Tuesday, January 29, 2013

OOPS! They did it again!

The indicted mayor of Trenton takes great pride in the creation of his "Mayor's Learning Centers." So much pride, he outfitted each of the former library branch buildings with 50", flat screen TV's.

Why the so-called "Learning Centers" require large screen TV's is beyond us. They are barely open. When they are open, they are staffed by untrained, possibly un-vetted, volunteers.

We can only figure it is another example of the IO's penchant for appearance over substance. The bells and whistles are what counts, not their appropriateness, functionality or suitability.

During Hurricane Sandy, someone broke into the East Trenton Learning Center at 701 N. Clinton Ave. and liberated the two large screen TV's that had been installed there. There was no alarm...presumably due to the wide spread power outages caused by the storm.

Of course, no serial numbers were on file for the stolen items so further investigation would go nowhere, even IF we had the manpower on our severely depleted police force to conduct one.

In most instances, crime victims will try to gain some insight from the unpleasant experience and take steps to make themselves less likely to become targets again. They may increase security around their premises. They may do a better job of keeping records of their possessions.

Apparently, that is not the way things work here in Trenton.

The Mayor's Learning Center on Greenwood Avenue recently had its large, flat screen TV stolen.

According to the police report, a Ms. Tanisha Dyton was "doing a walk through at 1115 Greenwood Ave" on Thursday, January 10, when she noticed the TV was missing. The police report mentions that there was no sign of forced entry.

Granted, the report was taken over the phone by a police aide so no onsite investigation was carried out by a trained officer but forced entry would be fairly obvious to anyone discovering the crime.

The report also notes that the TV serial number is unknown.

The report does not state is whether or not the building is alarmed and, if so, did the alarm go off.

We have to wonder why, after the theft of the TV's from the East Trenton Learning Center, building alarms were not checked to make sure they were operable. We also wonder why the serial numbers of the remaining TV's were not recorded and kept somewhere, just in case of another theft. Moreover, after the previous incident, were the remaining TV’s secured with cable locks or other devices to help prevent their easy removal?

Apparently, the Mayor's Learning Centers are not teaching us anything useful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Take a longer view

On January 11, the city administration announced it was ready to make a deal with Thomas Edison State College for the Glen Cairn Arms site.

That announcement took many by surprise.

The swiftness with which the proposal was dropped on the public and the city council, which must approve the deal, raised eyebrows. Specifically, the proposed one time fee of $300,000 in lieu of any property taxes going forward has generated some pretty stiff resistance.

There has been lots of discussion, most of it online, over the merits of this proposal. Some of it has been enlightening; some has been sarcastic and/or snarky.

Some of us feel that the TESC proposal may not be the highest and best use of the parcel at 301 West State Street. It would be more palatable if there were some sort of structured annual payment in lieu of property taxes built into the package. This just seems to be common sense in a city that is drowning in a sea of tax-exempt properties.

Those who favor the proposal as is, say we should not let the minimal, one-time payment stand in the way of what will be a highly visible project.

"Get something done," is their mantra, "and other development projects will follow."

The implication is that by treating the TESC project as a "loss leader" it will drive other developers to the city looking to do deals.  The supporters of the project also tout the secondary benefits of spin off jobs and revenues for existing local businesses.

It is an old argument. It has been tried. It has not been successful.

Getting into the game

We can readily point to the Baseball Park and Arena as examples of big-ticket projects that involved public money and have yet to generate any significant economic development.

Yes, people attend events at both venues. However, the self-contained nature of both facilities makes it unnecessary and unusual for patrons to visit other businesses before or after attending games and concerts. People may come into Trenton to participate in these events, but they do not, as a rule, spend money at other businesses in the city.

This is not just the reality here, studies from around the nation have shown little proof that these public facilities stimulate the local economy. Ken Belson wrote about this in an article published in the New York Times on September 7, 2010.

James Joyner wrote about the faux benefits of publicly financed private sports stadiums in his "Outside the Beltway" blog last May.

The Taxpayers League of Minnesota sums up the fallacy in eight points in this document.

There may be some jobs created that are filled by Trenton residents but most are part-time and or seasonal.

Similarly, those that provide supplies and services to either facility are not necessarily or predominately Trenton-based.

It is a pretty safe bet that no one moved to the city because of the ballpark or arena. Government funded sports venues simply do not spur economic development.

