Monthly Archives: July 2008

Republicans move to close scalping loophole

Following the brouhaha over Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s plan to resell Bruce Springsteen tickets at sky-high prices for a campaign fundraiser, a Republican state senator has announced that he plans on introducing legislation to put an end to the practice.

The legislation by Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-25, would close a loophole in event ticketing laws that gives political organizations enough legal leeway to sell event tickets at prices many times the original event price for political fundraisers.

Other individuals and entities are normally prohibited from doing so by ticket scalping laws.

“As part of our effort to eliminate the potential for corruption in the political process, we must remove the exemptions that have been carved out in our laws to the sole benefit of politicians,” said Sen. Bucco, in a statement. “Candidates for public office should not be able to purchase tickets to popular concerts and events at face value and mark them up for sale to donors. If members of the public cannot resell their tickets for substantial profit, elected officials and candidates for office should not be allowed to do so either.”

Earlier this month longtime New Jersey politician and Sen. Lautenberg nearly purchased 40 tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert to be held at Giants Stadium for $108 a piece, with his campaign planning to resell them at $1500 each to raise funds for the senator’s campaign against Republic Dick Zimmer.

Sen. Lautenberg’s campaign eventually rescinded the purchase and asked the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to reexamine the way it doled out tickets, to make the process more fair and tickets more available to everyone and not just important public figures.

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Palmer to Africa, while Trenton burns

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer is taking it back to Africa on a trip with Bill Clinton this week, while his hometown continues to experience a surge in the violent crime that has become so prevalent under its longtime mayor.

Wednesday’s newspaper pages, splattered with various stories about violent crime in some city neighborhoods, also carried stories about Mayor Palmer’s decision to travel to Africa with many accentuated with pictures of Trenton’s missing mayor, in fashionable suits and designer glasses.

One conclusion that can be reached from a review of this bizarre situation is that Mayor Palmer has long outgrown his office here in Trenton. He talks about tackling environmental issues, creating so-called green jobs, and improving the conditions in the nation’s larger cities when Trenton’s streets are unsafe, the schools are ineffective, and there are not even enough people with regular jobs to support a healthy local economy.

It really looks like Trenton needs someone to take over the leadership of this city who is more local and more home-oriented. The city needs a leader that will spend their time here, rather than traipsing around the world talking about non-existent programs that offer no hope for improving the conditions of this city.

To take it one step further, the people living in the surrounding townships and the rest of the state need to also consider pushing for new leadership here in Trenton, and in many of the state’s other downtrodden urban areas.

The Trenton Water Works debacle, in which the city is preparing to sell outside water infrastructure that it never built for $100 million to a company that will jack up water rates to make township residents foot the bill, is a perfect example of the direct cost that Trenton represents to outsiders, whether nearby or far away.

Also, this faulty and ineffective leadership is not only relieving the state of around $400 million for school and municipal budget dollars annually, but it also causes greater potential for the surrounding areas to suffer.

The crime problems that fester under Mayor Palmer and former Police Director Joseph Santiago threaten to consume more of the viable areas of the city, and eventually push over the borders into the surrounding areas.

Let it be realized, that a healthy Trenton makes for a healthy Mercer County, and it starts with the people working at 319 E. State Street.

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Santiago and Bradley’s boy gets 27 months

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, whose legacy is intertwined with some of his former police officers who are now working for the City of Trenton, was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $100,000 in fines after being convicted of using his office to steer cheap land in city-endorsed deals to his mistress.

Federal prosecutors reportedly asked for 15 to 20 years in prison for the former mayor, but Judge William J. Martini responded with a much lighter sentence and reprimanded prosecutors and those asking for the maximum sentence because of a perceived discrepancy between what they were asking for and the crimes Mr. James committed.

“It disappoints me and it shocks me that government would seek 10-20 year sentencing,” said Judge Martini, in reports. “I know in the zeal of prosecution, things sometimes get distorted.”

Trenton’s outgoing Police Director Joseph Santiago and Communications Director Irving Bradley both worked under Mr. James during long tenure as Newark’s mayor, along with Barry Colicelli, Trenton’s now-ousted gang czar.

Mr. Santiago appears to be on his way out of the Trenton scene as well, after losing his court case against plaintiffs including me. We sued over Mr. Santiago’s non-residency in Trenton, and Mr. Bradley appears to be guilty of the same violations, along with being deemed “unqualified” by the state Department of Personnel.

In comparison with other corruption-disgraced New Jersey mayors, Mr. James made off pretty well, although his case was different in that he did not get involved in bribery or extortion or other crimes prevalent with New Jersey political corruption cases.

Terrance D. Weldon, former Ocean Township mayor, received 58 months in prison in 2007 for taking more than $60,000 in bribes from developers. Former Marlboro Township Mayor Matthew V. Scannapieco received 21 months in prison in June of this year for taking $245,000 in bribes from developers and committing tax evasion.

Former Hazlet Mayor Paul Coughlin was sentenced to 24 months in prison in 2006 for taking a single $3,000 bribe from a cooperating witness.

But Mr. James never took any money from anyone, but steered cheap land to his mistress Tamika Riley that netted the Jersey City woman around $700,000 in profits, paid for by developers.

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Santiago too busy for Trenton

More mind-numbing violence shattered the peace in some of Trenton’s worst neighborhoods this weekend, once again.

But former Police Director Joseph Santiago was apparently too busy to meet with his command staff on Sunday to implement some emergency measures to address the situation, law enforcement sources said.

