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:

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: