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Zachary Chester in His Own Words

I see that today’s Trentonian edition contains a story about Tuesday evening’s extraordinary City Council meeting, which I discussed earlier this week. It was an extraordinary meeting to me due to the unexpected unanimous support for the current Administration and management of the Trenton Water Works (TWW) in the midst of some pretty heavy criticism and expected regulatory intervention by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

The meeting was extraordinary to for the action that Council took to approve writing a letter to NJDEP asking for a full investigation and report on the situation at TWW, disregarding the multiple investigations and reports that have already been produced over the last 3 years alone about the utility.

And it was remarkable for some of the comments from our Councilmembers. Trentonian reporter Isaac Avilucea excerpted some of those comments in his piece for the paper. The tone of some of the comments is hinted at in the headline:

CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT ACCUSES CHRIS CHRISTE OF ‘SABOTAGE’ OF TRENTON WATER WORKS

To answer your question, yes, Council Member and President Zachary Chester really did say that, as Mr. Avilucea reports.

He said several  other remarkable things. I think they are remarkable enough to post in their entirety. They follow below. I transcribed his Comment, made at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, from a CD of the recording made by the City Clerk. Paragraph breaks and punctuation are my subjective choices. The number at the beginning indicates that his comment started at One hour, 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the meeting recording.

The words are solely Mr. Chester’s.

I intend to post the audio recording of the full meeting later today. I will post that link in this space.

These comments are quoted with zero annotation or comments from me, although there are many I would like to make. So today the comments are provided whole and unedited. Following in the next few days will be some commentary on Mr. Chester’s words.

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1:02:08 ZACHARY CHESTER:

So, in the absence of Councilman Duncan Harrison, there was to be a presentation given on Thursday [1/18] by the Trenton Water Works to give us an update as to what was going on there. And it has been rescheduled for February 1st.

I am concerned about what’s going on, too. And there are a lot of things that has transpired that the Public doesn’t have privy to. The Public isn’t aware of Governor Christie’s and the Commissioner of DEP’s actions on his way out. And I’m compelled to say that, that Governor Christie wanted to force the City of Trenton’s hand.

And Mr. Moriarty read comments from the Commissioner, that he advised the City to do X,Y, Z. But what he failed to say in that letter that he sent to the City, that he was asking the City to do was illegal. And we couldn’t do it. And we didn’t do it.

And I look at everything that’s going on with this Water, from the time that we received communications from the Department of Environmental Protection, and I go back to when I came on Council, in 2010. I came on Council and we all came on, everyone sitting up here in 2010 came on Council under the previous Governor who had restricted us from hiring.

This wasn’t something that just happened. We know we need a management company. But DEP and the Governor wouldn’t let us do it when the Administration wanted to do it.

But then they waited until the Governor was on his way out, and tried to force us to do it. And I think a lot of this was when they couldn’t get the Administration and the Council to move, because outside Counsel had advised us not to, because what DEP was asking us to do, DCA was saying you can’t do it way. So they went in conflict within the Christie Administration. And we held tough.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if, if someone from the State went to employees at the Trenton Water Works and asked them to sabotage the Trenton Water Works, and to cause all these problems so that then the public gets upset.

Because if you can’t do it the way you’re supposed to do it, then you upset the Public and the Public come in and force the hand. That’s what I believe.

That’s my belief.

And so I strongly urge that we really didn’t need to vote on it. We did it. I support sending a letter asking them to come and do the investigation. Unfortunately, the Commissioner is no longer there. Right? He’s gone now.

1:05:45 OTHER VOICE Fortunately.

1:05:47 CHESTER

No, Unfortunately! Because I wanted to have him. And as I asked the Councilman and we asked the Chief  and asked the DEP to come to this presentation. Because we want to hear on their end. Because the thing that I don’t understand, and DEP needs to answer to this: if the City cannot send out an advisory to the Public without their Approval, then why is DEP talking to the newspaper?

That’s the question that I have!

And so we want to come down, ur community, want to come down, on the Administration, but never ask the question about the role of Governor Christie leaving. And it’s my belief.

I’ll say it! The Mayor can’t say it. I’ll say it. The Chief of Staff won’t say it. The Public Works Director won’t say it. I’ll say it. Because they work for the Mayor.

I don’t work for the Mayor. I work for the people. And it’s my belief that Governor Christie, on his way out, wanted the City of Trenton to hire his people. The company he wants to pay off, on his way out, to give a contract to.

That’s what I believe. And I said it. And I’ll say it again. Because it’s the Truth.

