Monthly Archives: January 2008

Council: what is up with Irving?

Communications Director Irving Bradley’s residency in Trenton and his usage of city-owned vehicles in exotic New Jersey locations will be the subject of further City Council discussions after the body broached the issue in the closing minutes of the regular session of their Tuesday meeting.

“I want to talk about Mr. Bradley’s weekend jaunts,” said Councilman Jim Coston to the rest of council.

Councilman Coston questioned Palmer administration officials on whether they had allowed Mr. Bradley to take a city-owned Ford Expedition up to his old home in Rahway over the weekend, which was revealed on a Trenton Web site this week.

Chief of Staff Renee Haynes did say that police officials were allowed to take their city vehicle home with them at night, citing the unsafe nature of Trenton for the overnight storage of city vehicles, but that only brought up another issue: the director’s residence in Trenton.

Council members asked why Mr. Bradley – as a civilian director – would have his family living outside of the city at his old home in Rahway, in violation of the city’s residency laws.

“If he is a resident of Trenton, than that car should have been parked at his Trenton residence,” said Councilwoman Annette Lartigue.

That was all for the council on the matter – for now – with already four and a half hours and an executive session yet to be conducted.

Mr. Coston said earlier in the conversation that he wanted to discuss the issue in-depth at a later date, but finished by handing out a certification with a “detailed explanation of residency”, to all council members and some of the administration officials.

All city employees hired after 1995 were required to sign the certification, which defines exactly what comprises the bona fide domicile that is required of city employees, with violators facing dismissal.

Legal sources said Tuesday that if Mr. Bradley signed the paper, he would be in violation of the law and subject to prosecution, and if he didn’t sign the paper, then it would serve as evidence of the Palmer administration engaging in selective enforcement, by failing to enforce a law they had upheld numerous times against other employees.

Council is expected to discuss the issue further in coming weeks.

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Palmer won’t uphold the law

An arrogant Mayor Douglas H. Palmer told those questioning the residency of Communications Director Irving Bradley that the director is in fact abiding by the city’s residency ordinance on Tuesday, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

Photos of Mr. Bradley’s various city-owned vehicles were shown at his downtown city apartment building, but later photos showed one of the same vehicles 50 miles away at his old family residence in Rahway.

But the city law requires employees working for the City of Trenton to maintain bona fide domiciles within city limits, with part of the definition of that term requiring the city home to also be the home of the immediate family of the employee.

If Mr. Bradley’s family is still living in Rahway then Mr. Bradley is living in open defiance of the law, with the support of an arrogant and despotic Mayor Palmer.

Despite the reality of the situation, Mayor Palmer said Tuesday that Mr. Bradley is abiding by the residency ordinance, and Mr. Bradley would not say whether his family is moving to Trenton calling the matter “private”, according to the Times of Trenton.

Mayor Palmer also used the news piece to continue his efforts in distraction, with a verbal attempt to muddy the issue by declaring that those who are complaining about the breaking of city laws were taking the city government’s attention away from other more important matters.

“It continues to amaze me that with public safety being the most important issue facing the city, people are raising distracting ‘non-issues’,” said Mayor Palmer in Tuesday’s Times.

When is the open violation of the law by our elected officials a non-issue, especially in the American system of government?

It seems that according to Mayor Palmer’s contradictory logic, “crime is down” and the city is experiencing a renaissance, but the public safety issue requires so much attention that the suspension of established law is acceptable for some employees but not for others, as if Trenton was in some sort of state of emergency.

Almost equally contradictory is the mayor’s declarations about the financial woes of the city – including the mortgage crisis – and the need for a tax hike, while simultaneously allowing his underlings to literally milk the city of taxpayer dollars to fund the commutes of real and pseudo city-employees.

Also, isn’t this supposed to be a “green” city?

City Spin Dr. Kent Ashworth told the Times Tuesday that the city allowed employees to take their cars home because there was no safe place to keep the vehicles, but that makes no sense.

As city resident Dan Dodson once said on his Web site, the capital is literally awash with both surface parking and parking decks that are almost never used at night, and it is entirely feasible for the city to use one of these empty structures as a repository for city-owned vehicles.

