Monthly Archives: June 2009

Lt. guvs face campaign finance rules

Candidates running for the new lieutenant governor’s position in the November election will be subject to campaign finance requirements just like gubernatorial candidates after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation establishing the rules into law on Friday.

Trumpeted by state Assembly members Joan M.Quigley, D-Hudson, and Joseph Cryan, D-Union, the law basically means that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor running on the same ticket will be treated as a single candidate for campaign finance reporting purposes.

New Jersey’s fairly weak pay-to-play requirements also now apply to lieutenant governor candidates, as do requirements mandating that candidates disclose involvement in issue advocacy committees.

Also, lieutenant governor candidates whose partners opt to use public funds for their campaign will be required to participate in at least one debate, similarly to how gubernatorial candidates are required to participate in two debates when they use public financing.

Interestingly enough, Gov. Corzine, a Democrat like Mr. Quigley and Mr. Cryan, will be exempt from these debate requirements since he is financing his campaign using funds from his own personal fortune.

Neither Gov. Corzine are Republican candidate for governor Chris Christie have announced their choices for running mates at this time.


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Hayling is out







Trenton library board of trustees President Adrienne Hayling has resigned, according to a city announcement, amid rumors that she actually pushed out of the position due to the continued mismanagement of the city library system.

Under Ms. Hayling the trustees frittered away millions of endowment dollars and nearly ran the entire system into the ground, as library officials were nearly forced to shutter branch libraries throughout the city.

Only a state-supported plan of reduced hours and other cost-saving measures saved those libraries.

The city’s worsening finances, however, do not bode well for the system, which provides crucial reading and educational opportunities for Trenton’s residents and especially city youth.

As the final straw, the Hayling-led trustees stonewalled a community foundation that raised thousands for the libraries until the foundation’s leaders opted to dissolve rather than deal with the continued shenanigans.

As that saga continued many in the city believed that Mayor Douglas H. Palmer had begun pressuring his longtime friend and ally to step down.

The move has been billed as a tactic to deflect blame for the system’s mismanagement from the mayor and his appointees and onto the board president.

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The numerous successes of the Palmer years

“Smart Growth Transforms a City”

By Anonymous
Publication: NJBIZ
Date: Monday, June 19 2006

(got a chuckle reading this article, in which Mayor Palmer touts a list of projects, which, while containing some notable successes, also includes a variety of projects that didn’t quite make it)

The City of Trenton has cultivated over a quarter billion dollars of privately funded redevelopment in the past year.

Most notable in Trenton’s recent new business attractions is Wachovia, which in January moved its regional headquarters from the suburbs to the city about a block away from Trenton’s Lafayette Yard Marriott hotel. When location, location, location was the question, the bank’s regional president Susanne Svizeny understood that Trenton was the answer. Within a 30-minute radius, Trenton’s labor supply exceeds more than 1.2 million – and that human resource rises to nearly three times that amount within a 45- minute distance.

Because continuing to attract more private industry is key to the city’s economic growth, Mayor Doug Palmer has been actively cultivating private development in New Jerseys capital city. In the past year, the city has announced over $250 million in privately funded development projects.

The city’s most ambitious redevelopment project is the Trenton Town Center, a $175 million mixed-use complex consisting of 35,000 square feet of retail, 170,000 square feet of Class-A office space, 275 residential condominiums and structured parking.The developer, Full Spectrum of New York, is going for a U.S. Green Building Council LEED designation of silver or better. The Trenton Town Center is expected to be the largest green complex of its kind. Construction is expected to begin in this fall.

Meanwhile, work is nearly completed on the redevelopment of the historic Broad Street Bank office building. Bayville Holdings is converting the once-neglected and deteriorating former office building into a mixed-use project consisting of 124 rental apartments with nearly 15,000 square feet of retail space. Bayville expects to complete the $35 million project by September.

Within the Mill Hill Historic District, both the newly constructed townhomes by Nexus Properties and Atlantis Properties’ adaptive reuse of the Labor Lyceum, sold quickly at market-topping prices.

Another Mill Hill project, The Whittaker, will offer 40 units of high end, newly constructed condominiums. The Concerned Pastors of Greater Trenton’s Community Development Corporation sought out the Leewood Realty Group as a joint venture partner. Michael Fink of Leewood says, “Purchasers will enjoy the embrace of a closely knit neighborhood and easy walk to the train station for commutes to New York or Philadelphia and points in between.”

