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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.

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