The situation with Trenton Water Works is bad, but the issue of poor communication from the administration of Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson is way out of control.
The latter compounds the former.
Today, Trenton's water utility experienced another issue with poor quality resulting in a boil water advisory for customers in Trenton and parts of Ewing and Hamilton.
It was the NJ DEP who called for the boil water advisory and who, ultimately, got the word out. Trenton's communication mechanism was apparently paralyzed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
As word spread, first on social media, then via newspaper articles posted online, then a notice sent out by the Hamilton Township municipal government, there was nothing from the City of Trenton.
No robocalls, although several had been sent out reminding residents of no trash pick up today.
No posting on the city website until way after the fact.
This begs the question, yet again, #WheresEric?
The problems with the utility have been well documented elsewhere. It is unfathomable that a man who spent a good chunk of his career with responsibility, first as Public Works Director and later as Mayor, of the TWW couldn't get a handle on the issues even a little bit.
There have been problems with staffing for years and Trenton's residency requirement for employees was often cited as a problem. In 2014, Trenton's city council passed amendments to the ordinance that allowed the city hire from outside the city boundaries if need be. Still, TWW has been cited as being woefully understaffed.
Trenton was ordered to make cover and make other improvements to its reservoir. The money is there, yet the work has not been done.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, citing the city's continued failure to properly staff and manage the utility, told them to move ahead with contracting for an outside operator to take over.
That hasn't been done.
With each repeated failure of the water treatment plant, customers wait for information and advisories from the city. And wait. And wait.
The mayor is an "experienced" government officer who sold himself to voters as someone who could "hit the ground running" and successfully handle the running of Trenton. He's brought back lots of equally "experienced" city hall veterans as division and department directors. And he has well paid public information officer. Yet Jackson and company are incredibly tight-lipped when there's a problem with the drinking water supply (or missing employment tax funds or any other negative issue). If team Jackson communicates anything at all, it is late and lacking pertinent details.
Just look at today's notices posted on three municipal websites about the water issues:
Here's Ewing's notice to residents:
Hamilton posted this one:
And Trenton, finally...well after the fact...put up this very spartan announcement.
Finally, just a mere 12 hours after first becoming aware of the problem, the city of Trenton utilized its robocall system to contact TWW customers.
It certainly shows that the first term mayor and his hand chosen team are not up to the task of running a water utility or a city; and certainly not both.
How can the mayor say he's working on economic development when he can't communicate? How can he claim to be making Trenton a better place to work and live when he can't safeguard the water supply? How can anyone feel good about investing in, moving a business to or residing in a city run by a bunch of mute misfits?
It remains to be seen if Jackson is going to run for a second term. As of a week ago, he had not filed his campaign paperwork. And we know he hasn't kept up with his finance reports from the 2014 campaign.
If he does run, there isn't a single voter in Trenton who should give up his or her vote to this failed mayor.
If he doesn't run let us hope he isn't given an appointment in the administration of incoming governor Phil Murphy. We can't think of any one less qualified for a continued government paycheck.
And, if Jackson doesn't run, voters would be well advised to not vote for any candidate or slate that gets a Jackson endorsement.
Eric E. Jackson has failed Trenton and it is time for the voters to fail him.