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Monday, March 31, 2008


Palmer administration officials and representatives from E-Path Communications better bring a pretty convincing argument to Tuesday's City Council meeting if they want the council to award $250,000 to E-Path for a proposed citywide Wi-Fi network.

Representatives from both groups previously said the network would be built for no cost to the city, but that zero number soon ballooned to $200,000, and now it has grown to $250,000.

Some City Council members said Monday that they remain skeptical of the plan, especially given the ballooning of the initial price, and reports of delays and problems with E-Path's other ventures.

People from Long Island say that E-Path has not followed through on its promise of a similar network there, with months and months having elapsed since the initial start date for a trial version of the network.

The Long Island folks even went as far as speculating that the 250K of Trenton city money would be used to get the Long Island network going, with an eye to attracting investors to put up funds to come back to Trenton, and get that network going even further down the road.

City Council members said they have also heard of unverified problems with a similar E-Path venture down in Florida, where other, similar problems and delays have been reported.

That $250,000 expenditure is equal to more than one cent in the city's tax rate, which is set to rise this year and likely next year as the city experiences increased costs and nearly flat growth in ratable and revenues.

Residency is also expected to be a subject of discussion during tomorrow's City Council meeting, which should take hours.

Docket review, an executive session about the recent residency lawsuit and decision, and the E-Path presentation all take up space on the council's agenda, in addition to a public residency discussion and public comment.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Palmer on residency in 1999

Changes will bring accountability


Excerpts from a March 15, 1999 Times of Trenton Op/Ed

"Under the current system, with the police department headed by a police chief, my ability as mayor to hold the head of the police force completely and immediately accountable for providing this relief is greatly limited. There are stipulations concerning when, if, how, and for what reason a police chief can be disciplined or terminated.

Perhaps the greatest limitation, however, is job tenure. As it exists, the police chief serves from date of appointment until mandatory retirement at age 65. Even residency is a complicating factor. The mayor cannot even require that the police chief live in our city. I personally believe, and have heard from enough residents to know that they too believe, when it comes to the safety of our city, nothing is more important, symbolically, than for the head of the police force to live in the city that he or she is in control of protecting and serving. I cannot be persuaded that it is OK for our police chief to be isolated from our communities.

I want someone who will work with this administration, city council and our community as a team, with one goal in mind, better policing, for a safer community.

I want someone who will live with us and work with us, without the shield of tenure for job protection, a luxury that neither I nor city council have. We cannot sit in our positions and know that, barring the most extreme circumstances, our jobs are guaranteed until age 65, as a police chief can. There simply is too much at stake in our communities to provide that much of a disincentive for a police chief to make the difficult decisions or major changes that are required in such a tough job.

As we continue working toward our goal of neighborhood revitalization, we must be assured that the person responsible for police operations feels a strong sense of obligation to work as a member of the team to help reach a common goal. We have an opportunity not to subject ourselves to the whims of a police chief who may or may not have the same goals in mind."

Watershed moment for Palmer

I have heard it myself in recent days.

"Only in Trenton could a mayor do this."

Only in Trenton would a mayor take an issue that is such a defining moment in the city's recent history and selfishly turn it into the defining moment in his tenure as the city's executive.

Mayor Palmer did just that in the Times of Trenton Sunday, by claiming that the ultimate fate of Police Director Joseph Santiago - and the controversial battle over his office - would end up being the defining moment of Mayor Palmer's 18-year career as mayor of New Jersey's capital city.

It may have been an attempt to rally supporters or bring attention to the issue, but in reality this label has only raised the stakes in the matter, as the mayor seeks to have the very City Council he faced off with in court turn around and amend the city's residency law, effectively reversing their own court victory.

Only in Trenton could such an audacious plan even gain traction.

The statements probably came because Mayor Palmer has enjoyed unchallenged supremacy over his supposedly co-equal branch of government until this year, when City Council has actually begun showing backbone by looking out for the public interest instead of catering to the political initiatives of a misguided and often self-centered executive.

Despite what may have transpired in the past, the deck is stacked against Mayor Palmer, and that is why this latest gamble might represent the first footsteps of doom in the political career of a politician who long ago stopped looking out for the common folk of his own hometown.

There is a vast array of obstacles that all lie directly in the path of Mayor Palmer's expressed goal of manipulating city law to preserve his own ego and the continued employment of a single city employee of questionable value.

First, there are the residents themselves, who have seemingly awakened from a slumber of complacency to openly challenge the lack of accountability inherent in many of the public officials making up the Palmer administration.

Sure, the same voices from all of the controversies of the past have been involved. But joining them now are people from all corners of the city, with different economic classes, viewpoints, and skin colors.

This newly found civic strength has provided the impetus for numerous policy defeats for the formerly invincible mayor. He has lost a battle over hiring more police, keeping gang consultant and crony Barry Colicelli on the payrolls, and it definitiely seems like he has lost ground on a looming city budget battle.

All of those victories were secured by the second most important obstacle that blocks the way towards salvation for Mr. Santiago through the warping of city law - City Council.

City Council has now authored a string of policy victories that have re-instilled a sense of confidence in the branch of government that used to be the subject of public ridicule. Councilmen Manny Segura, Gino Melone, Jim Coston, and Milford Bethea have emerged as an effective and thoughtful council majority that constantly steps forward to protect the public interest.

Thirdly, and perhaps most important of all, is the actual language of Judge Linda Feinberg's recent court decision in denying an appeal and stay in the Santiago case that she saw recently in Mercer County Superior Court.

The specific language in her opinion states that the only way Mr. Santiago could be reappointed is if the law was amended, and the city engaged in a diligent search for viable candidates.

Not only would that search take months, but the amended law would create a hierarchy of candidates who would be weighted according to their proximity to Trenton, meaning that Mr. Santiago's Stirling, New Jersey address would be of great detriment to his chances of attaining office.

Also of negative effect on Mayor Palmer's expressed desire to keep Mr. Santiago on as director of police is that Mr. Santiago has reportedly received numerous job offers.

It is a good bet that many of those would have much less controversy and much more upside than keeping a job where he is neither liked nor wanted.

This is surely a tenuous cause for Mayor Palmer to have attached his entire executive legacy upon.

For what he has done to Trenton and what he is trying to do, it would be best that that legacy goes down in flames.

No other constituents anywhere in the entire world should ever be subjected to the indifferent and untruthful government that has become the hallmark of the Douglas H. Palmer years, here in Trenton.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gusciora calls out Bush

President George W. Bush is in Freehold today, visiting a credit-counseling agency that is dealing with the recent mortgage loan collapse and all of those New Jersey residents who may be about to lose their homes through foreclosure.

The Bush administration has taken it upon itself to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in bail-out money for some of the nation’s largest banks, who are floundering as all the people who were given high-risk loans face the reality of not being able to keep up with payments.

Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Reed Gusciora has also taken it upon himself to question why President Bush and his officials have decided to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in financial relief for massive financial institutions, while providing little relief for the working-class families now frequently defaulting on these flawed loans.

