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

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.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back....we were starting to worry about you! Silence may be golden but loud and regular complaining has its place, too!

Old Mill Hill said...

Thanks. This blog was started to give voice to these thoughts and comments. We never thought that there would be so much to cover that we would become "tongue-tied."