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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bush, Cheney cancel convention appearances

President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will skip this week's Republican convention in Minneapolis because of Hurricane Gustav, a White House spokesperson said today.

The announcement came as the Category 3 storm ravaged Cuba in preparation for moving on into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will likely gain strength and become a Category 5 storm capable of wreaking havoc on the Gulf coast in a repeat of the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

Disaster relief efforts in still-recovering New Orleans are in full swing, but a situation in any way similar to the 2005 disaster that killed 1,836 people could significantly damage Republican efforts to defeat Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election.

Pictures of New Orlans - filled with people on rooftops, houses destroyed, and bodies floating in surging flood waters - still haunt the American psyche as what some saw as evidence of a bungling Bush administration plagued by indifference towards the lives of thousands of New Orleans' overwhelmingly black, and poor, residents.

Hurricane Gustav - set to make landfall as early as Monday - does provide an opportunity for Republicans to get President Bush away from the convention floor, along with the president's dismal approval ratings.

Republicans will be partially saved from trying to divorce themselves from the problems of the Bush administration in the minds of television viewers who would have seen President Bush speaking at the Minneapolis convention, although a White House spokesperson did say that the president would try to somehow deliver his planned speech to the convention, possibly from afar.

Trenton should demand answers

Trenton City Council and city residents deserve to know what preparations the current administration is making for the looming departure of former Police Director Joseph Santiago from the helm of the city's police department.

A court-ordered removal process initiated in July gave Mr. Santiago 75 days to complete what many hoped would be an orderly and seamless transition out of Trenton, after the director was judged to have openly broken the city's residency ordinance, which carries a penalty of immediate removal from office.

Despite the court's decision to provide a significant amount of time for work on the power transition to Mr. Santiago and the Palmer administration officials on the losing side of the court battle, neither City Council nor city residents have any idea about the identity of the person who will be taking over the city's 300-person police department.

In a city suffering from a public safety image problem, leadership is key. Yet administration officials remain mum about whatever plans are being hatched about the post-Santiago era of Trenton policing, even though it appears that the same officials, or maybe even Mayor Palmer himself, have been floating trial balloons in the public arena to gauge reaction.

They came in the form of unsubstantiated news reports complete with anonymous sources saying that Mr. Santiago is moving into Trenton, in what appeared to be a tool utilized to "feel out" the reaction of opponents should Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago announce that the ousted director had moved into the city.

Thankfully such an occurrence is highly unlikely, given that Mr. Santiago would have to move his entire family down from sunny Stirling, N.J. into some abode within Trenton city limits. That certainly appears to have a very low probability of occurring.

But whatever ends up happening, City Council members and the general public need to demand answers at the upcoming Sept. 4 council meeting. An appropriate reaction to continued stonewalling would come in the form of another council work stoppage, or even better, the initiation of removal hearings for a high-ranking administration official.

The administration needs to come to understand that, like the people they represent, City Council means business.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fear not, a new time is upon us

A common tactic of Adolf Hitler and Nazi party officials was to try at all costs to stoke the flames of fear among the German people. They did this by putting out propaganda that painted the picture of the phantom threat of Jews and other so-called "undesirables" and the danger they posed to the common people that made up German society in the 1930s.

Hitler, through his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, effectively utilized the newspaper. Just one way they did this was through a slew of articles and columns meant to twist, bend, and warp the will of the public into believing that these minority groups represented a serious threat to the German government, as a means of securing and then reinforcing an iron grip on the reins of power.

Unfortunately, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has a man that for some unknown reason operates in a somewhat similar way, in Trentonian columnist and reporter L.A. Parker. Mr. Parker is usually quick to use newspaper space in The Trentonian to warp public opinion and stoke the basest sort of racial and class fears in order to secure power for Mayor Palmer and shore up the image of Trenton's missing mayor.

Fortunately for us, few Americans can doubt that the nomination of Sen. Barack Obama by the Democratic Party represents a major step forward in the integration and equalization of the disparate races that make up the American public.

Yet Mayor Palmer, despite what Mr. Parker continues to write, sought with all his might to defeat Sen. Obama and get Sen. Hillary Clinton to the point of receiving the nomination of the Democratic Party.

When one of the worst local electoral defeats in New Jersey was experienced by Mayor Palmer's preferred presidential candidate, the mayor disappeared for long periods of time from the city.He only recently emerged in local newspaper pieces crying alligator tears for the nomination of the African-American candidate that he strove so hard to defeat, during New Jersey's early February primary.

To this writer it was quite humorous, following all the L.A. Parker and Mayor Palmer-spawned propaganda, to hear only months ago from very close friends of Bill and Sen. Clinton that the two did not really know who Mayor Palmer was at all. They went as far as saying Mayor Palmer could be a part of the gang of groupie, semi-important party officials tagging along with the Clintons in hope of some sort of larger personal gain.

But, all joking and pontificating aside, it remains clear that Mayor Palmer and L.A. Parker are fast becoming relics of a time when politicians and their followers took advantage of others through the politics of racial fear, for the sole purpose of gaining and solidifying power.

What the nomination of Sen. Obama represents is an end to the politics of fear, and the start of a time when nations, cities, and towns made up people of all types of colors and creeds can get together and support political leaders that transcend every possible distinguishing feature.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Interesting but potentially damaging VP choice for McCain

Sorry all you GOPers, but the pick of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin as vice presidential running mate by John McCain seems to at least slightly deflate all of that Republican rhetoric that says Barack Obama is too inexperienced to take over the presidency.

Gov. Palin is a first-term governor whose only previous political experience was as city council member and mayor of the expansive metropolis of Wasilla, Alaska, which has a population 5,470, according to the 2000 U.S. census.

So a relative newcomer with less experience than Sen. Obama will be thrust into a position where a McCain-Palin victory would mean the United States of America is only a stroke, heart attack, or aneurysm away from having President Palin enshrined in the history books as the 45th president of the U.S.

In supporting McCain-Palin Republicans really would be putting a person with so little experience in the office right below Sen. McCain, who, if elected, would be one of the oldest people to be elected President in the history of the country, with a myriad of health problems to boot.

Maybe the whole “a lot of experience is needed” argument doesn’t really carry too much water with the Republican party faithful.

With today's announcement Republican officials from New Jersey are exclaiming that Gov. Palin is sure to appeal to all those millions of women who came out in support of Hillary Clinton, but even that argument has its holes.

Gov. Palin is staunchly pro-life, and all of those former Clinton supporters could have a minor problem with voting for a woman running on a ticket with a man who promises to tilt the Supreme Court even further to the right, in an action that could carry the threat of an effort to overturn Roe V. Wade.

Reading even deeper into the implications of the Palin pick as McCain’s running mate, is considering what it could tell the voters of this great country about the man running against Barack Obama.

This pick almost has an air of desperation, made by a man well known for having a problem with impetuousness and anger. Or even worse, perhaps this out-of-left-field pick of an inexperienced governor of Alaska is indicative of the kind of choices that Sen. McCain could make in national security decisions or economic decisions.

Whatever it means, it doesn’t look like the pick of Gov. Palin tips the presidential election scales in any significant way. In fact, her inexperience and political views may just end up hurting McCain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coleman: Brookings report reinforces RCA ban

Last week Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman said that a Brookings Institute report that demonstrated more and more of the nation's poor are being shoved into poverty-stricken urban areas vindicates the affordable housing efforts of state legislators this year.

Ms. Watson Coleman specifically singled out legislation that eliminated Regional Contribution Agreements, the housing mechanism that allowed the state's richest towns and cities to sell off affordable housing obligations to poor, cash-strapped cities, as evidence that "New Jersey is clearly out in front of a growing national issue."

The Brookings Institute report apparently found that concentrated poverty rates in both the Camden-Philadelphia and the New Jersey-New York City areas have grown significantly in the past 10 years.

What's interesting is that Ms. Watson Coleman has provided significant political support to Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

Mayor Palmer repeatedly utilized Regional Contribution Agreements in the past despite the mechanism's proven negative effect on New Jersey cities that have continually experienced more and more concentrated poverty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Get involved, if you're so worried

Having so many residents from Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence up in arms over the proposed $100 million sale of Trenton Water Works infrastructure outside of city limits provides a unique opportunity for city residents wishing for the city to progress to enlist outside assistance.

This issue is a perfect one to get residents living within the city and residents from outside the city to bond over a common issue, namely the actions of Trenton’s unaccountable city government.

An unaccountable and ineffective city government in Trenton has been allowed to exist long after normal political forces should have overtaken it, probably because of the chaotic social and economic nature of much of the city and the grip the current political machine has had on Trenton.

Complacent in that arrangement has been the voting public and political organizational people living outside the city. Many people seem to be content on letting Trenton’s condition worsen, in a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” attitude.

They have been accepting of an arrangement where Mayor Douglas Palmer and his people have been left free to run an increasingly crime-ridden and downtrodden Trenton.

Now those chickens are coming home to roost. Mayor Palmer’s push to sell the outlying water infrastructure to a for-profit company with a history of excessive rate hikes is a perfect example how people who think that what goes on in Trenton stays in Trenton are simply deluding themselves.