“These Wall Street brokerages backed high risk loans to people who they know were unable to adhere to the payment plans, but they did it anyway,” said Mr. Gusciora, D-Mercer, in a statement. “When the loan defaults, the government is now providing a soft landing to the banks, but letting families go homeless.”

The federal government has done little in providing substantial financial relief to families, according to Mr. Gusciora, who said the government has only created counseling programs that only really provide advice to vulnerable homeowners.

According to Mr. Gusciora’s office, New Jersey ranks 13th in the nation in the amount of total foreclosures occurring per state, and in the City of Trenton in 2006 alone 314 high-risk sub-prime mortgages were handed out.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bill would kill RCAs

Something that has been forgotten in the public mind recently is the presence of fantastic legislation that would forever end the usage of Regional Contribution Agreements.

No longer would rich suburban municipalities have the ability to skirt their affordable housing requirements and hand them off to poverty-ridden, cash-hungry New Jersey cities, with the passage of this bill, A-500.

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts introduced the landmark legislation in mid-March, with cosponsors including Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman and assemblymen Jerry Green, Tom Giblin, and Albert Coutinho.

“New Jersey’s affordable housing laws have failed to live up to the promise of providing homes for low- and moderate-income residents while having the insidious effect of concentrating poverty in our inner cities,” said Mr. Roberts, D-Camden.

The most important aspect of the plan is the total elimination of RCAs, which allow towns to pay money to other municipalities in order to pass off their affordable housing requirements.

The money paid almost never ends up covering the costs associated with creating concentrated pockets of poverty, according to Mr. Roberts and others.

The measure has a host of other regulations as well, including a mandatory 20-percent affordable housing component of any state-assisted development project, a 2.5 percent development fee for nonresidential construction, and other money-generating rules.

The funding generated by those stipulations would in turn create some sort of urban housing fund to replace the funding that used to come into the coffers of cities like Trenton, who bought up affordable housing requirements to fill budget gaps and make ends meet.

The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee for deliberation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another call to arms

The City of Trenton is now faced, perhaps, with the greatest watershed moment of the 18-year rule of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

The mayor and his position on the Joseph Santiago residency were soundly defeated in Mercer County Superior Court, but now Trenton’s executive has the audacity to go to the very body that opposed him in the dispute, seeking their help in rewriting a 40-year-old city law for the sole purpose of allowing him to put his ousted Police Director back in office.

Residents and City Council members can and must rise up and defeat this most twisted instance of political meddling.

Otherwise it is time to accept a fate of living in a city with a government that is completely unaccountable, and completely controlled by Mayor Palmer.

This residency law is one of the most important bulwarks Trenton has in the fight against its continued economic and social slide, which has gone on unabated for more than 50 years and only accelerated in the last 20, under Mayor Palmer.

This is a law that requires the very people who are being paid out of Trenton’s dwindling coffers to live here. It is an automatic and free system for stimulating the reinvestment of city dollars, with employees both contributing to the city tax base and spending some of their valuable disposable income here in Trenton.

It is the most effective, inexpensive, and moral form of economic development. It requires no investment, no planning, no voting, and none of the other costs and requirements associated with the difficult battle of bringing redevelopment to this stagnant city.

Unlike some recently failed efforts at economic development, it does not require eminent domain, or the seizure of the homes of productive South Ward residents.

The residency ordinance and what it stands for runs parallel to City Council’s own sworn policy of always trying to steer city contracts and city dollars into the hands of city residents and city firms.

Despite the merits of this law, Mayor Palmer is now hell-bent on perverting and weakening this valuable tool, for the sake of a single man. It will also serve to validate his claimed ability to warp and bend the law to his liking, as he has done illegally up until this point.

In continuing their fight against this plan, what City Council was and what it has lately become cannot be forgotten.

For a time, City Council was a branch of government that only experienced failure for years and years in discharging its duties of safeguarding the interests of Trenton residents and their precious tax dollars.

In years past it began to allow millions of dollars in city dollars to be doled out to city employees who illegally reside elsewhere in New Jersey.

Those same dollars also ended up in the gas tanks of city vehicles provided to contractors, who continue to motor all over the Garden State.

It was the legislative branch’s failures that continually dashed the spirit of residents, when it continued in its path of failure.

But it is now the branch of government that gives residents the most hope, with its new found will to use its statutory abilities to counter the misguided mayor’s initiatives.

Only of late has this body begun to move, act, and vote in a way that reflects the interests of city residents, and not Trenton’s misguided and ego maniacal executive.

This trend needs to continue, through refusing any deliberation on amending the residency ordinance forever, or at least until the specter of Mr. Santiago is long gone from the face of Trenton’s political scene.

City Council should continue its stated goal of working towards redeveloping Trenton in a cheap and effective way, through making lawyers, workers, and companies that receive city contracts open offices or even better, actually live here.

The residency ordinance is the cheapest and most effective way to shore up the city’s economic and social climate, while instilling an even greater sense of community in our public servants.

Because of that reality, the line on the residency ordinance must be held by City Council, by resisting any and all drives to warp, weaken, or pervert the wording and spirit of the law.

Political maneuvering afoot

With the ink on Judge Linda Feinberg's ruling that Police Director Joseph Santiago must leave office permanently by April 24 barely even dry, already the evil wheels of politics are spinning as Mayor Douglas H. Palmer seeks to circumvent his worst defeat by having his own adversaries on City Council do his bidding, and amend the city's residency ordinance.

After Judge Feinberg invalidated the city's residency waiver provisions - which were never used a single time for 40 years - she left open the door for City Council to amend the very law they have so staunchly defended so that a waiver could be granted to Mr. Santiago, providing an opportunity for him to retake his vacated office.

While Mayor Palmer's puppets - like Council President Paul Pintella - have already signified their openness to performing such a heinously political legislative move, it seems at least two other, cooler council heads have other ideas.

"We're not going to keep changing laws to provide exceptions for certain individuals who have the mayor's favor, especially when there have been over 20 folks who've been fired for not living in the city while they work here," said Councilman Jim Coston to the Times of Trenton today.

Councilman and residency supporter Manny Segura also balked at Mr. Pintella's rush to get the amendment done for Mayor Palmer, saying to the Times that he saw no urgency in the matter.

It is certainly good to see the sentiments of these two, considering it is likely that both councilwomen Cordelia Staton and Annette Lartigue will support such an amendment.

Ms. Staton is a known Palmer delator, and Ms. Lartigue has constantly hinted at amending the ordinance after the Santiago affair was over.

She has also been seen meeting with both Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago privately during the lawsuit, around the time Ms. Lartigue's husband was promoted to director of the Trenton Housing Authority.

If the unthinkable or possibly likely scenario begins to unfold, those council members and residency amendment supporters need to be called out, for they will truly be harming the public interest.

They will have wasted hundreds of thousands of city dollars in legal fees, all spent on a court case that would have never happened had they already amended the law.

