Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Palmer has had enough

He will run no more forever

Ending months (years?) of speculation, Doug Palmer announced yesterday that he would not seek a 6th term as Trenton’s Mayor.

Citing a decision made in concert with family and a desire to leave on his own terms (not get voted out), Palmer stated he was comfortable with the accomplishments of his 19+ years in office.

Palmer vowed to continue working hard during the last seven months of his term and hand his successor a Trenton in better shape than what it was in 1990. He clicked off some of his notable achievements: lowered crime rate, increased housing/home ownership opportunities, economic development.

Maybe all those years of applying that “spray on hair” to his scalp has damaged his thinking.

Increase in home ownership opportunities? Has he looked at these stats compiled from US Census and American Community Survey (2006-2008) data?

Population 1990 = 88675
Population 2000 = 85403
Population 2008 = 79435
Net change 1990 - 2008 -10%

# Housing Units 1990 = 33578
# Housing Units 2000 = 33843
# Housing Units 2008 = 32743
Net change 1990 - 2008 -2%

# Vacant Housing Units 1990 = 2834
# Vacant Housing Units 2000 = 4406
# Vacant Housing Units 2008 = 6535
Net change 1990 - 2008 +90%

Average 2006 - 2008 Occupied housing units 26,208 or 80.0%
US Average = 88.0%
Average 2006 - 2008 Owner Occupied units 11,340 or 43.3%
US Average = 67.1%
Average 2006 - 2008 Renter Occupied units 14,868 or 56.7%
US Average = 32.9%
Average 2006 - 2008 Vacant housing units 6,535 or 20.0%
US Average = 12.0%

New housing units built:
2005 or later 257
2000 to 2004 339
1990 to 1999 1,079
Total Houses Built 1990 – 2008 1,675

No matter how you look at it, during the Palmer years Trenton:

• lost 10% of its population
• lost 2% of its housing units overall even as almost 1700 new units were built
• saw a 90% increase in the number of vacant housing units
• saw owner occupied housing units drop to just over 43%
• saw renter occupied housing units increase to almost 57%

It is apparent that Trenton lost home owning residents. And the loss of those residents was followed by the loss of businesses and services.

In other words, economic development failed during the Palmer years.

Doug is truly going to have to work hard in the next seven months just to leave his successor with a Trenton as good as it was in 1990.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just another typical week in T-town.

Trenton continues to spin out of control

We managed to cross paths with a few folks who attended the Beautiful Trenton meeting Tuesday night. To a person, no one has yet been able to tell us anything about the evening indicating the initiative will generate anything concrete that will improve things in Trenton. While all agreed that there were some new and unfamiliar faces amongst the 150 or so that gathered, there was also acknowledgement that several elected official wannabes were also in attendance.

The general consensus seems to be that when all was said and done at the evening, more was said than done.

Who’s surprised?

At the same time that all these well intentioned souls were setting out to right Trenton’s course, the state of New Jersey threw another curve by announcing a freeze on financial aide to dependent municipalities.

And how did Trenton’s City Council deal with the news? Well by hiring an outside contractor to perform some work as the Assistant Business Administrator, of course.

Apparently, the Palmer Administration, through its toady, Dennis Gonzalez, made enough of a case (twisted some arms) to get four of the seven council people to pass a resolution that had been previously tabled. The action taken Tuesday approves paying one Lawrence Pollex $75 per hour with a maximum of $75,000 for work performed through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30, 2010).

Gonzalez, who has been the “Acting Business Administrator” for about a year now, was turned down in his request to hire Pollex back in September. Citing the need to fill other positions and the city’s budget woes, Council balked at the approving the contract. In response, Mr. Gonzalez apparently went into protest mode and initiated a work slowdown that resulted in public defenders and some health workers not being paid.

To their credit, Councilmen Bethea and Segura along with newly elected South Ward Councilman George Muschal exhibited a grasp of the fiscal mess the city is in and voted against the contract. Their three votes were not enough, however, to overcome the “go along to get along” gang of Lartigue, Melone, Pintella and Staton.

So, Trenton, where we are short qualified inspectors in our Technical Services department; where last week the Planning Department and the Director of the Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture each lost their key administrative staffers to retirement; and where the city animal shelter is critically short staffed, has hired itself a part-time, non-resident Assistant Business Administrator.

Maybe if Mr. Gonzalez was better at “acting” like a competent Business Administrator we could apply that $75,000 to filling some of those vacancies that are a higher priority to fill.

If last week’s happenings weren’t entertaining enough, we can’t wait for the coming week.

Former Freeholder Tony Mack will formally announce his candidacy for mayor Tuesday at the Marriott.

And the rumor mill is suggesting that Doug Palmer himself will make some important announcement about his future plans in the next few days.

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beautiful Trenton

Warming up for another chorus of Kumbaya

Tuesday night a group of concerned citizens will gather at Thomas Edison College on W. State Street to begin a dialogue about Trenton.

Reportedly, organizers of the event want to bring people together to identify concerns and issues that would then be placed in front of all the city council and mayoral candidates in the May 2010 municipal election.

Now don’t get us wrong. Anytime citizens come together with the intent to make things better is good. However, this most recent initiative leaves us scratching our head.

Aren’t there already groups in place that are or should be dealing with this? There are a variety of neighborhood based civic associations and the umbrella Trenton Council of Civic Associations who would seem naturals at generating the conversation.

There is the North Ward Citizen’s Action Coalition and Trenton Residents Action Coalition who have, whether you agree with them or not, spearheaded some pretty serious activity over the past couple of years. Fighting flagrant violations of Trenton’s residency ordinance, challenging the division and sell-off of part of the municipal water system are just two of the initiatives these groups have taken on.

Don’t we already know what the concerns are in this town? Do we need to convene another meeting to talk about issues that we are already familiar with and are (or should be) discussing?

Let’s be serious…talking about stuff we are already talking about and have been talking about for at least a decade or two is a waste of time if you don’t offer up some real concrete proposals aimed at making needed changes. We don’t need more questions; we need answers...and action.

Beautiful Trenton sounds like a civic version of a marriage encounter session. You can talk all you want, but if that discussion doesn’t lead to action, what is the point.

We suggest the first order of business on the Beautiful Trenton agenda should be to change its name. Beauty, as we have been taught, is but skin deep. Superficial would be another word.

Beautiful dreamers, take heed. Action, as we know, speaks louder than words and that is what is needed now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Tis the season

January 4 is the first business day of the New Year and the first opportunity for individuals to “pull the paperwork” and declare their candidacy for the mayor and seven city council seats up for grabs in the May municipal election. The four month period between is often referred to as “silly season” because of the never-ending, ever-escalating stunts and stumbles of the candidates.

The November special election to fill the vacated South Ward council seat was but a tease for what is about to come. Now, just as the year-end holiday season is cranking up, we hear the first rumblings of the political war to come.

Earlier this week, Evites were sent out for a “Warm Holiday Celebration” hosted by Juan Martinez and the Hispanic Democratic Caucus. The event costs $10 per person and should be made payable to “Friends of Juan Martinez.” If you can’t make it, you are asked to consider donating to the same entity.

Gadflies and local political junkies were probably tipped off to Martinez’ intent to run again by his “I didn’t lose, I just didn’t win” letter to the editor published in the Times last week. (Note to Mr. Martinez: there is only one winner and by definition, if you didn’t win, you lost. So your statement to the contrary is just plain incorrect).

The invite to the Holiday Celebration and the designated payee pretty much clinches the deal…Juan hasn’t given up his hope of holding elected office. The only question remaining…which office?

Will Juan be content to try again in the South Ward or is he setting his sights on one of the citywide offices?

And speaking of citywide offices…an interesting note was distributed by intended Mayoral Candidate, Tony Mack. Mr. Mack has advised supporters of a new slogan for his upcoming campaign.
Thank you for being a part of a movement that will bring change to the City of Trenton. The new slogan for the campaign is "Trenton First - That's The Change We Need". I am dedicated to making Trenton First in everything that I do as your mayor. This is a city that I grew up in, raised a family in, and love with all of my heart. Trenton has a storied history and is blessed with an amazing citizenry. Trenton must regain its position as one of America's leading cities and I am committed to doing just that as your Mayor.

I need your help. Join the team to make Trenton First.

Sincerely,

Tony Mack
Trenton First - That's The Change We Need

Do you think it is an intentional use of the phrase “Trenton First,” the name of Doug Palmer’s “foundation?”

‘Tis the season!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What state are we in?

Whatever happened to Doug's annual pep talk to the people?

Each year, come late October or early November, Doug Palmer used to stand in city council chambers and give his state of the city address. To a packed house of invited guests, media, his cabinet and the full council, Mr. Palmer would tell the story of the city’s progress thus far that year and paint a rosy portrait of where it was going in the coming one.

