't like what you are reading...don't go to the website! If the Star Ledger, Times and are yielding to pressure from the Palmer administration or anyone else to censor the forum in this manner, they should be deeply embarrassed.

In the meantime, free speech has moved to Trenton Speaks. Check it out and catch up with those that have been unceremoniously booted from the forum.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Now Why Can't We Be Like That?

One of the nice things about sitting on one's front stoop is the casual interactions you have with folks: friends, neighbors or just those passing by. Conversation, ideas and news are exchanged in a casual way.

For example, this tidbit that came my way about someone's recent experience at Freehold's outrageously successful "Cruise Night" event:

Recently we went to Freehold to get some great pizza at Federicci's.

We went on the last Thursday of the month, billed as cruise night.

The normal ride into town is about 2 minutes from Route 33; straight down Main Street to South Street, the center of town. This time it took 25 minutes.

Driving past Throckmorton Street both sides were closed off. There must have been at least 1,000, maybe 1,300 motorcycles lined up in a row with hundreds of men, women, and children checking them out! As we looked toward the old bus station, we noticed the rock band and the additional 500+ bikes extending all the way back to Broad Street. That really impressed us...until we got to the center of town. There both sides of the street, were lined with antique cars.

Wow, can you imagine downtown Trenton lined up with cars?

{NOTE: The Trenton Downtown Association's monthly 'Trenton 2Nite' event features a classic car night once a year with maybe two dozen vehicles on display}

In the center of town, at the head of South Street, there was a 50's band performing in front of the Hall of Records (Freehold is the County Seat of Monmouth County). Vendors were selling everything from hot dogs to bottled water. With only one of each type of vendor, everyone was busy selling.
Approaching the parking lot it too, was jammed with cars, a Doo Wop group, vendors, and people, lots and lots of people. Oh yes, in Freehold vacant lots created when the city has razed a building are turned into FREE parking lots. Lots that are well swept and maintained. So there is ample FREE parking to help PROMOTE business... Can you imagine a free parking lot?

We parked and walked across the street, at a crosswalk, to the pizza place. With 15 tables outside, 35 inside, there was a 35-minute wait. We waited and watched in total amazement. There were at least 20 police officers patrolling the area. NO ONE crossed the street except at a crosswalk. The one person who did cross in the middle of the block got a ticket for jaywalking. Can you imagine an officer in Trenton giving out a jaywalking ticket, or even a ticket for parking the wrong way on a street, or running red lights, or illegal parking, or speeding, or littering?

There were, by my partner's accounting, over 400 cars, twenty-seven restaurants and eatery's along main street and the surrounding side streets, three bands, and between 15 and 20 thousand people spending --what?-- $20 to $30 dollars each!
What would $500,000 injection of cash once a month do for Trenton???

Can you imagine???

Yes we can, but that is all we are allowed to do...imagine. Meanwhile we wait for over 20 years while hoping someone in city government will "get it."

In the meantime, we have to go somewhere else where the town leaders do get it. A place where citizens working in tandem with city government can pull such an event off. Incredible!

Maybe Freehold's Mayor should head up the US Conference of Mayors.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Yeah Team!

The Trenton Thunder baseball team continues to set franchise records. For the 13th consecutive season, the team collected over 400,000 admissions to games. And for the first time ever, the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees have advanced to the Eastern League Championship series.

Kudos to the ownership and management of the Thunder for another outstanding season.

But the good news doesn't stop there.

Yesterday was the opening reception for a new exhibit at Mercer County Community College's Gallery. Entitled "Dangerous Women Two" it was curated by Trish Fagan and pairs works of 70 regional women artists with brief biographies of "dangerous" women activists/artists/adventurers of the past century. Trenton resident Lisa Fuellemann is one of the featured artists. The exhibit runs through October 4.

And that just foreshadows three openings occurring this coming weekend in Trenton.

The next exhibit at Gallery 125 (downtown, 125 S. Warren Street) is "Shoot-The Photography Show" and features works by 30 regional photographers. Opening reception is Friday, Sept. 14, from 5 - 9 pm.

At the same time, "How We See What We See" opens at Artworks, 19 Everett's Alley. Eight regional artists are displaying their work in a show curated by Sculptor Kate Graves. A DJ and refreshments will add to the excitement of the opening.

