Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Promises made, promises kept."


Kevin Shea of the Times reports in this morning's edition that the City is closing it's highly promoted East and West Police Precinct buildings from Midnight to 8:30 a.m. each day as a money saving move. (Read the article here)

It wasn't even two years ago when the East and West District precincts were opened with much fanfare. Timed to coincide with Douglas Palmer's reelection campaign, the announcement and subsequent construction of the precincts were criticized by opponents and thinking individuals throughout the city as expensive wastes of money and manpower.

In article after article, speech after speech, the creation of four distinct police precincts with their own buildings was extolled as a way to increase police visibility and bring the community and the police closer together.

From an article on the ribbon cutting for the East District Precinct by Eva Loayza, in the Times, 11/7/06:
Pointing to the new precinct, the mayor said, "Promises made, promises kept." Palmer said the police alone cannot make the neighborhood safe, and that the building is another tool in the city's strategy to fight crime.

That all went away on May 18th when the East and West Precincts were shuttered during the overnight hours.

Citing the need to cut spending and redeploy staff, the the precincts will be left inaccessible to the public at the time when they are arguably needed most.

This is yet another example of just how unprofessional and incompetent the Palmer Administration is when it comes to planning and budgeting. Resources are expended on items for show rather than effect.

Witness the recent demise of the once ballyhooed mounted patrols, another idiotic idea by former Police Director Joe Santiago.

Or the insistence on spending $200,000 on new Springfield Armory sidearms rather than accept the offer of free replacement guns from Glock. A move that was thankfully voted down by the thinking members of City Council.

from the same Times article as the Palmer quote above:
"This is progress," said Santiago. "It's not the end, but it's certainly the beginning."

Seems like the beginning of the end to us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Palmer: "I might run for mayor again"

"I don't know."

There it was in black and white on page two of the Trentonian.

Three quarters of the way through Jack Knarr's piece on Doug Palmer, Trenton's "Missing Mayor" admitted he didn't know what might be next and that a run for another term was possible.

Veteran city watchers have not ruled out this possibility, despite Palmer's previous proclamations to the contrary.

Where some saw Doug riding to Washington D.C. on the Clinton campaign train, that dream seems to have derailed. And even if the New York Senator's fortunes were to change, those in the know feel she is too smart to keep Mr. Palmer around.

Speaking about a potential run for Congress, Doug dismissed it as not being "enough hands-on." Interesting comment from a man who seems so detached and isolated from his duties as Mayor, not to mention the people he was elected to serve.

We also found it intriguing that there was no mention in Knarr's article about Palmer running as New Jersey's first Lt. Governor. Doug expressed interest in that post when it was created. Problem could be that he'd have to be picked by the gubernatorial candidate and Doug Palmer is just not solid enough in state Dem circles to get the nod.

So there you have it kids. The 2010 municipal elections in Trenton just got a little more interesting.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

But on the other hand

This blogger giveth and this blogger taketh away

Where we had to give a nod to Trentonian Columnist L.A. Parker the other day, his inaccurate statements on Friday have given us a change of mind. We agree with Greg Forester's entry on the misinformation contained in Parker's May 16 column.

Let's set the record straight on a couple of points that Mr. Parker misstated:

1) The city council has not already approved the gun purchase. If that were the case, there would be no discussion or docket item. The action that was previously approved was a budget line item to replace the aging Glocks in the city's arsenal. Just because the item is in the capital budget does not need it has to be spent in whole or part.

2) The argument that it is not a $200,000 lump sum expenditure, but rather spread out over 20 years at $10,000 per is ridiculous. Whether you accept his and former Police Director Santiago's math or not, it's $200,000. There is an offer of free guns on the table so the capital expenditure is not needed. Period.

3) The cost of $25,000 for Glocks is only if the department opts to "upsize" to a .45 caliber gun vs. the current .40 caliber (and there is, research tells us, very little difference between the two size rounds). Would you prefer to hit with a slug from one over the other? Not us. If the city stays with the .40 caliber Glock, there will be no cost for the one-to-one gun swap. Only if we swap the .40 caliber Glocks for new .45 caliber Glocks, would that $25,000 cost be incurred.

