Today is Wednesday, August 4, 2010. Thirty-five days into the new Administration of Tony Mack, Mr. Mack has for all intents and purposes ended any reasonable chance that he has to be the effective manager, leader and mayor this town and its sad people need to keep our head above water.
Tony Mack is done.
Just yesterday, we were discussing the terrible hiring and personnel decisions made over the last couple of weeks, culminating in the appointment of a convicted felon – a man accused and convicted of crimes committed in the course of his career in New Jersey Real Estate – as the city’s acting director of Housing and Economic Development.
Yesterday afternoon, news and rumors started to swirl about the Mayor’s personal finances, set off by the appearance on Mercer Sheriff Kevin Larkin’s Foreclosure Sale List of Mr. Mack’s personal residence. The Mayor’s house has been foreclosed upon and will be sold at Sheriff’s sale on August 25 to satisfy the outstanding mortgage debt and outstanding water bill. Today’s Trentonian carries a front page story on the news. The story is bad enough, but the transcript of the interview is devastating. More on that, below.
The article speculates on the background to the sheriff’s sale, discussing how many months behind the mayor may be. An estimate of four months is mentioned, but there is no solid information here. Given the huge numbers of property foreclosures in the state and country over the last few years, the banks and courts have been overwhelmed with the volume of cases going through the system. It is now normally taking anywhere from 18 months to two years for a case to go from missing payments to a sheriff’s sale. Apparently Beneficial Mortgage filed an Intent to Foreclose notice with the County Clerk as far back as March 2008. Although those notices are not irreversible by themselves, I know, they are an indication of a troubling situation.
I sympathize and feel bad for the mayor. It has been a horrible economy. As a freelancer myself for nearly a dozen years, I know that one’s own personal finances can be very fragile. If the time between jobs is too long, the money runs low and mailboxes fill up with late notices and the phone constantly rings. Once you start earning money, it takes a long time to dig out of the hole. It’s tough and exhausting. This is a poor town in the best of times, and there are no doubt thousands of neighbors who can sympathize with Mr. Mack, and are in the same or worse shape.
But they, and I, didn’t run for Mayor. Based on what we read in the paper today, there are several questions that need to be asked. If the situation with the mayor’s residence has been building for a year or longer, that covers the entire mayoral campaign. During this time, campaign disclosure reports filed with the State show that Mr. Mack loaned his campaign $20,000.
- Was this money that should have gone to pay your mortgage, sir?
- If so, shouldn’t you have disclosed Beneficial Mortgage Company as a donor, however unwitting they may have been?
- If you didn’t have the funds to pay your mortgage, then from where and from whom did the funds for the loan come?
- Was your family aware of your personal financial situation as you decided to run for Mayor?
These questions, and this story, is bad enough. Along with the developments of the last week, it would be enough to wonder whether this news is the last straw to break the back of a young administration, in which so many people have put so hope to get us out of so much trouble. But, to read the transcript of the interview with the Mayor is to remove all doubt that there is any likelihood that we can salvage anything from this mess.
The transcript shows a man who is surprised by the news, at a loss for words, in denial about the situation and not even admitting that the sheriff’s sale notice is for him. He is clearly scrambling for a response in this interview, brashly comparing himself to Donald Trump, and tries to pass himself off as Trenton Everyman, saying “If Donald Trump filed bankruptcy, then nobody’s on safe ground.”
He finishes the interview with an eerie reiteration of the same message he gives us when he is at his day job as Mayor, promising us “In all sincerity, whatever’s wrong, we’ll make it right.”
I feel very bad for him and his family, and wish them the best of luck as they try to resolve this very tough personal problem in the next several weeks. But the cumulative effect of this most recent news, along with the missteps and bad judgment of the last week or so lead me to the sad but urgent conclusion that Tony Mack can not be the Mayor this town needs right now.
- He will not be the man with the strength and will to tackle the city’s structural deficit.
- He will not be the man to form an effective partnership with Governor Christie and the State of New Jersey.
- He will not be the man to provide institutional investors the confidence they need to continue to buy our bonds and rate them as safe and prudent investments.
- He will not be the man to be able to attract businesses to invest and develop in this city, and train and hire Trenton citizens.
- He will not be the man to keep the public safety departments effective and motivated during painful reductions in force.
- He will not be the man to keep our neighborhood libraries open, or get them back open after they have to close their doors.
- He will not be the man to provide the leadership to reform our schools in the wake of the mismanagement and lack of controls revealed by the recent State Audit.
In all fairness, given the dire condition this city was in on July 1, it may have been too much to expect that one man could have solved all of our problems. Although I really, really hoped him well, it has become clear that Tony Mack is not that man.
Is it fair to write off this administration only 34 days in? I fear what else could happen in the remaining 1,426 days!
The stakes are way too high for all of the 85,000 souls who live here, to let the situation get any worse, any longer.
I don’t like the idea of a takeover by the State of our city’s government. I opposed it as a candidate, and I still would prefer to avoid it. We would lose our autonomy, and the ability to make our decisions about our future as we see fit based on what we know about our city. Nameless and faceless administrators from the state Department of Community Affairs won’t know Trenton, they won’t care about us. But I fear we have gone too far down the road toward dysfunction to turn back.
As of today, August 4, 2010, we’re done. That’s it. The people of this town will be best served and best protected if the State of New Jersey assumes operations for the City of Trenton.