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.


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 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.