Trenton residents could take over many of the functions of their city government through what would be similar to the formation of a large, unofficial lower house of city legislature.
That’s because the piece of state law governing how this city’s government is run, the Faulkner Act, hands Trenton residents the power to initiate their own ordinances or suspend and send them on to City Council, and eventually the ballot, as long as residents successfully collect a certain number of signatures from the registered voters of the city.
This would require the participation of 800 or so registered voters, willing to meeting, communicate, and vote on various ordinances, either proposed by members or taken from the dockets of City Council. Binding votes would mean that all members would have to affix their signatures onto official petitions bearing the ordinances.
With the combined signatures of all members, such a group would assume the power to propose its own legislation and strike down anything proposed by official City Council members or the city administration, with everything going to referendum vote.
The 800 or so number comes from the statute, which dictates that the number of signatures necessary for certain actions. The number is either 10 or 15 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the last election in which state Assembly members were elected.
Due to the depressed economic and social conditions that have become the hallmark of the city under Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, few voters come out to vote for state legislators. The statutory 10 or 15 percent is traditionally a fairly low number.
Sure, it may sound like a rather cumbersome and ineffective way to run the city government, but it sounds a little bit better when compared with the current city government. The people in power now, especially Mayor Palmer, have been so cumbersome and ineffective that they allowed the city’s finances to reach the point where Trenton now faces a $27 million budget shortfall.
City residents are looking at what could end up being one of the largest municipal tax rate increase in recent New Jersey history, especially if the sale of outlying Trenton Water Works infrastructure falls through.
Maybe it’s time Trenton residents get together and put together a government of their own.