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“Accountable and Responsive?” Hardly!

First off, I hope everyone out there is OK. This was a rough, tough storm. I am in NYC this morning, in what looks like one of the last outposts of light (on West 26th Street) before darkness takes over from here on downtown. At home, we have no power, although having gas and hot water makes things somewhat more tolerable. Some in the household miss being able to blow dry hair after a hot shower. I used to know what that was like. Sigh.

Anyway, Trenton continues to pick itself up and get back to the “normalcy” that existed prior to last Monday, such as it was. To all my neighbors and those in the rest of the City waiting for PSE&G, or the roofer, or the electrician, or the tree service, or someone else to help get you back to normal, hang in there!

City Council got back to business last night, with decidedly mixed results. Council considered the second reading of the ordinance written to reduce the salary of the office of the Mayor, which would affect the paycheck of the Current Occupant of that office by cutting it in about half.

The Ordinance passed its second reading by a vote of 4-3. That is good, in that the bill passed. But the CO is almost certain to veto it, which would require five voters to override.

The bill first passed by a vote of 5-2; last night was 4-3. Who switched? East Ward Member Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. Why?

I can’t say. She voted for the ordinance – as written – two weeks ago. According to the account in today’s Trentonian by Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman,

“I think he’s doing a horrible job,” Reynolds-Jackson said of Mack. But she didn’t support the salary-reduction ordinance, saying the mayor was elected and is entitled to “due process.”

“I believe the ordinance is too weak to do what it is to do,” Reynolds-Jackson said. She suggested the council could pay Mack to resign if the goal is to tender Mack’s resignation.

Reynolds-Jackson, who represents the East Ward, tried to get the salary-reduction ordinance pulled from the docket to work on crafting another ordinance with stronger language, but her colleagues rejected her motion. [Emphasis mine - KM]

The Councilwoman’s objection to the language is strange. She voted for the ordinance two weeks ago as written. If she had problems with the language and wanted a stronger version, she had two full weeks to work on one herself. But she failed to do so. She did not offer any alternatives or suggestions last night, just a motion to kick the whole subject down the road. She suggested taking yet more time to work on another ordinance. Her colleagues were right to vote that idea down. If she couldn’t come up with anything over the last two weeks, another delay won’t make any difference.

In the October 18 session of Council, disagreement with the language of the No Confidence motion discussed at that meeting led Ms. Reynolds-Jackson to vote against that measure as well – without any attempt on her part to offer any suggestions to strengthen the wording.

At that time, I offered the Councilwoman these words: “[I]f you support the aims of a measure but don’t like the wording, why don’t you propose amended language? Repeat after me: ‘Madame President, I move that the Resolution be amended as follows:’ and make your suggestion. If your proposed amendment makes the resolution stronger, your colleagues will agree and vote in favor. If not, then they will oppose it, and then you can feel free to vote against it. If you just say you don’t like the text, and make no effort to improve it, that is a pretty meaningless gesture to me.”

To pull the exact same stunt twice in two weeks on two separate measures – including one she originally voted for, for the love of God! – is unacceptable in a lawmaker. It his her job – and her responsibility – to suggest revisions and amendments in items she finds fault with. If you say you favor the goal of a measure, but have some misgivings, then for crying out loud offer a solution! It is a cliche, but entirely true that if you are not part of a solution, then you are part of the problem.

Ms. Reynolds-Jackson either has no idea what her role and her responsibilities of a member of City Council are, or she is spinelessly trying to publicly say one thing (seek the departure of the CO) while actually doing everything she can to prevent any action that might help bring this about.

In either case, all she is doing is demonstrating that she has no business  in Council Chambers. She is providing a book-end to the other useless warm body on that Council on the other end of the dais, Mr. Bethea. For a member whose own newsletter announces that she is “Accountable and Responsive,” the Councilwoman’s legislative acumen over the last two weeks shows she is neither.

The last couple of days have shown us yet again the price that we pay by having incompetent leadership running our town. It is the subject of an entire other piece, but the performance (or lack of it) of the Emergency Management of this town leaves a lot – and that is the understatement of the year – to be desired. The CO was Missing in Action, and the rest of the Administration stumbled many times this week. An evacuation effort aimed at the Island neighborhood – justified at no time by any prediction that the Delaware would come anywhere near flood stage – and a botched evacuation of senior citizens from several city locations are two examples of how things were not well managed. On the ground, Police Fire and EMS did a great job, but they were not well served by their leaders in the Administration.

We are still seeing vividly that the theme of our time is Rescue and Recovery. What we have to do first is restore things to where they were before this past weekend. Then, the harder job will surely be to recover to where we were before July 1, 2010. God help us.

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