Some years there were slick “annual report” style booklets published and handed out to attendees. Mostly filled with a collection of “photo op” style pictures and glowing prose extolling the ‘successes’ of the current administration.

The speeches were choreographed affairs. There were shout outs to various administration officials, an acknowledgement of some sort to each council member (unless one happened to be “on the outs” with Mr. Palmer at the particular time), and maybe even the singling out of a member of the public or two that were in attendance. There were also designated “applause points” where the language was crafted to create a pause to be filled with at least polite if not always enthusiastic applause.

At the conclusion of the hour long speech, the crowd would be invited to reconvene at a nearby establishment for free finger food and a cash bar.

That was the routine.

Last year, however, that changed. There was no big “state of the city address” at city hall. No big soiree afterwards.

Ostensibly, Mr. Palmer was too involved in last year’s presidential campaign to make time for facing his colleagues and constituents to report on the state of the city. (Right and we all remember who he originally backed in that horse race.). Oh, there was some sort of “report” given to council in January or February that covered the nuts and bolts of the city’s status. But where was the public presentation? The big whoop-tee-do?

There wasn’t one.

And so far, it doesn’t look like there is going to be a big shindig this year either.

Does anyone wonder why?

Could it be that the state of the city is so poor; so fraught with bad news that Mr. Palmer would rather not have to stand at the podium and looks us in the eye and tell us that he has failed miserably?

Does he not want to tell us, yet again, how good a job he has done, despite the fact that the state controls much of the city’s land and won’t fund us accordingly?

Maybe he doesn’t want to face questions about our still failing school system and the yet to be resolved stalemate over rehabbing or building a new high school.

Maybe he doesn’t want to talk anymore about the layoffs of the inspectors or the fact that his acting Business Administrator is refusing to pay people for the work they have done.

Or is it the tenuous predicament of the city library system and the board that continues to do his ill-bidding even after they retired their scapegoat, long-time President Adrienne Hayling?

And there are the silly legal entanglements Palmer continues to get the city into simply because he refuses to acknowledge he’s wrong. Residency cases, illegal pay raises, referendum on the water utility situation.

How could he possibly put a positive spin on any of this?

He can’t. And so there probably won’t be a formal “state of the city” address this year. And no celebratory cocktail party afterwards.

But, hey! There will be a Thanksgiving parade!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dennis the Menace rides again

Acting BA throws a tantrum and refuses to pay city bills.

In yet another demonstration of the spiteful ways of the Palmer administration, Acting Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez has not gotten around to paying the city’s public defenders, as well as other contract workers and consultants since city council denied his request for a part-time, $75,000 assistant some six weeks ago.

Kudos to the Trentonian’s Joe D’Aquila for breaking this story in last Friday’s paper and for the follow ups on Saturday and today. D’Aquila’s reporting once again demonstrates how Gonzalez and others feel they can selectively follow the rules when it is convenient or is to their advantage.

Whether in making payments to favored parties without contracts (ala Barry Colicelli in his first go-round as the so called “Special Assistant” to the Mayor) or selectively enforcing the residency requirements for some employees while prosecuting others, this kind of double standard is a hallmark of Doug Palmer’s reign.

And, if that is not enough, there are rumors that Larry Pollex, the person Gonzalez targeted as his assistant, was working in city hall prior to the vote and continues to do so even after the contract was denied by council.

Let’s hope newly elected South Ward Councilman George Muschal picks up where his predecessor Jim Coston left off and serves as the conscience on council. Here’s hoping he kicks off his term by asking straight up what Mr. Pollex’s status is.

And maybe Councilman Muschal should also inquire about just how long an individual can hold the post in an “acting” capacity. Seems to us, Mr. Gonzalez has been “acting” Business Administrator for about a year now and that would be about four times longer than the 90 day limit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And here we are again

We see the Trenton Department of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is again seeking groups interested in participating in that annual display of despair and despondency, the Thanksgiving Parade.

Scheduled for Saturday, November 21 the truncated parade route will run up State Street to Warren, around the Battle Monument and down Broad back to State and on to City Hall. Interesting, since East State Street from Broad to Montgomery is currently torn up for a much needed resurfacing job (at the loss of our classic red brick pavement).

More interesting is that for the second year in a row, with the city budget nowhere in sight, Mr. Palmer has declared that it's OK to spend money that we the taxpayers don't have on this feeble vestige of parades past. We wrote about this last year in an entry titled "Oh, Deer!" and nothing has changed.

The city is still broke. The city is likely to remain broke for awhile.

So why do we continue to waste money on things like Thanksgiving parades?

It is time for the administration to pull back and focus on the important things in this city (economic development and public safety are but two that come readily to mind) and stop wasting money and effort on this parade.

Thankfully, the Jazz Festival was cancelled this year...at least as far as city involvement was concerned. The festival formerly known as Heritage Days became Heritage Day this year. OK, a compromise but a move in the right direction.

But the city is still going to try to put on a Thanksgiving Parade in the face of an economic downtown. It makes no sense.

Mr. Palmer, give Sam Frisby and his staff a break and tell them to call off the parade. There is no good reason under the sun for the city to expend time and manpower and money on this event. Spare the police and public works departments the overtime. Save the fuel and cut the emissions from the dozens of idling vehicles used in and around the parade route.

Until such a time as an outside group wants to stage a well-financed, organized and executed event (as with the St. Patrick's Parade), or until the city has money to burn, put this turkey of a parade to rest.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Just another nightmare...

Once upon a time there was a city run by ego maniacal joker in expensive suits. He hand picked all the representatives to the various boards and commissions in that city, including the trustees for the library system.

The library system was the first in the state, founded by a local leader some 250 years ago with money that came out of his own pocket. It was such an enlightened and selfless gesture that a branch of that very library system was named in that individual's honor.

Now the well-dressed joker had allowed an old family friend to run the board of trustees of the library for way too long. She ran off some very competent professional library directors as well as concerned and dedicated members of the board of trustees.

Finally, with the library system on the brink of collapse, the woman retired from the board.

A few months later it was announced that there would be a grand celebration thanking this woman for her years of dedicated service to the libraries; the very same libraries that came to be in total disarray under her tenure. And to further honor her, the very branch of the library named for the founder of the system would be changed to the name of the woman who nearly destroyed them.

Now it comes to pass that invitations to the party were sent to a specific list of people by one of the board members, who happens to be the sister of the sharply attired ego (aka "the Mayor"). The date of the party listed on the invitation was different than the one originally touted in the press reports. And the invitation stated that there was a $40, cash only fee to attend the party. (Better than having the cash-strapped library and/or city pay for the fete, we suppose).

More importantly, the phone number listed for the RSVP was incorrect. It was a non-working number.

After trying the phone number unsuccessfully several times, a potential attendee called the library to get a correct phone number. The ever diligent library staff put the caller through a background and credentials check worthy of the deepest recesses of the Pentagon before passing the call along to someone "who could help."

It was at this point that the caller learned that the event had been postponed until a future, as yet undetermined date.

Could it be there was too little interest in "honoring" the retired board chair?

Was there too much grumbling and grousing from the public about celebrating this failure of the system?

Only in Trenton, my friends. Only in Trenton.

Friday, October 30, 2009

“Concerned” clergy endorse Martinez for South Ward Council

But who are they?

A press release dated 10/28 (Wednesday) landed on the stoop this morning.

It tells of a press conference held at city hall wherein "approximately 15" unspecified clergy members are alleged to have given their nod to Juan Martinez as their choice to fill the south ward council seat vacated by Jim Coston this past summer.

The only clergyman identified in the press release is Rev. Wayne Griffith who spoke glowingly about Martinez.

Lest we forget, Reverend Griffith was the spiritual leader of the assault on the south ward known as the Leewood development back in 2003. This was the ill-conceived project that would have leveled some six square blocks of the south ward and displaced the current residents so they would then have the opportunity to purchase new homes built by Leewood in partnership with the Concerned Pastors Economic Development Corporation.

Mr. Martinez was hired by this (and other) ostensibly "concerned" pastors along with Michael Fink to do community outreach for the proposed development.

We would like to know exactly how many clergy were part of this endorsement and who they are (how does one get an endorsement from an approximate number of people?). Or is this some amorphous group, much like Mr. Martinez’s oft mentioned civic group, PROS (People for the Revitalization of South Trenton)?

In all the years we’ve been sitting on the stoop, no one has ever been able to tell us who the membership of this organization is; when and where it meets; or anything else concrete about this entity.

It is our considered opinion that this endorsement and the mystical group who made it are no more substantial than the fantasy civic group PROS; just another figment of his imagination.

Just ignore it and maybe Mr. Martinez, Rev. Griffith and their imaginary playmates will all go away.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Now first

Recently, TrentonKat spent some time musing about the differences between Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and Newark Mayor Corey Booker. In last Saturday’s post, she included a link to Mayor Booker’s Newark Now initiative.

A link! To a functioning website! Can you imagine?

