User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: March 2011

"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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who Ruined Trenton High?

Trenton High was one of the finest high schools in the country when it was first built.  It is still a beautiful building from a distance, if one doesn't look too closely.  It also may become a rallying point that will help destroy Governor Christie;s national reputation as a fair but firm fiscal conservative.

I heard the stories over the years about Trenton High.  As anybody around here knows, the school is supposed to be a real snakepit.  Back in the late 1980s I worked there as a substitute teacher, and at the time I thought the kids were fairly well behaved (at least compared to Junior 5 and Junior 1), and the building was old and a little worn, but still in fairly good repair.  You have to remember at that time, Art Holland was still the mayor, and we only had an appointed school board for a few years. 

Since the early 1980s, Trenton has had an appointed school board.  The board is appointed by the mayor.  Holland pushed for the appointed board because at the time Trenton was racially divided (sounds familiar?) and Holland thought it would be better to have the mayor pick the best people rather than having them sit for election when the public picks candidates solely by their race.

I haven't been in Trenton High since 1990, when I last worked there.  However, I have gotten the chance to go into Dunn Middle School (Junior 4 back in my substitute teaching days) and I got to see how that building has gone downhill.  While I can't say anything about the quality of the instruction or student safety, I can tell you about bricks and mortar, because I been in there a lot to work on elections.  And as recently as last November, when I was last in there, the school hasn't been painted inside since the late 1980s.

In Dunn, the ceiling is peeling in the music room, plaster is bubbling up in the auditorium from the roof leaks, and the rest of the paint is filthy.  The lockers, bathrooms and everything else inside has a left-where-it-was-for-years, unmaintained look.  Nothing done since Mayor Palmer took office.

Back to Trenton High.  Last week, I was watching Channel 6 news and saw a story on Trenton High.  In the video, there was a teacher explaining that the roof leaks all over the place and that teachers use buckets on the floor to catch the water.  When the buckets are filled, they are emptied.  The librarian keeps a mousetrap on her desk, because there are mice running at will in the library.  They frequently climb up on the students.  The librarian says she traps the mice and hopes for the best.

Here is a link to the channel 6 video:

Today, there was a story in the Trentonian about a meeting that was held at the school yesterday between state and local officials.  About 60 students showed up and some of them testified.  The school officials and students said that the roof leaks, half the bathrooms are closed because they are no longer functional, the auditorium is closed because of loose asbestos, and that the drinking water from the fountains is contaminated by lead from the pipes.  Basically, the school is a health hazard, and it provides a poor environment for learning.  At the very least, kids are sent a message by being put into that facility and it is this.  "The building is a piece of garbage, so we must be garbage too.  Suburban kids get decent schools, but the let us sit in this thing.  Why bother trying."

The state offered to replace the high school several years back when Governor Corzine was in office.  The offer was not accepted because city and state officials wanted the building replaced, but several community leaders wanted the old building restored.  Restoration would cost more than replacement, and by the time the decision was made to restore the school, the state was not willing to pay, but would only go for replacement.  No agreement could be reached on that, so the old school remained in use.

Enter Governor Christie.  Last year, the governor cut $850 million from school aid statewide as part of his plan to balance the state budget without renewing the millionaire surtax.  This took money mainly from the low income Abbott districts (which include Trenton).  It also took money from the fund the state uses to subsidize school construction projects.  Because the funding was cut, the state was not willing to subsidize the construction of a new Trenton High.  Christie has also gone on the record saying he wants to pull still more money out of urban public school systems, because he believes they are unfixable and the money should be spent on charter schools and school choice vouchers instead.

At the meeting, community activist Juan Martinez attacked Christie's offer of $24 million for renovations to the school, rather than $150 million to replace the building.  He suggested marching on the statehouse and getting CNN out to the school so the national news service could show the nation what a cheap S.O.B. Christie really is.

