Monday, October 22, 2012

Just what we don't need

According to an article in this morning's Trentonian, the city of Trenton will soon host another "march against gun violence."

Organized by 22 year old Josilyn Steward, the march is tentatively scheduled for November 4 at 2:00 p.m.

While it is always a good thing when people are motivated to "do something" in the wake of a tragedy, that desire to get involved needs to be tempered with common sense.  When deciding a course of action, one must ask and answer specific questions.

What is the goal of this activity? What will be the end result? How will this help further "the cause?" Indeed, what, exactly, is the purpose of the action to be taken?

So, what is the purpose of this march? To call attention to the wave of violence that is flooding our streets right now? 

There is no need. We are all aware of it.

What will this march do to reduce the violent crime?

Honestly, nothing.

The article goes on to state that the support that Ms.Steward is receiving for her plans to hold a march is spawning something else. Those that are coalescing around this idea to hold a march and rally are considering using this as a springboard to launch a non-profit. The purpose of this as yet unnamed, new entity would be to raise money to help fund activities for the city's youth.

"Ah,' you say, "that's good. That's productive."

We say, "Is it?"

Let us throw the wet blanket of reality on this scenario.

Starting a non-profit requires, the filing of some paperwork (and paying of certain fees), and establishing a board of directors with by laws to operate by, etc.

None of that is an impossible task. Indeed, look at the roster of registered non-profits in this area and you will realize that we have an abundance of them. The IRS website lists 448 non-profits with a Trenton, NJ address.

That's over 400 entities striving for a piece of the community's charitable contributions. How is this new non-profit going to compete? What service will it provide that isn't already being covered by one of the existing groups?

There has been recent press coverage about how difficult it has become for established charities to maintain the necessary funding to meet their objectives. The fiscal pie is shrinking in size and more entities are vying for their fair share.

Rather than promote another march and rally that will just be a one-time expenditure of social capital, why not direct that energy into support for existing entities and programs that need volunteers? Why not help raise awareness of the need for funding that already exists and help direct resources...human and capital...there?

Our baseball leagues need coaches and other help; our library (the real library, not the bogus learning centers) and its "friends" organization can use volunteers and fundraising assistance; the Boys and Girls Club, the CYO and the YMCA can all use volunteers and help with raising money. Those are just a few notable examples of entities doing good work that need more help. Work with them or some of the other organizations that provide mentoring and/or recreational opportunities to our city's youth.

In the Trentonian article, Ms. Steward is quoted as saying,  “I want to put the unity back into the community.”

Fantastic idea!  Help unite the community with the institutions that are already here and helping them extend their reach and increase their capacity.

That is the way to make a difference.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Read this!

Last night during the ongoing soap opera that Trenton’s city government has become, we were treated to yet another attempt to elect a council vice president.

Councilman at large Alex Bethea wanted to introduce a motion to nominate and vote on someone to hold the gavel should the president not be present at a council meeting.

Council president Phyllis Holly-Ward was having no part of it.

And for good reason.

The existing rules of procedure do not call for the election of a vice president of council.

Mr. Bethea is obviously ignorant of the rules. He complained, loudly and forcefully that he had never belonged to any organization that did not have rules providing for some one to preside over a meeting in the absence of the designated chair.

I would refer Mr. Bethea to the following section of the Rulesof Procedure as found in the Trenton city code:


Call to Order; President Pro Tem
The President shall take the Chair at the hour appointed for the meeting, and shall immediately call the Council to order. In the absence of the President, the Clerk or his/her designee shall call the Council to order. The Clerk shall then determine whether a quorum is present and in that event shall call for the election of a temporary President. Upon the arrival of the President, the temporary President shall forthwith relinquish the Chair upon the conclusion of the business immediately before the Council.


Not a single mention of the existence of an elected vice president.