While community groups work to fight what looks like a severely costly arrangement, they should give serious thought to using their own political power and their checkbooks to ensure that the Palmer administration officials behind this deal are relieved of their ability to wreak havoc on other people’s lives.

Ensuring the next political administration is of a different and more accountable variety would result in a stronger Trenton, and a stronger Trenton means a much stronger, safer, and better Mercer County.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chaos reigns at the Trenton Water Works

A Trenton Water Works employee installing an illegal water connection on the 900 block of Riverside Avenue on Aug. 14 had to be stopped from performing the work by Trenton police officers after telling a city plumbing code officials to “go fuck yourself,” according to water utility employees.

The plumbing code official apparently called in to City Hall and discovered the water works employee had not secured any of the proper permits or materials for the job. That created the potential for a public safety disaster, with unlicensed and uneducated people hacking into the water utility infrastructure without knowledge of the proper way to do so, said one water employee.

More frightening is that water employees have reported that incidents such as that of Aug. 14 have become commonplace under the Palmer administration, with water employees regularly soliciting plumbing work while working on city time.

The administration has told employees that those with proper licenses and permits are free to do such work, but only when it is not on city time. Yet a lax enforcement and punishment system has resulted in unlicensed people tapping a massive public water system all the time in the state capital.

“Imagine if a PSEG employee went out after hours fixing gas lines,” said one employee.

Utility employees said that since the rise of these activities city materials and equipment have routinely gone missing from the water utility’s storage depots, yet the administration is apparently looking the other way and whistle blowers and concerned employees are bullied and attacked into submission.

All is not well at the Trenton Water Works, where the problem of unlicensed and unsupervised plumbing work raises the prospect of sinkholes, infrastructure failures, or the possibility of widespread contamination of water used by over 60,000 customers in numerous municipalities.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Water deal remains a foul one

A deal pending with regulatory officials calls for $100 million to go to Trenton, in return for miles of pipelines and infrastructure and a majority of the Trenton water utility's captive consumers, all to be handed over to a for-profit company.

Trenton Councilman Jim Coston compared selling infrastructure in Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence while continuing to sell water to customers there – as per the deal - as a relationship akin to selling an old, maintenance-costly truck used for delivering widgets, while continuing to hold a contract for widget production with the outlying customers.

If one listened to what has been said about the deal in Trenton, perhaps this is the impression that develops. But in reality this plan promises to damage both Trenton's future revenue-generating capability and its relationship with neighboring municipalities.

The infrastructure currently for sale is anything but old. In Hopewell, most infrastructure was constructed after 1987, according to public advocate witness John M. Mastracchio, whose testimony is available on the Hopewell website. Nearly 90 percent of it was constructed by developers and handed over to Trenton, he said, like some sort of birthday present.

The real aging infrastructure is that of Trenton. The townships, having developed later, have newer infrastructure that is less costly to maintain, according to utility employees.

"What we're selling isn't aging," said a ranking utility employee during some fact checking performed on Sunday. "I have only done 10 repairs in Hopewell in 10 years."

Estimates considered by the Board of Public Utilities say that with all developer-supplied infrastructure, Trenton-bought and constructed infrastructure amounts to less than half the value of the deal - somewhere below $50 million. Testimony given to the BPU from Mr. Mastracchio, reveals that developer-built pipes should belong to the ratepayers and not to Trenton.

At the core of the issue is the arrangement that calls for Trenton to continue to sell water to New Jersey American’s new township customers for 20 years, with a charge of $11.8 million a year among other perks going to Trenton. But when one considers that most of the utility's ratepayers live outside of Trenton, it becomes clear that the $11.8 million is a downgrade, as far as the water utility remaining a significant revenue-generating asset is concerned.

The utility has been making somewhere around $30 million per annum of late, and most - upwards of $16 to $18 million - is coming from the rates paid by township customers making up more than 60 percent of the utility's customers. So the deal means excess cash for the short term, but in the long term there will be less revenue coming into the utility’s coffers.

With the sale, the utility will be left with Trenton's ratepayers. The numbers of ratepayers versus size of infrastructure seems favorable – over 20,000 paying accounts in a very small area - but this is misleading. The ranks of Trenton’s ratepayers are filled with delinquent or non-existent accounts in a municipality experiencing shrinking population. That base was augmented with the 45,000 or so township ratepayers, yet that would end with the deal.

Utility employees say it’s undetermined if Trenton will see more dollars coming from New Jersey American Water once the 20-year deal is completed. The company has outside connections with the township infrastructure that would allow it to pump water in from non-Trenton sources.

The official city line fails to note that private developments perform many repairs to water piping. The city only repairs piping between the main line and the curb and large areas of infrastructure in built-out areas of the townships cost the city little to maintain.

Controlling infrastructure means the city receives revenue that will disappear with the deal. The city charges the townships for the construction and maintenance of hydrants, and receives money from so-called ready-to-serve charges for new customers.

Both the hydrant and ready-to-serve dollars will go with a sale, and future development in the townships will go to New Jersey American Water. What's also bogus is the 40 percent rate hike threatened by administration officials, should the deal fail.

That position comes despite testimony from water expert Howard Woods. He said a hike of the magnitude set to be handed to Trenton and township ratepayers in September is based on fantasy. It is caused by a doubling of budget transfers from the utility to the city's general fund, which Mr. Woods questioned as unlawful. State law says that at most an amount equal to 5 percent of a utility's annual revenue may be transferred into a general fund if the utility provides water to customers outside the host city.

Trenton appears to have transferred $9.2 million over the course of two years, as reported in the Times. The administration hides behind the defense that it happened after a rate equalization that supposedly freed Trenton from Board of Public Utilities oversight. But what has not been discussed is that it appears part of the transfer came out of the 2006 water budget, prior to equalization.

This deal threatens to damage Trenton's finances and destroy relationships with bordering towns, for quick money that could disappear in a year or two. Hopefully the BPU or someone else puts a stop to it, for the sake of Trenton residents and our neighbors in Mercer County.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama will get Trenton's vote

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama and VP pick Joe Biden can rest assured that they they will get the majority of the vote in Trenton in November.

That's what Mayor Douglas H. Palmer will be telling attendees of the Democratic convention in Denver, but in reality that's no thanks to Doug.

Mayor Palmer went with many other Democratic faithful in Mercer County last February when he threw his support behind Sen. Hillary Clinton, while many of his former mayoral opponents like Mercer County Freeholder Tony Mack and local businessman John Harmon went door-to-door urging voters to pull the lever for Sen. Obama.

But the results in Trenton speak for themselves: 7,221 votes for Sen. Obama to Sen. Clinton’s 2,994, despite support from Mayor Palmer and Mercer County's Watson Machine for Sen. Clinton.

Now we see that Palmer propaganda penned by publicist Kent Ashworth continually makes innuendo that Trenton's longtime mayor is deserving of some sort of high-ranking urban policy decision within the Obama administration, should the senator from the South Side of Chicago end up taking the presidency.

We say no to that, despite the fact that someone taking our ineffective executive off our hands does sound like a cause for celebration. If Mayor Palmer's tenure in Trenton is any indication of how he would direct urban policy, Sen. Obama would be better off picking someone else.

There's no need to repeat a series of nonexistent programs, failed development, and urban problems that continue to spiral out of control on the national stage, where more is at stake.

For all parties involved, it would be better if the mayor simply exited from the public policy business.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ferriero shows why NJ needs ethics reform

News that things are heating up with the federal investigation of Bergen County Democratic boss Joseph A. Ferriero comes as no surprise, given the litany of corruption stories associated with Mr. Ferriero over the years.

Federal investigators raided Mr. Ferriero's law office at the firm of Scarinci Hollenbeck in Lyndhurst, removing numerous boxes of documents that are likely to become fodder for whatever type of investigation is brewing.

This is the same guy who used local police as chauffeurs to Yankess games and to casinos in Atlantic City at a cost of around $1,000 to county taxpayers, according to The Bergen Record, among other more run-of-the-mill corrupt activities.

Now, Mr. Ferriero represents a special version of New Jersey's typical warped public official, simply because he has enjoyed considerable success in developing Bergen County's Democratic forces into a powerful political machine that can raise millions of dollars while holding sway over dozens of governmental jobs and dozens of public contracts.

Most other party or governmental officials do not enjoy the same degree of success as Mr. Ferriero. But examples of the activities that Mr. Ferriero engages in so efficiently - pay-to-play, wheeling, and maintaining a strict system of political control - are much more commonplace in New Jersey than political bosses of the magnitude of Mr. Ferriero.

In Bergen County, Mr. Ferriero steered hundreds of public contracts and governmental jobs into the hands of party loyalists and financial supporters, rather than whichever was the best firm to do the necessary job, at the lowest price for the good of the public.

In turn, Bergen residents already paying massive property taxes end up paying more taxes for the same services, in what represents some unwritten corruption surcharge or crooked public official tax.

It's amazing that more people here in New Jersey don't come to the conclusion that something needs to do something about this.

Steering contracts and jobs to the party faithful and political contributors is the system that allows entrenched party groups to gain an iron grip on government. When it happens, everyone loses, except for the favored politicos.

State legislators like Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, say this is the year when real ethics reform will come to New Jersey.

Let's hope he's for real, but judging how the Democratic majority in Trenton has treated past ethics reform proposals that specifically deal with pay-to-play and associated activities, it might not be a good idea for someone to hold their breath.

The ethics reform train might never leave the station.

City forms show special considerations for Santiago, Bradley

City residency forms obtained by The Ruins of Trenton and signed by Trenton's former police director, Joseph Santiago, and embattled Communications Director Irving Bradley, reveal policy discrepancies that add to evidence that shows the city's administration relies upon double standards when it comes to city residency law.

Mr. Bradley took over city communications duties in August of 2007, but was not asked to sign a city residency form until nearly five months of employment had elapsed. This form is one of two that all civilian employees have been required to sign at the start of their city employment since 1995, according to those familiar with city policy.

A form with a January 2008 signing date lists a Broad Street Bank apartment as his bona fide residence. The form indicates that despite established city policy to the contrary, Mr. Bradley was not asked to sign a certification verifying his residency for a long period of time.

This period of time also coincided with several incidents that led to Mr. Bradley's residency being called into question, due to the emergence of photographs showing police vehicles used by Mr. Bradley outside his old residence in Rahway.

The continued existence of that second residence and the way it appears that Mr. Bradley's family continues to reside paint a picture of a man living outside the city' residency law. But during that time, the city appears not to have asked Mr. Bradley to truthfully verify his residency, under penalty of termination and criminal charges, until well after his start of employment.

Mr. Santiago's residency form is almost comical in nature.

City employees, under the residency law, have only three options when it comes to their residency certification: live in the city, gain the ability to live outside the city after 15 years of continuous employment, or work in a position that either the state or the city exempted from residency.

Yet with Mr. Santiago, the city residency form was augmented with a written-in option, which was dutifully checked off, reading "I have requested a six-month waiver of the residence requirement."

But the city's residency ordinance makes no such allowances for city employees, stating that they need to either establish residency or receive a waiver from the law prior to employment. Also, the signature date is March of 2003, two weeks after Mr. Santiago took over and at a time when the director claimed to be renting rooms at various city addresses to fulfill residency requirements.

This March 2003 date is also nearly three years before the city administration ever mentioned that Mr. Santiago has been given leeway to live at his Morris County address, due to undisclosed family issues.

So there appear to be discepancies between the city's public announcement of Mr. Santiago's living situation and what residents were led to believe at the start of his residency.

Perhaps most disturbing about the two documents is how they portray a hypocritical and untrustworthy city government that utilizes different policies when it comes to different city employees.

For what both men did other city employees were terminated, yet both continue on in their positions - for now - while the city coddles them and applies a different set of law to the administration's "good ole boys."

Remember, it took two separate courts and nearly $140,000 in legal fees to enforce the residency law on Mr. Santiago. Unfortunately, Mr. Bradley's form shows that once again the Palmer administration had made it policy to make special considerations for some special city employees.

That situation needs to stop.

Friday, August 22, 2008

L.A. Parker, dividing the city for political purposes since God knows when

Race-baiting Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker is once again hypothesizing that those working to hold the Douglas H. Palmer administration accountable have some sort of racial motivation in going after Communications Director Irving Bradley, for his apparent violation of the city’s residency ordinance.

Old Mill Hill reported that the politically-motivated Palmer supporter said that the people who successfully ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago for non-residency and are now going after Mr. Bradley are those who “don’t like blacks or Latinos,” on his radio show Thursday.

That’s pretty ridiculous considering the group of people working towards holding Mayor Palmer accountable, and especially considering my case. I grew up in West Windsor Township, a few miles up Route 1, and many tens of thousands of dollars up in median family income from Trenton. The demographics there are nothing like Trenton, with a mainly white population, a sprinkling of Asians, and very few blacks and Latinos.

Yet I love Trenton and that includes the blacks, Latinos, and others who live here. Despite the city’s problems I have found more friendly, worthy acquaintances and neighbors than I ever found among my neighbors in West Windsor, and many of those people have been blacks or Latinos.

My bona fide residence in the Broad Street Bank Building is the picture of well-functioning diversity, including all manners of differences. We have rich, poor, black, white, Latino, people working in business, and people living off welfare, yet I have never lived in place or seen an environment so lacking in animosity, suspicion, or unfriendliness.

Unlike many who refuse to dwell in Trenton – like Mr. Parker, Mr. Santiago, Mr. Bradley, and maybe even Mayor Douglas Palmer – I value living here, and part of that is living with healthy diversity in being exposed to all those different values, different classes, and different cultures that come from living among different skin colors.

I hope that in some rather unlikely way I will be able to continue to live here, as the city progresses and my career advances and I add years onto my life.

But if that happens, I hope that sometime in the future this city will be freed from the racially and politically-motivated diatribes of Mr. Parker, whose slanted news articles, hate-filled columns, and spin-filled commentary only serve to divide the people living within this city and the surrounding area, further retarding progress and keeping the city in its Palmer-era economic and social depression.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Council, make their heads roll

Palmer administration officials could be facing some severely drastic action at Sept. 4’s Trenton City Council meeting should they fail to deliver on the informational requests of council members.

City Council members – and the public – want to know what the administration plans on doing with the position of ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago and on the other apparent residency law violator, Communications Director Irving Bradley.

Council members have already requested that information, on several occasions, yet administration officials such as Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum, Chief of Staff Renee Haynes, and others have all failed to deliver in a timely manner or at all, on both these requests and others.

Perhaps Mr. Coston gave us a glimpse of what’s to come if the administration once again stonewalls city residents’ elected representatives, when he stopped an entire council meeting in response to a lack of response on the part of Ms. Feigenbaum to numerous requests for city data.

We have said it before: if this record continues, council members ought to put one or two administrative positions on the chopping block, and hold removal hearings for an eventual vote to remove a Palmer official, perhaps Ms. Feigenbaum or Ms. Haynes.

Personnel chief Raissa Walker could be the best candidate for dismissal, considering her implication in much of this residency brouhaha and the “look the other way” policy that was used with Mr. Santiago and Mr. Bradley.

Whatever the case, this City Council – continuing its transformation in standing up to Mayor Palmer and his minions – needs to up the ante, and force a Palmer administration that has already been defeated on numerous occasions into an even more defensive position. The time has come, however they choose to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A state-funded lack of accountability

More stories of ridiculous shenanigans are pouring out of the black hole that has become the Trenton Police Department under the leadership of former Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Last week, Trenton learned about how a crazed Capt. Paul Messina caused a massive rush hour traffic hazard by blocking off Perry Street to berate an officer named Vincent Mistretta, who was apparently out of proper traffic-directing position due to a valid excuse of shepherding some pedestrians through traffic.

Officer Mistretta filed an Internal Affairs report, but nothing has happened to Capt. Messina so far. In past instances where non-favored Trenton cops have done something either against department rules, or in Capt. Messina’s case, something that appears unlawful, the wheels of discipline have immediately been set in motion.

In one recent case, service guns were confiscated, reports taken, psychological evaluations made, and wild goose chase investigations of the city’s own cops undertaken, all at the cost of many expensive city-funded overtime hours.

But for Capt. Messina, neither Mayor Douglas H. Palmer nor Mr. Santiago has informed the public as to how an out-of-control police captain, who broke numerous department rules and perhaps committed criminal acts, is being dealt with. In fact, police sources say little will be done at all once the investigation is complete, with the ridiculous arrangement of having Mr. Santiago as the Internal Affairs hearing officer.

Police sources now say that Officer Mistretta is being investigated himself by the Professional Standards Unit that used to be run by Capt. Messina.

One officer, under the direct supervision of Mr. Santiago, is allegedly tailing Officer Mistretta and others who have taken a negative stance the leadership of the department and the rest of the establishment to try and dig up some kind of dirt.

Remember everyone, all of these costly antics are overwhelmingly funded not by the people of Trenton, but the rest of the Garden State.

Thanks for the help!

L.A. Parker, irresponsible shill (update)

Trentonian reporter L.A. Parker needs to have his head examined.

Today he wrote what appeared to be an objective news piece stating that anonymous sources say Police Director Joseph Santiago, who was ousted by the courts for violating the city's residency law, is moving back to the City of Trenton.

Mr. Santiago's residency issues, the ensuing court battle, the suddenly resurgent group of City Council members standing up to Mr. Santiago and his supporter, Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, have all dominated the city's newspaper pages and power structure for months.

To write an article declaring to thousands of readers that Mr. Santiago has suddenly decided to move into Trenton based on statements from anonymous sources - something that Mr. Santiago and other Trenton officials refused to confirm today - is simply irresponsible. It demonstrates to the readers of the Trentonian what little respect Mr. Parker has for them.

This whole residency issue has become an important citywide issue, and it deserves more than a cursory treatment that could be expected from a sixth-grader taking a journalism class, rather than an "Award-winning" writer.