In conclusion, Mr. Parker is entitled to form his opinions and he's paid to express his thoughts.

He should, however, make sure he has his facts straight before he holds puts them out there for public consumption.

And, one other thing...the city taxpayers who will be shouldering the costs of the city's deficit should be given due consideration when council decides this issue.

The opinions of the non-resident former Police Director and the non-resident Trentonian columnist should not be given a second thought.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nothing from nothing

We have to give a nod to oft-maligned Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker. In his column this morning he takes on the Zero Tolerance issue.

In the piece, Parker appreciates the Zero Tolerance approach now being taken by law enforcement as a response to the fatal Walnut Avenue arson that cost the life of a 10 year old Qua'Dashia Hopkins. He does touch on the fact that maybe if this had been done sooner, things might not be quite as bad as they are in Trenton. To his credit, Parker does suggest this might have been more of a policy decision from the top than from the cops on the streets.

L.A. also takes up the matter of the community's responsibility for not holding to a zero tolerance level of its own. And we have to agree.

The residents can only do so much, but they can do more than many may realize.

Anyone with a knowledge of Trenton knows that there are and have always been neighborhoods where negative behaviors are tolerated less than in other places. Subsequently these areas become known as "better" or "safer" or "nicer."

All because the residents have determined what is tolerated and what is not and acted accordingly.

The police and other law enforcement officials can only work effectively in conjunction with the public.

The laws on the books are the standards that each must strive to uphold.

Both sides need to do their part if we are to rid our streets of the filth, the crime and the ultimate sadness of what is happening in Trenton.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And they wonder why people are disgusted

Apparently Ringling Brothers isn't the only circus in town this week. The antics at Tuesday night's City Council conference session regarding the proposal to spend $200,000 for new police guns were truly equivalent to a three ring circus.

For the details according to the Times, check out Andrew Kitchenman's article.

The Trentonian's L.A. Parker wrote it up this way.

On his blog, Broad Street Bank Building resident Greg Forester gave his own account of the meeting.

The anger and frustration at what should be a very simple decision to not spend money that doesn't have to be spent is completely irrational and irresponsible.

The behavior of former Police Director Santiago and West Ward Councilwoman Lartigue is beyond embarrassing.

Santiago's emotional outburst was unprofessional to say the least. His "calling out" of Council was not only immature and full of false bravado, it is but another example of why the man is not fit to lead Trenton's or any other Police Department.

Strangely, no one on Council saw fit to have the former Director removed from the meeting. Unlike last week when Frank Weeden let loose the "F-Bomb" and Councilwoman Lartigue immediately demanded security remove him from the room, no one even thought to admonish Santiago for his ill-behavior let alone ask to have him removed from the room. Just another example of how the public is treated differently than the Mayor's inner circle!

For her part, Councilwoman Lartigue's assertion that the city would be sued for breech of contract for not accepting the Springfield bid seems somewhat off target.

Since Council has yet to vote on awarding the contract, how can it be in effect and therefore, how can it be breached by not voting to approve it.

Also, the comment that the "free offer" from Glock might be illegal seems as though it may be off base if not totally incorrect.

And where, during all of this, is the City Attorney and the well-paid, outside consultant "Special Counsel?" Why haven't they weighed in on the proceedings with expert opinions on the legalities involved?

"Anonymous" poster "SportyJoe" very nicely framed the problems and challenged the two local newspaper reporters to answer some good questions in this post on the Trenton Speaks forum. He makes some raises some good points that should be answered and reported on to the public at large as well as to the Council members and their "legal representation."

Interestingly, the former Police Director is quoted as challenging Council about heeding information provided through "anonymous" commentary on the Internet as opposed to what the administration was spoon feeding them.

This clearly demonstrates the prevailing attitude that council should just be quiet and do the administration's bidding; and that the public should just be quiet. Period.

Council's recent history shows that a close majority is more interested in thinking for themselves...and presumably for the good of Trenton residents...than following the Palmer line. This is a good thing.

But for those who insist on carrying Palmer's water (Pintella and Staton, to be sure), they need to understand that this "anonymous" Internet chatter is what is forcing Trenton's City Government to operate in a more open and responsible fashion.

