THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL – XXVIII Augustus, Year X of the Consulship of His Imperial Majesty (LXIV Common Era)
In the midst of a series of devastating fires that threaten to consume the entire Imperial Capital, His Majesty the Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius Filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Emperor Nero) hosted a rare public press conference to extol his urban improvement campaign of Bread, Circuses, and Parks.
“These fires are actually a good thing for Rome. Blocks and blocks of obsolete and crowded housing, private businesses, scholae and temples are being cleared to make room for several new parks and open public areas,” proclaimed the Emperor. “The accompanying breakdown in public order and public safety will encourage weaker and less committed Romans to flee the City. Those who are left will appreciate these new pastoral spaces even more. Hail Caesar!”
“Hail Caesar!” was shouted in response by the Emperor’s counselor, advisor, food taster and Royal Lapdog, the Chief Eunuch Antonius, standing behind and to the right of His Majesty.
When the floor was opened for questions, Nero was asked whether the breakdown in public safety was actually a major threat to the lives and property of the citizens and people of Rome.
The Emperor thundered in reply, “Silence! I speak today only of Bread, Circuses and Parks! Do not trifle with lesser matters. My legacy will be measured in the open spaces that will bear my name for all time. People live and die; the poor are always with us. A garden goes on forever, watched over of course by those few Roman City Guards who remain at their posts. Harsh Not the Imperial Mellow!!”
“Don’t let them steal your joy!” echoed the Eunuch Antonius.
A local tribune of the people, Marcus Pontonius, dared to ask the question that was on the minds of all those in attendance, a question asked by many in the Roman Forum for many years of Nero’s Imperium, even before the current rash of fires. “These fires have occurred under your Administration, and as a result of your policies and your decisions. Will you resign?”
“No,” said Nero. “Why would I do that? Do you know what I had to do to get to this position? Well, do you? My mother slew her husband, my predecessor the Emperor Claudius, with poison mushrooms. Do you know how hard those are to come by?”
“You should be blaming Claudius, not me, for all these fires, after all. He accepted millions of denarii in funds to build housing blocks from the surrounding villas and towns of Rome that would have been used to house citizens in their towns. This over-abundance of dense housing was his creation, not mine.
“These fires are gifts from the Gods, and they are merely clearing out the rabble from this great city.
“Resign? Why would I resign? I have worked too hard to become a living God to resign!!”
“I have done nothing but good for the City! Rather, it is you scribes and disloyal Romans who should be punished. You pass on nothing but tales of woe, unhappiness, plague and disaster. I should take all of out and put you to death!”
The Chief Eunuch behind the Emperor glared at the assembled scribes and rubbed his hands together, as if he relished the chance to personally crucify the Emperor’s Critics.
Nero finished the session with a dismissive grunt and a wave of his hand. He then turned to leave the Imperial Press Room, as smoke burned the eyes and filled the lungs of all in attendance.
Rome, the Eternal, the Proud, continued to burn.
The place is broke. It’s losing money on a continuing basis every month. Budget projections fall short and frequent infusions of cash from the parent entity are needed just to keep the doors open. Management has resorted to laying off employees, and starving the place of needed capital improvements. Compared to similar establishments in the surrounding area, it doesn’t seem to have much going for it. Its business model is so weak, there are serious, serious concerns that it doesn’t have much of a future as a going concern.
Oh, yeah, and the hotel inside its borders isn’t doing well, either.
I’m talking about the City of Trenton, actually. The Lafayette Yard Hotel and Conference Center, the loss-making inn owned by the citizens of the City, is in as desperate a shape as the city it calls home, and is a pretty good analogue, in miniature, of New Jersey’s Capital City. Both are in pretty sad shape.
“Going Concern” is a concept in financial accounting, defined here as “The value inherent in an active, established company as opposed to a firm that is not yet established. The value of the assets of a business considered as an operating whole.”
But this can be expressed otherwise, and more usefully for other contexts, by asking a few questions: “Does this establishment have: adequate resources to allow it to operate; ongoing and future clients that will keep it going; products or services that people want and need; a viable business model? In short, looking at its prospects, does the place have a future? Will it survive?”
Looking at the Lafayette Yard first, I have major doubts that the place can be considered a going concern. In its transition from its previous incarnation as a Marriott Hotel (an identity and brand that did not mean financial success during more than a decade of business) to another brand (perhaps Wyndham, perhaps not), the hotel figured it had a rough road ahead. A 5-year financial projection prepared last winter by the hotel’s previous management, and adopted by the new management, modeled a hopeful climb to profitability starting in 2013. These projections were intended to reassure Trenton’s citizens, and its City Council, that the hotel’s future was a good bet, and justified the investment of millions of more public dollars to upgrade its property and stabilize its cash flow.
That hope of reassurance is going down in flames. Over the last few weeks we have read that unpaid bills left by the previous Waterford management were turning out to be much higher than publicized. One of these unpaid claims includes one made by the previous asset manager, for over $1 Million in unpaid management fees. Published reports stated the hotel’s board signed a pricy 20-year (!) contract extension for water to service its cooling system, a pretty dubious decision for a financially-shaky business like Lafayette Yard.
And then there was the news last week that the place is projected to lose $800,000 by the end of the year. The 5-year plan from only 6 months ago projected that operations in 2013 were to have earned a profit of $293, 209, not a $800,000 loss.
This swing in projections of nearly $1.3 Million since February – absolutely huge for a place that was projected to earn only $5.7 Million in revenue for all of 2013 – may be a mortal blow to the future of the place, along with the other stories of misfortune. This week, the hotel’s governing body is meeting to address the rapid financial deterioration of Lafayette Yard, and to discuss any actions it can take to reduce its many woes.
Such action may reportedly include a discussion of a property sale or filing for bankruptcy.
Whatever action the Board takes this week, the news of the last several weeks provides a very, very strong sense that the Hotel, under present municipal ownership can just no longer be considered a going concern.
I have to wonder the same for the City of Trenton.
Last month, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Trenton Police Department announced that the city’s police vice unit would be merged with the County’s Special Investigations Unit, to be managed by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Last week, Governor Christie raised the question as to whether the rest of the city’s Police Department should be absorbed into a new Mercer County service, in the manner of the new Camden County department that replaced Camden City’s this year.
There are a whole bunch of issues that come up in the context of that suggestion, that I won’t get into today. I mention it only to provide an example of actions and proposals that I believe should beg the question of whether there is a future for a viable, autonomous future for the City of Trenton as it exists today? Can Trenton, today, be considered a going concern? Or should we start to consider alternatives?
It’s clear the City of Trenton does not control its own fate. Years before the current Administration took office, forces were at work that were dooming this town’s future. The collapse of the town’s industrial base saw a huge share of its tax ratables disappear, leaving obsolete and crumbling industrial properties around town, with no replacements other than an increased non-profit, non-taxable presence by state, county and federal governments, schools, hospitals and churches. By 2013, well over one-half of Trenton’s total property by value is exempt from property tax. For decades, Trenton has been unable to pay for itself.
For most of those same years, most of the financial gap created by the loss of industry was covered by subsidies by the State of New Jersey. The current Administration of Governor Christie reversed that practice, and directly created the budget shortfalls that have been the immediate cause of the city’s financial crisis that led to the austerity in the City’s budget that forced the massive layoffs, including those among police officers.