Checking in

The city owned Marriott Hotel on Lafayette Street is another example. We were "assured" by the Palmer administration that a top-notch hotel located just steps from the seat of state government would be just the thing to spark an explosion of economic opportunity downtown.

The hotel has yet to turn a profit. Not only is the city (read: taxpayers) on the hook for the bond debt used to finance the construction of the building, it is also required to make up any operational deficits.

Last year, we footed the bill for a $500,000 cash infusion to keep the doors open and lights on. This year, we may very likely be asked for another round of funding to cover operating expenses.

Many of us told then Mayor Palmer this would happen when he proposed it, but he did not want to hear it. He forced his way on the city and we are paying the price, litereally, for his arrogance.

One way out of this is to just sell the hotel outright. For whatever price. It would, at the very least, free up the taxpayers from having to fund anymore operating deficits and put the property on the tax rolls. Even with likely abatements, the city might actually see some revenue from the property at last.

If a private owner cannot make the hotel work, that would be sad, but at least the city will only be dealing with the "fixed" cost of the bond debt (principal and interest). The city (and state) put out the money to build this and there have been no real returns on that investment. It certainly has not generated any real development downtown or increased ratables in the city.

Around the corner and up the block

To go along with the construction and opening of the hotel, the city looked for ways to jump start development in the immediate vicinity. As early as 2000, with the planning for the hotel under way, the city looked around and decided they needed to purchase the long vacant "Caola property" at S. Warren and W. Front streets. The city paid $162,863.69 for the property and began to market it. (Bear in mind, at the same time the city had taken possession of the Glen Cairn Arms four years earlier but was by then embroiled in a dispute over the final value of the property).

In 2002, not quite a year after the city settled on the Caola property, they had a well known and respected developer, Enterprise Real Estate Services, interested in doing a project there. Enterprise, an arm of the highly successful Rouse Company, planned to spend $4,000,000 on the project. Despite the fact that Enterprise was not looking for any tax breaks for the project, the deal never went through.

At the time, there were murmurings that Enterprise requested the city kick in some money to help with the asbestos and lead paint situations on the site, as well as partial demolition. The city said "No." Enterprise walked.

Then along came former Senator Robert Torricelli and his Woodrose Properties. They made a proposal to the city and were designated the developer. Woodrose got the property for $1 and a tax abatement. The city did the demo work, removed the asbestos and stabilized the building. Trenton threw some Urban Enterprise Zone money at the project as well.

Was it worth it?

The "restaurant" that was envisioned for the site is a Subway sandwich shop (and not a new business...just one that relocated from around the corner on State Street).

One of the retail spaces just recently became a yoga studio. Another retail space appears to remain vacant.

Has it helped revitalize the downtown? Not really.

We will leave the discussion of how much favoritism might have been shown this particular developer, and why, for another time. (Read here and here for previous posts on this).

Enter the Matrix

Just a block from the Woodrose property is another development project that was hailed as a turning point for the city. That would be the office building at 32 East Front Street that currently houses the regional offices of Wells Fargo (nee, Wachovia) bank.

Originally undertaken by the Economic Development Corporation for Trenton, the project encompassed taking a former two level parking lot and building a parking garage and office building on the site. The garage would be turned over to the Trenton Parking Authority to operate as a replacement for the surface lot. The office building was to house the offices of the Hill Wallack law firm along with other commercial/retail space.

The EDCT was another initiative of the Palmer administration. For sizable contributions, local institutions received seats on the non-profit development corporation's board. In simple terms, the idea was the seed money would fund the development of the buildings. The monies realized from the successful completion of the initial project would be rolled back into the EDCT's fund so it could do other projects.

The short version of a long story is that the EDCT failed to complete the project. It was taken over by an experienced, professional developer and finished. The original anchor tenant, Hill Wallack, opted out of the deal. Finally, Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) moved their offices from Ewing to the building.

The building was never fully rented out. When the current lease is up sometime later this year, Wells Fargo will apparently be vacating the space downtown for quarters in West Windsor.

If the past is an indication

The point of all this is to give the proponents of TESC project some perspective.

Economic development in Trenton is not easy. It is complicated by the politics one has to play. Good deals (like the Enterprise Real Estate proposal for the Caola building) are shunted aside for less desirable ones (Woodrose's version) that end up costing the city more and have marginal effect (like the hotel).

In the end, we, the taxpayers, lose.

