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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

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.

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