Might this austerity be reversed in the future by a new, more generous governor? Perhaps. But even were that to happen, the City has now been shown to be extremely vulnerable to the swings of capricious State fiscal fashion. If the (relatively) good times of state aid return, so may the (absolutely definite) bad times.
Will the current disaster of a City Administration be replaced next year by a new, talented and competent one? Perhaps. But even an extremely dedicated and effective mayor and cabinet will, as explained above, be fatally limited in its ability to control its own future.
In short, given Trenton’s current situation and its prospects, is there a future for Trenton?
I don’t know. I really don’t. What, then, is the solution?
Perhaps a merger with a neighboring town such as, for instance, Hamilton, into a greater Trenton?
Or, a split of the town’s 4 Wards among Hamilton, Ewing and Lawrence? Three years ago, local publican John McManimon suggested this as a solution, complete with a “Vatican City-style” district that would include the State Capital building and nearby areas., to be administered by the State of New Jersey directly.
Or maybe current trends will continue, and piece by piece the traditional functions of Trenton’s municipal government get divvied up one by one. This year, the Police Department is in play for pickup by Mercer County. Next year, who knows, it’s the Fire Department’s turn. The year after that, Public Works and the Water Works becomes a regional authority. Maybe Trenton’s School District is parceled out, or becomes an agency of New Jersey.
I don’t know which way things will play out, or more important, how they should play out.
And, frankly, neither do you.
But, as we are seeing with the Police Department, these questions are being asked, and Trenton’s civic assets are in play. Right now, the players are in the State and County governments, working along with what passes for the pitifully weak and perpetually confused and witless Trenton Administration.
Trenton’s citizens have not been part of this conversation yet.
Trenton’s City Council has really not yet been part of this conversation, yet.
Those who would present themselves as the city’s next elected leaders have not been part of this conversation, yet.
I think it is high time to change that. If the Hotel Board is reportedly facing up to the prospects of the hotel by considering options up to and including bankruptcy, it’s time for the broader issues of the City as a whole to be addressed.
If I may be so bold, I’ll start.
So, I don’t think that Trenton as it currently exists has a future. For many years, it has not been a going concern, and probably will never be, in its current form.
I think the City of Trenton should be dissolved, and its wards assigned to merge with the surrounding townships. I’d like to look into the pros and cons of such a plan; how the numbers stack up; and whether and how the re-constitution of the newly-defined townships would better serve all the citizens within their borders better than they are being served now. Mine is a vote for John McManimon’s plan./
What do you think? Do you have a better idea?
Let’s work on it.
You know, I really don’t rely often on vulgarities. I do have a larger vocabulary. Honest.
It was just a week ago that I called the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office “Batshit Crazy,” and that should have filled my monthly quota for Anglo-Saxonisms for the rest of the month. However, although I may risk calling down the wrath of The Knights of Standards and Practices, I have to say: Tony Mack is a chicken shit.
How else to describe his behavior yesterday, all day?
After yesterday’s horrible incident in which two Trenton police officers were seriously wounded in a gun battle with an attacker they killed while defending themselves, the man had no comments to make to media when he visited Capital Medical Center Fuld, the hospital to which Officers Edgar Rios and James Letts were taken for treatment and surgery. He promised a formal statement by day’s end.
Curiously, he has often been tongue-tied when it comes to police. When the City laid off 108 cops 2 years ago, he was off in Disney World, and had nothing to say; all actions were in the name of “The City of Trenton,” not him.
When two Trenton officers were ambushed last year, during another spasm of gun violence, “Mack said he didn’t want to comment on the shooting or recent spate of gun violence. ‘One of the things we want to do is make sure before we comment on police matters, the department director has done all he can do to resolve the crime before we make irresponsible comments,’ he said.”
Yesterday afternoon, he was nowhere to be seen when Acting NJ Attorney General John Hoffman led a press conference – scheduled prior to yesterday’s violence – to announce measures to be taken by the State in concert with Mercer County and Trenton Police to implement immediate emergency law enforcement measures and long-term prosecutorial actions to try to take Trenton off the boil. Present at that conference was County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini and Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera. Bocchini and Rivera had also been present on Hobart Avenue earlier in the day, directing police response and speaking with the media.
When asked throughout the day about the absence of the IO at any of these events, the attendees answered with a graciousness that the man does not deserve, saying that these were law enforcement matters, and that the city’s chief lawman was Rivera. Most other mayors of most other towns would have considered it their job, their duty to have appeared at such a meeting, standing alongside the Acting Attorney General. But not him.
Instead, we have pictures of the City’s Police Director standing deferentially behind both the AAG and the County Prosecutor, a fitting symbol of what esteem the City of Trenton is held these days.
As it happens, the IO did have a perfect opportunity to go on the record yesterday. He had been scheduled for over a week to address City Council at last night’s meeting, on the subject of the Trenton’s crime wave and his administration’s response to it. According to press accounts, he did actually appear in Council chambers for a few minutes, but then unaccountably left. He blew off Council as well as the citizens who had attended the meeting, in part to hear what the man had to say.
Council members, as quoted in the press, didn’t sound all that upset with the IO’s failure to appear. They should have been livid. Perhaps the esteemed members were more emphatic out of earshot of the press and public, but for the man to fail to show up for a scheduled opportunity to speak to Council and citizens on a day like yesterday was more than “disrespectful,” as Phyllis Holly-Ward said or “disappointing,” in Verlina Reynolds-Jackson’s words. It was a Big Honking Insult.
But, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, one cannot be insulted without permission. And this Council has given Mack permission to insult them over, and over, and over. Aided and abetted by the fools on that body such as Alex Bethea, who tried to cover for the man by giving him, in Jenna Pizzi’s Trenton Times account, “the benefit of the doubt.” This idiot actually said, “I don’t know what his schedule is like, if he had another pending engagement. There is always next time.” Idiot.
There’s always next time. Yeah, no big deal, Bethea. It’s Trenton. There’s always a next time. In fact, next time is today, as we read that the City’s 30th homicide of the year was committed overnight. The 31st, if one counts yesterday’s justifiable homicide of Eric McNeil as the year’s 30th. So even by Mr. Bethea’s pathetically low standards, it’s time for Mack to speak!
In fact, the man did speak yesterday, but not to Council or the public. The media whore held a press conference in his office, right before his scheduled appearance, in which “Mack did read an address he said he would also give to council.” Except that he never did. Give that address to Council.
Council really didn’t miss much. The IO offered nothing of interest, other than to repeat his request to be bailed out by the State with more money to hire police. He also repeated the same litany of actions he’s been peddling for a few years now: “that the community look after children, that homeowners maintain their properties to prevent blight, and that civic associations and churches support their communities.”
Uh huh. That will surely work.
Oh, back to that “statement” on the day’s events that the man promised at the hospital? It was dropped on the City’s website after 11 PM last night. In its entirety, it reads,
The thoughts and prayers of my entire administration are with our injured police officers and their families. We are praying for a speedy recovery. – Mayor Tony F. Mack
That was worth waiting for, right? That was a very heartfelt and warm personal expression of sympathy, support and resolve, right?
I can pick up more personalized expressions of support at CVS, written by Hallmark, for a couple of bucks. “The thoughts and prayers of my administration?” Not one “me” or “I?” Couldn’t think of anything else to say that was longer than 24 words?
Heck, it was only 146 characters long. With a little more editing, he could have Tweeted that from the hospital!