And they will have totally subverted the power of a 40-year-old ordinance that was enacted by and has the support of a majority of residents within the city.

They will have dirtied the very laws that rule this city by creating a legal means for city politicians to enforce laws against some employees while sparing others, destroying public confidence in the rule of law in Trenton and beyond.

For all of its problems the original waiver provision was so complicated and convoluted it was likely a waiver would never have been granted, but state-prescribed waiver provisions seem more open to political meddling, and there is more of that stuff in Trenton than anywhere, save maybe Atlantic City.

Let them know there is no need to carve exceptions to time-honored rules for Mayor Palmer's most favored employees.

Write a letter, pick up the phone, or type out an e-mail.

Residents of Trenton need to make it known to their council members that such a move is unacceptable.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Judge: Santiago has 30 days to leave Trenton

Police Director Joseph Santiago has until the end of the business day on April 24 to pack his bags and leave the office of Police Director forever, according to a court ruling handed down today by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg.

The new ruling represents an amendment to last week’s decision that Mr. Santiago had to vacate the office immediately, but still signifies a defeat for Trenton’s mayor, Douglas H. Palmer, and his lawyers, who had pushed for a stay on the original ruling while they pursue an appeal.

Judge Feinberg rejected all of Mayor Palmer’s arguments for granting the stay, which generally rested on the notion that the Police Department could not function properly with Mr. Santiago’s absence, and that residents of the city would be in danger without Mr. Santiago at the helm.

“There is no reason to believe that the removal would make the Police Department ‘rudderless’,” said Judge Feinberg. “No law enforcement agency depends on the presence of one man.”

The court proceedings saw lawyers for Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago appeal to all sorts of arguments in an effort to get a stay. They attacked the police unions, calling the lawsuit a tool to get rid of Mr. Santiago, rather than a citizen-initiated action.

They attacked three affidavits made by current and former police officials as biased, while purporting defense affidavits made by Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum and Special Counsel Stephen Trimboli to be unbiased.

Defense attorneys said City Council members had not made their official sentiments on the issue known and stated that Mayor Palmer was the ultimate representative of the people of the city, making his take on the issue of the highest importance to the case.

Mayor Palmer’s attorney Angelo Genova questioned whether City Council’s attorney David Corrigan even really represented the views of council members, because the council members hadn't actually filed official certifications or affidavits in any of the case’s briefs.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer George Dougherty said all of the arguments made by the defense ignored the rules of Trenton’s residency ordinance, and instead appealed to extraneous issues like Mr. Santiago importance and performance in the job.

Mr. Dougherty equated the 30-day period to granting someone a month to get his or her affairs in order after being charged with driving without a driver’s license.

“You would never do that,” Mr. Dougherty said.

Mr. Santiago’s lawyers made the peculiar argument that the director represented Trenton’s only civilian authority in the department and his removal would mean that the old police leadership would take over, even though Mr. Santiago isn’t even a civilian from Trenton.

In the end, Judge Feinberg rejected the stay requests for the defense outright, ordering the position vacated on April 24.

But the judge stated there was a bizarre possibility that City Council members could move to adopt a legal waiver provision ordinance, which would allow the process to be set in motion to grant Mr. Santiago an official waiver and reoccupy his directorship.

It does not seem like that is likely, based on the public statements of a majority of City Council members.

Monday, March 24, 2008

City Council continues stellar work

Trenton City Council Monday again sided firmly with the group of nine residents - including me - who sued the city over Police Director Joseph Santiago's non-residency, with their attorney filing an informal brief with plaintiffs' attorney George Dougherty.

City Council's attorney David Corrigan joined Mr. Dougherty and the plaintiffs in rebuking the crescendo of empty calls for a stay of Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg's decision to immediately vacate Mr. Santiago's position as Police Director a week ago today.

Also of significance was that City Council has officially denounced the continued involvement of attorney Susan Singer in the case, with Mr. Corrigan labeling Ms. Singer's filings and motions on the behalf of the City of Trenton as misrepresentations.

"I can state categorically and without hesitancy that the City Council has not authorized Ms. Singer to file any papers with respect to this matter," wrote Mr. Corrigan. "This is more than a matter of semantics. It is at the very least misleading and probably inaccurate for Ms. Singer to purport to represent the City of Trenton."

These statements continue the trend of City Council stepping up to the plate for the best interests of the residents, both morally and financially.

The same cannot be said of Mayor Palmer, who has at best been exposed as a petty, common politician, and at worst as an ego maniacal, self-obsessed liar willing to stop at nothing and spend anything to eke out what would surely be a Pyrrhic victory over his own residents and his own previously expressed position on residency.

Even in this matter, Mayor Palmer opened the city coffers to numerous unnecessary attorneys and counsel like Ms. Singer, who has not made a single worthwhile dent in the entire Santiago case.

In fact, her only real effect besides wasting oxygen has been to also suck up precious city dollars.

Ms. Singer has only provided another high-priced voice to the group of attorneys who have sacrificed their souls by helping a desperate mayor continue a legacy of talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Anyway, kudos to City Council, and let's hope for the best tomorrow morning during the hearing that will hopefully yield the final severing of Mr. Santiago's employment relationship with the City of Trenton.

Let the post-Santiago era begin.

Easter and politics

Easter Sunday for a Catholic family like mine usually means a get-together at an aunt and uncle's house, some food, some drinks, and some general hanging out.

It also usually means an inevitable conversation about politics, especially with the majority of the family being right-wing lower middle-class folk from upstate New York, except for my immediate family, which is made up mainly of middle-class, liberal-minded people from suburban Central Jersey.

The political speech turned to comments made recently by the leader of presidential hopeful and Democrat Barack Obama's Chicago church.

Of course the New Yorkers complained about the preacher's negative comments about this allegedly wonderful, perfect country, and how those comments should never be made by anyone, including those living in the war zones that make up many of this nation's urban areas.

Someone from the other side of the argument immediately chimed in that those comments may have been off the mark, but they reflect deep anger and resentment on the part of many of African American residents who have yet to see much of the American Dream that was probably once promised to them.

Like many in Trenton, they are born or brought into a world of little opportunity, much hardship, and few choices.

Sure, some back-breaking hard work, dedication, and luck might overcome the urban system, but odds are that the overwhelming pressures causing many of those who would have otherwise led a productive life into joining gangs or committing crime will eventually take their toll.

None of those in the New York State side of the family seemed to understand the realities that confront many of these people, like the people living in the area of Mr. Obama's church and its preacher, likely in a rough neighborhood in South Chicago.

For these people America the Beautiful and its political system have done little to help them lead a full or rewarding life, instead giving them a constant view of a world of sorrow, death, and wasted opportunities.

After explaining to some of my extended family members about the situation and the system that exists here in my beloved - if dysfunctional - city of residence, they quickly quieted.

I declared that their happy and normal lives would probably fall into complete disarray if their luck in the lottery of life had instead dealt them a ticket to a broken family living on Stuyvesant Avenue or Walnut Avenue.

