Thursday, December 01, 2011

Don't drink the water

In the September round of layoffs, the city of Trenton was to release three technicians from the water department for reasons of “economy and efficiency.”  These are individuals who are licensed Water System Distribution Technicians…professionals who through the application of their experience and knowledge help maintain and safeguard the delivery of potable water to thousands of paying customers in Trenton and the surrounding suburbs.  (Need I remind the reader of the water distribution fiasco of October 2010 apparently caused by inexperienced individuals failing to follow proper procedure in opening and closing valves in the water system?)

First and foremost…laying off any employee of the Trenton Water Works does not save money!  Let me repeat that.  Laying off water works employees does not save money.

How is this so?  Well as you should know by now, the Trenton Water Works operates on its own budget separate and distinct from the city of Trenton budget.  The water utility revenue comes from the rate payers who buy and consume the water it produces. They may or may not be city of Trenton taxpayers. It doesn’t matter.  The money that flows into the waterworks comes from the distribution and sale of the water it produces. Period. 

Cutting the number of employees in the water utility does not save the city money or lower the property tax rate for Trentonians.

In fact, the argument can be made that reducing personnel costs at the water works actually hurts the city and can contribute to tax increases for city property owners.


Because the city of Trenton owns and operates the water utility it is allowed by law to take a portion of the operating surplus (profit, if you will) and move it over to the city’s general budget.  That portion is equal to a percentage of the utility’s operating expense.  The more money the utility spends on operating costs…like paying licensed Water System Distribution Technicians, the more money can be moved over to the city’s budget. 

Got it?  Good.

Now back to those technicians…why, you might ask yourself, would we lay anyone off from the water works, especially licensed professionals if it isn’t saving us money and thus lowering taxes? 
Good and fair question.  The answer lies in the fact that even though it operates on its own budget, the Trenton Water Works currently resides organizationally within the city Department of Public Works.  Civil service laws require that if a layoff impacts a department it must impact every division within that department. You can’t lay off people from solid waste but leave the water works employees alone.

If you recall, late last winter the city announced a plan to essentially shut down operations each Friday for 13 or 14 weeks as a cost saving measure. This would have been an across the board shutdown…including licensed water utility staff. This plan was eventually shelved at least in part because the city could not show how it could conduct these layoffs and still staff the water utility with the properly credentialed individuals.

In a letter dated February 15, 2011, John Plonski, the Assistant Commissioner for Water Resource Management at NJDEP, sent a letter to Mayor Mack raising the concern of proper staffing of the treatment facility during these weekly furloughs. The letter reminds the mayor that the water system is required to have licensed staff on duty at all times.

Makes sense, right? There needs to be proper, professional operators of the water system that so many depend on for potable water.

When the September layoffs are approved and notices sent out, Mr. Plonski sent a second letter, this time to then Business Administrator Eric Berry. This letter, dated August 5, 2011 (scroll down past thesecond page of the first letter) is more forceful and direct. Mr. Plonski states the case quite plainly:

“The NJDEP has identified the lack of qualified personnel as a key problem adversely affecting TWW’s ability to effectively operate its water system.”

A thinking person might reconsider the wisdom of laying off technicians in a utility already short handed.  Alas, our mayor does not think.  Or does he.

You see, the two licensed individuals targeted for layoff just happen to have testified before the grand jury last year about the misdeeds of Stanley Davis, the mayor’s half brother. This is a case of retaliation pure and simple. 

The mayor is not laying them off for matters of “economy and efficiency”. They are being singled out because they did the right thing and told what they knew about Mr. Davis.

Not convinced? 

How about this: last winter and again this summer, city council tried to pass an ordinance rearranging the organizational structure to create a standalone water and sewer authority department that could be isolated from the layoff plans. The first attempt was shelved because the less than astute members of council couldn’t grasp why it was needed. Then the city withdrew the “Friday furlough” plan and the issue didn’t come again until the September layoffs loomed.  That time, council passed the ordinance 4 – 3 but the mayor refused to sign it or discuss it and council couldn’t raise the fifth vote needed to override Mr. Mack.

It’s pretty common knowledge that when layoffs are planned, the most recent hires (the ones with least seniority) go first.  How is it that the long term employees…the licensed technicians were slated for layoff when two laborers and three water meter readers hired shortly after Mayor Mack took office were not?

Certainly the two laborers, Rodney Washington and Terrance Bailey should have been on the layoff list. Both are known Mack supporters with legal and other problems in their pasts. They are also the ones named in a harassment complaint brought by Kevin Moriarty for their verbal abuse while he tried to collect signatures for the recall petition.

The meter readers, too, by common sense would be the first to go in a layoff.  One, Charles Hall, is the nephew of Mack crony Harold Hall and although being paid by the water utility, is now assigned to oversee landscaping and design work in city parks.  Work that young Mr. Hall is absolutely not qualified to do.   Another is one time caterer and former owner of the now-closed Maxine’s restaurant, Henry Page. Page, another Mack “friend” reportedly cannot or will not complete his daily meter reading assignments, leaving them for others to do.

A week before the September 16 layoffs, Civil service stepped in and told the Mack administration to “bump” the technicians down to water meter readers and, presumably, layoff the two of the most recently hired readers.

That didn’t happen.  Instead, the Mack administration tried to move the technicians into laborer positions.  The techs balked; the administration moved to dismiss them entirely; a lawsuit was filed. A temporary restraining order halting the dismissal of the employees was also filed but ultimately, Judge Pereksta reversed it.  “While I agree that the DEP is recommending that (the utility) be more fully staffed, it’s too thin (an argument) to say that there is going to be this major effect on the safety of the citizenry of Trenton if your clients are moved to other positions,” Pereksta ruled. 

Assistant Commissioner Plonski states in his August 5 letter:  “Recent service disruptions due to operational deficiencies, which have not yet been resolved, indicate that TWW should not decrease the number of experienced and educated individuals who hold the licenses necessary to effectively operate the water treatment plant and distribution system. Targeting those licensed personnel serving TWW for layoff at a time when significant operational issues still exist is inappropriate and threatens the ability of TWW to provide a safe, dependable water supply to the City of Trenton and its surrounding communities.”

Judge Pereksta feels that is “too thin to say that there is going to be a major effect on the safety”. 

George Dougherty, attorney for the technicians has this to say: “The evidence is overwhelming that the reduction of the technician staff from an already low six to three is truly a dangerous thing to do.” .

So, we guess Judge Peksta is ok with putting the water supply at risk for the sake of Mayor Mack's spite against the people who he doesn't like. And we guess that Mayor Mack must not like customers of the city owned water utility.

Pass the bottled water.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oops! He did it again!

The tragic-comic melodrama that is the Mack administration rolls on.

This is improper and illegal and a problem that started in the Palmer administration and continues under Mayor Mack.  It is a passive-aggressive way for the administration to get what it wants without interference from the governing body.  It is a blatant circumvention of the law and it is costing the city lots of money.

We’ll spare you the lecture on the proper process that should be followed in these matters. Suffice it to say that no contract should be granted or extended without council’s approval and we have strayed far from that procedure.

Despite the fact that the contracts were granted in an irregular if not suspect manner, work was done on the city’s behalf and we (the taxpayers) are obliged to pay for it…whether justified or not.

In the article, city spokesperson Lauren Ira is quoted as saying,
“Going forward, we are working on plans to make our processes more efficient. This will involve issuing timely requests for proposals, and selecting outside counsel prior to the expiration of the then-current outside counsel’s contracts.”

It seems to us that the administration’s attempts at making their “processes more efficient” have amounted to circumventing the law and short-cutting best practices.

Maybe what Ms. Ira, Mayor Mack and company should be focusing on is making the process more compliant with state statute and good sense. And maybe they should be looking at ways to eliminate the need for these expensive contracts rather than make the process of giving them out "more efficient."

Monday, November 28, 2011

What next Trenton?

While the recall effort fell short of the number of signatures required to put the recall question before the voters, it was a significant statement. Eighty five hundred people stood up and said, "Enough!"

The mistakes and missteps of Mayor Tony Mack are numerous and run the gamut from verbal gaffes ("Happy Pearl Harbor Day!") to complete disregard for common sense and good management.

It is plain as day that the Mayor cannot run the city.  City council for it's part, has yet to take full advantage of the authority and power vested in the governing body under our city charter. 

Can we afford another two and a half years of this fumbling and bumbling?

Let's tap into the power of those 8,500 people who signed the petition and change Trenton's course for the better before it gets worse.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It is really quite simple

A lot has been said on the subject of the ongoing effort to recall Trenton Mayor Tony Mack; both pro and con.
After 16 months in office, the city of Trenton is worse off than before Mack was sworn in.

There is no plan with measurable goals for moving the city forward. Instead, we have a bunch of items ticked off on a “to do” list: street paving, park renovations, etc.

These are the things that a normal city does when the money is available. There was no magic here; no making order out of chaos.  Streets have been being repaved according to a prioritized list for several years now. Mack’s predecessor did it; Mack is doing it.  Park renovations have been in the works for years. To his credit, Mack pulled the trigger on spending the money…money that was earmarked for that use and that the city would have lost if it wasn’t spent.  Not a plan; barely an accomplishment; just doing the job.

