Saturday, February 25, 2012

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.                       

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