It is of the utmost importance to understand where someone is coming from and what their background is before making broad judgments about comments, words, or actions.

This country has a great social divide that needs to be bridged before the promise of the idea of the United States can ever be completely realized.

*This is not meant to excuse the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments. They are wrong. But people from all over the economic and political spectrum make these comments, especially right-wing religious leaders. People will use these statements to their advantage wherever possible, until the underlying problems are addressed to the point where taking such positions becomes untenable.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Trentonian: investigation likely headed nowhere

For all of its problems, the Trentonian does have a good tendency to say what needs to be said when other media outlets' editorial pages remain quiet, or spew misguided pieces that seem to support the political establishment over the average Mercer County resident.

One of these instances came yesterday, with City Editor Paul Mickle's piece about the problems stemming from having politically-appointed county prosecutors responsible for investigating government institutions full of local politically-connected people.

The piece followed this week's announcement that the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office is investigating personnel at a county welfare office, for alleged crimes involving assistance funding.

This office happens to be a repository of politically-connected people, with Councilwoman Annette Lartigue and former Councilman Frank Cirillo both employed there.

There may be an established system for nominating and appointing county prosecutors, but it seems quite counterproductive to have someone as political as Joe Bocchini responsible for going after criminals in Mercer County, especially those who happen to be Democrats.

New Jersey is hands-down one of the most corrupt states in the nation, and that situation seems to scream out for a different system of appointing prosecutors and other law enforcement officials that are the first defense against corruption and the perversion of the public interest.

Having these people handcuffed because of the politics of patronage and appointment means that investigations like the Mercer County welfare office are likely to go nowhere, as politicians and politically-connected employees scurry for cover under the blanket of influence that covers our state, Mr. Mickle wrote.

The people at Ms. Lartigue's office very well might not have committed a crime, but if they were to do so, it seems that there would be a very high probability that any investigation would quickly be suffocated under a blanket of political pressure and loyalty.

Maybe it's time for a new system.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shoot this proposal down

Trenton City Council tabled an idiotic appropriation to purchase $200,000 in unnecessary new handguns for the Trenton Police Department Thursday night, after it was revealed that the department's current supplier offered to resupply the entire department with new weapons at no cost.

Of course the numb-skulls leading the effort to procure the new .45-caliber Springfield guns in place of the current Glock .40s were none other than the henchman of the reportedly outgoing, disgraced Police Director Joseph Santiago.

The measure was placed on City Council's docket unceremoniously this week, with a recommendation from Police Captain Paul "Sleepy" Messina and some of Mr. Santiago's other cronies that getting larger-caliber guns would give the Trenton Police Department better, safer firepower.

Excuse me, but anyone who has fired a gun before will tell you that the improvement in power, force and range in the .45 versus the .40 is not that great.

In fact, one police source this week said that with the current .40s, any suspect struck by a round is likely to stop doing whatever it is that they may be doing.

The other argument was that female officers and so-called "bad shooters" could better handle the larger weapons.

Police officers have already debunked the idea that some female officers cannot fire the smaller weapon safely, pointing out that there have been no safety issues in the department with firearms for decades.

There haven't been many accidental shootings in recent memory, except maybe that time when one of Mr. Santiago's boys discharged his weapon into the front of a vehicle that was speeding towards a hospital with a wounded man inside.

The move towards the new guns would have probably ended up being one of his last official impacts on the department, but luckily it seems that cooler heads might prevail.

One council member correctly pointed out that $200,000 is one cent worth of tax rate, and the way things are going now, this city simply cannot currently afford to spend more tax dollars on such an unnecessary expenditure.

Pay-to-play reform tabled

Senate Democrats this week tabled a group of four Republican bills that would have represented a major step forward in fighting pay-to-play and the corrupt culture of government contributions that plagues every level of New Jersey's government today.

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney led the way with the motion to table the bills, which passed by a 22 to 16 vote. State Sen. Shirley Turner, Trenton's senator, voted yes on the motion to table the bills.

This continues the peculiar way that New Jersey's allegedly progressive Democratic Party continues its insistence on not, or at least slowly dealing with these important issues.

It is obvious that the majority party may have had some qualms with some of the measures. Reviewing the language of the four bills shows there may be some stumbling blocks or problems that some state legislators may have noticed, requiring revision.

But if that is the case then do so, and don't put the bills in a state of limbo so that contractors and cronies can contribute to public officials and receive contracts for services that would be better delivered to other contractors.

While it may be somewhat inaccurate, a study published earlier this year put the cost of the behavior of New Jersey's corrupt officials at $1 billion per year.

The lifeblood of much of that corruption is the ability to donate money in such a way that it gets moved around or wheeled through county or other organizations, circumventing the existing pay-to-play laws.

In fact, some researchers say that fully 75 percent of all potentially shady or illegal contributions make their way around the existing laws, into the pockets of politicians. When that happens, the floodgates of public funds open, enriching those who have no business doing work for the people or their government.

So, here's to some substantive, bi-partisan pay-to-play and contribution reform this year, and an end to politics and the tabling of potentially useful legislation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Call a spade a spade

In talking with someone about the state of the City of Trenton Wednesday, it was quickly agreed upon that Mayor Douglas H. Palmer is a complete disgrace to both the city and the rest of New Jersey.

His handling of the Joseph Santiago residency matter and his response to what has arguably been the greatest political defeat of his 18 years in office shows Trenton and the rest of the world exactly what kind of man they are dealing with, who just happens to occupy the most powerful municipal office in the city.

It should not be forgotten that in defense of this single city department director, Mayor Palmer committed what should be an unforgivable sin by reversing decades of residency-related policy.

The result of that policy cannot be forgotten: the wanton destruction of the livelihood of dozens of city employees.

His argument that the residency ordinance that he had so faithfully utilized to fire employees and go after opponents was invalid paints Mayor Palmer as nothing more than a two-faced, lying politician who doesn’t deserve to be the mayor of the smallest hamlet in New Jersey, let alone one of its most important cities.

Mayor Palmer’s legal defense flew in the face of nearly everything he has advocated or defended in both enforcing residency laws and his own pursuit of a police department led by a civilian Police Director.

Mayor Palmer previously told us that residency is important by both edict and example.

He fired numerous employees over residency, while issuing memorandums stressing how crucial it was for city employees to maintain a bona fide residence within this great town.

Mayor Palmer told us that he wanted a Police Director so he could make the department more accountable. Ironically, he went as far as saying he wanted a civilian director so he could make whoever it ended up being live within Trenton’s city limits, as a part of this community.

Neither of those things happened when Mr. Santiago became Police Director. Trenton got a police department that was more political and less accountable, led by a man living 50 miles away.

Mayor Palmer recently questioned the celebratory attitude of many in the city following the ouster of Mr. Santiago, and said that he was concerned for public safety in the city following Mr. Santiago’s removal.

