Thursday, December 18, 2008

State of the City

Palmer heads to Chicago to meet with Team Obama while Trenton slides deeper into depression.

Picking up with last week's denied rumors of an early departure, the Trentonian's L.A. Parker reports Doug Palmer is winging to Chicago to talk urban policy with the President-elect's transition team.

Palmer is quoted in the article as saying, "This is not a job interview."

At the same time, West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue is rumored to be ready to announce her intention to run for the Mayor's seat. Council President Paul Pintella is also allegedly eyeing a run for Mayor. Which makes it hard to believe Palmer's consistent denials that he's job hunting and hoping for an early out from his fifth term as Trenton's mayor.

But such denials are not out of character for the sultan of spin. For years, we've been treated to rosy portraits of Trenton's rebirth in Palmer's annual state of the city addresses which always include promises of great development projects and (last year) more cops on the street.

However, this year's fiscal mess; the layoffs and demotions of city employees (none from the Mayor's office!); and the loss of the Santiago residency case seem to have made Palmer fore go the pomp and irrelevance of the big State of City show and reception afterwards.

Instead, the Palmer machine has tried to place the blame for the city's shortcomings elsewhere while dressing up the Mayoral resume.

We said it last week and we say it again and will continue to say it. While Palmer cannot take sole blame for each and everyone of Trenton's woes, his failed policies and increasing arrogance have contributed significantly to the city's problems. He is not capable of serving in a higher capacity in any elected or appointed position and he certainly is not welcome to continue on here in Trenton.

That, friends, is the true state of the city.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A letter to the President-elect

Dear President Elect Obama,

The rumors and whispers in Trenton are once again suggesting that our long-time Mayor, Douglas H. Palmer, is leaving after the first of the year for one of the many appointments in your administration.

As much as many of us would like to see Mr. Palmer leave here, we do not think he deserves or is really qualified for any position of greater significance. We would hope that you and your staff would not be fooled by the superficial qualities of the expensive suits and crafted resume designed to project the image of a ground-breaking, competent leader.

As a government official Mr. Palmer has been neither effective nor particularly forward thinking. He has presided over a marked decline in New Jersey’s capital city: the population has decreased, the percentage of owner-occupied housing units has decreased, and the per capita income is shamefully low. While at the same time the neighboring communities have grown and prospered (at least in comparison).

The Palmer years have been marked by increased dependence upon financial contributions from the state and federal governments to make ends meet. In fact, some calculate that 80% of the city’s operating cash comes from taxpayers who do not reside in the city.

At the same time, the city owned water utility that serves outlying municipalities as well as Trenton was generating enough of a surplus that Palmer used some of the money to plug holes in the general budget. That is until some of the other towns served by the utility cried foul with the Board of Public Utilities. The Palmer response: raise Trenton water rates to parity with suburban rates so he no longer had to seek state approval of rates and oversight of how the money was spent.

When that didn’t silence the critics a plan was hatched to sell off the suburban water distribution infrastructure, claiming it was too expensive for the city to continue to maintain. Of course, if some of the surplus generated by the utility over the years had been used to maintain and improve the system, it would have been more valuable and perhaps rates could have been stabilized, etc. But then the money wouldn’t have been there for Palmer’s pet personnel and perks.

All the while, Mr. Palmer spent lavishly on cars and drivers for himself, multiple take home cars for city employees who do little more than commute to and from city hall from within the 7.5 square miles of land Trenton occupies, and well-compensated consultants, aides, and special assistants.

Palmer also gave carte blanche to an arrogant and extravagant Police Director who wasted millions of dollars on unneeded horse patrols, new badges, and two new police district buildings. When citizens filed a court challenge to the Police Director’s non-resident status, Palmer wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully defending his declared right to issue a residency waiver. Not learning the lesson handed down by one superior and three appellate court judges, Palmer turned around and appointed a new police director who also does not meet the same standards of residency that the city administration has itself set in past cases when they’ve removed city employees for non-compliance. This has of course generated another law suit.

And this is typical of the Palmer belief that he is always right. His treatment of subordinates who disagree with him is well documented. In fact, many people pursued and dismissed by the city for non-compliance with its own residency ordinance were treated thusly because they had in some way crossed, disagreed with or displeased Mr. Palmer. The ego is large and the skin incredibly thin for person supposedly dedicated to public service.

When the smile and false charm fail to get Doug Palmer what he wants, he resorts to bullying and strong arm tactics. He has berated private citizens and city council members who’ve publically disagreed with him (so much for lively debate). He uses appointments and public acknowledgement to curry favor and yanks them away when crossed.

Without the healthy campaign bank accounts raised by virtue of his incumbency, (expecting sizable donations from his department directors as well as local developers, businesses, etc.), Palmer would not have been re-elected to a third and most certainly a fourth term. His ability to motivate people and build an organization or movement based purely on personality has waned. He’s never been such a great thinker and change agent that people would follow his lead; nor has he been able to generate much political capital within the Democratic Party beyond that which is attached to his holding public office.

Mr. Palmer hitched his aspirations to higher visibility and greater power to the hopes of Senator Clinton’s political campaign yet he couldn’t even deliver his hometown to her vote tally. Once you became the party’s nominee, he was all about supporting you.

Ask yourself, what had changed? The ability to lift Doug Palmer out of the dark abyss of nearly two decades of a failed administration had passed from Ms. Clinton to you.

We urge you to look long and hard at the real Doug Palmer and not the flashy, pre-packaged, version. Do not trust this man with any sort of important position or responsibility. His capabilities start and end with a big smile and expensive wardrobe.

If you really want to do us a favor, you can take him out of Trenton by investigating his mismanagement of public funds and manhandling of the public trust for the past 18 plus years.

That would be the best thing your team could do for Trenton, NJ

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And there you have it

Shrugging off the post-Thanksgiving stupor, Trentonian columnist and Palmer administration confidant L.A. Parker posted a story this morning about Paul Pintella's decision to run for Mayor in 2010.

Those following the local political scene have been supposing and predicting who will run for what in the 2010 municipal elections. Many have long counted Doug Palmer as long gone from Trenton by then. Others have conceded that Palmer wants to be gone, but is hedging his bets and would run again in Trenton assuming nothing "bigger and better" comes along.

Presumably, as Parker points out, Pintella would not decide to run against his mentor. If, as suggested, the current Council President has decided to run it might be an indication that Palmer is not running again no matter what comes (or doesn't come) his way in the way of a "promotion" to a state or national position. (And the consensus around the stoop is that he will not be handed anything his ego would consider worthy---but that is another story).

Most likely, Parker's story is another "trial balloon" being sent up to gauge reaction from gadflies and the public at large. Otherwise why include so many obvious potential contenders and ignore others?

Brace yourselves dear Trentonians. If you thought the recently concluded presidential campaign was a marathon you haven't seen anything. Trenton municipal elections, formerly a sprint of just four and one half months is about to turn into long distance race.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Does he think we are that stupid?

Doug tries to foist Colicelli on council and the city again.

Almost a year ago, Trenton's city council pulled the plug on Barry Colicelli's sweetheart deal with the Palmer administration by not renewing his contract. Now he's back again in a resolution to hire his consulting company to be the city's "Youthstat Coordinator."

Colicelli, you may recall, was a former Newark cop and crony of former Police Director Joe Santiago who for three years or so had a contract with the city to be a special advisor to Mr. Palmer in matters pertaining to the city's gang problem. Colicelli's "Target Law Enforcement and Security Consultants, LLC" was given annual contracts worth just shy of $100,000 plus a car, cell phones, computers and furnished offer in city hall.

Finally, members of city council apparently had their fill of funding the position for an outsider when there must be one or more individuals already on the city payroll who could take on the tasks of this "consultant." Further, there might actually be a resident (or two or three) qualified to do the work.

Fortunately for Colicelli and Palmer, there was never any real look at the fact that the former was paid for work done without a contract in place; from apparently duplicated invoices; and without proper checks and balances from within city hall.

Fortunately for the taxpayers, a majority of council saw that it was their duty to not allow these questionable practices to continue siphoning off serious resources from a cash-strapped city.

Now, not even a year later, Colicelli/Target Law Enforcement is up for another contract with the city. While it is apparently a slightly less valuable contract (not to exceed $71,149), it is still questionable as to whether or not it is a reasonable or required expense.

First of all, we have never gotten a satisfactorily reasoned and explained answer to the question of whether or not we already had people on staff who could perform these duties as part of his/her job?

Second, there are questions about the "bidding process" used to fill this position.

Rumors have swirled for the past few weeks that an equally if not more qualified city resident expressed an interest in this consultant contract...and allegedly for a lower amount...but was passed over in favor of Colicelli.

Doug Palmer must thing we have forgotten what happened not even 12 months ago.

He must also be pretty certain that he has a majority of council votes to approve this contract.

After conducting a caucus on the front stoop, we suggest that the citizens of Trenton let their elected officials know that they will not stand for this type of shady dealing.