At this point, I don’t know why this sort of thing bugs me as much as it does. The guy pisses me off whenever he opens his mouth, and whenever he doesn’t. He cannot manage to get one thing right, and he still manages to infuriate. Why can’t I just push him aside and ignore him until he is gone?
Perhaps he explained it best yesterday, quite without meaning to.
As he was sitting at his desk yesterday, pontificating about what he was going to say at Council – before he turned tail – he repeatedly said that there was little that one person could do to fix this situation single-handed. “No one man can turn the police department around,” the Trentonian quotes him as saying.
That may be true. But one person can pull a team together, identify achievable goals, deploy resources and people the best way he can, set examples and priorities and targets. One person can, in a word, Lead.
That person is not Tony Mack.
On the other hand, one person can do much damage by himself. One person can – over years of poor decisions and misguided policies, along with catastrophic personnel choices and management – cause immense damage and calamity, which will take many more years, if not decades, to undo.
That person is Tony Mack. Chicken shit.
And that just never stops making me angry. Why doesn’t he just go away?
File this under, “But enough about you. Let’s talk about me!”
From the same office that took until 11 PM last night to post 24 words as a reaction to yesterday’s violence, we read this afternoon an emphatic 366 word statement intended to correct the factual record about his non-appearance at Council as reported by our media.
Big fucking deal. This is just further proof that the man is clueless when it concerns leading this city, focused only on his image and prerogatives.
So what if Council’s agenda changed? So what that he waited for an hour to speak? And he really wants to use the excuse that he needed to get back to the hospital to see the police officers and their families; that’s why he left without explanation? ?
The man is useless. Beyond that, he is a narcissistic twit. That’s a dangerous combination.
Those are the words of an unnamed Trenton Police Officer, as quoted in an online bulletin on Trentonian.com.
Two Trenton officers were shot this morning, and those officers in turn shot and killed their attacker. Both officers were taken to hospital and underwent surgery. Late news reports quote Police Director Ralph Rivera as stating that Officer Jim Letts was out of surgery. Officer Edgar Rios, wounded more seriously in the back, was still in the operating room.
I wish the best for these two officers and their families, and a most speedy and full recovery. God Bless them. Best wishes as well to the victim of the domestic violence incident allegedly perpetrated by the dead shooter, the incident to which the two officers were responding to earlier this morning.
So, now the guns are being turned on our police officers. Along with last week’s two murder victims, who press reports suggest were ordinary citizens unconnected with any organized criminal groups or gangs, Trenton is turning a very dangerous corner.The death toll by violence in New Jersey’s Capital City is now 30.
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
We need more help, Director Rivera! Since the epidemic of murder that broke out earlier this month that left a staggering six souls dead on the streets in less than a week, not one major action has been taken to attempt to counter this surge. If you can’t do anything, then for the love of God, Go!
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
We need more help, Mr. Mack! You are incapable of being any part of any solution, on this or any other matter of concern to Trenton’s people. Just get out of the way, please!
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
We need more help, Council members! If Mr. Mack and Mr. Rivera won’t leave, fire their ass, or zero out their pay. How much more carnage will you accept before you finally take action?
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
We need more help, Senator Sweeney! I know you and your colleagues in the Legislature don’t want anything to do with Trenton until Mack is gone, but how many more deaths will it take for you to change your mind? If you can’t recognize that the people of Trenton need help – now! – then you have no business calling yourself a “public servant.”
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
We need more help, Governor Christie! I know you don’t want anything to do with our indicted pretender, but people are dying in Trenton. The few police we have are in harm’s way every day, and are ending up in the ER. You say you are having “conversations” with your Acting Attorney General. You need to take immediate and effective action, both as short-term measures to deal with this crisis, and long-term actions to shore up a critically under-manned police department, as well as long-term solutions to Trenton.
Trenton is a failed city, but one in which 85,000 New Jerseyans still live. You have no problem spending $24 Million for special elections, but you can’t spend some money saving the lives of citizens and cops?
How many more dead citizens and shot cops will it take to overcome your distaste for Tony Mack, and to take some action to protect and serve the 85,000 souls in this town?
If you can’t take responsibility for us, if you can’t take ownership for your share of this situation, you should leave!
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
This is not a situation that can be turned around overnight, even should we immediately see dozens more law enforcement officers on the street tomorrow. Criminals have gotten too brazen and too reckless to be deterred by what passes for law enforcement in Trenton right now. The Thin Blue Line is almost invisible right now, and it will take a long time to build that back, let alone tackle all the several other problems that this City will need to face in order to become a safe city once more.
But we need to start. Somewhere. With Something. Now. We need to turn things around. We won’t survive like this.
“If this isn’t proof that we need more help, then I don’t know what is.”
As I was writing this piece, this announcement was made. Let’s see what the Acting AG has to say; I hope this is a serious effort.
However, unless this initiative is the beginning of a major, sustained commitment to the City of Trenton, it will not likely count for much. Stay tuned.
The Trentonian is back with another story based on an unnamed source. Today, a piece written by David Foster tells us that the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office is seeking the dismissal of Police Director Ralph Rivera.
As far as I am concerned, there could be several reasons, stemming from the rapidly rising index of violent crime and death in the City of Trenton, one that existing law enforcement resources, as currently deployed, are incapable of controlling. Those at the top in positions of leadership must be accountable for successes or failures, and we have not seen many of the former under the leadership of this Director.
So, what are we being told, this morning, is the reason for the IO to push for Mr. Rivera’s departure? According to “an administrative official, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution,”
Eight months into his tenure, Rivera made one of his most highly criticized moves when he disbanded the city’s two Tactical Anti-Crime units, used for defense against gang violence, drugs and street-level emergencies.
Mack is citing that decision as another reason for Rivera’s dismissal, according to the source.
“It was Rivera’s idea to disband the TAC Units in hopes to expand the patrol bureau,” the administrative official said. “The reduction in crime hasn’t come to fruition.” [Emphasis mine -KM]
That’s the party line, then? The decision to disband the Tactical units to expand the patrol bureau was Mr. Rivera’s decision? Really? That’s the story you’re going with?
Well, two can play at this game!
I have “sources” who claim the decision to disband the Tactical unit was the Indicted Occupant’s, and that he had been seeking to do this over nearly two years ago!
My first source said,
As the Trenton Police Department is being reorganized to reflect a community policing model, these 18 officers will be assigned to the areas most needed for immediate relief.
The impetus for restructuring the Trenton Police Department comes from both the recent layoffs and from input received at Town Hall meetings. Trentonians want to see police officers out of their squad cars and in the community. This message was voiced at those city-wide town hall meetings and again at the administration’s public safety summit.
Trentonians want and need to see police officers walking in our neighborhoods and interacting with the community. This policy change will break down insecurities that exist between residents and our police department. This change underlies the community policing model.
Trenton needs a dramatic shift in our operations to prevent crime before it happens.
This model works in other urban cities, and it will work in Trenton.
This morning, I can actually openly and freely identify this first source. It is: The Office of the Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey – September 28, 2011.
