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Friday, October 26, 2007

State of the City Three-Ring Circus

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer delivered his State of the City address Thursday at City Hall, touting a plan to hire 50 additional police officers along with new programs to provide financial incentives to middle class wage earners seeking residence in the city.

Both initiatives reek of doublespeak, coming from an administration that has consistently pursued the contruction of a disproportionate amount of low-income housing through Regional Contribution Agreements, while simultaneously using administration and council puppets to fight efforts of progressive council members seeking additional police protection.

The sudden shift of Palmer machine efforts from against councilmen Gino Melone and Jim Coston's initiatives to hire more officers to a position of support is indeed noteworthy, but it seems more like a "steal their thunder" announcement than original policy formation.

These two men, and especially Mr. Coston, have been pushing for an ordinance that would increase minimum Trenton Police Department staffing requirements since the early months of 2007.

But they have been consistently stonewalled in their efforts by the obfuscation of information by administration officials, whose effots were often augmented by an increasingly hidden Police Director Joseph Santiago who continually missed City Council appearances with bizarre and ambiguous excuses.

City Council officials who owe funding support - and probably a few of their seats - to Palmer's blessing also fought discussion of the police staffing measures.

So for administration officials to suddenly do an about face supports a significant community perception that Mr. Palmer and his East State Street lackeys see the hiring of officers not as a public safety issue but a potential political boon.

Like scavenging vultures, they have recognized the meat of a policy that receives unanimous community support, and have reversed their old position at the last minute when City Council officials were reaching the endgame in their pursuit of better protection for Trenton residents.

The mayor took the speech as an opportunity to antagonize naysayers and critics, who, according to the mayor, rely on half-truths and misinformation to denigrate the city for political purposes.

For the layman, these are simply political tactics symptomatic of a vindictive and paranoid administration hellbent on discrediting any and all opponents while cementing its own power.

Unfortunately for Trenton, these savvy political moves only further highlight the need for a smart, organized opposition in future elections to ensure the city gets more efficient, open, and democratic government.

Fortunately for Trenton, the election is only two plus years away.

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