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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.

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