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.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Greenhouse gas

Palmer spews toxic vapors
It was tempting to author and publish a lengthy screed about Doug Palmer's continuing efforts to develop the image and success of Doug Palmer. Instead, here are some published comments issued by the man himself.

You decide if there is substance here or just a contribution to global warming:

"My focus entirely is always Trenton," Palmer said. (Times of Trenton, Friday, 6/27/08)

See Greg Forester's blog for commentary and context.

Now that Palmer has thrown his lot in with Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, he’s accepting suggestions that he has this to say about the Senator’s proposed Federal Urban Policy Director.

"That should certainly be an individual who's right in tune with the mayors," Palmer said.
"If there's any way that I can help my city and certainly the country, I wouldn't rule it out."

Check out TrentonKat's blog for Palmer's latest public appearance on behalf of environmental efficiency.

More inane remarks are credited to Palmer in an article about the train wreck of a public meeting held at city hall on Wednesday night. The topic was the development plan for the area around the transit station and the meeting was heavily promoted to the community with remarks by the Mayor on the printed agenda. After first being told Palmer wouldn't be there, he slipped in and addressed the crowd gathered in the atrium.

Palmer said the city hasn't condemned many houses since he became mayor, pointing to new houses around the Battle Monument as an example of the city working with neighbors. "We're going to make sure you're not kicked out of here," he said to a concerned resident.

Guess he forgot about the K. Hovnanian land grab around the ill-fated Champale site development in South Trenton.

In an effort to allay fears that plans will proceed without public input, Palmer suggests that a committee will be formed with members from the community.

It will be modeled on a committee formed to provide advice on the Lamberton Street Redevelopment Area after residents objected to a plan for the South Trenton neighborhood, Palmer said.
Seems to me that occurred only after some high profile protests against the plan.

We've got a suggestion on how Mr. Palmer can enhance his reputation as a Green-thinking Mayor.

He should keep his mouth shut.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The train of progress derailed

The city held a highly promoted, open invite session to discuss the development plan for the area around the train station.

In a flyer widely circulated to and through the city's various civic groups. The text of the flyer clearly stated that Trenton's Mayor would be present.
Brief Remarks by: Mayor Palmer & the Department of Housing & Economic Development
Interesting how, at the outset, Director of Housing and Economic Development, Sassa Montano announced to the gathering that Mr. Palmer would not be attending.

The crowd response was not, to be kind, understanding.

After all the recent fuss over the potential of losing two incredible Victorian mansions and a very busy and popular gas station for one of the proposed development schemes in the area, people had turned out to have their say about the hows and wherefores of any redevelopment in the train station area.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, Mr. Palmer suddenly materialized while his Housing and Economic Development Director was foundering at the podium. Summoned, no doubt, by a text message or two from City Council President and Palmer protege, Paul "I never met a PowerPoint presentation I didn't like" Pintella, the Mayor made a very ill-prepared and feeble attempt to defuse some of the palpable tension in the room.

Too bad. Too late.

Mr.Palmer showed his true disinterest in true progress for the city he purports to lead. He alienated everyone from Walnut Avenue to Mill Hill and beyond with his callous and uninformed approach to this "key project" in Trenton's rebirth.

Do you need any more evidence of what is really important to Douglas H. Palmer?

It certainly isn't the well being of the citizens or a rationed approach to economic development.

Doug, your cover has been blown. Why not admit it, you no longer care about anything other than furthering your own career in the spotlight.

Looks like you missed the train on this one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stuck at Broad and Hamilton with the Memphis blues again

Elkington/Performa sued over Beale Street money; two years behind in Jackson MS

Summer is here and things have been quiet over at the “Foundry” site opposite the Sovereign Bank Arena.

There is no residential/entertainment development to attract that hip, partying crowd of young folks with expendable incomes.

There is not even a construction trailer on the site. The old American Wire Rope plant Building 4 still sits alone, a brick island in a sea of asphalt.

Where is the highly anticipated Performa development that was going to turn that corner of Trenton into the region’s premier entertainment complex?


And why is that?

Ask Mr. Elkington or one of his partners and they would undoubtedly tell us that it has to do with the economy and the mortgage crisis. And they are not unreasonable excuses.

The thinking here on the stoop is a little different. Based upon Mr. Elkington and Company’s track record in Jackson, Mississippi (read the Clarion Ledger’s article from last week), we think they are spread too thin and can’t get any financing to move any of their projects forward.

Of course, Mr. Elkington thinks it is the Mayor of Jackson's fault for all the negative comments that have been made about Performa's lack of performance!

Couple with that, the fact that the Beale Street Development Corporation went to court earlier this week to sue Elkington for $10,000,000 and you have the makings of the collapse of the Performa house of cards.

