The Big Time

Since we started experiencing The Great Mackalamity in 2010, one of my greatest disappointments has been that few people outside the city limits, and almost none outside Mercer County, were paying any attention to what was going on here. As our finances crumbled, our streets and highways rang out with gunshots and wailing, and as we saw Mayor Tony F. “What, Me Worry?” Mack fill City Hall with his friends and cronies while at the same time lay off, exile or otherwise send home anyone with experience and talent, I feared we were on our own.

Oh, when Trenton’s water turned brown, or turned off, citizens in the surrounding Townships served by Trenton Water Works made noise, but usually to no avail, and certainly to no lasting effect. The main truth that the City of Trenton, reliant as it is on financial support from the State of New Jersey and therefore every taxpayer throughout the State, is currently being governed by some of the singularly worst public officials – elected and “temporarily” appointed – is a state of affairs that hasn’t really made much of an impact on public consciousness outside New Jersey’s Capital City.

Until now, that is. We’ve finally hit The Big Time. Wire service reports being picked up by newspapers and magazines throughout the Country – and even internationally – are featuring our City, and talking about conflict between our Mayor and City Council.

What’s the issue? you ask. Is it the ongoing failure of the mayor to appoint any Departmental Directors to his Administration who stay in office any longer than they can feed their parking meters? Is it the pitiful state to which Mayor Mack has brought the once-proud Trenton Water Works? Is it the perilous state of public safety, kept off the boil only due to generous assistance from the County Sheriff’s Department, State Police and other Law Enforcement?

Nope. It’s toilet paper. The City of Trenton is running out of toilet paper and other paper products because City Council has refused since November to authorize a requested purchase authorization. Surely you are aware of all the details of this urgent issue. If you are not, you can turn to any of several different media outlets to find out more. There is, of course, our own local press who are the most familiar with all the details; every sheet in the roll, so to speak.

But you can also read about this story in my hometown San Francisco Chronicle, New York Magazine, Bloomberg (where Mayor Tony “Charmin” Mack’s pals from NASDAQ can read the latest about him), and even venerable TIME Magazine in this week’s edition.

Our friends across the Pond are reading about us, too. Britain’s Daily Mail is running a story that includes a handsome picture of the facade of City Hall along a forlorn cardboard roll down to its last sheet. The Daily Mail piece helpfully refers its readers interested in related information to a story that teases “Don’t judge me! Dog halts in middle of Crufts [Dog Show]agility course… for a bathroom break”

Thanks to this story, the whole world is hearing this week from “Charmin” Mack, as well as reading quotes from Administration spokesperson Lauren “Cottonelle” Ira and George “White Cloud Ultra” Muschal. I’ll bet that Newark Mayor Cory Booker is relieved that when the City of Newark had the same problem two years ago, with city paper supplies run low, that press attention was not as widespread.

I think that Trenton has been graced with such attention because the spectacle of the capital city in what is still the third-wealthiest state in what is still the world’s wealthiest nation experiencing such indignities is inherently newsworthy and entertaining; embarrassing as it is to everyone who happens to actually live here.

This paper impasse comes about as yet another instance of our dysfunctional city government. Of an Administration still having difficulty mastering what should be a routine purchasing process. Of a Council so distrustful of the Administration officials handling purchasing, yet so hesitant to flex its own powers by disciplining or dismissing those officials.

No wonder that, given this kind of mess as commonplace, that the State rejected the City’s request to make permanent some of the current, temporary Transitional Aid that the City receives from the State, citing the absence of any “sound management structure” in the City. That decision had to hurt, since the State judges Trenton as not having its act together as much as such other NJ towns as Camden, Asbury Park, and Harrison. Trenton isn’t as organized as Camden?!? Man!!!

Hopefully, at the same time that the world marvels at our dwindling supplies of TP, we are seeing signs that the worst of the Mack Follies may be behind us. According to a press report over the weekend, we may be close to seeing final candidates for two critical positions in City Government that have been filled by a carousel of “Acting” appointments for almost two years. Sunday’s article by Meir Rinde for the Times states that the state Department of Community Affairs has sent the names of two candidates each for the jobs of Police Director and Business Administrator to Mayor mack. According to the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement between the State and the City, the Mayor will select one name for each position to send to City Council for their Advice and Consent.

Hopefully, in a few weeks, we may have people in place in those key jobs who will serve – fingers crossed, diligently and competently!! – for the remaining two years of this Administration. Until May 2014, when we can flush the Tony Mack Administration away.

2 comments to The Big Time

  • Harry Chapman

    This is what happens when you elect the local popular kid as opposed to someone that knows what they are doing. Lets not make the same mistake twice.

  • NimbleBean

    Don’t know if you heard the story on This American Life (on PRI-Public Radio International) about Trenton. It’s part of a longer story called “What Kind of Country” (Episode 459, first aired on 3-2-12). You can download the podcast on iTunes. There is a 4 minute prologue and then a 14 1/2 minute story on Trenton.