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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Outcome of residency will be determined by the residents

Men and women elected to represent their peers have a responsibility to the voters to keep the public interest in mind at all times, but when they become forgetful of those responsibilities or neglect them in favor of ulterior motives, it becomes the responsibility of the people to take action.

That's what needs to be done in the City of Trenton.

City Council voted to confirm a non-resident police director on Tuesday, under pressure from a selfish mayor and an artificially large crowd that appeared at council because of the distribution of flyers urging people to "show up and support" an unnamed director.

The same council members that fought a months-long, expensive legal battle over the last police director's non-residency somehow managed to shirk their duties Tuesday by not asking the tough questions about residency, which have become an important part of their legislative responsibilities.

No one really knows what went on behind the scenes prior to the vote, but following what happened, several things have become clear.

The imminent residency lawsuit against new Police Director Irving Bradley and the details that will emerge during its expensive course will demonstrate to all just how much the current council failed the city on Tuesday.

When what is contained in that suit comes into the public eye, the only people in this battle who will look like bigger fools than Mayor Douglas H. Palmer are some on council.

Relating to that situation is that City Council appears to have returned to its submissive form, with a majority of members unwilling to go against the mayor and ask the tough questions that are part of their responsibilities.

In fact, they will likely do whatever the mayor says, including amending the city's residency ordinance to allow Mayor Palmer to legally play favorites with residency, instead of in the unlawful manner he is forced to use because of the structure of the ordinance.

But the people can stop this.

A practice petition drive undertaken last year managed to gather 700 signatures in five days.

That effort can be repeated now, in a drive towards getting a residency amendment into the city code that would simultaneously allow for outside hires in emergencies while never allowing Mayor Palmer to play favorites with the law, ever again.

The bottom line is that throughout all of this, including the mayor's lying, grandstanding, reversals on established positions, the council's decisions, and the court battles, the people have been the decisive factor.

If they want to defeat the mayor and the officials who sold them out on Tuesday, then it can be done.

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