Saturday, December 29, 2007

These are the times that try men's souls

Thomas Paine wrote those words in December of 1776 just prior to the battle of Trenton and the battle of the Assunpink (2nd Battle of Trenton). They were part of his pamphlet, "The Crisis."

As we watched today's battle reenactments in Mill Hill Park, we were reminded that the war for independence was fought so that the "free" colonies of the fledgling republic could self govern and not be subservient to the tyrannical whims of King George the III of England.

Two hundred and thirty one years later, Trentonians are again subject to the whims of a wanton despot who has totally lost touch with those he was elected "to serve." Douglas H. Palmer, in his fifth term as Mayor of the City of Trenton has ceased to care about what is best for the City and more about what is best for him.

The most recent, high profile example is the Mayor's controversial waiving of the City's residency ordinance in order to hold onto equally controversial Police Director Joe Santiago. At first, Palmer insisted that it was well within his power to grant such a waiver (even though other City Employees have been terminated for not adhering to it, raising claims of selective enforcement). More recently, the Mayor has suggested that City Council pass an amendment to the ordinance that would allow for the exception for Mr. Santiago.

Some have pointed out that this is a non-issue as the Mayor is not intending to run for office again in 2010 and so Mr. Santiago will most probably not continue on as Police Director under the next Mayor. Other have claimed that Director Santiago has done more good than harm as Police Director and it is just "disgruntled cops" and/or members of the public who don't like the fact that Mr. Santiago is a "person of color" serving as the head of the Trenton Police Department.

Still others think the residency issue/Director Santiago are "irrelevant". In a recent editorial in the Trenton Downtowner, Joe Emanski expressed the belief that there are other, more substantial issues facing Trenton that deserve the attention and outcry from the public.

To a certain degree, Mr. Emanski is correct.

Trenton's school system continues to fail the children (and citizens in general) of our city.

The city is for all intents and purposes "broke" as evidenced by the recent grant given from the state of New Jersey's "Distressed Cities" program to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. Of course the Mayor denies that Trenton is "distressed" but yet he's got his hand out to the State for financial aid.

As has been noted before, the City seems incapable or unwilling to take care if its properties and infrastructure. This results in the need for major funding to bring buildings, streets and the water and sewage utilities up to snuff...or to sell them off for a one-time cash infusion.

Still, we can find money to grant to developers (who are also campaign contributors), fix ridiculous neon fire helmets, fund increasingly expensive and ineffective horse patrols, purchase city SUV's, etc. All of which can be spun by the administration to seem better than we and many others believe.

So while Mr. Emanski may have a point about there being other issues that deserve attention, the fact is that the residency is one clear cut case of Mayor Palmer's abuse of office. And while it may seem irrelevant to some, if this battle is joined and the "people" win, it will crack the seeming Teflon veneer that Doug Palmer has wrapped himself in. And from there, last term or not, the people can start righting the many wrongs that exist in the way the mayor governs.

Just as the 10 Crucial days between Christmas 1776 and January 3 1777 proved to be the turning point of the American Revolution, challenging the Mayor on the Santiago residency may prove to be just as crucial to Trenton's history going forward.

Now is the time for everyone to join together and demand accountability from the Mayor and his appointees.

The future of New Jersey's capital city depends upon it.

--PS: Speaking of Patriot's Week and the Battle Reenactments, it needs to be noted for the record that reports indicate only one of Trenton's eight elected officials was seen enjoying the celebration of Trenton's significance in American History. Huzzah! to the Coston family for understanding that participation in civic life doesn't begin in and end with the striking of a gavel on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that truly living in Trenton means being a part of all it has to offer. Keep up the good work!

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