Things in this town are sometimes like an old-fashioned burlesque show. Occasionally you see a flash of something revealing, and then it’s gone. You get a sense that there’s a lot more beneath the surface, but all you get for now is a tease.

Take this article in this morning’s Trentonian, for example. Written by Michael Macagnone, it describes a small but noisy incident at Tuesday night’s Trenton City Council meeting. By itself, it was only a sideshow, but there were some brief flashes of something more. It ended up being a pretty interesting Fan Dance, actually.

The incident was a flareup of tempers between a disgruntled local businessman and occasional city contractor Roy Sumners and the Most Incompetent Man in Trenton (lots of people compete for that title, I know, but I will give it to him this week) Anthony Roberts, current mayoral “aide” and former “Acting” Business Adminstrator, the 8th of that name,  for the Current Occupant of the Mayor’s office.

Anyway according to the article, the incident, first reported by Robert Chilson on his blog, came about because Mr. Sumners accused Mr. Roberts of freezing him and his carpeting company out of a city contract for personal reasons, even though he claimed to be the lowest bidder.

Oh? Really? An allegation of contracting hanky panky involving Mr. “Completely Unqualified to Evaluate Bids” Roberts? I am shocked, shocked, I tell you.

The article doesn’t pursue that line of discussion any, but perhaps some intrepid local reporter should.

Mr. Sumners also released several more details that, according to him, describe how supportive he has been of the current Administration. According to the Trentonian, “Sumners said he has been involved in every step of Mack’s repurposing of four closed city libraries as learning centers; from securing a partnership with Rutgers University; handling staffing at the centers; handling bids, according to Sumners and on one occasion in August, making sure the doors were unlocked.”

Are your eyebrows raised at that self-description? The Learning Centers, those re-purposed Zombie Libraries which the CO has been touting as “safe havens” for children and offering wholesome and quality learning and educational experiences for Trenton’s children, were set up and staffed with the involvement of a carpeting guy?? Is this the caliber of experience and qualification we expect with something like these Learning Center Zombies are supposed to be, according to the CO?

Tell me more, Mr. Sumners! Here, also, is another brief glimpse of something that may be extremely fascinating to pursue. Yes, these are just the one-sided allegations of one man with an apparent chip on his shoulder. But might these hints of deeper matters be worth looking into? I think so.

Are you ready for the kicker here, the punchline to this story? Mr. Sumners came to Tuesday’s Council meeting to support the Current Occupant! Despite feeling screwed by the City and Mr. Roberts, he still came down at the request of the CO’s arrested-and-currently-pre-indicted brother to give his support.

I am not kidding. Apparently there is a lot of personal history among these guys. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Sumner were in high school together, and their personal grudges date from back then, allegedly. All of them go back together for years, adding personal history to the tangled business affairs of this sad city.

As an immigrant to this city, and an once-accused “Outsider,” this kind of story makes me shake my head. Individual and family histories provide the back story to so much in this small town. The CO owes his current position in large measure not to any aptitude for the job or professional expertise, Lord knows, but to fond memories many people had of him as a high school wrestler and football player. Well, of course he’s a good guy; he was a great high school athlete!

Not so much.

We can clearly see on a daily basis the ongoing wreckage in this city that results from such a mentality. But those of us not born here – who merely made the deliberate choice to move our families and homes here on the sadly mistaken assumption that it was a town looking to rebuild, to come back – only occasionally get a glimpse at the hidden currents, the old history, the personal beefs, that actually drive this town. And which contribute in no small way to holding it back from meaningful recovery and progress.

As it turns out, we saw a few tantalizing glimpses of lots of things in that City Hall corridor the other night. I wonder what more we may see.

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