They should embrace it or relinquish their positions as erstwhile "representatives" of the people.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Don't just take our word for it

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result."

The Sunday edition of the Times (of Trenton, not that other one) ran two interesting articles regarding development in Trenton's South Ward.

The primary article was an lengthy and sound piece focusing on the impact Waterfront Park and the Trenton Thunder have had on that part of the city.

In short, as the Thunder enter their 15th season, the touted positive economic impact on the neighborhood or city at large has been negligible.

Same can be said for the Sovereign Bank Arena, less than a mile away.

Note: we're happy that both of these venues are here in Trenton and try to support them by attending ball games and events whenever we can. But we are not for one minute fooled into thinking they have provided anything resembling the economic boom for the city as promised by those who proposed and promoted their construction.

The article clearly demonstrates that these large-scale projects are seldom the economic engines they are touted to be. Especially with sports and entertainment venues like the ball park and the arena, people come into town for specific events at that location. They can get their food and beverage needs met while attending the event and then they leave. Little to know spin-off business occurs in adjacent areas.

Yes...there have been some exceptions. Certain concerts at the arena have generated some extra business at local bars and restaurants pre- and post-show. But if it happens once or twice a year, it is not enough to be called an economic upturn.

At the end of the article, developer Bill Cahill offers up a solid quote:
"My philosophy is, take care of the small pieces and eventually you'll have a big piece," he said. "Their philosophy is, take care of the big pieces. Well, that philosophy isn't working."

As a companion piece to the larger article, the same reporter highlights the work of HHG Development in the South Ward. HHG is one of three groups developing first class housing along Centre Street in an example of just the type of "small piece" work that Cahill refers to.

This is the kind of work that needs to be encouraged if the city is to reverse itself from decline to prosperity. Working in small enclaves to redevelop the many wonderful but woefully neglected buildings (residential and otherwise) that exist; preserving and reusing what is already here; maintaining a distinctive "sense of place."

The more of this kind of work that is done, the more stable our neighborhoods will become. From this patchwork of redeveloped areas will grow a more vital city.

Those responsible for overseeing the economic development efforts in Trenton need to step back and assess their approach. For too long they have cozied up to the deep-pocketed developers with big dreams and we have little to show for it.

It's time that they honor and encourage the type of work that HHG, Mr. Cahill and others have been doing. Forget the headlines (and headaches) of dealing with a Hovnanian and sit down with the small developers who know how to capitalize on what is already here.

So many inside and outside of the development community can see this.

Why can't the administration?

Let's table the dreams of 25 story office towers and their fantastical promises of thousands of jobs and try something different. Let's concentrate on:

a) creating a diverse inventory of excellent and interesting housing stock and

b) developing the local retail and services that can support and in turn be supported by the residents attracted to that housing stock.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Will they never learn?

Administration and Council Majority Favor Fantasy Development Over Preservation
Trenton City Council voted 5-1 last night to approve changes to the redevelopment plan for the area around the train station that could see two large, historic houses razed to make way for a proposed 25 story building. (Read the Times article here.)

Citing the potential for jobs and the need to develop the area "now," City Officials tossed aside the fact that the buildings sit in an historic district which, one would presume, should offer some protection from the bulldozer.

More disturbing is the fact that these changes to the redevelopment plan seem to favor the designated developer over the rights of the current property owners. We fully expect another eminent domain case to arise out of this.

Trenton's officials just haven't gotten the message yet that we should not always bend the existing rules to fit the developers. Instead, the developers should make their plans according to existing planning, zoning, and historic guidelines. They were all drafted and adopted for particular reasons and were not compiled on a whim.

The last several years have given us examples of the wrongheaded decisions made by Council majorities, as well as those of the Planning and Zoning Boards. And what have we gotten for the trouble:

The Leewood Group was granted development rights to a large section of the city's South Ward for one year with no "proposed plan" on the table. But suddenly drawings appeared of a razed and rebuilt neighborhood much to the chagrin of the homeowners in the area. This lead to a very heated and protracted battle that fortunately scuttled the project in favor of a more preservation minded approach. Meanwhile the proposed Historic District designation for a part of the same area has been held up because city officials won't sign off on it.

