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Monday, December 31, 2007

Mayor Palmer on residency in 2006

It has been my longstanding policy to require residency for City employees. Many people have asked me to relax this policy, but I feel very strongly about it for a number of reasons.

First, I want to give residents every opportunity for employment in the city where they live. I believe we have a talent pool that can provide the right experience and expertise for many positions.

Second, for certain specific jobs that require expertise that is less common or more field specific, I advertise statewide to find the right person. However, these individuals are required to live in Trenton, because I believe that if you are going to work for the City, you need to know the City and be a part of the community.

Third, I believe this city is a desirable place to live and work. It is also a city that critically needs its middle-income base of residents who have more of the disposable income that positively affects our city as a whole. I would especially want Police Officers, Firefighters and Teachers to live in the City, to get to know the communities they serve and have a vested interest in Trenton.

Unfortunately, I am preempted by State law to require these employees to live in our city. However, I am certain that if this critical mass of public servants did live in our city, our neighborhoods and schools would be better stabilized, and, we likely would have much less need to have a residency requirement in the first place.

That having been said, we are seeing much success in being able to attract market rate homebuyers who choose to invest and live in Trenton. They reside in neighborhoods all over our city.

- Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, spring of 2006

Friday, December 28, 2007

Which is it, Mr. Palmer?

One line of questioning that has been conspicuously absent in media coverage of the ongoing controversy of Police Director Joseph Santiago's non-residency in Trenton is clarification over Mayor Douglas H. Palmer's often misleading and contradictory statements over the city's residency ordinance.

The city executive initially stated that he believed he did indeed have the power to grant extra-legal waivers to city employees for special reasons, in Santiago's case citing continued harassment and threats and a curious inability to afford a home in Trenton.

Mayor Palmer has threatened continued court action and mounting lawyer's fees should the council move to use their statutory ability to remove the director for his continued violation of city law.

Then the mayor said the ordinance warranted revision, due to what he called the law's confusing nature, supporting calls for an amendment to the law proposed by his right-hard man on City Council, President Paul Pintella.

Well, which is it mayor?

First the mayor comes in an angered and irritated state to City Council, threatening to drag out the matter in the court due to your sovereign right to grant waivers that are nowhere enumerated within the law.

Then he advocates revising the ordinance to include provisions legalizing waivers through an advice and consent procedure similar to many mayoral appointments.

This constant contradictory braying - by someone who continues to maintain an image of some sort of strutting ass - sure makes it sound like Mayor Palmer doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Within you, Without you

We were talking-about the space between us all
And the people-who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth-then it's far too late-when they pass away.

We were talking-about the love we all could share-when we find it
To try our best to hold it there-with our love
With our love-we could save the world-if they only knew.

Try to realise it's all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows ON within you and without you.

We were talking-about the love that's gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul-
They don't know - they can't see - are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself - then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there - And the time will come when you see
we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you.

- George Harrison

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back on the horse in the New Jersey capital

State and city government officials coming back from a brief respite in their political lives now return to Trenton, with a full plate of important issues to tackle as year 2008 unfolds.

On the state level, recently-released Council on Affordable Housing proposals that nearly double the affordable housing requirements of municipalities and developers will be debated and revised as groups of officials from angry affluent suburban municipalities make their voices heard over what they see as dangerous measures.

The new regulations mean that developers would be required to provide one affordable home for every five market-rate units built and for every 16 jobs created, in numbers that are twice as stringent as the last group of proposals.

They also mean cities like Trenton can expect almost double the money from Regional Contribution Agreements - in which rich suburban municipalities pay their poorer, urban neighbors to take on their affordable housing requirements - as the proposals call for funding in the area of $70,000 for each affordable unit transferred after earlier rounds called for around $35,000 per home, depending on the region of the state.

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has used RCAs as a constant funding source in Trenton, a practice some residents say has created concentrated poverty in many neighborhoods, leading to the flight of business and the middle class.

City officials, especially City Council, face a resumption of the Police Director Joseph Santiago residency case, with the director continuing to live illegally outside the city.

Council President Paul Pintella is expected to start a discussion of a probable revision of the city's residency laws, giving Mayor Douglas H. Palmer free rein to ask for waivers of the requirement for select city employees, especially those who support the mayor politically.

A group of city residents is also believed to be preparing court action that would force a Mercer County Superior Judge to step in and yield a decision on the matter, which could be the removal of Mr. Santiago from his position because of failure to fulfill employment requirements, legal sources said.

The first council meeting following the holidays is set for Jan. 3.

Bring your megaphone.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Xmas: RFK on day of MLK Jr.'s killing

I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black--considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible--you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization--black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bill: more notice for layoff victims

The scarred landscape of numerous sites within Mercer County bears witness to the flight of several large-scale industrial complexes that once furnished a livelihood of good wages and benefits to area residents.

But many of them shut their doors while providing little notice to employees, after industrial production in Central New Jersey could no longer keep up with cheaper and more efficient competition.

State legislators are taking aim at larger industrial employers remaining in New Jersey after passing legislation that would require industrial plants to provide at least 60 days notice to employees and the state before undertaking a permanent shutdown.

General Assembly members Jeff Van Drew, Gordon M. Johnson, and Joseph Egan sponsored the legislation following closures in Southern New Jersey that left employees and their families with no income and a cloudy future.

“Unexpected closings are absolutely devastating not only to the hard-working men and women these plants employ, but to their families and our regional economies,” said Mr. Van Drew, D-Cumberland, in a statement. “We must do everything in our power to create future safeguards against mass layoffs.”

The bill, which recently passed on a Senate vote of 26 to 11, would force companies with more than 100 employees to provide 60 days notice to employees, their representatives, the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, and the municipality prior to a full closure, or major layoff.

As punishment for firms that violate the notice period, employees left unemployed through the action would be given one week's worth of severance pay for every year that they had been employed at the company, in addition to any other severance pay, state officials said this week.

“For a displaced employee who has spent years of his or her life as part of a highly skilled workforce at one of our state’s many large manufacturing plants, finding a new job that provides the same salary and benefits needed to support a family can be next to impossible,” said Mr. Johnson, D-Bergen, in a statement.

Legislators said they expect the bill to receive full endorsement by Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who has previously recommended that similar measures be taken after realizing New Jersey did not have a 60 days notice period similar to many other states.

A call to arms

A great hypocrisy exists because of the stark contrast in the ideals of American society versus its reality; in that men and women who have long been American - and have borne the scars of America's founding - live in a war zone but miles from some of the most affluent and prosperous communities in the United States.

The I-95 and I-295 ring that circles the borders of New Jersey's capital serves as an arbitrary but true line of economic division. Those living outside of the line, within Mercer County, live in an environment of abundant economic wealth.

But those living within in it reside in communities influenced by the sick man of Mercer County - Trenton, New Jersey.

A once-pround industrial powerhouse sits shackled in economic and social purgatory, victimized by the flight of industry, the flight of the middle class, and racist housing policies that prey on the financial needs of poor urban cities willing to mortgage their future by buying up the affordable housing components of their more affluent neighboring municipalities.

Only when cities like Trenton are willing to shun involvement in the political games of their neighbors and vote for true champions of their residents and their future - without regard to the color of skin - will they be able to emerge from the economic wreckage of post-industrial America and become true havens for people of all economic classes and backgrounds.

The start of that move begins with removing from office all of the political zealots pandering to the continuance of the current regime, and an end to the Mayor Douglas H. Palmer era.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Legislature contemplates reigning in municipal spending

Trying to get more control over municipal spending could be made easier if legislation being drafted by Assemblyman Michael Dougherty gets support from the legislature, which would put major bond issues and appropriations by municipalities or counties to a referendum vote.

“The debt that is incurred by county and municipal governments must be repaid by the local property taxpayers in those jurisdictions,” said Doherty, R-Warren and Hunterdon. “Just as state taxpayers have a constitutional right to vote on any debt issued by the state, so too should local taxpayers who will bear the burden of repaying local debt issued by these governing bodies.”

Assemblyman Dougherty's amendments to the current local bond law statutes would make a requirement of any normal bond ordinance that the measure be submitted to voters at the next possible election as part of the ballot.

Officials said that while state debt continues to haunt all of New Jersey, many state residents facing the highest property taxes in the country are paying part of their tax bill because of uncontrolled municipal and county spending.

State bond issues, on a massive scale, are normally put to the voters for passage, and Assemblyman Doughtery's measure would change that.


Trenton Police Director Joseph Santiago was nowhere to be found when a serious fire broke out under a downtown parking garage and caused major power outages to residences in the western parts of the city Friday.

Mr. Santiago had presumably left on his hour and a half commute back to Morris County, according to police sources, on his way back to where he lives outside of Trenton and outside of the city's residency law requiring all employees to maintain their primary residence inside the city.

Curiously enough, Mr. Santiago couldn't be in Trenton for an important public safety issue, but he was back on the job at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, reporting a car accident on Route 29 to Trenton Police dispatch.

Maybe if he lived in Trenton, he could have been around for both emergencies.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Battle lines drawn at council Thursday

Public outcry over the Joseph Santiago residency-flap reached the boiling point tonight at City Council, with the governing body listening to numerous residents speak out against the illegal nightmare that continues to haunt Trenton municipal government.

Council members were informed of the imminence of a lawsuit seeking the ouster of Mr. Santiago because of continued disregard of the city's residency law for city employees, to be filed by residents sickened by the city's inability to even follow the most simplest of laws and procedues in a fair and legal fashion.

Also, a petition of around 700 signatures was shown to council, after being gathered over the last five days.

Palmer administration influence - in the form of discussions about amending the ordinance to provide a legal avenue for the mayor to grant waivers to favored employees - was also dealt a death-blow Thusday.

The residents assured the council that any such measures would be quickly met with a second, official protest petition with an expressed goal of putting an amended and weakened residency law to a citizen vote, and then in the trash can.

Residents from Villa Park, Wilbur II, Chambersburg, Franklin Park, South Trenton, Mill Hill, Glen Afton, and the Island gathered the informal first-run of the petition, which was distributed with an eye to evaluating just how effective city residents could gather voter signatures in the event of a true threat, like the proposed ordinance amendments.

Simultaneously, a petition/lawsuit committee is being formed, with a dual nature of overseeing a second official petition drive and forming an official body of plaintiffs for the citizen-based lawsuit seeking to vacate the office of Police Director, held illegally by Mr. Santiago.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Permanent waiver issued by King Palmer

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer flouted the law and the will of City Council even more Thursday by extending his already-illegal waiver of the city's residency law for Police Director Jospeh Santiago even further, to the end of his term as mayor, according to the Times of Trenton.