Trenton First doesn’t have one of those website things. Guess that’s something they are not spending money on.

After posting yesterday about the somewhat askew operating ratios for Trenton First, we decided to look up Newark Now on the state charities website. We wanted to see what kind of ratios they operate under. We were at first a little saddened, it seems that the latest report available online is for 2007.

Still we went ahead and checked out the numbers.

Newark Now reported revenue of $2,750,549.00 that year. That is more than 60 times the revenue of Trenton First, but of course, Newark is a larger city.

Reported expenses for the year were $2,314,555.00 or 50 times that of Trenton First. In addition, Newark Now appears to have held more than $400,000 (about 15% of its revenue) in reserve.

Trenton First spent every dime it took in, and then a little more.

How did the money Newark Now spend break down?

Over $1.8 million (78%) was spent on programming.

Only 7% ($150,526.00) was spent on management. Newark Now has full time, paid staff, a building, equipment, etc. Trenton First has none of that and spent 20% of its money on management expenses.

Fundraising costs were 15% of Newark Now’s operating budget as opposed to Trenton First’s 68%

Oh, and for the record, Newark Now states on its website that it was founded in 2002. Mayor Palmer’s Trenton First Initiative (full legal name) was filed in July of 1994.

Still think contributing to Trenton First is a good idea?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caveat emptor

Are you getting what you pay for?

All you folks lining up with your open checkbooks to rub elbows with former President Bill Clinton at the Trenton First “fundraiser” might want to check this out first.

Seems the Trenton First initiative ran a $1300 deficit last year according to the report filed with the State of NJ Charitable Registration Directory.

While a non-profit running a loss in this economy is not such a big deal…and the loss is not a huge amount (about 3% of the reported operating budget) a look at the rest of the numbers tells an interesting story.

Trenton First reported $43, 280 in direct public contributions and $44,583.00 in total expenses. However, only a little more than $5,138.00 was spent on program expenses (the “good works” of the non-profit). That is only 12% of the operating budget spent delivering on the organization’s mission. The other 88% of expenses came in two chunks: $8,875 (20%) for management and a whopping $30,570 (68%) in fundraising expenses.

So remember folks, as you write your checks tomorrow night, only 12 cents of every dollar you give to Trenton First goes towards it alleged purpose. Twenty cents of each dollar you give goes to “management” and the rest goes to cover the costs of convincing you to hand over your hard-earned bucks.

Edited after posting to remove a broken link.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What a revolting development!

Library board disses founder in favor of failed former leader.

Wednesday’s Trentonian reported that the Board of Trustees was going to consider naming a branch of the Trenton Free Public Library system after Adrienne Hayling. Hayling resigned this past summer as President of the Library Board after serving on that body for 30 plus years.

Thursday’s edition of the publication confirms that the Board has agreed to honor Mrs. Hayling for her long years of service by renaming the Cadwalader Branch of the library system after her.


As the long time chair of the board charged with overseeing the operation of the library system, Hayling is responsible…along with the various members of the body who couldn’t or wouldn’t override her iron-clad rule…for a fiscal mess that has yet to be unraveled.

In the final decade of her reign, Hayling drove away at least a half dozen different library directors; stifled the once vibrant “Friends of the Library” group; and presided over staff reductions and severe cutbacks in operation hours in order to keep the main library and four branches open at all. Additionally, the Hayling lead board failed to obtain proper financial audits for several years running…a situation that is still in the process of being rectified.

Hayling offered nothing but indifference and interference to a group that came together to form a non-profit foundation with the sole intention of raising money to help the library system develop a long term funding plan above and beyond the annual appropriation from the city. Only after stringing the fledgling foundation along for over half a year was it announced that Hayling would step down from the board.

It is a shame that the very branch named in honor of the gentleman who funded and founded the Trenton Library Company in 1750 will soon be named after the woman who presided over the decline and near collapse of the venerable institution.

The actions of the board in recognizing Mrs. Hayling's questionable contribution to the library system would better be directed at the East Trenton Branch of the Library. It is the only one of the four branches not named after someone.

As noted the Cadwalader branch recognizes Dr. Cadwalader who organized and funded the first public library in New Jersey. The Briggs Branch recognizes the leadership of Mayor Frank Briggs, during whose term in office the modern library system was established. The Skelton branch is named for local educator and philanthropist Dr. Skelton who left an endowment for the library system as part of his estate.

All of these individuals made significant contributions to the development of Trenton’s historic library system. It is criminal to even consider swapping any one of their names for Mrs. Hayling’s.

This leaves only the “unnamed” East Trenton Branch as a possibility for bearing the Hayling moniker. And, if one thinks about it just a little bit harder, it may be an appropriate choice.

Recalling the flap created a year ago about the lack of restroom facilities readily accessible to the public at this branch, what could be more fitting than to rename the North Clinton Avenue facility after the woman who left the library without the proverbial “pot to piss in?”

Monday, October 05, 2009

Same old tired song

The face of Trenton’s feckless leader appeared on the front page of the Trentonian this morning along with the headline:
PALMER DEMANDS OBAMA’S ATTENTION.

Which of course begs the question; just who does Mr. Palmer think he is to demand anything of anyone?

The article goes on to explain that Palmer, and other urban mayors, want to talk to President Obama’s key money men about more funding for their cities.

In a prepared statement available on the City of Trenton website, Palmer makes the case for federal funding for “Main Street” just as it bailed out Wall Street during the financial crisis of the last year.

“I understand the importance of stabilizing financial institutions. My point is, Main Street is where the innovations and jobs are – and we will need some focused support to get the economic benefit of the green economy and create jobs now.”

The problem in Trenton at least is that the city’s situation is actually the result of Palmer’s ineffective governance and policies over the past two decades.

For starters, there was the long time acceptance of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs) that allowed suburban community to buy their way out of affordable housing requirements by paying money to urban centers like Trenton. The net result was the development of various types of subsidized housing within the city that concentrated residents with the lowest incomes and highest need for services here instead of in the suburbs where the jobs are.

Then there is Palmer’s favorite complaint…”the state isn’t paying its share.” While the actual payments in lieu of taxes the State of New Jersey makes to Trenton may be calculated at less than the value the city would charge a private property owner, it is not the only state funding the city gets. Some people have estimated that 80%- 85% or more of Trenton’s fiscal budget comes from state and county government in one way or another. That means that the business entity of the City of Trenton is already living well above its means on the “largesse” of the taxpayers throughout the state.

An increasingly bloated and spendthrift administration and a dysfunctional school board appointed solely by the mayor have both contributed to Trenton’s woes.

Yes, the economic downtown has hit cities and hit them hard. But imprudent fiscal management prior to the recession was what weakened Trenton.

Before Mr. Palmer demands anything of the Federal Government, he ought to look at what his lack of leadership has contributed to Trenton’s woes and make the necessary cuts and corrections to the budget. (Which…three months into the fiscal year has yet to be submitted/approved).
As a couple of the wags commenting on the Trentonian website said:

TRENTON DEMANDS PALMER’S ATTENTION

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thanks for sharing

Another party heard from.

Juan Martinez sent out what appears to be the second press release of his campaign. Martinez is a candidate for the south ward council seat vacated by Jim Coston.

Sunday, the Times published an announcement listing Martinez’s campaign staffers. The release names a Campaign Manager (Rafael Valentin), Deputy Campaign Manager ( Carmen Melendez) and Second Deputy Campaign Manager (Tina Roach). Six other team members are named in the release.

Previously, Martinez refused to participate in the September 8 candidate forum sponsored by the Jersey Street Community Association because it was held two day before the City Clerk certified all the candidates. Martinez also complained that the forum was unfair because two officers of the organization had, as individuals, already endorsed one of the candidates.

It was noble that, in this latest release, Mr. Martinez didn’t embroil himself in the controversy over rival candidate Paul Harris’s bogus posting on the Trentonian website. But it would have been more beneficial to the voters, not to mention to Mr. Martinez’s campaign to have used the press release to outline some positions.

You would think that at least one of the more than half dozen campaign staffers mentioned in the press release could have advised Juan of that.

Friday, September 18, 2009

City council asks why? How?

Balk at hiring extra administrator.

Trenton’s City Council members don’t often get praised for the job they are doing. And there may be reasons for that, but last night they put the brakes on another excursion of the Doug Palmer express as the administration tried to ram through approval of a $75,000 contract to pay for an assistant business administrator.

Good for the members of city council for standing up and saying, “What!?!? NO!!!”

For those who missed it, the Times’ Meir Rinde wrote it up in this morning’s edition.

The long and the short of it is this:

At a time when the city has laid off employees, including much needed inspectors in the technical services division, the administration wants to contract with a person to perform “assistant business administrator” duties to ease the load of one Dennis Gonzalez who was “promoted” last year when former Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum left to take a job in Perth Amboy.