Sorry Dougie Do Little, but Mr. Santiago’s removal is a cause for celebration.

It means an end to one of the worst and most controversial periods of time for the Trenton Police Department.

Perhaps more importantly, it means the rule of law has been restored in this city.

Police officers can return to police work, instead of worrying about their jobs or being relegated to worthless midnight shifts.

Residents will no longer have to deal with a politicized department led by a well-dressed clown who repeatedly lied to their faces with statements about how “crime is down, crime is down.”

Mayor Palmer’s about-face reveals him to be nothing more than a liar who is willing to sell out his own creed - and his constituency - over the fate of a single favored employee and a court victory over his own residents.

Mayor Palmer and his supporters in all levels of government simply cannot be trusted. Voters need to remember that in the 2010 election.

Until these lying and cheating politicians are removed from power Trentonians cannot even hope to emerge from the the lowest point of prosperity, happiness, and general well-being in the city’s history, namely the Dark Ages under King Palmer.

Palmer responds to defeat

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer told the Times of Trenton today that he does not desire a drawn-court battle over the recent removal of Police Director Joseph Santiago, after making threats to drag out the director's ouster in the court system a few months ago.

Those statements may be slightly encouraging, but that is where the positive nature of Mayor Palmer's exchange in the Times piece ended.

The mayor said that city residents and law enforcement officials have rallied around Mr. Santiago leadership as police director, but anyone with a working set of eyes or ears sees this as simple political banter.

At best, community and police support for the director was divided.

In fact, it is likely that very few people in the community supported Mr. Santiago, especially with the recent flare-up of violence in the West Ward and the resulting, somewhat menacing police presence there.

The executive also said that people should not be acting like this is some kind of victory.

But that is exactly what this is, for everyone who supports the rule of law, democracy, and the entire City of Trenton.

Palmer had become a municipal executive who thought he could warp and bend the law to his liking, to inflict pain on city employees who did not support the mayor's line while sparing others.

Any elected official with such a mentality is a major problem for every city resident, whether they be an employee or not.

It meant that city employees who may or may not be better at their specific jobs were favored or unfavored based on their support for the mayor, without reference to how they do the job of providing services to the City of Trenton.

Those advances of executive power - initially unchecked by City Council or anyone else - has now been repulsed, and the mayor can no longer act like some sort of divine, all-powerful being.

Mayor Palmer said city residents are more concerned about public safety than residency. That is definitely true, but a politicized police department led by a law-breaking egomaniac is hardly the best instrument to go about fighting serious, urban crime.

An un-politicized department led by a responsible Trenton resident who has the respect of the rank-and-file members of the department and the residents is the way to public safety salvation for Trenton.

That was never the reality under Mr. Santiago, just ask almost any patrolman on the force. All you have to do is look at their faces. They are smiling again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A move towards open government

The City of Trenton's Web site reflects the "business as usual" attitude of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, who has made it perfectly clear on many occasions that he would rather do governmental work in secrecy than have an open government more conducive to civic involvement.

Candidates and officials who like positive change in the city should consider changing those kinds of policies, and placing and updating more information on the city Web site at a more frequent pace.

Sometime over the past two years the people maintaining the site have fallen further and further behind in putting up many important city documents, like City Council dockets, meeting minutes, and meeting agendas.

If it wasn't for Mill Hill resident Jim Carlucci's civic calendar, recipients like me would have to walk over to City Hall for every meeting just to find out what is on the agenda.

But everyone in the city doesn't receive that civic event list each week, and much of what is done over in City Hall - even during public meetings - is really being done in the dark, because residents and other stakeholders have little or no warning when something of great importance is being discussed.

City Council members didn't even know that they were still paying the contract of ousted gang czar Barry Colicelli, so it becomes even more alarming that there is such a high degree of difficulty in finding out exactly what is contained on City Council's docket each week.

They apparently don't even know what is on the docket or coming out of the city coffers either.

The importance of the items on that docket cannot be understated.

The City Council for a place like Trenton sees so many items on those sheets of paper that many of them are voted on and passed without in-depth review or questioning of administration officials pushing the measures.

That happens despite the fact that many of those resolutions carry significant consequences with them, especially in the expenditure of the taxpayer dollars of a city like Trenton that is so financially distressed.

In West Windsor Township, every Township Council agenda is placed online days before the actual meeting, and any resident with a computer can click on each resolution or ordinance and read the pertinent documents themselves.

The council chamber itself even has two large clipboards that contain not only the resolutions or ordinances for the night, but the actual contracts, purchasing orders, and other important documents that usually require a time-consuming and expensive Open Public Records Act request in Trenton.

Maybe future political candidates should consider adopting some of these practices so the government can operate more openly, under the watchful eyes of caring citizens.

The old, closed system certainly doesn't seem to work as well.


So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother's eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

You live with straights who tell you you was king
Jump when your momma tell you anything
The only thing you done was yesterday
And since you're gone you're just another day
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

A pretty face may last a year or two
But pretty soon they'll see what you can do
The sound you make is muzak to my ears
You must have learned something in all those years
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Santiago ousted, Happy St. Patrick's Day

Police Director Joseph Santiago has been effectively removed from his office today, after a Mercer County Superior Court judge sided with a group of residents and City Council and removed the director for violating the city’s residency ordinance.

“Since Santiago has ceased to be a resident of Trenton, he has violated the residency requirements of section 2-95 and is, therefore, disqualified from serving in his position as director,” wrote Judge Linda Feinberg.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and his supporters suffered a major defeat, with the judge ruling that the mayor does not have the power to selectively enforce the law to his liking.

Another impact of the ruling is that parts of the city’s residency code have been invalidated, setting the stage for another residency conflict regarding how the City of Trenton deals with the ability to grant waivers to the law, which was so badly abused in the Santiago affair.

Judge Feinberg determined that the city’s waiver provisions, in one section of the ordinance, were inconsistent with superceding state law.

In response to that finding that section of the ordinance has been severed and invalidated, leaving the city with a residency law that does not allow for any non-resident to attain office in the city.

That raises the question of what will happen with the ordinance and waiver provisions in the future.

City Council members will likely feel pressure to move to add legal waiver provisions to the ordinance, but whether this is needed or not is readily apparent.

The ordinance operated perfectly fine for over 20 years without having any waiver provisions, and then not a single waiver was granted after the provision was added, except the illegal waiver given to Mr. Santiago by Mayor Palmer.

Some argue that the City of Trenton needs the waiver provision so the city has the ability to legally hire an employee who would never move into this city who had superior wonderful skills.

But the evidence of such a need is sorely lacking, with a waiver never having been granted a SINGLE time in the city’s history.

City Council should leave the ordinance as-is, after it has functioned so well for so long without the political mess that having such a waiver provision could cause.

Trenton will be better off that way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oh, Mr. Bradley

The job of Trenton's acting communications director, Irving Bradley, has shown up as an entry on the New Jersey Department of Personnel job Web site, as the city prepares to officially install Mr. Bradley in the position.