The mayor often touts the fact that he has maintained the twice a week trash collection schedule.  Has it made the city any cleaner or tidier? No.

The mayor talks about getting vacant properties back on the tax roles, but he has decimated the inspections department so that all construction is slowed by delays in approvals.  Is this the way to revitalize our city and encouragement good development? No.

In the past couple of months there has been a lot of press about the police layoffs…as well there should be. Minimal staffing levels for patrols have been, well, minimized. And even then we have trouble making the number.  When officers are out on vacation or because they are injured or sick, our restrictions on overtime make it hard sometimes to meet the minimum staffing level.  The detectives are working hard to keep up with the case load, but OT restrictions hamper them as well.

And what of those who are charged with offenses…trash, building code, or other?

Our municipal court system is a mess.  We’ve been short a full-time judge since the debacle of the appointment last year of Renee Lamar Sumners.  On top of that, the mayor wants to replace the two, experienced, competent judges of is own choosing.  What will that do to the already strained efficiency of the court?

With a short-handed court and reduced personnel to cite violations and then appear in court, enforcement is suffering; people are denied a timely hearing of their case; and the city loses revenue. (Municipal court revenues were increasing 2006-2010).

The city is, plain and simple, messed up.

We haven’t even touched on the well documented personnel missteps of the Mack administration.

Ladies and gentlemen of Trenton…no matter what your personal relationship with Mayor Mack; no matter what you think of the state of the city when he took office, you have to admit we are no better off now than we were 16 months ago.

Not only are we no better off, there is no plan to improve things.  Our mayor, nice guy though he may be, is plainly not competent to govern the city. He has ignored or shunned any advice offered by those outside of a trusted circle of friends.  And that circle of friends is made up of people less competent and less trustworthy than the mayor himself.

There are those who say “give Tony a chance.”   We say, “How many chances does he get?”

You can wait until 2014 and simply vote someone else into office, but what will be left of Trenton then?

Sign the recall petition.  Go to the headquarters at 830 Lalor Street. Go to Artifacts Gallery, 1025 South Broad Street.  Email or call 609-614-0668 to arrange to get a petition and sign it.

It is that simple.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dead from the neck up

Trenton mayor and two council members prove they are fools.

The state of New Jersey has announced its transitional aid aware for Trenton for the current fiscal year (FY2012).  Rather, we should say the state of New Jersey has announced a choice in transitional aid amounts that Trenton can receive.  (Of course this is all pending the approval of the legislature to release the transitional aid funds but that is another story).

Mayor Tony Mack has a choice before him. He can select between receiving $22 million in state aid for the city or $16 million.

No brainer, right?

Not quite.

There are, after all, some strings attached to that $22 million.

In order for the city to get the higher amount of aid, the mayor must sign an MOU with the state wherein he agrees to the creation of a three person committee to oversee the process of hiring people to fill key spots in the administration.  The DCA would appoint one member, the mayor, would appoint one member and city council would appoint one member.

Considering the Mack administration’s track record in selecting qualified candidates for BA and department heads, it is not really a bad idea to have an oversight committee. Just a quick recap: over a half dozen business administrators (one who pleaded guilty to stealing campaign funds); one Housing and Economic Development nominee who is a convicted felon and another who has a history of failed businesses, judgments and tax liens against her; a municipal judge appointee with her own financial problems; a municipal court director with a police record (who, by the way, has been enjoying a six week and counting paid vacation while a superior court judge determines if he is qualified for the position); serious turnover in the law department. 

So, leaving the question of the personnel committee aside what are the scenarios for the two aid amounts? 
  1. $22 million --- balanced budget, possible tax decrease, probable re-hiring of some police
  2. $16 million --- balanced budget, probable tax increase, no additional police
Yet the mayor can’t decide.  What does that say about his ability to lead this city?

If the mayor’s apparent indecision isn’t bad enough how about this comment in today’s Times from Councilman At Large Alex Bethea:

“We certainly need the money, but I wouldn’t want to give away the whole house for an extra $6 million. You have to maintain some control, notwithstanding that we’ve made some mistakes in the past,” he said.

“If he decides that, ‘Okay, that’s okay, we’ll take the $22 million,’ then I’ll sign off. If he says this is going a little too far, then I would have to support the mayor on that decision as well,” Bethea said.

This is it Trenton? This is the best you can do? A prideful mayor who would flush away $6 million in state aid is not fit to lead and a councilman who cannot think for himself.

But wait, there's more.

Council President Kathy McBride, in the same Times article, says she’s waiting to speak to the mayor before making any more comments on the choice of aid packages.  In other words, she is waiting for Mayor Mack to tell her what to think and say as well.

At least East Ward Councilwoman Reynolds-Jackson is keeping her mouth shut on the subject...for now. Someone must have whispered in her ear that old adage about it being better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and prove it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

What others are saying

The following are letters to the editor published this week in the Times.

No confidence in Trenton mayor

I was very pleased to read The Times’ article “Four on council express ‘no confidence’ in Mack” (Oct. 4). Until this past Tuesday, I thought that I had awakened to find that we were living in a foreign country under a dictator. How can our mayor keep repeating mistake after mistake?

How can he play around with our $27.1 million aid package? These monies are not his; the funds are for the citizens of Trenton. Would Mayor Mack want to lay off more police, etc.? Maybe he would like to install more of his friends to run the city and enforce the peace; after all, isn’t that what dictators do?

I’d like to know how Mayor Mack can say council has not acted professionally, when it’s obvious that he himself does not act professionally. Additionally, how can the committee “Stand By Tony” make comments such as “Mack has submitted qualified department director candidates”? Maybe council should approve embezzlers and wanton criminals. The citizens of Trenton voted in council, just as they, unfortunately, voted in the mayor. And from where I sit, council has acted more professionally and has looked out for the city’s interests many times over compared to Mayor Mack.

I happily signed the petition for the mayor’s recall. Please — I could do a better job as mayor. My qualifications: integrity, honesty and intelligence, three qualities the mayor does not seem to have.

-- Walter R. Dietrich,

Printed in the Times, Friday, October 07, 2011

Trenton mayoral recall is an act of good faith

Trenton Mayor Tony Mack continues to march to his own drummer, despite the music the rest of the band is playing.

Besides not practicing basic management processes, he continues to violate the terms he agreed to in the Memo of Understanding he signed with the state.

There is every indication that the state will refuse to release the additional $24.4 million of transitional aid Trenton needs because of the mayor’s arrogant ignorance of the MOU requirements, as well as ignorance of sound administrative management.

It has been estimated that the loss of the transitional aid will cause a devastating blow to the city’s budget. The current proposed 2012 budget increases our tax rate from $3.63 to $3.74 per $100 of assessed value. That is a 3 percent increase in rate, and $220 on a home of $200,000.

If taxpayers have to make up for the lost aid, we would need a 37 percent tax rate increase — from $3.63 to $4.98 per $100. The total property tax would then be $9,960 on a $200,000 home. Suffice it to say that kind of increase on top of the large increases over the last two years would stress the financial resources of many Trenton residents.

We need to show the state that we are not like our arrogant mayor, but that we really are good people who deserve the transitional aid. What better way to show the state this than to sign the petition to recall Mayor Mack so that we can elect an effective replacement as soon as possible?

Isn’t this what we all want?

-- Don Wallar,

Printed in the Times, Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

And then again, maybe not

Last week we posted about the discrepancy between the resume of suspended municipal court director Nate Jones and the information provided by the online student clearinghouse that verifies (or not) an individual's college degrees.

We submitted another verification request to the same clearinghouse and this time came up with a different response:

While we cannot explain why the original inquiry turned up different information, we do feel it is only fair and correct to post the results of the subsequent research.  We have tried to contact the school directly to get an explanation but as of yet have received no response.
Name On School's Records: NATHANIEL M JONES, JR.
Date Awarded: 05/10/1985
Official Name of School: HOWARD UNIVERSITY
Major Course(s) of Study(and NCES CIP Code, if available):
Dates of Attendance:08/21/1978 to 05/10/1985

Name On School's Records: NATHANIEL M JONES, JR.
Date Awarded: 05/13/1989
Degree Title: JURIS DOCTOR
Official Name of School: HOWARD UNIVERSITY
School Division:SCHOOL OF LAW
Major Course(s) of Study(and NCES CIP Code, if available):
Dates of Attendance:08/15/1985 to 05/12/1989
So we leave it up to you readers to decide which of the reports you will believe.  We have provided as much information as we have at our disposal.  If anything changes, we'll let you know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paul Sigmund update

As if to answer our question about the outcome of Wild Paul's Lawrence traffic case, today's Trentonian reports that municipal prosecutor Reed Gusciora has moved for a change of venue.  Gusciora cited a conflict of interest since he had worked for Sigmund's late mother during one of her campaigns.

News also reached us that Mr. Sigmund paid a visit to McManimon's Pub in South Trenton Monday afternoon where he enjoyed a couple bowls of chili washed down with a couple of large glasses of soda.