Once again, it is incumbent upon the residents to remind Mr. Palmer and city council that we are not stupid or forgetful and that we will not tolerate the administration's cavalier attitude towards spending our money on their whims.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Library Branches Saved...For Now

Palmer plan appears to block citizen efforts on library's behalf.

In a press conference at City Hall this afternoon a plan was announced that would keep the main Trenton library and the four branches open, but with reduced hours for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next one. An exception was granted from the state that would allow the reduction in hours.

Whle this is good news in the short term, there is a disturbing side story.

In announcing various steps to be undertaken to shore up the library's precarious finanical condition, Palmer stated that the Board of the Library is to "create a foundation that will work with and report to the Executive Director and Board to raise signifcant funds for multi-year capital projects as part of the long-term strategic plan." {view the full release here}

Oh no he didn't!

There is already a foundation in the works that has been successfully raising money in no small part because it is independent of the current Board of Trustees.

And the long dormant Friends of the Library group has revived itself and is working to be another, autonomous support agency for the Library.

Both of these groups exist in their current state simply because it has become apparent that the Library board cannot and/or will not carry on it's mandated function in a reliable, transparent and responsible manner.

For Doug Palmer to suggest that the very parties responsible for the mess the library system is in could and should oversee an entity charged with raising substantial funds is dangerously wrong.

At the very least, it is a slap in the face to those who've stepped up, on their own and in spite of the current leadership to support the libraries.

In the worst case scenario, it is yet another attempted power grab by the control hungry Palmer as well as a complete denial of the utter failure of the current library board. A board, don't forget, that includes his sister; is headed by a long-time family friend, and of which every member is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of Despot Doug.

When will Palmer learn to play nice, and fairly, with others so that the city he claims to love can truly progress?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Oh, Deer!

It has been reported that the administration of Doug "Hey, Mister. Can You Spare A Dime?" Palmer will remove the remnants of the deer herd from Cadwalader Park because of the worsening budget crisis.

While the deer paddock has been a sentimental favorite for generations of Trentonians, the collection of rag-tag ruminants is not an example of enlightened 21st Century animal keeping and display. It may be time to let the herd go.

Certainly given the choice between keeping the deer or adding an additional member to the city's police or fire departments; striving to keep the library branches open; or repairing the heating/air conditioning system at one of the Senior Centers, the deer would and should lose.

No one doubts that we are in tough financial times. All reasonable adults understand that cuts have to be made and cherished "institutions" like the Cadwalader Park deer herd may have to go.

Maybe the City should forego the expense of the Thanksgiving Parade (scheduled for Saturday, November 22). The police overtime, the fuel for the vehicles, the cost of setting and collecting the barricades could all be saved and at the same time the city will not be embarrassed by this half-assed and unnecessary display.

The parade, like Heritage Days and the so-called "Jazz Festival," are colossal wastes of resources that do nothing for the city except drain money better spent elsewhere.

Let's get real.

Mr. Palmer likes to speak about everyone having to cut back; having to give up something. Yet it is always the public who has to give up something, never Doug.

Maybe he should take his own advice.

How about it, Doug?

Let's give up on Heritage Days and ask the sponsor to give that money towards the libraries.

Let's stop robbing from the Recreation budget to cover the river of red ink the "Jazz Festival" hemorrhages each year.

How about you give up your drivers/security detail and cut your bloated administrative staff. Take a 10% pay cut as Mayor Nutter is doing in Philly.

You do that, then come see us about the deer herd.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ain't too proud to beg

Palmer pleads case for more handouts from Feds

There he goes again.

Trenton's own Doug Palmer was in Washington yesterday crying poor and asking for the federal government to help city's like Trenton get over their current financial crisis.

Citing "domino" effect trickle down from the mortgage and Wall Street situations, Palmer was at the front of Uncle Sam's Soup Line, hat in hand asking,
"Please, sir. May I have some more?"

Commodore Palmer might have a better chance of getting some help if he hadn't run the city's ship aground with two decades worth of mismanagement.

With the admittedly short funds available to anyone anywhere, why would a rational, reasoned Congress hand over wheelbarrow loads of money to a wasteful and imprudent despot like Palmer?

It's been said before and it will be repeated endlessly until the message gets through: come home, stop playing games with library budgets, cut the fat and waste from your administration and get this city back on course. Then, Doug, maybe people will try to lend a hand.

And remember this, Mr. Palmer, the saying is:
I'm from the government. I'm here to help.
...I am the government. I'm here to help myself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another member of Commodore Palmer’s crew is leaving the sinking ship.

Posting on tonight confirmed rumor that had been swirling all day.

Trenton Business Administrator (BA) Jane Feigenbaum has announced she’s leaving to take the same position in Perth Amboy starting in January.

Feigenbaum’s tenure in Trenton has been marked by interesting financial ideas, including the proposed sell off of the outlying distribution system of the City Water Utility in order to partially fill a potential $26 million budget gap; even though the sale of water to suburban customers generated enough of a surplus in past years to augment Trenton’s operating budget.

Interestingly, Feigenbaum is headed to Perth Amboy, a city currently plagued with its own budget shortfall and an investigation into the prior administration. She apparently beat out her own assistant, Dennis Gonzalez, for the position there. Gonzalez was rumored to be seeking a position in Perth Amboy a few months ago.

As a consolation, Trenton’s Assistant BA will be bumped up to “Acting” BA. Justifying his choice for Acting BA, Palmer claims that Dennis Gonzalez has “done outstanding work in every job he has performed.”

Does that include threatening a citizen for questioning his effectiveness when he headed the Housing and Economic Development Department?

In a sideways acknowledgement of the many departures from his cabinet, Palmer tossed off a comment about how the city is “generally prepared for when senior officials leave.”

Yeah, generally…they can find another body to plug the hole and tout the party line. Not necessarily excel at the position.

Who row the boat when all the good oarsmen have left?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still waiting

Maybe the Trentonian got it wrong last week when it reported that Doug Palmer was going to hold a press conference to offer his embellishments to Gov. Corzine's plan to save the state's economy. Maybe.

Or did Doug realize he had nothing of substance to suggest and cancelled the event?

We'll never know.

So maybe in place of his suggestions to revive the state's fortunes, Doug can issue a press release to explain something else to us.

Perhaps he'd like to clarify why he has again applied a double standard in managing personnel matters in the city.

Seems as though the auditors from the Mercadien Group who just reported their findings on the city's fiscal 2006-2007 budget discovered some Public Works employees submitted and were paid from unsigned time sheets. According to the article in this morning's Times, the city has adjusted the process to eliminate that error.

But were the employees or those who directly supervise them punished? Was anyone investigated and arrested and charged with a criminal offense for this?

Nothing of that sort was mentioned in the article.

But isn't this similar to the circumstances that got long-time City Finance Director Chris Stankewicz removed from her job? Because she "unlawfully" allowed a worker to get comp time off with pay?

The Palmer administration went after Chris with a vengeance...turning the investigation over to the County Prosecutor's office and locking employees out of their offices for a day or two.

The same administration apparently just adjusted procedures in the matter of the Public Works employees.

Why the difference, Doug? Why so severe and heavy handed in one case yet so calm and rational in the other?

Please explain to us. If you can't or won't, at least send a message out through Renee or Jane as to just why these cases were handled so differently.

Tell us why you sullied the reputation of one good employee who was nearing retirement for something that could have been handled much more professionally.

Yet you and your administration look the other way when members of your cabinet threaten citizens; you appoint non-residents to sensitive law enforcement positions, even though they have prior criminal records; your administration regularly paid a "consultant" from documents that were not properly signed off on by city officials.

C'mon, Doug. Tell us the real story here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh, I can't wait to hear this

Doug Palmer, the man who has presided over Trenton's fiscal ruin these past 18 years, is going to offer suggestions on improving Jon Corzine's plan to help the state weather the current economic crisis.

That's right. According to a notice in today's Trentonian, Mr. Palmer has some ideas to add to the Governor's thoughts.

Like him or not, Governor Corzine came to politics after heading up one of the largest, most successful and still standing Wall Street investment firms--Goldman Sachs. Jon Corzine obviously knows something about least enough to amass a personal fortune of his own.

Mr. Palmer on the other hand, is a an empty, expensive suit who dresses the part but has nothing but charm and charisma (both running low at this point in his sinking career) to fall back on. Mr. Palmer "married" some money, and has no doubt invested some of his income from his years in city hall.

So while everyone else is taking their time reviewing and critiquing the plan of a Wall Street veteran, that Spring Street Pimp Palmer has already scheduled a press conference to add his two cents.

We'll be lucky if it's worth that much.

Before any of you start jumping up and down and singing the praises of whatever rhetorical remedies Palmer offers, remember this:

He is the one who wants to sell off the one solid, long-term asset of the city (the outlying water distribution infrastructure, much of which the city doesn't technically own) for a one shot, short term financial boost (we can't even say "gain").

And you think he has anything of substance to offer?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This is a complete outrage

Doug Palmer has lost his mind.

The Times of Trenton reported shortly after noon that Doug Palmer would hold a press conference at 12:30 pm EDT to announce the appointment of Irving Bradley, Jr. as the new Trenton Police Director.