Development has been and continues to be more about the political connections and the well-being of the principals and government officials. Your run of the mill, tax paying resident is the ultimate pawn in these deals because, when the promised benefits fail to materialize, we pick up the slack. And the tab.

There has never been a long view of what was best for the city. Our leaders have never looked much past the current or next election cycle when it comes to making development deals.

Former Mayor Doug Palmer said it himself. In an article by Tom Hester, Jr. published in the Times, March 21, 2000, Palmer explains just how long his vision is.
''I don't look at the city today,'' Palmer said. ''I look three, four, five years down the road and what we are doing and what possibly can be.''

Our economic development plans need to look further down the road than the current administration or the next election. We need a policy and process in place that guides our decisions past what is best at the moment and toward that goal of sustainable revenue growth.

It is long past time for this city to move beyond the "loss leader" mentality and favored nations deals and work towards the creation of a comprehensive development strategy that is fair to all proposals. Moreover, fair to the taxpayers as well.

The TESC proposal, as it stands at this writing, simply does not help us towards a financially secure future.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meanwhile, about that bust

None of what you are about to read will come as a surprise to you. It certainly didn’t to us.

Ever since word began trickling out last November that Anthony Roberts and company had concocted a plan to place a bust of President Obama in city hall, we’ve been questioning the process used to fund the bust and the motives behind it.

There was already a bust of a president, John F. Kennedy, in the city hall atrium. The bust was in city hall before the annex was built. This made us curious about the how’s and wherefore’s and why’s of that bust.


JFKBust Obamabust
Probably the first question to come to mind is what is the JFK bust made of?

We weren’t sure. We thought maybe metal but then we looked at it again and thought, “Maybe stone.” The impression of stone comes from the softer, rounder edges of the sculpture compared to the sharper edges of the Obama figure. Regardless, even a novice can tell just by looking that the JFK bust has more heft. Not only is it larger in dimensions than the new arrival, it just radiates a sense of mass, a sense of substance.

Next, we wondered how it came to be in its niche in city hall.

That wasn’t tough. After President Kennedy was slain memorials sprang up everywhere. Schools, airports, roads and public buildings were named after him. Busts and portraits were installed in public edifices everywhere.

Who paid for the bust of JFK?

Good question. Something deep down inside told us the bust was NOT purchased by the city fathers. Surely some group came forward with the idea of raising the money and purchasing the bust and donating it to the city.

Thanks to Wendy Nardi and the resources in the Trentoniana Collection at the Trenton Free Public Library, here’s what we were able to learn.

According to an article in the Trenton Evening Times, SundayOctober 3, 1965:
The Mercer County Barracks NO 1895, Veterans of World War I, are attempting to raise money to purchase a bronze bust of the late President John F. Kennedy.

The veterans chapter wants to donate the bust to the city for display on a granite pedestal in the entrance of the new City Hall Annex.
“Until the new building is constructed it could be displayed at the entrance of City Hall,” said Robert E. Germond, post commander.
Germond explained that the bust would cost approximately $2,300 and that his organization would need all the help it can get to purchase the memorial.

The article goes on to name members of the committee and where contributions could be sent. There is even a commitment to donate any monies raised in excess of the actual cost to the Kennedy Library Foundation.

Three months later, on January 5, 1966, the Times ran another small story that fund raising was in full swing. (The article can be found as part of the same file on the link above)

Finally, on August 15, 1967, the bust of JFK was dedicated. In an article from Sunday, August 13 of that year we learn who the artist was and more. (Page three of the document linked above)
The artist was Anthony Cristofaro, who worked with Mayor’s Assistant Robert Carmignani and Superintendent, Division of Public Property, Joseph McManimon in selecting a permanent site.

Apparently, Mr. Cristofaro was well known enough in the area to not have to be described any further in the article. This was proven with a little more research.

Anthony M. Cristofaro was a native of Italy who came to America when he was 23. He worked as a sculptor and in a quarry before making his way to Trenton where he founded the Liberty Monument Company.

Mr. Cristofaro shared his love of art and talent for sculpting with the community. Besides is commissioned work, he taught sculptingin his studio and, free of charge, to boys at the Junior League’s InternationalInstitute.

At least some of his work was cast at the renowned Roman Bronze Works in New York. This facility was favored by artists such as Frederick Remington and firms like Tiffany and Company.

So, what does this all mean?