Hamilton Township’s Mayor John Bencivengo recently clamped down on the abuse of municipal vehicles, and it is time for Trenton to do the same.

When Trenton residents face potentially-crippling increases in their tax bills, the municipal belt needs to be tightened, and a perfectly logical place to begin would through taking away the ridiculous perks provided to many of Trenton’s highly paid employees.

Everyone else pays for their own gas and everyone else commutes to work in their own vehicle.

It should be the same for city employees.

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More residency issues

Residency controversy continued its role as the albatross of Trenton’s city government with Monday’s release of some damning photos that provide visual evidence of the continued abuse of city laws, city vehicles, and city-funded gasoline by a relative newcomer to the Trenton scene.

Two different vehicles of Acting Communications Director Irving Bradley were shown at his alleged new address within the City of Trenton at the Broad Street Bank building during the workweek, but then one of those same city vehicles was shown over the weekend at what is purported to be Mr. Bradley’s old home address in Rahway, nearly 40 miles away.

The important thing here is that Mr. Bradley and his family would have completely moved out of Rahway and into the Broad Street Bank apartment to comply with the city’s residency ordinance, or else he would face immediate termination at the hands of the city’s personnel department.

This same issue is exactly why Police Director Joseph Santiago – who happened to have work with Mr. Bradley in Newark – could soon be dismissed from his position for feigning residence in the city and then later refusing to move into Trenton to comply with the law.

The story of Mr. Bradley’s flouting of the residency law just continues the long line of people under the Palmer administration who demonstrate the attitude that the law does not apply to them when they hold the favor of Mayor Palmer or his higher cabinet members, like Mr. Santiago.

More residency controversy is sure to only further divide the city and spark further discussion about amending the city’s residency laws, but those who suggest doing so fail to see the reason for having such a law, and the importance of maintaining the current law, or even strengthening it.

Trenton’s current impoverished and dilapidated condition only came about with the flight of industry and the middle class out of the city, which was then followed by housing programs that cemented many of the region’s poor within the city’s borders.

The residency ordinance serves to keep a solid base of middle-class wage earners inside the city limits, providing for at least some mixed incomes and keeping the city alive economically, at the bare minimum.

Without the residency ordinance a group of 2,000 people earning some of the better salaries in the city would likely flee for the borders, leaving the city in more economic turmoil that it is already experiencing.

A lesser benefit of the residency ordinance is that it makes those in public service positions actually share in the interests of the community, likely working harder towards improving a community in which they have a greater stake.

People advocating for a weakened ordinance or its elimination forget exactly why the ordinance was enacted – by a citizen’s referendum in the late 1960s – and how Trenton got into its current condition.

The flight of the middle class and business has only accelerated since those times, and for Trenton to turn that around it will likely require development and the reconstruction of neighborhoods ruined by the scourge of poverty, and the addition of attractions that bring people into the city.

Weakening residency will only allow people to go the other way, right out of Trenton.

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Dammit, he’s right!

Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker wrote Saturday that the outpouring of support that has developed for saving Trenton Central High School from the wrecking ball seems incredibly insensitive, given the plight of the students who are actually trying to learn in the building.

He may have hit on something that seems to have been lost in all of the brouhaha over preserving that wonderful structure in the East Ward.

It may be cliche, but what about the children?

While it has been the belief here that the building ought to be saved if possible, it is also a reality that the students who are studying there already face enough problems in trying to get an education in a poverty and crime-ridden community.

They shouldn’t be distracted and required to worry about learning in a structure that is falling apart and much too large for the present student population.

So if it turns out that building new state-of-the-art facilities would remedy that situation more quickly than a renovation effort could, then Trenton needs to bite the bullet and move in that direction.

Surely portions of the building – especially the wonderful front facade with the clock-tower – could be saved for historical purposes or even for use as some sort of athletic or educational facility.

The children studying there currently should not be punished because a city and a school board couldn’t keep up with a regular schedule of maintenance to keep the building in working form.

And while that inability to manage the maintenance of the buildings is one of the real causes of this problem, the city will get nowhere by moving towards a renovation effort simply to remedy the past ineptitude of Trenton’s school administration.

