Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Arrogance of Incumbency

What's ailing Trenton

After nearly 18 years in the position, it looks like Trenton’s Mayor has lost any and all sense of duty to the electorate he pretends to serve.

It is expected that the solemn news of the city’s poor fiscal condition will be delivered along with a preview of the FY09 budget at today’s City Council Conference session (5:00 pm, 2nd Floor City Hall). Rumors abound regarding potential layoffs, departmental budget cuts, and even a possible firehouse closing.

Make no mistake; the blame will be aimed at everyone and everything from the Republican White House, the War in Iraq (and Afghanistan), the mortgage crisis and the country’s overall weak economy. Everyone and everything that is except the Palmer administration.

We won’t hear anything about failed economic development strategy of our 5 term Mayor.

There will be no accounting for the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid for outside legal work (just guess what the ongoing costs are for the protracted residency fight that is getting stranger by the day).

Of course, at the same time as the bad news about Trenton’s finances is being delivered to City Council, the Administration is going to once again make its case for two sizeable yet unnecessary expenditures:

A contract with E-Path communications for a city wide WiFi mesh (that was already voted down once).

New guns for the Police Department from a new vendor (when the current vendor has offered to provide new guns for free).

The simple fact is and has been for too long, Douglas H. Palmer does not care about moving Trenton forward. He may have at one time, but he's long since past that point.

What he does care about is projecting himself as something he is not: a capable, credible, leader.

It is no secret that Doug Palmer has an eye on bigger and better things…for Doug Palmer. But he also has an eye on Trenton in 2010 because if he doesn’t get to go to Washington on Hillary’s skirt tails or get tapped for the newly created Lt. Governor’s position in Trenton (and it is the opinion here on the stoop that he will get neither of these), he will most likely run for Mayor again.

In the free-for-all that the next Trenton city elections are shaping up to be, it is conceivable that Mr. Palmer and his chosen few could maintain their death grip on local government. Palmer’s deep pockets and army of accomplices could possibly win over the mixed assortment of likely challengers.

From where we sit here on the stoop, it seems that there is one course of action open to the people of Trenton who wish to see meaningful change in their city.

It is admittedly quite drastic and would take a lot of organization and effort. Serious consideration should be given to a recall of the Mayor. And along with that recall, a likely (not just “likeable”) replacement must be identified and supported.

It may be the only possible cure.


Capital 3 said...

As we all call 'New Blood!, New Blood!', do we really think this a possibility? Are there enough residents behind a recall to make it happen? Perhaps the voting public will fall into happy apathy- after all, it's worked for the last 15 years. (despite that it really hasn't worked at all, but what do real folks care) How do we convince an entire city that change is necesary?
Partly to blame is the city's non-partisan elections. Not that I enjoy a bi-partisan system, but the elections have turned into a free for all which split the votes six ways to Sunday. I feel the incumbent comes out on top simply because most voters recognize the name. (I would too, if it had been in the papers for 15 years).
I believe change is desperately needed, but I don't know a good solution. Are there social groups in the city which could be rallied behind a single candidate? Is a major advertizing campaign needed? I don't know how to start, but let me know when the recall petition circulates.

Nicholas Stewart said...

Who will say what has to be said? Who will ask what has to be asked? Who will do what has to be done?

For those that want a change - they must be prepared to accept the CHANGE.

Change is good. But change hurts.

Do you still want change?

Old Mill Hill said...

Your points are well taken.

Most importantly, the people have to want to make the change. And the question of "If not Doug, then who?" is a serious one.

However, at this point it is nearly inconsequential who replaces Mr. Palmer as long as he is replaced!

The system is not without its faults, but the electorate has yet to fully embrace the power that they have.

As for groups within the city...while they may shy from officially endorsing a recall as a body, there are several community groups that can at least be addressed about the issue. Hopefully the exposure gained through them could help lead to a successful fight to restore sense and decency to our city government.

We will never know if we don't try.