  • When the notion to memorialize the late President Kennedy was conceived, a plan was developed.
  • A committee outside of the sphere of local government was created.
  • Fund raising was conducted publicly with notices in the local press.
  • A local artist was chosen to execute the work.
  • The bust is cast in bronze. Really.
  • The placement of the bust was worked out in coordination with the facilities people in city government.
It means things were done right; correctly; openly.

We can’t say that about the Obama bust now, can we.

And we’re not surprised.
NOTE: According to one CPI calculator we found, that $2,300 in 1965 would have the purchasing power of $16,800 today. Understandable considering the cost of bronze (which is mostly copper), the size of the bust, the size of the pedestal, etc. 



Read this. And weep.

Short and sweet. That is what last night's council meeting wasn't.

As you might imagine most of the evening was spent listening to the pros and cons of the proposed TESC deal to develop the Glen Cairn Arms site.I think pretty much everyone in the room agrees that the site is an eyesore long in need of a makeover.

You can probably find almost as many people who agree the existing buildings, though they were once marvelous, must come down. Plus the asbestos on the premises must be dealt with.

And it is a safe bet that most people would agree that both the prior administration and this one have fumbled the handling of this property. From the clumsy seizure by eminent domain that resulted in the city (the taxpayers) settling with the owner for at least $3.3 million dollars (possibly more...if the original $1 million was not included in that settlement...no one seems to know at this point) to the refusal to put the additional money into razing the buildings and prepping the site for development; the city of Trenton has failed to handle this situation well.

There are almost as many people who are, overall, fans of Thomas Edison State College. Although techinically a college without walls, the institution under the firm and steady hand of Dr. George Pruitt has made a committment to Trenton even as other colleges and universities with traditional ties to the city have turned their backs on us. Where the division remains is whether this proposal is the best we can do, especially since it will result in removing the property from the tax rolls. Forever.

Trenton has a fiscal problem. We scream and shout about the fact that the state occupies so much space in the city and pays so little. Yet we are being asked to give them another .9 of an acre. Yes. TESC is offering a "one time" payment of $300,000 in lieu of taxes. True, this is more than the site has generated in the past 16 years or so. But we can't change the past. We can only change the future.
Giving TESC the property for only $300,000 guarantees us no tax revenues in the future. Ever.

Now those who favor the proposal will tell you there are ancillary benefits. They site jobs, increased foot traffic and patronage for local businesses and encouragement for others to invest in the city.

Nice, but...

Jobs: Yes, there will be some construction jobs. There is no guarantee that those jobs will go to Trenton residents. More importantly, there will be the same potential for short-term construction jobs no matter who builds on that site. We were also told that constructing this nursing school facility will create teaching jobs. Well, maybe. But wouldn't those jobs be created wherever the college sites the nursing school? And, again, how many of these teaching jobs are going to go to Trenton residents?

Increased foot traffic/patronage: Just what businesses are going to be supported by the students at this school? There is a coffee shop in the building catty-corner across the street from the site. Beyond that, it is two blocks to the nearest businesses. It is more likely that students and employees short on time will walk to Antonio's in Morrisville than to any of the restaurants downtown. And do we know whether or not there will be some sort of snack bar or cafeteria in the new building? If there is, then the building becomes more or less self-contained and the staff and students won't have to leave to get food.

Spurring economic development: Getting rid of the eyesore of the vacant buildings may help. But we also need to work on having a cleaner, safer city that is more attractive to investment. In order to do that, we need to have revenue. And that brings us back to the taxes.

Frankly, if TESC agreed to pay an annual, voluntary payment in lieu of taxes, to the city instead of the one time fee, we could feel better about this. It may not be the best use of the property but it would be new and inviting and the city would realize something towards its bottom line.

Maybe a payment equal to 1/4 of the full assessment on the property. That would be something in "our" pocket. It would also set the stage for the city making similar agreements with other non-profit property owners.

Dr. Pruitt seemed to not want to consider this. He referred more than once to the city taking up the tax status of non-profits with the legislature. He seemed to ignore the fact that Princeton University pays something to its host town in lieu of taxes. Lawrence Township is asking Rider and the Lawrenceville School to make similar payments I believe. Same in Hightstown with the Peddie School.

It is time for Trenton to stand up for itself.

That is what we are asking the council to do.

We have an offer from TESC on the table. Tell them "No!" Firmly. And suggest something more to the taxpayer's advantage.

Let's get real about this and stop being so desperate for development that we give away the store.

Monday, January 07, 2013

How does this look to you?

