Some Trenton City Council members planning on running for reelection or for election to other municipal seats in 2010 are probably going to have a tough time pointing out their legislative achievements when confronted by worthwhile opponents.
The body hasn’t really passed much of anything in the form of its own legislation recently, as many of its members have effectively served as a rubber-stamping operation for most of the past three years, save for a few triumphant and memorable moments.
Those “good” moments include standing up to the administration on the issue of renewing former Gang Czar Barry Colicelli’s unneeded service contract, questioning former Police Director Joseph Santiago’s residency, and saying no to purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unnecessary police service weapons.
However, City Council has already begun to backtrack on many of these former triumphs.
In the case of residency, they recently went in reverse by affirming alleged residency breaker Irving Bradley as police director, and in Mr. Colicelli’s case, word is that the administration is planning to once again bring the ex-Newark cop and Santiago crony back in the fold, perhaps with the approval of a majority of council members already guaranteed.
Even on issues that council members themselves have promised to take action, little has been done. Councilwoman Annette Lartigue publicly vowed to push for reforming the city’s municipal vehicle usage, but she dragged her feet for so long that it was actually Councilman Jim Coston who finally began pushing legislation on the issue after weeks of stonewalling from the administration.
An even greater example of council inaction is the library funding debacle, in which Mayor Douglas H. Palmer nearly forced the closure of four of the city’s beloved branch libraries through a 10 percent cut to the library budget.
While many council members have expressed their support and even undertaken activities aimed at keeping the libraries open, few have spoken openly of properly using their statutory powers to control budgetary practices in injecting funds into the library system’s coffers.
Doing so would augment all of the wonderful private organizing and fundraising efforts that have emerged because of the closures, but apparently the current council members don’t see things that way.
This tendency to be reluctant or timid about using the powers of an elected office and remaining rather inactive are not the best attributes for elected officials. Maybe Trenton should look for people who have a contrary record when it comes to the makeup of the next City Council.