Monday, March 18, 2013


Trenton Mayor Tony Mack gave his "state of the city" address before city council Monday evening.

The text of the speech can be found on the city website, here.

Don't go there if you are looking for any revelations, significant accomplishments or measurable goals for the coming year.

Mayor Mack started off, as is his "tradition" reminding the audience that his administration managed to balance the budget even with the $55 million deficit his first year in office, $34 million last year and $26 million this year. He then criticized those who point out that balancing the budget is the law and his administration should claim no extra credit for merely doing its job.

In his view, there will always be a higher demand for services than the city's revenues will pay for. We suppose that means he still feels it is necessary to run sports leagues and put on festivals and parades even when there is no money for such unnecessary activities.

The next item was a brag about how much money in grants and aid has been awarded the city during his tenure. This is another indication of just how out of touch with reality he is.

Taking pride in surviving off of handouts is just wrong. A real leader (heed this all of you mayoral wannabes) would be seeking ways to raise revenues and LESSEN the dependence on grants and government largesse.

A responsible mayor would be working very hard to move the city towards a firmer fiscal footing with a long term goal of become something close to self-sustainable. (Another fault of too many of those desiring to hold public office, they don't look past the next election cycle).

Keeping to the grants theme, the mayor gave props to those individuals in the city who write the grant applications that successfully bring in the money.  Of course, he has no problem wasting money not using grant software the city subscribes to. How much more in grants might we bring in if we used this? We are paying for it regardless.

The mayor wraps up his fiscal responsibility pitch by claiming that the reason we have received so much financial assistance is because he has righted the budgetary ship. He then launches into the oft repeated sources of revenue he is ready to tap into...delinquent tax liens, unpaid municipal court fines and costs, and squeezing the last drops of money leftover from completed projects in the hope of applying them elsewhere.

This notion, again, demonstrates Mack's total lack of a grasp of the situation. Even if, and it is a big IF, the city were 100% successful in collecting the unpaid tax liens and the court revenues, it is a one shot deal. These are not revenue streams. They are little caches of money we may be able to tap into. Once. It is just another stop gap measure; one of those "one-shot gimmicks" that the mayor later decries.

Predictably, he touted the deal with Thomas Edison State College for the Glen Cairn Arms site. He conveniently forgot to mention that in last year's speech he listed, on page 13, under "accomplishments" that "the old Glen Cairn Arms site will finally be demolished, and a developer will be sought to create a more marketable and valuable site." {our emphasis}

First, if it is an "accomplishment" it has, by definition been done. So if it "will finally be demolished" (future tense) in could not have been accomplished (past tense). And, indeed, it wasn't accomplished. And it still isn't.

The city council approved the sale of the property and the city has signed a disposition agreement about what "will" happen. The fact remains, one year later, the site is exactly the same as it was when he gave last year's speech.

This year's speech is full of those kinds of statements inconsistent with his prior state of the city addresses. No reference to last year's "Comprehensive Crime Initiative" (that never was comprehensive or even an initiative). No commentary about the cops walking the beat.

He did state that the Trenton Police Department reopened the East and West district stations to "increase response time" and that is the way the script reads. Obviously he is as careless as he is delusional.

We could go through each paragraph of this less than 30 minute speech and point out all the things that are wrong. You don't deserve that pain.

We don't deserve this mayor.

The state of the city is quite simply worse than it was last year or the year before. Tony F. Mack's tenure as mayor has been nothing short of a disaster.

Let us hope his failures are noticed by those who seek to replace him and they do everything they can to not repeat them.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Past due

UPDATE:  Cleve Christie, LYCDC Board Chair has resigned.  Read his letter here.

The saga of Trenton’s lone hotel continues to get more sordid by the day.

This morning’s Trentonian has an article by David Foster revealing that Cleve Christie, chairman of the Lafayette Yard Community Development Corporation, has been promoting “jazz events” at the hotel.

One of these events, part of last autumn’s Bring Back Trenton series of musical events, was booked into the Trenton War Memorial. That rental showed up as an outstanding payable from the hotel in the amount of $1,698 owed to Patriots Theater.

This item came up at Tuesday night’s city council meeting when West Ward representative Zac Chester questioned the expense. It was explained that the hotel had “overbooked” its banquet/meeting rooms and had to bump an event to the venue next door, the War Memorial (Patriots Theater). We were made to understand that this is standard practice when hotels “overbook” rooms.

We can see this happening with guest rooms if there is an unexpected rush, fewer than expected cancellations, and guests unexpectedly extending their stay (we should be so lucky!).

Just how does it happen with banquet rooms when deposits are usually paid and contracts signed for a date and time for an event?

The answer appears in the revelation that the LYCDC board chair has been running a series of events at the hotel. In the article, Christie claims that he was approached by the hotel’s former general manager (presumably Jeff Zieger but we do not know for sure) to host concerts to “generate foot traffic and revenue for the hotel.”

Ok, first, this is a hotel. It is in the business of renting out rooms to overnight guests. Yes, it also hosts functions in its various meeting rooms but the primary business is to rent guest rooms. Building “foot traffic” does not generate room nights.
Second, the article explains that Christie didn’t have to put down a deposit to hold rooms for his events. This is contrary to the way the general public does business with the hotel. This is, therefore, special treatment, a benefit, afforded Christie that is not afforded others.

It is generally considered a conflict of interest if a board member personally benefits from business dealings with the entity whose board they sit on. It really doesn’t matter that the concerts only broke even or that they cost him some money out of pocket. Nor does it matter that the intent was to “generate foot traffic and revenue for the hotel.” Mr. Christie should not have been directly involved in the enterprise.

Still, Christie denies there was a conflict of interest.

Councilman Zac Chester said it best:

“The bottom line he did get a benefit as being board chair.”

What remains to be learned is if, as Christie claims, he or his group paid the hotel for the room rental. If so, then why didn’t the payment get made to Patriots Theater?

Was this a case similar to the $170,000 in parking fees collected from the adjacent garage but not passed along to the Trenton Parking Authority? Is the hotel so cash poor that they are playing shell games with the money streams just trying to keep their creditors at bay? That was surely the impression we were left with from the presentation given by Waterford (the current hotel management company) on Tuesday night.

Or is this a case of another “perc” that Mr. Christie felt entitled to as chairman of the LYCDC board?

Where was the rest of the board in all this? Were they aware, did they condone it?

What about the board’s legal counsel, Rocky Peterson? Was he asked to give an opinion on whether Mr. Christie’s activities might be a conflict of interest? Did he offer such an opinion or was he left in the dark about all of this?

What else has been going on at the hotel that we, the taxpaying public who are on the hook for $1.4 million in debt service every year for the next two decades, should know about?

From where we sit it is apparent that the current LYCDC board should be dismissed.  Letters of interest and resumes from those wishing to serve on a newly constituted board should be solicited…including those from any current members.  A new board should be put in place immediately with members vetted and approved by the city council as well as the administration.
And the matter of Mr. Christie’s apparent conflict of interest should be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Post script #1: It has also come to light that the currentbylaws of the LYCDC call for all appointments to be with the advice and consent of the city council. This clause has not been carried out in recent memory, if ever. This would then imply that the current board sits in violation of its own rules.

Post script #2: We don’t even know where to begin to address Mr. Christie’s quote that closes the Trentonian article. Christie implies that he is being persecuted because of his allegiance to our indicted mayor (who appointed Mr. Christie to the LYCDC). Kevin Moriarty does a fine job ofhandling that matter in his blog post.