The residency debate has brought up many important questions for Trenton: whether people who work for the city should have to live here to take part in the community; about whether or not Mayor Palmer is a big, fat hypocrite for saying he wanted to have a civilian director-led police department because the director would have to live here and then allowing Mr. Santiago to openly and flagrantly break the law; and about what kind of city government this is, that fires some low-ranking employees for violating residency yet allows employees like Mr. Santiago, of questionable value and dubious intentions, to openly break the same law.

The importance of these issues mean that any piece of journalism detailing such an important event as Mr. Santiago deciding to move here and join the city needs to be well-researched and evenhanded.

But Mr. Parker's article fails to do either of those things.

Also, it does nothing to inform the readership about the legality of such a move, given the language of the decision and the fact that Mr. Santiago's family would have to move into the city to legally comply with residency.

Mr. Parker did not seek out what Mr. Santiago's opponents in the residency battle plan on doing in response to the move, and for some odd reason a different Trentonian reporter was tasked with this.

That assignment, made to the Trentonian's Joe D'Aquila, basically amounted to seeking out opponents of Mr. Santiago and the mayor, on council and in the populace, and asking them to detail what their reaction would be, to what amounts to unsubstantiated rumor.

As Councilman Jim Coston and Old Mill Hill have correctly assessed, this appears to be Mr. Parker using himself as a tool to "feel out" Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago's enemies, free of charge.

It seems that according to Mr. Parker, the Trentonian's core readership - which is overwhelmingly concentrated in Trenton itself - is a group of idiots that should simply accept unsubstantiated statements about a significant city issue.

Mr. Parker's unreasonable expectation of acceptance comes despite the preponderance of evidence that points to the fact that he has developed a cozy relationship with Mayor Palmer and the mayor's administration, which has become detrimental to his objectivity, his devotion to fact-based stories, and his effective execution of his profession.

Sure, other writers at the paper sometimes use anonymous sources, but their reasons are clear and make the usage appropriate. Those stories are about the questionable goings-on in the Trenton Police Department, where information attributed to an officer could result in relegation to midnight duty or other pain and suffering.

Reporters, when writing objective news pieces in a newspaper, should stick to the facts and then verify them, and put forth the effort necessary to prevent unsubstantiated rumor from entering into the minds of the public.

L.A. Parker - this lie-spreading, fear-mongering Ewing resident - needs to be released from the Trentonian staff, so Trenton's residents can consider all of the facts in important city issues, without being forced to consume all of the spin or calculated political action entering Mr. Parker's personal decisions about what to write and how to write it.

Also, maybe then the paper's other writers could do their work without having their reputations constantly sullied by the politically-tainted stories of Mr. Parker's, which so often seem more fitting of a politician's publicist, rather than a fact-writing journalist.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bill raises questions for Corzine

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, in announcing the signing of legislation that allows the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to pursue the construction of an aquarium at the Xanadu site in the Meadowlands last week, told the world that a good friend and former business associate has a significant interest in developing Xanadu.

But an ethics panel told him it’s OK to sign the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, as long as he made the announcement, which dissolved the existence of any conflict of interest, according to panel members.

The people in question include one friend and former business associate, Daniel Neidich, a member of the partnership Dune Capital Management Fund LP that helped in the $1.5 billion bail out of the troubled Xanadu project. Mr. Neidich’s organization's massive investment will now be buoyed with the ability to add an aquarium onto the list of potential pleasure features at the Xanadu complex, near Giants Stadium.

According to reports in the Bergen Record, there is also a man named Gary Rose, who personally oversaw the financial bailout of Xanadu for Gov. Corzine, by gathering investors to inject serious money into the project. Mr. Rose at one point held stock in Gov. Corzine’s old place of work, Goldman Sachs, which happened to have lent most of money to the Xanadu developer to fix the project, and now boasts a significant interest in its success.

It would appear, at least superficially, that all of these entities could certainly benefit from the construction of only the second aquarium on New Jersey soil, at the site they have so heavily invested in.

Despite all of this, the governor signed the bill, after his Advisory Ethics Panel advised the governor that with full disclosure prior to the bill signing he has eliminated the existence, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“After receiving this advice I proceeded with consideration of the bill, and having determined that enactment of the bill is in the public interest, today I signed the bill into law,” said Gov. Corzine, in a statement issued with the bill signing announcement.

Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, immediately assailed the governor on the issue, saying that the governor’s decision to move forward with the bill, despite the advice of the advisory body, damaged public perception of a state government already weakened by constant corruption scandals and prosecutions.

“The governor is, once again, completely missing the ethical point,” said Mr. Merkt, in a statement. “The prevailing public view is that Trenton is an insider’s game, where personal connections decide everything; who gets what and what laws get enacted.”

“ ‘Trust me’ is no longer an acceptable disclaimer by high state officials in New Jersey who engage in deals that arouse public suspicion,” he added.

Democrats like Sen. Gordon and Senate President Dick Codey, also questioned various portions of the issue, in another Record report, although not with the same vigor as Mr. Merkt.

Monday, August 18, 2008

GOP calls for reforming special aid program

Republican legislators are once again assailing the Local Finance Board and the way that body allocates state monies, after its members moved unanimously to provide the City of Newark with an additional $45 million of emergency aid last week.

"It is astounding that the state can find the money to allocate to a city that already receives more than its fair share of state aid while it squeezes rural municipalities to pay for its police coverage and slashes property tax relief," said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose in a statement, who represents Trenton mayor and part-time Hunterdon County resident Douglas H. Palmer in the Assembly.

The Special Municipal Aid program, under which several economically-distressed municipalities receive additional state aid each year, has been the repeated target of Republican attacks of late.

The GOP legislators claim the program, administered by the Local Finance Board in the Department of Community Affairs, operates in a rather unaccountable manner, without published criteria for selecting cities and without, until recently, a uniform application for municipalities seeking extra aid.

According to the office of Sen. Steve Oroho, R-24, the City of Newark received over $1 billion in state and municipal aid this year, and has received over $8 billion in aid over the last decade.

Sen. Oroho plans on introducing legislation to "impose oversight and accountability" in the program.

"This program has operated under the radar, without accountability, criteria, application standards or even an application form for far too long," said Sen. Oroho, in a statement. "The bill I will introduce in September and the proposed resolution, SR-61 will help to prevent these abuses in the future."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A pattern of B*llSh#t

The whiskey is getting to me.

I am currently out celebrating a friend's birthday in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, NYC, the Big Apple.

I was talking to a Wayne, NJ police officer about the sad situation that exists with municipal officials in the New Jersey area using their political influence to inflate, deflate, or do whatever else to crime statistics.

It was funny, in a sick kind of way, because that is exactly what Trenton's former police director, Joseph Santiago, does with Trenton's crime statistics, according to cops familiar with the so-called Comstat meetings held by the director.

"Well, what fucking happened," said the patrolman, "Was that some fucking Paterson thugs came up on some Wayne kids just hanging out in a parking lot, and the motherfuckers stabbed the kid in the head with a boxcutter."

But, according to the officer, instead of actually reporting the crime as what's known as an Uniform Crime Report FBI statistic, the police brass ordered the crime downgraded to a rather inocuuous report that detailed what was forever noted as a "fight".

"What bullshit," said the patrolman.

And yes, it may be bullshit, but that is what multiple police sources say is going on during Mr. Santiago's Comstat meetings, and that is the direct cause of the "Crime is Down" mantra so often heard from Trenton's mayor, Douglas "H.ypocrite" Palmer" and supporters of Mr. Santiago.

And if that is what the leaders of the police department are doing, then, well my friend, "Welcome to hell."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Messina strikes again

Trenton Police Capt. Paul "Sleepy" Messina may have committed his last gaffe on Wednesday, when the embattled leader of the Trenton Police Academy apparently blocked off traffic on Perry Street while berating a patrolman near the Route 1 interchange.

The scene was one of mayhem, with the out-of-uniform captain having created a dangerous rush hour public safety situation after having blocked off four lanes of traffic with his unmarked sedan, while unleashing an expletive-laced tirade on an unsuspecting officer named Vincent Mistretta.

The captain was apparently nit-picking the officer on what was perceived as improper directing of traffic, but the lower-ranking officer explained in an Internal Affairs complaint that he had been out of proper position due to the fact that he was assisting some pedestrians in crossing the traffic-clogged street.

As has been well-documented in the local media, Capt. Messina has repeatedly avoided real punishment for numerous transgressions, including falling asleep on duty and sexual harassment, because of a cozy relationship with outgoing Police Director Joseph Santiago.

That type of unaccountable leadership and unpunished behavior, while humorous to watch, has led directly to this kind of situation, where public safety became compromised due to the uneven and unfair leadership of the Trenton Police Department.

Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, in defending the director from those seeking his ouster for violating the city's residency ordinance, constantly harped on Mr. Santiago's superior leadership skills, in lamenting that Mr. Santiago's removal would leave the department "rudderless".

If you ask me, if these are the kind of goons that prosper under Mr. Santiago's allegedly superior watch, then this city and its police department are probably much better being left rudderless, rather than whatever state it is in at present.

Mayor Palmer also bears some responsibility in this manner, having blessed Mr. Santiago's leadership decisions regarding Capt. Messina's previous questionable behavior.

