User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: June 2010

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Who Will It Be This Tuesday, Tony or Manny?

As I hope everyone reading this already knows, there is a city election this Tuesday June 15.  I hope a lot of people come out and vote, but based on past experience with runoff elections in the city, turnout is usually a lot lower than in the first round of voting.  I sadly believe that will probably also be the case again this time because there has been relatively little publicity compared to May.  The one exception to this is the water works vote which seems to be drawing more interest than either the mayor or city council races.

According to the the Trenton No website, both Tony Mack and Manny Segura oppose selling the water works.  This is good.  The only real problem is the Trenton Yes campaign financed by American Water is much better financed, and it seems to have convinced the people that I know that are not politically active that the sale is a good idea.  Of course Palmer did this by deliberately holding off on scheduling the referendum so the whole year's tax increase could be charged to a single quarter to make it look like the sale is necessary to avoid a disasterous increase in property taxes.  If they were worried about taxes these same people should have been out last November backing Corzine with the same enthusiasm they backed Obama with in 2008.

Past the water works, what seems to be the big diference between the old Spanish guy and the short black man?..Tony mack has the support of Frank Weeden as well as city council candidate Juan Martinez and South Ward Councilman Frank Muschel.  Of course, all three of these people are rough-hewen law-and-order types who say they want to go after landlords and the criminal element with a sledgehammer.

Mr. Mack also indicated he opposes the use of eminent domain to displace homeowners to make way for economic development projects.  I couldn't agree more, because I supported Jim Costen and Carlos Avilla's efforts to stop the Leewood Village project.  It is a shame however that Costen and Avilla backed the city's efforts to allow Hovnanian to tie up the Champale site for years without building anything.  As a result, some homeowners were coerced into selling their properties for less than they would have otherwise would have taken and other people were forced to give up their back yards.  The neighborhood deteriorated severely while the project was stalled.  Fortunately, Hovanian did come in and build, but the city should have never tied up the property nor pressured people into giving up their homes until it secured a substantial performance bond from the developer.  It was for that reason that I could not back Mr. Avilla in the last election.  He wouldn't address my question about the performance bond in a meeting, he only would say that he was behind the effort to bring in Hovanian. 

I own several hundred shares of Hovanian stock, and for that reason have every reason to wish the company well.  However no mean s no and the threat of eminent domain should not be used against owner-occupants to take their homes, yards or anything else.  Also, in all cases, the city should demand a permormance bond before giving a company the exclusive right to develop a tract.  Why inconvenience the little guy, when the big corporation is under no pressure to move forward.

I like some of what Mr. Avilla has to say about selling city properties one at a time to homesteaders or small contractors or landlords.  Back when Art Holland was mayor, the city had an urban homesteading program where the city would reserve certain homes for owner-occupants and would lend them money to bring them up to code.  Also landlords and contractors could bid on the other properties at auction and develop them so they could get back on the tax rolls.

The Palmer administration got rid of the auctions and urban homesteading and instead relied on big developers who promised to come in and build grandiose projects like Leawood Village or the Broad Street Entertainment District.  As we know, many city-owner properties rotted during the last 20 years, because the big boys never came in and to do anything.  Rather than relying on the Great Father in Washington or on Wall Street, we should rely on ourselves and allow people with the drive and determination to take over individual homes or business properties.  I think we can't do any worse than we have done for the last generation.

Well, then who do I want?  It changes from day to day.  I worked with Tony Mack in the past, but agree with Frank Weeden that he can't handle money.  After all he couldn't pay the poll workers in a timely manner when he was chairman of the city Democratic Party and his payroll checks bounced when he ran for mayor four years ago.  Also, the folks in Bellmawr found out the hard way that he did not have the talent to be a school board business manager.  Let's see, did he loose $1.25 million like he said or $1.75 million like the Courier-Post said.  It doesn't really matter because in the end he screwed up and the school board fired him.

For that reason, I'll go with Manny Segura!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vote No on Water Works Sale

My doorbell rang Sunday afternoon, and when I answered it I found Christine Donahue on my front porch.  She was passing out flyers for a group called Trenton No which was set up to fight the proposed sale of the suburban portion of the Trenton Water Works.  I will reproduce the text of this flyer below because it does a better job than I can of explaining why you should vote no on June 15.

Keep our water!

Vote NO June 15

Do you trust THEM or US

They are New Jersey American Water, a big corporation with a history of buying up water utilities and raising water rates.  They are spending big $$$ to talk you into a bad deal through a fake grassroots organization called "Trenton Yes".

We are your friends and neighbors.  We are community leaders and activists.  We stand by 2,000 signatures that were collected to stop the sale of TWW's suburban infrastructure.

We are committed to ensuring that Trenton Water Works generates positive revenues for years to come and continues to supply affordable water to Trenton residents.  On June 15th, we urge you to vote NO! to stop the sale.