The information from my first source is confirmed by another informed source with knowledge of the events as they unfolded. According to this source,
On Wednesday [September 28, 2011], [then Current Occupant Tony] Mack issued two written directives to [then Acting Police Director Christopher] Doyle through [Fuckup Without Portfolio Anthony] Roberts: one suspending the Vice Enforcement and Tactical Anti-Crime units and sending their detectives to foot patrol, the other abolishing overtime unless Roberts personally approved it. [Emphasis mine - KM]
Earlier, in the same account, this source said,
In a bizarre city hall standoff, acting police director Chris Doyle bounded between the offices of Mayor Tony Mack and acting business administrator Anthony Roberts yesterday seeking details about the mayor’s new public safety plan, with Roberts eventually calling park rangers to have Doyle removed from the building as the police director stood outside his door.
Doyle and Detective Robert Rios waited out Mack, who left the building late in the afternoon without providing his police director with answers to his questions about the plan that cuts overtime and sends officers to foot patrol, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
The two police officers reportedly were knocking on Roberts’ door when Roberts called for the security officers, but Doyle and Rios eventually left of their own accord.
The battle of wills comes as the police department is feeling its way along, trying to put into effect changes Mack has ordered for today, which include staffing the foot posts with manpower taken from the disbanded drug and anti-crime units.
“All I can tell you is we received a directive from the mayor to implement his foot patrol plan, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Capt. Fred Reister, who is in charge of the police department’s administrative section.
Reister, who spoke with The Times before news of the confrontation began to spread, said no written plan has been provided to the department by the mayor.
And I am also free this morning to provide full attribution to this source. He is Trenton Times reporter Alex Zdan, writing on September 30, 2011.
So, this morning we are supposed to believe that Tony Mack is trying to fire Ralph Rivera because Ralph Rivera disbanded the Police Tactical Units???
Does Tony Mack think we have no memory? Does Tony Mack think we are stupid? Has Tony Mack never heard of Google?
Today’s anonymous “source” is acting not in “fear of retribution.” This source is desperately attempting to shift the burden of blame away from Tony Mack and on to his Police Director for the incredibly bad and culpably negligent decision to cripple the Trenton Police Department, and attempting to do so with a ludicrous hope that no one will inconveniently point out that the public record lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of Tony F. Mack.
We are not that stupid, Mr. Mack.
I am not done this morning.
Adding to this, let me call it “indictment” of Mr. Mack’s personal decisions regarding the city’s Police Department and its deployment, I have one more relevant piece of information, from another source who shall by request remain nameless. This source is a formal Trenton City Hall insider with first-hand knowledge of policy decisions made by this Mayor and this Administration. He emailed me yesterday to say, without formal attribution,
“TM cold [sic] have avoided nearly half of the layoffs if not more but he made it clear he was going to lay off that many cops”
I trust this source. This statement is credible, and entirely consistent with every public action we have seen for the last several years.
Taken along with the public record from 2011 as quoted above, we have a clear picture this morning that damns Tony Mack for three years of disastrous decision-making.
This city was a dangerous town before this Administration took office, but has been made tragically – and to a certain extent, entirely needlessly – worse for its 85,000 souls due to the actions and inactions of Tony F. Mack.
At this stage in the life cycle of this Administration, it has been demonstrated many, many, many times over that the individuals serving this regime in City Hall have a fast and loose relationship with the truth.
From the Indicted Occupant of the Mayor’s Office down to his aides and assistants, time and time again we have heard statements, read press releases, and seen news reports containing falsehoods, misleading statements, incorrect information and bare-assed lies.
And that’s when the folks making the statements have been openly identified, quoted and attributed. Their veracity is usually highly suspect On The Record. How can anyone give any of these guys the benefit of the doubt OFF The Record??
The Trentonian apparently has no problems hearing these guys out and giving their news pages over to them without giving them a second thought.
Case in point: this morning’s piece, credited to David Foster. The headline in the online version (I didn’t have a chance to see the print version today) is, “Trenton Recreation Van blew a tire in crash, source says.”
The article presents itself as an update to an incident from Monday evening, in which a City of Trenton-owned passenger van containing 10 children and 5 adults had an accident on Interstate 295. The van ran off the road and overturned at least once, according to a spokesman for the NJ State Police investigating the accident. Thankfully, of the 12 van passengers injured, none were hurt seriously and all were released after treatment.
One Sergeant Brian Polite was identified and quoted by the Trenton Times reporter on the Tuesday story, Alex Zdan. Few other details were available by press time for that article. And, according to that article, “City officials and Mayor Tony Mack did not respond to requests for more details on the trip today.”
One full day later, the Trentonian ran its story by Mr. Foster. More details were provided, but only as provided by a person identified as “a source with knowledge of the situation.”
This “source” provided several assertions about the incident, having to do with the purpose of the trip and its funding; the name of the driver; additional vehicles used to transport other people on the field trip; the history of such trips; and the various permissions given by parents for their children to attend, as well as that given by the city to the driver who may or may not be a City employee.
All of these assertions were reported by Mr. Foster and The Trentonian without confirmation or validation by any second source. Not one person is quoted by name or on the record in this article. Other than two references to information provided by “the New Jersey State Police” and “A state police spokesman,” this entire article is attributed to this one sole, anonymous source.
This kind of thing is poor and sloppy journalism, and is roundly criticized as bad practice on normal news beats, let alone one as consistently mendacious as 319 East State Street.
The Society of Professional Journalists (not an oxymoron, I tell you) has specific policies recommended for the use of anonymous sources in news stories. In general, the SPJ cautions reporters on the use of these sources, for two main reasons. First (excerpted, with emphasis from the orginal),
Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. The most important professional possession of journalists is credibility. If the news consumers don’t have faith that the stories they are reading or watching are accurate and fair, if they suspect information attributed to an anonymous source has been made up, then the journalists are as useful as a parka at the equator.
To protect their credibility and the credibility of their stories, reporters should use every possible avenue to confirm and attribute information before relying on unnamed sources.
Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
The information-gathering business is a give-and-take practice with a lot of public officials… Media outlet practices vary, but journalists should not overlook the danger of legal problems and credibility damage from publishing anonymously sourced information that is not confirmed by public records or credible sources. Before journalists allow themselves to be used by an anonymous source they should be sure to question whether the news value warrants whatever the source hopes to accomplish.
Journalists should never take information off the record without the approval of a supervisor and an understanding of the news outlet’s policy… And publishing information without verification from multiple sources, even if they are all off the record, is a dangerous practice…
The wisdom of using anonymous sources has been the subject of an ongoing debate in journalism for years… Reporters and editors must weigh the cost of relying on anonymous sources.
Anonymity is often granted when the source in question may be “leaking” confidential information, and may have reason to expect punishment by his or her superiors should their identity be disclosed. It’s not clear this is the reason The Trentonian is using an unnamed source.
Most of the reporting I have read so far on this has contained some variation on the phrase used above by Mr. Zdan: “City officials and Mayor Tony Mack did not respond to requests for more details on the trip today.” Those City officials would include the two nominally in charge of the Recreation Department on a day-to-day level, Anthony Roberts and Paul Harris. Mr. Foster’s Trentonian piece merely states “Efforts to reach state police for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful.” [Emphasis mine - KM]
Since Mr. Foster says he was only unable to reach state police for comment, are we then to conclude that he was in fact able to reach a “City official,” but one who was only willing to speak off the record and anonymously?