Hovnanian's plans for the Champale site, initially heralded and approved by officials and the public alike, turned into a nightmare when the redevelopment area was changed to include privately held properties. This lead to an ugly eminent domain fight that has yet to be completely resolved. People's lives and properties are in limbo and Hovnanian (with the aid of members of the Palmer Administration) is trying to salvage something out of the plan.

Full Spectrum's Town Center project set for a block bounded by E. State and E. Hanover between Montgomery and Stockton has yet to see a shovel hit the ground. This too would entail the acquisition of privately held properties and thus has owners and occupants on edge waiting to see what will happen.

And let's not forget the ridiculous Taco Bell/Long John Silver's soon to open in an improbable location on S. Broad Street that should never have been approved. (And,yes,the court's obviously disagree with that position. But that doesn't make the approval a better decision).

So while all these grand plans are afloat and City Officials bend over backwards to please the developers, we have empty buildings galore that could and should be renovated (where needed) and utilized.

There are still plenty of units available in the Broad Street Bank Building for those looking for downtown living space.

Former Senator Toricelli's projects downtown are still largely vacant for those looking for commercial space. (And we hear his proposal to build a new building at Front and Warren across from the Golden Swan is dead...after he stole the property out from under another buyer with the city's help!)

The Sussman family's Nexus Properties is sitting on a manner of properties downtown...not the least of with is the gorgeous but deteriorating Trenton Savings Fund Society building on E. State Street.

And what about the former "DMV" building on S. Montgomery that sits, empty, waiting for tenants?

These are but a few examples. There are plenty more.

Let's stop tearing down the great old buildings and constructing new monstrosities that are unneeded.

Let's use what we have to the fullest first.

Aren't we supposed to be a "green" city?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

E-Path Phone Home

Delray Beach kills WiFi firm contract

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

DELRAY BEACH — City commissioners voted Tuesday to terminate a contract with a Tampa company after it failed to move forward on plans to create a citywide WiFi network.

E-Path Communications had until April 18 to set up the free Internet service along Atlantic Avenue in the downtown area, but had not completed any work, according to city officials.

E-Path President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Tortoretti attributed the delays to a plan to replace numerous Florida Power & Light utility poles in the city next year. E-Path intended to connect its equipment to the poles to provide the service and would be forced to do the work a second time, Tortoretti said.

The contract termination means further delays to the goal of providing the WiFi service, initially scheduled to be in place by last year.

Commissioners said they are committed to providing WiFi, but expressed frustration with E-Path's delays.

"This has been an unfortunate waste of staff time," Commissioner Gary Eliopoulos said.

Can someone call the Palmer Administration and let them know that their pet vendor just got the boot in their own backyard?!?!?

A wave from the front stoop to Hiltonia resident Michael McGrath for pointing out this latest turn of events in the E-Path saga

Oh yeah? Well how do you like this?

More spite from the spurned

In the latest round of tit for tat, "former" Police Director Santiago and the Palmer Administration have deemed it a matter of efficiency to disband the Vice (Narcotics Enforcement) Unit and fold those seven detectives in the Criminal Investigation Bureau and TAC units.

It is simply another questionable management move from the man who refuses to live in the town he purports to serve and smacks of retaliation to those who have sought his removal for that very lack of residency.

It is also a continued knee-jerk response to last year's complaints of increasingly excessive police overtime expenses.

Funny thing, how he who once spent money like there was no tomorrow is now so fiscally conservative that he'd do away with a functioning police unit that actually brought in significant revenue by earning it's share of forfeiture funds and property.

Of course, this same top notch, non-resident manager is also the one lobbying for a $200,000 expenditure for new guns that the city could get for free from another supplier.

Gee---he couldn't be upset at the fact that so many have spoken out against that purchase that he's killing of the Vice unit out of spite, could he?

Wanna bet?

Just like out thin-skinned, egotistical and too often absent Mayor, Joseph Santiago is demonstrating similar child-like attributes.

The man who insisted we needed a mounted untold costs for boarding, vet bills, tack, training, transportation, etc. is suddenly throwing a fiscal hissy fit.

The arrogance of the "former" Police Director is exceeded only by his incompetent leadership.

His final departure from Trenton cannot come soon enough.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Now you see it

Vacant and abandoned properties have been a burden on the city of Trenton for decades.

