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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The urban welfare system

An occupying force of federal, state, county, and local police has descended upon some of Trenton’s worst areas like some sort of crime-suffocating blanket, following the fire-bombing murder of one of the city’s youngest and most innocent citizens.

While the outcry and ensuing response are much appreciated here in Trenton, the reality is that this particular situation punctuates the need for Trenton’s own government, own police force, and own people to seriously get cracking and start changing the conditions of places like Walnut Avenue.

And that’s because the people whose law enforcement agencies have now descended into the urban ghettos of Trenton are quite happy with allowing the social and economic issues that cause incidents like the death of Qua’Daishia Hopkins to continue, unabated.

The conditions of neighborhoods like Walnut Avenue and other areas of Trenton are a total disgrace to this city, and the rest of the state. They are even a disgrace to humanity, but it is simply a fact of life that many people subscribing to the NIMBYism that is endemic to this society could simply care less about what goes on in Trenton’s blighted neighborhoods and broken social circles.

What is truly sick about all of this is that people living outside of New Jersey’s cities are actually content to pay hundreds of millions of dollars directly out of their pockets to keep these problems out of their sight, out of their mind.

They don’t see it, so it becomes acceptable for these adverse conditions to exist in that continual state of festering that nearly always results when problems are merely allowed to exist instead of taking the comprehensive action to eliminate them once and for all.

Every year somewhere around $450 million of outside dollars are hand-delivered to the officials of Trenton, to make up the gigantic gap between the level of services Trenton’s ratables can support through taxes versus the amount of services needed to tend to Trenton’s array of problems.

Surely that $450 million a year would be better dedicated to a decade’s worth of economic redevelopment, so that maybe one day Trenton can get off of the welfare line and onto the road of self-sufficiency.

But judging from the continued existence of this system of economic hand-outs, it seems that the state outside of Trenton is quite content to pay a massive annual fee to keep the problems of Trenton safely within the borders of Trenton, even if the cost in human lives snuffed out by poverty-bred death continues to exist at an unacceptable level.

In these conditions Trenton’s municipal government – the Palmer administration – exists as a kind of Vichy government endorsed by the outside world to rule over the chaos that lives in Trenton’s seven square miles.

Just as it is endorsed by the outside world that has continued to support the current social and economic climate in the state capital, the municipal government has become a product of that climate and likely relies on its continued existence to maintain its stranglehold on municipal power.

It follows then that this current government needs to go before the current conditions can be changed significantly. Trenton’s government – coming from a broken system – has come to rely on that same system for its lifeblood, and only when those in their current position of power are out can Trenton move on, as a city, without reference to what those obviously misguided outsiders would prefer.