I can’t blame City Council for feeling frustrated by the continuing foot-dragging, ineptitude, incompetence and corruption exhibited by the Executive Branch of Trenton’s City government since July 1, 2010. You could pick up any random newspaper for the last 20 months, or peruse this site’s back pages for examples, to refresh your memory.

Or, you could just look at today’s paper for a new instance. At Tuesday evening’s session of Council, Trenton Mayor Tony F. Mack assured Members that one (of several) long-standing vacancies in the Department of Inspections – that of Plumbling Sub-Code Officer – would be filled, on a part-time basis, by the end of this week. According to a direct quote in the Times, Mr. Mack said We’ll have somebody on board Friday. It’s probably not enough, but under the circumstances it’s probably all that we can offer.”

Well, it’s Friday. And the new guy? Well, the State Department of Community Affairs, which has to approve all new hires and promotions by the City, doesn’t know anything about any new inspector: “’The Division of Local Government Services is supportive of the city hiring a plumbing inspector,’ DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said. ‘However, the division has not yet received a request for such a hire. As soon as the division receives a request, it will expedite a review.’”

Mack promised, in so many words, someone “on board Friday,” and has not even submitted a request to the State to hire! Yet one more time, the words of Tony Mack have proved to be worthless. I will agree with West Ward Councilman Zac Chester’s judgment that “It’s the mayor once again just making it up as he goes along.”

Mack lurches from one crisis of his own making to another, without planning, thought, details or consideration; stopping along the way to smile and wave for another ribbon-cutting, photo opportunity, or bell-ringing; the public functions he is better at than the hard business of governing.

This mayor is useless, a fool, and he creates more problems that he helps solve. I don’t begrudge City Council getting upset with him.

And yet, this is the wrong way to go about it. In what I can only call a fit of pique, Council Budget Committee members Phyllis Holly-Ward, Marge Caldwell-Wilson and Mr. Chester are working on an amendment to the budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30 – a budget that the State has instructed the City to formalize and adopt by February 22 – that, according to the Times, would

[E]]liminate all salary payments in the mayor’s office through June.

If approved by the full council, the amendment would mean that Mack and seven other employees in his office would go without pay from the beginning of March through the June 30 end of the fiscal year. [Emphasis mine - KM]

This move is independent of, although dovetails with, a new citizens-organized petition that calls upon Council to adopt an ordinance that would officially reduce the mayor’s annual salary by over $46,000 to $80,000. Although officially this would not be specifically directed toward Mack, and as drafted reads as an entirely legal document, I don’t believe for a moment that his successor would not see a new ordinance raising his or her salary back to the old or similar level. As such, this proposed ordinance seeks nothing more than to punish one person and one person only: the current occupant of the office of Mayor, Tony Mack.

There are a lot of things that Council can do to impose its will and direction upon the mayor and his cronies. Namely, there is ample reason to dismiss immediately for cause several of the worst “Acting” officials in the Administration; namely Harold Hall in Public Works and Business Administrator Anthony Roberts. That would be good for a start.

But I believe it an abuse of Council’s authority, and this layman thinks it may actually be illegal as well, to use an Ordinance or Council’s budgetary powers to essentially punish one individual.

Does any member of Council truly believe that a mayor and his aides – don’t think about the specific individuals, think of the Office of the Mayor! – should work for Nothing?

Or, alternatively, do members of Council believe that the Office of Mayor is only worth $80,000, while Department Directors would be earning tens of thousands more?

I, for one, don’t think so. I firmly believe that Tony F. Mack is a useless mayor, and can’t wait to see the last of him. But I don’t believe in using the guise of law to punish individuals. It’s not right, and to consider these mechanisms to punish the mayor and his associates is distracting us from the more important work at hand. I believe Tony Mack has dishonored and has devalued the Office of the Mayor of our town, but it is wrong for Council to use the power of the law to drag the Office down with him. Councilwoman Holly-Ward is being disingenuous when she says, as quoted in Matt Fair’s article, “This isn’t about being personal with the mayor.”

Yes, it is, Ms. Holly-Ward. Yes it is, Ms. Caldwell-Wilson. Yes, it is, Mr. Chester. Don’t pretend that it’s not.

There is a long-standing tradition in this country, extending all the way to the US Constitution’s prohibition against bills of attainder – laws directed at punishing individual citizens – and for good reason. There are lots of other ways to oppose fools, and bending our laws to punish specific people should not be one of them.

I had good wishes for Mr. Mack and his Administration when he took office, but soured on him for good only one month into his term. He has been an utter embarrassment and disaster for this beleaguered town, single-handedly causing mayhem and distress that will take years to set right. Along with everything else this City has to deal with, we don’t need Tony Mack.

But these moves by Council and the citizens group are small and petty. We are better than this.

6 comments to SMDH

  • Robert Chilson

    I have to disagree with you on this one. I think the argument for decreasing Mack’s salary is the same argument for not giving him a raise in salary.

  • Barbara Horne

    I agree with “distraction” and “petty” and probably a waste of council and citizens’ resources.
    Salary reductions usually do not motivate people to do what you want them to; they generally reduce morale and productivity and in a situation like this will most likely add fuel to an already existing struggle between the mayor and city council.
    The value in being Mayor is not just the salary it also consists of power, influence and contacts.
    Even if Mack does a horrible job, having the position of Mayor could open up other opportunities for him. And, more money than his current salary could follow. So, even if, the reduction passes he probably won’t just relinquish power. It may not be in his best interest. People do not give up power and opportunity easily.
    And, because of the tactics being used he is probably going to be less inclined to want to work with city council. So, what is Trenton left with, much of the same or worse; ineffective government.
    It is amazing to me. When people ask “why aren’t we getting anywhere” “why aren’t we making progress”. The answers become much of the same throughout history; ego, personality, negative emotions, flawed logic, lack of vision and poor judgment.

  • Mr. Mack is a dummy with a degree from Howard University.

  • Bill

    I think there is little recourse left re: the current mayor. It’s a great way to demonstrate the total lack of confidence virtually everyone in Trenton has.

    Otherwise, why isn’t the council taking other actions, that fall clearly in their pervue? Is this all they can muster legally? Not paying these losers at all will not motivate them to any action. But their inflated salaries aren’t providing motivation either. A drastic salary reduction seems like decent compromise. Perhaps the council could introduce a salary increase as it sees a performance increase. But let’s face it…that won’t happen until we get a new mayor.

    Mack and his whack pack won’t change….but we sure in he’ll don’t need to keep paying full price for what we’re getting now.

  • Resident

    Even Peyton Manning will have to have a performance based contract. Why should Mack or any mayor be any different?

    Besides, Mack doesn’t know any other language than money and power. Take some from him. Give it back when he actually accomplishes something.

  • Mayor's Son

    Let’s just look next door… you know… to a successful town with a successful mayor: Hamilton.

    Office of the Mayor of Hamilton hasn’t seen an increase in 10 years. At all! Hamilton is something like 5 times larger in land area than Trenton. Hamilton has about 10% more population than Trenton. Mayor John Bencivengo’s salary is $97,978. 22% less than the Demon of Trenton.

    Mayor Bencivengo proposed a salary increase for himself stating that something like 20% of Hamilton’s staff make more than the Mayor. Taxpayers get mad, Mayor Bencivengo hears them and takes the raise off the table.

    All in a very public way involving the Council, the media and most importantly, the taxpayers.

    Just read how much correctness is in his letter to council regarding raises: