Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Palmer has had enough

He will run no more forever

Ending months (years?) of speculation, Doug Palmer announced yesterday that he would not seek a 6th term as Trenton’s Mayor.

Citing a decision made in concert with family and a desire to leave on his own terms (not get voted out), Palmer stated he was comfortable with the accomplishments of his 19+ years in office.

Palmer vowed to continue working hard during the last seven months of his term and hand his successor a Trenton in better shape than what it was in 1990. He clicked off some of his notable achievements: lowered crime rate, increased housing/home ownership opportunities, economic development.

Maybe all those years of applying that “spray on hair” to his scalp has damaged his thinking.

Increase in home ownership opportunities? Has he looked at these stats compiled from US Census and American Community Survey (2006-2008) data?

Population 1990 = 88675
Population 2000 = 85403
Population 2008 = 79435
Net change 1990 - 2008 -10%

# Housing Units 1990 = 33578
# Housing Units 2000 = 33843
# Housing Units 2008 = 32743
Net change 1990 - 2008 -2%

# Vacant Housing Units 1990 = 2834
# Vacant Housing Units 2000 = 4406
# Vacant Housing Units 2008 = 6535
Net change 1990 - 2008 +90%

Average 2006 - 2008 Occupied housing units 26,208 or 80.0%
US Average = 88.0%
Average 2006 - 2008 Owner Occupied units 11,340 or 43.3%
US Average = 67.1%
Average 2006 - 2008 Renter Occupied units 14,868 or 56.7%
US Average = 32.9%
Average 2006 - 2008 Vacant housing units 6,535 or 20.0%
US Average = 12.0%

New housing units built:
2005 or later 257
2000 to 2004 339
1990 to 1999 1,079
Total Houses Built 1990 – 2008 1,675

No matter how you look at it, during the Palmer years Trenton:

• lost 10% of its population
• lost 2% of its housing units overall even as almost 1700 new units were built
• saw a 90% increase in the number of vacant housing units
• saw owner occupied housing units drop to just over 43%
• saw renter occupied housing units increase to almost 57%

It is apparent that Trenton lost home owning residents. And the loss of those residents was followed by the loss of businesses and services.

In other words, economic development failed during the Palmer years.

Doug is truly going to have to work hard in the next seven months just to leave his successor with a Trenton as good as it was in 1990.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just another typical week in T-town.

Trenton continues to spin out of control

We managed to cross paths with a few folks who attended the Beautiful Trenton meeting Tuesday night. To a person, no one has yet been able to tell us anything about the evening indicating the initiative will generate anything concrete that will improve things in Trenton. While all agreed that there were some new and unfamiliar faces amongst the 150 or so that gathered, there was also acknowledgement that several elected official wannabes were also in attendance.

The general consensus seems to be that when all was said and done at the evening, more was said than done.

Who’s surprised?

At the same time that all these well intentioned souls were setting out to right Trenton’s course, the state of New Jersey threw another curve by announcing a freeze on financial aide to dependent municipalities.

And how did Trenton’s City Council deal with the news? Well by hiring an outside contractor to perform some work as the Assistant Business Administrator, of course.

Apparently, the Palmer Administration, through its toady, Dennis Gonzalez, made enough of a case (twisted some arms) to get four of the seven council people to pass a resolution that had been previously tabled. The action taken Tuesday approves paying one Lawrence Pollex $75 per hour with a maximum of $75,000 for work performed through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30, 2010).

Gonzalez, who has been the “Acting Business Administrator” for about a year now, was turned down in his request to hire Pollex back in September. Citing the need to fill other positions and the city’s budget woes, Council balked at the approving the contract. In response, Mr. Gonzalez apparently went into protest mode and initiated a work slowdown that resulted in public defenders and some health workers not being paid.

To their credit, Councilmen Bethea and Segura along with newly elected South Ward Councilman George Muschal exhibited a grasp of the fiscal mess the city is in and voted against the contract. Their three votes were not enough, however, to overcome the “go along to get along” gang of Lartigue, Melone, Pintella and Staton.

So, Trenton, where we are short qualified inspectors in our Technical Services department; where last week the Planning Department and the Director of the Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture each lost their key administrative staffers to retirement; and where the city animal shelter is critically short staffed, has hired itself a part-time, non-resident Assistant Business Administrator.

Maybe if Mr. Gonzalez was better at “acting” like a competent Business Administrator we could apply that $75,000 to filling some of those vacancies that are a higher priority to fill.

If last week’s happenings weren’t entertaining enough, we can’t wait for the coming week.

Former Freeholder Tony Mack will formally announce his candidacy for mayor Tuesday at the Marriott.

And the rumor mill is suggesting that Doug Palmer himself will make some important announcement about his future plans in the next few days.

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.