Despite the language of the law - which enumerates no special waiver of any kind unless the office was vacant - Mayor Palmer continued on his President Bush-like agenda further today, announcing that his extra-legal waiver had been extended until the spring of 2010.

Mayor Palmer and his minions, including Chief of Staff Renee Haynes, continue to spew extra-legal mumbo-jumbo about granting extended waivers and implicitly stating that Trenton's City Council is somehow in understanding of this illegal political law-bending.

"This was not a rash decision nor should it have been," said Ms. Haynes, in a statement in the Times Thursday.

At this point every resident and voter in Trenton should be convinced of their executive's continued pissing and shitting on the City Code and the New Jersey Constitution.

Mayor Palmer seems to think that he has some sort of sovereign power to bend the law, while inflicting residency law-based punishment on city employees who do not toe the Palmer line, while simultaneously making special exceptions to politically favored city employees, like Mr. Santiago.

The mayor should have an interesting awakening on Thursday at City Council, when residents who support the existing ordinance show up to make a strong and concerted statement.

The lawsuit planned for the following week should also pack quite a punch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mayor Palmer: teenage girls threaten us

The perpetrators of threatening phone calls made to the home of West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue were none other than three teenage girls from Trenton and Hamilton, who apparently called the city representative by accident.

The councilwoman received around 30 of the phone calls last week, which were filled with homicidal threats and curse words and caused the Trenton Police Department to begin monitoring the home of Ms. Lartigue, similar to the way police are required to protect the oft-empty second home of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, who lives with his family in Hunterdon County.

“A lot of people, including myself, Police Director Joseph Santiago and others are under assault by people who threaten our homes, families, and personal welfare,” said Mayor Palmer of the teenage girls in Tuesday’s Trentonian.

The report of the attacks and their perpetrators prompted Mayor Palmer to state that he and Police Director Joseph Santiago, who also lives illegally outside the city, receive similar threats, necessitating the police presence at the mayor’s empty Buckingham Avenue home and the director’s continued residence in a $650,000 Morris County home far away from Trenton, in violation of the city’s residency ordinance.

The residency flap should come front-and-center again on Thursday, with Councilman Jim Coston and others on council set to introduce a new resolution that has been described as “palatable” to residents who support the continued existence, and renewed enforcement of the law.

A large contingent of community activists, working through the city’s remaining civic associations, has been circulating an informal petition among residents who support the continued existence – without amendment – of the ordinance, and reject the continued employment of any public servant in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the law.

That petition should be delivered to council sometime during their Thursday meeting, with a promise to circulate another official protest petition should the governing body move to amend the law, as has been discussed, sometime in the future. That official petition would carry a goal of striking down any watered-down exception-laden ordinance through forcing a special election, where the law could be put to a vote.

The law requires city employees, regardless of seniority or political favor, to maintain a bona fide residence within Trenton city limits, where they take meals at night, where their family lives, and where they are registered to vote.

Mr. Santiago has never complied with this law, and Mayor Palmer maintains that he waived Mr. Santiago’s need to comply because of threats made to the director, and unforeseen housing costs that made the director – with his six-figure salary – unable to purchase a $200,000 home in the Mill Hill neighborhood

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Republicans already calling for death penalty amendments

With Gov. Jon S. Corzine set to sign a repeal of the death penalty into law this week following passage of the bill in the Senate and the General Assembly, Republican legislators have already announced plans to amend the measure by allowing execution of those guilty of some of the most heinous crimes.

“It’s outrageous that the soft-on-crime-Democrats want to coddle sociopath child killers like Jesse Timmendequas who raped and killed 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994 and has yet to be punished for his crime,” said Assemblyman Pete Biondi, R-Somerset and Morris.

Persons guilty of terrorist attacks, cop killing, child killing, and serial killers could still be put to death under one amendment, while another would allow current death row inmates to still be executed, despite the new ban.

Republicans said that the move, which received widespread Democratic support, was against the will of the people of New Jersey, citing statistical studies showing overwhelming public support for the execution of criminals guilty of certain crimes.

“Once again, the wishes of the people are being ignored,” said Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, R-Morris and Passaic. “The Governor and the Democrats in the Legislature always seem to think that they know better than the people and that the people should just quiet down while laws are passed without their support or consent. We disagree.”

The legislator's statement said that recent polls showed that nearly 78 percent of New Jersey residents supported death as a penalty for the four exception-crimes listed in the amendment.

Should the measures fail the Republicans would put the measures on a ballot referendum, according to Mr. Decroce.

“New Jersey voters have been consistent in their support for the sparing and judicious use of capital punishment and they have a right to be heard at the polls,” said Mr. DeCroce. “With polls showing that a majority of voters favor retaining the death penalty, we’re calling on the Democrats in the Legislature to show some consideration for their wishes.”

Along with Mr. Biondi and Mr. DeCroce, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union will also be working on the proposed amendments.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guest Piece: Nicholas Stewart of South Trenton

Dear Trentonians,

Please join me in asking Trenton’s government to explain the recently resolved matter involving Trenton-Trigen (a power company on the corner of New Warren and Livingston Streets behind the ‘new’ Mercer County Courthouse).

Quick note, just because a matter has been resolved, City Council has the authority to revisit the matter, assuming a motion passes regarding the same.

In 1982, Trenton lent the Trenton District Energy Company (TDEC) $3,880,000. The loan was being repaid until TDEC experienced financial difficulty and stopped making payments to Trenton. For a time, Trenton did nothing. Later, in 1987, the debt was restructured into an equity position. In short, the city became a ‘special’ limited partner with TDEC or another company, known as Thermal North America Inc. (TNAI) Whichever, currently Trenton is in the energy distribution business.

