Trenton’s city government certainly does not have its priorities straight in cutting costs and reducing expenses in light of a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.
Instead of making common sense changes to governmental activities and policies, the city residents are being made to bear the brunt of the budget axe, through the elimination of city police assets and units like the closing of once highly-touted police precincts during the late night hours and the elimination of the Metro and Vice units.
As Old Mill Hill has pointed out, these police precincts – some of which still languish in various stages of construction – were opened to great fanfare by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and former Police Director Joseph Santiago, as evidence of keeping promises and focus on public safety issues.
Now, while favored city employees play bumper cars with Crown Victorias and waste gasoline 20 miles outside of the city, city residents in certain wards face the prospect of having their own area precincts closed at some of the most dire hours for public safety emergencies.
Police detachments like the Metro and Vice units are being closed down, with the same cost-cutting needs cited as the reason. These units maintained very public presences, either physically, in the case of downtown Metro officers, or virtually, in the case of the Vice unit’s numerous arrests of high-ranking gang members and drug dealers.
Instead of these questionable plans, here are some suggestions:
– Cut numerous positions in the city’s top-heavy administration, which is sized more appropriately for a city of 500,000, and not one of 84,000. There are mayor’s aides, the chief of staff, multiple department directors, and numerous other positions ripe for elimination.
– Get rid of either the current city attorney, or the special counsel. Having both is totally unnecessary, and the salary would be better used in hiring a larger staff of in-house lawyers that would further cut the costs of contracting legal services out to to exotic law firms from Camden County.
– Institute a strict vehicle policy that keeps city vehicles in town, and more tightly controls the usage of city gasoline, at a time when gas is set to go over $4 a gallon.
– Redistribute the mayor’s unnecessary personal protection detail to the police department and cut down on the $8 million police overtime bill.
Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago need to end the rampant waste and questionable financial decisions* frequently made by both men before considering any of these cost-saving measures that threaten public safety, in a city that already has a public safety problem.
*(It must be recognized that Mr. Santiago did make a good decision in shutting down the police department’s horse unit, which was a gigantic waste of money and manpower.)