This building, near the intersection of Market and Jackson Streets in Mill Hill has sat vacant for over twenty years. The owner wants to make it a multiple unit dwelling...which is against the current zoning for the area. Until he can get his way, he has vowed to let it sit.

Meanwhile, the same property owner maintains a business and rents apartments in the building to the left of it. And he completed renovation of a couple of other nearby properties with financial assistance from the State of New Jersey and the Trenton Downtown Association, even though he removed the original facade and left those buildings boarded and vacant for several years in the interim.

At no time has the City ever approached this property owner with demands to put this highly visible building back to productive use. And when the neighborhood association has raised the issue of this eyesore, it has been all but ignored.

A few years ago, the Palmer Administration announced it was compiling a list of all the underutilized buildings and lots in the city with an eye towards using the State of New Jersey's Abandoned Property Act to get them onto the tax roles and into productive use.

The act was signed into law in January 2004 and to date, the city hasn't published a list of properties.

An election cycle has come and gone and no list has been provided.

Various community groups and leaders have continued to ask for this list, only to be told that the Department of Housing and Economic Development is "working on it" and it should be ready "soon."

So we wait.

And buildings like these, abandoned so long that the boards are literally falling off the windows, deteriorate further with each passing month.

Well, we're waiting no more. Thanks to the efforts of the Trenton Council of Civic Association (TCCA) the community is taking an inventory of the vacant lots and abandoned properties around the city so that a list can be presented to the city.

While citizen action is to be encouraged and applauded, it is pretty telling that it is only through this type of citizen action that things might get done.

Why can't the city of Trenton come up with a list of these properties on its own?

Every workday, there are scores of Public Works, Water, Police, Fire, and Inspections employees traveling all around town. What would it take for them to take a minute and jot down an address of an abandoned property and turn it in to a central place?

That's the very method the TCCA is employing. Each neighborhood group has been asked to inventory their home turf and send the information (street address and basic description like "empty house" or "vacant lot") to TCCA President Patricia Stewart. (You can email your list to

Mrs. Stewart and the TCCA are to be applauded.

Trenton's Administration is to be booed.

Once again, the taxpayers are voluntarily doing the work the public servants are paid to do.

Go figure.

Civil is as civil does

Fear and loathing at the conference table.

The grapevine and the Internet were alive with chatter over last night's City Council conference session where Frank Weeden hurled the "F-bomb" at Council President Paul Pintella. Click here to read L.A. Parker's telling of the tale.

Now Mr. Weeden's remark was uncalled for and rude, but he did immediately apologize to his target (Pintella) and remove himself from the proceedings. Weeden's quick recognition of his faux paux does count for something in our book.

But what of the "target" himself? What role did he have in this that prompted such an outburst from a citizen?

If you've never attended a City Council meeting you wouldn't know it from the reporting, but the Council President can be quite rude to the public and his colleagues alike. Last night was a particularly blatant example.

Mr. Pintella was argumentative towards and dismissive of everyone and anyone who voiced an opinion that differed from his. This is troubling.

No Councilperson...especially the presiding officer, should argue and debate a citizen during the public comment portion of a public meeting. Mr. Pintella does this regularly...berating and arrogantly challenging the very people he took an oath to serve. This happened repeatedly last night and has happened regularly over the course of Mr. Pintella's tenure on Council.

Pintella debated and dismissed comments about the proposed gun purchase for the Trenton Police; he argued against a citizen's concern for preserving two grand buildings in the Greenwood-Hamilton Historic District in the face of having them razed to build a 25 story office building; and he was sharp with and critical of other speakers when they had difficulty making clear their points/questions to the Council.

The Council President also debated West Ward Councilwoman Lartigue when she asked to pull the second reading of the ordinance that would essentially strip the landmarks protection from the Greenwood Avenue buildings. Responding to the concerns raised by a citizen, she wanted to slow the process until there could be further discussion that such a move was in the best interest of the city. Pintella wanted to bulldoze ahead (and we all know his history when it comes to preservation issues---"new bricks" being better than "old bricks," "the train of progress" etc.).

