Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow storm or snow job

It’s been all over the news for the past couple of days: Monster storm set to descend upon us! Prepare for the worst.

Every year, the same thing: big storm coming!

Truth is, this winter has been an exceptionally “harsh” one with multiple, large storms. But in the end, its winter and we live in Trenton, NJ not some tropical paradise.

Most people recognize that the weather is colder, there is a chance of snow (and snow storms) and we adjust our activities and plans accordingly.

We don’t plan picnics or a lot of outdoor activities for the winter months. We dress warmly; wear gloves and hats to prevent the dire consequences of frostbite. In short, we take the steps necessary to not freeze to death.

We manage.

What we don’t do is stand out in the street or park or ball field in Bermuda shorts and t-shirts yelling up at the sky to stop the snow and begging for higher temperatures.

That would not be normal, right?

Then is it normal for Doug Palmer to spend money the city doesn’t have a hope of getting from State coffers and then complain loudly when it doesn’t come?

He does this every opportunity he gets, year in and year out. He knows there is a structural deficit in the city’s budget…a blizzard of red ink if you will, yet he consistently acts as if there isn’t. He complains when the state won’t. Palmer budgets for a lavish banquet knowing that he’s only going to be dining at the soup kitchen.

And then he stands in the middle of State Street yelling for more money.

Insane.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And then there were 40

Former Cop tosses hat in ring

Michael "Mickey" Forker has added his name to the list of potential candidates for elected office in the City of Trenton.  Forker, who Doug Palmer decided to engage in a shout down at last week's council meeting, will seek one of the three At-Large Council seats.

There are now an average of five candidates for each of the eight possible seats (mayor and seven council) up for grabs in the May 11 city election.  The abundance of choice has left many observers scratching their heads and asking "why so many?"

We have to wonder as well.

Yes, it's guaranteed to be a new configuration of public officials since too-long Mayor Doug Palmer is not seeking re-election.  But with three current Councilpersons (Lartigue, Pintella, Segura) seeking to replace Palmer, voters need to ask themselves just how different will things be if one of them gets elected.

With those three seeking higher officer, and Councilpersons Bethea, Melone, and Staton not seeking re-election, the door has opened for a cadre of wannabes and hangerson to take a shot at one of the seats.

Never mind that some have never been heard from prior to the start of "silly season" or that others only pop up every four years or so; all seem to think they have the answers.

We just hope whoever is sworn in on July 1 is given a hard hat because we don't think it will be too much later that the roof on city hall will start to cave in as the real truth about the mismanagement of the past two decades comes to light.

Good luck, Trenton.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't blame this on Trenton

Fried fractures facts

Robbinsville, NJ Mayor David Fried proudly announced that his township will be having a St. Patrick’s Parade* on Sunday March 14.

As part of the rationale behind the move, Fried claims that Robbinsville has never been asked to join in Trenton’s parade…the largest in Mercer County.
“We’ve never been invited to march in the Trenton parade,” Mayor Fried said. “I don’t know why. Mayor Palmer and I get along great; I think maybe it’s just a distance issue.”
Mayor Fried is point blank wrong.

The parade in Trenton, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is not a city function. If it was, it would most likely not be as large, well attended or successful. The Trenton event is organized and produced by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Scholarship Committee,* a non-profit corporation.

The argument that Trenton’s Mayor never invited Robbinsville to participate is completely without merit. Fried should know better and so should the Trentonian reporters who contributed to the staff report.

If Robbinsville wants its own parade…and wants Fried to serve as Grand Marshall, so be it. But let’s not suggest that the city of Trenton has in any way slighted Robbinsville or Mayor Fried by not inviting the suburban township to participate.

Mayor Fried should apologize for his patently false insinuation that the City of Trenton has anything to do with selecting participants for the annual St. Patrick’s Parade.

*Let’s be totally accurate…if any parade, Trenton’s or Robbinsville’s…doesn’t take place on March 17, it is not a St. Patrick’s DAY Parade. It is a St. Patrick’s Parade, period.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More good news for Trenton?

New bill could help save Trenton High

State Senator Diane Allen (R – District 7) has introduced a bill in the legislature that would require “schools facilities projects” to maintain the historic character of the buildings.