Performa has managed Memphis' Beale Street district since 1982, but somehow the Development Corporation and ultimately, the city of Memphis, have not seen one penny in revenues. Elkington has been trying to get copy-cat developments off the ground in cities like Jackson, Trenton and most recently Birmingham, Alabama. More and more questions about Elkington's ability to bring any of these projects to fruition are being asked.

It has been six years that the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), with the approval of the City of Trenton, has been dancing with this project. It is time to put it to rest.

Some say it is the only thing out there; Elkington is the only one to come forward with a plan, so we must continue on. The location is too valuable to let sit fallow.

We say it was an ill-conceived, faulty plan from the start that has only gotten worse as time goes on. It is obvious that Mr. Elkington is in no position to proceed with this (and may not be for quite some time). He should be relieved of his claims on the property immediately so that, when the economy does turn, we can find a developer with a common sense, workable and self-funded plan for the parcel.

We have said it before and we will say it again, Trenton does not need and obviously cannot support this kind of concentration of chain and franchise bars, clubs and restaurants. Even if it was built and opened tomorrow, can you imagine trying to keep the patrons under control at peak times with the limited police resources the city currently has. This entertainment complex is doomed fail.

Let’s grow up and get over our frat boy dreams of living in New Orleans North and seek out more rationale and fitting developments for our capital city.

Let’s bid adieu to Mr. Elkington and company. Now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A look ahead

Taking Trenton back in 2010

TrentonKat has a lot on her plate of late, but she took the time yesterday to put forth some thoughtful suggestions about the 2010 Trenton municipal elections.

With just over two years to go until the next Mayor and Council are sworn in, the rumors and jockeying have begun. Last week, this space took a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at that campaign and invited readers to post their "dream team" for the next round of city elections. It wasn't just a satirical exercise.

The advent of the Trenton blog-sphere and the popular on-line forums will undoubtedly play a larger role in the coming campaigns. Councilman Coston blogged his way to victory in 2006 and continues to regular post the good, the bad and the ugly about civic life in Trenton.

Even casual observers can see how recent events have influenced the on-line chatter and vice-versa. Items of note, behaviors, and comments that once were all but hidden from view are now out there for public consumption.

Those who are now and who wish to be elected officials should pay attention as well. No longer will the denizens of City Hall be able to operate at will and with no regard to the public they portend to serve. The wraps are off of the empire's new clothes and we see the warts and blemishes of those who have had Trenton's well being in a stranglehold for the past couple of decades.

As we seek new leaders, let us not choose based upon the superficial polish of shiny suits and well-manicured glad hands.

Let's identify, strategize with and support those few individuals who will best be able to lift Trenton out of the mire of 20 years of machine politics and get her back on her feet. This means those that are not necessarily "picture perfect," but who truly grasp the importance of a transparent and ethical government; demonstrate common sense; and will make choices based upon what is best for the city as opposed to what will further their political career.

There's plenty of work for all to do. If you or your personal favorite don't have a realistic chance of gaining the wide public support needed to obtain public office, consider joining in with those who can. They need your help and we'll all be better off for it. The last thing Trenton needs is another round of multiple candidates distracting and diluting the vote from the key issues of the day.

The one thing that has kept the current administration in power this long has been it's ability to display a unified front against a divided and contentious opposition. It's time we turn that paradigm inside out.

If we want a better Trenton, for all, then we have to be a better Trenton.

The day of thin-skinned, vindictive playground bullies running roughshod over the citizens of Trenton is over if we want it to be.

Let's heed TrentonKat's call for common sense and unity. Let's keep posting and exchanging thoughts and ideas that demonstrate just how serious we are about evicting the corrupt and secretive powers that be.

Log on, opt in, and throw the bums out! (with apologies to Dr. Leary)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Listen up!

Some notes for Council President Paul Pintella and the administration:

Point number one (from the City Ordinances):
§ A316-2. Rules.
The following rules shall govern the Council and its meetings:
Governing Rules
Except as may be provided in the Charter, questions of order, the organization and the conduct of business of the Council shall be governed by Robert's Rules of Order in all cases to which they are applicable, and in which they are not inconsistent with these rules.

Get a copy of the book and learn how to properly conduct a meeting.

Point number two (also from the city ordinances, note especially the italicized section):
§ 2-9. Removal.
A. Pursuant to the Charter, N.J.S.A. 40:69A-37 and 40:69A-43:
(1) The Mayor, in his/her discretion, may remove any department head after notice and an opportunity to be heard. Prior to removing a department head, the Mayor shall first file written notice of his/her intention with the Council, and such removal shall become effective on the 20th day after the filing of the notice, unless prior thereto the Council shall have adopted a resolution by a two-thirds vote of the whole number of the Council disapproving the removal.
(2) The Council may, for cause, remove any municipal officer other than the Mayor or a member of Council.
(3) The Council shall consider notices under Subsection A(1) above and motions under Subsection A(2) above only after notice and an opportunity to be heard are given to the affected officer. The Clerk shall forthwith cause a copy of the notice or motion, as the case may be, together with a statement of the charges involved and notice of the time and place fixed for hearing to be served personally, or by registered mail, upon the officer affected. The hearing shall be held not less than 10 days nor more than 15 days after the date of such service. The hearing shall be open to the public.

