Monthly Archives: February 2010

McGrath response to questions about TWW ordeal

Thank you for a more even tone regarding the obvious budget failures of the administration. Even if you and I had the budget last July (as the mayor promised) then we could have stopped the mayor from spending money that he never had. Personally I look at the Department of Community Affairs and their part in all of this. One of their responsibilities is to ensure that municipalities operate lawfully within a budget. This is now two years in a row that the DCA has allowed Palmer’s administration to rack up millions in OT and bad budgeting only to leave it at our feet.

As to the “Strategic” value of TWW, it has routinely made $3 million plus until the administration forund “religion” with a state law limiting proceeds to the city’s budget to about $2.5 million, which they have successfully argued in the past does not apply when rates are equalized. Regardless, the 5% limit is arbitrary and can easily be doubled or tripled via an executive order or state legislation. Since no tax money would back it and it would save the state and Trenton millions, it would be fairly easy. This year the extra revenue without the sale would be at least $7 million, not counting many millions from the suburbs’ civic (fire hydrants and state building) use. Some estimates put the total value at around $14 million.

Furthermore, we are talking about the public service of providing cheap and clean water to the public. Going private would set rates at about double the rates everyone was paying before this sale. And believe me, the unstable ground that the utility would be left on could cause a collapse and forced sale of the system (following astronomical rate increases) in only a few years. Then who is on the hook for the roughly $100 million in debt left behind?

Believe me, the sale will cost us more than $8 million a year. We will lose the $3 million in revenue plus Trenton residents and businesses would make up the $5 million in extra rates just to break even. And that takes Dennis Gonzalez and his mysterious millions in efficiency savings that he has yet to detail on his word. Then factor in the Trenton Water Works engineers (4 or 5) that will be added to our city’s payroll and the costs of repairs for separation on the city’s side (I think that street paving equipment will be tied up for a while) plus other costs administratively of pushing the permits, street closings, etc. through.

How can you trust a deal when the city has not provided anyone with a simple cost analysis or a 5 year comparison plan? Believe me, this deal should be shot down and the administration that continues to run its departments at many times the rates of our neighbors should be run out of office.

The above appeared as a response to an article on


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“Trenton has run out of quarters”

The mayor of Trenton isn’t above selling off the Trenton Water Works to pay for his executive protection detail, bloated office staff, and other waste, but it appears that he and his co-conspirators in the city government have finally run out of dough to pay the parking meters.

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Dennis needs to go

Acting Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez proved Councilman Manny Segura’s point Tuesday night after the councilman said that the city’s current budget problems and the Palmer administration’s chronic mishandling of the city’s finances are related to the disrespect shown to the body by administration officials.

He did so by making a variety of disrespectful gestures and snickering to himself, as he often does, as a councilman duly elected by the city’s residents made his comments.

Unfortunately City Council’s mere complaints about such behavior do not get the body’s members off the hook when it comes to the disrespect the executive branch pays to its legislative counterpart and the resulting damage to our government such a relationship causes.

The only appropriate response to such disrespect is for council to use its legal power to bring Mr. Gonzalez forward for questioning, and if the body so deems, remove him from office with a two-thirds vote.

In fact, cause for such a removal does not need to be based solely on Mr. Gonzalez’s tendency to disrespect City Council members and residents alike.

There are far more concrete reasons to remove this arrogant man from his position.

Mr. Gonzalez’s initially unauthorized hiring of a crony to take an unnecessary assistant administrator’s position would suffice.

Council members could inquire about recent revelations from DCA officials that the pension deferral program that has plunged the city budget into a deeper quagmire was NOT mandatory, as Mr. Gonzalez and others have stated to council.

A simple request into Mr. Gonzalez’s progress in auditing the city’s vehicle fleet – presumably on the back burner – could also provide cause, if it turns out the BA is ignoring a citizen-initiated, council-supported measure that even Mayor Palmer signed into law.

The bottom line is that Mr. Gonzalez has provided City Council with a multitude of reasons for his removal from Trenton government and it would behoove our council people to act.

If they don’t, they are signaling their acceptance that they have and will continue to play second-fiddle to the executive branch, to the detriment of all in Trenton.


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NJ Supreme Court to decide TWW fate March 22

On March 22 the New Jersey Supreme Court will hear arguments before rendering a decision on the year-long Trenton Water Works battle, which has pitted thousands of Trenton’s citizens against the Palmer administration and a multi-billion dollar water company.

New Jersey American Water Co. seeks to buy all of the water infrastructure and customers of the Trenton Water Works in the neighboring townships of Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence, for a sum of $80 million.

Trenton city officials hope to use the proceeds as a one-shot budget gimmick to plug a multi-million dollar budget gap they created after spending through the city’s coffers over the first nine months of this budget year.

The city initiated this drawn-out court battle when they sued a committee of petitioners who circulated petitions aimed at putting the sale ordinance to a public vote.

The case has wound its way through Superior Court, the Appellate Division, and was unanimously selected for a hearing by the Supreme Court justices earlier this month.

With a favorable decision the sale could be put to a November vote.