The equity position translates, as I understand it, into a 15% annual share of net profits for a period of 30 years – January 1987 through January 2017. A ‘paper’ capital account was created and at its inception on January 1, 1987 it held a value of $4,313,000. By the way, that is $433,000 more than the initial loan amount forgetting that TDEC/TNAI defaulted on loan payments to Trenton and also discounts interest and inflation.

This is where my ears perked up when I heard the matter presented by Trenton Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez at the November 20 City Council docket review meeting. Trenton Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum was also present.

Trenton’s administration, allegedly to fill a budget deficit, negotiated a deal to sell Trenton’s share in Trenton-Trigen to the partners of TNAI for $5,175,000. Another interesting note is that TNAI offered to buy our share of the net profits for $3,100,000. Fortunately, Trenton’s Business Administrators negotiated a deal for $5.175MM.

Quickly reviewing the numbers:

$3,880,000: initial loan to TDEC

$3,100,000: initial offer to buy back Trenton’s share

$5,175,000: negotiated price by Trenton

$4,313,000: value of ‘paper’ capital account at inception, 1/1/1987

$8,400,000: current value of ‘paper’ capital account, 11/20/2007

$13,400,000: value of ‘paper’ capital account on 1/1/2017 (presumed future value)

$5,000,000: difference between current and presumed value

So, in 20 years of profit sharing with TNAI (actually the current owner of Trenton-Trigen who will be mentioned moving forward), the ‘paper’ capital account has not even doubled in value.

More numbers (again, using averages and not factoring compounding interest or inflation):

$8,400,000 - $4,313,000 = $4,087,000: value of profit sharing over 20 years

Is this not a little low?

$4,087,000 / 20 = $204,350: contribution to ‘paper’ capital account annually

Where x = Net Profits, then .15x = $204,350 and therefore x = $1,362,333 annual net profits (average)

I find it hard to believe that this energy company is clearing a little over one million dollars annually.

I am in pursuit of some answers. I simply want this deal explained to me. I simply want City Council to ask pointed questions about this already negotiated deal. I might add that City Council was not aware of this transaction until City Council convened for the docket review. Shock and awe.

Trenton and its ‘special’ partner should bring in the company’s books to prove this is the best deal. I have reservations about completing this transaction, but I am willing to listen to an explanation. I hope the members of City Council will also want to know more about this transaction.

This may be of no real importance, but while searching throughout the Trenton-Trigen website I found a press release dated 6/12/2007.

It can be found at this link:

In it, TNAI announced that an agreement had been reached with Veolia Energy Inc. Veolia will be purchasing the Trigen Companies (there are several throughout the U.S.) from TNAI. From my experience in business, which is limited, entities rarely agree to close deals while there are existing partnerships involving claims on capital, intellectual property, net profits, etc.

So, my final question is: did Trenton approach TNAI to buy back our 15% share of Trenton-Trigen net profits. Or did TNAI approach Trenton, offering a slight $3.1MM initially, and this is a convenient time to complete the transaction since we have a budget deficit somewhere in the vicinity of $5,000,000.

I urge Trentonians to ask their elected council members about this deal. Ask them to ask questions at their meetings. Ask them to ask for all documentation involving Trenton and Trenton-Trigen. Ask them to do their job, and then Trenton’s administration will do their job.

The current value of the ‘paper’ capital account is $8,400,000. If Trenton sells its share now, considering the nature of the resultant equity position’s creation, I believe we should not settle for less than $8,400,000.

I attempt to keep up with Trenton’s business dealings. This can be a challenge due to my lack of experience, but I always find it interesting. Trenton is preparing to sell assets to fill budget deficits all the while reducing city revenues through awarding Payments In-Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). Recently, City Council awarded a 40 year PILOT to a developer. The State of New Jersey will not and can not support Trenton moving forward. We need to hold onto what is ours, referring to income generating assets, and ensure proper care of the same. We need to provide developers with a better incentive to build here than zero to low taxes: a safe city. Safe isn’t cheap, but at least it ensures a future.

Above, I used my sense and understanding of the information as I know it. I fear irregularities regarding this transaction. I ask to be corrected should I be wrong.

Nicholas I. Stewart

Vice President

South Trenton Area Residents Society

Lamberton Street

Popular voting measure passes Assembly

One of the most interesting bills proposed in the New Jersey General Assembly's history passed today.

The new legislation would require the state's presidential electoral votes to be thrown to the winner of the popular vote, preventing such electoral debacles as the 2000 election in which President George W. Bush defeated Al Gore despite losing the popular vote.

The legislation would involve a compact with other states having a majority of the electoral college votes - totaling 270 - in which all of the states in the compact would throw their votes behind the popular election winner, ensuring the highest vote-getter would end up winning the election.

Already Republican legislators are up in arms over the bill's passage, after being in the party that received a presidential victory despite losing the popular vote in 2000.

“This legislation is a Constitutional travesty. It’s a back door end run of the federal Constitution,” said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, of the bill, sponsored by Assmeblyman Jospeh Cryan, D-Union . “Mr. Cryan is attempting to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. Personally, I prefer the James Madison version. This has to be the worst piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years in government.”

Support for the plan has been almost universal all the way back to the 1940s, with opinion polls showing nearly 7 out of 10 American voters supporting a popular vote versus the current electoral college system.

