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Monday, October 20, 2008

A lower house for Trenton

Trenton residents could take over many of the functions of their city government through what would be similar to the formation of a large, unofficial lower house of city legislature.

That's because the piece of state law governing how this city's government is run, the Faulkner Act, hands Trenton residents the power to initiate their own ordinances or suspend and send them on to City Council, and eventually the ballot, as long as residents successfully collect a certain number of signatures from the registered voters of the city.

This would require the participation of 800 or so registered voters, willing to meeting, communicate, and vote on various ordinances, either proposed by members or taken from the dockets of City Council. Binding votes would mean that all members would have to affix their signatures onto official petitions bearing the ordinances.

With the combined signatures of all members, such a group would assume the power to propose its own legislation and strike down anything proposed by official City Council members or the city administration, with everything going to referendum vote.

The 800 or so number comes from the statute, which dictates that the number of signatures necessary for certain actions. The number is either 10 or 15 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the last election in which state Assembly members were elected.

Due to the depressed economic and social conditions that have become the hallmark of the city under Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, few voters come out to vote for state legislators. The statutory 10 or 15 percent is traditionally a fairly low number.

Sure, it may sound like a rather cumbersome and ineffective way to run the city government, but it sounds a little bit better when compared with the current city government. The people in power now, especially Mayor Palmer, have been so cumbersome and ineffective that they allowed the city's finances to reach the point where Trenton now faces a $27 million budget shortfall.

City residents are looking at what could end up being one of the largest municipal tax rate increase in recent New Jersey history, especially if the sale of outlying Trenton Water Works infrastructure falls through.

Maybe it's time Trenton residents get together and put together a government of their own.

1 comment:

westwrdguy57 said...

I know that other towns in this country have taken control of their government. Would be nice to know if conditions improved and for how long, or if they are still in control of their town.

That really is not a lot to ask... only 800 signatures for a chance at a little democracy. But considering Trenton's mayoral and council elections of the last 20 years, there have been strikingly fewer turnouts each time. Even so, with a city of 84,000, people here are not going to the polls as in past decades. Maybe that bloc who once voted religiously now assume a 'what's the difference attitude whom I vote for' and so choose not to. Then there is this increasing influx of illegals, making voting for them impossible. And I believe this now now comprises quite a few thousand of us. There's a growing populace around the country, and especially so in the more economically distressed places, who believe no one, whatever party affiliation, can improve their lifestyle.

If 800 of us here do sincerely care enough to sign this petition, and understand the true meaning of it, that is one step toward progress.

This administration has gone unfettered for too long. During that long time, the checks and balances which are meant to reign over responsible spending while building capital are far out of whack. Guess no one's been paying attentiion until now.

I do care that we succeed here but admit too much a loss of faith in government in general. I know there will never be a pure democracy, but most voters would be happier for an active role involved in the process of decision making. Trenton has potentially people more qualified managing this city than all the Palmer administration put together. By virtue someone else may be more intelligent or president and CEO of their own company, could outperform our 'best' business administrator any day. The same B/A who got sooo very offended that he demanded an apology or he'd sue this citizen who doubted him.

A shortfall of over $20million dollars is staggering. Any initiative should call for deep spending cuts and include much more than demoting some fire captains, which is the mayor's answer. Why, would a small pay cut put a crimp in their eating habits or trouble keeping pace with the Jones' big home and Land Rover in Allentown? So they go back to earning their pay again. Big deal.

There are homes located many miles from fire houses and police. If tragedy does happen, they know what to do. People helping people is what it's all about. Democracy is all about people and less government interference.

Trenton's financial woes though, are but an extension of a much larger crisis this country is now up against. The water flop I'm afraid will result in property tax increases. And at a time when home values are on the decline. That alone should be enough to get us all very angry and fed up.

It's wonderful for Trentonians TRAC has emerged as a group whose mission is multifaceted, but mainly to slowly try and restore some democracy and rid us of this corrupt, elitist clique on E State st. I know no one else who's stepping up to the plate in this time of crisis.