Monthly Archives: April 2009

A better downtown

A couple of guys with a tape measure investigating the façade of the old Motor Vehicles Commission building on South Montgomery Street this morning drew my interest, because I thought maybe they were actually doing something with that ugly, empty structure.

To my dismay, however, they told me all they were doing was performing repairs on the structure after someone inadvertently crashed their vehicle into a section of brick and glass on the old edifice, which looks like a 1960s high school.

So the vacant existence of another one of Trenton’s derelict structures will continue.

Unlike its nearby neighbors the Commonwealth Building and the Bell Telephone Building, this ugly piece of state-sponsored architecture will surely remain empty for quite a while.

Bell Building, appearing courtesy of Dan Dodson's

Bell Building, appearing courtesy of Dan Dodson's

It has little or no aesthetic value.

That, however, actually sets it apart from most of Trenton’s architecture, which is loaded with great examples of workmanship that serve as a testament to older construction methods and Trenton’s dormant greatness.

The Broad Street Bank Building is a true beauty, but what’s crazy is the Commonwealth Building and the Bell Telephone Building, both on East State Street, could perhaps be even greater if some caring and innovative minds went to work on the structures.

Both appear to have much higher ceilings than the renovated bank building, making potential loft living that much more exciting.

Renovations and eventual occupancy would also add that much more life to downtown Trenton, which reliably turns into a ghost town after 5 p.m. during the week and most of the time on the weekends.

Hey, maybe with the renovation and conversion of these other structures, a potential buyer/tenant could be found for the Motor Vehicle Commission building being repaired right now.

Perhaps Trentonians would think twice about crashing vehicles into it, in that event.



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The ship is sinking…

That the Republican Party is shedding political control to the Democrats like a fall Oak tree sheds leaves should come as no surprise, given the party’s idiotic pandering to extremist conservatives and ultra-right religious groups.

Arlen Specter, now D-Pennsylvania, and his Tuesday defection from the Republicans is more evidence of the party’s misplaced reliance on such fringe groups.  It is misplaced because such reliance marginalized moderates in the party and makes it nearly impossible for Northeast Republicans to hold onto elected office.

Mr. Specter’s defection came after he undertook sobering political calculations which revealed that his party’s continued lurch to the right (and the south) meant he had little chance of a Pennsylvania Republic primary victory against conservative Pat Toomey.

The writing is on the wall.

The Republican Party needs to seriously reexamine itself, in light of the party’s complete disarray in areas outside of the southern U.S. and the Midwest.

Continuing on a path that ignores fundamental ideological and cultural changes in the U.S. will only lead the party further down the path of becoming a third-rate, regional political organization that appeals solely to evangelical, ultraconservative loons.

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County officials watching for swine flu

County medical personnel in Mercer and surrounding counties are keeping an eye out for cases of the swine flu that has sickened a handful of individuals in New York, California, Texas, Ohio, and Kansas, and killed 150 people in Mexico.

Although no cases have thus far emerged in New Jersey government officials are urging residents to be mindful of the disease and take precautions, such as regularly washing hands and contacting a physician in the event of illness.

Also, anyone who becomes ill is urged to avoid their place of work and other public places and instead remain home, where the illness can run its course.

Like the flu that normally strikes humans the swine flu is a respiratory illness that spreads through the air, causing fever, coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, chills and other common flu symptoms.

Similar to the Spanish Influenza that killed 50 million people in 1918 and 1919, this strain of flu appears to have caused the most fatalities among young, healthy adults in Mexico, rather than traditional flu victims who are elderly or very young.

Researchers have suggested that, like the Spanish flu, this strain is causing an overly aggressive immune response in young adults that actually destroys the lungs and throats.

No deaths have been reported in the U.S.

In Mexico, soccer teams have played in empty stadiums and traditionally busy public squares and markets are devoid of activity since the flu outbreak began.

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Palmer has Corzine’s back

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s back when it comes to state pols questioning the governor’s activities leading up to the 2009 gubernatorial election.

Mayor Palmer defended the governor, juxtaposing himself against State Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Newark, in a piece published yesterday in which the legislator questioned the governor’s inability to bring minorities and women into the political fold.

“I intend to meet with the governor as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, as everybody, including Stevie Wonder can see women and minorities aren’t participating,” said Sen. Rice, to

Opposite Sen. Rice was Mayor Palmer, mentioned as being on the short list for the new lieutenant governor’s position, who vigorously defended the governor as a victim of the economic downturn and trumpeted Gov. Corzine’s ability to help out the state’s urban areas.

Mayor Palmer, constantly touting his “achievements” while in Trenton, apparently let down his political armor for a second and admitted to that it’s not all roses in the city.  He said Trenton needs help “to come back” and Gov. Corzine can help the city and others do that.

Well, Mayor Palmer, if you want Trenton to come back, the first thing you can do is resign your seat and leave politics forever.

And you, Gov. Corzine, should steer clear of lieutenant governor candidate’s with Mayor Palmer’s credentials, which include being partially responsible for Trenton’s continued economic slide.

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Cut the fat, or get out

If only Trenton City Council members showed as much backbone when dealing with the Palmer administration as they did Tuesday when they grilled leading school officials about plans to lay off more than 100 teachers and slash other employment, as a result of flat state funding.

Complaints leveled at Superintendent Rodney Lofton by council members during their Tuesday meeting centered on the district’s bloated administration, which includes dozens of overlapping administrator positions, few of which are targeted during the planned culling of employees.

Such complaints are odd from a group of legislators who often refuses to take up their duty in giving the Palmer administration a healthy dose of checks and balances, a category of actions that includes firing disrespectful officials and eliminating redundant positions.

This council has often been confronted by both categories of public servants, yet has frequently refused to do anything more than complain or raise token resistance, even at times when administration officials show extreme disrespect towards council members.

New council members making up the body starting in 2010 need to have more courage and willingness to exercise their statutory powers in removing officials and cutting positions that Trenton just doesn’t have the money to support.

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Fear, loathing, and tooth decay in Trenton

The City of Trenton recently announced that fluoride is once again being added to water treated at the Trenton Water Works, some eight months after the plant abruptly ran out of the substance.

Of course, the city’s press release trumpeting the resumption of the process blamed the stoppage on upgrades being performed at the water filtration plant, rather than the true culprit – administrative blunders by leadership at the utility and the city government.

While the plant upgrades did mean a shift from dry to liquid fluoride, the real reason the plant ran out of the dry form of the chemical was that the utility’s leadership failed to account for the fact that the employee in charge of ordering and reporting on the state of the fluoride supply was laid off.

Now, normally when an institution lays off an employee its leadership makes sure to account for exactly what that former employee’s responsibilities were, as to not adversely affect the proper operation of the institution.

This type of accounting, however, did not occur at the Trenton Water Works, because no notation was made by the utility leadership that fluoride supplies would run out and someone else needed to take over the duty of ordering more of the substance.

Instead, caution was thrown to the wind, resulting in a lot of belly-aching and angst among city residents and water utility customers in the outlying suburbs.

Of course city officials plan on selling off that revenue-producing suburban system, so there’s no real reason why anyone should expect them to care about the fiscal welfare or dental conditions of city residents or our suburban neighbors.

With that kind of respect, expect more blunders like fluoride-gate in the near future.

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Stimulus oversight measures advance

TRENTON – State Sen. Ronald L Rice, D-Essex, has sponsored two pieces of legislation with an eye towards ensuring greater government transparency and providing economic fairness for women and minorities, as New Jersey prepares for the receipt of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

 “As Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, I fully understand the struggles that those living in the urban community face,” said Sen. Rice. “Although everyone in the country is hurting, those in the cities have had the highest unemployment figures around. The State can help our communities with its redevelopment by simply providing fair opportunities for all residents especially– women and minorities who own business that have not always gotten their fair share.”

The first bill, S-2721, requires the state government to build an entire Web site that would detail contracts being awarded and federal stimulus moneys being spent on transportation infrastructure, providing transparency and accountability.

The site would be comprehensive, accounting for every penny of taxpayers money while publishing information on the percentage of women and minority business owners and contractors taking part in the infrastructure work.

“The State, local government, civil rights groups and union leaders must all work closely together to make sure that the funding provided by the federal stimulus programs are properly distributed,” said Sen. Rice. “This Web site will show any disparity in awarding this stimulus money. ”

The second piece of legislation, bill S-2730, contains language that mandates the provision of funding for outreach and training programs for minority and women’s groups by governmental entities, widening the reach and effect of the federal stimulus funding.

Both bills have been sent to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

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