Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Light the way

Oh joy!

If all goes right, tomorrow evening a ruddy glow will illuminate Perry Street as the ill-conceived giant fire helmet will once again be turned on over the front of Trenton Fire Headquarters.

There will no doubt be handshakes, back slaps and photo ops abounding as our City Leader’s bask in the neo-neon glare of a job well-done. Another $78,000 well spent on a half-million dollar boondoggle in this cash-strapped and common-sense depleted city.

We’ve said it before: It is obscene that this city can’t find the ways and means to maintain it’s important and historic structures and facilities, but we can squeeze the municipal budget to light the sky over the otherwise deserted block of Perry Street adjacent to the Route 1 Freeway.

The sign does nothing for the city. It doesn’t really direct attention to the building and the Fire Museum inside because it can’t be seen from anywhere but on that block. The beacon is as useless as a flashlight to a blind man.

But it’s common; in fact it appears to be policy, of the Palmer administration to work in large and empty gestures.

We hear talk about the city going “green” and the creation of “green collar” jobs to spur the local economy. But we have to contrast that with the fact that we allow highly paid consultants and non-resident directors to commute to and from Trenton in city owned vehicles that are not the most economical consumers of city provided gasoline.

The state is vilified for not paying it’s fair share of money for all of the land it holds title to, but the city does nothing to force the private owners of vacant buildings to optimize their value by maintaining them and seeing that they are utilized to their fullest potential.

The power of the various boards and commissions (and some might say the City Council itself) has been usurped by the authority to appoint (or endorse/financially support) those he chooses to serve; to serve, not the greater public good, but his political needs and whims.

The arbitrary application of the city’s residency requirements has been a hot topic of late. The apparently illegal granting of waivers and allowances for families to be domiciled in locales other than Trenton are examples of Palmer deceit and subterfuge.

Even the recent announcement of taking paired-down, localized, and sanitized versions of the weekly police ComStat meetings out to the Citizen Police Advisory Council meetings is just another attempt to provide an image makeover for the Police Director. Why has it taken five years into his tenure, only after his performance and residency have been called into question, has the Director decided to “take the show on the road?” Wasn’t the public promised this at the time of the big ComStat demo held in the NJN studios several years ago?

And what about the recent panhandling and curfew sweeps that have occurred in the city? These actions were undertaken, we are told, after numerous complaints from residents about these quality of life issues.

Well, folks, the residents have been complaining regularly and consistently about these issues for years. Why the action now? Because Mr. Santiago and Mr. Palmer need some good PR as they head into a showdown on the issue of residency and the director’s effectiveness?

Is there a better icon, really, of the Palmer legacy than an over-budget, faulty, outsized, useless sign? It speaks volumes about the way this city has been mismanaged since 1990. Whether Douglas H. Palmer abdicates in six months, 18 months or sticks around to 30 months and completes his term, we’ll always think of him when we see that stupid fire helmet.

Another wasteful example of an empty gesture.

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