Monthly Archives: November 2007

More residency action Tuesday

Police Director Joseph Santiago’s fate could be sealed as early as Tuesday, when City Council could officially initiate action meant to force him to follow the law, and move to Trenton, or be removed from his position as supreme arbiter in the Trenton Police Department.

Council need only pass some sort of resolution demanding Mr. Santiago make a commitment to move into the state capital. With any refusal to do so, all the body would need to do is initiate a hearing examining the situation, and have a discussion with the director about his clear and unabashed breaking of the city code.

At the conclusion of that hearing – contrary to the lies spewed from the mouth of Speial Counsel Joseph A. Alacqua – the body would have the ability to remove the director from his position using his non-compliance with the law as cause, by way of a five-member vote affirming the action.

“My hope is that council as a body, that all of us will agree that this ordinance needs to be abided by the director and send him a resolution reminding him of that,” said Councilman Jim Coston in a statement in the Trentonian today.

Councilman Coston did say that it was understood by the body that compliance with the ordinance could take some time, and that if Mr. Santiago was in agreement then the council would not set stringent dates for the director’s compliance with the ordinance, as required by all department directors.

Besides Mr. Santiago, some other directors stand to be harmed by any significant residency ruling, most notably Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum, who makes no secret of the secondary status of her Mill Hill home.

Residents living in the neighborhood said Friday that Ms. Feigenbaum is rarely at her home more than twice a week, preferring to live in the upper reaches of the state, near her old position with the Jersey City administration.

New Communications Director Irving Bradley better watch out as well, because statements alleging deposits put down for a unit in the Broad Street Bank building will surely be investigated by the same residents pushing the action against Mr. Santiago currently.

Also noteworthy in the continued residency flap is the constant spin used by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and his cronies, who continually say that the flap is fueled by a handful of disgruntled citizens and angry police union members.

As sources said earlier this week, this is not the case, with the entire ordeal spurned by several groups of residents who have wished to initiate the action over the last several years, after taking note of law-breaking by the highest individual in law enforcement in their city.

Police unions may be smiling, but they had no hand in anything going on currently, which was the fruit of communications and some small citizens’ meetings.

This has nothing to do with police beef with a civilian director. The issue here, is simply, the LAW.


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City administration: Santiago will remain

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer fired back at a City Council and resident-led attack on the city’s controversial Police Director, Joseph Santiago, saying the mayor does have the right to grant a waiver to the director allowing him to live outside of the city, in violation of city law.

“While I support the Constitution, I believe I am well within my legal rights to grant Director Santiago this waiver,” said Mayor Palmer in a statement in today’s Trentonian.

The mayor also has received the legal support of the city’s Law Department, with Special Counsel Joseph Alacqua telling City Council and the press that the council has no ability to challenge or remove a director based upon Mr. Santiago’s circumstances.

Both statements fly in the face of the laws that govern municipalities like Trenton, which are governed under the Faulkner Act. The law specifically gives the council the ability to remove municipal personnel for cause, which in this case is the director’s residency status.

On top of that, the residency ordinance itself only grants waivers in the case of unfilled positions that would be a detriment to the city if left unfilled, according to the word of the law. Mr. Santiago’s position was never unfilled, and the waiver was not granted until several years after his appointment, in clear violation of the law.

Sources say that council is now developing some kind of resolution that will demand Mr. Santiago repair his residency situation in a timely manner, or face removal, through a vote requiring at least five yeas as enumerated within Trenton City Code and the Faulkner Act.

That could come up as early as Tuesday.

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Low voter turnout: troublesome

South Ward Councilman Jim Coston reported in his blog this week that the final voting numbers from the election painted a bleak picture of democracy in the capital of New Jersey.

Out of roughly 30,000 voters, only about 7500 actually took 15 minutes out of their day to walk down to a polling place and cast a vote, in an election that probably will have more effect on life here than the more flashy, national elections.

State senators and assemblyman may not get the headlines like U.S. representatives, senators, and presidents, but they make a lot of the decisions that affect Trentonians on an everyday basis.

Many of these incumbents have been in office for a considerable amount of time and have not created solutions to New Jersey’s budget woes, the high cost of living, and property taxes.

All those things hit the people of Trenton the hardest, and those people were probably too busy dealing with social and economic problems to show up at the polls.

On the other hand, there is one positive consequence of last week’s voter apathy.

Because petition signature numbers for citizen initiatives and protests of city ordinances are based on the number of voters casting ballots in the last general election, residents who want to challenge the city government can now do so more easily.

Protests require 15 percent, in this case 1125 signatures, and initiatives 10 percent, or 750 signatures. But that is truly the only positive.

As Mr. Coston said, democracy seems to be shrinking in Trenton. And we’re all poorer for it.

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Corzine touts road financing in AC

Gov. Jon S. Corzine today delivered his address to League of Municipalities delegates gathered in Atlantic City, and stressed a need to overhaul the state’s finances to address rampant debt through his asset monetization program.

The program would turn over some of the state’s most valuable assets – its massive toll highways – over to some sort of management entity that would take over the operations of the roads and use their revenue to cut the state’s $32 billion debt in half, according to Gov. Corzine, who said that was about $3,700 in debt for each man, woman, and child in the state.