The bill, S980, would support the efforts of those who wish to see Trenton’s current high school building preserved and upgraded rather than razed and a new one built.

Here’s hoping even the rabid partisans will swallow their spit and support this bill. And that it gets a swift passage before the SDA funds evaporate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trenton makes the list

Now if we can just keep the developers with Eminent Domain dreams at bay.

This Old House magazine has just spotlighted Trenton's Greenwood-Hamilton Historic District as one it's "Best Old House Neighborhoods for 2010:the Northeast."

The inclusion demonstrates what many have said for so long: Trenton's housing stock is an underappreciated asset. The historic flavor and quality of construction cannot be matched today.  The city needs to encourage the restoration and marketing of these homes and neighborhoods as a way to bring Trenton back.

Small scale redevelopment makes so much more sense than the large, subsidized projects that will envariably require the taking of private property and the loss of some great buildings.

All prospective developers and elected official wannabes need to take note and adjust their plans and schemes accordingly.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Is there something in the water?

If we weren't so busy running around fighting the rest of the population of the eastern seabord for our fair share of bread and milk we would have posted this yesterday.

What in the hell was Mr. Irwin Stoolmacher thinking when he included the following line in his op ed about Trenton's Mayoral race that appeared in the Friday's Times:
"Trenton politics is not seen by its citizens as corrupt."
Any Trenton citizen who hasn't questioned the accountability, ethics and/or transparency of the current administration just hasn't been paying attention.

Why else would citizens have had to sue to get the administration to enforce its own residency ordinance?

Who else but a corrupt administration would hide their own salary increases in a resolution accepting a contract with one of the city employee unions, again forcing the citizens to take legal action?

Wouldn't a corrupt administration be likely to play favorites amongst developers and contractors, especially those who make sizable campaign contributions (pre-Pay to Play ordinance---which, by the way, the administration fought against)?

What's worse than Mr. Stoolmacher's assertion that this administration is not "seen by its citizen's as corrupt" is the comparison of Mr. Palmer's way of doing business with that of the late Art Holland.

We're not suggesting that Mayor Holland was pefect during his tenure as the city's CEO.  But no one can question his integrity.  The man was "open and fair" long before that became a catch phrase.

Mr. Palmer's tenure, on the other hand, has been marked by repeated examples of administrative sleights of hand that raise many questions about ethics and legalities.

We suggest that Mr. Stoolmacher revisit his thinking on the issue of a corrupt Trenton political seen.  Or at least revisit his physician to have his medications adjusted.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Are we talking about the same place?

Recent public relations attempts play fast and loose with the facts

Readers of the Times earlier this week were treated to a comforting story about how the new ownership of Roman Hall were taking great pains to keep restaurant and catering hall just as it has always been.

Neighbors of the venerable establishment on Whitaker Avenue were invited to tour the place and see how nothing has changed.

The d├ęcor, the menu, the ambiance, the article assures us, will stay just as it was.

Right.

Then can anyone explain these postcards that were distributed widely throughout Chambersburg in December?

These advertisements for Infinity Lounge “The Biggest and Elegant [sic] Club in Trenton” don’t remind me of Roman Hall. And the website, http://www.infinitylounge.net/, doesn’t show anything about the food at this restaurant.

Since the postcards, the website and the advertisements are in both English and Spanish and the DJ’s and Performers being promoted are Latino, we have to assume the target market for this establishment is NOT the former, traditional Roman Hall clientele.

And before anyone gets all hot and bothered, we are not in anyway suggesting that the ‘Burg of old is alive and well and can support the Roman Hall of days gone by. Nor are we denying the rising and welcome Latino presence in the greater Trenton community.

What we are saying is that the new owners might be a tad disingenuous in suggesting that only the name has changed.

And shame on the Times for reporting the fluff without even scratching the surface on the real story here.

-----
Apparently the new owners of Infinity Lounge aren't the only ones around here who like to play with the facts. 

