Monthly Archives: September 2007

NJ court empowers residents

With yesterday’s ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, residents from Trenton and other Faulkner Act municipalities now have the ability to put all types of city ordinances on the ballot to be overturned, after the high court ruled cities cannot challenge referendum because of the category of ordinance.

These tactics are just what Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer did when his henchmen convinced a judge to end a referendum by classifying an ordinance – which eliminated certain Trenton Police Department positions – as an administrative one rather than legislative ordinance, temporarily stopping the referendum efforts.

Wednesday’s court ruling now ends that ability of city governments to go circumvent the will of the residents by categorizing ordinances as administrative, and therefore protecting them.

Trenton residents who were involved in the original September 2004 referendum push may not have any reason to put the referendum back on the ballot, because the three deputy chiefs whose positions were eliminated by the Palmer ordinance previously retired.

But the ruling does mean Trenton residents should seriously consider petitioning any extremely questionable ordinance that gets passed by City Council.

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Slate attacks Coston

With a resolution awarding a construction contract to a Woodbury firm back in front of the City Council Tuesday, council members Paul Pintella and Cordelia Staton attacked Councilman Jim Coston about what they saw as disparaging comments on Mr. Coston’s personal blog.

Mr. Coston in his blog questioned the influence of contributions on the administration’s efforts in support of the resolution.

Before the resolution presentation, Mr. Pintella said Mr. Coston should clarify his blog comments and whether they suggested impropriety or a lack of integrity on the part of the administration.

Mr. Pintella said he had not read the blog but heard it second-hand.

“I would recommend that you read it for yourself before you begin making accusations,” Mr. Coston said.

Ms. Staton went further, and said she had read the blog, and called Mr. Coston’s comment “slimy”.

In addition, she said she took offence to his comments about the City Council’s daily activities.

“Mr. Coston has cast aspersions on this body,” Ms. Staton said.

The defensive comments from Mr. Pintella and Ms. Staton were curious in that Mr. Coston’s blog entry about contributions was directed at the administration, and not the council or council members.

The two, along with Councilman Manny Segura, did receive tens of thousands of dollars from Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.

So perhaps they felt slighted because any questionable contribution to Mayor Palmer could be linked to their campaign finances, which would be tainted by the funds in question, sources said.

Two days earlier Mr. Coston had questioned the reasoning behind the administration’s having brought the failed resolution back before the council, and commented on the possibility of a link between campaign contributions and the administration’s drive to bring the resolution back before council.

However, the next day Mr. Coston said he did not mean a “quid pro quo” relationship between any contributions and the contract resolution.

The resolution carries a contract of roughly $150,000 for the building of small park on a site at the corner of North Willow Street and Pennington Avenue.

It had failed in May amid doubts about the administration’s efforts in reaching out to the community in the area of the planned construction site.

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Officer: drunken Messina bullied me

A Trenton police officer was on the receiving end of pressure from Capt. Paul “Sleepy” Messina early Sat. morning after the officer doled out some parking tickets to illegally parked vehicles around the city’s downtown Marriott Hotel, the Times’ Kevin Shea reported Wednesday.

The officer said Capt. Messina told him to perform what amounts to illegal selective enforcement and void the tickets, and that Capt. Messina smelled of booze during the verbal confrontation.

Now Police Director Santiago says the officer has a history of being overzealous with parking tickets, and that there was no way Messina was intoxicated as he had been in the director’s presence that night.

He questioned the officer’s enforcement of parking laws during the downtown events that occurred this past weekend.

“Do we really want to give parking tickets to people who come to events downtown,” said Mr. Santiago in Wednesday’s Times.

Capt. Messina is the same police captain known for verbally abusing police officers, sleeping on duty numerous times, and generally flouting some police rules while obsessively enforcing others against enemies of the TPD status quo.

Despite Mr. Santiago’s denial of the captain’s alleged drinking, it is well known that police officers – even rookies – are trained to detect the presence of alcohol as their job requires police to look for potentially dangerous intoxicated citizens.

