Endeavor to Persevere

I wore this frock coat in Washington, before the war. We wore them because we belonged to the Five Civilized Tribes. We dressed ourself up like Abraham Lincoln. You know, we got to see the Secretary of the Interior. He said, “Boy! You boys sure look civilized!” He congratulated us, and he gave us medals for looking so civilized. We told him about how our land had been stolen. Our people were dying. When we finished, he shook our hands and said, “Endeavor to persevere.” They stood us in a line–John Jumper, Junior McIntosh, Buffalo Hump, Jim Pockmark, and me. I’m Lone Watie. They took our pictures, and the newspapers said, “Indians Vow to Endeavor to Persevere.” We thought about it for a long time. “Endeavor to persevere”. And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.
- Dan George, as Lone Watie, from “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)

I have to admit, this really was the first thing that came to mind when I read the Press Release issued on Friday night after the trip by Mayor Mack to Washington. He went to meet with officials at the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and at the White House. In the words of the Release, they sought “to return to Trenton with an emergency appropriation that would have allowed us to rehire many of our police that [sic] were recently laid off.”

The Chief Executive from Trenton was received respectfully and seriously, as a “good ambassador for the City” in the words of a DOJ spokesperson.  with much exchange of handshakes, smiles and business cards. But our people returned to Trenton that evening empty-handed. No, I am mistaken, not empty-handed. They were given “Actionable Hope,” in the words of the release. Whatever that is. I doubt that they were actually encouraged to “Endeavor to Persevere,” but the drift was the same.

That Mayor Mack and his colleagues actually expected to walk out of their meetings with an emergency appropriation is a mark of the breathtakingly stupid way in which these guys run things. I will just mention briefly that to have had that kind of expectation in general was to reveal a shocking ignorance of the way things work in Washington on normal days, and of the conditions that the Obama Administration is working under lately. Even had they been inclined to do so, the White House and DOJ don’t have any spare change to dole out to woebegone municipalities on an informal basis. What funds there are are allocated out to towns that apply for them, in formal, structured programs such as the COPS program administered by DOJ. Trenton applied for a grant. We have received awards in past years. This time, we didn’t get it.

That is extremely regrettable, to be sure. But to respond to that rejection by writing an appeal letter directly to the President of the United States asking him to overrule his own people and his own DOJ and his own guidelines and his own procedures and his own laws to make a grant to Trenton anyway because – well, for no good reason, just because – that’s not “Actionable Hope,” that’s just self-delusion. I think just about any mayor of any town in the Union would have walked into a meeting like Mack’s, been received politely as a “good ambassador,” encouraged to “Endeavor to Persevere” and walked out just as empty-handed.

There was a lot of self-delusion on display from our Mayor this weekend. In the aftermath of the news of a provisional award of Transitional Aid from the State of $22 Million – provisional because funds for this year’s Aid has to be appropriated by the Legislature, which hasn’t happened yet; and because there are several conditions to the grant this year to which the Mayor is balking – Governor Christie appeared on a radio show and essentially pulled a Pontius Pilate. Asked by host Eric Scott on 101.5FM if Christie could really help change the situation in Trenton, the Governor pretty much shrugged his shoulders, said he was doing what he could, but that only went so far. Figuratively washing his hands of Tony Mack, the Governor declared, “I’m not confident we’re going to be able to help. I’m confident we’re going to do everything we can to help, how about that? Because in the end, the people of Trenton elected their mayor and their council. And they’re the people who are ultimately responsible for this.” Good Luck, Everybody! You got yourselves in this situation, and you’ve got to get yourselves out! Endeavor to Persevere!

Which statements Tony Mack took as a ringing endorsement of his mayoralty!! As quoted in the article by Alex Zdan, the Mayor said, “I feel the governor’s correct. I appreciate all the help he’s given thus far, and I agree the people elected, you know, current leadership to turn our city around.

“I don’t know. I can’t interpret what the governor’s saying I think if any entity looked at what we’re doing objectively, they would say our administration’s done an excellent job compared with the hand we were dealt.

“Now write this down: $55 million, almost 30 something million less in state aid, 400 less employees than when we took over a year and three months ago, and not lost a single service to our town. I think that’s good government.

Wow. There’s not much more to this one can say, other than to speculate as to whether that kind of talk is simply bravado, putting on a good face in a bad situation; or whether the man truly believes in his heart of hearts that he is doing a good job.

For now, I will leave things here. Later this week, a closer look at what may be one big, huge  landmine just about to go off in the face of Tony Mack and many of his senior cronies. I speak of the matter of Edmund Johnson and Timothy London.

See you soon.

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