Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, pressed into a corner by a citizens’ petition that could wreck his misguided plan to sell off parts of the city’s water utility for quick cash, displayed all of his usual trickery at City Council Tuesday.
Observers say he and other shadowy figures belittled those leading the effort, while threatening court action against the petition on a legal basis that led a local attorney to recommend that the mayor go “directly into exile, and get a good shrink.” Also, Mayor Palmer apparently whined that even with a successful legal challenge or a positive outcome in a referendum vote, he would still be forced to raise taxes on city property owners by over 1,000 percent, according to The Trentonian.
Such threats, however, fly in the face of state tax cap law and the fact that the city has other options, like more serious budget cuts, accepting additional state aid paired with total state oversight, and floating bonds based on the water utility’s full, unsold revenue-generating potential.
Even barring those, naysayers who deny the validity of such options forget that even in their absence, this deal still doesn’t make sense.
The $20 million budget shortfalls that Mayor Palmer has linked to devastating tax increases will resume less than two years after the sale would be completed, when the city would see ballooning budget costs without the benefit of 40,000 paying suburban ratepayers and the ability to unilaterally raise water rates, to help city ratepayers fund maintenance and capital improvements on the city’s older, decaying system of pipes.
The tax increases then – when Mayor Palmer and his goons are likely gone from Trenton – will be even more catastrophic, and the Trenton Water Works outlying system will be forever gone.
That is, of course, unless the people of Trenton don’t rise up and destroy the deal and their mayor once and for all.
Let’s hope for the latter option.