Lately, in keeping with Trenton’s cyclical public discourse process, public figures have advocated for renewed dialogue with the state government about upping contributions to the city for state-occupied, tax-exempt properties and the associated burden on city services.
They say such a dialogue would be a better fit for all of the political and civic energy that is annually spent in the city, like that expended in the brouhaha over the Trenton Water Work sale and the fact that high-ranking administration officials surrepititiously received pay raises in the teeth of the worst economic crisis in decades.
While the state makes an attractive and defenseless target to blame for all of Trenton’s ills, it should be noted that this is not a new practice. It also happens to be an exercise in futility, especially when it is done as the city voluntarily sells off assets like the suburban water system that actually generate revenue for the city.
Also, the state government has been here in Trenton for quite a while, when more benevolent and less inefficient city administrations with a much better shot of leveraging extra money were in power.
Gov. Corzine dislikes Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, and even before the governor came into power Mayor Palmer’s alliance with uber-powerful Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman yielded little windfall for the city, at a time when the state actually had some money.
Yet city officials say we ought to focus our efforts in the presence of such unfavorable circumstances, while they fritter away taxpayer money and sell off valuable assets for short-term gain, as in the ongoing Trenton Water Works sale saga.
City officials who have touted this sale as a “good idea” support their position by making vague, unsubstantiated claims about maintenance costs paired with promises of the water utility’s continued fiscal viability following the sale, which is also unsupported by facts and figures.
In fact, the city’s own documents show the current utility produces reliable surpluses of $3 million or more each year for injection into the general fund where the money offsets a need for taxes or more begging at the Statehouse.
With the sale, that figure dwindles down to $300,000, which is probably inflated due to the use of faulty mathematics in the city’s own spreadsheets.
In light of these truths, it is a no-brainer that Trenton officials are telling the populace to blame the people on West State Street for the city’s lack of revenue, while people down on East State Street sell off assets and help themselves to city money.
It’s called the Trenton blame game.
It’s been done for a long time.
It doesn’t work.