The late Art Holland, when he was the mayor of Trenton, used to say that it wasn’t enough for a public official to be honest; they also need to appear honest.
This was just an inside out way of saying that appearances can be deceiving and even if your intentions are pure, things might not look that way.
Appearance and intent seem to be the crux of the current Federal case against the current mayor of Trenton, Tony Mack. The mayor, his brother Ralphiel and supporter JoJo Giorgianni have been arrested and indicted on charges they conspired to use the Tony’s office to profit from a proposed (and, we now know, bogus) development scheme. Did they really intend to personally profit from the mayor’s position as head of city government? Or were they sincerely trying to get a “deal done” that would benefit the city?
Last week, it was revealed that the FBI has another investigation going in Trenton. According to Alex Zdan of the Times, the Feds have subpoenaed documents pertaining to five housing developments started under the prior administration of long-time mayor Doug Palmer. Zdan broke the story on Saturday, December 29 and had a follow up piece on Monday, December 31.
Coming back around to an investigation that apparently started two or three years ago, the federal subpoena requests the city of Trenton turn over accounting and payment records for the Pennington, Southwest Village I and Southwest Village II, Canal Plaza Homeownership and Catherine S. Graham Square redevelopment projects. All were being “shepherded” by Robert Kahan. 
Kahan has been doing redevelopment work in Trenton since at least 1997 when he formed the Warren Street Urban Renewal Limited Partnership.  Over the years, Kahan and/or his Tara ConstructionManagement/Tara Developers/Tara Developers II have worked on several projects around Trenton.
Tara worked on the Bellevue Court project with Isles a decade ago.
Then something happened. Tara and/or Kahan were suddenly all over the place.
Between April 2005 and April 2006, Kahan formed five LLC’s to work on five separate projects within the city of Trenton. He also formed Tara Developers LLC in April of 2006.
Forming LLC’s for redevelopment projects is apparently a fairly standard way of operating. It is at least an attempt to isolate the individual from any liabilities the corporate entity might encounter…especially those caused by other parties (contractors and such).
At the time they were created, the state of NJ, public records show that the registered address and agent for all except the Monmouth Management at Trenton, LLC was 1512 East Wheat Road in Vineland. Robert Kahan is listed as the registered agent and managing member.
Monmouth Management at Trenton, LLC was created between Tara and 319 Elton LLC, a company owned by Dov Gluck of Lakewood, NJ. In the initial incorporation, Monmouth Management at Trenton listed its registered address 1245 Airport Road, Lakewood and Gluck was the registered agent.
So far, nothing appears to be amiss.
In July 2005, Tara Construction Management, LLC (one of Kahan’s companies) contributed $1000 to then Mayor Doug Palmer’s re-election campaign. Tara had also given the Palmer campaign $1000 in June of 2003.
Although done all the time, contributions from LLC’s and LP’s are actually prohibited in New Jersey. While the corporate entity can issue the check, the contribution is credited to the member or partner who signs the check unless there is an accompanying letter explaining how the contribution should be distributed amongst all partners/members. Remember this for later and read on. {Edited for clarity.}
Tara Construction Management also contributed $700 to the re-election campaign of then East Ward Councilman Gino Melone in that same time span. Plus, Tara had contributed $250 to Melone’s campaign in January of 2005.
On June 1, 2005, a mortgage was issued between the City of Trenton and Spring Street Housing, LLC (one of Kahan’s companies). This was the start of the Southwest Village I project and came a little over a month before that July contribution to Palmer.
How do things appear now?
As the calendar turned over to 2006, things started to get interesting. In May of that year, Palmer would be up for re-election to his fifth term as Mayor. Campaign contributions really picked up.
There must have been a big fundraiser on March 15, 2006 because the ELEC reports are filled with contributions with that date. Lots of contractors and vendors and developers who were doing or wanted to do business with the city show up in the reports, but one in particular stands out: NDK General Contractors, LLC of Vineland.
NDK was formed by three sisters, Nicole, Davina and Kathleen Kemenash. The registered address for the business was 1512 East Wheat Road, Vineland. If that sounds familiar, it should. Kahan registered several of his development LLC’s to that same address.
NDK gave Palmer $1000 on March 15. So did each of the three sisters. Remember the law about contributions from LLC’s? That’s $4000 in contributions to be apportioned amongst the three of them. If divided equally, they are each just a little more than halfway to the $2600 individual limit for political contributions. Oh, and back on July 20, 2005, NDK gave Palmer $1000.
