Updated: officials concerned over petition drive

City administration officials appear to be sweating over the prospect of seeing the sale of outlying Trenton Water Works infrastructure to a private company blocked by a petition drive.

The office of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer made that evident through the publishing of written scare tactics Friday, in the form of a press release threatening city residents with a tax increase of $1.00 for every $100 of assessed value should the $80 million deal fall through as the result of the petitions.

The release does not enlighten readers about what sort of self-admitted “Houdini” tricks the city plans for  coming budget years, when the revenue from the sale will be exhausted and the city will be without the revenue from its current suburban water customers.

That might be because the city has run out of such tricks, according to Mayor Palmer, who admitted that reality during a budget hearing in recent weeks.

The debate is really over whether or not selling off such an important asset just to plug two measly years’ worth of budget shortfalls is worth it, when the very tax increases with which the mayor threatens the city will resume in less than two years.

This city resident certainly doesn’t think so.

Also, there appears to be serious doubt as to why citizens should believe statements about the likelihood of such a tax increase happening, as threatened.

Let us not forget that Mayor Palmer has successfully begged for state money in the past, and that he does have clout with some state officials.  The state may be strapped for cash, but some sort of deal could be worked out that would provide the city with extra aid.

Such aid may come in return for state oversight and installation of state monitors in City Hall, but such a thing should be welcome in Trenton, where taxpayers have little idea about what exactly is going on inside the city’s books.

Also, the alternative tax increase would be the equivalent of political harakiri for Mayor Palmer and other officials.

It’s easy to threaten and scare people before the petition drive actually succeeds, but blaming a bunch of citizens for this type of tax increase does not work as well after the fact.

In the face of such a blame game any person with a functioning brain will wonder about how exactly Trenton got to the point where selling off an important asset was the only solution available, and a temporary one at that, and then likely place blame for that situation squarely on our 20-year mayor.

Other than these points, the bottom line continues to be that this a bad deal for Trenton.

These threats of massive tax increases are literally public relations fodder for politicians whose looming departure from Trenton would be made more smooth with a one-time infusion of cash to balance the books for another year or two. Citizens should instead look for better long-term solutions that can be instituted without mortgaging the city’s future fiscal health.

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