Preserving historical structures is important to keeping a link to the city’s great past, especially in hope that one day another great future will come to Trenton, but that effort should not take precedence over the teaching of children who so desperately need a proper education.

For all his shortcomings, Superintendent Rodney Lofton made two important points at a school board meeting last week, where good comments and pertinent information came few and far between.

“Facilities do not determine a child’s education, but they have an effect on it,” said Mr. Lofton. “One thing that is good about being superintendent is that all I have to worry about is the needs of the children.”

Maybe – and in fact more likely – renovating the school could provide a proper learning environment for the kids at Trenton Central, using plans that were put together years ago.

But whatever the case, it is important to pick the plan that will better satisfy the needs of the current, living children rather than the needs of those trying to save a historically-significant but inanimate building that has already gone into disrepair.

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Palmer cries foul

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer says that City Council’s tough stance on Police Director Joseph Santiago’s non-residency exists because of the political aspirations of the individuals who make up that body, according to the Times of Trenton.

This latest, poorly conceived residency outburst seems like more desperate crying from a usually skillful politician who has finally been caught red-handed, and now only seeks to muddy an argument in which he has become aware of the fact that he does not have a legal leg to stand on.

Council is doing the right thing and there are many possible reasons for that, but the mayor’s comments look like a pathetic attempt to distract everyone from the most important fact in this matter: the mayor has violated a very simple and straightforward law.

He is wrong, and all of the political posturing and complaining and crying in the world will do nothing to change that.

Council members have publicly cited the law – which clearly states Mr. Santiago must live in Trenton, in a bona fide domicile – as the reason for council moving to resolve the issue with a measure threatening the mayor with Mr. Santiago’s dismissal.

On Wednesday Mayor Palmer continued his reliance on what he sees as an interpretation of waiver-granting language of the ordinance, although that language does not seem to apply to Mr. Santiago’s situation.

He also chided council for not going along with the administration’s flawed interpretation of the law and taking part in his law breaking. This is all because of politics, the mayor said.

“I believe some want to run for office. For an odd reason, they think this is a good issue to run on,” said Mayor Palmer to The Times Wednesday. “Trying to get rid of Santiago is not the issue to run on.”

And truthfully, perhaps council members went down this path because they felt their backs were up against a wall.

The resolution only came after the filing of a lawsuit by residents against Mayor Palmer, Mr. Santiago, and the City of Trenton, seeking Mr. Santiago’s removal and a declaration from a judge stating that the mayor has no ability to bend and selectively enforce the law at will.

Also possible is that some council members’ actions do indeed stem from politics related to the mayor’s expected departure from his longtime position as the city’s executive, but that is just the nature of politics.

In the end, it is likely no one will remember or care why council members took a stand, especially if a wrong was made right and the law was enforced.

The irony here is that Mayor Palmer cries about political motives – and not the law – as the cause for the residency flap, while he falls victim to what mirrors his own bread-and-butter style of craftily using political games to get things done his way in Trenton.

Mayor Palmer has stacked the political deck in his favor in the past, using campaign money to get a slate of council members onto the body that would be obedient and docile in going along with administration-sponsored initiatives, and the resulting ineptitude of that body has frustrated thousands of residents for years.

The political power that allowed for such prolific government-shaping came from his seat as mayor, and the power that comes from that seat is now waning with Palmer’s suspected exit from Trenton politics.

Maybe the officials that were indebted to Mayor Palmer after he previously supported them recognize this, and plan on using their own seats to jockey themselves into position for the next Palmerless political environment.

There is no surprise in this space that Palmer’s political web has already begun unraveling, with his departure from the mayor’s office following the May 2010 election only two years away.

It has been a long time coming, but the chickens are coming home to roost.

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Quick Hits: Week of Jan. 21- Jan. 28

The Trenton Board of Education meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and the fate of the historical gem that is Trenton Central High School could be decided. Attend and make your voice heard! Don’t let a bunch of hand-picked Mayor Palmer cronies make bad decisions with Trenton’s architectural heritage.