Suburban sales of Trenton's water keep our rates low, and revenue surpluses help pay for city services.  American Water wants to buy the Trenton Water Works suburbazn infrastructure.  If we fall for it, costs will go up.  The  proposed sale already caused a 40 percent rate hike costing $5 million per year, and we will loose $3 million in annual surpluses forever.


Trenton Water Works has already reduced staff in anticipation of the sale.  If we don't stop the sale, more jobs will be eliminated in billing, meter reading and installation & maintenance & repair.  Trenton Water Works provides good paying jobs to our residents.  Vote no to stop privatization and job cuts.


American Water says we will get $80 million from the sale.  What they don't tell you is that most of the $80 million must be used to retire TWW deby, with little left over for us.  They claim we will get $320 million from bulk water sales over 20 years.  The truth is there is no guarantee.  If we keep the Trenton Water Works, we are guaranteed over $800 million, more than twice as much.


Trenton benefits from low water rates and revenue surpluses thanks to TWW's suburban operations.  TWW will bring in even more revenues as outside demand increases.  Selling the suburban territory would permanantly cut Trenton from future outside customers.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Designer Dogs Trenton Style

By now nearly everyone has heard of laberdoodles, cocapoos and other designer dogs.  The problem with most designer dogs is that they are wimpy.  They're fine for sitting on your lap and playing with kids, but not what you want if you want to project the Trenton macho image.

Never fear, ye  hood dwellers!  There's something new out, which combines the jaw of a pit bull with the speed and agility of a Doberman.  It's called a Doberbull and may be coming to a street near you.

And they can be cute too.  Check out the attached video.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

To Know Christie the Governor, You Have to Know Christie the Freeholder

I'm willing to bet Chris Christie was a schoolyard bully in grade school.  While I can't confirm that fact, he does not seem to have evolved much past the bully stage.  Here he is, confrontational, demanding and does not play well with others.  But beyond this, most people don't know much about the man beyond that he is a lawyer and worked a stint as US Attorney General for New Jersey.  I was curious to find out where he came from and what else he did in life, so I looked him up on Wikipedia.  You can access his biography there at the following link:

What you will find is that he held elected office only once before when he served a single term as a freeholder for Morris County from 1994 to 1998 During his short career in county politics he raised such a ruckus and antognized his contemporaries so much that his own Republican party sponsored another candidate to run against him in the primary in 1998, and he was defeated. 

Now you are probably wondering what Christie did as a freeholder that caused his own party to ditch him.  Well, when he ran in the primary in 1994, he lied that his opponents were under a criminal investigation for violating local laws.  After taking office he successfully pushed to have the architect charged with designing a new county jail dismissed, saying the architect was costing the county too much money.  After getting fired, the architect sued Christie for defamation for the remarks he made about the dismissal.

In 1995, one year after taking the freeholder job, Christie and Rick Merkt ran as an opposition slate against the regular organization candidates, incumbent assemblyman Anthony Bucco and Michael Patrick Carroll in the Republican primary.  Christie and Merkt were defeated by a wide margin.  The county Republican Party, unhappy with Christie's antics recruited John J. Murphy to to run against Christie for the Freeholder Board seat in the Republican primary in 1998.  Murphy, the endorsed candidate, won the primary and Christie's career in county politics was over, except for one last lawsuit.  In the campaign Murphy falsely accused Christie of having the county pay his legal bills in the architect lawsuit, so Christie sued and got an out of court settlement from Murphy.

So there you have it.   Christie bucks the party establishment and runs against the endorsed Republican incumbent in the 1994 primary.  He lies about his opponent's record so he can get elected, wins the election, but gets sued.  For one thing, you tend to upset the party establishment by challenging endorsed incumbents.  This can be forgiven somewhat if you manage to win, which he did, but he lied to do it.

Once in office, he challenges the other freeholders and has the architect that they hired removed, which is something that I'm sure ruffled a few feathers.  He then challenges an incumbent Republican in an Assembly race by running outside the column, thus committing an unpardonable sin twice.  This time he host and faced the full wrath of the party establishment.

My big question is why didn't we hear about this from Corzine's people during the governor's race.  Are the Dems a bunch of wimps or something not to challenge this part of his past.

Also, why did the Republicans invite him back to run for Governor in the first place.  I bet there are a lot of Republicans in high places in the state that are now biting their tongues and wishing they put somebody else in office.

Obviously, he is still the schoolyard bully that won't consult with others or take advice from his own people as evidenced recently by his rejection of the federal education grant application negotiated by Education secretary Bret Schundler and the NJEA.  Apparently it was more important for Christie to stick it to the teacher's union than to take the advice of the perfectly good conservative Republican he sent to negotiate for him.  I guess he doesn't need the federal money and would rather see more teachers get laid off.

Who knows, he may repeat himself and try to run for higher office before he finishes his first term as governor.  What will it be, Senator or President.  Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have this pompous jerk run and loose, but what would happen if he makes it.

My guess is he will see his career as a governor end much the same was as his career as a freeholder ended.