Along with the fact that this officer happens to be an 18-year veteran and that officers are trained to immediately recognize the presence of alcohol, it seems almost certain that Capt. Messina had been drinking and could have been intoxicated that night.

In addition to this, Capt. Messina and Mr. Santiago are frequently seen at area bars downing drinks.

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Palmer found…in Hunterdon County

Last week saw the Web site Missing Mayor ? pop onto the Trenton scene with a bang, eliciting news conference responses from Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and frantic city road crew action during attempts to remove signs advertising the site from some of the city’s more busy thoroughfares.

And while the site really questioned what Mayor Palmer was doing for Trenton City while he has ran all over the nation and the world doing work for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, some residents said the site also highlighted a more simpler problem with Mayor Palmer.

It seems Mayor Palmer is frequently missing from the city that he governs, because he doesn’t actually live there.

Trenton City Code has required city employees to reside within city limits, in a bona fide domicile where the employee actually lives, or else risk ineligibility for the position.

Yet residents at Friday’s protest at the Trenton Marriott said the thing they didn’t get about Mayor Palmer was how did Trenton’s executive get away with breaking city code by not having a true home within Trenton city limits.

The resident – from Hiltonia – is technically a neighbor of Mayor Palmer’s, since the mayor owns a residence in the West Ward neighborhood.

But the resident said he has never seen the mayor at his Hiltonia home, and has only heard of one Hiltonia citizen ever actually seeing Trenton’s 17-year mayor.

It is widely reported that the Hiltonia home is just an alibi.

Mayor Palmer actually lives in a palatial home with his wealthy wife in Hunterdon County, rather than living in his posh Hiltonia home back in T-Town.

The police director appointed by Mayor Palmer doesn’t have a real home in Trenton either, preferring to drive back to his Stirling home each evening.

So while Mayor Palmer may be missing while he is off tackling national problems other than Trenton’s, in reality most of his time “missing” is actually spent a few miles north, in Hunterdon County, and in clear violation of city code.

But who really follows city code anyway…

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Trenton residents rallying Friday

Trenton residents set to protest on Friday, September 14th

TRENTON – Coinciding with the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2007 Fall Leadership Meeting, a broad coalition of concerned Trenton residents will peacefully protest outside the Trenton Marriott on Friday September 14th at 12:30 p.m. to call attention to the persistent social and economic ills plaguing the Capital City and to the poor performance of the administration under Mayor Palmer’s leadership.

Organizers cite a sharp increase in violent crime and gang activity, a failing school system, joblessness and lack of opportunity, loss of homeownership, misguided and botched revitalization projects, political exclusion and disenfranchisement, lack of vision, and a host of other issues.

– Trenton’s current homicide rate is poised to equal the record set in 2005 and exceeds that of Philadelphia on a per capita basis. In the most recent Quitno City Crime Ratings report, Trenton jumped from 10th to 4th most dangerous city of its size. Whereas Trenton had only minor gang activity before 2002, national gangs have now fully established their presence throughout many neighborhoods. This poor law enforcement record exists despite the questionable and misleading data promulgated by the Police Department under Director Santiago.

– The Trenton Public School System now ranks as one of the lowest performing in New Jersey in broad categories under NCLB and QSAC and is threatened with partial State takeover. According to the recent State Review, the district failed to meet the 80% minimum in the five areas of review, scoring 11 in Instruction and Program, 22 in Governance, 22 in Personnel, 60 in Fiscal Management, and 67 in Operations Management. The 2005 Sherman Ave. scandal exposed student record falsification by administrators and caused some 130 students to fall short of required credits. Recently, the 2007-2008 school year scheduling foul-up saw many of Trenton’s 14,500 students spend the first two days of school loitering in gyms and auditoriums with nothing to do.