It should also be pointed out that the current rules of order do not call for the election of a new president each year of the for year terms. This is something that was started by this council without consulting or conforming to the current rules of order.
The Presiding Officer
Election and duties. The presiding officer of the Council shall be the President, who shall be elected at the organization meeting. The presiding officer shall preserve strict order and decorum at all regular and special meetings of the Council. He/She shall state every question coming before the Council and announce the decision of the Council on all matters coming before it. He/She shall appoint special committees of the Council. The President may vote on all questions, his/her name being called last. The President shall sign all ordinances and resolutions adopted by the Council during his/her presence. In the event of the absence of the President, such ordinances and resolutions shall be signed by the presiding officer.

Council president Holly-Ward is aware of this and has said that she wants to have a document drawn up and submitted for passage that would amend the rules to make sure the body is in compliance and vice/versa. We hope that this is accomplished sooner rather than later.

Mr. Bethea needs to read and familiarize himself with these rules and stop wasting the council’s time

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A public service announcement

Dear citizens,
If you are planning to attend Trenton's city council meeting tonight and intend to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, let us offer you some basic do's and don'ts.
  1. State your name and address for the record.
  2. You have three minutes. Make it count.Keep your comments focused, preferably relevant to one of the topics at hand, items on the docket.
  3. If you don't have anything prepared to say, don't feel obligated to take your three minutes just because you are present and signed the piece of paper.
  4. Do not repeat yourself over and over. It doesn't help make your case.
  5. If others who speak before you have addressed the issue you were planning to speak on and you agree with them, just say so. There is no need to repeat the points already made. Just say you agree with those individuals who have already stated they are in favor of or against whatever.
  6. If you are coming to speak about the Mayor's Learning Centers, please know that we all understand what services such facilities are meant to provide. We recognize they are the same services provided by professional staff on a regular, dependable, basis at the Trenton Free Public Library. Consider supporting the notion of taking the money proposed being spent on the Learning Centers and adding it to the appropriation for the real thing, the Trenton Free Public Library. We also realize that the Mayor, or more likely his brother, has probably asked you to come and plead your case before council.
  7. Proposing solutions and suggesting courses of action are good. Doing so without knowing what you are talking about is not. Please don't waste the council's time, our time or your time suggesting things that cannot be done. If you are not sure, ask if it can be done, don't demand it.
  8. Be courteous and respect everyone's time (and patience). When your three minutes are up, you are done. Finish your sentence (not your paragraph, not your point, not your resume), say thank you. Sit down.
The purpose of a city council meeting is for the council to take care of the matters before it. State law mandates that there has to be public comment. It does not have to come at the top of the agenda. It could come at the end.
Taking too much time at the podium delays council from doing their work. They have enough distractions without you standing there spilling your life story simply because you like the sound of your voice coming back through the public address system.
Thank you. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just the facts

We here at the editorial department of the Front Stoop wanted to take a few (three) minutes (180 seconds) to set the facts straight on a couple of points from last night’s Trenton city council meeting.

Mayor Mack does not have “binders full of people” wanting to meet with him. Well, not if you exclude his attorney, his creditors and the FBI.

It is true that Mayor Mack was “saved” from the mean streets of Wilbur by recreation programs; recreation programs that were largely run by the Trenton PAL, not the city.  Was there some city money involved? Probably. Were they city run and staffed programs? No.

There is no “Master Plan” for the city as the Mayor stated last night. At least not that we have seen. If he was indeed referring to his annual “report” and/or state of the city speeches, it has been pointed out repeatedly that they are not plans. Plans have defined goals and measurable outcomes.

The city council does have the authority to reduce the salary for the Mayor. Under 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 exercised by the adoption of an ordinance.  Nothing we have seen in the MOU with the state supersedes the statutes. (Btw, Rahway City Council cut their Mayor’s salary last year, no problem).

And, if you remember, Mayor Mack made similarly erroneous statements last spring when the council amended his budget and he didn’t like it.

He was wrong then, he is wrong now.

Finally, if the city council is going to have a time limit on public comment, then it should be enforced on all speakers and all speakers must adhere to it. Period.

Our city government is stuck in neutral and the non-stop ramblings of people, no matter how pithy, inspirational, or amusing does not move us forward.

Ok. Times up.