Proponents argue that the current system means that almost nearly every state is decided from the get-go, meaning candidates usually concentrate on campaigning in only a few crucial swing-states.

New Jersey Republicans have argued the plan circumvents the United States Constitution, despite the fact that certain articles maintain that each state has the right to determine how its electoral votes are cast, opening the way for the inerstate compact to turn the election into the proposed popular scheme.

So far, only the Maryland legislature has moved to join such a plan, although similar bills are currently pending in several Northeast states, including New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.

Despite passage in both houses in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the plan in 2006.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anti-gang bills leave committee

Twin bills sponsored by Mercer County's-own Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman were released this week by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, as the assemblywoman's anti-gang legislation continues on its path to being passed into law.

The bills represent two different ends of the spectrum in dealing with New Jersey's burgeoning gang problem.

One helps reformed felons transition back into the normal world through providing rehabilitation certificates that make it easier to get a hold on to a job.

"From the very beginning, our approach to curbing gang violence in New Jersey has been two-pronged," said Ms. Watson Coleman, D-Mercer. "Our initial package was aimed at strengthening enforcement and punishment. These new measures focus on prevention and helping reformed gang members become functioning members of society again."

The granting of a certificate, through state organizations, would prevent reformed individuals from being denied employment where they could normally be barred, due to their criminal past.

The other bill creates additional offenses for the conviction of gang members, heightening potential penalties and making it more costly to engage in gang activity and get caught by law enforcement.

The new crimes - "gang criminality" and "promotion of organized street crime" - involve existing offences like prostitution and weapons offenses, and could be tacked on as a means of providing prosecutors and judges a strengthened means in going after gang members in the courts.

They each carry a minimum of $10,000 in fines and 18 months in jail, with a maximum of $200,000 and a 30 years' sentence.

It will now be up to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts to decide when the bills can make it onto the Assembly floor for a vote.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Council seeks legal representation

Some City Council members are seeking legal representation in the lead-up to what could be a protracted legal battle over the residency of Police Director Joseph Santiago, according to numerous media reports today.

Councilman Jim Coston – who has been spearheading the residency effort – curiously said he believed the city’s Special Counsel Joseph Alacqua would be representing the governing body, and that he had not begun a search for a lawyer.

Mr. Alacqua does frequently advise City Council at their regular meetings, but he has previously advised council that they do not have the ability to challenge any waiver by the mayor, and that he could not comment publicly in the Santiago case, citing a conflict of interest during at least one council meeting.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer responded to reports of council members seeking legal counsel by imploring the body to move to amend the ordinance, giving the mayor some ability to grant a waiver to Police Director Joseph Santiago and other city employees so they need not follow city law and reside, with their families, within Trenton city limits.

“I stick with my assessment that the police director should live here,” said Mr. Coston in Wednesday's Trentonian. “I would not consider changing that ordinance.”

Mayor Palmer has threatened legal proceedings and court costs paid by city coffers in the event the council moved to remove the director, saying the ordinance somehow states he has the ability to waive the law for the director, who says gang threats and housing costs prevented him from moving to Trenton.

But the mayor has not enlightened council or the public, as one might expect him to do, as to where in the law it specifically provides for the mayor to grant long-term waivers long after the director’s initial appointment.

Save us loads of money, Mayor Palmer, and show us the law!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Council hears court restructuring plan; Pintella suggests residency law amendments

A plan to restructure Trenton's municipal court system met opposition from City Council members Tuesday, who took issue with the reduction of two city-employed prosecutors to contracted, outside lawyers as a means for cutting costs and increasing efficiency.

Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez and City Attorney Denise Lyles presented the plan, saying it would save the city $97,000 in salary and provide for the hiring of a Chief Public Defender, and meet increased demands for public defenders by the city's inhabitants.

Those new positions and the reduction in costs would come through the prosecutor changes, which would replace salaried positions with contracted ones making around $200 a session, Mr. Gonzalez said.

But for council members, the question seemed to be at what cost to the success of the court system would the new system come.

"I think you need that continuity, and the coverage," said Councilman Jim Coston of the two lost full-time prosecutors positions.

Mr. Coston also dismissed claims that the system was similar to that in place in many other New Jersey municipalities, telling Mr. Gonzalez to look at other cities, like Newark and Camden, to get a better idea of how the system should be restructured.

"We are not Princeton," Mr. Coston said.

Chief Prosecutor Lyle Hough has somehow subverted the addition of the two other full time prosecutors, according to Mr. Gonzalez, who said Mr. Hough was given the assistance of the two additional prosecutor positions to allow him to actually work in the courtroom, instead of being inundated with clerical work.

Mr. Hough does not actually work in the court itself currently, Mr. Gonzalez said.

When Council President Paul Pintella said the new system of contracted prosecutors instead of full time employees knowledgeable with Trenton's courts was equal to the old system, some council members said he was simplifying a more complex issue.

"They're not the same," said Councilwoman Cordelia Staton.

Mr. Pintela said at the conclusion of Tuesday's meeting that the council should begin discussing possible amendments to the city's residency ordinance, which has become an issue because of Police Director Joseph Santiago's continued, flagrant violation of that law.

City employees are required to live in town, through the law, so Mr. Pintella's comments point to the emergence of ideas of possibly changing to law to make a special exception for cases like Mr. Santiago's.