Recently, this post appeared on the Trenton Speaks forum:

Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:20 pm Post subject: Townhouses on Champale Site


"Have you noticed that the newspaper ads for the new townhouses being built on the Champale site, indicate that they are within walking distance of the train station on Clinton Ave? I guess you'd have to walk the entire length of Centre St to S. Broad, then through Mill Hill. Close reading of the Hovnanian web site admits "The station is within 2 miles of The Villages at Delaware Run." I guess walking four miles a day through a ghetto will appeal to a certain class of commuter? "
"Their web site also promotes 'Shopping', which includes dining. Were you aware that we're known for our Scandinavian restaurants? How about the "several" "five star gourmet restaurants" in Chambersburg? Here's the quote: 
"Trenton is noted for its pottery, china, and fine porcelain from makers such as Lenox, Boehm, Cybis, and Ispanky, which may be found at outlets and showrooms throughout the area. Trenton's principal downtown shopping district encompasses four blocks on State Street and five blocks on Broad Street, within 2 miles of The Villages at Delaware Run."


"Trenton's culinary fare reflects the city's eclectic heritage; it is famous for its pizza and hoagies. Other ethnic cuisine includes the dishes of Mexico and Scandinavia. Several Italian eateries in the Chambersburg neighborhood, within 2 miles of the community, are highly acclaimed five-star gourmet restaurants"
Wondering how they approach the subject of our school system? The best they can come up with is to mention its sheer size and mayoral control, and then suggest the "pretigious day and boarding schools" in Princeton:

For more entertaining and misleading sales information, visit the hovnanian "Villages at Delaware Run " web site: http://www.khov.com/Home/NJ/D0ME/_Properties_AUTH.htm
"Trenton's school district is the largest in Mercer County. The mayor appoints a nine-member Board of Education for three-year terms. The district is in the midst of a several-year project involving the construction of several new schools as well as renovation of many existing buildings."


"Additionally, several parochial and private elementary and secondary schools supplement the public system in Trenton. A number of prestigious day and boarding schools are found in the Princeton area."
Good catch!  KHov sure does tell the truth. Makes me want to run right over and buy one of their "tunnel-front" townhomes.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Where did they go?

Has the City of Trenton mysteriously reduced its payroll by hundreds of people?

We were doing a little online research last week for a project and discovered something odd on the Data Universe site run by the Asbury Park Press.

On this particular site, you can do searches on NJ Public Employees to check salary records as they relate to the public pensions.

In the past, if we wanted to see…for instance…how much Mr. Palmer was paid, you could plug his name and Trenton City into the appropriate boxes on the search form and within moments up would pop a grid with the information you wanted. It’s all legit and all public information.

The other day when we checked, we couldn’t find that information any longer. In fact, we could only find information on 19 city employees contributing to the Public Employees Retirement System. Four of them were Councilpersons Annette Lartigue, Cordelia Staton, Gino Melone and Paul Pintella.

Gone was the Mayor, Chief of Staff, Department Heads, etc. And we plugged in names of Division Directors and Staff people, still no information.

Checking further…we could find 574 Trenton employees enrolled in the Police and Fire Retirement System.

At the Board of Education, there are the records of 799 employees who pay into the Public Employees Retirement System available. Another 1173 school employees are in the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund.

Similarly, the Trenton Community Charter School has 85 employees show up on the listing.

The Trenton Housing Authority has 58 employees on the books and eight show up under the Trenton Parking Authority records.

But where are the Mayor and the bulk of the City of Trenton employees?

Why aren’t their records available online?

Is this part of the legal tussle over the allegedly illegal raises that city council unquestioningly/unknowingly approved for the Mayor and his administration staff in a questionable resolution in 2008?

Has the administration taken all the public employee (with the exception of the 19 names we found) somehow out of the public record in an effort to hide what certain people were being paid? Was this done, in part, to cover up the fact that the Mayor and Department Director salaries were no longer published in the ordinances as they had been prior to the raise granted in 2003? Or in part to hide the fact that these same salaries were not fixed by ordinance but rather a salary range had been adopted…possibly illegally, with the Mayor approving salaries at his discretion…without council’s knowing consent?

We think this stinks of very fishy business and the city administration needs to make sure this information is publicly available.

And all those wannabes vying for the big chair in the office on the second floor of City Hall should take heed. A pledge to return the city to fixed salaries (not ranges) adopted by ordinance and published is required if you want the citizens of Trenton to vote for you.