Apparently while employed as Mayor Mack's Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor, our pal Paulie resided at the nearby Grand Court Villas (aka the Cigar Factory) and often visited McManimons.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mack's wack cop plan

Well class, today’s lesson was going to be about “interns, internships and internship programs.”  Unfortunately, that will have to be postponed.

Instead, we are going to have to deal with a little matter about how the city of Trenton utilizes a police department that recently lost 1/3 of its officers due to layoffs.

First, a review:

Due to continued sagging finances, the city of Trenton needed to layoff employees in order to cut costs.  This process was nibbled around for nearly a whole year before Mayor Mack’s administration finally took a big bite out of the city payroll.  September 16, the city laid off a lot of employees, not the least of which were the 105 police officers.

The immediate effect of this was that the department had to lower the minimum staffing levels and still needed to post cop overtime to maintain those.

Besides demotions and layoffs, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (Detectives) and the Vice/Tactical Anti-Crime/Alcoholic Beverage Control units were reduced in size.

Not good for a city already seemingly on the brink of chaos.

Today the dreaded word came down.  Effective Friday, there would be no more tactical units.  No one to follow up on reports of prostitution, problem bars or narcotics sales.  Basically it means no more pro-active policing.

Why? So the Mayor can keep a promise he made to put more cops on foot patrol.

This decision is nothing short of asinine and dangerous. 

Foot patrols, as part of an overall policing strategy have their place. So do bicycle patrols.  But when you are short handed and budget impaired, they are not the most effective/efficient use of your manpower.  Putting foot posts in place at the same time you eliminate your tactical investigating units is a very bad decision.

Besides the wisdom of the decision itself, there are some other questionable aspects about the Mayor ordering the police department to disband some units.

First and foremost, reports indicate the directive came from the acting BA, Anthony Roberts.  Now as far as anyone knows, Mr. Roberts is NOT the Police Director nor is he a sworn law enforcement officer.  So how is it that he has any authority to dictate orders to the police department?

Second, Mayor Mack still utilizes a police officer as a driver, at least during business hours.  Why doesn’t he give that officer up and put him (or her) back on the street as part of the foot patrol?

And because the above wasn’t enough of a mess, the Federal Government announced the recipients of the COPS grants yesterday.  These were funds that would allow distressed cities to bring back some laid off officers. Trenton received $0.  Why is that? (We’re still looking into that question).

In response to all of this, the Mack Administration posted an announcement on the city website:

Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return
Release Date: September 28, 2011

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime
Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime

TRENTON–Mayor Tony F. Mack and the Trenton Police Department announced today, that 18 police officers will return to full-duty on Saturday, October 1. These officers will be paid from unspent money remaining in last year’s COPS Grant account and money from the scheduled retirement of eight police officers.

The reinstatement of these 18 police officers under the COPS Grant will not represent any increase in the current operating budget. As the Trenton Police Department is being reorganized to reflect a community policing model, these 18 officers will be assigned to the areas most needed for immediate relief.

The impetus for restructuring the Trenton Police Department comes from both the recent layoffs and from input received at Town Hall meetings. Trentonians want to see police officers out of their squad cars and in the community. This message was voiced at those city-wide town hall meetings and again at the administration’s public safety summit.

Trentonians want and need to see police officers walking in our neighborhoods and interacting with the community. This policy change will break down insecurities that exist between residents and our police department. This change underlies the community policing model.

Trenton needs a dramatic shift in our operations to prevent crime before it happens.
This model works in other urban cities, and it will work in Trenton. But, to do this effectively, we need the funding to bring all of our officers back to work.

The administration is investigating why the Capital City was seemingly ignored and abandoned from this year’s grant appropriation. While other municipalities recently received millions of dollars in grant monies, Trenton did not receive any federal assistance.


All well and good, except….

The residual funding from the 2009 grant will run out infour to nine months.  Then what happens to these 18 officers if there is no money found to pay them?  

More foolishness from the Mack administration; more worry for the citizens.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Acting Housing and Economic Development Director pick has poor track record.

Carmen Natal Melendez was recently elevated from the position of aide to Mayor Tony Mack to acting Director of Housing and Economic Development.

What, you might wonder, are Ms. Melendez’s qualifications to hold such a pivotal position in the Mack administration?
  • She was amongst a handful of Latinos who came out in support of Mayor Mack during the 2010 campaign. (Juan Martinez and his brother, Robert Menendez, were two others).
  • Her husband, Cesar Melendez, made two contributions to the Mack campaign in May of 2010: $600 on May 7 and $2600 on May 12.  (That totals $3200 which is over the personal limit of $2600…but maybe it was intended to be split between Carmen and Cesar, thus not breaching the limit).
So Carmen has a personal relationship with the Mayor. What else has she got?

  • Well, she does have a real estate license.  She apparently didn’t have one for awhile, but was re-licensed in September of 2010 and is listed as working for Paladino Realty and Auction of Lambertville, NJ.
  • Her partnership with fellow realtor Albin Garcia is defunct. The firm’s real estate license was deemed inactive in April of 2004, more than a year before it expired. (For comparison, Garcia has maintained a broker of record license since 2006)
  • Striking out on her own, Carmen created Melendez Realty Services LLC in March 2004. Her last annual report was filed in January 2005 and the state REVOKED its corporate standing in October of 2008 for failure to file annual reports for two consecutive years (2006 and 2007).
  • In the meantime, she created Melendez Realty LLC. The original filing was done in November of 2007 but was REVOKED in June 2010 for not filing annual report for two consecutive years (2008 and 2009).
  • She’s obviously had trouble keeping up with the requirements of operating a business.  But there is more.
  • An online search reveals some $57,596.25 in outstanding liens and judgments against her. Some date back to 1996.
So we ask you, dear readers, is this woman qualified to lead the all important housing and economic development arm of city government?

We think not.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Nate Jones a fraud?

While we eagerly await Judge Feinberg's decision on the validity of Nathaniel M. Jones, Jr's appointment as Municipal Court Director for the city of Trenton, you might want to review the following material.

First up, Mr. Jones' resume as furnished upon request by the city of Trenton.

On that resume, Mr. Jones lists both bachelor and juris doctorate degrees from Howard University in Washington, DC.

A search done via the National Student Clearinghouse online service revealed the following fact about Mr. Jones:

Name On School's Records:NATHANIEL M JONES
Date Awarded:N/A
Degree Title:No Degree -- Enrollment Only
Official Name of School:HOWARD UNIVERSITY
Major Course(s) of Study:POLITICAL SCIENCE
Dates of Attendance:08/21/1978 to 05/08/1981

Assuming this information is indicates that Mr. Jones incorporated some untruths on his resume.

Also on the resume, Mr. Jones states that he was admitted to the Bar in Pennsylvania. 

This was apparently true.  But he doesn't mention that in 1995, his name appeared on the list of attorneys tranasferred to inactive status by order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and its Disciplinary Committee. (see page 11 of the listing).

While nothing in the NJ Civil Service title description of Court Director specifies that a law degree be required, it certainly appears as though Mr. Jones might have fudged the point of his qualifications.

The fact that the Mack administration doesn't seem bothered about this lapse in truthfulness on the part of an appointee is somewhat indicative if the Mayor's lax approach to ethics.

Jones should be removed and made to repay all the salary he has collected since his appointment.

Mack should be recalled.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wild Paul rides again

NOTE: This story has been updated with further information. See below 

So, it was announced this past week that Wild Paul Sigmund managed to get Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) for his drug bust/assault on two police officers back last May.

Never mind that he apparently never went into rehab as was indicated in the days following his arrest.

Never mind that his family name and connections probably went a long way towards keeping him out of jail (for now).

So how come Mr. Law-abiding-I'm-going-to-make-it-all-ok-citizen is driving around in a beat up, older SUV that still has California plates on it?

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission webpage plainly states:
Under New Jersey law, you must transfer your vehicle title (with or without a lien) within 60 days. To do this:
1. Visit your local MVC Agency with your original title
2. If your vehicle is financed, you will have to complete an application at an Agency to release the title. The lien holder will then send the title to the Agency and you will be notified when you can return to continue the process
3. Complete an application for Certificate of Ownership
4. Pay the transfer title fee:
    *$60 for standard vehicle
    *$85 for financed vehicle with one lien
    *$110 for a financed vehicle with two liens
5. If you don’t have a lien, you will be issued a receipt that you will need to keep to apply for your registration and receive your plates

If you have a leased vehicle:
1. Contact your leasing company–they will provide you with the required paperwork* to take to MVC. This paperwork will give you legal permission (power. of attorney) to transfer the title
2. Make sure you have enough identification to pass 6 Point ID Verification
3. Visit an MVC Agency and complete the Application for Certificate of Ownership (OS/SS-7) and registration application
4. Pay a $60 title fee
5. Your New Jersey title will be sent to the leasing company

Since Sigmund came back to NJ to work for Mayor Tony Mack last March, our calculations indicate that vehicle registration should have been transferred sometime in May. Why hasn’t it been done?

Keep in mind that he fled the scene of a fender bender auto accident in the Halo Farms parking lot in August. (Anyone know what the outcome of that court date was?)

Could there be problems with the title? Insurance? His license?