You think you know what I'm going to say, but I'm going to fool you.  First, I have no love for Juan Martinez or the Trentonian.  I am sick of Martinez;s racist rants that the South Ward should elect a Latino councilman because it is a majority Latino district and that the city should hire more Latinos for city jobs.  Hell, if he was a white man making the same statements about whites, he would have been run out of town by the media and the powers that be.  But that's besides the point here.  Likewise for the Trentonian ,  The newspaper is rabidly anti-union and ardently pro-Christie.  However it the case of the high school, the paper appears to support getting state aid to solve the problem with either a new or a restored building.

Personally, I prefer restoration over a new building.  Our high school's architecture is unique, and it is built a lot stronger than any new building would be.  I bet that if it was put back together, it would last a lot longer than a new high school.

Now for the hook!  Yeah, Christie has the compassion of Marie Antoinette (Let them eat cake.) when it comes to giving more money to urban school districts.  And yes, once I found something that I agree on with Juan Martinez.  It would be great to get CNN in there and shame the Governor before the nation.  The school is a disgrace.

But, the real question is how did the school get in such deplorable condition.  Remember that the city was getting millions more in state aid before Christie cut it off.  Yet they couldn't find any money to fix it.  It didn't get like that overnight.  It took decades of neglect.

Also, I know Dunn Middle School is also in a state of disrepair.  How many other schools did the city fail to maintain?  What have they done with the money all these years since Palmer took over in 1990.  Tony Mack has been in office less than a year, and he had to deal with the tight budget after Christie cut the city off.  We can't really blame him, at least not yet.   The schools fell apart during the 20 years of Mayor Palmer's rule, and probably weren't fully maintained for some time before that.

I think Palmer and his underlings on the school board let Trenton High go downhill to make their case to the state that the building needed to be replaced.  Let it fall apart and the Great Father in Trenton will buy the city a new school.  It didn't happen.  And now, New Great Father is a stone-cold asshole that doesn't want to part with a dime if it has to come away from the suburban districts that supported him in the election. 

While it may be nice to let the city officials stew in the mess they created, it wouldn't be right.  The kids do need a better school and the only way Trenton could afford one is with the state bearing most of the cost.  Let go governor!  Give the kids a new school.

On the other hand, we need to demand accountability from our city officials.  We at the very least need to get an elected school board.  Give the power to put the schools under new management back to the people.  The school system shouldn't be the mayor's private fiefdom.

(P.S.  Where did the money go?  Probably to the same place the money went that the city was supposed to spend on blacktop for roads.  We now live in pothole city, so I wouldn't be surprised if we have schools that look something like something out of Al Capp's Lil Abner.  Perhaps it went for all night coke and hooker parties at city hall.  Probably not, but it might have been better spent that way.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Stupid War

Let's see, "A Stupid War."  Sounds like an oxymoron.  Ever hear of a smart war?
Well, let's say that our intervention in Libya is stupider than most wars.  Here's why.

President Obama seems to be more concerned about how he looks to the American public and how he looks to the members of the European Union than he is about the interests of America, the lives of American troops or the lives of the Libyan people.

Like a typical post-Vietnam Democrat, Obama has no stomach for doing anything without the involvement and approval of the United Nations.  The problem with going in with the UN is that it means fighting a war by committee.  The members of the UN have different interests, some are opposed to our involvement, some are lukewarm, while others support it.

For instance, Russia gave its approval when the UN Security Council voted on the resolution authorizing the action, then complained once the US began providing air support for the rebels.  What did Obama do after the Russians complained?  He stopped the air support.  With air support, the rebels were able to advance 200 miles westward.  Once we stopped attacking concentrations of Libyan troops and equipment, two days ago, the rebels lost nearly all the ground they gained.  This on-again, off again air support is something like a method of torture where the victim is held underwater until he passes out, then taken out until revived, then dunked again.

Either we should provide the air cover, or not get involved at all.  If we stayed out from the beginning, Qaddafi would have regained control and crushed the revolt.  The fighting would be over, and buildings would not be getting blown up and people would not be getting killed en masse.  If we went in and made a concerted effort to support the uprising, Qaddafi would likely quickly lose, and peace would be restored.  Either way, the conflict would end.