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Jim Carlucci’s Trentonian Op/Ed

Citizen Journalist

Mayor Palmer’s performance at last week’s City Council meeting was yet another example of an elected official blaming others for his own failed leadership. In a petulant display Palmer heaped allegations and invectives on those who have fought to bring the proposed sell off of part of the Trenton Water Works to a public referendum. But all of the podium pounding and verbal jousting doesn’t change the fact that Trenton’s budget problems have been growing for some time and are not likely to get better in the near future, with or without the completed sale of the outlaying water distribution system to New Jersey American Water.

While the Mayor continues to point fingers at those who are fighting for a better resolution, he has steadfastly refused to take serious steps on his own to put Trenton’s fiscal house in order. Instead of fighting the petitioners for a year…at added legal expense to the city taxpayer, he could have agreed to a referendum and let the voters decide once and for all if the sale should go through. While his Business Administrator was busy preparing the layoff plan for blue collar workers during the Spring of 2008, citing the absence of funding, our Mayor should have explained to the Council and his public that he decided it was a good time for a 10% raise for himself and for 13 present and past Department Directors. Instead, without any mention to the public or to the Council, that money was paid out and now is costing the citizens more money paid out to attorneys to try to defend that unauthorized increase.

Instead of railing at Citizens who have exercised their right to protest the sale of a major City institution as a means of plugging a recurrent and growing debt, the Mayor should examine his own options and explain his choices to the public:

Why keep the Chief of Staff (technically a Deputy Mayor) position and support staff on the job when the population of the city is shrinking to the point where it may fall below the 80,000 person threshold that will force the next Mayor to do the job without those positions anyway?

Why resist for so long the economies in drastically reducing the city’s fleet of vehicles and complying with the Internal Revenue Service code by having the employees who take the cars and SUV’s home account and reimburse for their personal use?

Why has the administration not presented a realistic three or five-year budget projection that takes in all of the givens of the “structural” deficit (pension payments, binding arbitration for fire, police and teacher salaries, shrinking state aid) and adjusts expenditures accordingly?

In his closing remarks before city council, Mayor Palmer asked that the citizens work with elected officials in deciding how to spend the proceeds of the water utility sale. What is there to decide?

He knows quite well that by State law the TWW sale proceeds can only be used to pay off existing bonds and for no other purpose. Just as he knows that once the proceeds of the sale are spent the city will again be facing drastic tax increases. Palmer, keenly aware that the days of dependable State aid are gone, appears to be satisfied with privatizing Trenton’s last major asset, the TWW, passing what’s left of his baton to incoming Mayor and Council, holding them accountable for finding new funding sources.

It’s just too bad he didn’t feel the need to apply that same accountability to himself and his administration.

Jim Carlucci is a resident of Trenton’s toney Mill Hill section. He has been an esteemed community activist and has run, unsuccesfully, for a position on Trenton’s City Council. He has distinguished himself this year as one of the few city residents not running for public office.

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Turner: I could face a primary challenge in 2011

State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Ewing, told Tuesday that she expects gay rights advocates within the 15th legislative district to mount a primary challenge against her ahead of the 2011 election.

“I’m sure they are. I think it’s wonderful this democracy we have. I admire and respect their rights as well as their tenacity,” said Sen. Turner, in today’s report.

Sen. Turner voted against a gay marriage bill that failed to pass muster in the state Senate in January.

Her move offended members of the state’s gay advocacy organizations who thought they had an opportunity to pass the legislation in the Democrat-controlled state legislature.

The measure, however, garnered only 16 yes votes in the upper house.

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer is said to be a possible candidate to eventually take over the 15th district seat, but his city’s worsening budget situation and the mayor’s deteriorating reputation amongst district voters present significant obstacles to such aspirations.

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Trenton Water Works musings

An overwhelming feeling of déjà vu beset many in Trenton as they heard news of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s childish tirade at City Council Thursday.

Once again the mayor took to the council podium, pounding and shrieking as he blamed “faceless” petitioners for fouling up his ham-handed plan to sell off one of Trenton’s last remaining revenue-producing assets for cash.

This cash apparently would have been used to paint over the 20-year executive’s continued mismanagement of city funds and smooth his exit from Trenton, but continued court delays from a lawsuit he initiated and the threat of a November referendum on this issue have put such plans on a year-long hiatus.

The mayor’s latest public statements continue the farce that would have many believe that selling off 60 percent or more of the Trenton Water Works ratepayer base is a good idea, which it’s not.

Even when considering the catastrophic tax increase quoted by the mayor – presuming it’s true – it should be remembered, as Mayor Palmer said Thursday, that Trenton faces a recurring, structural deficit.

This means that once the revenue from a successful water sale is exhausted equal or greater tax increases would be required to balance the books.

At this same time our budget would suffer further from a lack of water surpluses that are regularly transferred into the city’s general fund.

In fact, the post-sale system would only break even or likely go into a deficit, according to utility employees who have analyzed the city’s plans.

So the basic questions for Trentonians is this – if massive tax increases are a given, would you prefer to face them in a city with a complete water system that generates million-dollar, tax-reducing surpluses, or would you rather face them in two years or less, without the outside system and probably with a city system that requires its own infusion of tax money to break even?

No one among the petitioners is looking to punish the mayor – and the city along with him – for his mismanagement.

We think this is simply a poor plan that puts the city on even worse fiscal footing that it enjoys currently, for but one or two years’ respite.

Such thinking got the city to where it is now, and has no place in the city’s future.

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