If so, why the anonymity on this matter? After all, on the same day this “source” spoke to the Trentonian on deep background, the Administration went out of its way to publicize its efforts on behalf of the IO’s “plan” to beg for more State funding for city police. The City was proud to say, “Mayor Tony Mack wants to keep the lines of communication open between our community and City Hall as we continue to lobby the State to support its Capital City.” [Emphais mine - KM]
So, it’s OK to keep the lines of communication open between our community and City Hall when talking about begging for money, but not when it involves a scary automobile accident that injured a dozen of our children?
How can this be?
Why is it that as of this morning, three days after the accident, we have heard no statement from City Hall? Nothing from the IO, nothing from Mr. Roberts, nothing from Mr. Harris? Only this “source.”
Can it be possible that the “source” was only willing to answer some questions, but not other, potentially more embarrassing questions? Questions that still do need to be asked, such as:
- Why was this 11-passenger van crammed with 15 people? How were the other 4 persons seated? Who allowed that?
- How many seat belts were in the car? Were they all being used?
- Were the other van or three school buses used on this field trip similarly overcrowded?
- Several city vehicles are old and/or poorly maintained. They are (barely) suitable for city street driving, let alone driving on an Interstate. What vehicle was involved on Monday, and what was its condition and service record?
- What kind of permission did the driver have from the City? Did the City’s liability insurance or self-insurance program cover the driver and all the van’s passengers? What is the City’s liability here?
- We are told that the funding that paid for Monday’s transportation was provided by the federally-funded summer lunch program. The “source” said this is a long-standing and presumably allowable use of those funds. Really? Money from a food program can be used to bus children to an amusement park?
I understand that this accident is still under investigation, and that many details cannot yet be disclosed. But that still does not explain why there is utter official silence from the City of Trenton three days after an incident that could have ended so tragically.
And it does not explain why a professional newspaper, facing three days of official silence, chose to publish a news piece entirely and exclusively sourced by one unnamed person. A person who for unknown and undisclosed reasons requested, and was given, anonymity.
A person, we may safely presume, who is highly enough placed in City Hall to provide the kind of information contained in Mr. Foster’s piece.
A City Hall known for years for misinformation and lies.
With all that as context, why in hell did this newspaper run this piece? Certainly by now, they should be extra, extra cautious and skeptical of any information volunteered by any of these guys. Especially when it comes under the guise of anonymity!! What, in the name of Edward R. Murrow, were they thinking?!?!?!
The Trentonian sucks!
Above is an Official “CityofTrentonNJ” YouTube video. It was recorded yesterday and shows our Indicted Occupant and members of his staff actively lobbying members of the NJ Legislature in favor of the IO’s latest public safety “plan.”
So, we ARE taking action to rid our streets of crime! We ARE doing something!
On the other hand, I really don’t know how effective it’ll be, cold calling an Assembly member’s or Senator’s assistant to say, “I wonder if [fill in the blank] would be interested in writing a bill to hire police officers for the city of Trenton?”
The IO says he and his colleagues are getting a good reception from this effort, releasing a press release today that says in part, “The responses have been largely positive, especially from districts representing cities. The vast majority of respondents asked whether our district delegation (Turner, Watson-Coleman, & Gusciora) would be introducing bills in support of Mayor Mack’s crime reduction plan. We were delighted to read, yesterday, that all three elected officials said they were in support of our efforts.”
Uh huh. Sure thing.
One piece of advice, Mr. Mack? If you are trying to get on the good side of the Legislature, it would probably help if you spell the name of the Senate Majority Leader correctly. Just saying.
The press release offers a glimpse into some of the calculations used to come up with the dollar request that has struck many observers in the press and public as somewhat high. This also addresses another criticism, that any new officers hired with additional state funding would not be ready to hit Trenton’s streets for several months. The release states,
Lastly, there have been a number of questions related to how soon officers could start if the State approved our funding request. We would refer your attention to the ‘Rice Bill’ which was signed into law by Governor Christie in 2010. This bill would allow Trenton to hire from a list of police officers that were laid off from agencies throughout the State. This would greatly reduce the amount of time it would take to start new officers plus it gives us access to men and women with law enforcement experience.
The IO is apparently counting on many of these officers laid off elsewhere in NJ to be already trained and more senior (i.e. with higher salaries).
This might be true, in some cases. Many officers were laid off from the recently disbanded Camden PD, and may have training relevant to Trenton’s environment. But would officers trained in and serving as part of suburban forces be able to hit the ground running in Trenton without significant additional training? An officer, for instance, from Sussex or Cape May Counties?
I don’t think so.
The IO is wishing and hoping that his hires – once the money is speedily approved by the Legislature and Governor – will be on the job in a month or two.
Or so I assume. It’s really hard to tell. Because even with this latest press release, there are still no details to this “plan.” No budget, no calendar, no plan of training or organization, no suggestions on how the new officers or the rest of the Trenton PD will be deployed. No nothing.
In a Letter to the Editor in today’s Trenton Times, mayoral candidate James Golden, a former Trenton Police Director, makes the same points, with his experience providing more credibility than I can:
[W]e need to understand the overall crime-fighting strategy of the police department and what benchmarks will be set to reduce violent crime. It is against these benchmarks that the police department’s real performance will be measured. Right now, it appears the only thing we can point to are record-shattering rates of violence that continue to destroy our reputation and quality of life. Throwing money at this problem without a real plan of action will only make a bad situation worse.
But the IO has not given us “a real plan of action.” All we have as of today is this desperate request for funding. And this press release. And this video.
And they are proud of their efforts!
God Help Us.
Start with this: it’s Wednesday, after one of the bloodiest weekends in this bloodiest of years in the city of Trenton, New Jersey. Several days after a 3-day period in which 4 citizens violently lost their lives through the brutal actions of others.
And not one damned thing is being done to prevent the same thing happening again this weekend.
We had a “National Night Out” last night, which provided a lot of sound bites and photo opportunities from public officials, but little more than that.
We’ve read about the “plan” announced by the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office. This is a “plan” in the same way that a panhandler around Trenton’s Train Station has a “plan” to raise revenue: by holding out his hand and begging for it.
The IO is begging for over $46 Million from the State – $10 Million right away – to hire and pay for 75 police officers for the Trenton Police Department. His dollar request is based on the salaries and benefits for senior officers.
But Trenton Times writers Alex Zdan and Jenna Pizzi reported yesterday that there are only 2 such senior officers left on the recall list of officers laid off nearly 3 years ago, and it would take six months of training for a new class of police cadets to deploy to the streets.
And the IO’s “plan” notably lacks any details about how these new officers, and the rest of their colleagues, would be deployed to try to take Trenton off the boil. The strategy seems to be “Hire More Cops, and Crime Will Go Down.”
They call that “magical thinking.”
So even should the State accede to this “plan” today – this morning! – by suspending its rules, rushing this funding appeal through both houses of the Legislature as the IO begs, to end up on the Governor’s desk by this afternoon, we would not see the results of that plan in the City of Trenton until the middle of 2014.
I’ll say little more about this man and his pathetic letter to Governor Christie (but more about him below), which is nothing more than a “Cover Your Ass” attempt to show his relevance to current issues. As far as I am concerned, this man has contributed to the wave of crime strangling this city, and his continuing presence in office obstructs any productive and meaningful response to fighting it.
We read yesterday the words of the City’s Police Director Ralph Rivera: “I want to start off, No. 1, by assuring you that the Trenton Police Department, New Jersey State Police, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office … are all working diligently to address this crime wave we’re facing.”