Palmer political machine in high gear with threats made against council persons

McCarthian threats over the airwaves aimed at an unknown City Council member could have been made to influence a vote on any residency actions undertaken by the body in the Police Director Joseph Santiago case, sources said Monday night.

Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker made the threats during his radio show Thursday, saying he had dirt on future mayoral candidates on the City Council involving domestic abuse and restraining orders that could ruin a future run at the top elected position in the city.

Apparently the director and others had knowledge of the problems but kept them hush-hush, the source said, and now those dirty little secrets are being dangled over the council person's head like an executioner's axe threatening to lop off the head of a continued political career.

Besides an attempt to induce a vote through revelation threats, sources this week said there has been a lot of pushing, pulling, and tugging with Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago meeting with council persons and others to try and reach a settlement in the dispute.

The mayor's preferred remedy: an ordinance amendment allowing the council to waive residency requirements with a majority vote, effectively providing some employees with an avenue out of residency-induced problems.

City Council meets Tuesday at 5 p.m., when the next chapter in the Santiago saga could be written.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Senator L. A. McCarthy?

December 9, 2007

Frank Weeden
Trenton, NJ 08618
Office: 609-394-0300

In Response to LA Parker’s “Straight Talk” on Candidates’ Dirty Laundry

Last Thursday, without naming names, LA Parker alluded to the “dirty laundry” of potential mayoral candidates on WIMG’s “Straight Talk with LA Parker”, collectively implicating all potential candidates, referring to “domestic violence stuff”, “restraining order stuff”, ”really dirty stuff” and warning us, “you know who you are”, not to “bother running”, along with assurances that all this “dirty stuff” would come out. I listened with astonishment to the transcript of this radio spot, and want to be the first to air my so-called “dirty laundry” so I can sleep peacefully without some punk hovering around threatening to ruin me in an election for which I haven’t even declared my candidacy. I hope the other mayoral hopefuls do the same since we all stand accused in the public’s eye and should never tolerate misleading and malicious reporting by novice talk show hosts with chips on their shoulders.

Aside from speeding tickets, my own dirty laundry consists of a restraining order in 2003. It was the result of an inappropriate letter I wrote concerning a personal matter. The complaint was dropped, and by the Judge’s action, did not warrant prosecution. I regret my behavior during this difficult experience and learned an important lesson. Aside from the above-mentioned, I’m proud to have been an upstanding citizen for forty seven years.

I should have known Parker intended to dangle this inside information over my supposed 2010 aspirations. Some weeks earlier, following the State of the City speech, he wanted me to know that the Mayor’s wife had told him of my restraining order incident. I, of course, wanted to talk about how the Mayor was allowing our city to fall into ruin. Needless to say, Parker’s revelation gave me pause while I stood there wondering what would come next and whether I would have to go into detail while the attendees were filing out of the Council Chambers.

Mr. Parker might want to check the relevance of his information the next time an unscrupulous politician’s wife cunningly throws him a bone. Such tidbits are brought to my attention every day, but I’m often suspicious of their import, would never indiscriminately hurl them at an entire group of individuals, and would never be stupid enough to be a pawn and a sucker for someone’s deprived political strategies. That said, I’ll just take it as a compliment that Christiana Palmer should feel the need to sling some mud my way.

Instead of chasing dirty laundry that amounts to little, Parker might serve the public better by doing some investigative reporting on the real issues some of our elected officials want to hide from the good citizens of Trenton. For instance, Parker might report on what the Residency Ordinance actually says instead of aiding in the conspiracy to obfuscate it. He might also investigate whether the Mayor himself lives in the city since it is commonly held that he does not. He might also look into the political contributions that the Mayor and his At-Large slate accept from developers and disgraced politicians. He might, since he pretends to be a minority advocate, also enlighten us as to why our Mayor has been the biggest taker of discriminatory RCAs and talk about the obvious connection between RCAs, developers, and the afore-mentioned pay-to-play dollars. Parker might question why our Mayor has caused a twenty million dollar budget deficit and now proposes not only to sell off a major asset (TWW) to plug it up, but to further reward fiscal mismanagement by entrusting the balance of proceeds to himself and his squandering ways. Perhaps Parker might even inform us of his own dirty laundry so we can better understand his personal political motives for slinging dirt at an entire field of candidates. I guarantee that some in-depth reporting on these matters would be of far greater interest than the less-than-juicy offerings from the pool of potential mayoral challengers. And, if dirty laundry is all Parker’s really after, he should know there’s a lot more of it hanging around on Buckingham Ave. than on Allen St.

After Thursday’s radio spot, I can just imagine the worried questioning within candidate circles about who might have committed which crime, the pundits taking shots in the dark, and the sleazy politicians rubbing their hands and scheming. All this because some loose cannon imagines he can manipulate candidates and steer the upcoming election. “Straight Talk” of this nature is nothing more than crooked slander. It is one thing to expose a particular candidate’s personal history; it is quite another to attempt to intimidate groups of individuals with vague information you’re keeping tucked under your vest. I urge reasonable and incensed citizens to voice their displeasure at this form of collective defamation that sullies the good reputation of the Trentonian’s solid reporting on civic matters.

Frank Weeden

Frank Weeden is President & CEO of Ana Design Corp. Trenton, NJ and was a 2006 mayoral candidate.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Racial profiling audits to end

What has been a sordid chapter in New Jersey's history could soon be over following the recent recommendation from members of a state advisory board, who have called on the Department of Justice to end a monitoring program implemented in resonse to the racial profiling controversy of the 1990s.