A man was seen at Cafe Ole Tuesday morning telling someone named “Joyce” to delay public comment or cancel it all together at the Board of Education meeting scheduled for Tuesday night. He said he didn’t want a “groundswell” of support or a public debate to occur at the meeting. It seems like Mayor Palmer’s cronies are trying to stifle public debate on the Trenton Central High School controversy…

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Trenton City Council meets next Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall. The residency flap is still not settled, and the seven day ultimatum to Mayor Palmer is up this Friday. Want to be bet Director Santiago isn’t moving into Trenton?

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Gov. Jon S. Corzine continues his whirlwind tour of the state next week, trying to sell his toll hike plan to the state’s voters as the legislature gets ready to debate and then vote on the measures. The Guv will be in Camden County on Jan. 28, at the Voorhees Middle School. People aren’t buying the plan, a poll says.

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Blue Jersey Editor Juan Melli wonders aloud about political favoritism in the Democratic leadership for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primary. He provides some pretty interesting evidence of an “unofficial” official support policy by the state’s democratic machinery. I see a lot of Obama supporters in Trenton, and this is surely a contested primary. Why stack the deck?

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Gov. Corzine and hundreds of others were on hand in Trenton Sunday, to pay respects to the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Obama’s candidacy was seen as evidence of progress in the quest for equality by the Star-Ledger.

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The Democratic candidates got pretty nasty with each other Monday night in front a crowd in Myrtle Beach. The debate was the scene of much squabbling and bickering between the three leading candidates, with Sens. Clinton and Edwards taking turns lashing out at Obama.

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And most importantly….the Giants are Super Bowl-bound! They get two weeks off after their improbable victory in Green Bay, and then get a chance to knock off the unbeaten Patriots as 14-point underdogs. Go JINTS!

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New Jersey’s senators are somewhat loved by the voters…Gov. Corzine is not.

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Crime continues to hit parts of Trenton, despite the freezing temperatures of the last few days. I thought winter was the slow crime season in T-Town, and also, isn’t crime down, Mr. Santiago. Can’t wait to see what the summer is like…

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Pols: more open information regarding toll plan

Controversy surrounding Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposed asset monetization plan continued to deepen this week, with legislators from both sides of aisle proposing revisions and questioning both the plan itself and the manner in which the Corzine administration has both analyzed the plan and pushed for it in the public realm.

Under Gov. Corzine’s plan, toll hikes on the state’s superhighways would be used to pay off the bond debt of a large public agency that would manage the roadways, with issued bond funds going towards paying off half of the state’s $32 billion debt and reinvigorating the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund.

Republicans like Senate Republican Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr. and Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce today called for the governor to release outside opinions the administration sought on the plan, which looked at the possible tax-exempt status of bonds issued by the proposed highway agency.

“If he is exercising the necessary caution in proceeding with this plan, Governor Corzine must have sought legal advice on the key question of whether bonds issued by this newly created Public Benefit Corporation would be tax exempt,” said Mr. Kean, R-Union, Morris, Somerset and Essex, in a statement. “The success or failure of this toll hike proposal could hinge on that question and the Legislature should be provided with that legal opinion now so that we can analyze the issues it raises.”

Mr. DeCroce this week called out the governor for saying tax rebates and other relief granted to taxpayers in recent years could be in danger without implementing the toll plan.

“The threat also confirms what Republicans have been saying for two years that unless an amendment to the state constitution is approved to guarantee the permanency of property tax relief, promises by Corzine and Democrats to the contrary were meaningless,” said DeCroce, R-Morris and Passaic in a statement. “New Jersey taxpayers should not be pawns in a political blackmail plot.”

Even democrats – like Senator Barbara Buono, Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee – are calling for more openness of information regarding the toll plan.

“If this (proposal) is designed to cure our fiscal ills, we really need to see what’s on every shelf in the medicine cabinet,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, in a statement. “In the initial stops on his public tour, the Governor has been upfront and knowledgeable, but now we’ll need to examine what’s beyond the labels.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Corzine continues a tour of the state’s counties, explaining the plan to residents in town hall meetings.

The governor said he wants the state legislature to pass the plan by mid-March, although that looks like a daunting task with little public support for the plan.

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