So, why was Mr. Paul driving around the streets of Mill Hill in his beat up, out of state registered vehicle at about 5:15 pm Sunday, September 25?

The seemingly un-focused, possibly intoxicated Sigmund claimed to be looking for a route to Trenton Social that bypassed the section of S. Broad Street closed for repaving.

We're guessing he wasn’t showing up for Sunday night salsa lessons.

Was he stopping in for a cold one? (Is that allowed when you are on PTI for a drug charge and supposed to be getting counseling/treatment?)

Or was he really trying to find his way down into South Trenton for other reasons?

Makes you wonder.

UPDATE: We received further information this morning that an apparently high or drunk or both Wild Paul did indeed arrive at Trenton Social last evening. It is reported that he inquired about watching a game on the TV and tried to bum a cigarette before being nicely shown the door. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

He just doesn't learn

Latest Mack appointments more of same.

In a classic attempt to circumvent the news cycle, the Mack administration announced late Friday afternoon the "new" administrative lineup.  The changes of note were the appointments of Harold Hall and Carmen Melendez as acting directors of Public Works and Housing and Economic Development respectively.  Walter Denson was moved from the latter department and made acting Law Director/City Attorney.

While all indications are that Mr. Denson is competent and capable, he is by his own admission not experienced in municipal law. Still, he at least has the credentials as an attorney and some track record of success in his background.

The same cannot be said for Mr. Hall or Ms. Melendez.

Mr. Hall, you remember, was collecting overtime and paid comp time as a Division Director (Public Property).  He's also the person ultimately responsible for overseeing the the payroll for the Park Rangers like Mr. Robert Mendez, Mr. Russ Wilson, and the mysterious Mr. James Moses...all of whom seemed to have doctored their time cards, been paid overtime they didn't earn, and/or went on the city payroll before they were given DCA approval.

According to a statement by the DCA's Lisa Ryan and reported in today's Times, Hall's promotion to acting Director of Public Works will not get state approval "since the Division previously requested the mayor demote or fire him.”

Good for the DCA!  They must be completely exhausted from dealing with the petulant Mayor.

If the elevation of Mr. Hall isn't bad enough, there is the story of Ms. Melendez.

Like Hall, she's a long-time ally of the Mayor who was given a nearly $50,000 per year aide's position shortly after Mack took office last year.  Of course, we are to believe that this position had nothing to do with the $3,200 in campaign contributions Ms. Melendez's husband Cesar made to the Mack campaign in May of 2010.

But that is not the real problem with Carmen's bump up to acting director.

Mayor Mack is proposing putting Ms. Melendez in charge of the department responsible for improving the city's economic outlook through creative and effective development.  This is the same key position he tried to fill last year with convicted felon Carleton Badger. 

I guess the Mayor assumes the public has forgotten that ill-advised move and is trying to foist another crony with questionable credentials on us as directory of Housing and Economic Development. Ms. Melendez, while having no convictions on criminal charges in her background (that we know of), has been far from a stellar success.

Besides some failed Real Estate Agency partnerships that have failed, Ms. Melendez appears to have 10's of thousands of dollars worth of judgements and liens outstanding against her. 

Another Mack appointee with dubious finances and a questionable background.

Isn't this where we came in a year ago?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

On demand

On Wednesday, August 31, Mayor Tony Mack issued the following press release:
Mayor Tony Mack Urges Trenton City Council to Approve Critical Resolutions
-Mayor Tony Mack issued the following statement urging council not to block moving Trenton forward:
“As Mayor of Trenton, I represent the Executive Branch of Government. The City Council is the Legislative Branch. At all levels of government, there is a separation of powers, and that is why I do not consistently attend Council meetings.
Unfortunately, while I have attempted to move the City forward, some members of Council actually stated they do not mind bringing the City’s operation to a screeching halt unless I appear before Council. In furtherance of this stance, at the last Council meeting Council refused to take any action because I was not present.
In order to move the City forward and recognizing public safety as my number one concern, I will attend the council meeting and make the following demands:
1. I demand that Council approve the following resolutions (11-504 Body Armor – State, 11-507 Body Armor – Federal and 11-509 Edward Byrne Justice Assistance grant) most of which involve grants for the police department for body armor, laptops for the police vehicles, etc., equipment our law enforcement officers need to effectively and efficiently carry out their sworn duty. Failure of Council to do so will restrict this City moving forward with the budget process and will leave our police officers without necessary equipment and public safety at risk.
2. I demand Council approve the two municipal court judges I recommended. They are highly qualified and their qualifications were approved by the State. Failure of Council to approve these judges will hurt the City’s budget by limiting the court’s ability to collect fines and will affect public safety by limiting the court’s ability to prosecute criminals. If the Council fails to approve these appointments, then I will take all legal action necessary to have these vacancies filled, if only on an interim basis.
3. Lastly, I am proposing a plan to cut the layoff of law enforcement officers by two-thirds through a Federal, State, City and Police Union cooperative effort. First, I am demanding Council approve a Federal grant that would provide the City with 36 police officers for three years with two conditions. The first condition is the Federal Government waives the requirement the City pick up the officers’ salaries the year after the grant ends. The second condition is the State provides the $750,000.00 necessary for the City to accept this grant. After all, the City provides police protection for thousands of State workers, the legislators and the Governor.
The other 36 officers would be saved from layoff through a combined commitment of the City and the police force. The City would commit $750,000.00 to retain these officers. The rank and file police officers will need to agree to an 18 month salary freeze retroactive to January 1, 2011 and the entire police force will need to agree to a payroll deduction retroactive to July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012 of only $100 per month. We all have to make sacrifices in these times for the benefit of the City and its citizens, and I am sure the police force will agree to these concessions in order to keep their brothers in blue working and to help keep the City safe.
To date, there is no other plan presented anywhere in the United States requesting a cooperative effort between the Federal Government, State Government, Municipal Government and the Police Unions to avoid the significant layoff of law enforcement officers.
Thank you for your time, join me tomorrow night, and urge Council to move Trenton forward,” stated Mayor Tony F. Mack.
Lauren J. Ira
Director of Policy and Communications
Mayor’s Office-City of Trenton
319 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Tel: 609-989-3052
Cell: 609-741-7322

The reaction to this screed was, expectably, more amusement at his audacity than anger with his arrogance.

The simple fact of the matter is this: the Mayor cannot demand a single thing of City Council other than they follow the law.

His “demand” that they approve certain resolutions was asinine. They never had any intention of slighting our police department. The reason they didn’t act on these and dozens of other matters at the August 18 meeting was TO MAKE A POINT! Fed up with the indifference and lack of timely responses to their inquiries, and ticked off at the Mayor’s purposeful snubbing by not attending that meeting, Council simply chose…as is their prerogative…not to act on a stack of resolutions. They knew what they were doing…, which is more than we can say for Mayor Mack.

Council 1, Mack 0

The second item on the Mayor’s list, the appointment of his two nominees to the Municipal Court is another example of Mr. Mack’s total ignorance regarding the law. As was pointed out at the time that Council chose NOT to further entertain the Mayor’s nominees, if judges need to be appointed on an interim basis it is up to the presiding judge of the vicinage (in the case of Mercer County, Judge Feinberg) NOT the Mayor. These lame threats of “legal action” are just further evidence that Mayor Mack hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

Council 2, Mack 0

The last point in the press release is the most absurd of the three. The Mayor sketches a plan to save some of the about to be laid off Trenton police that encompasses union give backs, waivers on Federal grant stipulations and contributions from the State. Not only was this “announcement” the first anyone had heard of the plan, it is in and of itself unworkable.

The Mayor cannot “negotiate” contracts and concessions in the media. (Witness the fact that the Unions have now filed a grievance against the city for this bone head move).

The Feds are not likely to waive grant requirements just because Tony Mack of Trenton, NJ says they should.

Similarly, the State of NJ is not about to kick in any extra money outside of the already established “Transitional Aid” just because Mayor Mack somehow feels they must. In fact, if he keeps on like this, we will be surprised if the state gives Trenton any money at all considering how it has been wasted to date.

Therefore, the Mayor’s “demands” are as empty and meaningless as his usual rhetoric.

In addition, Mr. Mack needs to quickly learn one simple fact of life: the mayor is in no position to demand anything of city council or anyone else.

The mayor was elected to serve, not to demand.

The mayor is one person. The council is seven and known in the statutes as the governing body.

And behind the council are the voters of the city of Trenton. If anyone is in any position to “demand” anything, it is the roughly 37,000 voters in Trenton who are the ultimate power behind the presumed throne.

As one of those voters, I have a demand for Mayor Mack. STEP DOWN!

If he won’t (and he most likely won’t), then the only option left is to recall him.

Sign. The. Petition. Now.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A report from the scene

Last night (Thursday, September 1, 2011) Trenton City Council held a marathon session.  After more than two hours of public comment, the Mayor arrived and Council went into executive session to grill Mr. Mack on several issues.

The meeting resumed quite late and went until a bit after 2:00 a.m.

Here is one eyewitness account of the "highlights" of the evening.

...council did not end until 2:15!!!! 