Interestingly, the administration’s rationale for needing to hire this consultant is so the city can draft policies and manage assets in accordance with suggestions from auditors. Specifically, the adoption of whistle blower and conflict of interest policies as well as updating and maintaining a current inventory of city assets are needed and would be the responsibility of the consultant retained to serve as assistant business administrator.

Bearing the above in mind, we ask:

What did Mr. Gonzalez do when he served as acting business administrator? Wouldn’t these policies and the inventory have fallen under his responsibilities?

If Mr. Gonzalez failed to complete the required work as assistant BA, how and why did he get tapped to move into the “Acting” Business Administrator position?

And that’s another thing: isn’t the title “acting” a provisional one good for only 90 days after which time the appointment is to be brought before council for approval? If that’s the case, does anyone remember Mr. Gonzalez’s appointment coming before council for final approval anytime since, oh say, last February?

Voting citizens of Trenton take heed. Your current city administration continues to run roughshod over the rules and procedures of the laws that govern our city. Watch closely what they do in the next few months and watch even more closely those currently on council and all who seek your favor to gain office in the coming elections.

Their actions will speak much louder than their words.

Last night, Council made an excellent point.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

As I was saying

Alexander Brown announces Mayoral bid and launches website

Last week, we started to comment on the candidacy of Alexander Brown for Mayor in the 2010 municipal elections. Unfortunately, the Trentonian's on-line glitch distracted us from the point we wanted to make.

Here is what we wanted to say at that time:

Anyone considering Mr. Brown as a viable candidate and agent for positive change in Trenton need only look at his track record of "public service" to realize he is not up to the task.

According to his website, Mr. Brown was elected to the school board twice in the 1980's. He was appointed to two consecutive terms on that body by Mayor Palmer, serving from 1990 -1996. In 1998 Mr. Brown became the Chairman of the Facilities Advisory Board: the body charged with overseeing the state funding for school construction under the Abbott Ruling. And Brown was reappointed to the Trenton School Board in 2007.

How did the schools fare during Mr. Brown's intermittent tenure on the school board?

How well did the Facilities Advisory Board handle their responsibilities under Mr. Brown? (still no resolution to the TCHS restore or build new question, the false-start of the Jefferson School project)

Yes, he's only one man. But he does not appear to be a man with any sort of workable, practical plan.

And one other thing...Mr. Brown announced his candidacy with a press release and conference on May 27 of this year. The Trentonian announced the launch of his campaign website a week ago. Yet, the Election Law Enforcement Commission website does not show any paperwork filed for his candidacy.

Mr. Brown is just another example of the kind of empty suit that hack mayors like Mr. Palmer pull out of the closet and prop up with appointments. Now Brown wants us to believe he has the goods to change Trenton for the better, but he hasn't shown us he's even capable of following the most basic of regulations for running a campaign, let alone running a city.

Alexander Brown should change his slogan from "A New Way a New Day" to "Nothing new, different day."

Friday, September 04, 2009

Duck Season! Rabbit Season!

Silly season is upon us.

South Ward Council hopeful and professional cry baby Juan Martinez is stirring the pot once again. An article in this morning’s Trentonian airs Martinez’s gripes about upcoming candidate forums.

Mr. Martinez doesn’t feel its right that “debates” should include candidates who have not been certified by the city clerk’s office. The first candidate’s night is scheduled for September 8, two days before the certification deadline of September 10.

Apparently, Martinez has forgotten that once “silly season” opens, every group and collective under the sun puts the call out to candidates to appear before them and state their case for election. In the spring election cycle, candidates are on the stump long before the mid-March certification cutoff.

Further, Mr. Martinez is complaining about the lack of neutrality of the hosting organization for the September 8 forum. He is confusing the official position of the organization, the Jersey Street Community Association, with those of individual members.

As a third complaint, only hinted at in the Trentonian piece but delved into in an email circulated by Mr. Martinez, the issues of the having a candidate’s forum in a licensed liquor establishment has been raised. The Trenton Council of Civic Associations, in conjunction with the League of Women Voters and the NAACP are co-sponsoring a candidate’s night at Katmandu and this somehow worries Mr. Martinez.

He seems to forget that a Latino social club on South Broad Street (licensed premise) hosts candidate forums during the regular election cycle. The Trenton Polish American Democratic Club (TPAD, a licensed premise) on Olden Avenue hosts candidate nights. And the Old Mill Hill Society holds their meetings, and candidate nights, at the Mill Hill Saloon (a licensed premise).

All of this points to one conclusion.

Mr. Martinez has no platform and no credentials supporting him as a valid candidate for South Ward Councilman. Instead, he has to resort to diversionary tactics in order to duck the issues.

Shame on him. And shame on anyone who takes his candidacy seriously.

NOTE: We'll address the brief mention that young Mr. Carlos Avila, former Councilman Coston's handpicked successor, has yet to commit to appearing at the Jersey Street forum later.
And we'll also get back to Mr. Alexander Brown's candidacy for Mayor at some point.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to this morning’s blog…

Trentonian online editorial glitch says it all

This was going to be an entry about Trenton mayoral hopeful Alexander Brown. Mr. Brown, currently Vice-President of the School Board, has launched the website for his upcoming run for the city’s top seat in 2010.

The Trentonian had an article in this morning’s edition about the website and we went to the online version of the paper to reference it as we began composing this post.

Unfortunately, when we clicked on the link to the story, this is what came up:

Mayoral hopeful’s site offers great expectations
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
No comments posted. | Email to a friend | Print version | ShareThis| RSS Feeds
By Trentonian Staff
TRENTON — That nitwit, grinning, needle-toothed alligator that has taken up residence in the pond on the Island’s Stacy Park is making us all look like fools!
Not the story we expected, but perhaps by some twist of editorial fate (or incompetence) it is still apropos to the point about Mr. Brown’s candidacy: it’s a joke!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to school

Some random thoughts on the TCHS mess

The state has announced (yet again) a plan for building a new Trenton Central High School (TCHS) on the site of the current structure on Chambers Street.

The new plan has a price tag of about $150 million and would save the existing clock tower, fa├žade and entranceway while demolishing the rest of the building. Schools Development Authority (SDA) head Kris Kolluri says that renovating the current building would take $30 million more and two years longer to get the oft-delayed project done.

Of course, if the SDA and its failed predecessor the Schools Construction Corporation (SCC) hadn’t played games with the equally ineffectual Trenton School Board for the past nine years, the project could have been done by now. Instead, the fate of the iconic and once highly regarded TCHS has been a frequently fumbled political football.

Here’s an admittedly heretical thought, let’s forget about doling out federal stimulus money to the Trenton Club and the yet-to-be-realized new Trenton YMCA and other non-infrastructure projects and put it towards restoring/renovating TCHS. And yes, we know, the projects have to be “shovel ready” and all that. If only the SCC/SDA and the School Board had dealt with this problem realistically from the outset, it might have been.

And, for the record, there is no offense or affront meant to the venerable Trenton Club or the Y. The former is one of the oldest social institutions in the city. The latter does good work in its existing facility and the new building has been the dream of many good people. Unfortunately they are both “private” organizations…as in non-government…and as such shouldn’t benefit from the stimulus funding over something as necessary as a public high school.

Further, in the case of the YMCA we have to say that if the public truly felt the need for this oft-relocated, re-imagined facility, they would have found ways to fund it without government assistance.

Sorry. It’s just the way we feel.

And then there was this letter to the editor in the Times, Friday August 14, 2009:

Producing the high school Trenton’s students need

The debate over the future of Trenton Central high School has produced a great deal of emotion and much nostalgia – and I understand that. I went to Trenton High for a time and also have countless colleagues and friends who are alumni. Even today, I bring visitors by to show them this imposing structure.

The main point to consider at this time, I believe, is that our students (and their parents) deserve to have a first class high school as soon as practicable. As distinct as it is, the building now is in obvious disrepair. The new plan that the Schools Development Authority and the Board of Education have come up with retains the classic clock tower and front entrance while offering the compelling benefits of state-of-the –art learning environments, energy efficiency, security, and a timetable two years short and $30 million less expensive than total renovation. The SDA-Board plan warrants approval.

The benefits of a modern school facility can be seen the city at the new Columbus, Daylight-Twilight, Kilmer and Parker Schools (and are taking shape at the new Jefferson School as well). Our high school students deserve nothing less. We need to move forward with this plan now.
–DOUGLAS H. PALMER, Trenton
The writer is mayor of Trenton.

Upon first reading the letter this one sentence practically leapt off of the page:
As distinct as it is, the building now is in obvious disrepair.

Huh?!?!? And whose administration and whose appointed school board oversaw the lack of maintenance that lead to this “obvious disrepair?”

And notices, too, that he brings "visitors BY" but not into the school to show it off.

That got us to thinking…what if we rewrote that letter just slightly:

Producing the Trenton we need

The debate over the future of Trenton has produced a great deal of emotion and much nostalgia – and I understand that. I lived in Trenton for a time and also have countless colleagues and friends who are residents. Even today, I bring visitors by to show them this historic city.