– While the administration has touted various economic development projects and made extraordinary job creation claims, hard data proves otherwise. Trenton is falling further behind New Jersey’s other cities in per capita income with a dismal (unadjusted) 9% rise from 1999 to 2006 as compared to Newark’s 24% and Jersey City’s 29% rise. Between 2000 and 2005 Mercer County’s unemployment rate was cut by more than half from 6.7% to 2.3% while Trenton stagnated from 10.5% to 10.2%.

– While the administration has developed numerous affordable housing units, the overall picture shows a discouraging net loss of homeownership from 48.9% in 1990 to 45.5% in 2000 and a growing problem with absentee landlords and overcrowding. Residents have continued their exodus with a 3.6% population decline from 1990 to 2000.

– Major concerns over development include the continuing abuse of Eminent Domain for private development, the use of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs) for affordable housing, pay-to-play relationships with developers, and the exclusion of public input from neighborhood revitalization planning. Recently, a community leader was threatened, in writing, with a lawsuit by a top administration official for requesting information about and questioning various development projects in the city.
Coalition members consider the above record unacceptable for a Mayor with a 17-year tenure!

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City Council voices support for Broad Street Bank PILOT extension

City Council last week voiced their support for extending the proposed tax abatement for the developer of the Broad Street Bank Building apartment project from 30 years to 40 years after the developer cried foul about the original agreement.

“Some of us remember when this was a vibrant building, and we also remember the down years,” said City Council President Paul Pintella, after he voiced his support for the measure at City Council.

Representatives from the developer – Bayville Holdings – asked for the extension on the tax abatement as they prepare to negotiate their mortgage with the NJHMFA, saying the extension was necessary for the viability of the project.

Administration officials said that the city would receive significantly more funds under the extended Payment in Lieu of Taxes, going from roughly $5.5 million to $10.8 million, according to the Times of Trenton.

City Council members said they would grant the extension but they wanted to see a better marketing campaign to advertise the building for potential tenants of the early 20th century skyscraper.

City Council officials stated they were excited about the prospect of bringing people with disposable income into the downtown area, but curiously the building has an income ceiling for renters.

Despite one administration official saying the Palmer machine supports “mixed-income communities”, the practice is different from the preaching.

Households making somewhere in the neighborhood of $130,000 or more would be barred from renting in the renovated building, which is somethingcritics say doesn’t make sense for a city trying to redevelop its economy and reestablish a mixed-income community.

And Palmer has continually purchased low-income housing obligations in the form of Regional Contribution Agreements, filling many Trenton neighborhoods with low-income citizens in a city with few job opportunities for low-income households.

Residents at the meeting gave a mixed response to the extension for the developer.

“As a taxpayer, I don’t know about a developer blowing into City Council at the last minute and asking to rearrange something,” said South Ward resident Patricia Stewart.

“It’s a beautiful building, and I was tempted to move in for a nickel, but I am glad I didn’t,” she said, noting the months of delay for move-in dates.

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U.S. Conference of Mayors staging area experiences violent crime

A street located near the Trenton Marriott that will be hosting the U.S.Conference of Mayors this week was the scene of violent crime Monday when a young Trenton man was assaulted with a knife and robbed.

In what is the second violent attack in the so-called “Safe” zone of the Trenton downtown area this summer, Jermaine Daniels, 20, was stabbed in the back and both arms after an assailant demanded he “Give it up”, while the young Trenton resident was walking down Peace Street.

The assault occurred directly across Lafayette Street from the hotel that will see many of the nation’s most powerful mayors staying within its usually empty rooms from Thursday to Saturday of this week.

While Mayor Palmer continually touts his successes in providing housing for the poor and bringing down the crime rate in the capital, many residents say they don’t feel safe in the city, and what was an almost universally-safe downtown area has seen the face of violent crime rear its ugly head this summer.

A good Samaritan was stabbed after a knife-wielding attacker attempted to take her purse from her in broad daylight on a workday near City Hall, at 319 East State Street earlier in the summer.

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