“As you have probably heard or read, the plan will involve leveraging the untapped value in the state’s toll roads in order to dramatically pay down debt and create a permanent funding source for state’s Transportation Trust Fund,” Gov. Corzine said.

Opponents have scoffed at the idea, and compared the plan to situations in other states where private entities took over the roads and doubled and trebled tolls, but Gov. Corzine said this would not be done with the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike.

“There will be no sale of any roads, period,” said Gov. Corzine. “And there will be no lease to a private bidder or foreign owner.”

Opponents have said they believe the relief of $15 billion in state debt would require a 150 percent increase in highway tolls, although the specifics of the plan have not yet been released.

Gov. Corzine said the defeat of the stem cell research ballot question in last week’s election was a way for the New Jersey voters to make a point about the condition of the state’s finances, and the need for something to turn the situation around.

Also stressed during the speech was a need for a comprehensive revamping of the state’s school funding formula, which has been in a frozen hiatus since 2002, after budget problems resulted in an aid freeze.

That means that as districts see an increase in pupils, their per-pupil aid goes down, and some of the worst property taxes in the nation go up.

Gov. Corzine said the New Jersey Department of Education will present a new formula to the legislature in the coming weeks, which could be the light at the end of the tunnel for the school funding-property tax nightmare.

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Assembly proposal would kill RCAs

New Jersey legislators unveiled comprehensive policy on affordable housing today that could bring an end to the practice of cities like Trenton accepting the affordable housing obligations of its rich neighbors in exchange for cash.

Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, and Ewing’s own Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer, are two of the sponsors of the policy, which came in the form of a 12-point plan addressing the complex and controversial issue of affordable housing in New Jersey.

The plan would completely eliminate Regional Contribution Agreements, which were the vehicle of the low-income families-for-cash gravy train that critics say has damaged the social fabric of New Jersey’s urban areas.

“By allowing a municipality to cut its affordable-housing obligation in half, RCAs make it challenging and sometimes impossible for working New Jerseyans with modest incomes to live in the suburban communities where they work,” said Speaker Roberts in a statement Tuesday. “RCAs also lead to concentrated poverty.”

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer of Trenton and other urban mayors have consistently accepted the money until recently, using them to make up funding gaps in the cash-strapped budgets of their cities.

Trenton’s lagging economy and socio-economic problems have been linked to the concentration of poverty that has developed in some sections of the city, which has been augmented through Mayor Palmer’s use of RCAs.

The plan would also require state-assisted development projects to be composed of at least 20 percent affordable units, and increase the maximum income for people eligible for affordable housing.

To make up the gap in urban budgets created by the elimination of RCAs, the proposals call for the New Jersey government to make up the funding out of its own coffers and work with cities to address future budget issues.

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Messina transferred following harassment gaffe

Trenton Police Capt. Paul “Sleepy” Messina has been transferred to the city’s Police Academy, following numerous missteps and mishaps that culminated in sexual harassment charges from another Trenton officer.

Police sources Wednesday said Capt. Messina told a group officers earlier in the day about his pending transfer.

They also said there had been pressure on the police force to do something about the captain, who had been a source of constant embarrassment to police and the city as a whole.

Local media and a Web site documented some of Capt. Messina’s finer moments, like when he was caught sleeping on the job at police headquarters, more than once.

He also ordered an expensive investigation after he found a Trentonian with pictures of him sleeping place on his police car’s windshield.

The sexual harassment probe started after the captain made sexist remarks about the provision of a laptop to a female detective, which Capt. Messina said had something to do with her female anatomy. The comments got back to the detective, who filed with internal affairs.

Hopefully the recruits at the academy will survive working under Capt. Messina, but the regular police force will obviously be better off without him.

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Mayor cites phantom waiver as excuse for law-breaking

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer responded Tuesday to last week’s complaint by a former mayoral candidate about the non-compliance of Police Director Joseph Santiago, saying the Police Director was granted some sort of “waiver” that is not enumerated anywhere within the Code of the City of Trenton.

“We feel we are in our right to grant a waiver in a personal situation. Our legal department stands by this,” said Palmer in the Times Tuesday.

Since this waiver is not mentioned anywhere in the law with regards to a personal situation – contradictory to what was reported in the Times – this really means that Mayor Palmer truly feels that he and the people he supports are above the law.

Numerous employees in the past were removed from office and discharged, as the ordinance says for violations, but it appears Mr. Santiago is sufficiently godlike to not be held to the laws that govern other Trenton employees and residents.

Curiously Mayor Palmer said the waiver was temporary, even though Mr. Santiago has never truly lived in a bona fide domicile as called for by the ordinance. Bona fide domicile means primary residence, where one’s family lives and spends the bulk of their time.

Despite a slew of addresses cited as places of residence in Trenton in the past, Mr. Santiago has made it no secret that he has always lived in Stirling NJ. So any labeling of the situation as “temporary” comes completely without merit.

All of this means simply means Mayor Palmer and his administration continue to think they are completely above the law, so at some point the law will have to be brought up to meet them.

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