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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bad leadership hurts

President George W. Bush and his associates are generally despised by many Americans for the way they lied to the nation about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that county’s alleged association with Al Qaeda terrorists.

Years after victory was declared, thousands of American men and women have perished and billions of dollars have been wasted. Only lately has progress been made, but there is little doubt that going to war in the Persian Gulf region was one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in history and that having a lying, selfish president in office has cost the nation dearly.

This week, Trentonians speaking out against plans for the budget-induced closure of four of the city’s branch libraries told a packed City Council chamber that the strategic vision laid out by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer in the beginning of his tenure as mayor was no more.

Similarly to Iraq, in portions of the city the promises of Trenton’s executive have given way to years of despair, economic ruin, and the death of hundreds of young men and woman in an ever-growing maelstrom of violence and crime that has showed no sign of abating.

Like the nation‘s experience, death and unnecessary expenditure have come with an executive who is an advocate of double standards and saying or doing anything to support a position or policy.

Once upon a time, Mayor Palmer and people like Council President Paul Pintella supported the residency ordinance and a police director-led police department, with justification in that a director would be forced to live in Trenton.

But when the residency violations of the controversial and ineffective Police Director Joseph Santiago emerged, Palmer-led factions tried with all their might to shield the director from the force of the law, even going as far as trying to declare the ordinance invalid. This, of course, came after they used the same law to terminate dozens of employees guilty of the same infractions as Mr. Santiago.

In strongly applying this double standard, city leaders like Mayor Palmer wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in a losing court battle and devoted precious governmental policy-making time to supporting a ridiculous position that went against nearly everything they have done or said in the past.

Even worse, they have strengthened the public perception that some in the city’s administration are nothing but a gang of unaccountable officials who support the notion that being a favored member of the administration comes with privileges, including little or no scrutiny for law-breaking and an ability to waste taxpayer dollars in support of that position.

That idea will be strengthened this week, when on Monday Mayor Palmer will announce that Mr. Santiago - after having spent hundreds of thousands of city dollars in a losing court battle to establish that the director is above the law - has suddenly decided to move to Trenton, and will be appointed acting director.

The announcement will come in apparent ignorance of all of those wasted dollars, and Mr. Santiago’s public statements of being unwilling to live in Trenton with his family, as required by law.

But the cost was so great and the hypocrisy so evident that the city residents and the City Council that fought against Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago will not be apt to forget these events, and that will make Mr. Santiago’s reappointment a perilous and costly decision.

The residents - including me - will question the about-face of Mr. Santiago and the legality of his residency, and will almost certainly file papers in court demanding the enforcement of the court order that declared his position vacant.

City Council, which will have to confirm the appointment, will also have to weigh. Its members will probably be skeptical of reappointing of a man who forced a costly legal battle because he would not move into the city, only to change his mind at the appearance of defeat.

Even with another defeat, Mr. Santiago will probably go elsewhere and get another law enforcement position or simply live off of his hundred-thousand dollar pension from his years of policing in Newark.

But for Mayor Palmer, the political fallout of supporting such an action is clear.

City residents have been given a full glimpse of the stark reality of having a mayor who is more apt to fully reverse years of policy at great cost to city taxpayers than to use the same money to head off more important problems, like the potential closure of libraries and an overall reduction in city services.

Like the greater nation, Trenton knows the full costs associated of having unaccountable purveyors of half-truths and double standards in high executive office. It is not a pretty sight to behold, and this painful knowledge should have a profound effect on the future electoral prospects of Mayor Palmer and his minions.

1 comment:

Old Mill Hill said...

How about "no leadership?"

That's really what we've had for the past 10 years or so. No leadership.