All the lukewarm "war by UN" that we now have will accomplish is to prolong the conflict.  It comes with the price tag of billions of dollars of American tax dollars, and the possibility of death of American pilots.  Also, one of our planes may be shot down and the wreckage recovered by the enemy - like what happened in the Kosovo conflict.  The Serbs recovered the wreckage and allowed the Chinese to examine it.  They gained enough knowledge of American aircraft technology to build their own stealth bomber.  Great!  Let's give the enemy more chances to steal American weapons technology so they can kick our asses on the battlefield in the next war.

Another risk of a less than 100% commitment to the conflict now that we are involved is that Qaddafi will still crush the rebellion and remain in power.  What then?  Does anybody think he would then make nice with the United States and forgive us for bombing his country and trying to overthrow him?  Of course not.  He will be as ornery as ever and most likely will strike back at us by refusing to sell the west oil and by committing acts of terrorism against the countries that opposed him.

So let's forget what the rest of the world thinks.  Get rid of the UN charade, go in and do the job ourselves and go into Trippoi and make sure Kadaffi dies.

Monday, March 21, 2011

These Businesses Don't Want Business From Union Workers

I'm looking at today's Trentonian/  The headline says "Chri$tie V. Union on the front page and on page 3 it says UnionS' Lifeline.  The article goes on to cheer Christie's decision to refuse to negotiate with the union about health benefits, while at the same time saying that NJ's governor is not like Wisconsin Goivernor Scott Walker because he perfers to negotiate with the union rather than effectively decertifying it.

Sounds like double talk to me.  What part of "Negotiate, Don't Legislate" don't you understand Fat Boy?  I heard your budget address.  You clearly came out in support for Governor Walker's plan to destroy public employee unions.  The Trentonian went further than Christie has so far in this article and suggests that Christie should outlaw the "Agency Shop" and prevent the unions from using the state payroll system to automatically collect dues from members and nonmembers.  At first blush, the paper is talking about eliminating collections from nonmembers, who benefit from the union because they receive the benefits of the union contract.  They get union scale wages and can greive contract violations, just like full union members.  They benefit from the contract and should be paying.

The Trentonian of course would also like to see payroll contributions from members stopped too.  What this is really about is muzzling the union.  In this day and age it takes money to get your views out, and that means buying advertising time on TV and radio stations and paying lobbyists to talk to the politicians.  And why not, nobody is suggesting that the Chamber of Commerce or the State Business and Industry Association be barred from using lobbyists and the media to advance their positions.  Fair is fair.

And what's this about businesses that don't want our business.  Why else would someboby advertise their business in a reactionary anti-union publication like the Trentonian except to make a public statement that they support the paper's political position and would like to see Trenton's unionized workers take a pay cut.  So why should we spend money at any business that advertises there.

So who are the businesses that had the nerve to advertise in an anti-union publication in a union town.  These are the people who advertised in the Trentonian today.  No doubt they think you should not get a raise and should pay a lot more for health insurance and pension.

Clearly the owners of these businessesdon't like us and think they don't need our money.  Let's oblige them.  Boycott these businesses until they stop advertising in the Trentonian.  (There will be further updates of companies that chose to advertise in this rag when it runs anti-union tirades in the future). STAY AWAY FROM THESE ADVERTISERS, THEY DON'T NEED OR WANT UNION BUSINESS.

(Let 'em switch to the Trenton Times, they are less hostile to us.)

Trent Jewelers
16 Edingburg Rd.

The Little Shop
1111 State Hwy 33
Hamilton, NJ

Mr Wilson
(car dealer)


Canal Laundry
111 West Bridge St.
Morrisville, PA

Ray's Sub Shop
1540 Pennington Rd
Rt 31
Ewing, NJ

Town & Country Diner
Rt. 130 &206

Liberty Jewelery Buyers
2115 Hamilton Ave.

Italian People's Bakery
61-63 Butler St
Trenton, NJ

Dance It Up
1062 Whitehorse-Mercerville Rd
Hamilton, NJ

Peter E. Zimnis, Esz.
1245 Whitehorse-Mercerville Rd
Hamilton, NJ

Eagle Petroleum

"I Buy Houses"

$1.99 Cleaners
2699 South Broad St.

Divorce 101
1027 S. Broad St.