The main point to consider at this time, I believe, is that our residents deserve to have a first city as soon as practicable. As distinct as it is, the city now is in obvious disrepair. The new plan that the state has funded and my administration have come up with retains the classic elements while offering the compelling benefits of state-of-the –art learning environments, energy efficiency, security, and a timetable two years shorter and $30 million less expensive than total renovation. The State-City plan warrants approval.

The benefits of a modern Trenton can be seen the city at the new Hotel, Maxine’s/Phoenix, Foundry and Trent Town Center developments (and are taking shape at the new Hovnanian development in South Trenton as well). Our citizens deserve nothing less. We need to move forward with this plan now.
–DOUGLAS H. PALMER, Trenton
The writer is mayor of Trenton.

Same old BS, same old “spin and spend my way out of trouble” Doug.

Trentonians, at this stage the best course of action to follow is probably just the opposite of whatever Mr. Palmer proposes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two boys, two days, two Trentons

What a wonderful feeling to see the smiling face of 10 year old Alphonso Jones II beaming out from the front page of the Trentonian on Wednesday.

Young Master Jones, an aspiring musician and stellar 5th grade student at Trenton’s Patton J. Hill School has been tagged to play the lead in “The Lion King” in New York City beginning in September.

Uplifting and positive stories like this are what keeps the hope alive that Trenton can and will turn itself around and live up to its fullest potential. And it’s not just the rare occurrence of a10 year old going to Broadway.

There are many kids, adults too, leading exemplary lives; Trentonians working hard to better themselves and their community. People taking pride in themselves and striving to do the right thing; givers as opposed to takers; this is the Trenton many of us know.

A day later, the other “Trenton” came back into focus. On Thursday, the police released the information that a 15 year old was arrested and charged with the fatal beating of 56 year old Frank Rivera, Jr. The youth, we are told, took the man out with one punch during a robbery back in February. The victim succumbed to his injuries June 29.

This is the Trenton many of our suburban friends and family see: a city where youth runs wild in the streets 24/7; where violence lurks at every corner and where life is cheap.

There is no denying this face of Trenton. But there can be no denying the other face either.

There is more good about Trenton than bad. There are more good people in Trenton than bad.

Over the next several months there will be real opportunity to set the city’s derailed dreams back on track. Beginning with the special election in November to fill the South Ward Council seat being vacated by Jim Coston, and continuing through the May 2010 elections, the people can push aside those that have misgoverned and misguided the city to it’s present state of disarray.

There will be many candidates for the eight elected positions, some with familiar names and some who seemingly materialized out of nowhere. It’s up to the electorate to weed out the ones without legitimate leadership experience and the ones who’ve said a lot and done little over their years in “public life.” It’s time to choose representatives not by ethnicity or neighborhood, but by competency and conscience.

Choose wisely, Trentonians. Choose wisely and show our neighbors that the Trenton family is more like that of Alphonso Jones II…hard working, caring, and proud of real achievement. Show them that we care enough to better ourselves and our community by providing an example to follow so there are no more 15 year olds arrested for homicide.

We are not suggesting that elected officials past, present, or future are responsible for our out of control youth or Trenton's crime issues. We do believe however that these officials by and large have failed to manage the city in a responsible and successful way that has permitted the quality of life to spiral downward and thus contributed directly to the sense of hopelessness in Trenton. Further, the voters have continued to elect the same representatives who have failed their constituents term after term.

This is a call for all Trentonians to take a keen interest in moving this city forward by making informed,reasoned decisions in choosing elected representatives that will restore pride, polish and professionalism to the capital city.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Heat shimmer.

Even though we’ve had a relatively wet and cool summer so far this year, it is mid-July and Trenton is beginning to suffer from heat stroke. Or at the very least, the distorted vision caused by heat radiating up off of State Street is causing creating near hallucinatory conditions for some of our politicos.

In a move only subtly referred to in an online forum and Jim Coston’s blog, the infinitely imbecilic city council re-appointed a citizen to the Zoning Board of Adjustment after that same citizen quit in a snit several months earlier. This is the one board that city council appoints in its entirety and they can’t even get this right. Citizen X was given a chance to serve and voluntarily quit. Why would this person even be considered for reappointment? Especially given the fact that this appointment gives the city’s West Ward a majority of representation on the body when in the past council has gone to great lengths to ensure balanced representation from around the city.

It seems as though the idiot prince, Council President Paul Pintella, nominated the quitter to rejoin the zoning board. Most likely this was done at the behest of Mr. Palmer in order to needlessly flex his “I can do what I want to” muscle. And in the usual game of “Palmer sez,” Pintella and the majority of council followed his lead.

The trippy antics of Palmer, Pintella et al haven’t gone unnoticed on a state level.

In an email blast titled "Bringing Back Our Cities" and sent out by GOP Gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie’s campaign, Trenton’s failures were well documented:

...Trenton: High Crime, Failing Schools, and Skyrocketing Unemployment

On Education:

• In 2007, the New Jersey Department of Education failed Trenton's Public Schools in all five categories of evaluation. They scored just 11% in Instruction and Program. (NJ Department of Education, "Commissioner's Evaluation of the Trenton School District," 07/23/07)

• 48% of Trenton Central High School seniors didn't pass the state's standardized graduation exam. (NJ Department of Education, 2008 Report Card)

On Employment:
• In May 2009, 18% of Trenton's residents were unemployed. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 07/14/09)


On the Economy:
• 20% of Trenton's residents live below the poverty level. (US Census Bureau 2005-2007 American Community Survey)

On Crime:
• In 2007, Trenton suffered with over 31 Murders and 1,176 Violent Crimes. (NJ State Police Uniform Crime Report 09/08)

Of course, Christie's campaign tried to place the blame for all this on the current Governor. While the numbers may not lie, the suggestion that it is Corzine’s fault is a bit of a stretch. By Christie's faulty reasoning, the Governor should be given credit for the safe municipalities with great schools, low unemployment and a high standard of living. But we know that is not going to happen.

Shouldn’t the city's continued failings really be laid in the lap of the local government of none other than…all together now…Douglas H. (for Hunterdon?) Palmer?

Is it any wonder Palmer didn’t get the Lt. Governor nod from Corzine in favor of a reality TV show winner and Rhodes Scholar who is so far untainted by Jersey politics?

And now that DHP has been passed over so many times, maybe he should consider converting to Judaism

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Money

Slippery finances kill off jazz fest; grant writer resigns.

Word out of Trenton City Hall yesterday was that the money-losing Trenton Jazz Festival has been suspended. It was reported that a press release distributed by the Palmer administration cited lack of corporate sponsorship in these tough economic times meant there would be no festival.

No doubt that is true. But let's look a little deeper at the problem.

The festival, a vanity project of the current administration, has never made money or been self-sustaining because of bad management and poor attendance. There have been rumors of inflated talent prices along with over spending on sound and stage equipment and technicians. It is actually surprising that corporate funders didn't pull the plug on the event sooner since we doubt they ever got any sort of real accounting of how the money was spent, what the proceeds were, etc.

Interesting that Chief of Staff Renee Haynes was quoted in the Times as saying that the city's contribution has been mostly "in-kind."

The festival's budget had grown to $250,000, with the city contributing assistance worth about $50,000, said Renee Haynes, committee member and chief of staff for Mayor Douglas Palmer.

"City support has largely been in-kind, relying on the countless hours of devoted volunteers," she said. "Having the Jazz Fest be mostly self-supporting has always been within our reach, but this year it is clear that the economic conditions would not make that possible."

Last year's festival apparently lost so much money funds reportedly were taken from the city recreation budget make up the difference. Funds that might otherwise have gone to the also cancelled weekly summer music series that traditionally brought free musical entertainment to various city parks throughout July and August.

Just another example of the gross mismanagement of the city administration.

Compounding the city's fiscal mess, it appears the city's leading grant writer is leaving her post in Trenton. Nancy Diehl, the Coordinator for State and Federal Grants, is reported to be joining former business administrator Jane Feigenbaum in Perth Amboy.

Ms. Diehl has been quite successful in securing outside funds for various departments of the city government. The Trenton Police Department is but one beneficiary of her good work.

What remains to be seen is if the vacancy will be filled and with someone as competent as Ms. Diehl. Or will they let the position remain empty, thus short-sightedly saving money on wages and benefits.

The city continues to wither from neglect while the Mr. Palmer and company ignore their responsibility for the financial hole we are in. We're drowning in red ink and one of our lifeguards just quit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Council has a lobotomy

The thinking person's representative steps down Sept. 2

The announced resignation of South Ward Councilman Jim Coston has the city all abuzz this morning.

Jim, a Baptist Minister, has taken a position with a church in Waco, Texas and will be leaving Trenton at the end of the summer.

