Monthly Archives: May 2010

Water sale logic (or lack thereof)

Statements from city officials regarding the condition of the suburban Trenton Water Works system don’t make sense in light of the absurd amounts of time and money New Jersey American Water Co. and the City of Trenton are spending in pursuit of the sale.

The constant refrain heard from Mayor Douglas “Hunterdon” Palmer and his administration officials is that the outer system, or OWUS, is a costly, maintenance-heavy operation that Trenton can no longer afford to maintain.

They say the system – which happens to be decades newer than the mess of pipes under the ground in Trenton – is falling apart and would best be sold to a profit-driven company that could better maintain the system.

Yet we know from the last year of discrouse that this is not the case.

As mentioned earlier, the OWUS is newer than the Trenton system, and provides water to 60 percent of the utility’s ratepayers.

Plus, if it’s in such bad shape, why is a profit-driven company that has to pay taxes and shareholders willing to spend so much to buy it?

There are some other thoughts people need to consider when deciding on how to vote in the June referendum:

While Trenton shrinks, the suburbs grow, meaning staying in a position as the sole provider of water service is quite lucrative, which New Jersey American Water Co. apparently recognizes.

Think, Trenton is always crying about disinvestment and depopulation, mainly to the benefit of the surrounding municipalities.

The OWUS is a way to tap into this suburban movement, creating city revenue to offset what’s lost as people inevitably flee Trenton’s current conditions for Lawrence, Ewing, or Hamilton.

Yet what does Trenton’s current leadership want to do?

Sell it off, naturally.

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What’s in it for Doug?

A point of concern in the Trenton Water Works battle that seems to be growing as the city approaches the June 15 run-off and referendum election centers on what exactly Mayor Douglas H. Palmer stands to gain, personally, from a successful sale.

As we know, this is New Jersey, where politicians tend to have rather cozy and profitable relationships with private entities like New Jersey American Water Co.  Many state and local officials who leave office, as Mayor Palmer will on July 1, soon find themselves with comfortable employment in the private sector.

So, this begs the question, is New Jersey American Water Co. giving Mayor Palmer something for selling off the city’s lucrative suburban water system?   Is it possible that Mayor Palmer is in line for stocks, consultant’s fees, or a lobbying position?  Why would a lame duck like Mayor Palmer care so much about what happens in a referendum held in the second to last week of his 1040 weeks in office?

Is it possible that this sale is funding a vacation, sick-time payout for Mayor Palmer and his cronies as they leave office?

Of course, Mayor Palmer could put this all to rest by simply addressing the city and letting us know what his plans are post-Trenton, and if they involve New Jersey American Water Co.

So what’s the deal, Doug?

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Doug Palmer’s arguments don’t hold water

Like many in the city, I nearly spewed all over my computer after watching video of Mayor Douglas “Hunterdon” Palmer’s lame blame game show at City Hall yesterday.

The Trentonian dutifully recorded Mayor Palmer as he skewed, lied, and bent the truth about the city’s budget and the Trenton Water Works fight in front of a crowd of seniors, many of whom were just socked with massive tax increases thanks to Mayor Palmer’s 20-year reign of mismanagement in Trenton.

First off, the mayor parroted the “new” math of the sale, saying it will net the city $400 million.  No one knows where this new number came from, but using the city’s own math, it stands within reason that without the sale the city stands to make $800 million in revenue during the same time period, using the same rate of inflation.  So that takes care of that.

Then Mayor Palmer, of course, cast the blame for a 59-cent tax increase not onto his own shoulders but instead cast it in the direction of a small group of petitioners who saw fit to challenge the city’s misguided decision to sell off the bulk of the Trenton Water Works for a one-time, $80 million payment.

Mayor Palmer, who sued the petitioners and dragged out the fight longer than necessary, failed to explain why he didn’t at least plan for the possibility that the sale would not be complete by the end of this fiscal year.  He also failed to explain why he didn’t cut the budget down to an acceptable level to account for the possibility that some court might force the issue to go to a referendum.

Going further, Mayor Palmer also failed to explain why he has not instituted austerity measures within his own bloated administration that may have lessened the tax burden, such as:

  • eliminating his two-man chauffeur/protection squad
  • doing away with unnecessary, highly compensated positions like the chief of staff
  • ending the practice of allowing city employees to use city vehicles for personal use
  • or God forbid, moving to repeal a series of illegal pay raises he and other high-ranking city officials took in 2008

I guess you could say he failed.

You see Doug, people in Trenton have gotten wise when it comes to your misinformation and mind tricks.

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