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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Redevelopment could save Trenton

With the Trenton Town Center, proposed development around the Sovereign Bank Arena, and a redevelopment area around the Trenton Train Station, the city has several projects on the drawing boards, all in various planning stages.

City officials - including current council members and the administration - should strive to expedite these building projects through the planning stages so they can come to fruition as soon as possible.

As many Trenton neighborhoods continue to struggle with poverty and urban decay, these kinds of projects could bring much-needed jobs, capital, and people with disposable income into the city.

While Trenton Makes officials certainly aren't believers in Reaganomics, it does seem that in the case of post-industrial Northeastern cities, redevelopment and new construction of infrastructure does seem to help in addressing the uniquely urban problems currently facing Trenton.

This is not to say the projects should be hastily planned without the input of local stakeholders, like the ill-fated Leewood project that promised to bulldoze hundreds of homes in South Trenton.

These projects should be carefully planned with full assistance from the Trenton government, but should also be subjected to a minimal amount of bureacratic red tape.

With proper planning keeping Trenton residential interests in mind, the city should welcome these projects with open arms, bringing jobs and money into the city that could help Trentonians out of the poverty found in some Trenton neighborhoods.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Paper Tigers

Trenton South Ward Councilman James Coston said Monday that City Council continually deals with an administration that withholds information, forcing council to utilize Open Public Records Act requests and other methods to acquire information that department heads are legally required to provide council.

"Utilizing OPRA and repetitive voicing of this lack of cooperation between branches seems to be the only options at hand," said Councilman Coston in a statement on his Web site. "More to the point, why does the Administration stifle, a la Dick Cheney, the distribution of information?"

"Open discussion with a free flow of information will, in most cases, bolster Administration policy and action," he added.

People familiar with the situation, working in previous governments, called the situation embarrassing, saying it shows the current City Council is not doing its job as the voice of the people.

For the protection of the city residents who elected them - and help for council in crafting the appropriate legislation - City Council is armed with the ability to demand timely information and reports from department heads.

They even have the power to fire personnel with a majority vote, which is something that is an important check and balance and a very "American" feature of the government.

Yet City Council members allow the other branch of the government, especially Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum, to withhold information and force Councilman Coston to use OPRA requests as a mean of getting information he requires to DO HIS JOB.

If I were City Council, the next time a Palmer administration department head forced one of my peers to use OPRA, I would provide them with this tidbit:

"The next time I am forced to use OPRA to get information from your office will be the last time you work as an employee of Trenton City."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bloods in the 'Burbs

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer believes that surrounding municipalities in Mercer County have looked the other way when it comes to the burgeoning gang problem that has begun to make its presence felt in Ewing lately in the form of gang-related shootings.

"It’s a crying shame that now that this is going to suburban areas, that it is coming to the attention of people that should have been concerned a long time ago," said Mayor Palmer, in a statement in the New York Times. "For years, a lot of municipalities in the area have literally put their head in their sand and pretended it didn’t exist."

But many Trentonians blame Mayor Palmer himself for ostrich-like activities when gangs first took root in the capital city during his mayoral tenure in the 1990s.

While Mayor Palmer casts blame on the surrounding communities for ignoring the problem, for years Trenton residents, politicians, and law enforcement officials have blamed Mayor Palmer for years of ignoring the gang problem as it was growing during his 17-year reign as mayor.

Officials now estimate Trenton contains 2,000 gang members operating a slew of criminal activities and putting young Trenton residents in body bags in near-record numbers.

It has been said by many officials familiar with the situation that the problem will be addressed more efficiently once more of Trenton's wealthy neighboring suburbs begin feeling the ill effects of the gangs sitting in their backyard.

Princeton, and Ewing have both had their share of gang warfare, with shootings in residential neighborhoods in Ewing populated by many College of New Jersey students and working class families, and shooting incidents in the John Witherspoon neighborhood located near Princeton Medical Center.