While we congratulate Reverend Coston on his new position, we can't help but feel sorry for not only the city's South Ward, but Trenton as a whole.

Even if you didn't always agree with Councilman Coston's position or action, you know he gave it thought and considered all the information he had at hand before making a decision. He certainly raised the level of discourse on council to something approaching what you would expect of the city's governing body.

His too brief tenure as an elected representative helped open the public's eyes as to what a councilperson could and should be.

We send our hearty thanks and best wishes to Councilman Reverend Coston and family. And we hope Trenton can survive his departure.

For the remaining members of council who must now choose someone to complete Jim's term, we advise you to choose someone who can continue the work begun by him. Do not make your choice based upon what is politically expedient, popular, or who is propped up by the administration.

Make a choice for someone who will continue to stand uphold the sworn duties and responsibilities of the position.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Have some pride, Trenton!

A few weeks ago, fellow blogger DTV Deputy Clean wrote about the worsening conditions he’s witnessed in and around his neighborhood since moving to Trenton. In his post, he talks about the criminal element, the trash factor, and the overall lack of common consideration and civil behavior practiced by a growing number of Trenton residents.

Not too long after that, another web colleague a series of similar observations from her corner of town. TrentonKat also commented on the generally lack of civility and respect that many people show for the neighbors and other Trenton residents. She then contrasted Trenton with a Canadian town of similar size and economic woes.

As is often the case, the thoughts of these individuals resonated with me and echoed similar observations I have made.

Many of us have been quick to point out the foibles and farces of our elected officials as the cause of Trenton’s woes and left the citizenry out of the picture. Now, this is not to say we have been wrong about our public officials and we’re now letting them off the hook for the condition of the city. This is to say there is certainly an equal amount of blame to be placed on the citizenry who just doesn’t seem to care about anybody or anything that isn’t instantly gratifying to his or her own immediate, selfish needs.

This self-centeredness is evident everywhere you look in town. From the trash strewn streets and poorly maintained rental properties to the slovenly dress and rude behavior of our fellow citizens.

Walking through downtown one day, I was struck with the contrasts of Trenton today and the Trenton of yesterday. Where there used to be throngs of people in appropriate attire for their business day activities there are now people looking as if they just got out of bed or had just finished changing the oil in their car.

If you go to any thriving downtown at midday during the workweek, you will see well-groomed people in clean, properly fitting clothes taking care of business. In Trenton, you are treated to women in revealing clothes that are at least two sizes too small while the men are usually struggling to keep their oversized jeans up.

Don’t tell me that it is “fashion” or that it is the only clothing the under-employed, under-educated, underclass can muster. It is laziness and a lack of respect for themselves and for others. These circus-clown garbed individuals are not wearing hand-me-downs and cast-offs, they have chosen to spend their money on these costumes.

Is it any surprise why we can’t get businesses offering good jobs to locate in town!

Moreover, if people don’t know how to dress properly and still be comfortable, they also don’t know how to behave in public.

Just this week while tending to business at a downtown bank branch, I was privileged to watch as another customer calmly consumed his lunch of fried chicken and potato salad from a paper plate…while transacting business at the teller’s window. This repast was most assuredly “finger lickin’ good” as our gourmand smacked his lips and asked the teller, loudly, if she had any hand sanitizer to share with him after he had finished eating.

You’ve read here before about the high number of public urination and defecation incidents we encounter on a regular basis. This goes hand-in-hand with the frequent episodes of people leaving their trash in the street after cleaning out their vehicles or in the parks after having lunch or a snack. And we’ve all seen the person finish with whatever fast-food, take out delicacy and drop the cup/plate/wrapper to the ground rather than hold onto it for a few more steps until they reach one of the many curbside trash cans.

Pet owners constantly flaunt the laws regarding cleaning up animal waste, let alone registering their cats and dogs as required.

Noise issues stemming from too loud music in houses and vehicles of all description are numerous (and not just a Trenton problem). While everybody may feel the need to “rock out” once in awhile, most choose an appropriate time and place so as to minimize the potential for disturbing others.

Do I need to go on?

Trenton has become a very uncivil, rude place to be. It is, contrary to some, not all that great a place to “live, work, play.”

Our “leaders” have failed to do anything about the markedly downward slide the city has taken. Perhaps it is because the same ill-behaved, poorly dressed people are the very same constituent base that continually elects and re-elects the carnival act known as “Trenton city government.”

Therefore, as the city readies to celebrate Heritage Day tomorrow we urge everyone to stop acting as if this is his or her last moment on earth. Start thinking about how everything you do…from the way you dress, the way you talk, how you eat, who you vote for…effects everyone around you.

Show some pride in yourself and your city.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A lasting contribution

The city of Trenton’s decades old Heritage Days celebration is back again this year, but in a pared down version.

Touted as the Heritage Day (singular) Festival, the event will return to its point of origin in Mill Hill Park from Noon until 8:00 pm on Saturday, June 6.

For those not familiar with Heritage Days, the festival came to life in 1979 to commemorate the 300 years or so of Mr. Stacy and Mr. Trent’s quaint little village on the Delaware River. It was designed as a celebration of all the various ethnic groups that had come to settle in the region and call it “home.”

From a modest, multi-cultural food and music festival, held in Mill Hill Park the event soon spilled over onto Front Street and spread up Broad Street to “the Commons” along E. State Street and beyond. Originally organized and run by the Trenton Commons Commission and its successor the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), Heritage Days at point encompassed a string of sites from the State House Complex, to the Barracks, the former surface parking lot at Front and Broad and Mill Hill Park.

Six or seven years ago, the city of Trenton took over the festival from the TDA. Concentrated on the block of W. State Street between Calhoun and Willow, the festival seemed to be running out of steam and many cried for its suspension. Over time, the event lost its connection with Trenton Heritage. Gone were the various booths highlighting traditional foods and crafts from the dozens of cultures represented in the populace of Trenton and the surrounding area. In their place came a homogenized mix of funnel cake/corn dog/cotton candy and t-shirt sellers that you can find at any baseball park or church carnival. There were more opportunities to spend money on junk and less to learn about and appreciate the many faces of Trenton. It became less a “family picnic” and more of a tacky pointless street fair.

In addition, it is not cheap to put on. The tents, attractions, entertainment all cost money. The overtime for cops and city staff to set up, manage, maintain and clean up added up.

Now, when the city faces the direst financial circumstances in a generation, the festival continues, albeit in a reduced manner.

Why?

Most old hands and many newcomers alike “don’t get it.” Heritage Day(s) Festival is not very festive and certainly has only the most tenuous of connections with the city’s heritage. A big noisy mess serves little purpose and costs the city money better spent elsewhere.

But for grants from various companies, Heritage Day(s) would probably have died of fiscal starvation four or five years ago. Instead, it has survived due to the largess of good neighbors such as Bank of America.

With the national economy in the bad shape that it is in, the large scale funding has dried up. Many had thought this was the final blow that would put Heritage Day(s) out of its and our misery.

But no. The city has seen fit to move ahead with the scaled-back version of the festival. And how can they afford it in the face of looming budget gaps for the essential services and personnel needed to keep the city barely functioning?

Through smaller sponsorships: one from Capital Health and one from McManimon and Scotland Heritage Day(s) lives. We find this interesting.

Mayor Palmer has had little good or kind to say about Capital Health since it announced plans to shutter the Mercer Campus and build anew in Hopewell Township. But the city did not have any problem taking money from the health care provider to keep this dieing event on life support.

Perhaps more interesting is the appearance of law firm McManimon and Scotland as sponsors of the event. While the firm has provided legal services to the city for a while, it most recently has been working on the proposed sale of the outside water utility system (OWUS) to NJ American Water. This lengthy process is now complicated by the citizen lead effort to halt the OWUS sell-off. And complicated legal work usually involves higher bills for services rendered.

Nice of them to “kick a little back” to the community by sponsoring the washed up Heritage Day(s) festival.

Wouldn't it be more useful and lasting a demonstration of community support if these entities shared some of their wealth with the library system? How about that for supporting Trenton's heritage?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Haitian divorce?

Palmer departs Trenton for paradise

There was a late night pizza party on the Front Stoop last night and we paid the price for overindulging.

Sparked by the announcement that former president Bill Clinton is about to be named the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, a fever dream burned through the night as we tossed restlessly in bed.

In the dream, Clinton indeed gets the nod from the UN and immediately tags none other than Trenton’s own Douglas H. Palmer to be his left hand man.

Palmer, who has practiced for the better part of two decades to bring Trenton down to the level of poverty-stricken Port-au-Prince, is a natural for bringing his vision to the downtrodden Haitian capital.

Doug should thrive in the tropical climate. The country is at rock bottom so he won’t have to waste 20 years tearing it down before he can start building it up. He can broker the sell off the country’s few assets while making deals with all the ne’er do well developers from the western hemisphere for projects that never get completed. He’ll manage to get a stranglehold on the country’s library system so the citizens can’t better themselves. And, working for the UN, Doug will finally get a police force (the peace keeping troops) totally under his control.