But so far this “diligence” consists of a conversation Mr. Rivera had with the State Police superintendent at the beginning of the week, and a possible meeting with the state’s Acting Attorney General “soon.”
Well, I fell better. Don’t you?
We hear of possible legislation from City Council: an anti-loitering ordinance, and one allowing overnight curfews during time of emergency. Council President George Muschal describes in yesterday’s Trentonian an anti-loitering measure that will utilize stickers publicly posted on city businesses: “If you’re violating the law in front of the business and you’re hanging around out there, you could be placed under arrest… Once the sticker has been posted, the cops can go up there and do what they have to do. If you don’t have a sticker on the business, you’re going to get fined one way or another.”
Stickers. Loitering. Fines. “[T]he cops can go up there and do what they have to do.”
OK. Two questions: Seriously? And, what cops?
I appreciate Mr. Muschal’s intentions, but we don’t have enough police to provide a credible deterrent to the most serious of murders and mayhem in this town. Our cops are going to have the time and resources to write tickets and levy fines? And those fines are going to deter the kinds of people who killed Abraham Jeditoe, Hassan Allan, Barry Church, and Nyquan Owens this past weekend?
I, sadly, doubt it.
I will say again: as of today nothing is actually being DONE that may credibly help to prevent what took place last weekend from happening again this weekend.
Why is everyone scrambling today, anyway? We’ve seen this happening for months, if not years. This cannot be taking anyone by surprise. We’ve read news articles and press releases. We’ve heard press conferences and presentations at City Council for years. Big announcements for “Comprehensive Crime Initiatives” came down from Mount Olympus.
And to what end? None.
The body count goes higher, and the only folks thriving are the funeral directors. Trenton Makes, all right. Corpses.
Everyone in a position of Authority in this town, from this IO to this Police Director to these members of City Council, have worked almost exclusively in reaction mode since the 2011 layoffs of 105 officers.
That’s a polite way of saying they have their heads up their asses. But that’s nothing new. Tony Mack and Ralph Rivera are men who have failed.
Mr. Rivera has had his chance to address the problem, but he has made no progress, achieved no success. All kinds of things are happening around him, and it is not at all clear that he has what it takes to influence events rather than be influenced by them.
He has little credibility among citizens of the city. I don’t know for sure in what regard his leadership is held among the members of his department, but media accounts suggest it’s not very high. Similarly, it is not publicly known how he is considered by his opposite numbers in the County and State agencies and departments he collaborates with. And finally, it’s clear that as an appointed member of Trenton’s cabinet he has little to no meaningful direction from a responsible Chief Executive of this city, since no one is serving in that capacity right now. Ralph Rivera is a spent force.
As far as the Indicted Occupant is concerned, there is not one single positive contribution Mr. Mack can make to solving this problem, other than to offer his resignation. But this task, a simple one really, is one he will never willingly perform.
However I will offer to say that this “plan” publicized by the IO does contain one useful point, badly expressed as it is. No, the moon is not full and no, Mercury is not in retrograde. I actually agree – partly – with something Tony Mack has to say.
There is a statewide election going on in New Jersey. The current governor, Chris Christie, is running for re-election at the top of the Republican ticket. It’s been a relatively quiet election so far, and probably won’t kick into high gear until after Labor Day. But even when it does, I will predict that one of the issues over which the election will not be fought is Mr. Christie’s record on the City of Trenton. Which I think is too bad, because the Governor’s record on Trenton is not a good one, and it should be an election issue.
Prior to the Christie Administration, the State of New Jersey under several previous Governors made significant payments to the City of Trenton under various programs. Chief among these was the Capital City Aid program which, in its last year – Fiscal Year 2009/10 – generated nearly $35 Million for Trenton.
Four fiscal years on, we are receiving grants under the state’s Transitional Aid Program, and this year’s grant will be between $16-$22 Million (the big swing in that number will be determined on how the State treats $6.7 Million granted this year in lieu of a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) made this year on a building previously owned by the State Economic Development Authority. This was probably the last year for that money).
Whichever amount is granted, it is inescapable that the drop in state funding from 2010 to this year has been immense, roughly around $50 Million in total over the four years.
Today I won’t defend the amount the City used to get, nor the efficiency (or lack of it) with which Trenton spent that extra State money. The only point I want to make today is that $50 Million was a shitload of money for the City of Trenton to lose, and it had no chance in hell to make that up, no matter who was in charge in this town.
The original story for Transitional Aid was that it was supposed to be a program to wean several towns and cities in this state – not solely Trenton – away from the need they all had for continuing financial aid from New Jersey to plug their municipal budgets. After a period of a few years, according to the program, the Aid was designed to transition to zero.
This hasn’t worked. With little fanfare from the State, and along with very little media or public attention, NJ began over a year ago a program to fold much or all of this Transitional Aid into other payments towns receive from the State, mainly the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) program.
Along with a similar program (don’t worry, this eye-glazing technical stuff won’t go on much longer) called the Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief program (Energy Tax), this stream of funding was originally income that was previously collected by towns as their own revenues. The State took over collecting these revenues in the name of efficiency, but was supposed to simply pass all this money back to municipalities.
It hasn’t worked out that way. The NJ League of Municipalities on behalf of its member towns two years ago pointed out that the State has been keeping a lot of the CMPTRA/Energy Tax receipts for itself, using those proceeds to help balance the State’s own budget. For the 10 years prior to 2011, the League estimated that the State kept over $3.4 Billion that should have gone to towns including Trenton. It’s a practice that predates the Christie Administration, but a practice that the current governor has continued and expanded: in 2011 alone the League estimated the State’s holdback at nearly $900 Million.
I wrote about this over a year ago, when the State told Trenton that it would not convert any of the City’s Transitional Aid - yet – to permanent CMPTRA funding, because of the rampant management shenanigans in the Mack Administration. This action from the State essentially said, “We’ve already punched a big hole in your budget. And we are going to keep cutting it back, and short change you on even more money that the State should pay you anyway. It’s the new normal.”
As a result of this kind of action, the State and the Governor developed a reputation as fiscally conservative.
So, when the IO called for additional CMPTRA aid from the State, I think he had a small nugget of justification in his request. Unfortunately, this small nugget was buried in a mountain of bad writing, incomplete argument, and no planning.
Through the three years of his term, Governor Christie has compiled a record of accomplishment in office that has largely depended on shifting much of the financial burden of government from the State and its income tax, on to the backs of county and municipal governments and their property taxes. Where property taxes and values are robust, that has more or less worked. In towns such as Trenton, along with similar places like Camden, Patterson and Union City, where property values have tanked, this hurts.
In Trenton’s case, property values have tanked in the 47% of city property that is even taxable at all; the remaining 53% is owned by non-profit or government entities, such as the State of New Jersey. Trenton has been hit by a double whammy, I would say uniquely.
As the capital of the state, and host to much of its property, Trenton is systematically crippled in its ability to earn revenues from its main taxation mechanism. This is nothing new, of course.
But prior to the Christie Administration, the State at least acknowledged the bind the City was in, and instituted the Capital City Aid program, now gone.
This burden-shifting to towns is pretty much a done deal. The current system has been endorsed by the Democratic-run Legislature, which has to share a big portion of responsibility for the results of this process. The State’s Department of Community Affairs on paper has a huge role to play in towns receiving Transitional Aid, but has never been given the staffing nor resources it would have needed to play that role in a thorough way.