This is without a doubt the most blatantly irresponsible move made to date by the despotic egomaniacal Palmer.

Bradley does not meet the requirements of bona fide residency. He's been a city employee for over a year and only recently registered to vote here.

He's got a criminal record.

He was deemed unqualified for the position of Communications Director, yet he's qualified to hold the position the Communications Director reports to?

Interestingly, there are a couple of items pending on this weeks council docket regarding organizational structure of the police and fire departments and the qualifications for the police director. How coincidental.

Palmer is out of his mind if he thinks this will fly. And the city is in no position to fight another round of court battles to prove Doug wrong again.

City council had better stand tall on this one or there will be an open revolt in the streets.

Palmer phones it in

Missing Mayor calls in from Florida and hints at sixth term.

The city is in a fiscal crisis unprecedented in the 18 year reign of his mediocre-ness, Douglas H. Palmer so he troubled himself to take the time and call into L.A. Parker's dubiously titled "Straight Talk" radio show last week. (Listen to the entire broadcast here).

So, what did Doug have to say? A lot of nothing!

The call-in was troubled with some technical difficulties and so was broken into two segments. The first segment, about 11 minutes long, had Palmer touting the 14th place ranking of the Trenton-Ewing metropolitan area in green job potential (click here for a copy of the whole report). Even though Doug mentions that he realizes that the Trenton-Ewing designation includes Ewing, he unfortunately glides over a crucial fact in touting Trenton as the beneficiary of this high ranking. The Trenton-Ewing Metropolitan Statistical Area is the demographer's term for the whole of Mercer County.

And this isn't the first time Doug has confused the MSA with the City of Trenton. A few years back there were newspaper reports of cheers around the table in his conference room when he announced a significant spike in the average home sales price in Trenton. The only problem was, the new average was for the entire county and not just the city.

Back to the radio show, Doug blathered on about how positive this all was for the city as if
a) it was all his doing (implied, not stated)
b) it signaled an immediate turnaround in the fortunes of the beleaguered capital city (the job potential was calculated for 2038---three decades into the future!).

Then it was on to the liberary issues. Palmer began trying to explain away the library closings as fiscally responsible and his appreciation for all of (Library Board of Trustee President) Mrs. Hayling's dedication over the years. Doug was absolutely indignant that anyone would challenge the good work of this woman and "point fingers" at her because the system was failing. He even cited a time when "no one wanted to serve on the Library board" except her, never once pausing to consider the hesitancy to serve might have something to do with Mrs. Hayling's heavy handed way of controlling the board.

It was somewhere along in this part of the conversation that Palmer uttered some non-sense about never holding grudges against people who disagree with him because he knows we all want the same thing: a better Trenton. He actually claimed not to let his personal feelings "good or bad" stand in the way of doing what was best for the city.

If that doesn't make you choke on your morning danish, nothing will.

Has there ever been a more thin-skinned, vindictive person than Doug Palmer? Not in our extended memory. Just look at the number of times good, dedicated individuals have been replaced on boards just because they dared cross purposes with the dictatorial Palmer.

Towards the end of the segment, as the technical difficulties grew more annoying, Palmer began to answer a question about the vacant Police Director position.

Finally, the feedback and noise got so bad, Parker cut Palmer off.

With a cleaner connection established, Parker resumed the phone interview about 15 minutes or so later (download Part 2 of the interview here). Instead of picking up where he left off, Doug went back to the library situation and tried to convice listeners that his ideas were best and that there was no other choice. Bah!

The topic of the Police Director was resumed as Palmer spun some yarn about not wanting to promote someone from within the ranks of the TPD to the Civilian Directorship because of the pension, residency and loyalty (to the rank and file, and not to him) issues. Palmer spoke in certain terms that these were all insurmountable obstacles to having an "accountable" Police Director and demanded that city council amend the residency ordinance.

All the sturm and drang and chest thumping aside, perhaps the most telling moment came when Parker tried to extract a definitive statement about Doug's intentions to run for Mayor again or not. Palmer all but confirmed what many have been saying for awhile now.

At about 6:55 into this segment the exchange goes like this:

Parker: "You always say that you have not said that you were not going to run again. Are you going to say that soon?"

Palmer: "No."

Later on, in explanation Doug says quite plainly that he has a lot to finish here, but that there may be "an opporunity that may present itself where I may not run again..."

So there you go all you doubters. Out of the horse's mouth...if he gets a call up to a bigger, higher profile position, he's gone.

If not, he's here for another term...or at least an attempt at one.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

He just doesn't get it.

Doug whistle-stops in Florida for Obama while ignoring the train wreck that is Trenton.

His mediocre-ness, Czar Douglas the First is off on another junket; hanging out with Bill Clinton, stumping for Obama in Florida.

In the meantime, Trenton continues to crumble and collapse.

Fresh from Saturday night's Preservation New Jersey recognition for his commitment to historic preservation (a put up job if ever there was one!), Doug hightailed it Florida for a Conference of Mayor's event and to suck up to Obama campaign staffers.

In a piece in this morning's Times, Andrew Kitchenman wrote:
Palmer said his main focus on the trip remains the mayors' agenda, and that he is raising his concerns about Trenton with Obama campaign officials.

"It's important that Trenton with 85,000 people is as important as New York City" to national officials, Palmer said.

Once again, Doug shows just how disconnected he is from the realities of Trenton today. That 85,000 population figure was accurate at the time of the 2000 census. Current figures put the population at just under 83,000. That's a 2.6% decrease in less than a decade.

A decade that Doug frequently likens to a renaissance in Trenton.

A decade others compare to the dark ages.

Last week, we suggested Doug had two choices, step up, take control and do right by the city or walk away and let us get on with turning Trenton around.

Seems he's still chasing dreams of a high profile job anywhere but here. It looks like he's made up his mind.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's now or never

Grab the tiller, Doug. Or jump overboard and swim for shore.

Well it's been quite a week in the fiefdom of Douglas H. Palmer, a locale also known as the City of Trenton.

Palmer's pet police director marked his official departure by throwing up the "white flag" and surrendering to the court ordered vacation of the position. Of course, in true "Palmerago" (you know, like "Brangelina")fashion of having to have the last word, the former police director tendered his "resignation." This was tantamount to Santiago saying, "OK. You win. But I'm going because I want to, not because you made me."


And, after a "curtain call" on Wednesday, he was gone.

A career Trenton police officer, Fred Reister, has been made the acting director now that the former director is officially gone. A respected administrator who came up through the ranks, Reister is expected to heal the wounds within the department while getting a real handle on the crime situation in the capital city.

That is, if Palmer lets him do his job.

In an article in the Times from Thursday, September 25, Kevin Shea wrote:
Meanwhile, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer firmly said yesterday Santiago's replacement, Capt. Fred Reister, is an interim role and he does not want a lot of changes, and the department needs to stay on the course Santiago set.

Palmer said Reister's appointment is "purely transitional," and said, "I am going to tell him that I don't want to see a whole lot of changes."

Uh, Doug, you had 75 days from the appellate court decision to work on transition. You chose not to. Now you are going to dictate to the guy you appointed, while he was supposed to be on vacation, that you want no changes?

Why, Doug? Just because the acting director made a personnel move involving a police captain who supported one of your opponents in the last election? When are you going to grow up?

On Tuesday, the city council heard held an information session with Library Director Kimberly Bray, representatives of the Library's accounting firm and the Library Board of Trustees. The Trenton Free Public Library, in case you've been too preoccupied with Santiago's departure, is about to collapse from a huge funding deficit. The current plan on the table is to shutter the four branches, layoff personnel, and consolidate operations and remaining staff in the main library on Academy Street.

Many around the city find this solution unacceptable for many reasons. Several members of council have also indicated their opposition to this.

While the current library director was grilled about the situation and the accountants were also given their time in the hot seat, little to nothing was said about or addressed directly to the Board of Trustees of the Trenton Free Public Library who have been on watch over the erosion of the institution's financial stability.

Let's be clear here: as outlined in state law, the Mayor appoints the library board. There is a seat at the table for the Mayor (or his designated alternate), the superintendent of schools, and some community members. The President of the Trustees who has presided over this fiscal meltdown is Mrs. Adrienne Hayling, a long-time Palmer family friend sometimes referred to as Doug's "second mother." And keeping it in the family is the Mayor's sister, Karen Richardson.

Palmer can claim all the surprise at the news of the library's insolvency that he wants, but no one is going to believe him. His administration knew; council had an inkling after the revelations of the previous library director, Scott Hughes, made known his issues with the Trustees, the Board President and the weak financial condition.

For too many years, Doug Palmer has preached "accountability" while demonstrating anything but.

He "settled" on a police director (Santiago) who was anything but accountable; who's spending sprees went unchecked; who's every tantrum resulted in actions detrimental to the overall safety and security of the citizens; and who's constant mantra of "crime is down" was seldom, if ever, backed up with any real hard data other than suspiciously under-reported crime numbers. When that police director finally left or faced defying court orders that allowed for a 75 day transition period, he claimed he scrambled to fill a so-called "surprise vacancy."