Palmer should prove to be popular in Haiti. Like ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Doug’s success comes from a powerbase among the poor underclass. All the Zombies will quickly become Palmeristas.

You laugh, but we woke up in a cold-sweat, chants of “Papa-Doug, Papa-Doug” echoing in our head.

Friday, May 08, 2009

More malfeasance at 319 East State Street

Is there no end to the incompetency and ineptitude of the Palmer administration?

In yet another round of finger pointing, long-time acting Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez says it is the state of New Jersey's fault that pension records for city employees are screwed up. "They" would not give the city an extension on the time to submit correct records; "They" have an "antiquated" system; "They" didn't notify the city. Blah-blah-blah.

Gonzalez, who has overstayed his time here in Trenton by at least two years, is apparently not man enough to own up to the fact that the very people he oversees as "acting" Business Administrator failed to do their jobs in a timely and efficient manner. Yes...there were a lot of calculations needed because of the long overdue settlement of police and fire contracts. But here's a clue for you Dennis...you and your staff should have been prepared to do those calculations all along. Each wage proposal should have had the calculations done, if for no other reason that to demonstrate what the costs to the city would be to the city.

Nope. Can't do that. That would smack of planning and competency.

And how about this?

Gonzalez said he intends to send out a letter notifying members of the PFRS system about the trouble.

"The letter will go out either today or tomorrow," he said.

Uh...too late, Dennis. The members know. And they are not happy. That's the whole reason this came to light and you are busy back-pedaling and blame-gaming in the newspaper. You got caught in a screw up. Again.

But if Mr. G's familiar cry of "It's not my fault. I didn't cause it" wasn't bad enough, Chief of Staff Renee Haynes' quote in the Times article was the best.

Regarding the question of where the pension money is, Haynes said the money for the pension payments remains under the city's care.

"I would imagine it's still in a city account under the auspices of the comptroller," Haynes said.

She would "IMAGINE?!?!"

Ms. Haynes should imagine herself in a prison jumpsuit peering at the world from behind bars as an accomplice to the never ending questionable, if not outright illegal, actions of the Palmer administration.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another load of Doug dung

Mayor offers another idea that stinks

In Tuesday’s Trentonian, ace reporter/award winning columnist L. A. Parker wrote that the East Trenton and Skelton Branch libraries would again host port-o-potties this summer to accommodate the anticipated number of kids participating in the reading programs.

According to the article, Library Director Kimberly Bray admitted that there had been no resolution to the limited bathroom facilities located in staff areas at the two older branches and no one had come up with the estimated $100,000 to due the needed renovation work.

Last year, the Trentonian reported the discovery of the port-o-potties still sitting on library property long after the summer reading program had ended and the school year had resumed. Mr. Parker even posed for the paper by sitting on one of the seats, pants at his ankles, looking as if he was settling in for a long comfortable “session.” The ensuing controversy added to the outcry over the poor oversight of the library system by the Mayor appointed board of trustees that became known with the announcement of budget cuts and staff layoffs.

Apparently not ready/willing to suffer more criticism for a repeat of the port-o-potty mess, Mayor Palmer told the Trentonian “That’s just not going to happen. We’re not going to have our kids put in that position again.”

What did the Missing Mayor offer as an alternative?

According to the Trentonian, Palmer suggested that Bray partner with local schools.

“School libraries could handle the large number of students in the summer reading program,” Palmer said.

Good idea, Doug. Can you give us some details on how this might work?

As we recall, when announced last fall that the branch libraries might have to close, you suggested a similar solution: use the school libraries. You were obviously ignorant of the fact or didn’t care that
a) the school libraries do not equate with the branch libraries when it comes to collections, programs, professional staff
b) the school libraries are not readily secured from the rest of the school building and vice versa, leaving the buildings susceptible to roaming and potential mischief
Now you are proposing a similar solution for the crowds of children expected to use the libraries over the summer. What has changed?

1) The libraries have reduced their staff. How can they cover the reading program at the schools and the regular hours and activities at the branches?
2) The schools are not near enough to the existing branches in question to work as a viable alternative location for the reading program.
3) The school district is also facing a budget crisis and layoffs. How are they going to provide the required staff to open, oversee, maintain and close the buildings to accommodate the reading program?

Once again, Doug, you and your handpicked library board of trustees have failed to look beyond the end of your noses to the real needs and requirements of running a viable library system.

Surely, you could have used your charm and persuasiveness to coax some money out of the many developers, contractors, law firms, etc who have done well during your tenure. They could have underwritten the needed renovations to improve the bathroom facilities at these two branches so Director Bray would have a real alternative to renting port-o-potties.

Unfortunately, you would have to be here, in Trenton, regularly; doing the job you were elected to; rather than seeking that leg up for your sinking political career.

You failed again, sir. Moreover, you are too arrogant to realize it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where ya been?

Yes, we’re still here. And we apologize for our absence/silence this past month. The denizens of the front stoop have been near catatonic as a result of the flood of arrogance and ignorance that has washed over the city of Trenton recently.

The proposed sell off of the part of the Trenton Water Works that distributes water to customers outside of the city is still in limbo. Those opposing the sale, including many who frequent the stoop, are hoping Judge Feinberg will reconsider her ruling in light of an engineers testimony that there is only one current system that would have to be separated into two, before any part could be sold off; and that in doing so, more than 5% of the customers on the city side of the system would be affected. In fact, a study commissioned by the City of Trenton itself spells out very clearly there is but one system that would have to be separated and outlines various improvements/additions that would have to be made to the “inside” system to maintain the current level of service to city customers. Documents pertaining to all of this can be found at www.trentonwater.com

The city’s budget mess has gone nowhere. There has been rhetoric and revised numbers from the administration and some members of city council, but little action. The sad truth is whether the outside water system sell off goes through or not, the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) is a train wreck of major proportions. The Palmer administration has engineered this mess with delays and misdirection in an effort to force council’s hand to pass the budget so late in the year that little can be done to curb expenses. Council is not completely off the hook, because as a body it should have demanded more information and more accountability from the Administration.

Veteran city watchers (some would say “gadflies”) have been pointing to a growing fiscal mess for years, yet no one: not the public, not the press and certainly not council ever challenged Palmer, Feigenbaum or Gonzalez on their statements to the contrary. Well there is no denying it now…Trenton is flat broke and drastic measures must be taken.

At the same time, the administration gave it self raises…sneakily, quietly and most likely illegally. Thanks to Frank Weeden and a group of concerned citizens, this is beginning to come to light.

Of course, Acting Business Administrator Gonzalez denies any wrong doing. Special Counsel, Joe Alacqua, has offered no opinion on this. We’ll get back to both of them in a minute.

A subheading under the budget woes category is the sad financial affairs of the city library system. Six months ago there was a great outcry about the layoffs and proposed branch closings. The long dormant “Friends” group showed some signs of revival in an effort to help out. A new group came together to form a foundation/fund to help bridge the gap between the city’s generous contribution to the library system and the real costs of keeping a main library and four branches fully functioning.

True a special deal was reached and all library branches have remained open, albeit with reduced hours. And there were layoffs.

But the “Friends” group has seemingly disappeared; volunteers willing to help out in the branches have reportedly been rebuffed; and the library board has yet to sign a memo of understanding with the foundation that would a) allow for the use of the $17,000 already raised and b) launch the search for more funding through grants etc.

Back to Mssrs. Alacqua and Gonzalez...the taxpayers are owed truthful and honest answers to the following questions:

Why does the city repeatedly enter into contracts with Mr. Alacqua for services that should be provided by the city attorney, Denise Lyles, and her staff? If we are in a belt tightening mode, why is it the Mr. Alacqua is being retained (along with numerous outside law firms) to do the city’s legal work? Some have suggested that Ms. Lyles is actually not capable of effectively carrying out the duties of city attorney, and that Mr. Alacqua and the other outside law firms are hired to do the work for her.

If that is the case, then why is Ms. Lyles in the position?

In the case of Mr. Gonzalez, just how long can he hold the title of “Acting” Business Administrator? We have always been under the impression that “Acting” directorships must be acted upon by council within 90 days of their designation. By our calculations, the clock ran out on Mr. Gonzalez’s status about a month ago.

Similarly, Fire Director Laird has an “acting” prefix to his title. This part-time city resident (he rents former Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum’s Mercer Street home) commutes to/from his “weekend” home at the shore in an unmarked city owned and fueled SUV. A home, by the way, where he wife and daughter reside, vote, attend school, etc. Laird’s 90 days were also up sometime in March by our calculations. Yet his appointment hasn’t come back up before Council. Could it be his “shaky” residency status?