Back to March 15, 2006, five employees of NDK General Contracting also gave $1000 each to Palmer’s campaign. While it is entirely possible that these people gave freely of their own money, how probable is it?
How likely that an office manager, two secretaries, an estimator and a consultant from a construction firm in Vineland, NJ really care who gets elected in Trenton?  The office manager, by the way, had given a previous donation to Palmer. Although not listed as being affiliated with NDK in the reports for that contribution, Lisa Bancia gave a $1000 contribution to the Palmer campaign on July 20, 2005. That is the third contribution of $1000 to Palmer on that particular date. One from Tara, one from NDK and one from Ms. Bancia.
On one day, $9000 in contributions to Doug Palmer’s re-election campaign came from one company, its owners and employees. It’s not what it appears like. Right?
Office manager Lisa Bancia gave another $1000 to Palmer on May 6, 2006. This put her over the limit and Palmer’s campaign reportedly refunded her the $400 in excess contributions. This was part of another wave of contributions to Palmer’s campaign that appear to have come from/through NDK. Besides Bancia, the three sisters who formed the company each gave $1000 again, as did NDK General Contractors itself. That’s $8000 in contributions which puts the three ladies over the limit if apportioned equally. The estimator gave another $1000. That’s $6000 more that definitely came through NDK.
There were also three woman who each gave $1000 and who all list addresses in Vineland. The report does not show their occupation or employer information (as required by law). Hmmm. That doesn’t appear quite right.
Election Day was May 9 that year. On May 10, Palmer’s campaign report shows that one of the secretaries at NDK gave another $1000.
Tara wasn’t keeping its checkbook closed either. In November of 2005, Gino Melone received another $200 from the construction management firm. Melone also received $250 from Tara on April 17, 2006.  Well within the contribution limits, but again a violation of the LLC's can't contribute rule.
On May 6, a gentleman by the name of Keith Karmitian (hard to make out the handwriting on the report) gave $1000 to Palmer’s campaign. This was interesting because the address given is in Philadelphia. In fact, it is the same address listed for a $1000 contribution to then Councilman At Large Paul Pintella’s re-election campaign that came from Scott Kahan who listed his occupation as “Developer”. It appears that Scott is the son ofRobert Kahan and that Scott works with his father. (If you go to the Tara Developers website, contact us page, there are links to contact Robert, Scott and a “Keith” as well as a couple of other individuals.)
The Scott Kahan contribution to Pintella’s campaign is dated May 24, 2006. There was a runoff for the at-large council seats that year so the campaigning (and fundraising) continued for another month.
Robert Kahan, a “Developer”, also gave Pintella’s campaign $1000 on May 24, 2006.
Funny thing, NDK General Contractors and President/Owner Nicole Kemenash also contributed $1000 each to Pintella on that same date, May 24, 2006.
Pintella and the rest of the Palmer slate (Manny Segura, Cordelia Staton) went on to win the runoff election in June of 2006. You can view a timeline of all this here.
In July of 2006, the Pennington Housing project (Titus Housing, LLC, a Kahan company) got underway. The Canal Plaza project started in earnest in June of 2007. The Southwest Village II (Passaic Street) and Catherine Graham Square (Monmouth Management at Trenton) projects got underway in April and July of 2008.
NDK General Contractor was involved in the Pennington Housing project according to construction liens filed by suppliers waiting to get paid. Some of the liens were satisfied but one wasn’tThe contractor letits state license lapse at the end of 2006. It has not kept up with its annual corporate filings to the state either and is currently suspended pending reinstatement.
Kahan formed Tara Developers II, LLC in 2010 and maintains an office on West State Street in Trenton. Kahan had, in the meantime, changed all of his registered addresses for the various project related LLC’s from Vineland to the Trenton address.
We don’t know what the FBI will find through their investigation. We know what the situation appears to be. In an effort to secure at least five redevelopment deals, Mr. Kahan and friends made at least $30,000 in campaign contributions to Doug Palmer, Paul Pintella and Gino Melone between May 2002 and May 2006.
In Alex Zdan’s article published on December 31, Doug Palmer is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t involve me or my administration.”
He may be right. But that isn’t the way it appears.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Obama bust just another scam