With the library system in constant turmoil due to a revolving door in the director's office over the past five years or so; a once robust "Friends of the Trenton Library" group that went dormant in the same period; and no real reporting or communication between the Trustees and the governing body (city council) of the funding municipality, Palmer claims shock and surprise that things have gotten to this point.

It is plain as day that Doug Palmer has lost interest in running this city in an effective and efficient manner. The man who talks all about accountability has none.
His only goal is to find a new job, up front, on a larger stage. (Yeah, good luck with that one, Doug).

It's way past time for Doug Palmer to take some definitive action. This does not mean micro-managing the police department through it's director (acting or otherwise). After all, Doug Palmer is not a law enforcement professional, nor does he have any real public administration experience since he's been little more than a figurehead these past 18 years. It's the various Chiefs of Staff and Business Administrators who have done the real administrative work (and not always well).

Taking action also doesn't mean spouting off simple solutions of consolidating the system into one mega-library with a shuttle service to get people to and from. As Councilman Coston pointed out the other night, there are no cost estimates for upgrading or adding onto the existing main library building; no cost estimates for this proposed shuttle service. It doesn't address the real problem of a library board locked in the iron grip of a presiding officer who is unable and/or unwilling to face the fact that her "way" has lead to the ruin of this vital public institution.

As we see it there are only two courses of action left to Mr. Palmer.

One, he comes back to the job he so proudly boasts of having been elected to; establishes a clear vision for the city with benchmarks for the next month, three months, six months and end of FY2010; and let's the professionals in city government work their hardest to meet those goals (or else); cuts the serious fat from the city's budget, including and especially in the upper levels of the administration and redistribute the money at hand to save institutions like the library; and he should take the sale of the outlying water distribution system off of the table and concentrate on operating the water utility as a sound infrastructure investment and stop living off of its surplus but within the means of the real budget.

The second alternative is admittedly more simple and straightforward. It may leave some with a very bitter taste, but it must be considered.

If Doug Palmer is not man enough to stop the self-deception and buckle down to the task of turning around the city as outlined in above, than he must immediately and irrevocably pack it in and walk away. He's not doing the city or himself any good by continuing on in the current fashion.

It's one or the other, Doug. You're move.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Great lines

Note: entry edited on 9/24/08 to substitute "resign" for "retire."--OMH

The reporting of the departure of Joe Santiago from the already vacated position of police director for the city of Trenton provided ample opportunity for some interesting word choices and turns of phrase.

Let me replay for you now, just a few of the better ones we've read.

At the top of the list is the announcement of Santiago's "resignation" itself. As several of the more astute members of the community have pointed out, you can't really resign from a job you don't have. Lest we forget or overlook the fine point of this, four judges in two separate hearings of the matter determined that the position of police director in the city of Trenton was vacant due to the simple fact that Mr. Santiago was not a city resident. Judge Feinberg gave her decision in March with a 30 day grace period for orderly transition that was stayed until the three judges of the Appellate Court upheld her ruling but extended the transition period to 75 days. No matter how you look at it, Joe Santiago was out of a job. I don't think you can resign from a grace period. He might as well have said, "You can't fire me. I quit."

Another great quote came from Council President and Palmer lackey, Paul Pintella. The idiot prince was quoted as saying Santiago was "one of the finest police directors ever to work in Trenton." Nice.

Here's a test for you Paulie. How many police directors has Trenton had?

Let me help you out. There have been two: Jim Golden and Joe Santiago. (George Clisby and Abe Hemsey were never fully appointed to the position).

Now if we accept your statement that Santiago was "one of the finest police directors" to work here that would indicate that he was a) not the finest and b) Santiago was, by elimination, the worst police director to work in Trenton.

If there were only two, and Joe was not the finest but "one of the finest" than he is second. Second in a field of two is last. Last in this case equals worst.

So you managed to insult Santiago and give a backhanded compliment to his predecessor at the same time. You could have won the prize for best statement, but...

Unexpected vacancy

The topper may be one of the wry comments from Trentonian columnist and Palmer plugger, L.A. Parker.

First, L.A. writes about the appointment of Captain Fred Reister as acting director "until further notice as Palmer attempts to fill an unexpected vacancy."

Something that has been on the books for six months, is "unexpected?"

About 11 paragraphs into his page three article about Santiago's departure, Parker cleverly wrote the following:

"Mayor Palmer bid farewell to his partner in crime, calling Santiago one of the city's top assets and a major crime fighter."

I'm not sure but there may be some double, if not triple irony to that statement.
First, without a doubt Palmer and Santiago are partners in crime. The waste of taxpayer dollars fighting the illegal waiver of the residency requirement was nothing short of criminal (and we still think they should have to repay the city for the legal fees and court costs). Referring to Santiago as one of the "city's top assets" might have read more accurately if the final t was swapped for an s. A similar rewrite might be applied to the declaration that Santiago was "a major crime fighter." His regular displays of favoritism, cronyism and the reported poor attendance record he had while on the city payroll add up to make Santiago more of a major criminal than a crime fighter.

And just when you think you've read the best comes old Smug Doug himself. The Missing Mayor made a prophetic statement in the Times.

"I'm disappointed," Palmer said. "However, I have to move on. I have a city to run and I have to run it."

At last, a statement we can agree with. Palmer has to move on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A man of his word

And leave the vehicles, cell phones, computers, etc. here when you go.

The story flashing around town today is about the resignation of Joe Santiago as the former police director for the city of Trenton. This inspirational move came on the last day of the 75 day period granted by last July's Appellate Court decision; a period designed to allow for the "orderly transition" to new leadership of the TPD.

Now, the wags are posing the question "How can he resign from a position that the courts determined he no longer held?" And it is a valid question.

Resigned or fired, it doesn't really make a difference (except maybe for the $136,000+ in legal fees our cash-strapped city spent on this ridiculous court case).

What does matter is that Mr. Santiago, the once and future former police director, has shown that after all that has occurred, he is a man of his word.

Last November, Santiago was quoted in the newspaper as saying he'd quit before he moved his family here. Ten months later, he's holding true to his word.

And to show how much we appreciate the former police director's integrity, we offer a similar response to his resignation that we gave nearly a year ago:

Good! Bye!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Smug Palmer hints at Santiago stay

If that's the case, he'd better come with a large check in his hand.

Prior to Tuesday's press conference on the budget and proposed library closings speculation was rampant that an announcement was forthcoming regarding the continuation of former Police Director Santiago's tenure in Trenton.

As we know now, the prepared remarks were truly about the budget and the Mayor's "feigned" surprise at the plan to close the branch libraries.

Of course the question of Santiago's status...the court ordered deadline for his departure looms next week...was raised.

Both Kevin Shea of the Times and Joe D'Aquila of the Trentonian (article not posted to the web at this time) reported this morning that Palmer indicated Santiago might somehow remain as the head of the Trenton Police Department.

The guessing over the hows and whys such a turn of events might occur obscure two very large points.

The first, Mr. Santiago stated quite plainly last fall that if he had to move into the city to keep the job, he'd quit.

The second, the arrogant stubbornness shown by Palmer and Santiago in taking this matter through the courts with the cash strapped Trenton tax payers footing the bill for both sides of the case (Palmer and Santiago's defense as well as City Council's legal position as a plaintiff in the case).

While the pros and cons of Santiago's tenure as Police Director will no doubt be debated for years to come, one thing is quite clear: he thinks more of himself than the people he was hired to serve and the laws he is supposed to uphold.

If Palmer and his cronies want Santiago back so much that they have ferreted out yet another loophole, it had better be a good one.

We know that any pretense of Santiago establishing bona fide city residency will be scrutinized from every angle.

For now, the city waits for next week's 11th hour announcement from Palmer as to the vacant police director position. Rumors and speculation will continue to swirl.

We just hope if Santiago is somehow reappointed to a position on the city payroll that he comes to prepared to write a check payable to the City of Trenton in an amount equal to all the money spent on this wasteful exercise of the judicial system.

No pay, no play.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oh no he didn't!

In yet another demonstration of his refusal to take any blame for the state of the city, Doug Palmer called a press conference today to “set the record straight.”

Let’s leave aside for the moment that just last week Palmer used the same approach to counter criticism of the proposal to sell off the Trenton Water Utility’s outlying distribution infrastructure. The man who claims to believe in “accountability” once again is blaming anyone and everyone, including his hand picked Library Board, for the problems in Trenton.

It was also interesting to note that the press conference was scheduled for the Mayor’s conference room, a smallish room barely able to contain the Mayor, his staff, City Council and representatives of the media. There was no room for the public. In fact, one well known citizen was actually turned away at the door with the explanation that the press conference was only for the media, council and department heads.

Interesting, since the opening paragraph of the prepared speech includes the line:
"I have asked you here today because I want the public to have benefit of additional information regarding the Trenton Library Board’s decision to close its four branches due to the City’s budget crisis."

