Monthly Archives: August 2007

Trenton officials pass gas costs to the taxpayers

Trenton City Councilman Jim Coston has received the city’s vehicle usage rules recently, after several months of requests for the materials from Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum.

Ms. Feigenbaum said she would have it to the councilman by the following Monday, and that she was putting the finishing touches on the rules document.

This odd response sure sounds like the city has never had a city vehicle usage policy – or ordinance – and it seems whoever has had a city vehicle could use it in an unregulated fashion.

Trips to Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore, or to the grocery store, could all have been made in city vehicles using tax dollar-funded gasoline at a time when the United States has seen some of the highest gas prices in history, sources familiar with the situation said.

Compound this situation with the fact that many of the vehicles are issued to police officials – who are not required to live within city limits – and the problem is even worse, meaning Trenton employees living significant distances away from the capital are motoring back and forth in gas-guzzling police vehicles.

Perhaps the city could afford more housing inspectors – or more police officers for that matter – if we weren’t paying the gasoline for city cars so that city officials could “drive off into the sunset”.

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One more for the pile?

Trenton City newspapers have been on the receiving end of a stream of letters to the editor from city residents irate over the lawsuit threat of a city official aimed at Trenton resident Zach Chester.

All of the letters have one thing in common: they condemn the actions of Assistant Business Administrator and Redevelopment guru Dennis Gonzalez in threatening to sue Mr. Chester after Mr. Chester repeatedly called the city official’s record on redevelopment projects into question.

Now it seems even one of the few bright spots of redevelopment during Mr. Gonzalez’s reign – the Broad Street Bank – is also sputtering, with the Trentonian’s L.A. Parker reporting Tuesday that the beautiful apartment building has yet to see any tenants moving in, despite numerous announced and delayed move-in dates.

Mr. Parker reports that Mayor Douglas H. Palmer will not budge on some portions of the deal between the city and developer Richard Libbey regarding a mandatory contingent of affordable apartments in the early 20th century landmark.

But Trenton City can ill afford to vex another developer and associated redevelopment project, with numerous other Gonzalez-heralded projects falling to the wayside in recent months.

Performa, Manex, Trenton Town Center, The Leewood Affair…

The list of Mr. Gonzalez’s failed redevelopment projects goes on, and with the months-long delay in the Broad Street Bank project, one wonders when that developer will turn tail and the Bank’s once promising future will be added to the Palmer/Gonzalez scrapheap.

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Could the Wi-fi money be better spent?

Trenton City officials announced this week that they are in discussions with Internet access firms about a project that could provide the city with wireless broadband access in a move that would make Trenton the first city to do so in New Jersey.

City officials said the project, if implemented, could provide a significant benefit to the city in attracting businesses and also in making emergency and other city services more efficient.

While city officials said they would pursue the project only at a minimal cost to Trenton’s taxpayers, such a project would have to cost the city some kind of money at some point during its lifetime.

Most Trenton residents have things other than wireless broadband Internet access on their wish lists for the city. Less crime and more opportunity would probably seem to be more important to most Trenton residents than the title of New Jersey’s first municipality with city-wide broadband access.

Sources said it will be interesting to see how the City Council approaches this question, especially if it becomes a pet project of the Douglas H. Palmer administration.

The project is still in its infancy, but given the current problems with housing inspections and rising police overtime costs, there are other areas of the city that could use any moneys spent on a technological novelty like wireless broadband access, sources said.

Then again, Trenton does need to attract new business and revitalization to provide more opportunity for its citizens and business owners.

The only question is….at what cost?

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Mayor of Trenton supports possible instance of suppression of democracy

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer agreed with the lawsuit threat of a city staffer aimed at silencing a city resident Wednesday, saying he supported the decision of Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez to send a letter threatening legal action to a Trenton resident who had questioned Gonzalez’s dismal record on bringing revitalization projects to Trenton.

According to the Times of Trenton, Mayor Palmer said, “No one can afford to take lightly insinuations of wrongdoing made without any factual basis or specifics.”

But the citizen in question, Zachary Chester, never made any insinuations of wrongdoing, while simply calling Mr. Gonzalez’s ability to properly perform his job into question.

Mayor Palmer also used the convenient excuse of chalking up Mr. Chester’s actions to mere political aspirations.

“There appears to be a trend developing by people who are willing to say anything in pursuit of their own political aspirations, including attacking the integrity of others under the guise of civic activism,” said Mayor Palmer in a statement in the Times of Trenton. “That sort of thing should concern us all.”

What should concern everyone who supports American democracy is the the attempted suppression of citizen dissent by the actions of a tyrannical political machine in one of America’s more run-down cities.

In American democracy, citizens have the right to call the abilities of their public officials into question at any time, without fear of suppression or threat to their lives and families, according to sources familiar with the First Amendment and democracy.

But the Palmer administration does not operate under the fundamentals of American democracy, and instead supports a more tyrannical form of government where the goings-on of the government are kept behind a wall of silence so impenetrable that not even City Council members can get the information they need to craft legislation, according to the Web site of Councilman Jim Coston.

