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.


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.