As an aside, Kent Ashworth and Council President Paul Pintella offered apologies later on at the council conference session. But that doesn’t really make up for the obvious intent to exclude the public from the outset. Just like the insistence on holding the Tuesday conference sessions only in the conference room even when, as was the case today, the assembled public wishing to attend couldn’t be accommodated and so were held outside of an allegedly public meeting.

So much for an open and transparent government!

Then there is the content of the speech itself.

Palmer offered pleas of ignorance of the actions and decisions of the Board of Trustees of the Trenton Public Library even as he admitted that he appoints the members.

Hard to believe that long-time Palmer family friend, “second mother” and Board President, Adrienne Hayling, never confided in Doug about that status of the library or the plans to close branches. Just as it is hard to believe that his own sister, also a library board member, never mentioned any of this to Mr. Palmer.

Mr. Palmer is only fooling himself if he truly thinks the general public believes any of this.

It almost makes one wish he was off galavanting around the country again. When he's hear, his bogus sincerity and constant spinning of the truth are nauseating.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trenton Reads...Not!

As the city reels from the announcement that the Library Board plans to close the four branches sometime in the next coming months, the Palmer PR machine (aka L.A. Parker) is in full spin.

In a piece appearing on the Trentonian website this morning, Mayor Palmer spreads the blame on everything from the economy to Governor Corzine. (There goes your shot at the Lt. Governor gig, Doug)


The false outrage and posturing by Palmer just doesn't wash.

First of all, the library funds are managed (mismanaged?) by the board of the Trenton Public Library (TPL). The members of the board are appointed by...all together now...the Mayor.

The board is headed by long-time Palmer family friend, Adrienne Hayling.

The board has failed the TPL by not being able to capitalize on the abundant funding the city has given it over the years.

The board has failed the TPL by not hiring, heeding and retaining top notch professional staff such as former Director, Scott Hughes.

Parker writes:
Palmer placed a portion of the blame on library officials whom he said are responsible for their operating budget.

The board needs to be a person. (We've said this before)

As for Mr. Palmer's assertions that it is "the economy" and/or the fault of the State, let's get real.

True, the economy is in the tank and we are all suffering. But the administration of the city has carried on as if nothing was wrong. The flagrant waste of money on lawsuits defending the former Police Director; the liberal take home car policy; the rampant police overtime spending; part-time assistants to the Mayor making five figure salaries...the list goes on. Each and every item adds up yet the administration refuses to openly detail their plans to live within its financial means.

And in typical Doug Palmer fashion, he suggests that
library officials could correct its financial difficulties via a fundraiser.
"The City would be more than willing to help with such an effort. I think city residents would support such an initiative," Palmer said.

He's kidding, right?

First he says it's partly the board's fault for the financial situation (the board he and only he appoints). Then he suggests they hold a fundraiser and the residents would get behind it and bring the TPL back to some sort of financial stability.

Nope. Not one voluntary dime until the board is restocked with people who understand their fiduciary responsibilities as trustees of the TPL.

And, Doug, if funding is the issue...why not forget about courting PSE&G, Verizon, Bank of America, etc. to fund your worthless "Jazz Festival" and the tired Heritage Days and ask them to direct their grants to the TPL (after you name a new board).

Like so many of the drastic problems facing Trenton today, this could have been avoided. But the quality of leadership from City Hall is so lacking that New Jersey's Capital City contiues its rapid decline to third world status.

Trenton is not just financially broke, it is ethically bankrupt.

If you want to know the real culprit in this Mr. Palmer, look in the mirror.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Meet the new boss

Montaño out, Harris in

The administration announced yesterday that Acting Housing and Economic Development Director Sasa Olessi Montaño was resigning to tend to family matters.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that we were less than thrilled with Montaño's appointment last year. It is unfortunate that she has an ill relative who she needs to care for, but we do feel it is good thing for Trenton that she is leaving the post.

Or it would be except for the political hack that has already been named to as her replacement, Jerome Harris.

Mr. Harris is a long time Palmer friend and husband of former Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Long Harris.

While the press release touts Mr. Harris as a former New Jersey Assistant Secretary of State and a former Assistant State Treasurer, his most recent work in the Palmer Administration has been as a "special assistant for intergovernmental affairs."

In yet another example of how Palmer plunders the city treasury for the benefit of friends, Harris has been paid over $50,000 for a part-time job. According to the press release, Mr. Harris has been "coordinating the efforts of the Trenton Green Initiative."

Wow! Good job! Heading up the largely imagined and symbolic Green Initiative for city that doesn't even practice recycling in it's own offices and facilities; a city who allegedly has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of recycling equipment sitting in a warehouse somewhere gathering dust because it dismantled it's city-run recycling program.

And what else has Mr. Harris overseen for the Mayor? Did Mr. Harris personally pick out the official Hybrid vehicles for the Mayor to be chauffeured around in?

Oh, yes. Mr. Harris has been the Mayor's representative on the Planning Board.
Mr. Harris is but another in the long line of political appointees who makes a nice living, thank you very much, off of the backs of Trenton and New Jersey (remember folks, Trenton receives a lot of subsidies from the State). One could say his connections are the strongest part of his resume. And he's got the prime seat on the Merry-Go-Round that is Trenton's Housing and Economic Development Department.

Well, at least they didn't put Dennis Gonzalez back in charge.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maybe we were better off when he was asleep

A report in this morning's Trentonian outlines yet another incident involving Trenton Police Captain Paul "Captain Sleepy" Messina.

Messina reportedly "went off" on Sgt. Steve Wilson for arriving late to a training session. It didn't seem to matter to Capt. Messina that Wilson had worked until 3:30 in the morning and had notified his immediate supervisor of his expected tardiness.

And we're sure that this incident had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Sgt. Wilson earlier this week filed a complaint against another officer for failure to act during the chase and apprehension of suspect. That other officer, Sgt. Raul Virella, just happens to be part of former Police Director Santiago's "inner circle" along with Messina.

We can make all the wisecracks we want about this, but the fact is it has ceased to be funny.

The Police Department is charged with protecting and serving the public. While the majority of the men and women on the job are willing and able to do just that, the leadership of former Director Santiago has obviously made it extremely difficult for them.

Further, the mismanagement of the department under Santiago, Messina and their "circle of friends" has obviously placed the public as well as members of the department at risk. This has to stop now before someone, cop or civilian, gets seriously hurt.

We cannot tolerate the type of behaviors exhibited recently by the likes of Captain Messina and Sgt. Raul Virella.

In the case of the former, we have twice this month been treated to examples of his verbal abuse of other officers, his lack of professionalism and self-control (not good traits for someone authorized to carry a weapon). Captain Messina needs to be relieved of his weapon, his command of the academy, sent for a mental evaluation and given a substantial and meaningful suspension that includes the 30 days held in abeyance from a previous infraction.

As for Sgt. Virella, he obviously failed to uphold his sworn duties in refusing to assist in the apprehension of a fleeing suspect. A suspect, by the way, who had already assaulted and injured fellow officers!

Sgt. Virella should also be relieved of his position as the head of "professional standards" for the TPD and be suspended without pay (if you refuse to act as an officer, than you should not be paid as an officer).

The people of Trenton will not condone this kind of behavior from any police officer. Nor should the other members of the TPD have to worry about working with individuals who obviously are not suited for the job.

It's not a matter of politics or preference. It is a matter of public (and police) safety.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who’s minding the store?

Mr. Palmer is in Denver shopping his resume to anyone who will give him the time of day.

The former Police Director, with only weeks left to complete the transition of leadership, is rarely seen in town these days.

Captain Paul “Sleepy” Messina is attending an out of town conference when he should be serving a suspension for his antics earlier this month.

Sgt. Virella, who heads up the office of professional standards for the police department, refused to assist a fellow officer in apprehending a suspect.

The local AFSCME president’s son apparently has what amounts to a no-show job with the sewer utility.

The administration may be giving themselves raises even though projections are for a sizeable deficit this year ($7+ million) and a promised budget has yet to be presented to council (gee, wonder why that is?)

Is there anybody in charge?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Did Palmer administration officials promise a do nothing job

Letter alleges special treatment for son of labor leader

The Missing Mayor website ( has posted a copy of a letter purportedly sent to city officials that details alleged preferential treatment of an employee.

The letter alleges that Dominick Talone, son of city union president Dave Talone, was given a job at the Trenton Sewer Utility in September of 2007.

Respectfully yours,
Concerned Employees of the Water and Sewer Utility

the letter was sent to city council and members of the Public Works Department senior staff.

The writers raise questions about the how and why the younger Talone is treated differently than the very rank and file workers represented by his father. There are allegations of "numerous absences, no calls, or no shows." Although he started just under a year ago, the letter charges that Dominick Talone was given a raise after only a month on the job instead of waiting to his anniversary date as is standard.

Interesting, that the union represented by the elder Talone is supposed to stand for fair and equitable employment practices; practices that offer protection from political favoritism for public employees. But here we have a claim that the son of a union official is the beneficiary of just such special treatment.

Interesting, too, that the union in question has recently concluded contract negotiations with the city while the Police and Fire Unions are still working under contracts that expired three years or more ago. (It needs to be noted that once a new contract is agreed to, whatever increases in pay result will be retroactive to the old contract date...meaning a large lump payment to the police and fire personnel; a large payment the city can ill afford!)