Hopefully suburban municipalities will begin to learn that a healthy Trenton free of gangs means a healthy Mercer County, and hopefully Mayor Palmer and his administration can begin to make some headway into the gang problem plaguing Trenton City.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

First Draft of Potential Guiding Resolution

Whereas the residents of Trenton City are American citizens deserving of a functioning democratic government governed by the United States Constitution and New Jersey state law, and

Whereas the state of public safety is generally regarded by residents, and not by some members of the city government, to be ever more perilous with the continued presence of violent crime and gang activity, creating an environment of vulnerable residents and business operators, and

Whereas the state of the city continues to become ever more economically stagnant, demonstrated by the flight of business, the near-empty downtown business section outside of normal 9 to 5 weekday hours, and the life of poverty lived by many Trenton residents, and

Whereas the condition of much of the city’s dwellings and infrastructure continues to be deficient and left in disrepair, and

Whereas the state of the city’s education system is woefully deficient, evidenced by declining test scores, dropout rates, and negative department of education reports, and

Whereas all of these problematic conditions existing within the Trenton City limits can be linked to the current government of Trenton City, hereby deemed to be malfunctioning, ineffective, and in desperate need of remediation for the good and safety of all Trenton residents, business owners, and general stakeholders, and

Therefore, be it resolved, by representatives adhering to this Guiding Resolution on this, the fourth day of August 2007, to be the stated goal of this organization to ensure the presence of an effective, well-functioning city government which executes and upholds all present and future laws governing the City of Trenton, operating in a manner adherent to national and state laws and governed by those overriding principles inherent in the American system of government.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Trenton City Clerk

According to Councilman Jim Coston's Web site, the window for accepting applications for the Trenton City Clerk position is already closed, and the position was only advertised from July 20 to July 25 in the newspapers.

Being a very important position within the city government, it seems a more lengthy and prudent search for the appropriate person for the position would have been the better road taken.

Perhaps this action vindicates the wild speculation that the position had already been handed to Cordelia Staton of the Douglas Palmer slate.

Residents will just have to wait and find out if there was really a deal made behind closed doors between the multiple council persons interested in the position and the administration, resulting in the placement of a true Palmer girl into a position of power that controls elections, and is the "secretary" of the corporation of Trenton City.

Palmer Deflects Blame for School Performance

In what is surely an indictment of the Palmer administration's handling of the Trenton public schools, the state handed down a scathing report this week that detailed the deplorable conditions of the city's public education program.

The state report found Trenton students to be woefully deficient in math and reading abilities, and many Trenton school teachers lacking the appropriate certification, or in some cases any certification at all to be teaching to students.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer remained optimistic about the future of the schools despite the report's negative content.

"This is an opportunity to work together to pull this district up by its bootstraps and make changes that are critically important to the students and the future of this city," said Mayor Palmer of the report Thursday.

Mayor Palmer, who has been in power for 17 years, has the power to appoint the school board and thus heavily influences the situation within the city's school district.

The poor condition of the Trenton public schools have dogged Doug since he came to to power in the early 1990s, as he continually searching for the right leader to improve the district and get it out of the cellar of school performances in the state.

Mayor Palmer has continually found and then removed superintendent after superintendent who were hailed as the panacea for all the district's ills.

Rodney Lofton is the current superintendent, following the departure of disgraced Superintendent James Lytle, who left the district for a job at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

Earlier this year, it was discovered Lytle and other associates within the district had falsified student records, giving them credit for classes that they didn't take.

The malfeasance required many graduating seniors to have to wait additional time to receive their diplomas.

Mayor Palmer blamed some of the report on Mr. Lytle.

"Quite frankly, I am very disappointed. This just shows a total lack of leadership and the lack of accountability during (former) Superintendent Lytle's tenure," Palmer said in a statement in the Times this week.

This statement directly contradicts many of his earlier statements about Mr. Lytle, who Mr. Palmer believed would be instrumental in turning around the district upon his appointment in 1998.

"In Lytle I saw everything that I was looking for as an educational leader (who) could move the district forward," Palmer said in Star-Ledger article in 2000. "He can work with everybody and has the vision, integrity and guts to make the tough decisions."

While Mayor Palmer cannot control the actions of his appointments and his school board, he is at least partially responsible for the actions that took place within the district under Mr. Lytle's leadership.

Having direct control over the school board appointments, surely some of his friends on the board suspected things going awry within the district over the past nine years.

Accountability is something that has disappeared from many parts of Trenton's government.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Once again, Trenton Admin. Takes the Lead

The Douglas H. Palmer administration unveiled a new approach to the city's housing inspections programs this past week, in a plan that the administration says will improve the capital city's housing woes.

The plan will realign how the city is divided into geographic inspections areas and allow the city to get more inspectors into so-called "hotspots" of infractions and code violations.