The Governor's Advisory Committee on Police Standards made the recommendation Friday, citing good marks received by the State Police from the federal monitors charged with keeping an eye on the organization after several well-publicized incidents several years ago resulted in the 1999 consent decree that laid out the countermeasures.

The decree meant both the State Police and the Attorney General office had to operate under the supervision of the United States District Court for New Jersey and an independent monitoring teams.

The committee's report said the group found the state organizations have made significant progress in eliminating the problem of racial profiling, to the point where they feel confident in making a recommendation for the end of the consent decree.

Some of the racially-charged incidents leading up to the issuing of the decree included the infamous Jenny Hightower incident, in which Trenton police killed the 14-year old while intervening in an apparent carjacking in 1999.

That same year, two state troopers were indicted for falsifying arrest and investigation records in an attempt to hide racial profiling, before they were indicted again for opening fire and wounding three young black men on the New Jersey Turnpike, after the men's van accidentally went into reverse during the traffic stop.

Following the recommendation, the Department of Justice could move to remove the decree sometime this year.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Senator calls out indicted legislators

A newly-elected Republican state senator is calling on Senate President Richard Codey to ask legislators currently under indictment or investigation to refrain from taking part in voting during the upcoming Senate session.

Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, sent a letter to Mr. Codeythis week calling for the measures, which would ask Senator Wayne Bryant, D-Camden, Senater Sharpe James, D-Essex, and Senator Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, to forego their voting ability in the upcoming sessions.

"It's wholly at odds with the nature of a legislator responsible for approving laws for the state, to do so when he stands accused of violating the public trust," said Ms. Beck, in a statement. "Service in the Senate should be reserved for lawmakers and not law-breakers."

Ms. Beck has already asked for the suspension of the senators in question, who stand accused of charges ranging from defrauding the state and the pension fund to billing inappropriate expenses to municipal coffers. Mr. Coniglio's office was raided recently, as federal investigators searched for evidence in an ongoing investigation.

With their suspension, replacement legislators could be appointed to represent the constituents, instead of the corruption-tainted politicians.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Palmer: no one wants to live in Trenton

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said Tuesday that New Jersey's capital would have a very difficult time finding a new Police Director to replace Joseph Santiago, in the event of Mr. Santiago's ouster at the hands of City Council over the director's violation of city residency law.

"At the end of the day, who's going to be here? Who's going to run the police department? No one," said Mayor Palmer Tuesday to City Council, between singling out individual residents. "Nobody's coming to this city. Nobody's coming to this city under this situation."

But to many, the mayor's comments went against everything he has said publicly for many years, when he has proclaimed Trenton's resurgence and drop in crime under Mr. Santiago.

The mayor Tuesday cited the city's continued public safety problems and the tendency for police directors to come under fire for receiving accrued police pensions while receiving the salary of the directorship, as the main obstacles to finding a new director.

But this sounded like doublespeak, contradicting statements about the drop in crime and the city's continued developed, which he has repeatedly harped to the local and national media and to his buddies at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

And what was worse is that comments about the difficulty in finding Mr. Santiago's replacement are not true at all.

Several high-ranking New Jersey police officials speaking on condition of anonymity said speaking on condition of anonymity said earlier in the week that they would absolutely be interested in a position leading the capital's police force.

What's more, one well-respected leader who was interviewed - who once led the police department of another similar-sized New Jersey city - said he would be interested in moving into the Mill Hill neighborhood of Trenton.

Island resident Bill Kearney probably summed it up best, in public comment following the executive's temper tantrum on Tuesday.

"It's either a renaissance or a hell hole with the mayor," Mr. Kearney said.

Residency resolution withdrawn

Councilman Jim Coston has withdrawn a resolution that would have paved the way for the removal of Police Director Joseph Santiago because of the director's continued violation of city law, until City Council can conclude executive session discussions and come to some sort of consensus on the issue.

The resolution would have required the director to advise the council within 14 days of his intentions in regards to a move into the city and compliance with the law, but council tabled the document in favor of further closed-door talks with officials from the Palmer administration.

Mr. Coston, in statements in Thursday's Trentonian, said the council would proceed with the matter in a more approachable way, working with all parties to come to the proper, legal conclusion.

The withdrawal of the resolution from both Tuesday's and now Thursday's council meeting certainly appears to be the result of some dialogue with administration officials, with Chief of Staff Renee Haynes and other addressing the council in closed session Tuesday, and at least one councilman engaging in emergency discussions with the mayor and police leader directly late Wednesday night.

And don't forget the influence of Mayor Palmer's controversial, fiery address made to the governing body during Tueday's meeting, in which he threatened prolonged legal battles and refused to remove the director in the face of an ouster at the hands of council.

Let us hope executive branch has not gotten the best of the supposedly co-equal legislative branch once more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Residents should prepare for ordinance amendment

Trenton residents who support the current interpretation and enforcement of the city’s residency laws must be prepared for an effort to change the law through an ordinance amendment backed by minions of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, who made it abundantly clear Tuesday that he believes he need not abide by the laws governing the City of Trenton.

Even Councilwoman Annette Lartigue suggested the possibility of a referendum or amendment to the ordinance during a discussion of the controversy surrounding Police Director Joseph Santiago, who continues to live outside city limits, in violation of the law.

The Palmer administration does have a history of amending the law through popular referendum in the past, having utilized a referendum to end the Police Chief position heading the department and replace it with the current director system of leadership.