B. Pursuant to the Charter, Council may veto a removal under Subsection A(1) above, by a two-thirds vote of the Council and may adopt or defeat a motion under Subsection A(2) above, by a majority vote of the Council.

Take heed that you can and should consider the removal of any municipal officer who consistently ignores the reasonable requests for information made by you and/or your colleagues on behalf of the citizens of Trenton you were elected to serve.

(Are you paying attention Ms. Feigenbaum, Ms. Haynes, Mr. Gonzalez, Mr. Santiago?)

Now you’ve got one day to become familiar with Roberts Rules of Order and the Administration has one day to gather the information requested last month by Mr. Coston. Let’s see if you all can manage to come together on Tuesday and get the City’s business done in an intelligent and meaningful manner.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Too busy?

According to the article in this morning's Times, the reason Trenton Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum didn't provide the information requested by South Ward Councilman Jim Coston was because she's been "busy working to fill a large budget gap."

Well, we have some more questions for Ms. Feigenbaum:

Were you too busy to communicate with the South Ward Councilman that you might not be able to provide all of the requested information in the alotted time?

Were you too busy playing shell games with the city's money to get this year's budget to council for approval on time?

Were you too busy being uncooperative with the people's respresentatives to project the dire shortfalls in the coming year's budget?

Cut the crap, Ms. Feigenbaum.

You deliberately ignored a legitimate request from an elected official for specific information and thought you could get away with it.

I guess you're going to be just a little busier now as you pull together the requested information by Tuesday and continue to work on filling that "large budget gap."

Better scrap your weekend plans, young lady. You've got Detention and a whole lot of makeup work to do!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

We doth think she protest to much

In an early report on the June 5 City Council "double header," Trentonian writer L.A. Parker quotes West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue as charging four of her colleagues with "collusion."

Lartigue was, according to Parker, miffed that Councilmen Bethea, Coston, Melone and Segura voted to not take any action on the docket items while they wait for information from the administration that was requested previously and in writing. In the article, the Councilwoman charged South Ward representative Jim Coston with leading the legislative mutiny. (Here's a link to the Times' story on the subject.)

“Coston lined up the votes and the other three (guys) followed suit. This is nothing short of disrespectful to the three members who were not part of the discussion and the residents.”

Funny statement from a representative who twice in recent months has illegally and improperly halted a vote that was being taken on a matter before Council. (According to Robert's Rules of Order, 10th Edition Revised, once a vote has been cast, the balloting must continue and cannot be interrupted.)

While we can only guess at her reasons for stopping a vote, it is undeniable that to do so is "disrespectful" to her colleagues "and the residents."

Of course, the fact that the Council President didn't have the knowledge of proper Rules of Order to override Ms. Lartigue's Parliamentary lapse comes as no surprise. And the fact that neither the City Attorney, Denise Lyles, or the highly compensated Special Counsel Joe Alaqua caught and corrected the error is disturbing and "disrespectful" of the taxpayers who foot the bill for this farce.

Ms. Lartigue, who has represented her interest in running for higher office, suggests in the Parker article that the motion to cancel the docket until Tuesday should have been discussed amongst all seven Council members. She even goes as far as to say that had such a discussion taken place that the three dissenting members "probably would have agreed."

Not likely.

Neither Mr. Pintella nor Ms. Staton have shown much inclination over the years to go against the wishes of the administration in any matter. And lately Ms. Lartigue has taken her place alongside them.

And besides, a good idea is a good idea, no matter who presents it. If the notion of tabling the docket for a couple of days in order to show unity of purpose with regards to the administration's manhandling of council matters was a good one, what stopped Ms. Lartigue (or Ms. Staton or Mr. Pintella) from voting for it.

To not do so shows just how incompetent, immature and ineffective these three are in their roles of representatives of the people.

Kudos to Messrs. Bethea, Coston, Melone and Segura for their continued stance on having a fair, open and balanced city government.

Raspberries to Ms. Lartigue for her lack of vision and leadership.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Fantasy League for Elected Officials

Maybe it's because we're holding our second primary of the year; maybe it's because we have some interesting Freeholder choices; maybe it's because there is so much speculation about the 2010 Municipal elections.

(By the way...this post was interrupted by the Mayor's [a non-partisan elected official] use of the city's reverse 911 system to remind voters to participate in tomorrow's primary).

Here's the thought: what if we started a Fantasy League for the Trenton Municipal Elections 2010? Pick your seeds for the council representatives for four wards, three at-large and for mayor.

Post them here.

Let's see who you think could make Trenton work.