They passed almost all of the resolutions.

The ordinance on the water department was a TOTAL fiasco. Councilman Bethea was so confused. Council President McBride claimed she didn't have enough information until Councilwoman Caldwell-Wilson reminded her that Sewer came in to talk to them several months ago and this ordinance was originally presented in February.  Councilwoman McBride still claimed it wasn't enough. 

Edmund {Johnson...of the Water Utility} got up there and freaked out on Councilman Bethea after trying to explain it over and over again. It was horrific.

Councilwoman McBride tried to vote to have the ordinance removed. Council members Phyllis Holly-Ward, George Muschal, Zachery Chester, and Marge Caldwell-Wilson denied it then they voted to pass the ordinance. That passed by the same four votes. Then like a magician Councilman Chester pulled out an already done resolution to make it effective immediately and it passed by the power of four. It was an amazing display of effective government. I was really proud of them.

Councilwomen Reynolds-Jackson and Holly-Ward got into a fight and they started cursing at each other.  Muschal and McBride yelled at them. Then Caldwell-Wilson and McBride got into a fight. It was a hot ghetto mess.

They also did not pass the preliminary budget. Rousseau explained that it will affect the application for state aid.  Councilman Chester reminded Rousseau that he had asked for information from the administration at the meeitng where the budget was introduced and Rousseau admitted that he didn't address those issues. They are going to have a special meeting before September 9 so it doesn't affect the transitional aid application.
So there you have it, folks. Our city government in action.

Mayor Mack, what happened to your "plan" for the arts and culture reviving the city?

The Trenton Museum Society
PO Box 1034
Trenton, NJ 08606

Contact:  Robert Cunningham, 609-462-8721
Carolyn Stetson, 609-915-6451

September 1, 2011


Fate of Ellarslie Uncertain
The Trenton Museum Society announced today that the Mack administration had cancelled a third attempt at a meeting between Robert Cunningham, board president, and the city’s Business Administrator Eric Berry.

According to Cunningham, “We have received no information from the city since we read about the layoff of the Trenton City Museum’s director in the paper.  We have attempted a number of times to meet with the business administrator to no avail.

“One of our trustees has applied twice to meet with the mayor,” he continued,  “but she has not received a reply.  Without any communication, we have no way of knowing what the city plans to do with Ellarslie.”

The board of trustees of the Trenton Museum Society met Tuesday night to determine what could be salvaged from the 2011 – 2012 season of art and history exhibits at Ellarslie.

Without a qualified director, the museum will be forced to cancel all the planned contemporary art exhibits including the Trenton Public Schools exhibit, a popular biennial collaboration at the Trenton City Museum showcasing the work of the city’s public and charter school students.  Unfortunately, once the exhibit is canceled, there will be no way to move forward with the planned monetary prizes associated with this year’s show.

Another popular exhibit and collaboration that cannot continue without a qualified director is the extremely popular Ellarslie Open, a juried show that draws the finest art from the tri-state area and beyond.  The 2012 Ellarslie Open would have marked the thirtieth anniversary of the exhibit.  Over the years, the show has grown so large that Artworks, the downtown visual arts center, collaborates with the museum by hosting part of the show that brings hundreds of artists and thousands of patrons to Trenton each spring.   

“It’s such a shame to cancel these exhibits.  We have worked so hard to make the museum a vibrant cultural center with great success.  Society members volunteer over 5000 hours a year to present the best image of the city to the public.  All of the activity at the museum has made Cadwalader Park a safer and more pleasant place to visit and we have garnered a tremendous amount of positive press that benefits not only the museum and the park, but the entire city of Trenton as well, ” said long-time museum supporter Carolyn Stetson.  “Even though Eric Berry has scheduled a meeting for September 7, it will be difficult to salvage our schedule.  Exhibits of the caliber shown at Ellarslie take months to plan and prepare and we are way behind because we have been waiting to hear what the city’s plan is.  Our first exhibit of the season was supposed to open on September 17.”

The greatest disappointment is the cancellation of the Four Vases exhibit.  This would have been an exhibit of national significance showcasing the highest achievement of the US ceramics industry by bringing together again for the first time in over one hundred years four monumental vases produced in Trenton.  Three of the vases were to be loaned by the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum and the New Jersey State Museum.  The Museum Society recently purchased the fourth vase, the Woodland Vase, which had been lost for over one hundred years.  The vases, called by some experts “the most important pieces of porcelain produced in the United States, ” were manufactured by Trenton Potteries Co for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Exposition.

The Trenton Museum Society is the 501c3 organization that owns the collection of historical objects, fine and decorative arts displayed at Ellarslie.  They also provide workshops, classes and the musical programming at the museum.  Until he received his layoff notice, in addition to his other responsibilities, the director Brian Hill provided the communications link with the city.  City Hall has not informed Hill of their plans and have not made any arrangements for a transition.

 “This year, the Trenton Museum Society was poised to do major fundraising through writing grants and appealing directly to individual supporters of the arts and of Trenton’s illustrious history,” Cunningham said.  “We can’t do any of that now, because until the city administration sits down with us, we don’t know what the future holds.” 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Mack administration fail

What the heck is going on?

The Mack administration has once again demonstrated its world-class incompetence with the way it is handling the whole Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene thing.

First, the consistently misused telephone notification system sent out a call Friday assuring the city’s residents that the city’s emergency management team was on top of all developments and had a plan in place. City spokesperson Lauren Ira went so far as to state there were no planned evacuations and that the Delaware River would not flood.

That’s right. About 24 hours before the storm even hit, the city was declaring there would be no emergency. WOW! I wish I had that kind of ability to see into the future. NOT!

A day later, the storm hits. Anyone with internet access is checking the web for flood predictions and such. What do we hear from the city? Zilch.

Then the rumors start. The water filtration plant is going to be shutdown. Is there any word from the city?


While emails, Face book posts and texts flash around town, the city website, the city Face book page, and the Cty-connect system are silent. In fact, all the website has is an announcement of a press conference scheduled for 1pm on Sunday to discuss the state of the weather emergency. Oh, and the fact that the Island neighborhood must evacuate.

Finally, West Ward Councilman Zac Chester distributes a notice declaring the rumor of a TWW shutdown as false. Only after that does the city manage to put a mention on the website, the Face book page and the Mayor calls into the Channel 6 news to set the record straight.

On Sunday, amidst rumors of a boil water order, the city quietly admits that the filtration plant had been shut down and the system switched over to draw down from an estimated 2.5-day supply in the reservoir. In and of itself, not an unusual or scary situation, but the city also softly asks people to observe water conservation measures to help stretch the supply. Again, they fail to utilize the social media, website or robo call system to alert and inform the public.

Then, with the Island evacuation nearly complete, the city determines that the neighboring Glen Afton neighborhood also needs to be evacuated ahead of the anticipated flooding by the Delaware River.

Not surprisingly, the city’s plan has some problems. First, the predictions for the river’s quest are lowered to a point not expected to impact the Glen Afton neighborhood.

Second, the installation of back flow check valves on the storm drains and some other engineering fixes have pretty much eliminated the flood risk from Glen Afton’s lowest areas. The higher properties were seldom threatened by floodwaters at all.

As absurd as this “recommended” evacuation is, the city followed up with an incredibly stupid and unlawful threat as a means to enforce the removal of citizens from their properties. The city said they would tow all vehicles not removed from the streets of Glen Afton as well as any left in driveways (private property). To further show it meant business, the administration told residents that power would be cut to the homes as well.

Outraged by this apparently unlawful and senseless abuse of power, residents of Glen Afton started to push back. In trying to determine who made such a ridiculous set of decisions, leaders of the local civic group representing the neighborhood were led to believe that the Mayor was only carrying out the orders of the County government.

Fortunately, a check with acting County Sheriff Jack Kemler confirmed this idiocy did not originate with the County government.

Armed with that information, and threatened with a potentially massive law suit against the city, Policy Director and Spokesperson Lauren Ira was questioned about who made the decision that these actions would be taken, that these actions would be legal. Her response was relatively swift and quickly shifted blame from the county to Fire Director Quareeb Bashir. Ms. Ira indicated it was she was only “following orders” from the Office of Emergency Management.

Lauren Ira []
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2011 10:17 PM
Subject: Re: Regarding Glen Afton Residents and leaving there homes.

My information came from the Trenton Police Department and you should direct your concerns to them, I was following their orders, and those of Director Bashir, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

So, yet again, the city has shown itself incapable of handling the most basic of weather/flood emergencies and completely ignoring the threat to other areas of the city (notably the South Ward) while muddling the process in the Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods.

This is not good government.

It is not even good farce.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hey, Joe?

Remember this:

Trenton official arraigned

Published: Monday, February 26, 2007, 10:35 AM Updated: Monday, February 26, 2007, 11:05 AM
By Ralph Curcio/The Times

TRENTON - Longtime city Finance Director Christine Stankiewicz, who was indicted last week on charges of official misconduct and theft by deception, appeared in court this morning. Stankiewicz was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Maria Sypek, who entered not guilty pleas on her behalf.