Now, if we're not mistaken, Mr. Palmer is currently off schmoozing at the Democratic National Convention trying to land his next gig.

And one of the aims of the convention is to build party solidarity behind their Presidential candidate; solidarity that brings the blue-collar workers and union members back to the Democratic fold.

All the while, one of the party's "brightest and best" has let his administration betray the very ideals of fair labor practices.

Something stinks and it isn't just the sewage plant.

Let's see how they handle this one from 319 East State Street; or Hunterdon County; or Denver.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blather and confusion from another Palmer puppet

Doug Palmer’s favorite shill set a new record for sucking up to the master Thursday during his radio show.

L. A. Parker opened “Straight Talk” on WIMG with a discussion of the Santiago residency issue. For five minutes, Parker took the party line to new lows. (Download it here.)

After proclaiming that the Trentonian “broke the story” of Santiago moving into the city, Mr. Objectivity and his female on-air sidekick state that if the opportunity presents itself through the former police director should be allowed to stay on. They demonstrate a complete lack of understanding and/or acceptance of the fact that four New Jersey judges have declared the office of police director vacant due to Santiago’s lack of residency. The only reason he is still “on the job” is because he was granted a 75 day time period to effect an orderly transition to a successor.

He goes onto state the matter was handled incorrectly from the outset and that if the job meant that much to Santiago he should have moved into the city and avoided all the expense and hassle of the court case. We can’t argue that.

Parker criticizes Council, notably Councilman At-Large Segura and the so called “gang of four” (Segura, along with Bethea, Coston and Melone) about changing their tune from ‘it’s about residency’ to ‘he’s (Santiago) not the man from the job.’

“It’s not fair,” L.A. says.

Parker actually says that it appears there is a way for Santiago to stay.

L. A. also says Mr. Segura “should have kept his mouth shut” but has “had a problem doing that lately.” (About 2:55 in) Maybe Parker should heed his own advice.

This again shows a refusal to grasp the most basic concept of the case…the position is vacant. Santiago’s relocation to the city doesn’t guarantee his approval by Council or anyone else.

Parker, ever the administration loyalists, defies anyone to tell him that Santiago has not done a good job in the five years he was Police Director. His blind allegiance to the Palmer throne prevents him from acknowledging the financial waste, blatant favoritism, the lack of public confidence in the level of overall public safety in the city that have marked the Santiago tenure.

Not a very good quality in one who purports to be a journalist.

Another indication of Parker’s lack of comprehension of the facts of the case comes at about 3:49 into the piece. Our intrepid reporter, so willing to offer his learned opinion on these weighty topics admits readily and clearly that he “doesn’t know how it was stated in the decision by Judge Feinberg.”

“If it says that he’s gone, than he’s gone,” explains our non-comprehending radio host. “But if there’s a way that he can stay, don’t change the debate now.”
Don’t know, L. A.? Then stop talking about it!

Perhaps the most telling and egregious statement in the piece comes near the end.

Mr. Parker brings up the fact that there are questions about Director of Communications Irving Bradley residency as well. Parker puts this on people who don’t like “Latinos” or “blacks.” As proof, he cites the fact that rumors have swirled for years about the true residency status of Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum yet nobody has gone after her.

It is true that many have questioned just how much of a Trenton resident Jane is. It was pretty well known that she divided her time between Jersey City and her house in Mill Hill. Her frequent absences were marked by an increase in the amount of people hanging on her front steps; her often overgrown backyard. And it is right that her residency should be questioned.

But Mr. Parker, intrepid reporter that he is, again doesn’t know or doesn’t care that Ms. Feigenbaum owns her home in Trenton (something Mr. Santiago has yet to be able to say). Ms. Feigenbaum also is registered to vote in Trenton. Again, something Mr. Santiago never did.

Aren’t these two of the benchmarks used to establish “bona fide” residency? Since these two facts are public information that anyone can readily come by, why wouldn’t one assume that Ms. Feigenbaum has met a lot more of the legal standards used to determine residency than Mr. Santiago or Mr. Bradley, so maybe there is no point in pursuing any action against her.

But even that simple research is too much for Mr. Parker, an alleged reporter, to be able to carry out. It’s much easier and to his liking to call the motivations racist and leave it at that.

Prattle on Mr. Parker. You aren’t convincing anybody of anything other than your blind and loyal allegiance to Doug Palmer’s shrinking, sinking fiefdom.

*Edited to fix broken link to audio download. If it still doesn't work, try cutting and pasting this url into your browser:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Psst! Do you want to know a secret?

Seems as though the Palmer machine, dysfunctional though it may be, set the grapevine humming via its unofficial mouthpiece, Mr. Larry "L.A." Parker.

In this morning's edition of the Trentonian, Mr. Parker "reports" that unidentified sources have stated that former Police Director Santiago will move into the city in an attempt to regain his appointment.

Word of the story began to circulate Tuesday evening raising eyebrows and tempers across town. And that was just what the scenario was intended to do.

Once again, the Trentonian's Mr. Parker showed that he is nothing more than a pawn of the Palmer administration by writing up and submitting a biased piece of public information flim-flam disguised (barely) as reporting.

Fellow blogger and co-plaintiff in the suit that upheld the City's residency ordinance, Greg Forester, exposes Parker's professional lapses in an entry today. We agree that Parker irresponsibly compromised his position as a supposedly unbiased and independent reporter by allowing himself to be used to "float" the notion that Santiago would take up residency and be reappointed to the Director position by Palmer.

Obviously, Palmer and Santiago hope to gauge public reaction to the "rumors" to design their next move in this game they are trying to run on City Council and the public.

Palmer and Santiago seem to hope the hardworking, taxpaying citizens of Trenton will overlook the hundreds and thousands of dollars spent defending the Mayor's illegally granted residency waiver. Money that the cash strapped city can ill afford at this time.

They are also overlooking and possibly condoning the continued illegal actions of errant police Captain Paul "Capt. Sleepy" Messina. Why isn't Mr. Parker reporting on that situation?

The truth is Palmer and Santiago are using their "inside" man, L.A. Parker, as their lead propagandist. By manipulating the "news" they hope to control public opinion of their failed leadership.

That is the real secret and they do not want you to realize it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Trenton's administration took another hit from the state Merit System Board.

In April, a list of qualified candidates for the city's position of Economic Development Director did not include Anthony Carabelli, Jr. who had held the job provisionally since last fall. Carabelli has appealed the decision, but in the meantime has been reclassified as an "Economic Development Representative."

This comes on the heels of the state's declaration that City Communications Director Irving Bradley is not qualified for that position. Bradley, who was hired last year amidst controversy about his residency and criminal record, was brought in at near the top of the salary range for a position that is arguably not even needed.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

And what of Mr. Carabelli's boss, "Acting" Director of Housing and Economic Development, Sasa Olessi Montaño? We've previously stated our reservations about her suitability for the job.

Based upon these and many more choices, maybe the state should just do what we all know needs to be done.

Let's declare Doug Palmer not qualified to hold the position of Mayor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Come again?

Trenton’s own “Missing Mayor,” Doug Palmer must be trying to outdo “Travelwhore” over at The Bald, the Fat, and the Angry.

Palmer recently returned from a trip to Africa where he was obviously studying on how to make Trenton a better third-world city.

Then it was off to Philly to expound on the crime problem in urban America (not that he considers how he continually rapes and plunders the city of Trenton for his own personal gain a crime).

In today’s Trentonian, L.A. Parker reports that Palmer just returned from a weekend meeting in Pittsburgh, PA preparing the platform for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver. Palmer will be a delegate to the convention.

The big plum here is a position in the “White House Office on Urban Policy” that Senator Obama plans to create if he’s elected in November.

The purpose of the Urban Policy office would be “to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs." The director of urban policy will report directly to the president and coordinate all federal urban programs.

According to Parker, Doug practically drools at the thought of being named director.

Funny stuff.

Doug Palmer wants to be the guy who ensures that “all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent.” Isn’t he the guy whose city has fallen deeper in the red while he deals out free cars and gas to cronies; hires consultants and aids without regard to budget restraints; and wastes hundreds of thousands of tax dollars fighting his own city council about upholding residency ordinances?

Parker writes, “The mayor said the city's infrastructure needs attention, adding that such development could boost employment and improve Trenton's economy.”

Uh, Doug, who let the infrastructure deteriorate to this point? And who is trying to sell off the one potential money making part of it (the water utility) for a one shot cash infusion?

Mr. Palmer is obviously suffering from road sickness and should stay home long enough to regain his senses.

Senator Obama, I hope you are grounded enough to not be dazzled and fooled by Doug Palmers big smile and expensive suits. The last thing you, or this country, needs is him as part of your "team."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Out of the mouths of puppets

Council Prez urges residency amendment

Paul Pintella, Trenton City Council President and recognized puppet of the Palmer administration, last night asked his colleagues to adopt an ordinance that would allow the Mayor to grant residency waivers for city employees.