Mayor Palmer has moved on

Doug Palmer just doesn't get it.

Traveling around the nation touting non-existent programs in some warped attempt to gain higher office is not what it is to be a good public servant or a good public policymaker, yet that is exactly what Trenton's mayor seems to think.

That much was clear on Thursday.

Again, Trentonians subjected to the stigma that comes from living in a city where some neighborhoods receive a daily barrage of violence and social chaos were also forced to swallow more mindless drivel from their fearless leader yesterday, who apparently fled city limits again to make an appearance in New York.

Yes, the absentee meter has gone off repeatedly of late, with Mayor Palmer making trips to Pittsburgh, Africa, Philadelphia, and now the Big Apple, yet Trentonians have little to show for it.

Case in point: while members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors have chosen to push for more state and federal assistance in shoring up the deteriorating infrastructure that caused such disasters as Katrina and the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Mayor Palmer decided to tout some rather minor city programs and some larger projects that have not even really gotten off the ground.

“In my city, we are implementing long-term plans for infrastructure upgrades, including street repaving, relining water mains, working with the state to modernize the Route 29 freeway in ways that spur downtown revitalization, and transforming brownfields for homeownership and commerce,” said Mayor Palmer, in a city-funded statement. “But it is way past time to increase federal support and put in place tax incentives, bonds, and other measures that assist state and local governments.”

But Mayor Palmer, what of the crime, what of the poverty, what of the bloated, top-heavy city government that relies on double standards, favoritism, and hypocrisy as its watchword? What is pipe-cleaning, energy-efficient street lights, and this mysterious "green" economy doing to address these problems?

Trenton and other cities suffering from absentee executives who tout nonexistent or insignificant programs need to listen up. Bloated, bogus windbag politicians lead only further down the path of urban decay.

Mayoral candidates in the 2010 election need to be willing to spend more of their time here than King Douglas, and they must provide real solutions that improve the lives of actual city residents, and not the political elite or erstwhile sycophants riding upon the coattails of an arrogant politician.

It's high time that the Doug Palmer, Esquire era end, so everyone else can move on.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comptroller: audit system needs repair

Both state and local entities have developed overly comfortable relationships with their external auditing firms that could damage the potential for truly independent, excess-revealing audits, according to state Comptroller Matthew Boxer.

That was one of the major conclusions drawn by a report put together by Mr. Boxer's office, following months of compiling data and interpreting surveys that had been put out to New Jersey governmental entities and their auditing firms.

"There is no practical or feasible way that centralized oversight can be imposed on the 1,900 separate units of government in New Jersey, so external audits are crucial in this state," said Mr. Boxer, in a statement. "When those audits are not performed effectively, money gets wasted. Moreover, the public gets a misleading picture about the financial health of their government."

Some alarming conclusions drawn in the comptroller's report included the realization that nearly a full 25 percent of government entities utilized the same auditing firm for more than 10 years, and many were selected without a competitive process.

Even worse, several of the largest auditing firms holding many auditing contracts made millions of dollars in political contributions in 2006 and 2007, the only two years cited in the report.

Mr. Boxer said "the merits of a contract proposal, and not the level of political contributions, should be the primary factor in selecting auditors."

Some recommendations coming out of the report included hiring external auditors through a competitive system at a minimum of every five years, mandatory replacement of an auditing firm with another every 10 years, and that governmental entities should "refrain from hiring any audit firm that made political contributions on the local or state level in the previous year."

While Mr. Boxer's report did illuminate an interesting and problematic area of Garden State government practic, it only seems to add to the perception that this state's political apparatus included a high concentration of self-serving and morally corrupt individuals who have no right to be put in positions where they're supposed to serve the public interest.

New Jerseyans really need to step back and ensure that politicians in positions of power know that ethics reform and reshaping the way government does business should be of the highest priority.

Wal-Mart: don't vote for Dems

Wal-Mart management has been telling workers not to vote for Democrats, according to complaints set to be filed with the Federal Election Commission by numerous worker advocacy groups.

One such complaint, filed by the AFL-CIO, said “There is reason to believe that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has made prohibited corporate expenditures by expressly advocating against Sen. (Barack) Obama’s election to employees who were not in its restricted class. We request that the commission immediately open an investigation to determine whether a violation occurred and, if so, to take all appropriate steps to remedy that violation of federal law.”

If reports on the actions by Wal-Mart management are true, it looks like the superstore mega-chain may have broken federal law that prohibits management from talking to employees about election issues and effectively telling them how to vote.

According to the AFL-CIO official blog, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said that “Wal-Mart has bullied its workers and managers for years.”

“Now it wants to bully the political process, and the FEC should take Wal-Mart’s threats very seriously. Wal-Mart has shown exactly why our nation needs the Employee Free Choice Act. We must outlaw the kind of behavior for which Wal-Mart is famous and give workers a free and fair choice on whether to form a union. “

Workers groups say that the reason for Wal-Mart’s alleged actions is the desire by stores like Wal-Mart, and the Republicans they support, to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, which aims to "amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.”

According to the AFL-CIO, it “would go a long way toward rectifying the imbalance that currently exists between workers seeking to form unions and employers that oppose them.”

The complaints were expected to be officially filed with the Federal Election Commission as early as today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Republicans attack downtown Trenton plan

Republican legislators questioned the fiscal implications of plans calling for the reconstruction of a system of parks in and around the Statehouse and other portions of downtown Trenton on Wednesday.

The Capital City State Park project would be a return to Trenton's past, in that it would result in the restoration of many acres of waterfront parkland that have not existed since the expansion of state facilities along the Delaware River decades ago.

It is slated to cost somewhere around $87 million and is expected to take around 15 years for completion, when broken into phases calling for the demolition of parking around state facilities, construction of a new Visitor's Center and sculpture garden, and the development of a park along the riverfront.

“From the information we obtained, there are significant issues that need to be addressed regarding the scope of the Capital City State Park Project,” said Charlotte Vandervalk, R- Bergen, in a statement. “First and foremost is the question of whether the State should be spending millions of dollars to eliminate parking spaces used by the public who visit the War Memorial Patriot’s Theatre, the State Museum, State Library, and legislative offices."

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon said that even Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer acknowledged concern over the potential for the project to cause serious parking problems in downtown Trenton.

Apparently the mayor made those observations on a recent news talk show, despite being frequently in the dark about Trenton projects due to his frequent absences from the city.

The Republicans said that interim plans to turn Route 29 into an urban boulevard were not included in the cost estimate of the project, for which the state is preparing to solicit bids in the coming months.

"It wouldn’t surprise me if we’re talking about a project cost in excess of $100 million," said Mr. O'Scanlon, in a statement.

A statement from the two Republican legislators stated they expect to attend a meeting scheduled for today with Democratic leadership to discuss concerns about the project.

Thoughts on City Hall

The front facade of the structure is elegant.

Stone and brilliant architecture hearken back to the city's better days, times of businessman and proud workers creating and building things with all the might of a miniature God - smelting and forging the materials that made some of the nation's greatest monuments.

They were the supreme arbiters of Trenton, who brought wealth and progress to this place and amazing feats such as the Brooklyn Bridge to others.

This side presents both the wonder of the past and the potential of promise in the future.

But that's not where visitors enter.

They go in through the ugly 1980s-era rear entrance, the building slightly stained with some unknown substance and the cement stairs partially covered in cigarette butts.

At one point one of the window holes in the ugly, modern rear facade was adorned with a bum's bed, made up of old couch cushions probably liberated from a trash heap on a nearby street.

Once inside, the visitor is immediately confronted with a smiling, toothy painting of the absentee executive. This makes it so an indifferent and out-of-touch mayor stares down on all who enter from this location, placed prominently above a glass-encased security booth.

After being patted down by security, the visitor is free to head through the atrium.

There the visitor can either take a short but bumpy ride in a rickety, ugly, and allegedly modern elevator, up to the second floor.

Or, they can continue on past the elegant-looking, ancient wooden desk that faces out towards City Hall's real frontage on East State Street, and proceed through the older, original part of the building. There a stone staircase leads up into various city offices and the accomodations provided for city legislators.

There, again the dichotomy of the two eras confronts the visitor to those paternal twin-structures on 319 E. State.

The real City Council chamber consists of a beautiful room boasting a real wooden dais and rows of stately benches, surrounded by majestic painted walls depicting the city's golden age of industry - men of many nationalities taming golden flames, hammering metal, actually producing things.

The busts of leaders long gone adorn each side of the council dais, and tall windows no longer found in new architecture offer views of different sides of the proud yet wounded city.

It beats the hell out of nearby, obsolete and ugly meeting chambers, like that of Hamilton Township, or hideously modern facilities like the amazing boondoggle funded by the taxpayers of Princeton Township, which looks like something out of Star Trek.

Unfortunately for Trentonians, some governmental dolts decided that half of the total number of City Council meetings would be held in a dinky, ugly, and stuffy conference room constantly short of chairs and, until lately, totally devoid of good public policy.

Frequently the most important governing questions are vetted in a crowded environment that does not allow many of the residents, who actually took the time to show up, to actually listen to their public representatives at work.