Psst! Wanna know a secret?

You know that bronze bust of President Obama in city hall? The one that has generated all that controversy?

Well guess what? It isn't bronze.

Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive.is an
alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive.

Bronze, an ancient alloy in use since the 4th millenium BCE, continues into modern times as one of the materials of choice for monumental statuary.

Our bust, referred to on the city website, in the press release announcing the bust's unveiling and in the title to the YouTube video recording of the unveiling ceremony as "bronze" is not. It is made of cast resin.

In an email dated February 24, 2012 to Anthony Roberts from Mitch Horstmann of the Saint Louis Sculpture Foundry, Mr. Horstmann plainly states his quote of $4,700 is for a bust "cast in resin and finished with a faux bronze patina."

Now, it is true that cast polyester resin sculptures are less expensive to produce. However to call it "bronze" is misleading.

How many more misstatements have Mr. Roberts and/or Mayor Tony Mack made about the process the "President Barrack Obama Bust Committee" used to order, pay for and install this piece of plastic?

Nothing was delivered

Nothing was delivered
And I tell this truth to you,
Not out of spite or anger
But simply because it's true.

Now, I hope you won't object to this,
Giving back all of what you owe,
The fewer words you have to waste on this,
The sooner you can go.

That pretty much sums up last night's city council meeting.

The anticipated appearance of secretary to the mayor Anthony Roberts to answer questions about the President Obama bust didn't happen.

It seems as though (per Council President Holly-Ward) Mr. Roberts never acknowledged the council's invitation to appear. Nor did Roberts acknowledge the Business Administrator's inquiries about whether he would appear.

And then the secretary to the mayor "called off sick."

Nothing is better, nothing is best,
Take care of yourself and get plenty of rest.

No opportunity to explain how contributions were solicited; how the foundry (in St. Louis) was chosen; who gave the secretary to the mayor the authority to approve a purchase order for the base. 

Nothing was delivered
But I can't say I sympathize
With what your fate is going to be,
Yes, for telling all those lies.

The other big draw tonight was the introduction of a (revised) ordinance to reduce the mayor's salary.

Now you must provide some answers
For what you sold has not been received,
And the sooner you come up with them,
The sooner you can leave.
As you will recall, the last attempt was stymied when East Ward Councilwoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, who voted in favor of the ordinance the first time, voted against it at second reading and against an override of the mayor's veto.

Reynolds-Jackson's arguments were a mishmash of things and she kept saying it needed to be reworked to clarify the language. She cited state Senator Shirley Turner's public comments AND introduction of a motion to amend the NJ constitution to call for the suspension of pay for indicted officials.

Although the East Ward representative never came forward with any revisions of her own, the ordinance was reworked to reflect her concerns and directly quotes Senator Turner.  Reynolds-Jackson still voted against the new version.

Nothing is better, nothing is best,
Take heed of this and get plenty rest. (Now you know)

The regular business of council was the review and adoption of the items on tonight's docket.

The purpose of docket review is to go over the items before the governing body. That is the time when questions are asked, explanations given (by the administration) so that the council members understand what they are acting on and why it is before them.

It has been a hallmark of the Mack administration, through all of the BA's, the short tenure of the Chief of Staff, and the various and sundry acting department heads, that there is seldom anyone present to offer explanations or illuminations to council on docket items. Without proper back up and/or explanations, there is no reason for council to act. This is how things are let go until the last possible moment. Or later.

This is how the city runs out of toilet paper.

Tonight, yet again, there was no one present to answer any questions that the governing body might have. No one, that is, except for Superintendent of the Sewer Authority Joe McIntyre.

Three items were pulled from the docket because there was no one present to answer questions. Three items that will be postponed until...?

Nothing was delivered
And it's up to you to say
Just what you had in mind
When you made ev'rybody pay.

One of the items pulled was a change order to an existing contract with Hatch Mott MacDonald.  HMD is listed as a contributor to the Obama bust. There are two other companies currently doing business with the city that are listed as contributors.

Councilman Zac Chester raised the question of whether these donations towards the bust violate the city's Pay-to-Play ordinance. He had asked this last month and had not received an answer. Tonight he was told by attorney Peter Cohen that the matter had not yet been reviewed.

No, nothing was delivered,
Yes, 'n' someone must explain
That as long as it takes to do this
Then that's how long that you'll remain.
The question was put to us earlier, "Just what did council accomplish last night?"

As with so many meetings over the past two and a half years, the bare minimum was done.

Nothing is better, nothing is best,
Take heed of this and get plenty rest.