While the overhaul may be a step in the right direction, it still leaves the most serious chink in the city's housing code armor exposed: frequency of inspections.

City code as it is currently written only provides for inspections every five years in a system that allows absentee landlords to juice money out of a property without reinvesting profit into the upkeep of the housing, creating slums and diving property values.

The City Council needs to use its so-called great working relationship with the administration to develop a plan to increase the numbers of inspections.

At the last meeting Mayor Palmer said the city couldn't afford to hire any more inspectors, faced with an $8 million shortfall in state funds provided for the programs.

Perhaps the city could cut ties with a redundant legal position frequently seen in City Council chambers, since the man doesn't yield very many legal opinions to the City Council anyway.

The city could then hire two full-time inspections positions, or several part-time staffers with this attorney's $95,000 salary.

If City Council did its job and passed legislation instead of simply paying bills and paying the administration lip service, perhaps more of the city's great housing stock would be saved from the reach of the urban blight creeping around the city.

Malfunctioning governing bodies, they'll get you every time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Johnny" Came Late and Still Saw the Problems

Council President Paul Pintella fired a return shot Saturday at the growing activist population who made their present felt at Thursday's long City Council meeting.

The movement happens to include young Trenton residents who are voicing their concerns about the city after only recently arriving on the scene. It seems like they saw problems in Trenton that people on City Council haven't.

Mr. Pintella reflected in the Times of Trenton Saturday that six out of seven of the current council members had won reelection, demonstrating the city's confidence in them as a governing body.

He then made a veiled reference to some of the younger residents who have been demanding action from their government, calling them "Johnnys-come-lately" who know nothing about where the city has come from.

Myself - Trenton Makes writer Greg Forester - and activist Paul Harris of the Trenton Rising blog are surely part of the group targetted by Mr. Pintella's "crafty" political reponse.

Lately we have enflamed the political atmosphere of New Jersey's capital.

Mr. Harris has even organized residents who are fed up with the condition of the city and the government leadership by holding a meeting at the State House, which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

So it comes as no surprise to anyone with even a small amount of intelligence that a council member who currently leads the ceremonial legislative body of Trenton City would attack these newcomers to the scene about what would seem to be their most obvious weakness.

The only problem with this attack is that like the council leader, it is quite superficial and even a small amount of logical thought and investigation quickly debunks Mr. Pintella's comments.

First of all, any resident, regardless of standing and time actually living in Trenton has a right to speak their minds and be listened to as a resident with legitimate and credible concerns.

Secondly, it follows that surely even newcomers to the scene would investigate the facts surrounding Trenton's situation before rabble-rousing and diving fully into remediating the situation.

Since this reporter arrived on the scene in Trenton, he has heard nearly nothing positive about the council members who have been reelected so happily by the one out of eight Trentonians who actually vote. He also used a set of eyes, ears, and what he thinks is a pretty good brain, and came to some conclusions.

This city is not what it should be.

It hasn't been for years.

And it is continuing to slide. Crime is worse, the economic situation seems to be worsening, and the city is still a nine-to-five place where nothing is going on downtown on the weekends.

One out-of-towner asked if a neutron bomb had gone off downtown when he walked from one end of State Street to the other without seeing a moving car or another human being.

I don't know where the city has come from since Paul Pintella got onto City Council, but there still isn't much to show for it. The Johnnies may have arrived a little tardy to Pintella's Trenton gig, but they are here now, and they see some serious problems.

These late guests - who seem to have crashed the party at 319 East State Street - plan to put the fire to council until they address these issues...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Trentonians Show Up at City Council

Concerned citizens showed up in droves for City Council's doubleheader session Thursday, finally getting a chance to address the council after the governing body worked through several hours of a month's worth of council work.

Given a chance to speak nearly five hours after the start of the proceedings, a group of Trenton residents addressed City Council and implored them to start doing their legal duties set forth in the Code of the City of Trenton.

The group had been much larger around 4 p.m., but the lengthened docket session took so long that many residents were forced to go home.

Stuyvesant Avenue resident Zach Chester addressed the body and pointed out that despite requests for investigations into the work of the administration regarding the stalled Trenton Town Center development, the council and Council President Paul Pintella shirked their duties as representatives of the people.