Assistant Prosecutor Doris Galuchie said the 57-year-old woman had allowed employees to take improper time off work and falsified payroll timesheets. Stankiewicz, who has no prior criminal record, was released on her own recognizance.

© 2011 All rights reserved.


The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office raided city hall, removed Stankiewicz from her place of employment and she was indicted for allowing employees to take improper time off work and falsified payroll timesheets.

So the question is, where is the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office now?

The city of Trenton appears to have improperly employed one Nathaniel M. Jones, Jr. as the Director of the Municipal Courts for the past year. There are some problems with this:
  • The position of Court Director does not appear to exist under the city’s administrative code
  • Mr. Jones is not a bonafide resident of the city of Trenton
  • Mr. Jones has a criminal record (that he appears to have tried to avoid disclosing by avoiding a thorough background check)
  • Mr. Jones has proven to be highly ineffective in the apparently non-existent position.
Yet, to date, nothing has been done about this. Surely, this bears scrutiny that would no doubt result in some sort of charges being filed.

As Kevin Moriarty said in his blog the other day:

I think one can make the same claim of … Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini. For over a year, Bocchini has been investigating, collecting evidence (and had evidence provided to him), convening grand juries and more; with very little to show for it. He has indicted a few Water Works employees including Mayor Mack’s half-brother, but there has been precious little other movement from his office on any other matter.

I think Mr. Bocchini may also have a “terminal case of the slows.” Going forward, I expect this to be one of several articles that will turn up in the future when one Googles “Joe Bocchini” and “Tony Mack.” What will the others say?

Maybe this article will turn up on that Google list.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A refresher

What follows is the text of Mayor Mack's State of the City Address from last March with comments bringing the reader "up-to-date."
The State of the City Address

As Delivered by:

Mayor Tony F. Mack

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Evening and Welcome to the State of the City Address. Good Evening Council President, City Council members, elected officials, and distinguished guests.

I stand before you with one mission: a better Trenton. A better Trenton cannot be realized without looking first at our past, then toward our future. Tonight is when we do both, together. 

Looking to the past, we see that when I took office, a lot of things were wrong, a lot of things had to be cleaned up, and I’m going to tell you what we did to clean up that mess. But, much more important, I’m here to talk to you about the future, about my vision for the City of Trenton. It’s a vision of a greener city, with world-class parks for our children. It’s a vision of a safer city, with police officers walking the beat, focusing on preventing crimes before they happen. It’s a vision of a more beautiful City with freshly paved, litter-free streets, and community gardens in every ward. And, most of all,
it’s a vision of a vibrant city, with an active street life, new private sector jobs and a strong growing economy. 

First the past, when I took office on July 1, the administration faced a monumental $55,000,000 million budget deficit. No single administration in our City’s great history wrestled with a larger financial obstacle. I am proud to announce that last week we eliminated that budget deficit completely, and we were able to do this without cutting one service to residents of Trenton. When we entered office, the prior administration was kind enough to leave us with a layoff plan. If we had implemented the layoff plan designed by the prior administration, it would have reduced the City’s workforce by 328 employees, 328 people would have lost their jobs including 111 police officers and 61 firefighters. This plan also included closing public pools, all libraries, and senior centers; the reduction of garbage collection to one day a week and the complete elimination of the entire Department of Recreation, Natural Resources, & Culture. The layoff plan also called for the downsizing of our Sanitation division by 25 employees and the loss of two street sweeper employees.  

The branch libraries were closed have not reopened; there were layoffs and demotions last November, a corrective action in May because some of the November layoffs were done improperly, and there will be another round of layoffs in a months time...including over 100 police.

Had this layoff plan been executed I assure you we would be looking at a completely different Trenton. At the time, our administration determined maintaining the vital services to residents were our top priority. Reducing police, fire, and sanitation services was immediately taken off the table.  

Instead, we encouraged the City’s bargaining units to offer givebacks. We directed department directors to scrutinize every line item in their budgets for possible savings. We focused more on ascertaining funding, grant writing and on encouraging departments to put extra effort into researching and applying for these grants.

Yes, we well remember that the Mayor hired two aides specifically to write grants.  How has that worked out for the city so far?  Not well.  Not well at all.

In short, our administration operated on the budget with a scalpel to address our deficit, instead of wildly swinging an ax with little thought to the consequences. The road to this point has not been an easy one, nor should it have been. It is not an easy task to reduce the number of employees or eliminate vacancies in a department while the public expectation of services goes unchanged. It is not an easy task to increase the workload of existing employees, while unable to offer increased wages or benefits. Some employees are performing the work equivalent of two to three employees. These employees, including those who were laid off, remain dedicated to public service. Our administration
owes gratitude to all employees and the team of dedicated acting and recently appointed permanent department directors who went above and beyond the call of duty. Please join me in applauding them now for their continued service to the City of Trenton.

The operative ideal essential to our success during this economic climate is the ideal of partnership. Partnership requires everyone to be willing to give something up for the greater good. Partnership requires us to recognize that alone we cannot solve the issues our City faces. Common sense dictates we unite and combine resources. Again, the ideal of partnership will remain a pillar of my decision-making process.

The problem’s we continue to face are multi-directional. Discussions that should have occurred around conference tables were waged on the pages of newspapers and blogs. Let’s move away from these battles, and agree tonight that we can do better, and we will. We hosted town hall meetings throughout the summer, fall, and winter, and we will continue to do so to ensure open communication, transparency, and access to information. We also host a monthly radio program on WIMG 1300AM, so that we can speak with one voice to the City.  

Getting back to partnership, we partnered with community organizations and stakeholders to host a Youth Development Summit, an Art, Culture and Heritage Summit, and we will host an Economic Development Summit at the end of this month.

Oh yes. Let's talk about Art, Culture and Heritage.  Like how you plan to keep the City Museum at Ellarslie and the Trent House open without qualified people on staff.  What's that going to do for the Arts, Culture and Heritage of the city?

As a result of these summits I signed two executive orders into law, creating a youth development task force and a domestic violence task force. We partnered with Rutgers University and borrowed one of the City of Newark’s highly successful programs: the Youth Education Employment and Success Center at the Daylight/Twilight High School on Hanover Street.

In order to honor the achievements of our students, right now the atrium is transformed into a display room, showcasing works authored and illustrated by students from Washington Elementary School, Stokes Elementary School and Hedgepeth Williams Elementary School. City Hall will become its own Orchestra Hall on Friday evening where students from Foundation Academy Charter School Orchestra & Choir will perform “An Evening of Student Achievement.” We also reopened our South Broad Street senior center. Soon we will have a state of the art tennis facility which already made national news. I am very proud of these major accomplishments for the City of Trenton. 

That then is it for the past. Now I want to move forward on to my vision for Trenton.

First, a few concrete goals we plan to implement over the next year.

  • We are considering special legislation, for the Capital City, requiring all non-civilian new hires to live and reside within the City of Trenton. We will partner with County, State, and Federal entities, to encourage their employees to live where they work. Through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, it is our hope people will take advantage of the live where you work low interest mortgage to rebuild and infuse our City with new residents. Yet his BA still only rents an apartment here and goes home on weekends; the Director of the Municipal Court returns home to Maryland each weekend; the expected nominees for Public Works and Police Director neither one reside in the city. And then there are the park rangers the Mayor hired who aren't residents as well as the Director of Public Property. Good examples, don't you think.
  • I will sign an Executive Order establishing the Capital City Educational Trust Commission. Institutions of higher learning in Camden, Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, and New Brunswick have transformed portions of these cities. We believe a similar transformation can happen in Trenton. This Commission will begin serious discussions with public and private colleges/university to consider our proposals. Anybody heard anything about this?
  • Our administration will work with our educational partners to secure funding and reopen Trenton Central High School’s Vocational Program. There are many successful men and women throughout the region who learned a trade at our Vocational Technical Program. This program will once again be a resource for our children. We should be opening doors for our children’s success not shutting them, and when opened, VoTech will be regarded again as a transformative gateway. Anybody heard anything about this, either?
  • We will seek revenue sharing agreements with the County as it relates to the Sun Bank Center and Waterfront Park. Following in the footsteps of many other prosperous cities across the nation, we will pursue ways in which to receive a portion of proceeds from sales of tickets and parking for entertainment and sporting events. In the same line of reasoning, we will also work aggressively with the state to establish an equitable ‘Host Benefit Fee Program’ so we can recoup the costs of wear and tear on our infrastructure directly resulting from use by government workers.
  • Currently, our unemployment rate is twice that of the national average. The City of Trenton should be a place for second and third chances for those who want the opportunity to gainfully contribute to our community. We must be willing to open our hearts and minds and look beyond the past. I encourage leaders in our religious, business, civic, educational, and non-profit communities to continue to use your organizations as places that welcome statewide re-entry initiatives. 
As I stand before you today, my heart is beating with excitement- excitement at the vision of a Trenton reborn. A greener, safer, more beautiful, vibrant and growing Trenton- Here’s how I plan to make that vision a reality.  