The Trentonian
600 Perry St
Trenton, NJ

Advanced Urgent Care
111 Lawrenceville Rd.
Lawrenceville, NJ

Scott Oil

Kathleen Scott Chasar, Esq.
2500 Brunswick Pike
Lawrenceville, NJ

Paul Robinson Charter School
643 Indiana Ave.
Trenton, NJ

"Military Family Nights"


The Haldeman Auto Group
607 Highway 33
Hamilton Square, NJ

MercerRegionalChamber of Commerce
1A Quakerbridge Plaza Dr, Suite 2
Mercerville, NJ

Amichi Milano
600 Chestnut Ave.
Trenton, NJ


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Well Intentioned Law Backfires

Electronic Waste including old television sets, stereos, computers and batteries contaminate the environment when they are improperly disposed of.  The equipment contains toxic materials such as lead and cadmium which leach into the soil and groundwater when old equipment is thrown into landfills.  Although individual batteries contain only small amounts of toxic chemicals, these add up considering the number of batteries the over eight million New Jerseyians throw away each year.  That is why Governor Corzine signed a law several years ago which requires recycling of electronic waste generated by homes and apartments.

I knew there was going to be a problem as soon as I heard the message from city hall on an autodialer message that was sent to my home back in February.  The message said that the Trenton's garbage collectors would no longer pick up old television sets and other electronic items when put out on the curb with the regular trash.  Starting March 1, these items have to be taken to the city;s recycling center on Calhoun Street.

It was then that I remember reading something in the paper about two or three years ago that said that Governor Corzine signed a law that said that towns have to recycle these items rather than collect and dispose of them in landfills or incinerators.  Prior to the implementation of this law, residences were still allowed to put electronic items in the regular garbage, even though businesses have been required to recycle them for several years.  As I said above, the idea was to keep toxic chemicals out of our air, soil and water as well as to further reduce the amount of material disposed of in landfills.

Problem is that these laws are dreamed up by lobbyists and other professional types with college degrees that live in the suburbs.  The authors probably assumed that most people would store these items until a collection date is organized or will arrange to have them hauled to a recycling facility.  They had in mind communities with environmentally conscious residents who want to do the right thing and local governments with the resources to organize an effective collection program.  The authors probably pictured most electronic devices as relatively small affairs that could be transported to the recycling facility in the family car.

Enter TRENTON, where the city government lacks the money to pay for its police and fire departments without implementing a massive tax increase which most people can't afford.  Perhaps that's why the city came up with its hare-brained plan to have people drop off the old equipment at the recycling center rather than scheduling frequent (let's say monthly) collection days for these items.

We are over two weeks into the era of garbage men refusing to take old TV sets.  How is it going?  I don't know about your street, but around here on Home, Randall, Tremont, Elm, Chestnut, Beatty, etc., we have dozens of old TVs littering the ground.  Kids and other passersby have even begun picking them up and throwing them into the streets, smashing them to bits.

You tell me what's more environmentally responsible.  Putting old TV sets into landfills away from people, or allowing this junk to accumulate in the streets, so it can be smashed to bits, leaving pieces of lead and glass shards on the ground for barefoot children and others to cut their feet on and have the material leach into people's front yards.

So why then, do the local citizenry choose to behave in a 'brown" manner and insist on destroying their own environment?  Perhaps because most people living here are not lawyers or environmental lobbyists.
Homeowners and tenants basically just want to get rid of this junk and the way you do this is by putting it on the curb.  A lot of them don't get newspapers, some of them don't have landline telephones or even speak English, so they never got the word that the garbage people won't take the junk away.  

And even if they did know about the new law, what do you expect them to do with this stuff anyway?  Most of the TVs that are being tossed out are the old type with glass picture tubes.  They are big, bulky and heavy.  It is not convenient to put them into cars, because modern cars are  often too small to transport them.  And by the way what do you do with old fashioned console TVs or the buffet size cabinet-type stereos that many elderly residents still have.  I really can picture granny carrying one of these two miles to the recycling center, can't you?

Let's face it, the law isn't working.  We didn't get a cleaner environment.  Instead, we got dozens of old televisions laying on the street getting vandalized. 

