Wednesday, June 24, 2009


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.

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