Mr. Pintella never replied to a letter sent by Mr. Chester, failing to do so within the 60 days outlined in portions of the city ordinances. Mr. Chester scolded the city governing body for failing to do their duties as elected representatives of the people.

"As the city council you have the ability to question members of the administration and demand reports on their duties, and even vote to have them removed," said Mr. Chester. He said this action showed the council not performing their legally-mandated duties.

Walnut Avenue resident Dion Clark, usually outspoken at City Council meetings, refrained from speaking, simply carrying a large sign imploring the council members to start remembering the people they represented in Trenton.

Other residents commented that members of the administration, including Chief of Staff Renee Haynes and Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum, had bullied councilmen Jim Coston and Geno Melone about their requests for information regarding ordinances increasing the minimum number of police officers.

This followed along the same lines as Mr. Chester's speech, showing council members forgetting their rights and duties to question the actions of the administration.

Residents at the meeting said they heard members of the administration further trying to hide public information about the officers protecting the streets of Trenton, despite that information being readily available publicly.

"We would be willing to discuss information about that in executive session," said Ms. Haynes, speaking with Mr. Melone about police coverage information. "That is confidential."

Residents after resident implored the council to move forward with legislation increasing police staffing, especially considering the city's $8 million police overtime bill.

Members of council and administration, including Mr. Pintella and Ms. Feigenbaum, had previously called the problem contractual and said they didn't know if more officers would address the cry for more staffing.

One Chestnut Avenue resident, and most of the others in the room rejected this response outright.

"I called the police and dispatch put me on hold, because they were too busy," said the Chambersburg resident. "Hire more officers!"

This swell of discontent about the actions of City Council, and the rest of the city government, seems to continually increase with each day.

The message Thursday to council was loud and clear: start legislating and doing their duties as representatives of Trentonians or face increasing scrutiny and outcry, and the application of drastic political measures.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brazen Gangbangers Strike Mill Hill

What looks like more gang-related crime spilled over into one of Trenton’s success stories early Wednesday morning when houses and cars lining several Mill Hill neighborhood streets were spray-painted and vandalized.

Residents awoke to find many of their homes and cars marked with gang slogans, mentioning “Scandelous Bloods”, “T-Murda” and even the hateful “We’ll Kill You.”

Trenton Police Department officials, including Police Director Joseph Santiago were on scene Wednesday morning, speaking with residents and taking photographs of the damage.

Mercer and Jackson streets were blocked off by police vehicles as officers went door-to-door looking for clues about who would have perpetrated such an act.

One Jackson Street resident was surprised his Cadillac wasn’t vandalized, as many of the nicer vehicle parked along the north side of Jackson Street had been targeted, along with some homes.

Television stations and photographers from area newspapers had descended on the scene at around 11 a.m., giving the world a view of city under siege by impoverished gangbangers.

One Mill Hill resident with good contacts in the police force said he would be receiving a report from police later in the day outlining further details of the investigation.

Residents frequently see Trenton police cars patrolling the streets around the Broad and Market Street intersections at night, but it seems the fairly constant police presence was missing in the early morning of July 18.

Perhaps if the city hired more officers, instead of the current mandatory overtime costing the city millions of dollars, constant presence in an important area of the city near the Mercer County Courthouse and the Trenton Train Station could be afforded.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Palmer Administration: A Machine Sometimes Not Well-oiled

City Council members today said they were confused after they asked for materials about the Palmer administration's proposals to revise the city inspections code and then only received the current code.

With the Palmer administration set to present their important revisions to the Trenton City Housing Inspection codes Thursday, City Council members - especially Jim Coston - had asked for materials ahead of time in order to formulate questions.

Mr. Coston said he received those materials recently, and what he received was simply the current City code of inspections. These laws are readily available to anyone with a computer at the city's Web site.

"If the Admin was prepared to provide a presentation on new Inspection ordinances months ago, why can't we get the materials 5 days prior to meeting?" said Mr. Coston, in a statement on his blog at "Let me rephrase it, why wouldn't they want us to make an informed decision?"

As citizens as Saturday's summit concluded, Trenton has a non-functioning city government.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Citizen's Summit: Trentonians Deserve a Functioning Government

What could be a new chapter in Trenton's history started Saturday when a group of concerned citizens gathered in the State House Annex to review their current situation within the city.

Organized by resident Paul Harris, of Centre Street, the opening of the meeting saw its 25 or so delegates address a litany of problems, eventually resolving that a unifying theme in all of the problems was the current government and administration of the city.