The result is the current mess we have. The Administration of the Indicted Occupant has not helped the case for the residents of this City by their stupidity, graft and incompetence in every single thing they’ve done. By their ineptitude, they have aided Chris Christie’s re-election chances enormously: they have taken all of the public’s and the media’s attention away from the significant role the State played in the fiscal gutting of the Capital City.
The Governor, like a latter-day Pontius Pilate, can wash his hands of Tony Mack and the City of Trenton in public, and absolve himself of further responsibility for his Capital, without being called on it. In the wake of last weekend’s violence, the Governor has been silent. He hasn’t offered any comment or aid, nor has anyone in the media solicited him for any. The occasional temporary assignment of State Police has been an amazingly effective ploy for him, allowing a veneer of “action” to be thrown over an amazingly limited gesture.
In this, he is abetted by Democrats like Senator Stephen Sweeney, who use the continued tenure in office of the IO to justify the inaction by the State in further intervention in Trenton’s affairs, while at the same time doing nothing that would facilitate removing or neutralizing our toxic chief exec.
This piece has gone on far, far longer than I intended. I probably lost you a long, long time ago, back at Anti-Loitering Stickers!
But, I ask your forbearance but a little while longer. Allow me to finish where I began.
It’s Wednesday. Not one new action has been taken that may offer a chance that this weekend will be any different than our last bloody weekend on the streets of the City of Trenton.
Whose names will we read in the papers next week?
For this, I accuse the officials most immediately culpable: the Police Director and the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office.
I also will not forget the role played by Chris Christie, the Procurator of Jersey.
… and Descartes says, “Tony, care for another round?”
“I think not,” said Tony Mack. And he promptly disappears in a puff of smoke.
Sorry about that. But I could not resist, not after the Office of the IO entered the mystical realms in its latest Press Release, issued last night.
Titled, “I’m Not Going To Be Ignored, Dan!” “City of Trenton Challenges Skewed View of History”, this release attempts to remind people – and Posterity, in his appeal to History – that the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office has accomplished great things in office, and we should Pay Attention.
I won’t review any of his so-called “accomplishments,” since the list and the entire document is simply pathetic, and to critique them seriously would be to attach more legitimacy to it than it deserves. Today, I would just like to draw attention to what is surely one of the most comical statements ever to come out of this comical Administration.
The first draft for one part of the introductory paragraph was almost certainly originally composed as something like, “We really tried to do our best. But the problems were so HARD for us to do anything about!” After some re-working, the final version now reads,
“Our administration continues to do the best that it can, with the resources made available to us, to address these issues. What we can say, with metaphysical certitude, is that there is no magic bullet that would rid our community of these problems overnight.” [Emphasis mine - KM]
Whoa, Nelly! Let me get to the Metaphysics in a moment. That’s been getting a lot of attention, rightfully so. But I don’t want to lose sight of a preceding phrase, because it betrays much of the mindset of this guy and his crew that has poisoned this town in the last three years.
The IO says he’s done the best he could, “with the resources made available to us.” A veritable revelation, this is! The IO expected that the resources necessary to do his job – to make a contribution to this city, to serve its citizens by making things a little better at the end of his term than at its beginning – would be made available to him; that is, given to him!
No mention is made, no thought given to the possibility that it was ever his job to find, earn or create more resources! Heaven Forbid!
Read that statement in the context of the news this week that the City ignored for months a requirement from the State of New Jersey to come up with a plan to fix its broken parking and parking enforcement systems. The City is supposed to earn money from charging for daily parking using curbside meters, but the State was concerned that the City’s system was missing out on a lot of revenue with obsolete systems and policies, and inconsistent enforcement. The State was adamant that this was an area the City could improve to, you know, sorta kinda have more resources made available to it!!! So adamant that they wrote a July 1 deadline for the City to submit a plan to increase its parking revenue into the Memo of Understanding for this year’s NJ Transitional Aid, the main source of state support for Trenton’s budget
But, of course, the City ignored the requirement. July 1 came and went, with no report sent to the State. The City, kind of, forgot. According to the Jenna Pizzi piece in the Times, “When interviewed last month, [Business Administrator Sam] Hutchinson said he was unaware of any submission the city was supposed to make to the DCA regarding parking.” [Emphasis mine - KM]
Of course he was “unaware!” Who cares about some middling parking meter and parking ticket money? Not Trenton! It’s just pocket change!! In fact, in that same article, we read that “The number of tickets reported, which tallied the number of tickets issued electronically, does not include several weeks [in June and July] when the officer’s electronic ticketing machines were out of printing paper, according to Detective Alexis Durlacher who prepared the report.” [Emphasis mine - KM]
Out of paper. For weeks. In the same City that runs out of toilet paper. Hopeless.
What a perfect example of the mindset in City Hall. The mundane matter of parking revenue must be considered so insignificant and unimportant by the IO, Mr Hutchinson and the rest that not only can ticketing grind to a halt for weeks because there’s no paper on which to write tickets, but a state mandate to write a report and devise a plan for the City to earn more money is entirely ignored!
Why should the City work hard for more parking meter and ticket money? The real big bucks, the major resources, will just be made available to us!
The IO, Mr. Hutchinson and the rest of this Administration are morally bankrupt, to go right along with the financial condition of this town.
Back to metaphysics. The IO can say – “with metaphyiscal certitude” – that there is “no magic bullet” to solve the City’s problems. Beside the extremely unfortunate usage of the word “bullet,” magic or otherwise, in a sad week that has so far seen the year’s 22nd and 23rd homicides, both by gunfire, the IO makes some serious philosophical errors.
In metaphysics, the proposition that there can be certainty about Anything is one that is highly debated. Whether the human mind is capable of fully comprehending the reality about any feature of existence has been debated for hundreds of years. To use the phrase “metaphysical certitude” may sure sound highfalutin’ and may have seemed to be a winner to whoever the author of this release was. But it reveals a profound ignorance on the part of the IO in this, as in so, so, so, so many other fields of human endeavor.
I don’t claim to be expert in philosophy myself, so let me ask Mr. Rene Descartes, whose most famous declaration “I Think, Therefore I Am” is itself an argument about Certainty.
He once wrote “[M]oral certainty is certainty which is sufficient to regulate our behaviour, or which measures up to the certainty we have on matters relating to the conduct of life which we never normally doubt, though we know that it is possible, absolutely speaking, that they may be false.”
Descartes realizes that, as humans, we can never have absolute certainty; that is reserved for the Divine. Any certainty, any conviction or confidence that we have in things must, must be tempered with an undercurrent of Doubt, with an admission that we may believe things to be true, but “they may be false.”
This “metaphyiscal doubt,” if you will, is something the IO is incapable of. He has no doubt that he’s done a great job. He cannot conceive that he has done anything less that a splendid job in office, and he wants History to know it!
He believes that on the very same day when other mayoral hopefuls exhibit their leadership – finally! – by seeking to reach out and heal a hurting city in a time of violence, danger and loss, it’s a good idea to remind folks that his Administration hosted the Annual Senior Gala.
What a profoundly stupid man.
What a misguided Administration.
What a loss for the citizens of this City that we are burdened with them all for one more year.
We have a lot of entertainment and drama associated with Trenton politics. That’s for sure. But today, I am deeply thankful that we don’t number among our elected officials or aspiring elected officials anyone like Anthony Weiner. At least, I don’t think we do. And for that, I say Thank Goodness for Small Favors.