Numerous violent episodes plagued the city, but perhaps the most horrific was the shooting of a 16-year-old city resident who happened to be tooling his way down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

The Trentonian reported that attackers dragged the boy off of his bicycle and unloaded two slugs into his head, making permanent brain damage and the loss of sight of at least one of the child’s eyes highly likely, despite the best efforts of the valiant medical staff if Capital Health System-Fuld Campus.

Mr. Santiago’s leadership in the police department seems to be deteriorating even more rapidly than has become usual for the summer, as the unaccountable director has cut manpower in many of the city’s worst areas while doing nothing to stop the endless summer violence filling the pages of newspapers with each successive day.

Rumors have it that Mr. Santiago plans on announcing a separation from his wife, followed by taking up another kind of pseudo-residency hotel or apartment arrangements that he took up in the beginning of his tenure in Trenton.

Residents need to write to their mayor and City Council and demand the removal of this monster, who like others in the city administration, fail to put real effort into creating viable solutions for a smallish city that probably could be turned around fairly rapidly.

New leadership in both the police department and the city is needed, ASAP.

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Time for a full-time mayor, police director

A barrage of violent crime continued to plague some of Trenton’s more crime-ridden neighborhoods this weekend, with a variety of shootings, stabbings, robberies, and assaults occurring intermittently while Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and former Police Director Joseph Santiago presumably spent their time outside the city, in Hunterdon and Morris counties.

Considering the crime problem and the variety of other afflictions that plague this great city, it really begs the question: when are the residents of Trenton going to move to get people into positions of power that actually care about the city enough to live here and spend their time here, even on the weekends?

The omnipresent crime plaguing the city’s worst neighborhoods has not improved under Mr. Santiago. In fact, the argument should be made that the further slipping of once-viable neighborhoods and the cut in manpower on the streets under the director mean he has been worse for Trenton than many of his predecessors.

With regards to Mayor Palmer, the mere fact that he is unwilling to spend more of his time in his hometown and the city he now leads immediately makes him an inferior leader. A leader that spent more time here, assessing the everyday problems and spending more time solving them would be more appropriate to lead Trenton.

These days Mayor Palmer appears to be living the life of a state worker, spending Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., working for the city, then having his city-funded police escort whisk him away on weekend days and at many other times.

Just like many state workers, it appears that Mayor Palmer has refused any thought of leading a life as a full-time Trenton resident, instead choosing to treat the city like so many others: as a place of work, and not a place of life.

It’s high time that the city get a new leader who will actually take part in living here, rather than treating it simply as a workweek-long place of employment.

A leader needs to understand what life here is like, and the problems that face the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just like the 85,000 others who actually make this place a full-time place of residence.

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Interfere in traffic stops, face consequences

A Newark councilwoman who intervened in a traffic stop involving her nephew back in 2006 could be removed from office for her participation in the incident.

Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow last week filed a court motion and wrote a letter citing state statutes that call for public officials to be removed from office, following serious convictions.

A municipal court found Councilwoman Dana Rone guilty of obstruction of justice for her involvement in the incident, in which she verbally attacked a Newark police officer and told him that she “was a councilwoman,” in what appeared to be an attempt to use her office to help out her nephew.

Ms. Rone appealed the decision to a state Superior Court, but the higher court upheld the conviction.

Following the Superior Court decision the Essex County prosecutor cited the removal statute, and has asked for the councilwoman to step down effective on June 27, 2008, the date of the final court decision.

Earlier this month, Trenton Councilwoman Annette Lartigue reportedly told an officer, over a cell phone, to “stand down”, after the officer pulled over Ms. Lartigue’s daughter for several motor vehicle violations.

During the traffic stop the daughter allegedly told the officers that her mother was a councilwoman and that she “was related to” Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and then managed to get the councilwoman on the phone.

The daughter eventually received several motor vehicle summonses, and Ms. Lartigue got some unneeded media attention because of her involvement in the stop. But luckily, justice was served because the officer rightly went ahead and issued tickets, despite statements about public office and power from some of those involved.

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Doug Palmer: playing shell games with your money since 1990

The City of Trenton received state backing today when Department of Community Affairs officials told the Times of Trenton that the city was within its legal rights to transfer $9 million from the Trenton Water Works’ revenue into various areas of the city’s general budget, in what amounts to taxing people living outside of Trenton to pay for city services.

The flap, which has emerged several times over the past several years, comes as Trenton is attempting to sell all of its outside water infrastructure to New Jersey American Water for a reported $100 million. Township officials and residents from Ewing, Hopewell, Lawrence, and Hamilton are screaming bloody murder as they face a 36 percent rate hike with the sale, and the prospect of having their water bill money used to help the private water company pay for the cost of Trenton’s outside infrastructure.

A DCA spokesman backed up the city’s position that in equalizing pay rates in 2006, the city became exempt from Board of Public Utilities oversight, allowing it to raise rates at will and transfer water revenue as city officials saw fit.

Mayor Douglas Palmer, of course, took some jabs at officials from the outside townships, telling the Times of Trenton that he was “offended” by the accusations leveled by the outside townships of impropriety on the part of the city, in transferring the $9 million.

Despite today’s reports, the City of Trenton should not be viewed as being exonerated quite yet. Remember that the city only equalized rates in 2006, meaning the numerous questionable transfers prior to that event could be illegal, under state law governing water utilities.

Also, water works employees this week said that the city did not actually equalize the rates, pointing to discounts and other measures that effectively make the rate paid by some city residents lower than those paid by residents living outside the city. These matters certainly needs to be looked into.

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