Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let them go. NOW!

There is something seriously wrong with the brain trust that is running things at city hall.

Just look at these recent examples from the never ending stream of questionable actions and antics exhibited by Mayor Tony Mack and crew:
  • The Mayor creates a “Commission on International Business Affairs” via Executive Order that no one, especially city council knows about. When questioned about his authority to unilaterally create this body, Mayor Mack claims to have issued a follow up Executive Order changing the commission to an advisory committee.  No one has seen this document and wouldn’t you expect the administration, through the Business Administrator, to make sure that members of city council would at least receive a copy.
  • Embattled city employee and AFSCME union local president Dave Tallone has continually been paid sick time, holiday pay, and longevity pay since November of 2011 when the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office notified him of charges of impersonation, etc.  The pay continued because of an “administrative error” according to reports in the Trentonian. Acting Business Administrator Anthony Roberts “took immediate action” to stop the paychecks. 
  • Acting Director of Inspections, Cleveland Thompson “may” be brought up on disciplinary charges in the near future.  The situation reportedly involves an incident between Thompson and Acting Business Administrator Roberts.      
  • And then there is the confusion surrounding the plan (or the myth) of the city selling the parking meters and such to the independent Trenton Parking Authority for the $500k that would cover the latest supplement to the Marriott Hotel operating budget.  The figure was included in the recently proposed budget amendments that council voted down, but the Mack administration is claiming no knowledge of and no intent to strike such a deal.  The spokesperson, Lauren Ira, won’t comment and the Acting BA is also silent on this.
If you need a reason (or four) to support city council’s measure to strike the funding from the city budget that pays for the likes of Mr. Roberts and Ms. Ira, look no further.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Enough is enough

There is a story making the rounds that Trenton's Acting Director of Inspections has run afoul of the Tony Mack administration and suspended from his position as a result.
While we here at the Front Stoop don't know the extent of the issue, or even if this is actually the case, what has become clear over the past year plus is, if you cross the will or whims of the Mack administration, you may soon find yourself on the outside looking in.

This is not good for the individuals. It is not good for the city. And it cannot possibly build a positive, dedicated workforce in city hall.

Considering that the Thompson story is just the latest in a series of "clashes" between public employees and the Mack administration one can only assume that the work environment at city hall (and other outposts of city government) is less than positive.

Here's one path to relief for those trapped in the torture of being a city employee: send your "dirt" anonymously to this email account: Carl Woodward at SlimeStoppers@gmail.com 

Carl is ready willing and able to follow up on any and all solid leads that shed light on the inner workings of the Mack city hall.  Give as much detail as you can, but don't leave your real name or identifying information. Carl will take it from there.

Animal House Redux

Trenton's City Council is poised to have a second reading and public hearing of the amended business license ordinance at the Thursday, March 1 meeting.  Local business owner John McManimon has these thoughts about the ongoing follies in city hall.

Once again Trenton’s City Hall and City Council are running true to form.

Council recently missed a golden opportunity to portray itself and the City as business-friendly by passing a poorly thought out ordinance put forward by the City Clerk’s office raising business license fees astronomically, some by as much as 500%.           

Acknowledging the inadequacies of the ordinance beforehand, Council passed it anyway. They assumed they could change it later.

And they did.

A week after license applications were due, Council, with the assistance of the Clerk’s office, introduced a new ordinance that would rescind the previous ordinance and push the filing deadline back two months to April 1. It would also lower the fee increases to a more reasonable 100% in most cases.

Unfortunately, there is no provision in the new ordinance to reimburse those who actually obeyed the law and paid on time at the higher rate. The City Clerk, Leona Baylor, when questioned about this aspect of the ordinance stated that”… most people pay their bills late anyway.” So not only is the City encouraging people to pay their bills late it is actually punishing those that pay on time.

Kind of reminds you of the scene in “Animal House” when D-Day turns to Flounder after having wrecked his brother’s car and says “Hey, you f---ed up. You trusted us.”

It makes one wonder. Is this really some kind of frat house competition with one camp trying to continuously embarrass the other? One Councilperson’s rationale for increasing license fees in a stagnant economy was that property taxpayers couldn’t afford an increase. Don’t business owners pay property taxes, too?

Dean Wormer, put the Councilwoman on double secret probation!

The imbecility can’t just be contained in City Hall. All the voters of Trenton deserve a nod for electing people who have kept everyone in surrounding communities in stitches and late night talk show hosts rife with ready one-liners.                                                                                                                        

While residents decried the fact (almost daily) that public safety employees take thousands of dollars in paychecks back to their homes in the suburbs instead of living in the town they protect, the City of Trenton responded by laying a third of the police force off.             

These same aggrieved residents don’t seem to mind that absentee landlords funnel millions of dollars out of town the first of every month or that asking them to comply with building codes might actually result in not just improved housing but in jobs for city residents. The message we’re sending has resulted in tumbleweeds blowing through the gutted Inspections Department.

Of course every now and then a breeze of self-righteous indignation sweeps through the Council chambers and they pass an ordinance to rein in the rapacious owners. Unfortunately, passing strict laws and then laying off inspectors pretty much guarantees that only irresponsible and feckless landlords will be left. The responsible law abiding ones will have moved on.                                                   

The summer is coming and it promises to be a long and a hot one. Let’s see whose turn it is to lead the band down the dead end alley. If worse comes to worse we could always hope for some royalties from Letterman’s jokes and use them to hire a couple more cops. Or inspectors.                                                                                                              

Hang in there, Trentonians. Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck, no!

Eric Stratton would be proud of us.                       