Instead they gripe and commiserate outside the room, where even more discontent and conspiracy grows, like some sort of mold in a perfectly damp and dark environment.

Residents relegated to positions without access to governmental policy making fall victim once again to the simplest of governmental procedures, which, when botched, end up damaging the public perception only further.

Think of it - most of Trenton's current government can't even use City Hall effectively.

How does anyone expect them to tend to the needs of a capital city and the interest of the residents living within in it?

TPD drug probe plot thickens

Joseph Santiago, Trenton's ousted police director, has ordered all Trenton Police Department employees who are either targets or witnesses in an attorney general's office probe of the use of performance-enhancing drugs within the department to make themselves known to Internal Affairs.

The order came in the form of a memorandum dated August 11, 2008, coinciding with multiple media reports that stated that the officers targeted in the investigation have been served with so-called "target" letters and have been saddled with deadlines for cooperation, under threat of criminal indictments.

"Any sworn or civilian personnel notified that they will be called upon to testify as a witness against any other Trenton Police sworn or civilian employee shall likewise document this fact to the Internal Affairs Bureau Commander within 5 days of being notified that they have been designated as a witness," wrote Mr. Santiago.

The probe stems from an out-of-state investigation of human growth hormone sales that revealed the identities of some purchasers as Mercer County law enforcement personnel. It has been handled by the FBI, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, and Attorney General Anne Milgram's office at different times.

Mr. Santiago, who was recently ordered to leave his post for violating the city's residency law, fashioned an order that seems to suggest that the department's leadership is completely in the dark about the investigation.

For some reason, it looks like the attorney general's investigators have decided the best course in this case is to provide department leaders with little information about the investigation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Talk of gas tax hike likely this fall

Gov. Jon S. Corzine and state legislators will probably debate raising New Jersey’s gasoline tax sometime this fall, as they try and figure out a way to replenish some of the Garden State’s traffic infrastructure funding that could run out as early as 2011.

That's because New Jersey finds itself as one of the few states where gasoline tax revenues have actually increased, amid record-high gasoline prices that have caused an across-the-board spike in the cost of living for Americans.

It has been reported that state officials have discovered that motor fuels tax revenue unexpectedly jumped up by almost $500,000 during the first six months of 2008, despite the surge in the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Whether New Jerseyans are driving more or that out-of-staters are coming in to purchase gas, all it really means now is that the idea of increasing the state’s gas tax has actually regained some steam, because it no longer looks like the price spike in gas means reduced tax revenue.

New Jersey currently takes in 10.5 cents for every gallon of gasoline purchased, in addition to a 4-cent petroleum products gross receipts tax. Compare that 14.5-cent total with the more than 30 cents in tax collected by both New York and Pennsylvania.

Gasoline prices that surged above $4 a gallon have finally begun to come down as both the U.S. economy and the dollar have gained back some strength. The pain felt at the pump has been reduced, so that means that a small increase in the gas tax sometime in the near future probably won’t result in nearly as much outcry as it would have when gas prices remained below $3 a gallon.

Raising the tax would allow the state to generate some much-needed revenue, and it might actually serve as some incentive for people to drive less, reducing America’s reliance on foreign-generated, polluting fossil fuels.

Reliance on gasoline can’t go on forever, but while it does, why not use the sale of black gold to generate money to repair infrastructure and build and subsidize more mass transit.

That way, when all the gas and associated money dries up, there will be a viable transportation alternative that simply does not exist in the present.

Bradley says he lives in Trenton

Trenton Communications Director Irving Bradley, targeted for removal by some who say he lives outside Trenton in violation of city law, told a Times of Trenton reporter that he resides within the city's Broad Street Bank building, although he would not elaborate on his family’s place of residence.

If Mr. Bradley’s family resides is still residing in Rahway, it would appear that Mr. Bradley is in violation of the city’s residency ordinance. But it has been speculated that perhaps the director could feign separation or estrangement from his wife to beat any residency charges, although that information has not been confirmed.

His statements on residency apparently came during interviews with a Times of Trenton reporter, according to someone familiar with the exchange, who said the director claimed that he resides in the downtown Trenton apartment building "six or seven days a week", according to the piece.

The Trenton Resident's Action Coalition - of which the author is a member - had turned its gaze onto Mr. Bradley of late, with the goal of ousting the director for violating the city's residency law in addition to being declared unqualified for his position by state personnel officials.

TRAC member Frank Weeden authored a letter that was recently delivered to City Council and Douglas H. Palmer administration officials calling for an investigation and timely resolution of the matter, through a termination of Mr. Bradley's employment.

Mr. Bradley has been seen at the Broad Street Bank building very infrequently, according to some building employees. Also, his name did not appear on a fairly recent tenant manifest listing tenants and their respective occupied apartments.

Mr. Bradley was known to make frequent trips up to his Rahway home. He was caught doing so on film late last fall, having parked a city Ford Expedition in the street in front of his Rahway in broad daylight on a weekend day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Planners handed "green" tool with bill's passage

Planning board throughout New Jersey now have a state-endorsed ability to include sustainability and green structure schemes within their municipal master plans, after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed a bill legalizing such elements into law last week.

As one of the supreme planning tools utilized by municipal planners, master plans allow people on the planning board and in other municipal planning capacities to lay out local planning goals for a six-year period, in a structured document.

Enabling state law that dictated what municipal planning officials could include in such a document had not yet been modernized to allow officials to address the growing litany of environmental and sustainability issues facing local planners today.

But the new law, bill A-1559, allows them to do that through updating state law by including a fifteenth area among the optional sections of master plans, where planners can promulgate an environmental sustainability and green buildings plan.

The law states that such a section will allow planners to “provide for, encourage, and promote the efficient use of natural resources; consider the impact of buildings on the local, regional and global environment; allow ecosystems to function naturally,; conserve and reuse water; treat stormwater on-site; and optimize climactic conditions through site orientation and design.”

Sponsors of the bill applauded its passage into law.

“As more and more State residents are becoming aware of terms like ‘carbon footprint’ and making environmentally-conscious decisions, it’s time local government followed suit,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex, a bill sponsor and chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “We need to set the example for our constituents that environmentalism and progress are not mutually-exclusive. By giving municipalities more latitude in going green when making zoning plans for the future, we can send a strong message to State residents about the importance of protecting our shared environment.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Corzine attacks EPA biofuel goals

The diversion of millions of acres of farmlands from the production of dedicated foodstuffs to the production of biofuel crops is said to be partially responsible for a spike in food prices that now affects all Americans every time they hit up the local grocery store.

Recognizing that, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine took a shot at the United States Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, after the officials at the organization made a decision to maintain the nationwide Renewable Fuels Standard at its current level.

Th decisions means biofuel production goal will remain at nine billions gallons of biofuel for this year, with an increase set for 2009.

"Corn belongs on the tables of our hard-working families, not in the gas tank,” said Gov. Corzine, in a statement. “The EPA’s decision is regrettable because food-to-fuel mandates drive up food prices and may do more to harm the environment than good.”

Food prices have suffered an incredible upward shift since biofuel production caused numerous farmers to cease production of food crops and switch over to the production of crops dedicated for use as fuel.

In addition to those market effects, Gov. Corzine said that U.S. biofuel goals mean farmers will step up the clearing of open space for use as farmland for both foodstuffs and additional biofuel-producing acres, resulting in increased deforestation and increased carbon emissions.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pay-to-play suit set to unfold

The seedy yet widespread underworld of shady pay-to-play deals among New Jersey's political ranks may have been dealt a serious blow, with the filing of a lawsuit last month.

A woman is suing Cherry Hill Township, alleging termination from her positions as township attorney and purchasing agent was linked to her refusal to accommodate the requests of municipal officials, who wanted her to rig the township's no-bid contract structure to get contracts to firms hand-picked by the Camden County Democratic Party.

Deborah Sanders, who worked with the township from 2004 up until her termination in 2008, filed the suit in Camden County Superior Court in late July, with depositions set to commence over the coming weeks.

She alleges that Mayor Bernie Platt, Business Administrator Maris Kukainis, and others told her to fix bid specs after the fact, to get contracts into the hands of entities favored by powerful county party officials.

The suit went as far as stating that Camden County democrats marked up lists of township vendors to demonstrate to Cherry Hill officials which entities should receive the lucrative, no-bid contracts.

After Ms. Sanders refused, she was told that she "rubbed some people the wrong way and that her job was not secure, and that the raise she had been expecting was denied," according to the suit.

The case could end up being of the landmark variety.

Through its course more and more light could be shed upon the widespread practice of pay-to-play, in which contractors and vendors receive lucrative government contracts in return for support or contributions.

It costs the state billions of dollars, as inferior firms get municipal contracts, which pay out much higher than what a true low-bidder would likley to receive, but many state and municipal laws dealing with the practice lack the teeth to truly stop it.

Maybe Ms. Sanders' case will help change that.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stonewalled again

Trenton's chief of staff stonewalled City Council members and the public in typical Palmer administration fashion again on Thursday regarding a succession plan for ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago.