The good news: a petition of around 1,100 signatures of registered city voters could end the threat of such a law-bending ordinance amendment, effectively ending the apparently sovereign mayor’s ability to bend the law to his liking by hastily ramming an amendment through a sometime weak City Council.

It remains to be seen whether the current council would even support such an amendment to city law, but if they do, the political fallout could be deadly to some of the council members. Many of them — except for North Ward Councilman Milford Bethea — plan to run for reelection to their council seats, or have greater aspirations for the mayor’s chair down the hall at 319 E. State Street.

But backing down in the face of a fiery, despotic mayor would severely damage their political credibility in standing up for the law they swore to uphold when they first entered office.

Political memory can be short, but a controversy of this size and any move signifying weakness will probably follow them right into the 2010 election.

Residents supporting the enforcement and maintenance of the law should be prepared to sign petitions, send letters to the editor, and call their representatives to make their feelings crystal clear.

Even if you don’t attend council meetings, make your feelings known.

Hostilities escalate in Santiago battle

A war of government broke out Tuesday night at City Hall, with City Council discussing a resolution giving controversial Police Director Joseph Santiago 14 days to announce intentions to move into Trenton, in order to comply with city law, after Mayor Douglas H. Palmer attacked the council plans earlier in the meeting.

"I believe I had the right, as mayor, to grant a waiver in extraordinary circumstances," said Mayor Palmer. "If you vote to remove him, I am not getting rid of him."

The mayor's comment preceded discussion of the director's residency and the law between council members, with Councilman Jim Coston producing a resolution that would have given the director two weeks to officially state his intentions about moving to Trenton.

With no intent to move into the capital, the governing body would have cause to give the director a hearing and remove him.

Council members Tuesday cited a need to uphold the law, and not petty politics or a police union vendetta as reasons for the controversy.

"I took an oath of office to the constitution of the state and the city code, to make allowances of exceptions to the law," said Councilman Coston. "The issue is not Joseph Santiago, but whether we apply the law equally."

The mayor - during an angry tirade in which he picked out individual residents and insulted them - threatened a prolonged court battle in the event that the council used its legal right to remove the director for openly violating city law, which requires department directors and other employees to live in town.

The mayor said the attack on the director had been orchestrated by police union anger and political agents, but Councilman Milford Bethea said the council's deliberation were only about one thing.

"This is about the law, and the ordinance," Councilman Bethea said.

Councilwoman Annette Lartigue said the council needed to have further discussion resolution prior to a vote, so the body went into emergency executive session at around 9 p.m. to discuss the document.

Councilman Coston said he was intent on delaying a vote no later than Thursday night's council meeting.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thanksgiving holiday could get longer

New Jersey legislators are actively devising legislation that would make the day following Thanksgiving an official holiday, after the issue came to light when Gov. Jon S. Corzine made state employees work that day, breaking a long-standing tradition of having the day off.

Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, is said to be working on the bill, which would call the holiday "Family Day."

"Thanksgiving has become the most family-oriented holiday on the calendar, with many people traveling long distances to gather with loved one," said Mr. Greenwald last week. "New Jersey should join the growing number of other state that recognize the Thanksgiving weekend as a time to spend with family and close friends."

The bill would not, however, simply legitimize the day after holiday, but would swap it with the state's current Lincoln's Birthday holiday on Feb. 12. That holiday has generally gone into disuse, except for state employees, with the following week containing the Presidents Day holiday on the federal calendar.

Following an edict by Gov. Corzine earlier in the year that said state employees would no longer get the day as a sort of unofficial holiday, the executive's office was deluged with thousands of phone calls from angry workers irate over the removal of another holiday given to the state's public servants.

Officials from the Democratic Assembly office said last week that nearly half the states in the nation recognize the day following Thanksgiving as a holiday, while the continued use of Feb 12 as a state holiday is only shared with five other states.

State law listing all of the state holidays have not been amended since 1986, according to a statement from the Assembly office.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Republican bid for toll hike report's release fails

Republican leaders in the General Assembly are concerned over what they see as a dangerous precedent set last week, when Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that the Corzine administration did not have to make public the findings of an $800,000 outside analysis of the governor's plan to use the state's major highways and their toll revenue as a method for fighting New Jersey's $32 billion debt.

"While I am not surprised by today's ruling, I am nonetheless disappointed," said Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, R-Morris and Passaic. "The governor and his administration may be celebrating a victory, but clearly there are no winners here. Anytime the courts rule against the best interests of taxpayers, everyone loses."

The Republican response came after an Open Public Records Act request filed by two Assembly members failed, which was then followed with a lawsuit filed by the same group. The court action also has failed, following the ruling by Judge Feinberg.

The goal of the Republicans: full public release of a study done by English firm Steer Davies, and Gleave, Ltd., that looked at the possible impact of the governor's plan.

The report would have possibly revealed the extent of toll increases on the highways, which the so-called asset monetization plan would use to pay off a massive $15 billion bond issue that would have been used to cut the state's debt in half.

The day after the ruling, Nov. 27, Democratic Assembly leaders openly speculated that it "was reasonable to say" tolls would rise by more than 50 percent, and a Corzine spokeswoman said that the administration has seen a wide range of increases, and a 75 percent increase was "not outrageous."

The full scope of the plan should be released sometime in the first half of 2008, according to Gov. Corzine, who also plans on unveiling what promises to be a controversial school funding formula, which the state has not had for five years.