Next up, the Ice House condominium project at 20 Swan Street in Chambersburg expects to deliver finished homes in August, in a converted industrial structure originally built for the Roebling family in 1899. Daniel Brenna, principal of Trenton Development Group, sees this project as the first of several, having already received approvals on 41 unit luxury-loft condos in the same neighborhood.

Small businesses also find Trenton a place to thrive. Brian Gill-Price, founder of ProServices, a technology consulting firm, is renovating the former Roebling Steel’s infirmary for its headquarters. It has attracted interest from other technology firms seeking to share the building upon its completion this summer. Gill-Price has dubbed his building “Trenton Makes Technology.”

On West State Street, the historic Roebling Mansion is being restored and expanded as the new headquarters of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

Other commercial projects currently marketing space include Liberty Commons, by Matrix, offering retail and office space in a 60,000-square-foot building that is the new headquarters for Wachovia Bank in Central New Jersey.

Near both the Marriott hotel and the Statehouse, Woodrose Properties is completing two historic restoration projects, each totaling 12,000square feet. At41 West State Street, office tenants can lease upper level suites over retail, and on South Warren Street, the historic Golden Swan Tavern and several adjacent structures are being converted for a mix of retail, office and residential use. Occupancy will begin this fall.

Also in the pipeline is the redevelopment of a surface parking area adjacent to Trenton’s Sovereign Bank Arena as a new entertainment district. The $45-million, 250,000-square-foot development will contain a host of nightclubs, restaurants and retail establishments, a parking garage, an outdoor performance area for festivals, and 90 apartments. This new district, called The Foundry on 129, will provide additional eating and entertainment venues to the city’s residents and workforce and others in the Greater Trenton region.

Surface parking also is the focus of ongoing redevelopment plans for repositioning the Route 29 freeway and converting its downtown segment into a boulevard. Here, rather than the present asphalt acreage home to the cars of thousands of state workers, Trenton and the State Department of Transportation are working together to reclaim the neighborhood and riverfront access that once was such a priceless asset of the city. The city envisions this Delaware River area as home to open space, market-rate homes and waterfront commerce.

Many of the newest projects are small, infill developments that create a big impact without complicated assemblages of land or buildings. Small, entrepreneurial developers thrive in Trenton. Successful new projects have appealed to buyers and tenants specifically looking for a city environment.

Already a national leader in Brownfield redevelopment, Trenton now has its sights on becoming the model for Smart Growth via its adaptive reuse projects and reclamation of underutilized properties such as the surface parking lots. And, along with redevelopment comes the advent of increased passenger service into and out of the city along the South Jersey light rail line and the $52-million renovation project underway to completely redesign the Trenton Train Station. This station is located at the edge of the city’s central business district and directly adjacent to dense residential neighborhoods. The transition in property uses close to the station is key to realizing the pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment that mark the transit village ideal.

Passengers arrive on foot from the host of residential neighborhoods in easy walking distance to the train station: from Mill Hill, Chambersburg, Villa Park and the Wilbur section. They drive in from Trenton’s outlying neighborhoods, its suburbs and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They arrive on the 200 trains that stop at the station each day. Some make additional rail connections. Others walk from the station to work in Trenton’s central business district. They make bus connections or hail one of the ever-present taxicabs .

“The infrastructure is here,” proclaims Palmer, “and the ability and interest in partnerships is, too. Our Department of Housing and Economic Development, in tandem with our Department of Inspections, works collaboratively with developers and business owners to smooth the path to the future.”

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South Ward will get an election after all…

South Ward Councilman Jim Coston will resign prior to Sept. 2 to allow voters to pick a successor in a November special election to fill the remainder of his term, which ends on June 30, 2010, according to The Trentonian’s L.A. Parker.

The decision came after Mr. Coston’s chosen successor, J. Carlos Avila, voiced support for the councilman to allow for an election and reconsider a decision to resign on Sept. 2, which would have meant a City Council-appointed successor would have filled the seat until the winner of the May 2010 election entered office.

 Mr. Coston originally said he was concerned that a resignation made effective before Sept. 2 would have meant the South Ward would have gone without representation until the special election.

The truth, however, is that City Council members can still appoint a successor to fill the seat even with a November election.  The councilman, who won his seat in the May 2006 election on a platform of challenging the Palmer administration and changing City Council, was apparently unaware of that fact.

That revelation casts doubt on the legal advice he may have been receiving from either the city’s attorneys or his own counsel.