"Trenton deserves a functioning goverment that upholds and executes the laws that are currently on the books," said one delegate, adding this wasn't occurring at City Hall.

The rest of the delegates, including students, businessowners, community activists, and plain old residents, seemed to agree with this statement, eventually scrapping an examination of the individual problems to discuss the big problem on the government, or lack thereof.

The three-hour meeting adjourned around 5 p.m., with a new date set for a follow-up meeting on August 4. Attendees were also urged to attend Thursday's doubleheader City Council meeting.

The administration will be presenting an overhaul of housing and inspections code they say could address some of the city's problems with slum landlords and tenants.

The plan has taken several months to bring together due to administrative foul-ups and general inactivity on the part of the Trenton legislative body.

There should also be discussion of the much-needed ordinance revising city code language dictating the minimum numbers of officers.

As young men are being shot down in the street, Mayor Palmer called the plan "knee-jerk" and asked the council to hold off until police contract negotiations, which have taken years to complete in the past, are complete.

While Trenton waits for bureaucrats to finish talking in City Hall count on five more body bags piling up at the coroner's office. There may be some all-too familiar scenes like this:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Overtime Money Well Spent

Numerous media outlets Monday displayed pictures of Trenton Police Captain Paul Messina sleeping on the job, while performing one of the force’s mandatory overtime shifts required under the leadership of Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Monday’s story directly revolves around the second instance of Mr. Messina being caught napping while on duty, while he should have been performing vital duties in Police Headquarters.

This dereliction of duty is a major issue, but the other issue this incident brings up is what the city is receiving for an overtime bill that is approaching $10 million

While two City Council members recently introduced an ordinance that would increase the minimum number of officers and probably address this overtime bill, naysayers, including Mayor Douglas Palmer, Mr. Santiago, and Council President Paul Pintella said the overtime problem was contractual.

With all due respect, it was this same administration that negotiated this contract, and when the administration blames the “four days on, four days off” policy in the current contract for the overtime woes, they can only blame themselves.

They negotiated this feature. You make your bed, and then you sleep in it Mr. Palmer.

Naysayers also said this issue should be addressed after contract negotiations between the city of the police unions are complete.

The Trenton public is being told to hold on during the recent homicidal crime wave while the city works on negotiations that have taken two years to complete in the past.

The city is currently experiencing homicides, gang activity, assaults, and robberies that have caused several of the city’s most precious establishments to close up and flee for the suburbs.

The Chambersburg district boasts only a handful of its old restaurants that made it a gleaming gem in Trenton City.

Trenton needs to use this overtime bill to increase the number of police officers and get better police protection.

The hiring of a number of new officers — significantly higher than the code ordinance mandates — would cost something in the $2.5 million range in the first year.

People understand this won’t directly address the crime issue and bring immediate results, but it will probably help avoid the embarrassment of having “sleepy” officers fall asleep while they serve tiring overtime shifts.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Knee-Jerk Mayor

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer was quoted in the Trentonian today as calling an ordinance that would increase the minimum number of police in Trenton as a “knee-jerk reaction.”

Mayor Palmer went on to say the ordinance should not be considered while the city is in the midst of contract negotiations with the police.

Mayor Palmer is asking the citizens of Trenton to hold on for a little while longer until the negotiations are complete, before our few good, independent council members can pursue this ordinance for some much-needed police coverage.

Currently Trenton is suffering from a drastic spike in homicides that the administration says is the only portion of the city’s crime that is increasing, with other reportable crime down over past years.

The Trentonian piece points out what I hear all the time, in many different places from persons knowledgeable about the crime reporting: the powers that be are downgraded crimes to offenses not reported, giving the overall impression of a decrease in crime.

As Trenton Makes has pointed out before, anyone with a working set of eyes and a brain not tainted by the siren song of Palmer and his cronies can see that crime is certainly not down, or at least improving in any way.

Once viable neighborhoods like Chambersburg are sliding into economic ruin that coincides specifically with public safety problems. Even normally safe areas like the Market Street/South Broad Steet corridor have been seeing isolated violent crime.

Just yesterday a Trenton Makes correspondent was offered cocaine while purchasing a newspaper in front of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. A young man of about 20 years of age told the Trenton Makes rep "What's good? I've got that yey..."