In a further breach of the checks and balances of American government, anonymous sources said Trentonian columnist and Palmer supporter L.A. “Palmer” Parker has contacted Mr. Chester and informed him about the mayor’s stance on the issue

Despite the fact that the media is supposed to serve as the fourth estate – in a position to protect the American public from the transgressions of evil political leaders – this Trentonian columnist is relaying the venom of this vindictive mayor of New Jersey’s capital city and his administration lackeys, anonymous sources said.

L.A. Parker has also reported Mayor Palmer’s opintion that Mr. Chester is a political opportunist who simply makes statements in the guise of performing civic duties in the August 22 Trentonian.

Good night Trentonians, and good luck.

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More money spent by inept public officials means more problems for city residents

The Douglas H. Palmer administration of Trenton City has made requests for the creation of additional redundant positions within the government at a time when residents and business owners are clamoring for funds to be invested into overhauling the city’s archaic housing inspections schedules.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer told the City Council earlier in the summer that there was no money in the budget for increased inspections and more inspectors, but the administration had two ordinances on last week’s City Council docket that would create new positions within the government earning a potential combined salary of upwards of $139,000.

The two proposed positions – Public Information Assistant and Assistant Municipal Clerk – perform duties already performed by other city jobs, and signify a move that flies in the face of the administration’s assertions about a lack of money for the housing inspection department.

Listening to the proposal last week during a teleconference session, Councilman Jim Coston responded harshly to the administration’s proposals after his requests for increased inspections and overhauled inspection tactics were met with stonewalling, and then a watered-down policy implemented by Mayor Palmer.

“Am I to understand we have 1 housing inspector for every 2,000 housing units but we can afford to hire an assistant public information officer?” said Mr. Coston.

Administration officials, including Deputy Mayor Renee Haynes and Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum said the positions shouldn’t be construed to be new, but were more of a housekeeping nature.

“It is just a title in the City Code, and we are setting a salary range for it,” said Ms. Feigenbaum of one position.

It remains to be seen whether at some point in the future the administration fills these “housekeeping” positions without notifying City Council or city residents of the expenditures from the city’s coffers, city sources said.

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Palmer administration officials: Question the job we do and we will sue you

The Assistant Business Administrator and former acting Housing and Economic Development Director of the Douglas H. Palmer administration has threatened a city resident with a lawsuit and demanded half-page apologies in the city’s newspapers after the resident questioned the official’s performance of his paid city job.

The lawsuit threat to West Ward resident Zach Chester came from Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez, after Mr. Chester repeatedly asked the City Council to use their legal power to investigate numerous failed or delayed redevelopment projects in the city that were the responsibility of Mr. Gonzalez.

Mr. Chester responded publicly to Mr. Gonzalez’s threat of a lawsuit in front of City Council Thursday, receiving a thunderous applause from a group of 20 residents gathered at City Hall for the meeting.

“Mr. Gonzalez is a public official, and I am a concerned citizen,” said Mr. Chester. “Because, as a concerned citizen, I asked the City Council to look into Mr. Gonzalez’s performance as public official, he is now trying to take away my rights.”

Despite Mr. Gonzalez’s position that Mr. Chester made comments expressing or implying criminal and unethical behaviour on the part of Mr. Chester, a review of minutes from the past meetings and personal experience show that Mr. Chester was only asking for scrutiny of the performance of an appointed public official.

Mr. Gonzalez, as a public official, is open to this scrutiny, according to legal sources familiar with the subject.

Mr. Chester – who grew up in a housing project in Trenton and returned to make a difference in the welfare of the city – said Mr. Gonzalez had picked the wrong man to try and intimidate into silence.

“If you want to sue me, then sue me,” said Mr. Chester. “If there is nothing to hide, then settle this in court.”

Mr. Gonzalez had been at the center of several delayed or failed development projects within the city, and has been very secretive about the project’s problems.

He has repeatedly refused comment in the local media and even responded to an Open Public Records Request from Alysia Welch-Chester about the stalled Trenton Town Center project by asking for $450 in billed overtime costs for his extra work to gather the data.

Touted by city officials as important projects in Trenton’s future, several of the projects have never even gotten to the construction stage, with only the Broad Street Bank building coming to fruition under Mr. Gonzalez’s guidance.

Residents haven’t even moved into that project yet, which had an original move-in date of early 2007.

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City Council Tomorrow

Trenton City Council is set to meet Thursday – in the first meeting of the city governing body since July’s five-hour affair – and there have been unsubstantiated reports of the administration and police leadership caving in and agreeing to raise the number of officers in the Trenton Police Department.

Police Director Joseph Santiago is scheduled to make an appearance Thursday, and some sources speaking on the condition of anonymity say he may well tell those gathered at 319 East State Street that the force plans on receiving an additional 50 officers from the fall class, in addition to the 24 already scheduled to join the ranks at the end of the summer.

Residents showed up at the last council meeting demanding the hiring of more officers, describing horror stories of tired officers and waiting lines for police service in one of New Jersey’s most dangerous cities.

This recent citizen’s movement – made up of old and new residents all concerned about the city – has surely shown its influence, demonstrated by the current marginalization campaign being used by council and administration officials to paint the group as newcomers who don’t know anything about the city.

Should the administration bend to pressure and hire more officers, it is proof that enough raised voices can elicit a response from politically-deaf Trenton City officials.

And if they don’t hire more officers, then the residents will keep on pushing the issue until they do.

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