"Mayor (Douglas H.) Palmer will make an announcement at the appropriate time," said Chief of Staff Reneee Haynes during Thursday's doubleheader council meeting.

The embattled director will vacate his post in under 45 days following two consecutive court rulings ordering him to do so, for his willful violation of the city's residency ordinance by living in Stirling, N.J., instead of inside the capital's borders.

Although half of the director's court-ordered 75 day transition period has lapsed, neither City Council members nor regular city residents have the faintest idea of who will succeed Mr. Santiago or how the transition will occur.

That is particularly insulting, given the dire state of public safety in the capital city of late, at a time when Mr. Santiago is said to be present at his post quite infrequently.

City Council members ought to consider using their statutory abilities to send a message to the administration showing that they mean business.

They could vote to remove Mr. Santiago, or perhaps some other administration official, to make it clear that they deserve to be informed on the progress of the court-imposed transition process as representatives of the people of the city.

Interesting deal...

Urban Word LLC was set to receive the go-ahead from City Council on Thursday to take control of city-owned property at 100-114 South Warren Street, for $180,000. Urban Word LLC was said to be on the receiving end of $150,000 in Urban Enterprise Zone money that would effectively make the whole thing a $30,000 deal.

This one looks similar to some of the good deals handed to developers enjoying the favor of Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, along the lines of those given to Bob Torricelli.

Now, Urban Word LLC has done some good things in Trenton - the Trenton Makes complex, which boasts a few viable businesses. There's also another building that has so far enjoyed success further down on Warren Street, although that one was sold to Urban Word for $1 by the city, according to people familiar with the deal.

But a principal in Urban Word also has an interest in 11 W. Front Street, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from the newly-acquired property, where a viable cleaners business will likely shut down as renovation of the building goes forward.

But the Front Street property, formerly an eatery known as Utopia, has remained vacant for over two years. Those living and working nearby have apparently called the city about the condition of the property - overrun with garbage, weeds, and vermin.

It has been said that several prospective buyers have approached the ownership about a possible purchase of the building, which, along with a liquor license, the owners bought for around $200,000, years ago. But ownership has turned away those interested parties, looking for a better deal while a potentially viable property remains fallow, among others in downtown Trenton.

Presently - and nearly simultaneously as the city sold the property to Urban Word and handed over $150,000 in UEZ money - Trentonians will see that Urban Word's principal has been handed a position on the Trenton Train Station redevelopment committee, which will be holding what are billed to be closed meetings on the various station-related projects.

Also, it is all very well and good that renovations at Urban Word's new Warren Street property may be costly - the excuse given as to why the UEZ money is necessary - but this is a city, and not a financial institution created to help underwrite developers.

To this observer, this appears like more special treatment for those who have supported Mayor Palmer in the past, which is a group that includes Urban Word.

Hopefully it works out well for Trenton.

*(The council item memorializing the deal was apparently pulled for more consideration on Thursday, at the request of Councilman Manny Segura.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Peas in a pod

Police sources say that former Trenton Police Director Joseph Santiago, recently ousted for violating the city's residency ordinance, may have applied to take over as Camden's police director but was turned away by state Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The man who did take over, however, seems to be cut from the same cloth as Trenton's controversial former director. Like Mr. Santiago, new Camden director Louis Vega had a penchant for wasting police resources on investigating ridiculous incidents, sometimes in which he was a victim.

The Courier Post's Leo Strupczewksi reported earlier this month that Mr. Vega ordered officers in his former jurisdiction of Miami to investigate the fraudulent use of his credit cards in place like New Jersey and Ohio, according to the Courier Post - far outside of their jurisdiction in Miami.

When the detectives told of the incident to an independent county ethics board, they were transferred into different positions, action which was later ruled as retaliatory by a Florida civil service board.

Recently Mr. Santiago ordered dozens of high-ranking officers to spend many hours of expensive overtime investigating statements made by a Sgt. Tony Manzo to a dispatcher. The radio room employee ordered the sergeant from a perilous homicide scene to go investigate a less serious suspicious persons call.

Some say that Mr. Santiago had it out for Sgt. Manzo, so he used all of his power and wasted numerous man hours on investigating the sergeant's statement, which was something along the lines of "Let's take it outside". That certainly seems similar to what Mr. Santiago told City Council members earlier this year, during a council meeting.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Santiago ordered a full-out investigation of an incident in which his illegally parked police Crown Victoria was ticketed after officers found it parked halfway into an intersection near a Chambersburg eatery.

No one knows how many hours and city tax dollars were spent, err wasted, on that event by the angry director, but it certainly paints a picture in which Mr. Santiago and Camden's new director, Mr. Vega, appear to be two peas in a pod.

In what would become a frequent occurence, non-favored officers involved in the parking affair were assigned to midnight shifts in headquarters and other less savory police work following the incident. Sound familiar?

Sometimes it seems that they don't make em' like they used to, when it comes to law enforcement leadership in Trenton and Camden.

Irony or hypocrisy

Maybe it could be called "ironic" when a mayor and his underlings, who aren't doing enough to curb violence, murder, and mayhem in their own city, travel to another murder-ridden city and talk publicly about how people aren't doing enough about murder in American cities.

That's exactly what Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer did yesterday, according to Andrew Kitchenman of the Times of Trenton, who reported that Trenton's absentee duo of Mayor Palmer and ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago actually showed up in homicide-ridden Philadelphia of all places to talk about crime and public safety at a U.S. Conference of Mayors event.

"We need moral outrage, because if al Qaeda murdered 50 people a day in this country, we would have federal resources to do something about it," said Mayor Palmer, according to the Times.

See, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is that organization that Mayor Palmer has devoted more of his time to than his own hometown of Trenton. The mayors group is also the place where the mayor touts all of his nonexistent urban programs, like "Youthstat".

Murder and violence is certainly a funny speaking subject for two men who have been conspicuously absent from the City of Trenton, as North Trenton and East Trenton continue to suffer through a prolonged and violent summer crime wave.

Apparently Mayor Palmer can't handle the responsibility of trying to guide one of the nation's smaller cities out of its longtime economic and social slumber. If that's truly the case, then the residents will be glad to look for better, less costly, and more effective leadership that cares to actually spend time addressing problems, rather than blaming the federal government and the rest of the country.

It could happen in less than two years.

Many reasons to act for Trenton council

Trenton City Council will likely be set upon by groups of alert city residents on Thursday evening, with many both curious and concerned about the status of a transition process for outgoing, ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago.

They're curious because what little accountability that most of Trenton's city government had left has apparently gone out the window.

That's quite evident, from how an ousted Mr. Santiago and indifferent Mayor Douglas H. Palmer remain conspicuously absent from an increasingly crime-ridden scene, and how unqualified employees continue to suck up city tax dollars in illegally occupied positions of employment.

City Council really needs to act, starting tomorrow, and here's why:

Mr. Santiago now has a little under seven weeks left in office, after two separate courts ousted him from his office and rebuked Mayor Douglas H. Palmer for their efforts in circumventing the city's residency law.

There is also Mr. Santiago's unqualified Newark associate Irving Bradley.

He appears to be violating the city's residency ordinance while serving as the city's communications director, which state personnel officials say is a position that Mr. Bradley is completely unqualified for.

Of the two issues, that of Mr. Santiago is obviously of the more importanc. The city has been beset by a violent crime wave of late, yet police officials say Mr. Santiago has frequently been absent from the city he is supposed to be serving.

Even worse, officials such as Mayor Palmer's publicist Kent Ashworth have told the local media that they will not comment on any transition process or candidates to fill the police director's position, and that they are leaving it up to the absentee Santiago to work out the details.

All the while, parts of Trenton remain aflame.

Assaults, murders and other violent crimes continue to wrack city neighborhoods while Mayor Palmer takes days-long jaunts to Africa with Bill Clinton and Mr. Santiago goes god-knows-where.

Council, as the newly resurgent group of accountable officials, needs to act.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Good policy, bad timing

At the same time as students at The College of New Jersey, Rutgers, and other state colleges face tuition hikes from anywhere between 3 and 9 percent, the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities is announcing a plan to try and get more state high school students into places of higher learning in New Jersey.

The cause seems to be a worthy one, considering that college students educated here tend to stay and work in New Jersey.

But the fact that this organization is announcing their plan at the same time as crippling tuition hikes hit state colleges shows a major disconnect between the goals of education and the goals of state officials directing fiscal policy.

Those state officials would have opened the purse a bit more and provided for state colleges, keeping tuition down, if they really supported and cared for such an initiative as the the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities' Promise plan.

That's because the simple act of allowing such large-scale tuition hikes makes out-of-state schools more attractive to New Jersey's high school students, as the public versus private tuition costs become more comparable.

So state fiscal decisions promise to short-circuit the valiant efforts of those making policy for the state's impressive portfolio of higher learning institutions.

Indirectly, one can once again thank the dismal condition of the finances of state government for this.

A healthier state finance picture with less pension requirements, debt, pay-to-play, and any other of the less attractive features of the state edifice would result in New Jersey kids having to pony up less dough to go to Rutgers University or Thomas Edison State College.