The Department of Recreation, Natural Resources, & Culture was slated to be eliminated, as mentioned earlier. Instead, we retained key staff and maintain department functions in order to preserve recreation programs, parks, and our cultural venues. Because of our decision, we are proud to say that four of our recreation centers remain open and a resource to our residents. We have signed off on park and cultural site renovations that exceed $12,000,000 million which demonstrates our commitment to a greener and more active community.  But that key staff is slated to be laid off in mid-September so where does that leave us?

On a very cold bitter December morning we broke ground on our new Tennis Center at Cadwalader Park. Once completed this facility will be the nation’s largest junior tennis facility and we will have a full ceremony with individual and corporate donors and sponsors. We are grateful for our partners the National Junior Tennis & Learning of Trenton; the United States Tennis Association; Friends of Cadwalader Park Tennis; D&R Greenway; and private individuals. I will not stray from my commitment to these projects because these projects are Trenton’s future. You cannot have a community without community space. 

Some of those locations to be renovated include: Calhoun Street Field, George Page Park, Mill Hill Park, Greg Grant Park, Mill Hill Playhouse, The William Trent House, The Ike Williams Center, and Cadwalader Park. Let me share a little more detail:

Hold it!  Most, if not all, of the following projects were in process long before Mayor Mack's administration came along.  Frankly, they had to undertake these or lose the funding that had been left sitting idle for too long.  Half-credit or less will be given for moving these projects off of the starting block but that is all.

Calhoun Street Park renovates the existing multi-purpose field into two separate fields designed for use as a soccer field and football field. Site improvements will also include the addition of turf irrigation, stadium style bleachers and field lighting. In addition, a small playground will be added near the existing pool and the parking area will be reconfigured and renovated. Landscaping improvements will be installed throughout the facility. Future improvements for the next phase will focus on the renovation of the pool house facility.

Greg Grant Park construction will create a new park on a former industrial site and will include the construction of a brand-new basketball court, large playground, amphitheatre/spray-pool, picnic grove and gazebo, as well as an extensive pathway system with decorative lighting. The completed park will also provide extensive lawn areas and landscaping.

Cadwalader Park includes 3 dynamic projects.

  1. Picnic pavilion, playground, and pedestrian bridge: this project will include the removal of the existing 1983 pavilion and installation of a beautiful new structure which closely replicates the original 1903 pavilion, destroyed by fire. The pavilion will include secured access to utilities provided to make the structure serve a broader range of functions. A ‘state of the art’ playground will be constructed nearby. The existing canal bridge is scheduled to be removed and a new structure, more closely resembling the original bridge, will be constructed at the original location.
  2. As described above, the tennis courts project is structured into two phases, phase one will include the restoration of the existing asphalt courts including a new asphalt surface and color coating, new nets and post and new fencing. Phase two will include a new asphalt surface on the clay courts, with new nets, posts and fencing and will provide for ‘short courts’ used to teach the sport to children.
  3. Ellarslie, the City of Trenton Museum will finally be lighted at night, showing off this historic jewel.
Mill Hill Park improvements: includes three projects

  1. Renovations to the existing park include: new park entry plazas along the Broad and Front Street perimeters as well as the reconfiguration of the entry at Broad/Front Sts., a new pathway system within the park, interpretive signage, a renovated and stable historic iron bridge, a new bathroom within the basement of the Douglass House, replacement of the park lighting and extensive landscape improvements.
  2. The Ike Williams Center (Clay St.) will receive extensive exterior and interior renovations including: the replacement of the existing garage door fa├žade with a series of glass paneled doors and entry canopy, new exterior lighting, accessible entry and renovations to the adjacent courtyard. Interior renovations will include new flooring, lighting, mechanical systems, a kitchenette, bathroom renovations and new courtyard entry doors. Work completed, building re-dedicated with great fanfare only to remain closed due to lack of staff required to operate it. Brilliant!
  3. Mill Hill Playhouse will receive a new roof and exterior lighting.

George Page Park: phase one includes restoring the historic entry plaza on Clinton Ave.and expanding the existing playground. Subsequent phases include: the addition of landscape improvements, decorative lighting and a pathway system to tie into the adjacent Clinton Commerce and Crescent Wire sites. Future plans are also being developed for Hetzel Field that will include renovations to the ball-fields and pool-house and redesign of the pool complex to include a new pool and spray-ground. Parking, accessible pathways, pedestrian lighting and landscape improvements will be completed
as well. Let us not forget the nearly decade old plan of a linear greenway following the course of the Assunpink Park and the many improvements promised for the existing facilities that greenway would connect.

Trent House: We will clean and paint the Trent House, and light it at night, to show off yet another of Trenton’s many historical sites. Interesting because the coming layoffs will leave the Trent House without any qualified, full-time staff to run things there.

Artworks: renovations to this facility include putting on a new insulated roof system, renovating to the exterior brick walls, new rain scuppers and downspouts and upgrades to the existing HVAC system to increase efficiency.

Cook Y Field : renovations to the existing turf field and provision of bleacher, goal posts and a portable irrigation system to maintain the field turf.

Roberto Clemente Park: renovations to the existing park include expanding the existing pool compound, building a new color-coated basketball court, ornamental fencing and brick plazas at the two entrances, ornamental lighting and extensive landscaping as well as a new playground and a gazebo within the renovated children’s garden to accommodate environmental classes and garden crafts.

In addition to all of that, I am happy to share; we will re-start the Parks Commission. The Parks Commission is a citizen’s advisory committee that works with the City to ensure our parks are among the best in the world. It was deactivated during the previous administration. This administration is bringing it back to life, to allow our most important consumer; the park users, to have a say in how their parks are run. As you can see from all that I’ve mentioned, we are well on the way to my vision of a greener, more active Trenton. Right. The Parks Commission.  A call for interested parties went out but what has happened since?

You all know public safety is near and dear to my heart. Starting with the Trenton Police Department – it is constantly improving its police management model to meet the changing needs of our community. I have long thought that community policing, a strategy that has worked so well in other large cities, was the right strategy for Trenton.

Community policing involves getting police officers out of their cars and into our neighborhoods, getting feet on the street. Tonight I am enthusiastic to share the start of community policing in Trenton. Starting this week, our police force will put in place the Neighborhood Enforcement and Stabilization Task Force (NEST) initiative.

The NEST program was created to merge police enforcement and community policing practices, to open the lines of communication and adopt a neighborhood team approach to crime and safety issues. In addition to NEST, we are putting in place an Intelligence-Led Policing initiative (ILP). ILP makes sure that all the information the officers on the beat collect from their neighborhoods filters up the command structure. That way our commanders can make decisions based on the best kind of intelligence, intelligence learned on the street, from the community. This year we will thus make a dramatic change, a change from solving crime, which is important, to joining together with the community to prevent crime. We saw how effective this was, city-wide, during this summer’s, Take it to the Streets program, and we heard you loud and clear at our Public Safety Summit.

We have already implemented the Comstat Model, which provides police with the computer data they need to track crime in real time. Comstat is based on four basic principles: accurate and daily intelligence, rapid deployment of resources, effectiveness of tactics, and relentless follow-ups and assessments. The aforementioned principles allowed the department to reduce the number of crimes committed in the City by tracking “hot spots,” high-crime areas, and assigning police officers based on real data. Further, as the year progresses, the department will pursue an expanded model for intelligence gathering, while continuing to expand its Criminal Intelligence Unit. Refining this data-led model will allow for the best possible deployment of resources.

Um, Mayor?  Community policing and the beginning of Trenton's adoption of Comstat occurred 10 years ago under Director Golden.  The NEST initiative came during the Santiago era.  You can not claim credit for them, sir.

Additionally, in a new collaborative effort between the Trenton Police Department and the Trenton Municipal Court, an initiative is being created to institute a Safe Surrender, Amnesty program that will assist residents and those with outstanding matters in the Trenton Municipal Court. Through this program the Trenton Municipal Court will assist these individuals in disposing of their matters by paying their fines, setting up payment plans, complying with court orders, scheduling new court hearings, and other types of relief.

Yeah. How's that working out so far?  As noted earlier, the Court Director doesn't really live in Trenton.  His job performance has been less than stellar.  And nothing has been done about this at all.

With all these changes, with the introduction of community policing, feet on the street, with police decisions informed by real-time computer data, we are well on the way to fulfilling my vision of a safer Trenton....with 1/3rd fewer cops. Right.

I also want to see a more beautiful Trenton; we have received 10 grants funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation totaling $6 Million dollars. We’re using these grants to fund immediate improvements to Hanover Street and Cadwalader School. Additional projects include repairs to Stockton Street, Perry and Bank streets, North Warren Street, Montgomery Street, South Clinton Avenue, installing ADA Ramps in various locations, Bellevue Avenue, and Broad Street. Last summer roads were aggressively paved, this summer we will pave a record number of roads by doubling our roads crews. In fact, most of last summer’s roads were recommended by residents at our town hall meetings, and we were excited to make noticeable improvements to the City. Let me take a moment to thank our unsung heroes who keep our streets clean and healthy. There is something to be said about every road, sanitation, waste and recycling worker. Please join me in applauding their dedicated service to our City.  And come mid-September, the very capable sanitation supervisor will be downgraded to a sanitary inspector status. The streets crew will lose three supervisors and analyst and engineer from the traffic office will be gone as well.

