A rather interesting New York Times piece that was written just before Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s victory in the June 1990 runoff election has the man who remains the city’s mayor telling the Times that he was running to make “Trenton what it used to be in the 50s and 60s, a city of safe streets and decent housing.”
Such statements make it clear that few can honestly say that the mayor has had any real success in achieving that vision, and other content in the piece indicates that a chasm of discrepancies have developed between Mr. Palmer then and Mayor Palmer now.
What was promised then and what is happening now demonstrates an ever-lengthening record of reversals and failure.
The man who regularly lobbies the state government for handout dollars and assistance used to say that the city “was too reliant” on such assistance and that the city should turn away from that support through its own development, according to The New York Times.
But his pursuit of private development resulted in a record of dismal failure for the majority of development projects, whether they originated under the city’s direction or the direction of other entities.
Projects that experienced some success, like Waterfront Park and The Sovereign Bank Arena, were county-sponsored and orchestrated, and no similar successes are evident in the Palmer redevelopment portfolio.
The mayor has since turned back to the state and federal government. Besides the usual begging, he has frequently said the state does not delivers its fair share in payments in lieu of taxes for all the so-called “valuable” downtown property state buildings occupy, although one wonders what downtown – and Trenton for that matter – would be without the presence of the state.
More recently, the mayor told the feds that they have not done enough to support urban areas and should therefore pony up dollars to bail out city governments like his. So much for independence…
Also, since those early days, the mayor has become more and more a man that Trenton supports instead of a man who supports Trenton.
Perhaps out of recognition that fixing Trenton requires too much effort for his welfare and that national positions provide greater power, recognition, and less effort, the former county freeholder, school district purchasing agent, local guy, and Spring Street resident has taken to the national stage.
From there he pushes policies that have not benefited many in Trenton, while spending most of his time outside the city.
The domestic policies the man supported in his earliest days have failed, and he has since reversed both his identity and positions. He alternately clings to the city as a means of support, power, and fame and then abandons it for extended periods to bask in the exposure of the national stage, where his domestic failures are hidden.
While this has gone on, the city has continued suffering down the exact same road it was when he made grandiose promises about this “new vision for Trenton.” Perhaps it is time for both the city and the man to move on.