This is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize the long-time Palmer policy of looking the other way regarding the residency of favored sons and daughters while prosecuting those who have somehow fallen from grace with his majesty, the emperor and his consorts.

Hopefully this request to do the Mayor's bidding thinly veiled as a suggestion from the idiot prince Pintella will fall on the deaf ears of a council that has started to find its own voice in such matters.

Out of Africa

Palmer's vacation inspires hope

According to an article in this morning's Times (read it here), Doug Palmer was inspired by his trip to Africa with the Clintons.

The article's author, Andrew Kitchenman wrote, "While the trip was a vacation, Palmer plans to draw from it in his job."

Well isn't that special.

The man elected to run the City of Trenton vacationed with an ex-President of the United States, film and television actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen and a bunch of other Clinton hangers-on and he comes back invigorated to do more in the city. This almost makes sense.

Broken down to its most basic components:
1. Palmer traveled to some of the most poverty-stricken, under-developed, HIV ravaged areas of the world.
2. The host/guide (Bill Clinton) spoke with great pride of the tiny increments of progress over the past five years

I guess the experience validated Doug's total mis-management of the City's affairs.

Let's just hope he's not inspired to drag Trenton further down the socio-economic scale so that he can do even less and claim, with pride, there's been more progress.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Read all about it

TPL Board Should Be Tossed

The Times ran a story this morning about the need for Trenton Library Director Kimberly Bray to take a civil service exam and score in the top three in order to keep her provisional appointment.

Bray's tenuous status was revealed in the wake of stories regarding her potential legal problems back in Utah.

This is just the latest tempest to swirl around the hallowed doors of the Trenton Public Library.

Ms. Bray recently presented various scenarios for dealing with severe budget cuts in this fiscal year that included closing or severely curtailing hours at branches throughout the city.

The provisional director is the latest of six appointees to hold the post over the last eight years.

Hiring practices at the Library were called into question last year with the discovery of an convicted felon who worked in the children's section while wearing an electronic monitoring device. This issue came up again with the revelations of the pending civil suit against Ms. Bray and questions about why it wasn't uncovered in during the background check.

The management and oversight of Library operations have been questioned since Scott Hughes left after less than a year in the director's chair. At the time of his departure, Mr. Hughes communicated his concerns and suggestions to Trenton City Council in a letter.

Questions abound about the dwindling down of a multi-million dollar endowment to approximately $300,000 in less than a decade. Proper Library board meetings and minutes seem to be unheard of.

Much of this can be laid at the feet of Board President, Adrienne Hayling. Ms Hayling has been at the helm of the Trenton Free Public Library Board while it has run aground. (It must be noted for the record that Ms. Hayling is a close and longtime family friend of Doug Palmer. Some have described Ms. Hayling as his "second mother.")

In a blog entry last month, South Ward Councilman straight out says it is time for Ms. Hayling to go. We couldn't agree more.

In fact, it is our considered opinion that the entire current board needs to be scrapped if for no other reason than the six other members have let themselves be bullied by the Board President into doing things her way.

On a similar tack, Dan Dodson has offered up a thought provoking essay on what to do with the Trenton Library System on his blog, Re-inventing Trenton. Mr. Dodson suggest a complete and dramatic change to a different model of what a public library could be.

Old model or new, Trenton needs and deserves a functioning library system.

The current Board is incapable of managing and must be dissolved immediately. A new board should be appointed and a forensic audit undertaken to determine just where the monies have evaporated to.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Foundry Floundering

This one is not Doug's Fault

In an article in Sunday's Times, Meir Rinde reports that the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA) has given Performa Entertainment Real Estate Group until late September to complete the financing of the estimated $40 million dollar mixed use project. Should Performa fail, the MCIA may remove the developer from the project.

It's about time!

As noted here and here, Performa is having troubles that go beyond the acknowledged tightening credit picture.

Contrary to the image it tries to project, Performa is not the ultra-successful developer of Beale Street in Memphis or entertainment districts elsewhere.

Fact is, Performa was retained by the non-profit Beale Street Development Corporation (BSDC) to manage the Beale Street entertainment district in 1982. The BSDC and Performa are now involved in litigation regarding some $10 million in proceeds that Performa allegedly owes to the BSDC.

And beyond Memphis, Performa's track record is less than stellar.

City authorities in Shreveport, Louisiana booted Peforma for failing to successfully lease out and manage the Red River Entertainment District.

Jackson, Mississippi's Mayor is frustrated with the ongoing delays in Performa's Farish Street project there.

And now Performa's shaky financial picture may cut them out of Trenton's Foundry project.

while we've seen this coming for some time, and it is another "failed" marquee project for Trenton, this one doesn't rest on the shoulders of Doug Palmer or his henchman, Dennis Gonzalez.

Performa was brought into town by Bob Prunetti's administration when he was County Executive. The current county administration maintained the relationship. And public funding was obtained from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Authority.

It's about time that our government officials realize this project and Performa are a no go. Cut them loose and move on.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Circular Logic, Part two

A couple of weeks back we posted a report from a member of the Save Trenton High Coalition regarding the outcome of the Facilities Advisory Board (FAB) meeting.

In essence, those gathered were told that in order to get the School Development Authority to provide cost estimates for preserving at least part of the existing Trenton Central High School, the school board would have to vote to build a new building.

If it seemed rather bizarre and counter-intuitive to you at the time, you weren't alone. The whole event had a kind of surreal quality that only seems to occur in Trenton at public meetings.

Someone has managed to post a video of the proceedings of that FAB meeting on You Tube. Here, for you viewing displeasure and intellectual discomfort are the links to the meeting:
Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

The videos were apparently posted by "Son of a Trenton Man."

Just more evidence of the poor leadership qualities of individuals "selected" by the Palmer administration to serve on public bodies.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Circular Logic

The Facility Advisory Board (FAB) of the Trenton Board of Education (BOE) met Wednesday night to discuss and clarify the recent round of funding promised from the School Development Authority (SDA).

The Save Trenton High Coalition posted an update on the meeting that addressed the status of the Early Childhood Center, MLK/Jefferson, Roebling and Trenton Central High School:

Mr. Dwayne Mosley of the FAB gave the presentation and Mr. Alexander Brown of the Board of Education (BOE) facilitated the meeting. Representatives from the School Development Authority’s (SDA) and the State Department of Education (DOE) were not present. Approximately 15 members of the public and two BOE members were in attendance.

A significant amount of time was devoted to discussing and deciphering the SDA’s decision-making “process” as presented by the FAB and BOE, specifically as it relates to Trenton High and Roebling. Apparently, it borrows heavily from the chicken and the egg theory. It goes something like this:
1. The SDA has told the BOE they must make a decision soon on either renovating or replacing Trenton High and Roebling.
2. The SDA has refused to provide the BOE with a cost analysis or feasibility study on renovation and replacement in order to make an informed decision.
3. The only way to get the SDA to provide any information to the BOE in order to determine the best alternative for the students (and this is where we were told to suspend our disbelief) is for the BOE to vote on a resolution to “abandon” Trenton High and Roebling and build brand new schools.

That is precisely what the BOE is going to do. On Monday, July 28 the BOE is going to vote on a yet to be written resolution to “abandon” the landmark Trenton High and build a new school that serves only 1300-1500 students, all in the name of studying its renovation.
The FAB and the BOE attempted to pacify the public by explaining that this is how the SDA’s “process” works. Possibly by September the SDA will complete its analysis, and another FAB meeting will presumably be held to the present to the public the results of renovation versus new construction.

Extremely confusing, yes. But if this is truly the “process,” it is apparent that the SDA is still incapable of managing school construction projects. By forcing the BOE to scrap the existing renovation plans and start from scratch there is a very real risk that the limited amount of funding will disappear.

The meeting reportedly concluded when Mr. Brown abruptly adjourned it while one member of the public tried to ask a question.

So, if we understand this as presented, only if the Trenton Board of Education votes to abandon the idea of renovating the existing Trenton High School and build a new facility that serves fewer students will the School Development Authority provide cost estimates for new construction versus renovation.

One could conclude that the SDA would take their cue and make the financial case for not renovating the existing Trenton Central High School because the Board has to vote that way in order to get a cost estimate.

This is not just wrong, it is absurd.

If the money is designated for the city of Trenton, shouldn’t the responsible body be able to determine how it is to be spent? And shouldn’t the funding agency be mandated to provide the information needed to determine how it should be spent…
…prior to the Board of Ed making that determination?!?!?!

Not one to give our BOE a pass, but should the state really hold us hostage because it failed to rein in the waste and corruption of the SDA’s predecessor, the School Construction Corporation?

The BOE will vote on this new resolution on Monday, July 28.

Let’s hope the powers that be shake some sense into the SDA before then. Let’s get realistic and comprehensive cost comparisons for renovation vs. new construction and give the Trenton BOE the opportunity to make an informed decision.

It’s the very least that should be done for the citizens of New Jersey who are footing the bill for whatever is done here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Orderly transition

By now, the news has flashed around town.