In the last few days, we’ve seen a few gratifying examples of communication on current issues from a few of our mayoral candidates. I am grateful for them, and hope that these two occasions can be the start of what will first be a welcome trend, then become Standard Operating Procedure for their campaigns. I hope this becomes so frequent that it won’t be deserving of special comment. But for now, it’s pretty new, so let’s appreciate their effort, and their leadership, shall we?
A Letter to the Editor in this morning’s Trenton Times by James Golden notes the passing over the weekend of the Wilbur section’s long-time champion Dion Clark. Mr. Golden eulogizes Mr. Clark and praises his example of civic work by saying,
A paragon of civic virtue, Mr. Clark relentlessly and passionately pursued his dream of a better community for his beloved Wilbur neighborhood and all of Trenton. He was driven by the inspiration of his vision, and he inspired hope in all of us who came to know him over the years.
It would seem that our potential and capacity as a vital city have been diminished by Mr. Clark’s untimely death. Fortunately, we will mitigate our loss if we embrace and continue to model his legacy of activism and selfless concern for others.
Well said, Mr. Golden.
Eric Jackson released a statement condemning the recent outbreak of serious violence in Trenton by acknowledging the recent death of Qaadir Gurley as the city’s 22nd murder victim of 2013. Sadly, Mr. Jackson’s words must now be read in the context of news of Trenton’s 23rd murder victim, as of last night.
Mr. Jackson’s note was released on Facebook, not his own website. In part, his statement reads,
I am deeply concerned about the possibility of more senseless violence in the wake of the murder of 24-year-old Quaadir Gurley last Sunday in the city’s West Ward. I am calling on our parents and community leaders to talk with your sons, daughters and neighbors about the dire consequences that settling disputes through violence can have on their lives and our city. Everyone has a stake in the health and welfare of Trenton. We must acknowledge and deal with the serious threat of gang violence, not just through law enforcement, but also through conversation and compassion.
Thank you, Mr. Jackson.
I appreciate that both gentlemen were moved by recent events to speak on behalf of themselves, and implicitly of their campaigns, to the citizens of Trenton. I encourage these two, and the other mayoral candidates, to continue this outreach on other matters and concerns as they come to public attention. I look forward to and expect more from them of substance and thoughtful consideration. Over to you, gentlemen.
Speaking of the campaigns, on Monday morning the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) did indeed post several more quarterly financial disclosure reports from several mayoral and City Council candidates.
Several. Not all candidates, and not even all current officeholders. And many of the reports were sadly incomplete. I, for one, am of a mind that the way a candidate runs his or her campaigns, and the conscientious observance – or not – of NJ state election law says a lot about a candidate and the way he or she will conduct themselves during their term of office. Looking at the latest batch of reports posted over the last week reveals some interesting items.
Let’s start with the two gentlemen above. I remarked a few days ago that I found it very surprising that Eric Jackson filed a form with ELEC certifying that his campaign would raise and spend no more than $4500. Well, Mr. Jackson also filed another report on the same day, July 15. This report includes details on the $38,315 he has raised up until the end of June, and the $5350 he has spent to date.
It is still very odd to me that Mr. Jackson filed that other form. I also note that his campaign raised funds and incurred expenses during the 1st Quarter of this year, for which a report should have been filed by April 15. And his campaign has still not closed out his 2010 effort, with an interim report filed ten days before the May 2010 election being the last disclosure of his finances filed for that year.
I am glad to see that Mr. Jackson is starting full and complete disclosure of his current campaign’s finances. His unfinished 2010 business still strikes me as odd.
James Golden also filed a full and complete 2013 2nd Quarter report, disclosing a total of $7100 raised and $4436 spent.
What is interesting to me about both campaign’s reports is that so many of the funds to date come from donors outside the City of Trenton. I suppose this is the stage of the campaign during which friends and family, wherever they are located, are the first sources the candidates reach out to. It’s good to see that at least on this level that people outside this City are willing to donate to those representing Trenton’s political future. We shall see whether our candidates can succeed over the next year in drawing significant support from those within the city of Trenton.
The other campaigns are more of a mixed bag. Patrick Hall filed a complete report (with the exception of a failure to identify the source of abut $48 in loans) showing minimal activity in the second quarter, and total revenue of $4160.
Paul Perez filed a report stating he’d raised $5553, and spent $2352. However, he only identifies $3800 in revenue, and fails to detail any of his expenses. His report, which should contain a full 11 pages, but only 3 were filed.
Walker Worthy’s report indicates his campaign has raised $28,330 to date, second only to Mr. Jackson, and has spent $8439. Using this yardstick, Mr. Worthy’s campaign should be taken seriously.
But his report lacks a great deal of information. Of the $24,065 raised in this quarter, Mr. Worthy identifies only $1400. The sources for the remaining $22,665 remain unstated.
The Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office? He hasn’t filed since April of last year. At the time he was spending money freely from his campaign account, while fundraising had dried up. He did stage a fundraising event at the end of June. He was obligated to have disclosed the proceeds and expenses from that event by July 15. But I suppose he’s thinking something like, “Why Start Now?”
Council candidates are, also, a mixed bag. Najee Cunningham and Lee Willie Ingram filed A-1 forms – the same one also filed by Mr. Jackson – stating they would raise and spend no more than $4500. No other challengers have filed yet with ELEC.
Regarding the current sitting council members, only three – Marge Caldwell-Wilson, Phyllis Holly-Ward, and Verlina Reynolds Jackson – filed their Q2 reports on time. Although Ms. Holly-Ward has pretty consistently filed her quarterly reports on time throughout her term in office, the other two members only started filing last quarter, after almost 3 full years in office. Oops.
A fourth, George Muschal, has filed most of his previous reports (some being accounted under the past 2010 election rather than 2014, oddly) since his election, but has nothing posted as of yet for the most recent deadline.
Alex Bethea has not filed anything since he was elected to Council. Not a thing since before the June 2010 runoff election. And I am not surprised in the least.
As for the remaining Members, Kathy McBride and Zachary Chester, they have filed forms disclosing their campaign banking accounts and Treasurers. But they have failed to submit any required reports since their 2010 elections.
This is in spite of knowing that Ms. McBride is occupying, and presumably paying rent for, a “Constituent Services ” office on North Warren Street. If she has other expenses on her books, and money to pay for them, she hasn’t let on since 2010. In that election, she filed the “$4500 and Under” certification.
At the end of the 2010 election, Mr. Chester had over $11,000 in his bank account, according to his post-election report. But that is the last report Mr. Chester has submitted to ELEC, and the last one available for public review.
This spotty record among our Council members tells a tale. What we have heard from many Council members over the last few years has often been a message of, “We haven’t been able to accomplish anything because we’ve been obstructed by the Mayor, or by each other.” To some extent that may be true.
But I would suggest, once again, that a candidate’s – or office holder’s – record of compliance with the commonly-known and pretty easily-followed ELEC Rules of The Game is a pretty good way to predict how conscientious that person will be to following the rules in office.
Based on that criterion, I would suggest that Mr. Bethea, Ms. McBride and Mr. Chester have a lot of remedial homework to do, and some explanations to give.
If these three can’t handle their own campaign finances properly, can we expect them to do so for Trenton’s?