Thursday, February 09, 2012

From the inbox

The following arrived in our inbox several times overnight:

Citizens for Appropriate Mayoral Compensation
Somewhere the question arose. And now it is moving thru out the City,” Why are we paying Mayor Mack so much, to do so little?” People are saying that he is excessively over paid. His results are simply not worth the $126,460, annual salary we pay him.
A committee of citizens in favor of appropriate mayoral compensation has formed. Their goal is to build citizen support to move City Council to enact an ordinance reducing Mayor Mack’s compensation to an amount more appropriate for his disappointing level of performance.
Upon taking office, Tony Mack fired every Director in the City administration. He then proceeded to appoint family and friends with little or no experience to these leadership positions: Hardly meritorious performance on his part.
After cooperatively approving his initial appointments against their better judgment, City Council refused to continue approving ill chosen new appointments to those same positions. Tony Mack side-stepped the permanent appointment process by using Acting Director status appointments. We are almost half way thru Mack’s four year term of office. And we have Acting Directors, open positions: Scandalous time keeping for pay purposes, and incompetent employees in many positions. This is not why we pay Tony Mack $126,000 a year.
City Council needs to pass a new ordinance reducing his honor’s pay to something like $80,000 a year, or less. Here is the ordinance.
WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of the Faulkner Act, N.J.S.A.
40:69A-43a.,40:69A-180 and general municipal law, N.J.S.A. 40A:9-
165, the power to fix the compensation for the offices of Mayor,
City Clerk, Business Administrator, Department Directors, and
City Council Members is required to be exercised by the adoption
of an ordinance; and
WHEREAS the City Council finds that it is in the public interest
That the compensation of the office of Mayor be adjusted and
Fixed at an amount commensurate with the current economic
Circumstances of the City of Trenton and that it and all other
Compensation ordinances shall be restored to published status
along with all published ordinances of the City of Trenton and be
readily accessible by the public; now therefore, be it
ORDAINED by the City Council of the City of Trenton as Follows:
1. Effective January 1, 2012, the annual monetary
compensation for the office of the Mayor shall be $80,000.00.
2. Any other provision of the Administrative Code or other
ordinance or instrument which provides for any monetary
compensation other than the amount of money set forth in Section
1. above or is otherwise inconsistent with the provisions of this
ordinance is hereby abrogated, repealed and superseded to the
extent of such inconsistency.
3. The City Clerk is hereby directed to provide for the
inclusion of the foregoing amendment of the Administrative Code
to become published along with the other published portions of
the City of Trenton Ordinances along with any and all future
revisions thereof and to respond to public inquiry with regard
thereto without requiring the formality of a written request for
access to public information.
4. Effective Date. An emergency having been declared with
respect to the effective date of hereof, this ordinance shall
become effective upon final approval and publication.
If you agree that Mayor Mack is over-paid, you should e-mail your Council Person and tell him to introduce and vote for this ordinance. Send your e-mail to Linda Kelsey, Council Aid,
lkelsey@trentonnj.org , and ask her to distribute it to each Council member.
You should also call your Council person and urge him to introduce and vote for this ordinance. All of them can be reached at their office telephone, 609-989-3146 .
And finally, you need to attend City Council meetings and ask them to introduce and pass this ordinance.
Please plan to attend the next Council meeting Thursday, February 16, at 5:30. If each of you do that, Council will be compelled to do your will, and will enact this ordinance. Then the Mayor will be paid a salary more appropriate for his level of performance in these poor economic times.
Please feel free to share this wonderful request with your friends and relatives. Encourage them to make a difference by joining this effort for more appropriate Mayoral compensation.
From your committee of Citizens for Appropriate Mayoral Compensation.

Monday, February 06, 2012

If one is good, two must be better

In an article in this morning’s Times, Matt Fair yet again reports that the city’s Policy and Communications Director could not or would not respond to questions from the press.

City spokeswoman Lauren Ira, meanwhile, failed to answer a series of e-mailed questions about whether the city expected to hire back any workers in the inspections department. She also ignored questions about EIC Inspection Agency’s continued contracting with the city.

With so many questions arising from the Mack administration’s antics, it must be overwhelming for one person to respond to all the requests for clarification, edification and explanation.

Would it surprise anyone if something similar to the following letter might turn up in the in basket of Director of Local Government Services Tom Neff’s in basket? (click on image see a larger version)

Anything is likely to happen in Mack-world.

Friday, February 03, 2012

What are they thinking?

We have a relative who is intellectually disabled. Her late parents did everything they could to make her as independent as her abilities allow. Her siblings continue that. The struggles, the triumphs and the tribulations of the situation have sometimes given rise to humorous stories.

One such event was when our cousin received her collection envelopes for the month from the local parish.

The next week, our cousin dutifully placed her weekly tithe in the provided envelope. Unbeknownst to anyone she also included a note.

A day or two later, the parish priest called our uncle. He explained that there had been something "extra" in the week's envelope and proceeded to read the note:

"Ok. I'll give you more money this one time, but it is the last!"

This week, Trenton's city council squawked and fussed but then approved a $500,000 cash call to keep the Marriott at Lafayette Yard solvent for another few months. The hotel, which has been drowning in red ink all but one out of the ten years it has been open, is a white elephant owned and financed by city taxpayers.

Trentonians not only have to pay about $1.5 million a year in debt service (interest on the $60 million in bonds floated to build the facility); we are on the hook for the operating costs.

When there is not enough cash generated by the hotel, the city kicks in some to cover expenses.

Last week, city council acted like our cousin and scolded the hotel board and management company about asking for money, but gave it to them anyway.

We understand the limitations our cousin is dealing with.

What is council's excuse?