Monthly Archives: February 2010

Water fight headed to state’s highest court

The New Jersey Supreme Court will decide the fate of the Trenton Water Works deal some time in the coming months, following the high court’s decision to hear the case, announced Thursday.

The announcement sets up a face-off between the City of Trenton, allied with buyer New Jersey American Water Co., and Trenton’s citizens, all in front of the same court that decided but three years ago that any and all ordinances are subject to protest, the dispute at the very heart of this matter.

The city proposes to sell off the portions of the system lying in Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence for a one-time cash payment of $80 million in a short-sighted attempt to offset the city’s recurring structural deficits.

Citizens, who were ultimately sued and fought a see-saw battle through the lower courts, initially circulated petitions to suspend the sale ordinance and send it to the voters.

The sale mirrors smaller deals made by the outgoing Palmer administration, such as selling off the city’s lucrative interests in downtown parking garages and an energy-generation station off Market Street for one-time cash payments.

The Supreme Court battle was guaranteed after Chief Justice Stuart Rabner signed the order certifying the petition for judgment of the case earlier today.

The document was released to interested parties.

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Who’s in charge of this mess?

A Trenton Residents Action Coalition-sponsored Vehicle Accountability Ordinance apparently passed muster with City Council by a 6-0 vote at a recent meeting.

The ordinance seeks to place greater control on a vehicle fleet that is subject to constant abuse by Trenton officialdom.

Now, in non-bizarro world, such an event would mean the ordinance would head to Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s desk for his signature and passage into law.

Unfortunately those legal geniuses over at 319 E. State Street have apparently told City Council that despite their affirmative vote on the measure, the ordinance is headed to the May 2010 ballot where Trenton’s voters will decide the issue.

While ordinance petitioners such as myself fully expected the measure to go to the ballot rather than be passed by our city officials (because it actually makes sense), the fact that it passed muster with City Council members was a positive note.

That positive note has been shattered, however, by City Hall’s legal shenanigans in claiming that this now-passed ordinance still must gain support from the city electorate.

I guess City Council’s vote no longer matters in this town, because in any other town, it does.

In fact, nowhere in state law is it provided that a petition-initiated ordinance must pass a double gauntlet of City Council consideration AND support from the voters. The Faulkner Act clearly states that an ordinance is only to go to the voters if it fails to be substantially adopted by the city’s governing body and executive.

So, if you happen to be among the 1,000-odd people who signed one of our petitions, next time you happen to be at City Hall, kindly ask the City Clerk, the City Attorney, or the “Special” Counsel to explain exactly where this ordinance has gone and why it must pass two hurdles instead of just one.

We deserve answers.

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