Either do the job right and implement regular collections, or allow distressed cities like Trenton to opt out and go back to landfilling this junk.  This is just another unfunded mandate, being forced on towns by the state, without state money to pay for it.  If the state wants this stuff recycled, they should pay for the collections.  Fact is, we can't afford to do the things we were already required to do.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unwanted Vistors

I logged onto my Blogspot account today to see who has been visiting my blog and what people are reading.  I noticed that one of the referring sites that was recorded today was something called

I can only imagine what this is about.  NJSP.ORG is the official New Jersey State Police website and someone logged on from this site to read my blog.  I wonder if this has something to do with the posting "Christie Check Yourself".  I hope not, but I believe it is probable that someone gave the State Police a tip that I was calling for the killing of the governor and they wanted to check it out.

First, the posting did not say this, but rather stated that there is a possibility that a sniper attack is possible, given the number of laid off police officers out there.  I gave out the governor's home address, but that is easilly obtainable from public sources online and would be accessible by anyone seriously planning an attack.  I even said that the assassin would most likely be arrested and put on trial.  Although I indicated that acquital through jury nullification might happen, allowing the shooter to get away scott free, you must admit that anybody who would think this would be anything other than a long-shot possibility would be mistaken.  After all acquital would require 12 not guilty votes.  Anything less than that would lead to a mistrial and the case would be put back on the docket for another trial.

The second comment I want to make has more to do with the ineptness of the State Police.  Checking me out by logging on through is akin to conducting surveillence in a plain white Crown Victoria with hubcaps rather than wheel covers.  It is espionoge conducted with a neon sign.  You have to be blind not to notice it.

I just have to wonder, are all undercover cops this obvious, or only just the State Police.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quack Doctors, Part II

The Three Stooges were masters of the Short, which were short films shown in movie theaters before the main feature back in the days before television became popular.  Although the Stooges stopped making new movies in the 1950s because the Hollywood studios thought the short comedy genre was dated, their shows continued to live on, and their slapstick humor can still be seen today on television, which was the very thing that originally put them out of business.  While they are funny, I sure wouldn't go to them for dental work.
 When it rains, it pours.  If a busted hot water heater and computer aren't enough for one week consider this.

When I was in bed last night, my jaw was killing me.  I had a real nasty toothache going on, but didn't do anything about it until I got up.  I was just too tired and lazy to get out of bed at 2:00 AM.  First thing in the morning I brushed my teeth and tried to floss them.  When I got near the sore spot, I practically went through the ceiling.  Guess what, it wasn't some food stuck between my teeth after all.

So onto step two.  I called out of work and called my family dentist.  I was just there a month ago for my six month checkup and he said everything was fine.  No, I don't go to Eastern Dental or some other mas production shop.  I have a 40 year old Jewish gentleman who practices alone in Bordentown.  Just him, the dental assistant and the receptionist.  Do to some prior experiences with this guy (like the time he informed me that he broke a dental drill off inside my tooth when he was attempting a root canal), I know he isn't the best dentist in the world, but how good to you have to be to do checkups and cleanings.  After the root canal from hell, I let him know that I prefer to go to a real endodontist for the heavy stuff.

So why go to this guy?  Because he gives you the personal attention you deserve and you can get an appointment right on the spot if you have a toothache.

Off to the family dentist.  He looks at the tooth and said it was fine a month ago.  He then X-rays it and says there is nothing wrong with the tooth.  I probably was grinding on it because I have been under a lot of stress lately.  He then said he will inspect the tooth by looking at it and poking on it.  He then found what he thought was the problem.  The tooth was fractured.  He said he was going to numb me up and drill it a little bit,  However after two shots of Novacane, my jaw refused to become numb.  That was actually a good thing, because it saved me from being drilled on by some Three Stooges guy with a dental license.