His own Republicans will get rid of him and endorse someone else as the regular organization candidate in the primary.  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Left Turn,Reed

You might remember the old Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way But Loose from the 1980s.  Well anyway, in the movie Clint Eastwood plays a trucker who keeps a pet chimp named Clyde in his cab.  A famous line from the movie is "Left Turn, Clyde".  When Clint Eastwood said this, the monkey would stick his arm out of the truck to signal a left turn.

Well, when you communicate with Trenton politicians, you might as well be dealing with monkeys, because they don't pay too much attention to what you tell them and they sure don't know which way the wind is blowing.

I sent an email to all three members of the 15th District legislative delegation.  The 15th district includes Trenton and the delegation is headed by Senator Shirley Turner.  The letter was requesting that the senator and assemblymen support reinstituion of the millionaire's tax and asked for their support in fighting Christie's proposed cuts in services such as school nutrition programs, after school programs, libraries and public health.  I also asked that they support maintaining wages, benefits, bargaining rights and civil service protections for the state's public employees.

The only representative to reply to my letter was Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.  For taking the time to respond, I wish to thank him.  I only wished that his response would have indicated support for the interests of ordinary New Jerseyians in our struggle against the Christie administration.

Here is his reply:

Thank you for contacting me in regards to Governor Christie's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  I appreciate you taking the time to share your views on this important matter.

As \you know, there is a projected $10.7 billion budget gap for Fiscal Year 2011.  In his recent budget address, Governor Christie proposed numerous cuts, reduction in state aid, and program elimination in order to close this deficit.  Some of the proposals he has set forth are necessary and overdue.  Others need to be evaluated to insure they will not lead to unnecessary property tax increases in the future or place extra burdens on our most vulnerable citizens.

While I do support some restorations in certain areas, any restorations most likely means cuts to other areas of the budget.  It is my hope that the Legislature considers the Governor's proposal and develops the budget further, we can reach a proper balance in order to fund programs which are critical to New Jersey residents and their families.   Notwithstanding, I will certainly keep your views in mind as we continue the dialogue on the State's fiscal course.  We all need to work together to address the pressing financial issues facing our state.

Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts,

Very Truly Yours,

Reed Gusciora

When reading this, keep in mind the following.  The city of Trenton has a large low-income population, and low income people are being disproportionately hurt by Christie's proposed cuts.  They are the ones that qualify for free Abbott preschools, subsidized utility bills through the Universal Service Charge program, and free school breakfasts and lunches.  Single-parent headed households are the main beneficiaries of after-school programs, which allow the custodial parent to have someone watch her children while she goes to work.  Low income people are the ones who will be hurt the most by Christie's proposed change to unemployment benefits, which will make claimants ineligible to collect if they get fired from their jobs.  Mr. Gusciora does not say that he supports restoring any of this.

Trenton also hosts the state government's headquarters operations, and is expected to loose $42 million in aid previously given to the city to compensate it for lost tax revenue on these properties..  Mr. Gusciora dose not mention restoring any of this money.  He only says we must look at the proposed cuts to insure they will not unduly raise property taxes or hurt vulnerable citizens.

Over a third of workers employed in Mercer County work for state, federal and local government.  Public employees will be disproportionately hurt by Christie's proposed "reforms".  Many of those employed by the state, county, municipalities and school boards live right here in the city.  In fact the State of New Jersey is the largest employer of city residents.  Mr. Gusciora does not say what he plans to do to mitigate our plight.

Keep in mind that Mr. Gusciora has every reason to back us up.  Low income people and public employees are a large part of his constituency.  Yet he seem more concerned about raising taxes than protecting us.  And he is also one of the most liberal members of the Assembly.  He is openly gay and supports gay marriage.  He supports stricter environmental regulation and tough gun control and anti-discrimination laws.  If he is not convinced that he should stand with us, than what about representatives from wealthier areas of the state, where people are socially conservative, where fewer people work for the government, and where fewer people depend on government programs.

My advice to Mr. Gusciora is that he should pay attention to the numbers of people we put on the streets at our May rally and wise up.  If 35,000 people are willing to give up a Saturday to show up and protest in Trenton, then lots more will stand for us at the polls and vote for those candidates demanding restoration of services and protection of worker's rights.  Yes Reed, forget about what happened to Mr. Stockton and all of the other fiscally liberal Democrats who got kicked out of office during the midterm elections during Florio's time in office.  We now know what smaller government and support of the anti-tax crowd means.  It means tax breaks for the rich ands service cuts, pay cuts and higher taxes for everybody else.

Yes Reed, now is our time!  Now is the time that the fiscal liberals will get their revenge.  Come November 2011, we will sweep the legislature of all politicians that "Stood with the Governor" and supported the fat boy's Jack the Ripper tool kit of budget cuts, benefit cuts ans well as lost employee protections.

Get with it Reed.  Make a hard political left and stand behind us!  If you do, than we will stand behind you come next November.