Saturday night, The Garden State Watercolor Society will debut a show at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park. The reception runs from 7:00 - 9:00 pm. And while you're there, check out the exhibit about the Maddock/Lamberton/Scammell potteries on the second floor.

It's looking like a winning season all the way around.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another 'New Year'

There is a hazy recollection of late night conversation in a college dorm room about how one "visualizes" the calendar: straight line; circle; spiral? And what was the starting point of one's personal, visual timeline: January 1; Spring; Birthday; Post Labor Day/Back to School; or something more traditional as in the Jewish Calendar?

The theory of a "new year/fresh start" has great appeal to the American psyche and one could suggest that after 12-16 or more school years that begin in September that we "turn the page" on a new year then. The laid back summer daze draw to an end. Schedules adjust to back to business, books and such. Shorts only appear on weekends, long pants are the dress of the day.

We get "serious" about our work/studies. We buckle down for 10 or 12 weeks of work before the year end holidays set in and we once again become grateful hedonists.

Of course, the revelation that Trenton Central High School students have returned to the books with no class schedules to greet them indicates that some people may have been a little too laid back this summer. Reportedly, an administrator who formerly oversaw the scheduling process was not rehired for this year. The company retained to straighten out the district's computer system and work on student scheduling spent too much time on the former and the latter was overlooked.

And so the students' "new year" starts off in the hole. Nothing new here.

As the business at hand beckons, the posts on this blog may come with a little less frequency. There may be a little less railing at the inadequacies and excesses of our local government. Hopefully because our leaders will also "buckle down" to tackle the tasks before them effectively. But that's not a given.

Hopefully, too, there will be more positives things to chat about. The Thunder have won the first in their "Best of Five" Conference Championship series against Portland. Maybe this is the year that we'll make it past the first round of playoffs. The local hockey team has a new moniker (Trenton Devils) honoring their shared ownership with the NHL's New Jersey Devils.

The arts scene in Trenton is readying a harvest of events: watercolors at Ellarslie; Photography at Gallery 125; "Dangerous Woman" at the Mercer County College Gallery in West Windsor; and more.

Let's hope the scheduling snafu (and you do remember the derivation of that term as an old armed forces acronym for Situation Normal: All F****d Up)gets corrected before the Christmas decorations appear in the stores and the turkeys are displaying their oven roasted tans on our dining room tables.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Little Bit of This; A Little Bit of That

So the long weekend started a little slow, inspiration wise.

"Sir Guy By The Canal" rightfully pointed out that there are things out there to write about and they're not all doom and gloom, "look how the regime is messing with the peasants" topics.

A stroll through town on such a beautiful afternoon brought us to West State Street and the restored "Roebling Mansion," now home to the New Jersey League of Municipalities. Although not the most elaborate or elegant of the proud collective of manses which once huddled along that stretch of road, it's good to see this link to Trenton's past saved and put to use. Nice to know the efforts of the Historical Society and other concerned citizens were able to prevent the building's demolition.

Walking by the Roebling Mansion reminds one of the deep, two way connection between John A. Roebling and Sons and the Trenton community. What was good for one, was good for the other.

But Roebling is gone now. Swallowed up and then, ultimately, shut down by a larger, national corporation. The same story can be told of our once booming rubber industry and our world class porcelain manufacturers.

Now we're seeing a second wave of closures and relocations. As noted previously, landmark food based businesses are shutting down and/or moving out (Michelle Lorie's, Marsilios, Sal De Forte's, Tattoni's, etc.) There is a license transfer for Cesare's Cafe on this week's City Council docket. But it's not just restaurants and such that we're losing.

While running errands the other day, it was noted that Broad Street Hardware is on the market. No doubt the location of three Home Depot's and two Lowe's in suburban Mercer County have cut into sales at locally owned Hardware Stores such as this. But the loss is another sign of the City's declining economic health.

Saving our local businesses is just as important as saving our historic buildings. They are an integral part of the fabric of the City. They contribute not only to the local economy but to that all important sense of place.

When these small businesses close or move, employment opportunities and ratables leave town with them. So think twice before you spend that dollar out of town. The job you save might ultimately help save this city.