Saturday, February 19, 2011


The first eight months of Mayor Tony Mack’s administration have been a tragic-comic opera. It is a plot overloaded with bad decisions, missteps, and colorful characters. It has given us the crowd favorite tag line: “Happy Pearl Harbor Day!”
Daily the action unfolds in front of an audience split into two camps: those who still support the Mayor and those who are ready to “give him the hook.”

Those who defend and support the Mayor suggest that the others are being unfair. “He’s only had eight months to undo all of the mess left by the previous Mayor,” they say.

Or they might offer up this, “Where were all these critics while {Doug} Palmer was running this city into the ground?”

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Mayor Mack’s missteps are the result of him being “dumb, not criminal.”

Loyalty is a good trait…to a point. But when it becomes blind, if not delusional, it is a bad thing.

Past Palmer

Those who think there was no criticism of the previous administration and council either were not paying attention or are in complete denial. From 2003 onward, there was increasing criticism of Palmer’s actions and much was made of his “rubber stamp” council.

True, there was not the same amount of media coverage then as there has been of Mayor Mack. Yet there were people speaking out then who continue to speak up now. (This blog, started in 2006, is but one example).

It was the action and criticism on the part of the public that stopped the ill-conceived Leewood development plan for South Trenton; it was the citizens that passed the city’s Pay-to-Play ordinance that the current Mayor is now running afoul of; it was legal action brought by the citizens that removed Joe Santiago from the police director position for not following the residency law; it was legal action by citizens that got the proposed split and sale of the Trenton Water Works onto the ballot and defeated.

There is no argument and no doubt, that Palmer left a mess in his wake. It is actually amazing that anyone, let alone 10 individuals, would want to run to succeed him, knowing how bad things were. Some might think that Mr. Palmer had “outgrown” the job of Mayor of Trenton. We think he was trying to outrun the collapse of the house of cards he had built here.

Regardless…Palmer is gone; what he did (or did not do) is in the past and it cannot be changed. Certainly, more people voicing publicly what many would only say privately might have helped slow if not avoid the city’s decline. Again, it is in the past and cannot be changed. The point is some noise was made; some criticisms levied, some change occurred.

First steps faulty

Only July 1, 2010, Mayor Mack took the reins of city government and almost immediately displayed a failure to grasp the situation he found himself in.
At a time when the city was facing a huge budget deficit and impending layoffs, Mack dismissed all of Palmer’s cabinet members…and the experience and knowledge that went along with them. Note…we are not suggesting some of them did not need to go, but the wholesale dismissal seemed a little shortsighted, pun not intended.

Knowing there was going to have to be a staff reduction of some sort in the coming months, Mayor Mack padded the payroll with unnecessary hires, filling out the full compliment of aides afforded him under the Faulkner act, paying top dollar to his new appointees, putting on “interns” and paying them through CDBG money that might better have been applied to the real needs of the city. Just a few months later, demotions and layoffs reduced the workforce and the pool of knowledge and experience the Mayor could have drawn upon as he struggled to keep the city afloat.

The nomination of a felon as a department head, the questions surrounding the appointee to the municipal bench, and the game of musical chairs regarding who sits in the Business Administrator seat are all indications of the Mayor’s lack of comprehension as to what his responsibilities are to the city.

It did not take much to figure out why the highly respected and experienced Bill Guhl stepped away from city hall after only a month of volunteering to help Mack get a handle on things. Tony continues to not accept good counsel and helping hands when offered.

Instead, he prefers to hide behind a screen of sycophants and hangers-on while he fiddles and the city burns.

Many people have offered advice and assistance to help the Mayor steer the city forward, but he seems to prefer to consult with the expensive suits from Atlantic City and the company of his lackeys to anybody who really has the best interest of Trenton at heart.

The list of bad choices and inappropriate actions is lengthy. The one consistency of the Mayor’s tenure so far has been his inability to do the right thing.

And there are exceptions to that rule…his appointment of Dan Dodson and Michael McGrath to the board of the Lafayette Yard Development Corporation. This entity actually “owns” the Marriott Hotel and oversees its operation for the taxpayers of the city. From its inception, it functioned in secret with little information flowing to the public “share holders.” That has started to change with Dodson and McGrath on board.

Unfortunately, that is not enough to make up for the rest of the eight months of foolishness coming out of city hall.

Is it the money?

Is it the Mayor’s personal money situation that has made him such easy prey for outside interests? It certainly would not be the first time that a desire for financial security has lead to poor decision making.

And to those who want to excuse Mack’s shortcomings as a function of his mental capacity, well…that just doesn’t wash. If eight months of mistakes are because he is intellectually deficient or mentally incompetent than he is not qualified to serve in the position of Mayor. We all have limitations and Tony’s may preclude him from holding his current job.

This is not to pick on him, put him down, or make fun of him. If he doesn’t have the sense to make the right decisions or won’t compensate by listening to those who do have the ability to determine what the right decision is and accept their suggestions, than he must go.

The taxpayers of the city of Trenton cannot afford to subsidize such ignorance. And anyone who thinks otherwise must also have diminished mental capacity.

Tony Mack has failed in his short time as Mayor of the City of Trenton. There is no way to argue or refute that fact. The citizens who continue to stand by him are failing as well.

Accept that Mr. Mack will probably not finish out his term and let’s start thinking about finding a competent, ethical, intelligent replacement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On target. We must find a way to intervene in order to stop the ship from sinking.