The family dentist got me an appointment latter in the day with my endodontist in Mt. Laurel.  She got the thing numb right away and did the root canal.  She said that this was a longstanding problem, that my tooth was infected and that the infection was so bad that it left the root of the tooth and went into the jaw.  She said that if the infection can be stopped, she can probably save the tooth.  (When she gets done, Three Stooges guy gets to put a crown on it.)  So she gave me a prescription for pennicilin and Percocet and sent me home.  I feel 100% better without the infected root pulp and nerve.  Also, I;m relieved knowing I probably won't get encephelitis from the infected tooth the other dentist missed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Christie, Check Yourself

Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who shot President Kennedy.  A crack shot, trained as a sniper in the United States Marine Corps, he was able to take the president down with three shots from a window in the Texas School Book Depository.  Was he just a lone nut, or did he work for Fidel Castro or the CIA, we'll never know.  In any event a rifle in the hands of a trained sniper is a proven political gamechanger.

Right now, I'm relaxing, listening to my girlfriend, Ada Falcon on the DVR.  In case you don't know, Ada Falcon is the tango singer that had a better voice than Liberitad Lamarque, but quit the business in 1942 to become a cloistered nun.  She died in 2002 or 2003.  I think it is a requirement for tango singers to live to at least 90 years old.  You know, they put something in the water in Argentina to keep them alive that long.

Over the past week I have been trying to prove Murphy's Law.  My laptop fried out around Tuesday or Wednesday and way replaced with some asskicking model from HP for about $1,000.  On Friday, my hot water heater kicked the bucket and left me with a flood in the basement.  I played Auschwitz yesterday dragging this heavy 50 gallon 50,000 BTU unit in my basement yesterday and hooking it up.  I got my nephew coming tomorrow to help me drag the dead unit out of the basement.  We'll see how long it takes the scavengers to take it off the curb.

Speaking of life's disasters, last Thursday, there was a protest at the statehouse.  About 7,000 police and fire fighters showed up to protest proposed increases to the cost of health insurance and lengthening the time it takes to become eligible for a pension.  The Trentonian was somewhat baffled.  They couldn't understand why the cops were also opposed to Stephen Sweeney, since he is a Democrat.Both Sweeney and Christie are collaborating on a plan to drastically increase the cost of health insurance, dilute the quality of the coverage, increase the cost of pensions and decrease the payout that retirees receive.

This is just plain wrong.  Perhaps the senate should take up Shirley Turner's bill to permanently increase income tax rates on those making a million a year or more.  Both Sweeney and Christie are opposed to this.  They think the millionaires need their yacht gas money more than workers need decent and affordable health insurance and pensions.
Last year, Christie allowed the temporary increase on income taxes for millionaires to expire.  He said it would help create jobs because the millionaires will hire more people.  I don't know, but I haven't seen any new jobs result from it.  I have seen our cities stripped of municipal aid and have seen hundreds of cops laid off.  Just like I said before if you want bigger fires and stronger gangs, support Christie.

In Trenton, so far no police or fire personnel have been laid off.  Mayor Mack has been balancing the city's budget with hope and peanut oil.  He hoped to get federal grants to pay for the cops, but they never came through.  He also put in a massive property tax increase last year.  He wanted to raise property taxes again this year by about 10 percent, but City Council won't go for it.  Too bad.  When the cops go and the criminals start running wild, blame city council, not Tony Mack.  Better yet, blame your governor friend who gutted the city's treasury.

Besides not being on the job, there is another danger involved in having lots of laid off policemen sitting on their butts collecting unemployment.  These men are trained in the use of firearms and have a deep seated grudge against the governor.  I could imagine one of them stationing himself in the woods across the street from 40 Corey Lane in Mendham and blowing the governor's head off.  The ex-cop just also might take out his lovely stockbroker wife and a few state trooper bodyguards.  Not that I would want to see the governor actually assassinated, but it is a strong possibility that could happen.  I also wouldn't be surprised if a jury acquitted the assassin of all charges regardless of the evidence presented.  Juries have the right to nullification, which is to ignore the evidence and let the defendant go because they disagree with the law.  That's why we have juries.  They are a check on the state's power to enforce arbitrary laws.  The right goes all the back to the Magna Carta, when knights wore armor and rode around on horseback.

Perhaps someone will go to Mendham and solve the problem by busting a cap in Christie's head. If that happens, it would be a sad day indeed.