Discussion and the expressing of different points of view with an eye towards forming a consensus is the backbone of our democratic process. And even if a consensus isn't reached, if the parties can agree to disagree and move forward its OK. What is not OK is the arrogance and condescension exhibited in Mr. Pintella's remarks toward citizen and colleague alike.

Another problem with the Council President's deportment is that we cannot think of a single time that he hasn't taken the Administration's side in one of these "discussions." Now he is entitled to his opinions on matters and they may just happen to coincide with that of the Mayor and his other minions. But it seems unlikely that a truly thinking individual would side 100% of the time with anyone on every issue. To us, this demonstrates a lack of cognitive ability on Pintella's part and/or an unwillingness to go against his "master," the Mayor.

That is a problem for the person who presides over the legislative body and therefor is supposed to provide the checks and balances to the administration. And it is but one more sign of the contempt has for the residents of Trenton.

Interesting that, even though his contempt and disdain for his colleagues is regularly on display, they were the ones who voted him into the position.

The final point we'd like to make about Mr.Pintella's pitiful performance as a presiding officer is that he breaks all of the rules governing the chair of a body.

It is our understanding that under proper and normal rules of procedure it is the presiding officer's duty to maintain order and move the agenda along. The chair is not supposed to express personal opinions on matters without first relinquishing the gavel. Certainly, they may clarify points, cite facts or ask/answer questions of a member of the board (in this case, Council) or body (the public).

Discussion and debate are to be moderated by the chair. The Council President's frequent blathering of personal opinions and beliefs on the matters before the group are inappropriate and out of line.

We're pretty certain Mr. Pintella has not studied or even familiarized himself with Robert's Rules of Order. If he had, he would know that his opinions are more properly kept to himself and expressed through his vote on the matter at the proper time.

It's a shame that neither the City Attorney or the highly compensated "Special Counsel" seem able or willing to correct and corral the Council President.

And it's a sad testament to the failed leadership of this city that a person "elected" to represent the city at large and then "chosen" by his colleagues to chair the council is such an incompetent.

Mr. Weeden apologized to the Councilman.

Councilman Pintella should apologize to the people of Trenton for failing to correctly uphold the duties of his office.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Where in the world is Douglas H. Palmer?

On the stump with Bubba

This morning's news coverage of the never ending primary season included footage former President Clinton in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. There, on the platform with Mr. Clinton was none other than Trenton's own "missing mayor," Doug Palmer.

This shows just how dedicated to the 'cause of Trenton Mr. Palmer is.

It easy to see that our cash strapped coffers, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools and such don't amount to anything compared to some face time on national TV in the shadow of the Clintons.

The latest line on the stoop is that regardless of Ms. Bubba's turn of fortune, Mr. Palmer is not going to Washington.

Instead of wasting all his time and pandering to the would be dynasty, he should be here in Trenton taking care of business.

Obviously, he disagrees.

Did we forget something?

A quick scan of the docket for Thursday evening's City Council meeting revealed an omission.

There is no resolution to approve the $200,000 expenditure for new guns for the Trenton Police Department.

Last week, former* Director Santiago and his band of merry followers flooded council with information on why the purchase of the new Springfield Armory weapons was a good deal and the acceptance of an offer of free replacements from the current supplier,Glock, was not.

But when the docket was published, posted and mailed such resolution was to be found.

Has it been withdrawn? If so, by whom and why?

It's not beyond the administration to withdraw a resolution that they suspect will fail rather than suffer the public humiliation of not getting its way. Look how E-Path (already voted down once) suddenly disappeared from the agenda last week.

Was the gun purchase resolution left off in "error?"

Or was this another instance of the administration subtly trying to manipulate things by leaving the item off only to have it added at the last minute. This wouldn't be the first time controversial docket items have been left out of the widely distributed version, only to show up on the day of the expected vote.

Yes, it seems like the Palmer administration is up to the same old tricks. Fortunately for Trenton, there is an alert group of citizen watchdogs who have helped some members of City Council find their voice.

The administration may suffer from memory lapses, but we haven't.

*We've noticed lately that some members of the community have started referring to Joe Santiago as the "former" Police Director due to the recent rulings in his residency case. It seems appropriate and correct to adopt that same mode of reference and we will now do so.