And then there is Police Director Bradley. By all accounts a welcome and refreshing change for the administration of Trenton’s beleaguered and understaffed police department, there is still the question of whether the Director is a bona fide city resident or not.

More legal fees to pay as Mr. Palmer defends his arrogant, self-serving interpretation of “the law.”

Is it any wonder we’ve been speechless these past few weeks? There is so much to comment on it is hard to know where to begin.

Come to think of it, that is probably the reason Mr. Palmer didn’t give his annual “State of the City Address” for this fiscal year. Even Doug couldn’t bring himself to stand in the usually packed Council Chambers and tell the gathering that “Trenton is on the move” without throwing up in his mouth at least a little bit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now we see you

The water fight that has been playing out in Trenton the past several weeks has been good in one respect. It has brought home to many the fact that we need a serious overhaul of the city's budgeting process.

In the coming months, there will be a lot of painful decisions to make about how the city spends our tax dollars. Cuts will be severe and they had better reach across the board (meaning Mr. Palmer needs to cut some of his expenses as well).

Already, people from South Ward Councilman Jim Coston to Paul Harris are submitting ideas for budget cuts.

And a group calling itself Citizens United for Fiscal Transparency in Trenton has sprung up to fight the petition to stop the water system sell off and to "develop long-term solutions that provide for greater transparency in the city budget process."

Or so they say.

This group who admittedly wants to stave off the property tax increases required if the water deal is scuttled is not so transparent in it's own dealings.

A check of their "Who Is" listing for the registration of their domain names shows some required information missing and some falsified.

For instance, they list a street address of Cadwalader Avenue (no number given). Find Cadwalader Avenue in Trenton...there is a Cadwalader Drive, but not an avenue.

And the contact phone number is listed at 555-1212. Last time I checked that was Verizon's nationwide 411 (Directory Assistance) number.

Recent articles in the newspapers have identified Chris Bashier and Brian Viehland as members of the group. Indeed, the domain's registration identifies the namesservers as "veihland.org" so it's not too hard to figure out who registered the websites.

It's just hard to figure out why a group touting transparency deliberately entered bogus information (street and phone number) in the registration form.

Doesn't do much for their credibility and it certainly doesn't instill confidence in their ability to work fairly and openly for the benefit of all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Come clean, Palmer

Admit there was no 10 year plan

Doug Palmer and his acolytes are fighting hard to ram the sell off of the outlaying water distribution system down the throats of Trenton’s taxpayers.

As has been noted on Greg Forester’s blog, the administration seems a little worried that the petition currently circulating might be successful in at least delaying if not stopping the sale.

And without a doubt, if the proposed $80 million sale doesn’t go through the City of Trenton’s financial picture darkens considerably. That translates to higher property taxes.

It is very difficult, however, to accept the “official” line that this deal has been worked on for 10 years.

Let’s go back to January of 2003 when then Times reporter Albert Raboteau reported officials in the suburbs were questioning the sudden increase in money being taken from the water utility to pay for city services, including all or part of the salaries of three of Doug Palmer’s aides.

So was there really a plan afoot to sell off the water utility five years ago? Was part of that plan to plunder and pillage the resources of that asset and then try to sell it off for cold cash once the Palmer administration couldn’t wring another nickel out of it?

And what about the rate increase enacted in September of 2006 that increased suburban water rates some 17% and the rates for water customers within the city by 31%? Was that part of the long range plan to sell off the outside infrastructure?

In typical Palmer fashion…his mismanagement decisions are made based upon what is most expedient to his personal agenda and not that of the city he purports to serve yet long ago abandoned.

The city has been in a downward fiscal spiral for more than a decade. Rather than tighten up the purse strings in city hall and hold the line on budget items, Palmer…with the able and apparently willing assistance of former Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum literally robbed from Peter (the water utility) to pay Paul (the ballooning costs of a bloated administration).

At no time did anyone from the Palmer administration rein in the ridiculous spending at city hall by excising superfluous aides, vehicles, etc. or eliminating services that were duplicated elsewhere. Instead, they just kept crying poor to the state for more money and taking from the water utility surplus what rightfully should have been returned in the way of system improvements and holding down usage rates.

Instead, the spending has continued unchecked until the only way to fill the gap is to divest the city of the outlaying parts of the water utility for a chunk of cash that might, conveniently, hold tax increases to a tolerable level until the end of the current term.
The Palmer administration has yet to satisfactorily demonstrate any rational attempt to reduce spending through cutting the layers of staff in the Mayor’s office, curbing personal use of city vehicles (or shrinking the size of the take home car fleet).

For years people and some elected officials have pointed out that if the city was more diligent in enforcing its laws and collecting fines, we’d be in better financial shape. But that has not happened either.

Yet we are to believe that the plan for the last decade has been to sell off the portion of the water utility serves customers outside of the city limits. But we never heard of this long range plan until Palmer and company felt they had the citizens over the barrel by delaying a city budget until it was so late that the only answer appears to be selling off the water system or face huge tax increases. If this is such a good idea, why aren’t we getting rid of the entire water system and thus reducing the city’s huge expense to maintain and staff the utility?

A plan that supposedly has been in the works for 10 years should have been brought to light and discussed openly so long before it was time to sign the sale agreement. That might have eliminated some of the resistance and backlash.

If Palmer and company want us to truly accept and believe this sale is the end result of a long-rage plan, show us the documentation. Take us through the timeline of the steps taken to position the city to benefit now and going forward from this proposed sale.

It is obvious that one cannot document something that didn’t exist.

The notion that this plan has been in the works for a decade is another Palmer pipe dream that is turning into a hose job for the citizens of Trenton.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Palmer out of fiscal tricks to fix budget woes

Well, at least he admits it.

Doug Palmer’s administration finally presented the budget for the current, 7 month old, fiscal year to city council last night. Banking on the completion and final approvals for the sale of the outlying water distribution system to reduce the city’s debt, the new budget calls for nine cents per $100 of assessed value increase in property taxes.

Council and citizens alike were warned of dire consequences if the sale of the outside portions of the water utility was somehow thwarted. Taxes will go up an additional $1.00 per $100 of assessed value claims acting business administrator Dennis Gonzalez in the Trentonian.

There is no doubt that the City of Trenton is in dire financial consequences. And it has been for several years.

But Palmer, at his quixotic best has pointed the finger at the State for not continually increasing aid to the capital city and not readily allowing the state parking lots to be developed for ratables. It never seemed to occur to the Man of Hiltonia or Dennis “Sancho Panza” Gonzalez to cut back city spending on non-essentials before going to personnel layoffs and asset sell offs to balance the budget.

In the Times article on the budget presentation, reporter Meir Rinde quotes Palmer’s admission that he’s never approached the problem from a long-term perspective:
"In the past, we've had Houdini-like, one-shot deals," to balance budgets, Palmer said. "They're certainly running out."

That’s right, Doug. And you were called on that fact each and every time you pulled one of those tricks out of your sleeve. But you wouldn’t listen.

Now that you may be nearing the end of your reign, you are scrambling to find ways escape for the fiscal house of cards you built collapses on you.

Too late my friend, it’s coming down and it’s coming down fast.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Read all about it

Just not on the city's website.

Demonstrating once again how the Palmer administration has totally run amok in Trenton's City Hall, acting business administrator Dennis "I'll Sue You" Gonzalez has declared that certain public documents will not be made available on the city's website.
In an article in this morning's Times Gonzalez suggests that anyone wishing to read the documents come to the city clerk's office and purchase hard copies. Times writer Ryan Tracy closed the article with the following:
Trenton has no plans to post the documents on its website, the city's acting business administrator Dennis Gonzalez said Monday. They are available at the city clerk's office and copies may be purchased there, he said.

This is an interesting statement coming from Mr. Gonzalez since he was in the council conference session when it was suggested these documents be made public and none other than his royal irksomeness Doug Palmer himself said they would be made available on the web.

Do you think Dennis will ask for a retraction from his boss and threaten to sue if he doesn't get it?

Just how screwed up are the priorities at 319 E. State Street?

The city website was ready and able to post a picture and press release of Palmer getting an honorary degree from Hampton University. It was up as early at 6 a.m. Monday, January 26 with the press release dated January 25. At the same time, we have the acting business administrator refusing to publish on the web public documents pertaining to the proposed water utility infrastructure sale.

Blogger Greg Forester commented on this spiraling news blackout in an entry last week. Ironically this post was written on the same day that Palmer made his pledge to those present at the council meeting that the documents would be posted on line.

Was Doug's uncharacteristic promise to publish the documents an effort to mimic President Obama's promise of an open government?

At least South Ward Councilman Coston, working in conjunction with the Trenton Council of Civic Associations, has obtained, scanned and posted the water sale documents on his website. Those interested in reading them can find them here.

Why the secrecy? Why make it difficult for the public to obtain the information on the water deal (or anything of importance)?

If the website is just for polishing Doug's image why are we, the taxpayers, paying for it?