Thursday, January 10, 2008

Council kudos

A wave and a nod from the front stoop to Councilpersons Bethea, Coston, Lartigue and Melone. These elected representatives of the city's four wards (North, South, West and East, respectively) are coming together on a couple of key issues facing Trenton residents.

First, they are in agreement that as it stands now, the city's residency ordinance does not make any provision for the Mayor granting a waiver to Police Director Santiago or anyone else. It's a start. And we won't belabor the point.

More importantly, the four Ward Councilmen and Councilwoman have decided to take the budget to the people by scheduling a round of workshops where the public can review and ask questions about just how the City spend our money.

The first of these workshops is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16, 7:00 - 8:30 pm at the St. Mary's Parish Center on Adeline and Beatty Streets.

The object of this, and the subsequent sessions (one each in the other three wards) is to comb through the budget to try and find ways of reallocating funds to improve services and/or reduce the proposed tax increase.

Our representatives are making a concerted effort to open up the process to their constituents. It's up to us to accept their invitation to participate.

As Councilman Coston is fond of saying, the budget now belongs to Council. They can approve it as is or modify it (within reason). Our four Ward representatives are asking for our input.

With all of the woes our broken, down-trodden, (dare I say "corrupt?") city faces, it is going to take greater effort on all of us to pull together and turn things around.

Let's find out if we're really spending our money wisely and effectively. At the very least, maybe we can realign some of the Administration's priorities to more clearly reflect those of the people they work for.

It may be wrong to look backwards, but if we were given this kind of opportunity in the past maybe we could have redirected spending so that the water utility was an efficient asset rather than something to sell off in parts for cash.

Maybe we would have redirected Police spending on appropriate staffing, technology and vehicles rather than redesigning badges or repainting and re-lettering the fleet.

Certainly we might have determined the need, ala new Hamilton Mayor Bencivengo, for a sensible City Vehicle policy to save costs and discourage those 50 mile commutes!

Maybe the public would written off the idiotic neon fire helmet rather than continually pumping money into trying to keep it lit.

We're not going to solve all of the city's fiscal woes in a couple of budget review sessions over the next couple of weeks. Still, one can't help but think that if we'd had a more "hands on" approach in the past we wouldn't be at the point where civic associations have to consider taking responsibility for maintaining landscaping in neighboring parks and traffic islands.

Residents in permit parking areas might not be faced with having to pay for the privilege of parking in their own neighborhoods (it's coming folks, yes indeed, its coming).

Maybe at least this budget review will show that we really can't afford to award the $90,000+ contract, plus car and gas, plus office to our part-time gang consultant.

Or you can stay home and watch Dancing with American Idol and complain later about the property tax increase.

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