Along with freshly-paved streets, we are also continuing a project dear to my heart: the Annual Clean Communities Litter March. This year’s theme is, “Its Simple Go Green…Keep Your City Clean.” The City of Trenton will celebrate our clean communities and our natural resources. This year, local schools, community groups, civic associations, churches, private businesses, city residents, and public employees will participate in our Litter March on Monday, April 18 from 8:30am to 3:00pm in Mill Hill Park. I served as past chairman of the Litter March Committee for over 14 years. I am so excited to march with you to Keep Trenton Clean.

To further beautify our neighborhoods, we are happy to announce a new, comprehensive community gardens program. This program will utilize city-owned property to ensure we have community gardens throughout the City. We will put gardens first in every ward, and eventually in every neighborhood in the Trenton community. Community gardens not only beautify our neighborhoods, they serve as a place for neighbors to socialize and provide the people of Trenton with freshly-grown, locally produced food. I am proud to be the Mayor that introduced this long-overdue program.

With freshly-paved, litter-free streets, with community gardens brightening our neighborhoods, we are well on our way to achieving my vision of a more beautiful Trenton.

The engine that powers these improvements, of course, is economic growth. That’s why it’s so important for us to make the last part of my vision a reality. To make Trenton a vibrant, growing City.

We have a myriad of ways we are going to achieve that goal. The first is encouraging the use of the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program. Trenton is only one a few cities allowed to use this program, which encourages development around our newly-renovated

Train station and our light-rail stations. I am pleased that we already have a project underway, a $250 million office tower next to the train station that will be built as part of this tax-credit program.

But development cannot happen unless people have decent places to live, unless we can revitalize our housing stock. One way we are doing this is through the $100 million HOPE VI redevelopment project. As a result of our continued partnership with the Trenton Housing Authority 600 Trenton residents attended the HOPE VI job fair. Projects like this will continue to serve and attract commuters to the sixth busiest train station along the Northeast corridor.

On the housing front in 2010, the City has been working diligently to renovate abandoned homes and make Trenton’s housing what it should be. For example, in the last few months we have rehabilitated 14 homes on Dunham Street, started construction on 18 homes for working families on Carteret Avenue, finished construction on 34 homes on Lamberton and Lalor Streets and continued the rehabilitation of 78 homes in the East

Ward. Additionally, we commenced construction of 20 units on East State Street during the early part of the year and new working families are expected to move in by April 2011. 

We are also increasing revenue generation and helping revitalize the City by selling abandoned homes. We sold a total of 58 properties in our last auction. The total proceeds from this auction netted $383,400. Other sales include: the sale of 657-659 Calhoun Street to Cleantex for their business expansion, netting $50,000 and potentially creating 150 jobs; the sale of two acres of the Kramer Site to Faigle Realty, netting $150,000 and creating an industrial facility for Standard and Roofing, a Trenton business which is projected to create additional jobs once the new facility is up.

On the economic development front in 2010, City staff continued to expand outreach to local businesses to join the Urban Enterprise Zone Program (UEZ), using the 'door-to-door' campaign to explain the cost savings and grant benefits of membership. Additionally, the City continues to support redevelopment and revitalization through its Award-winning Brownfields Program. The Brownfields Program utilizes State and Federal resources to conduct environmental cleanup for important revitalization projects such as the Assunpink Greenway, the rehabilitation of the former Magic Marker site and East Trenton Homes, to name only a few.

In October, the 17th Annual Trenton Small Business Week was very successful. We have also re-established important links to the Trenton Downtown Association, and are committed to the integrated approach espoused by the Downtown Capital District Master Plan. On March 31st we will hold an Economic Development Summit, which will focus on implementing the Downtown Master Plan. Additionally, an RFP has been issued to develop the Glen Cairn Site. In spite of the challenging economy, other economic development highlights include: Delicatessen on South Warren Street and a new restaurant, 'Eleven' on Front Street.

That’s not all, projects in the pipeline include: NJBIA's new headquarters on Lafayette Street; the proposed redevelopment of Building 101(Roebling Complex); a new housing development by the Rescue Mission; new housing development by HomeFront; Phase II of the Delaware run project by K. Hovnanian Homes; the creation of a loan pool with funding partners to facilitate residential development in the city; the redevelopment of the Polizzi meat market site; and the redevelopment of the former Mill Hill Hotel. Finally, we expect that the Economic Development and Historic Tourism Summit will facilitate reinvestment in important landmarks in our downtown including the Bell, Aleda, Trenton Savings Bank, Tremont, and the Commonwealth Buildings.

One other exciting development I’d like to highlight is the planned expansion of the James Kerney Campus of Mercer County Community College in Trenton. In response to the growing need for academic and career opportunities for Trenton and other residents of Mercer County the college is launching a major expansion of its Trenton Campus. Future initiatives include a Center for Art and Design, Modeling and Simulation, and room for an expansion of the Health Science, Business and Entrepreneurial Studies curriculum.

All of these projects will help lead Trenton’s strong economic growth. However, you cannot have growth without efficiency. Anecdotal evidence suggests that developers add a surcharge of approximately 10% when analyzing whether to do a project in Trenton, to account for the inefficiency of the City’s Inspection and permitting process. That’s why I am proud to announce a new, dual-track inspections process. Based on Philadelphia’s program, developers will be able, for a fee, to receive guaranteed dates for such things as plan approvals and construction permits. Using this system we will be able to cut time and provide certainty to developers, while forcefully administering, and enforcing the City's code requirements. To add additional efficiency, we recently rolled out an online payment system to accept payments via the City’s website for land license renewals. Since January 1, 2011, $250,000 in landlord licensing fees has been collected through the City’s website. This simple change freed-up front office staff to process payments submitted over the counter and attend to other issues. The department also identified 67 unsafe and dangerous properties throughout the City that are in various stages of demolition.

 Right! And the coming layoffs will see the loss of one sub-code official and four housing inspectors. Very efficient.

On this point let me go one step further. I’ve already talked about how we are renovating and selling city-owned abandoned properties. But we must go beyond that to ensure economic growth. We must and we will tackle the city-wide problem of vacant and blighted properties. Arguably, the City owns 1200 unused properties. We are exploring market-based mechanisms designed to take these properties off the City’s hands and get them back on the tax rolls. The City should not be in the real-estate business, and so we are looking at ways to use the markets to get these properties in the hands of private owners. That way they can be developed, adding to the City’s economic growth. I am already looking forward to updating you on our progress on this crucial initiative.

Other crucial areas I am proud to highlight tonight are initiatives of our Trenton Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services who responded to a total of 9,745 and 5,233 calls respectively. The awarding of the $13.7 million federally funded SAFER grant with the aide of our congressional delegation, allowed us to save 61 jobs, and to keep all of our firehouses open, at NO additional cost to the City of Trenton. We also received a 2011 Kenworth Command Vehicle. This vehicle will allow the Fire Department, to have a mobile Incident Command Post with Satellite live feed and state of
the art interoperable communications.

The Trenton Fire Department, FMBA Local 206, FMBA Local 6, and the Family Network will launch: the Readers are Leaders program. The department will collect new and gently used books to create Neighborhood Book Stops. Children are invited to visit their local fire house to borrow a book, and when they bring it back, they may select another. Through the Readers are Leaders, firefighters will visit schools to read with students. Again, tonight you’ve heard how the pillar of shared partnership is the thread that binds the ideals of my vision.

The commitment to partnership is embedded in every City Department. For example, the Health & Human Services Department now shares an agreement with Princeton Borough to provide Spanish translation services to our growing and thriving Latino community. This agreement provides a unique approach for two government entities to work together to better serve our residents. We forged a new partnership with the Pennsylvania Veterinary School to enable students to obtain hands-on veterinary training at the Trenton Animal Shelter. The Trenton Animal Shelter’s website is upgraded to create a fast-paced online pet adoption process. We co-sponsored a Blood Drive with the American Red Cross at Trenton’s very own NJN studios. Tomorrow, we are partnering with the American Diabetes Association to host the Association’s 23rd Annual “Alert Day” a one-day, wake-up call encouraging Trentonians to find out if they are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Finally, the Environmental Services Division successfully obtained a $20,000 grant from the State of New Jersey; from which it purchased a state-of-the-art Lead Paint Analyzer to test homes for lead paint.

Tonight you heard the accomplishments of our City’s departments and my vision for transforming Trenton into a vibrant, greener city, with world-class safe parks and safe clean streets for our children. A growing City, with a strong economy that creates new private-sector jobs. The vision outlined is clear, with measurable tangible goals. Beloved, I will continue to put Trenton first. I know you will stand with me - as we revitalize Trenton together as partners. I am energized, optimistic, and enthusiastic. Trenton has undergone many transformative changes over the past 200 years.

Yet here we are, STILL STANDING. Here we are together. Let’s continue to work together. Believe in each other. And, most importantly, create a place where our children, can be proud - to one day - raise their children in a thriving revitalized Capital City.

Believe in Trenton! I assure you the State-of-OUR-City is well, and we are on our way.

God Bless you, and God Bless the GREAT Capital City of Trenton!