The Court has determined that former Police Director Joseph Santiago has 75 days to exit the city. The time frame was given to "facilitate and 'orderly transition' to his successor."

The think tank gathered here on the Front Stoop has the following to offer as this matter winds to a close:

1) Just because the Court allowed 75 days for a transition doesn't mean the former Director has to take all of that time before leaving. A professional, forward thinking manager would have been thinking about and planning for an orderly succession regardless of the circumstances. Especially considering the possibility of a court ordered vacation of the office, Mr. Santiago should have been working on plans to do this all along. The fact that he apparently didn't, and that the Palmer administration did not consider this possibility is but pure negligence. They need to step up and transition Mr. Santiago out of here as soon as possible for the sake of the city.

2) There should be some immediate oversight given to the operation decisions made by the former Director from here until he officially leaves the position. His pettiness and vindictiveness are well documented and his command abilities questionable at best. To let him have his way now, in the waning days of his regime could do more harm to an already depleted and demoralized department.

3) Any candidates for a new Police Director should not be reviewed solely by the Mayor, but should be vetted by a special selection committee comprised of two City Council members and three citizens. No more "surprise" appointments. The search should commence immediately.

3) There should be absolutely no city funded appeal of the court's decision. Four judges at two levels of the judiciary have come to the same opinion. Any appeal, request for a stay, etc. cannot continue to be funded by the financially strapped City of Trenton. For his part, Mr. Palmer should accept the defeat and focus on getting Trenton back on its feet; Mr. Santiago must accept the defeat and just move on.

4) The City needs to immediately and definitively address any and all employees currently not meeting the residency requirement of their position. The legal process has struck down the once existing waiver clause in the city's residency ordinance. There are no exceptions. There shall be no exceptions. This means that Mr. Bradley should be immediately dismissed as Director of the Communications Division. If not, Council should act swiftly on this matter. And Ms. Feigenbaum, if she does not meet the full requirement of bona fide residency, must go as well. Same with Mr. Gonzalez or anyone else.

This situation has not been good for Trenton and those who live and work here. It is time to close the door on this chapter and move ahead into a new era. Mr. Palmer could go a long way towards redeeming himself by seeing that the transition is not only orderly, but swift and complete.

A perfect example

City must cut budget, but don’t touch the administration

Trenton is flat broke. The city is looking at a significant budget deficit and the administration has asked all departments to cut their budgets by 10%.

But when is the administration going to tighten its fiscal belt?

We talk about maybe having to charge to use city pools next summer; furloughing police dogs; and possibly closing libraries. But there is never a mention of the administration cutting back on its expenditures.

For instance, this item from Thursday’s council docket:



For those who haven’t been following this, Mr. Alacqua serves as “special counsel” to the city, providing legal advice and guidance. Mr. Alacqua is in attendance at most City Council meetings as is the City Attorney, Ms. Denise Lyles.

Why, you might reasonably ask, do we need a “special counsel” at $95,000 per year when we have a City Attorney and legal staff who is already on the city payroll and who are city residents?

Blogger Greg Forester has addressed this several times, most recently here. As he points out, Mr. Alacqua is not the only attorney handling legal work for the city via special services contract. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent with outside law firms to fight the Santiago residency case…tax dollars spent to argue both sides of the case!!!!

(Note: as this is written, word is coming in that the judges ruled 3-0 against the former police director).

Now what if we took some of that money going outside the city for special services contracts and put it into keeping our library’s open (read the Times article on this).

Or what if we applied that money to the recreation department budget so the parks can be better maintained?

You get the point. How far could we go cutting the administration’s expenditures before we need to reduce city services in order to balance the budget? Shouldn’t we be looking there first?

We at the stoop join in Chrissie’s call for city council to vote “no” for this expenditure. Let’s hope the thinking members of city council choose to vote against resolution 5 lr and start us on the road to real fiscal responsibility.

As a bonus…let’s stop hitting up corporations for sponsorships of the failing Heritage Days and the alleged Trenton “Jazz Festival” and instead put that money to work keeping our libraries open. At least until we get a new, higher functioning library board that finds ways to augment the city’s contribution to it’s operating expenses.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh please!

Cash strapped police department wastes resources on show and tell for media.

[Former] Police Director Joe Santiago called a press conference Monday afternoon to trot out his latest initiative for improving public safety in Trenton.

Word around town was that members of the TAC unit were detailed to ferry patrol cars back and forth from a Hamilton Township carwash (what was the matter with the one here in Trenton?) so they would look spiffy for the dog and pony show.

Apparently, the program for the media circus was to announce the deployment of the newest officers to assignments in various hotspots around town. For the benefit of the assembled media, the rookies were all called in early, along with their sergeants and lieutenants and paid four hours overtime each, so they could make a show of leaping into their cars and rushing off to their assignments.

What happened to our fiscal responsibility and having to cut expenses by 10%? What about the fact that we are so short of labor we have had to disband the Narcotics Enforcement Team?

As if that was not bad enough, the concept of the initiative being touted involves teaming up the newest officers fresh from the academy and putting them on the streets to patrol without the benefit of seasoned officers at their side to guide them.

As we understand it, while there will be Sergeants and Lieutenants supervising these teams, the rookies will be paired with each other and put on the street to sink or swim.

This whole episode was just a waste of our scant resources and the new initiative puts the newest, most vulnerable members of the department at increased risk for harm.

Way to go, Joe!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Crime Time Shoot Out

What they hell are they thinking at 225 N. Clinton Avenue and 319 E. State Street?
Sunday, June 29, 2008 marks the end of the Narcotics Enforcement Team (commonly referred to as Vice Squad). In a move allegedly aimed at maximizing manpower and reducing costs (those pesky budgetary concerns, don’t you know), the members of this unit are being reassigned to the TAC (Tactical Anti-Crime) squads.

This just doesn’t make sense in any way, shape, or form.

South Ward Councilman Jim Coston addressed some of this in today’s blog. The Councilman makes a very simple and clear argument that the phasing out of vice as well as canine units for their alleged cost savings is just so much (and he’s way too polite and polished to say it this way) “B.S.!”

Coston, along with Councilmen Bethea, Melone and Segura, are also leading the charge in requesting that the NJ State Police be asked to come in and supplement the understaffed and overwhelmed Trenton Police Department.

Councilpersons Lartigue, Pintella and Staton don’t appear to be as ready to challenge either the decision to eliminate vice and reduce the canine unit to nothing or the refusal of the police and city administrations to ask for help from the State Police. To be fair, this stance is not all that surprising since none of the three are known for their willingness to go against the whims and will of City Hall.

The big question is:
“Why are the Mayor and [former] Police Director Santiago so adamantly working to stifle true progress in making Trenton safer for those of us already here and those they swear will come to the many (as yet to be realized) high profile development projects?”

We hear all the time that “crime is down” yet even Councilman Pintella has questioned why he still witnesses open air drug dealing as he makes his way about town. Most of us have been the victim of a crime, know a victim of a crime or are but a few degrees of separation from the victim of a crime in Trenton in the last five years.

Most of us, as Councilman Melone has pointed out repeatedly, do not feel safer now than we did five years ago.

In the face of all this it is absurd that the Mayor has allowed Mr. Santiago to whittle away at the ability of the police to protect and serve the public by a series of poor management decisions.

If, as we are told constantly, drug sales are what drive crime in the city, why have we dismantled the very team that was responsible for responding to reports of drug activity through investigation, observation, and subsequent action?

If, as we are told, manpower is short (and on this point we all agree), why are we wasting resources having officers stand on downtown corners three times each week day, leaving patrols short handed?

We always felt the horse patrols were an unwise move that the city could ill-afford. Now they have been discontinued due to “budgetary” considerations…but we are still paying for the upkeep of the unused horses? Why?!?!

And we’re cutting out the canine units because of their cost?

If Mr. Santiago can’t or won’t see the flaws in his thinking, than it is up to the Mayor to point them out and have them corrected.

The fact that Mr. Palmer doesn’t see these flaws is but another indication of how detached and unfocused he is on Trenton.

And if all of the above isn’t bad enough, Palmer and Santiago steadfastly deny that Trenton needs or would benefit from the presence of the State Police in Trenton.

State Senator Shirley Turner has called for the State Police to come in and help out.

Councilmen Bethea, Coston, Melone and Segura continue to call for the same.

And now the public seems to be raising its collective voice with a similar opinion.

Through it all, the Mayor and his [former] Police Director maintain that we are wrong.

The State Police are not trained in “urban policing” we’re told.

The cost would be prohibitive.

Crime is down, we don’t need their help.

It’s painfully obvious that if Palmer and Santiago accept help from the State Police it would be an admission that they have failed to provide the most basic level of public safety to the citizens of Trenton.

Well, these two suit-clad egos should sit up and take notice. They have failed.

It is time to get serious about dealing with the realities and perception of crime in Trenton. Let’s bring in the State Police, reconstitute the vice squad and retain and rebuild the canine unit. Let’s sell off the cute horses and all their tack, and let’s focus our resources on bringing law and order back to Trenton.

And that includes removing the criminally negligent from City Hall and Police Headquarters.