He'd best come prepared

Republican operatives made numerous statements over the past two days trying to clear up what originally looked like a minor insult to party heavyweight and possible gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

After calling for the creation of some sort of grassroots fundraising organization to possibly lure former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, Dan Gallic said to that the point was to get better candidates, different from the last few that have failed to regain Drumthwacket.

But today, according to, Mr. Gallic backtracked to include Mr. Christie and John Crowley, a techno-millionaire.

It is all very nice for Mr. Gallic to have gone back and clarified his statements today to include Mr. Christie - who probably does represent a pretty good pick for governor, for my money.

But unfortunately for all those GOPers, the ability of New Jersey voters to keep supporting a corrupt Democratic Party that continually fails to address this state's worst problems probably means that Mr. Christie's exploits in prosecuting corrupt officials won't carry quite as much weight as some would think.

The electorate in the Garden State has continued to poll Democratic, despite the endless line of corruption scandals, and the corresponding growth in the list of convictions that Mr. Christie has secured during his prosecutions of public officials.

Mr. Christie ought to consider being prepared with an actual plan to fix state government and its multitude of problems, address property taxes, and strengthen the ethics of public officials, rather than simply running on his work as U.S. Attorney.

Those are some of the things that Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the dems have continually failed at, despite having what I believe to be a better platform and a better overall view on how things should work in this crazy existence we all live.

If he can effectively communicate a plan to do all those good things, Mr. Christie might just get enough New Jersey voters fed up with having the hands of corrupt public officials in their pockets and in the piggy bank to actually win the damn thing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Judge: Newark councilwoman must forfeit her seat

A judge has ordered Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone to give up her seat after she used her standing as a councilwoman to interfere with a traffic stop involving her nephew.

The order came after the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, at one point, asked the judge to apply state law to Ms. Rone's case that requires public officials convicted of certain crimes to forfeit their offices.

The prosecutor's office later reversed that stance, but the judge went ahead and ruled that Ms. Rone must be removed anyway, in a decision handed down Tuesday.

Ms. Rone was charged, tried, and convicted of obstruction of justice after she showed up during the traffic stop, informed the officer that "she was a councilwoman," and attempted to stop the officer from performing his duties.

Ms. Rone then appealed the verdict to a higher court, but a judge there vindicated the lower court's decision, opening the way for today's court order requiring Ms. Rone to step down from a legislative office in one of the state's largest cities.

"At a point in time when she had only held elected office for about five months, she abused that office, improperly invoking it loudly and repeatedly in an effort to intimidate a police officer from performing his lawful duty," wrote Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello.

Judge Costello also took time in her ruling to criticize the actions of Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, who originally asked for Ms. Rone's removal but eventually withdrew the request, amid accusations of political considerations.

Earlier this year, Trenton Councilwoman Annette Lartigue reportedly told police in Trenton to "stand down", on a cell phone handed to the intervening officer who initiated a traffic stop involving the councilwoman's daughter.

But the daughter did receive multiple motor vehicle summonses, the councilwoman never physically appeared at the scene of the stop, unlike the Rone incident in Newark, and no charges were filed against Ms. Lartigue.

The "greening" of Trenton

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and the rest of his administration have done little to address the costs the city incurs from providing cars and gasoline to employees, especially to those who have a questionable need for having a city-owned car.

Directors of non-emergency city departments - all required to live in the city - really have no need for a city car, yet Mayor Palmer provides them anyway. Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum is assigned a flashy Ford hybrid car, despite living four blocks from City Hall.

For stop-and-go assignments such as those given to city parking meter enforcers, the city policy is for meter maids to be tooling around in a city-owned Chevrolet Suburban, which gets around seven $4 gallons of gasoline per mile.

The mayor himself frequently uses his own city-owned vehicle and city-funded gasoline for his own trips far outside Trenton's borders, according to many who have seen the infamous Mercury Mariner trolling around Hunterdon County or elsewhere in Mercer County.

Even worse, the car is driven by a city-funded police officer, but that's another story for another day.

Now, Mayor Palmer is a self-described proponent of so-called "green" policies, even though your average Trentonian has yet to see any benefit from them.

But other mayors are apparently taking drastic steps to be more environmentally-friendly, while cutting down on expensive municipal car fleets and the unnecessary provision of vehicles and gasoline to city employees.

Mayor Robert Duffy of Rochester, according to the Associated Press, is giving up his own city SUV and substituting it with a more efficient car.

"It'll be easier for me to make decisions on other cars if I'm stepping away from mine," said Mayor Duffy, to the AP.

To that end, he has cut down his city car fleet by double-digits since 2007, and plans on eliminating the practice of providing city cars to the vast majority of employees with around-the-clock usage.

If it is any indication of the cost of Trenton's rampant car abuse, Mayor Duffy told the AP that Rochester's fuel budget, despite the new measures, is projected to be up to $5.2 million this year, which is nearly $2.5 million since the mayor took office years ago.

Rochester's experience and that of other cities just goes to show that "green" policies have a different meaning for Mayor Palmer, versus what they represent for other American mayors.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Surcharge would address State Police cost controversy

The latest development in the Jon S. Corzine administration's plan to charge rural municipalities for State Police coverage is taking the form of a motor vehicle summons surcharge that could end up on your next moving violation ticket.

The plan, contained in a bill sponsored primarily by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May and Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, would add a $40 surcharge to tickets issued by all New Jersey police agencies.

Revenue generated by the additional surcharge would go towards a fund to assist towns without full-time departments pay for State Police Coverage, and also towards general property tax relief for towns with full-time departments.

This development comes at almost the same time as towns that rely on State Police coverage received bills - usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - for what used to be their free annual coverage.

Without any relief from Gov. Corzine's police invoices, homeowners and businesses in such places face property tax hikes, usually around $100 a piece for residents and over $500 a piece for business.

Some towns have challenged the plan through the Council of Local Mandates, which has the power to throw out state initiatives that represent unconstitutional unfunded mandates. Others are lining up in support of bills like Sen. Van Drew's, which would not only provide relief to towns dependent on the coverage of state troopers but also provide funds for the rest of New Jersey's municipalities.

But when it really comes down to it, this new plan looks like yet another way of providing some minor property tax relief without addressing the fundamental problems that make New Jersey government so expensive, including: a massive state government, too many local taxing authorities, and an illogical pension system that is subjected to frequent abuse by those who are supposed to serve the public interest.

Performa on last legs

The Times of Trenton is reporting that another one of Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer's highly-touted economic development projects could be dead as soon as late September.

The Mercer County Improvement Authority has apparently given controversial development company Performa a Sept. 25 deadline for securing financing for a proposed mixed-use development project across the street from Sovereign Bank Arena.

Performa's chief, John Elkington, and officials from the Mercer County Improvement Authority both blamed the delays in getting funding together for the project on the current fiscal climate and credit crunch, but that excuse really doesn't make too much sense.

This organization has had more than six years to get all of this money together, but company officials and especially Mr. Elkington have continually handed out excuses since a deal was first struck between the county organization and the developer in 2002.

While Mr. Elkington's claim to fame remains the successful Beale Street area in Memphis, Tenn., even that development has become embroiled in controversy and scandal, and other planned Performa developments in Birmingham, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., remain stalled.

Officials in Memphis claim Mr. Elkington and his company have swindled Memphis out of millions through a faulty development deal, among other accusations. People familiar with the company in Memphis say Mr. Elkington continually plays shell games with money and proposed development projects across the country, but has not been too successful in doing so.

Thanks, Mayor Palmer, for continually playing up the county-backed Performa project. They have really turned out to be such a great company for Trenton, in successfully holding up development of a nice tract of land for six years. Praise should also go to Mayor Palmer's wife, Christiana, who also serves on the Mercer County Improvement Authority.

You all continue to do great work in getting good projects and good developers to help Trenton out of its economic hole.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Law targets Giants ticket holder abuse

As someone growing up in a family blessed with three New York Giants season tickets, the announcement that season ticket holders would be forced to pony up thousands of dollars to hold onto those seats naturally resulted in disgust.

The three season tickets in question have been in my family for decades.

Family members have had them since the times when the Giants played at a variety of places - the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium, and the Yale Bowl - and the fact that Giants ownership would like to stick it to their fan base to the tune of thousands of dollars really amounts to a Giant "screw you" to all of the families like us, who have remained loyal through the good and the bad.

But this ridiculous situation - which Jets fans will reportedly also be subjected to - might actually be averted through some Assembly legislation being drafted by Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone, D-Hudson.

The law would prohibit the sale of a "Personal Seat License", which is what the greedy people working for the Giants decided to call their "Stick it to the Fans" scheme.

"Sadly, the Giants management is literally putting a price on loyalty," said Mr. Chiappone, in a statement.

Now, I personally believe that there are many more worthy causes that deserve to be the subject of state legislation than the New York Giants plan of screwing their season ticket holders.

But this certainly is a welcome development, especially considering how it will prevent lower and middle income season ticket holders from being priced out, only to have tickets that have been theirs for so many years fall into the hands of the rich and the powerful.

Schemes like that, like the Springsteen tickets-for-the-powerful controversy, happen too much in New Jersey.