Crime is certainly not down. Just open your eyes and look around Trenton.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sources: Cordelia Staton to be named City Clerk?

There have been numerous reports in recent days saying that the important City Clerk position is to be given to current Councilwoman Cordelia Staton, in a move that would only further cement Mayor Douglas H. Palmer's power in the City of Trenton and beyond.

The appointment of Cordelia Staton - who owes her position in Trenton government to Mayor Palmer's endorsement and her involvement in the Police Director debate some years ago - would only serve to strengthen Mayor Palmer by placing a crony in a position that requires some independence and neutrality.

The City Clerk position has been open since the retirement of Clerk Anthony Conti last year, and the City Council was to review candidates for the position at the July 19 meeting.

The City Clerk has been described as the "secretary of the corporation that is the City of Trenton" by someone familiar with the situation, and is a position that functions by normally staying aloof of influence from other portions of the government.

This function would obviously be compromised by the appointment of someone who owes her position to the administration, in a position where one can easily be removed if they don't toe the line of the status quo.

While the council will probably review resumes for the position during the July 19 meeting, this action will probably be simply for show, especially if reports are true that say that Mayor Palmer and a faction of City Council have already come to an agreement on Ms. Staton's appointment.

While there have been reports of interest in the position by Councilman Gino Melone and Council President Paul Pintella, it seems the appointment has ultimately been given to another true "Palmer" slate member, Cordelia Staton.

Anonymous sources said there has already been discussion and Ms. Staton already has the requisite votes on council to deliver her the position and its six-figure salary.

Sources very close to these City Council members said they have heard Ms. Staton is already taking classes for the City Clerk exam, in preparation for a preconceived vote during the August City Council meeting.

With Ms. Staton's departure from City Council, the remaining members would need to appoint a new member to take her place until a special election could be held.

It seems those candidates that came the closest to Ms. Staton's vote total in the 2006 election would be most likely to win the position in the new election.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

L.A. Palmer

L.A. Parker used his column in the Trentonian today to reply to a forum poster who showed the rest of the forum that while L.A. Parker talked negatively about police coverage for persons who live outside Trenton, he himself lives outside of Trenton.

While Mr. Parker did make valid points about the crime that has occurred near his home in Ewing, the fact is that Mr. Parker does live in Ewing, pays taxes in Ewing, and probably doesn't want his children to be exposed to the Trenton school district.

Mr. Parker made points in his column about how both black and white persons should receive equal rights in heaven and on earth, and that poorer Trenton neighborhoods that are predominantly African-American should receive the same police attention
as the "toney" Mill Hill neighborhood.

The problem with this statement is that the Mill Hill neighborhood IS predominantly African-American...check any piece of census data from the 1970s on. The Mill Hill is just a great example of how the rest of Trenton could be.

It has the same housing stock, the same history, and the same spirit as any other Trenton neighborhood.

Mill Hill does not deserve more police coverage than any other neighborhood based on the racial makeup of its citizens, as Mr. Parker says is the belief of Forum posters.

Forum posters, especially those who are from Mill Hill, think that people should think before they write articles looking down on people from outside the city expecting better police coverage, especially when the author lives outside the city.

Whether you live 10 feet or 1,000 feet away from the border, it's still Ewing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Trenton to Hopewell: Keep Your Affordable Housing

The city administration told Hopewell that they can keep their affordable housing obligations, rejecting a $3.5 million regional contribution agreement that would have had Trenton pick up even more of Mercer County's wealthy municipalities affordable obligations.

At a news conference Tuesday, Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said the move was made because of the pending move of the Capital Health Systems Hospital, which will carry significant affordable housing due to state law.

This does represent a change of direction for Trenton, which has had a history of accepting RCA's from the more affluent townships surrounding the city in the Mercer County and beyond.

Some say that these agreements, which have had the effect of concentrating much of Mercer County's low-income population within the city, has led to urban decay in many of the city neighborhoods, and contributed to economic downturn.

Mayor Palmer said the move wasn't designed to screw over Hopewell Township because of the fact that the CHS Hospital, formerly located within Trenton, will be moving there.

"It's reality," he said. "They will need to build affordable housing with 1,500 jobs moving with the hospital.

"Quite frankly, they're going to need it."

This could be a step in the right direction for Trenton, which has an undesirable renter to owner-occupied ratio and many neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and a dismal crime rate.