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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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?

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