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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Clown Show at Trenton's City Hall Goes On

Old Nucky Johnson has to be rolling in his grave right now.  The TV show  Boardwalk Empire brought the story of this county political boss who also doubled as the head of Atlantic City's Irish mob in the 1920s to a whole generation of Americans after his memory finally faded into history, making Nucky once again one of this country's most notorious gangsters.

 While the point is made in many gangster picture that Las Vegas does not have a single monument in honor of Bugsy  Siegel Theenforcer from New York that was sent to the West Coast by the Mafia and set up the first modern casino-hotel in Las Vegas.  That's right, not one museum, statue or even a plaque honors the memory of the man who created Sin City.  Well, Atlantic City is different.  Atlantic City's city council recently named a street named in honor of Enoch Johnson, the Republican County Committee chairman from the 1920s who wielded the kind of power even George Norcross III could only dream of having.  He also doubled as the head of Atlantic City's Irish mob, a criminal organization which even the Italian Mafia feared.  He used the power of the city and county governments to protect his gambling and bootlegging operations and keep the Italians and honest law enforcement officials at bay. 

When asked why City Council named a street after a gangster, one official commented that he was a positive influence which was responsible for the town's golden age as a resort.  He also said that Atlantic City always had its share of shady political figures and admitted that there may still be a few crooks in power now.  That's right.  Gangsters are part of the heritage of both gambling Meccas, it is just that the New Jersey city has the guts to admit it and embrace its past.  Yes it may just be honesty, but it is also a great marketing ploy.  Now tourists drawn to the town by watching Boardwalk Empire can walk down a real street named after Nucky and can see the Ritz Carlton Hotel where Nucky ran his real life empire.  It still standing on the boardwalk  near the Atlantic City Hilton and is now a condominium tower.

So why bring up Nucky in an article about the current situation in Trenton municipal government?  Well, Tony Mack is a different kind of colorful politician who is rapidly becoming notorious in his own way.  He may even inspire a new TV series, this one would be called How the Bleep Did He Get Elected. 

So far our new Mayor who took office this July has gotten the city into the news quite frequently.  He wanted to appoint a convicted felon and con man to the position of economic development director, but backed down when articles about the man's criminal record appeared in the newspapers.  His personal residence is in foreclosure proceedings.  He bought it in the early 1990s for a little over $100,000 and now owes well over $300,000 on it.  I know I bought mine for $83,000 in 1992 and now owe about $14,000.  Hey mayor!  Your mortgage is supposed to go down over time if you just make the payments and don't keep refinancing it.  I'm glad to know what when our city is running a large deficit, we have such a shrewd financier in charge.  He also got a second mortgage from a flea market vendor to finance his election campaign.  (Because no bank would lend him any more money, probably).

Besides these two blunders, he dismissed the former operator of the city water works and brought in a friend and supporter that was unfamiliar with the plant to operate it.  The new plant manager allowed the filters to clog up during a rain storm earlier this month.  This shut down the whole system and caused the reservoir to drain dangerously low before extra water was pumped in from a neighboring private water system.  When the city's pumps were finally turned on, an incorrect start-up procedure was followed which blew out a water main under a main thoroughfare in nearby Hamilton Township,collapsing the street and causing muddy water to flow to thousands of homes.  We had to boil our water for a week.

Perhaps you can't blame the following incident directly on the mayor, but he appoints the police director who IS responsible for the police department.  Earlier in the week it was revealed that a 25 year old cop was romantically involved with a 14 year girl and that he was charged with statutory rape.  The police officer in question was reassigned to desk duty and lost his right to carry a firearm until the matter is resolved.

Yesterday, an article appeared in the paper about municipal court judge Renee Lamarre Sumners, who was appointed to the municipal bench by Mack.  She, and court administrator Nate Jones have both refused to submit to police background checks, drug testing and fingerprinting.  Although Mr. Jones was not in the paper in Friday, I am going to comment on what I know of him first.

He was principal of Rivera Munoz elementary school in the late 1980s.  At the time I ran into him there as a substitute teacher, he was fairly old and had white hair.  He was a short, portly gentleman who had white hair and wore a Cheney University pin on his lapel.  He also was of the habit of carrying a baseball bat in the hallways.  He must have seen the Lean on Me movie too much.  Although he may have wanted to be like the principal in Lean on Me" he struck me as quite the opposite, basically I though he was lazy and not too bright.

I had a fourth grade class one day.  Normally the kids try to take control of the classroom when they get a substitute.  That a familiar time hone red tradition everywhere.  The way you nip it in the bud is sent the first two or three trouble makers to the Principal's office.  He usually scolds them, then gives them to another teacher to watch for the rest of the day.  Mr. Jones didn't do that.  He immediately sent them back and told me on the inter column to handle them myself and not to send any more.

That could have been a prescription for disaster, but it was June and the school wasn't air conditioned and I remembered a technique fron the nuns at St. Raphael's.  I shut the door and all the windows and told the kids they wouldn't be opened until I got quiet.  It worked.

But "sockless wonder" Nate wasn't satisfied.  He told me during lunch period to take the kids outside in the playground for the afternoon.  I followed instructions and they immediately jumped the fence and left the property for the rest of the day.

Since retiring in the early 90s, Nate has been a perennial candidate for West Ward city councilman, but never gets more than a few hundred votes.

I guess he helped Mr. Mack on his election campaign.  Nate had to be 60 back in the late 1980s.  That puts him over 80 now.  That man should be in a rest home, or at least at home on retirement.  Certainly, if he was a tired old man back in the 1980s, he hasn't gotten any more ambitious since.  Mack should have not brought him out of retirement.

Now for the judge.  We already have the mayor who can't pay his mortgage.  Now we got the judge who bounces checks and keeps getting her law license suspended for nonpayment of the licensing fee.  I guess financial deadbeats flock together like birds of a feather.

Sumners was put on the ineligible to practice law list in 2001, 2004 and 2006 for failure to pay her annual renewal fee to the state Lawyers Fund for Client P{protection.  She also missed her payment this year because she paid with a check that was returned to her for insufficient funds.

Since it is necessary for judges to be lawyers in good standing, it is likely that Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg will remove her from the bench for failing to meet the requirements for holding her job.

I was wondering why she didn't want a background check.  Our new judge can't be a judge because she is not really a lawyer allowed to practice in New Jersey.

I wonder what other surprises Mack has up his sleeve for us.

Which bring us back to Nucky.  Old Mucky may have been a crook, but he certainly was a smart man and an effective leader.  Mack doesn't have enough brains to run the toilet, let alone a city government.  And it is becoming more obvious each day.

No, Tony, you can't make a pimple on Nucky's ass.

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