A special election could see South Ward residents Patricia Stewart, Juan Martinez, J. Carlos Avila, Paul Harris, and others throw their hat in the ring.


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Coston’s pick wants an election

J. Carlos Avila, a possible successor to outgoing South Ward Councilman Jim Coston, wants a special November election to choose who fills the South Ward seat until May of 2010, according to The Times of Trenton.

Such a position is contradictory to that of Mr. Coston, who has voiced his support for having City Council name a replacement sometime after Sept. 2, ensuring that the appointee serves for the remainder of Mr. Coston’s term.  Mr. Avila also said Mr. Coston will recommend him to City Council, although Mr. Coston has not confirmed his support publicly.

Mr. Avila made the statements in a press release.

As a reason for supporting a special election he cited outcry over the possibility that the next South Ward council member will be chosen by six non-South Ward resident council members rather than the people actually living in the district.

“I was hearing from other constituents that they would like to have elections, that they don’t want council appointing people,” said Mr. Avila, according to The Times. “I’d be glad to participate in democratic elections.”

A sudden special election in the South Ward would certainly be a good thing.

Not only will the people get a chance to decide, but such an event will short-circuit the possibility of arming a City Council appointee with the considerable benefits of incumbency, even in a limited form.

Also, any appointee emerging from deliberations of the current City Council would certainly face skepticism and a label of illegitimacy, given the reputation of the majority of council members as rubber-stamping, dependent city officials.

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An accurate head count

The city government is pushing hard to make sure the 2010 Census goes smoothly and accurately, and for good reason.

Generally, it’s pretty obvious that Mayor Douglas H. Palmer wants the continued shrinking of Trenton’s population to slow down and stop, since he has personally presided over the exodus of about 10,000 or more residents since he took office in 1990.

Such a deflating population is a good marker of the social and economic chaos that plagues many of Trenton’s neighborhoods and has become the hallmark of Mayor Palmer’s tenure here.  He probably wants that trend to go away.

Additionally, the mayor probably wants to ensure an accurate count because the amount of people living in the city has a direct effect on the amount of power the mayor of Trenton wields.

New Jersey law dictating the makeup of municipal governments uses the 80,000 mark as a divider.  Cities with greater than 80,000 have a greater number of department directors, more mayoral aides, and other perks that make being a mayor of an 80,000+ municipality that much better.

And since Mayor Palmer’s other career aspirations as a possible lieutenant governor candidate or in some sort of a federal position seem to have disintegrated, that 2010 Census number has probably taken on greater importance for Trenton’s vertically-challenged mayor.  He very well may be running again in May 2010.

Finally, and more importantly to city residents, is that federal and state aid dollars are directly linked to the amount of people living within a town’s borders.  For a highly dependent city like Trenton, those aid dollars make up the majority of the dollars funding city schools and municipal services.

A decline in overall population means a decline in aid dollars, which could directly cause another tax increase like those that have occurred repeatedly in Trenton during Mayor Palmer’s time.

Taken altogether, it is accurate to say that a lot is riding on the 2010 census, both for us and for the man leading the city.

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Coston debate continues…

The latest development in the continued controversy over South Ward Councilman Jim Coston’s decision to resign on Sept. 2 is that a shadowy organization that few have ever heard of has emerged to endorse school district employee and Doug Palmer critic-turned supporter Juan Martinez for succeeding the outgoing councilman.

The endorsement seems to have raised eyebrows both in Trenton and beyond.

County Democratic Chair Richard McLellan questioned the move, noting real party organizations do not openly endorse candidates in a municipality that holds non-partisan elections such as Trenton, according to The Times of Trenton.

Mr. Coston, when confronted with the endorsement last week, rejected the group’s injection of racial overtones into the debate after its leader, Carmen Melendez, said “he should have consulted” with Latinos before supporting 26-year-old Juan Carlos Avila for the seat.

Kudos to Mr. Coston for recognizing that race should have nothing to do with the qualifications of his successor.

The councilman should now, however, recognize that the only responsible thing to do is to resign his seat ahead of the Sept. 2 date, thus allowing the South Ward voters to elect a successor in the November General Election.

Behind-the-scenes dealings, the injection of race, and the endorsements of shadowy groups with members from outside the South Ward point to a high likelihood that an appointment process held by City Council, instead of a special election, could result in an unworthy successor taking a seat in council chambers.

South Ward voters, as Mr. Coston should know, deserve better.

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