Because when this Administration didn’t want it to, they said no. We had Laborer positions in Trenton Water Works that local Trentonians could be hired and the State said No.

And then we have folks in this City who don’t believe that the MOU is real.

And then we have folks in this City that say, “Oh, you don’t need the Ten Million from the State!” But as soon as your taxes go up, then you’re complaining that your taxes are going up by Ten Million Dollars if we didn’t receive it.

And so we have to be real here. Because if we’re going to put blame, then I say let’s bring the State in and have the State answer to their role for the past four, no, not four years, the last eight years.

We’re budgeting for positions and we can’t fil them. We lost police officers. We lost sanitation workers. Public Works is doing the best that they can with what they have.

And we need to be real about our situation in this City. We all live here. The people who work for this City live here. They work hard.

But that we as a Community find everything wrong with this City. And then I ask folks, “Help out!”

My neighbors in Hiltonia, they don’t even drive down Stuyvesant Avenue. They take the back way to 29. My house sits right there. I sit on my porch. I see who ride past my house.

But then we talk about our City. We live here. This is our City. Today is a new day for our City. We have a new Governor. A Governor that stated that he would help the Capitol City.

But no one’s going to help us if our own people are fighting against us, and not trying to understand.

And I say to all of them, all of those, all of those who want to post the picture of me and the Gravy Train, “What have you done for your City? Which elected official up here have you worked with?”

Because I know when I had an election, and I ran against folks, and they said, “No matter who, we”… We were in a meeting, a debate, and everyone said “No matter who wins, we’ll work with that person.”

I wait. Because we can do more working together, than always fighting, and putting misinformation out there. Because individuals in this City believe Black and Brown folks in this City are not educated, and we don’t understand.

Because if you can call me for a pothole, call me for policy.

Because I don’t do this because I just want to be important. I do this because this is the City I grew up in, this is the City I love, and this is the City I know will thrive when we all work together, no matter what the issue is, whether it’s taxes, potholes, infrastructure.

Do we have problems? Yes, we do. Do the Administration have problems? Yes, they do. Do the Council have problems? Yes, we do!

We all have problems. Personal problems. We all trying to survive, we all trying to live. Many are trying to raise children, family. But we can work together. We can work together.

And on this Water issue, we can come together. But we have to ask all of the questions. Because when you’re pointing fingers at the Administration, then point fingers at the State, too.

Ask the Commissioner some questions. Because I still go back to, if we can’t send out or if the Administration can’t send out an Advisory without approval from DEP, then why is DEP speaking to, why are they speaking to, the newspapers? Why would they do that?

To me, it seems like they just wanted to get people riled up and upset. And they do. They did.

They just ran out of time, folks. Christie. Ran. Out. Of. Time. And he couldn’t get what he wanted.

He ripped through Atlantic City. And he wanted to rip through Trenton. Just like he wanted to rip through our School District. Same thing. Same program. Same playbook.

But many people buy into it, drink the Kool Aid, whatever you want to call it. And it puts Trentonians against Trentonians. And then we get stuck with nothing at the end.

We got a high school that’s going to take five years to build. As we played around, “Do we keep it? Do we tear it down? Do we this? Do we that?” Christie came and took the money away, and then gave you a portion of it back. Kept $50 Million.

So, if folks in this community really want to have a conversation, then come out on the First, and let’s have a conversation. Let’s hear from the Trenton Water Works. Let’s hear from DEP. Let’s hear from both sides.

But let’s ask the Questions to these individuals as my Council colleagues said. Because I truly believe that was a City Employee that took that video.

And Chief, and Sergeant, the Police Department should be looking into that, to find out who took that video. And that person should be held accountable.

And if the person isn’t held accountable, then Shame on the Administration. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Because we don’t know what we were looking at. How many of us know what the Filtration Plant does?

We don’t know what we were looking at. All the water coming out if the Delaware River, is contaminated. We know that! That’s why you have a Filtration Plant, to clean the water! So we looking at dirty water, because it’s coming from the Delaware.

I’m not going to be playing these games. Let’s get serious about our City. Let’s get serious about our City, and now say to my colleagues, let’s get serious. Let’s ask the questions. Let’s be serious about this.

Because if anybody come to anyone up here with information, you should compel them to come and tell it. If they can come to you, and I say it to employees all the time: if you’re not willing to come before my colleagues or before the Administration, and state what you just said, then I can’t help you.

Because none of us up here can go on He said, She said. If you have something to say, then say it. And let’s hold people accountable. And let’s fix what’s wrong. Let’s do that.

Is there any other comments from my colleagues?

Meeting adjourned at 1:16:25

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