That entry serves as only more visual evidence of the record of inconsistent application of personnel rules and law that has become the trademark of the city government, under Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

What is really interesting about the entry is that it seems Mr. Bradley does not currently fulfill several of the job requirements. More specifically, he does not have five years' experience in doing municipal communications management, and more importantly, he does NOT live in Trenton, as required by Trenton's city code.

In recent months photographic evidence showed that Mr. Bradley was spending weekends in his old Rahway haunts, where his family continues to live. However, Trenton's controversial residency ordinance required his family to have moved into Trenton, as one of the defining conditions of maintaining a bona fide residence in the City of Trenton.

Another curious piece of information that the job description describes the position with a listed salary range of $68,897.00 to $89,250.00.

That fact means that a man with less experience than the job requires is being paid a top salary, and not one near the bottom of the range, which most reasonable people would expect an acting director with little or no experience in the field to be making.

The stakes for having Mr. Bradley continue in this position illegally are also about to increase, with the closing date for applying for the official position.

At that point - under state law - Mr. Bradley has to have completed all of the requirements for the job, including the aforementioned experience and residency requirements.

After receiving the position officially, the penalties for hiring an employee who is breaking the city's residency ordinance increase.

A successful challenge of his residency status would mean the city would be forced to pay all of the salary Mr. Bradley has received illegally back to those who challenge his status, legal sources maintain.

Breaking the law can get expensive, especially when it becomes the de facto policy of a city government.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Residents call out police, threats of violence made

Groups of people protesting what they call a case of unnecessary and deadly police force seemed to call for retaliatory violence against members of the Trenton Police Department in a report published in Wednesday's Trentonian.

Divine Allah - also known as Brian Bethea - said something about police officers holding "a funeral of their own" to a reporter at the rally, where dozens had gathered to make a show of support for a Trenton man who officials say died of a heart attack after being subdued by Trenton police.

Ronald “Brick” Wilson apparently passed away after Trenton police had to physically restrain him following a motor vehicle accident Saturday night, after Mr. Wilson tried to walk away from the scene, police said.

Mr. Wilson may have been high on one or more narcotics at the time of the incident, police said.

Friends, family, and neighbors have made claims that Mr. Wilson was savagely beaten by the police and died of injuries sustained during the assault, citing both stories from alleged eyewitnesses and the condition of Mr. Wilson's corpse following the incident.

Trenton Internal Affairs and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office are conducting their own investigation of the incident, and have not released their findings, but it seems like protesters and others making claims of police brutality are being a bit hasty with drawing their conclusions.

Numerous people claim to have seen the events leading to the death of Mr. Wilson, but this seems slightly far-fetched, especially given the bad outdoor conditions at the time of the incident.

At the time Trenton experienced a major wind and rain storm that knocked down power lines, trees, and even tore the roof off of several South Trenton structures.

While the people rallying for their fallen friend could be right, it seems a little premature to begin throwing around accusations of excessive force and police brutality when an investigation has not even been concluded yet.

Despite occasional controversies and its politicization, the vast majority of the Trenton Police Department is a skilled and professional force that upholds the law at all times.

Also of note is that the death of Mr. Wilson seems to be one of the few times in recent memory that people in Trenton have actually come forward after witnessing violence. Police investigation of other violent crimes in the city usually find few witnesses, if any.

Recalls could get easier

Be advised, corrupt or otherwise hated New Jersey politicians. It could soon get easier for the New Jersey voters to recall their elected officials.

Legislation introduced recently in the New Jersey State Assembly would more than halve the amount of voter signatures needed to begin the process of recalling an elected official in the Garden State.

It would amend the New Jersey Constitution to reduce the percentage of a municipality’s voters and their signatures needed to initiate a recall from the current 25 percent to a much-reduced 12 percent, of the total of those who cast ballots in the most recent election.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande introduced the bill last week, citing reduced voter turnout as one of the major driving forces behind the measure.

“Considering that voter turnout for elections, whether they be local, county state, or even federal, has been at record low numbers, it seems rather outrageous to have a law making it nearly impossible to recall an election official…” said Ms. Casagrande, R-Monmouth and Mercer.

Last November’s legislative election saw a turnout of around 30 percent across the state, while in New Jersey’s capital only about 7,700 votes were cast out of a total registered voter pool of around 36,000.

“Government has been instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people and they should have, at all times, the right, the power and the opportunity to alter that government when the public good requires it,” Ms. Casagrande said.

Trenton’s low turnout already means that residents wishing to put an ordinance on the books need only around 770 signatures to force a special referendum, and around 1,100 to force an election to pull an existing law off the books.

A treatise on America

America will soon be defeated by the canyons of societal division that set us apart from other so-called Western countries, in that an increasingly larger size of our society is forced to live in corrosive conditions ensuring their failure in having a productive life.

The basest of fears that stem from simple differences in the color of skin, exacerbated by differences of economic class, threaten to turn what has thus far been the greatest country yet seen in history into a quivering mass of a few haves, and many have-nots.

Living in the economic canyons of Trenton makes this truth more than apparent.

Small pockets of economic prosperity that come from outside economic opportunities and a blind hope for the goodness of mankind lead the minority of Trenton's residents to live, work, and play here, despite overwhelming pressures in surrounding areas of the city that demonstrate some sort of futility that seems almost insurmountable.

Yet the lesson of Trenton and its greater Mercer County environment can only serve to educate this region, and better yet this country, about the problems that must be solved in order for the legacy of America to continue.

This country was founded on the loftiest of ideals, yet the reality of the nation confronts us in the most salient of ways.

We live day after day as residents of a New Jersey county that is one of the most affluent in the entire country, but even more so as residents of a city that boasts a massive abyss of poverty, broken promises, and broken dreams.

Someone living in Princeton Borough or Hopewell Township complains of massive property tax levies, yet the same person does not acknowledge that decisions that lead to great disparities in wealth and opportunity seemingly for the safety of one's own livelihood also result in segregated economic living.

These same forces mean that while the other half lives in such a horrible reality, the other, more prosperous half is left picking up the tab, in state aid that has implications in both municipal and education funding.

Trenton has one of the highest municipal tax rates in the county, yet much of the city's bill for standard services is paid for by state aid coming from outside municipalities.

The same goes for the education system, where Trenton students get some of the highest per-pupil aid amount spent upon them, yet these same students fare the worst according to many educational indicators, including both graduation rates and the rate of subject proficiency attained.

It seems that only when those living outside Trenton's borders accept that the problems associated with leaving a massive urban cauldron of problems stewing for so long affect them regardless of the breadth of their borders or the distance from the city itself, will the plight of Trenton and other cities be relieved.

Further, the fact that those making up American society seem to be willing to allow a large and growing section of its economic workforce live in such horrendous conditions out of fear seems to spell imminent doom for this great nation, unless it is willing to cast aside the shackles of fear and difference for a national unity and common effort towards our greater, national good.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Let's scrap mayoral appointment of school board members

Trenton Board of Education member Lisa Kasabach has reportedly handed in her resignation from that body.

Judging from what has occurred at school board meetings lately, one can only extrapolate that her resignation has something to do with the shenanigans that have been occurring regularly on the board, especially regarding controversy over the possible demolition of Trenton Central High School.

Ms. Kasabach was the lone voice of reason on a board that seemed hell-bent on moving in the direction of demolition, despite numerous public calls for the district to look at all possible solutions, including a renovation and preservation of Trenton’s austere, historical high school.

Her support of looking at all the options resulted in frequent public humiliation for Ms. Kasabach, who - along with members of the public who spoke out at recent meetings - was repeatedly dressed down by the rest of Trenton’s school board.

This is the same school board who couldn’t even coherently tell local reporters last week about what had occurred these recent meetings, where discussions of the fate of the high school indicated that the board was moving in a direction of demolishing most of the high school, despite public outcry against such a move.

Ms. Kasabach’s resignation and public attendance at these recent Board of Education’s public meetings has revealed the painful shortcomings of Trenton’s reliance on a school board appointed by the mayor.

That system has been called the lesser of two evils by some, who say an elected school board in a place like Trenton could result in some truly unqualified people being put in positions of power, resulting in only more issues for an urban school district that already suffers from its share of problems.

After observing these meetings, it seems obvious that the current system allows for little to no accountability on the Board of Education, and that it may be time for the City of Trenton to return to public elections of school board members.

Sure, a few bad apples may somehow get onto the board, but for the most part people who have little or no legitimate interest in serving on such a body would likely refrain from going through all of the trouble of running for election to such a body.

Republican state senators Leonard Lance, R-23, and Christopher Bateman, R-16, have recently proposed legislation that would move school board elections to November general elections – ensuring greater voter turnout – in addition to requiring a voter referendum that would determine whether the district would use a mayoral-appointment system or a regularly elected Board of Education.

If that bill passes, it will provide for a convenient avenue for Trenton to move towards the system of more accountability, and more board member interest in public opinion and the fate of Trenton’s school children.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Santiago hearing concludes, Trenton awaits decision

Court action on the Police Director Joseph Santiago residency case took place this morning, and parties on all sides cut right to the chase, throwing out extraneous arguments and points and settling on a single argument.

The central argument of the legal battle - which should decide whether Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has the unilateral ability to grant waivers to the residency law for any employee he deems appropriate - is about how amendments made to Trenton's law in the late 1980s jibe with state law governing residency requirements.

Mercer County Superior Judge Linda Feinberg said during court proceedings today that she will write a legal opinion on that argument and release it in about 10 days, effectively settling the fate of Mr. Santiago and his residency case.

The court action began with an explanation of the case by the judge, as she understood it, to the six attorneys directly involved in the case along with a group of residents, reporters, and other interested parties.

The key statement made by Judge Feinberg during the entire hour or so of court action was uttered early on, when the judge said she was going to explain to the courtroom her interpretation of the "current" ordinance, seemingly implying that no matter which way she ruled, the current Trenton residency law would change.

Arguments about whether Mr. Santiago is a police officer, and whether the city should decide the case, were thrown out immediately.

"He is not a police officer," Judge Feinberg said.

It was apparently the consensus of both sides in court that Trenton's law does not, at the very least, match state law language word for word, but that was the point where any agreement on the two sides stopped. Whether that is significant, requires a change in the law, or requires the law to be thrown out, is where the crux of the entire case lies.

Attorneys for Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago dually maintained that the current law's waiver language is faulty to the point that the current law needs to be scrapped, and that the mayor acted in a proper way to grant Mr. Santiago's exemption, under both the state residency language and the greater Faulkner Act.

They said Friday that those two points both save Mr. Santiago from dismissal or being forced to move to Trenton, and require the current law to be taken off the books altogether, in favor of a future law that reflects the language of the state residency statute.

Attorneys for a group of Trenton residents - including myself - and the Trenton City Council took a different stand on this central argument Friday.

Following the proceedings at least one of the two said he felt very confident about his case.

The stance of those seeking Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago's adherence to the law was as follows: the state laws governing residency were enacted AFTER the city's residency law, and had language saying that any prior residency requirement could remain as is, just as long as any amendments or changes following the passage of the state law were consistent with what the state legislature said.

It was their argument that the Trenton residency amendments - which introduced waiver language along with some other provisions - were at least consistent with the state law, and did not merit being thrown out, along with the rest of the ordinance.

Alternatively, they pointed out that even if the amendments made in the 1980s by Trenton City Council were not truly consistent with state law, it is usually the policy of courts to try and spare as much of any law or ordinance as possible when called to throw out its faulty portions.

The plaintiff's lawyers took the position that even if the amendments made to the Trenton residency law in the 1980s were faulty, then they could by severed from the rest of the ordinance while the rest remained, without sparing Mr. Santiago from the provisions of the law casting non-residents out of their jobs.

While the show of legal knowledge and language utilized by Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago's attorneys was certainly impressive, it was more a superficial show of word-twisting and making certain legal arguments, precedents, and strategies seem stronger than they actually were, when given the language of the law.

Also, Judge Feinberg initially said that while the law would have to be changed, she could either cast out the law completely - allowing 2,000 city employees the freedom to flee the city limits - or she could edit the ordinance to make it correctly reflect the state law, if she ended ruling that it did not.

The former would probably result in mass chaos, further decline in the city, and an overturning of a citizen-initiated law that has worked correctly for most of its existence, all for the salvation of a single politically-connected employee who couldn't follow a simple rule.

The latter would end the current controversy and clarify an important legal question that has been daunting the city for several years, while allowing the city government to return to its normal business.

Let's hope sanity and justice carries the day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Let's go for the knockout blow

The West Ward of Trenton was the scene of an open-air gang shootout Tuesday, complete with crashing getaway vehicles and police officers unloading semiautomatics into fleeing vehicles.

When the dust settled, several individuals were arrested, several high-powered weapons were confiscated, and an investigation into the trigger-happy officer was launched.

The Trenton Police Department has responded with the usual Santiago-era treatment, consisting of a few nights of heightened police presence, probably some high-powered searchlights, while all of the hood rats and ghetto-dwellers that initiated the gang warfare in the first place scamper elsewhere in the city.

Police Director Joseph Santiago couldn't even make a physical appearance, but instead released a cliche police statement that has probably been given out in a slightly different form many times over by the director.

"This type of senseless violence will be met with an overwhelming amount of police presence," said Mr. Santiago, in a poorly-written press release.

This seems to be more of the same business-as-usual attitude that is frequently displayed by both Mr. Santiago and his boss, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

It is likely they were both out of the city at the time of the street battle, with Mayor Palmer probably up in Hunterdon County at his primary residence and Mr. Santiago at home in Stirling, out on two days of sick leave.

For one of those two sick days, Mr. Santiago took it upon himself to venture to Plainfield, where he told the city's leadership about the merits of switching from a Police Chief-led department to one led by a civilian Police Director.

He probably didn't tell those from Plainfield about how he has divided the Trenton Police Department, politicized it, and distracted officers and the community with controversy after controversy.

It is equally likely that he probably didn't describe how he has diminished the department's efficiency significantly because of personal vendettas, through the ouster of older, experienced officers or their relegation to meaningless midnight-shift desk jobs where their superior leadership skills languish.

Mr. Santiago probably didn't tell them about he works as an absentee police director serving an absentee mayor, living outside of the law and outside of Trenton, creating a situation where the most dire public safety events in Trenton are usually handled by his lesser and less-capable underlings.

Luckily for the City of Trenton, all of that might come to an end tomorrow, when Judge Linda Feinberg rules on twin lawsuits brought against Mr. Santiago and Mayor Palmer, with one designed to remove Mr. Santiago outright.

The other asks for his de facto removal, in that it calls on him to immediately do something that Mr. Santiago has refused to do, and that is move into the city he serves.

A ruling favoring that position will likely mean his immediate resignation.

The point here is not to celebrate the probable demise of one person who has brought nothing but problems to the City of Trenton. The point is that Mr. Santiago - a man cast out of several law enforcement agencies for shady dealings - should have never been brought to Trenton, but he was and the city has been forced to deal with the cost, in terms of both cost and moral, for five years.

The responsibility for that - and many of the other ills that plague this city - sits on the shoulders of only one man, and that person is Mayor Palmer.

This is a mayor whose arrogance and vindictiveness - never more evident than in the hackneyed defense assembled by his counsel in the Santiago battle - has resulted in a political position that has been weakened considerably, especially of late.

The mayor has recently been dealt several important policy defeats, he is faced by an increasingly adversarial City Council, and he has proved to his own party that he cannot get out significant numbers of votes for favored Democratic candidates.

A recall could be in order.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wireless company has a history of delays

Palmer administration officials are set to ask for a $250,000 appropriation from City Council this week to allow a fledgling wireless Internet company begin its grandiose plans to put all of Trenton's seven miles of area under a “mesh” of broadband Internet access.

The only problem is, City Council officials were told when first introduced to the idea that the city would need to put up zero dollars of start-up money, and simply sign off on providing the right-of-way necessary for all of the routers and other devices needed to construct a strong broadband network everywhere in Trenton.

Residents and even some City Council members have begun asking exactly why the company and administration officials told the city’s legislative body that they need not pony up any dollars for the construction of the network, only to completely reverse that stance months later.

Sources in Long Island – where E-Path is attempting to create a similar wireless system in two New York counties – said this week that those networks have stalled too, despite initially being given a December start date.

Those same sources have been following E-Path closely, and now believe that the reason for the delay in Long Island and the monetary request in Trenton is that E-Path is having trouble getting investors to put up money for both of the ventures.

The feeling is that E-Path could not get money for either network – and like many of the City of Trenton’s business partners – would like an infusion of city funds to get the Long Island network going, and hopefully jump start investor interest in the plan prior to getting things started in Trenton.

But even if City Council were to put up the dough for E-Path, the track record on all of these ventures – even those involving companies much larger and more prestigious than E-Path – is that they have never come together as proposed.

It seems that this whole wireless network thing is just one more of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s Trenton fantasies.

The two defining features of Mayor Palmer’s fantasies are that they usually never get off the ground or off the drawing board, and the City of Trenton ends up paying for them, through the nose.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Administration: another late budget on the way

Trenton Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum has apparently informed City Council members that the city is in store for another whirlwind, rushed, and oversight-free budget process next year.

This year City Council members saw their statutory right to act as a financial oversight committee diminished, after officials from the Douglas H. Palmer administration waited to introduce a budget until the fiscal year was 70 percent complete.

One result was that council members could barely change the budget because most of the money allocated for expenditure had already been used up, plus no major change could come without causing debilitating delays on the state statute-dictated budget schedule.

The more important result was that a poverty-ridden city that already sees some of the highest tax rates in the county now faces a 13-cent increase in the tax rate, further breaking the backs of businesses trying to survive in an area with public safety problems, and stretching homeowners trying to make mortgage payments to the limit.

It has already been forecast that next year’s budget – absent of some miraculous economic development – will boast a similar increase, while state aid budgets are being reduced by a governor hell-bent on bringing fiscal sobriety to the Garden State.

Next year a majority of City Council needs to work as a group to hold the feet of the administration to the fire, and cut both unneeded positions and unneeded departments that serve little purpose in a city that has seen its population shrink by over 30 percent in the last 40 years.

Just because Mayor Palmer would like to feel like the king of his little fiefdom on the Delaware, it doesn’t mean the City Council and the taxpayers should provide him the means to do so, on their tab.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More hypocrisy

The City of Trenton is ruled by a mayor who is willing to selectively enforce laws against city employees, bending and shaping the consequences for violations at will and based upon his personal preference.

That much is clear from the responses filed by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s attorneys, who maintain a law that was so vigorously enforced in the past by the mayor’s administration against other city employees is now invalid for those seeking to enforce the same law against one of Mayor Palmer’s highest allies and favored cabinet members, Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Comparing the current reaction to a residency violation to the city’s previous responses to other employees is truly enlightening, and paints an even brighter picture of the hypocrisy breeding in Trenton’s executive branch.

In the case of former city employee Morris Schall, the city broadly contradicts the position it is taking currently on Mr. Santiago’s residency by demonstrating in court that the city vigorously enforces the residency ordinance against ALL violators in an unselective manner.

According to testimony in the Schall case, the city does not accept someone simply renting an apartment in the city and living there during the week and then making “weekend jaunts” to where the employee’s immediate family lives.

Mr. Schall did so, and the Palmer administration made it clear that their policy was that doing so was grounds for immediate dismissal from employment in the City of Trenton.

Yet the city’s new Communications Director and Newark buddy of Mr. Santiago, Irving Bradley, is clearly doing that, and Palmer administration officials testifying before City Council said they do not care about what Mr. Bradley does on his weekends, even if whatever he is doing is clearly in violation of city law.

City personnel official Raissa Walker also testified that at the time – July 2006 – the city had not granted ANY residency waivers to any employees in six years, despite statements made by high-ranking Palmer administration officials like Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum to the contrary.

When one of the earliest rumblings about Mr. Santiago’s non-residency occurred in January of that year – inside the six year period quoted by Ms. Walker – the city’s business administrator told the press that Mr. Santiago had been granted a waiver of the residency ordinance.

Those two statements by Palmer official clearly contradict each other, and what’s more, one of them might have made her statements in a court of law, as a credible witness testifying about how the City of Trenton under Mayor Palmer vigorously enforces the residency law against any and all violators, except now, if your name if Joseph Santiago.

I guess if you used to work for Sharpe James then it means you don’t have to follow city law, especially a law that has been enforced to the detriment of numerous hard-working and generally law-abiding employees.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone.