User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: February 2012

"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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We'll Have the Last Word

So you thought Christie and Sweeney succeeded in making public employees pay more for their pensions and at the same time doing away with annual cost of living increases.  After all, the state passed a law to that effect.

As many of you probably know, at least part of that law has been blocked by the state supreme court.  They ruled that it is unconstitutional to make sitting judges pay more for their pensions because the increased contributions are effectively a pay cut, and the state constitution says judges' salaries cannot be diminished during their term of office.

Now it looks like the other shoe is about to drop.  Federal judges in New Hampshire and Arizona recently ruled that increases in pension contribution rates for ordinary public employees in those states are also unconstitutional.  This is because, like New Jersey, the changes were made by legislation, not negotiation with the unions. 

Why?  The US Constitution says that state cannot pass laws to impair contracts, and these states passed laws to break their contract with workers in those states to provide a pension at the contribution rates they paid when hired.  These rulings were made by district court judges, so they are not binding on other courts, but other judges will look to these ruling for guidance, and it is likely decisions in other courts will come down the same way.

In New Jersey, the unions are challenging the increased pension contributions and elimination of the COLA because workers served on their jobs with the understanding that the contribution rate would remain the same and that the cost of living increases will continue to be paid after retirement.

Let's hope a federal judge sticks it to Christie and forces the state to cough up the extra money for pensions.  This should bust Christie's income tax cut proposal for good.

To see more about this, check out this link.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Real Deal

World War II took place about 70 years ago.  Most of what we know has come second or third hand through history books and Hollywood films.

Many people think that the only ones that were persecuted under the Nazis were the Jews.  That is because whenever a swastika or pro-Nazi material shows up, some newspaper starts mentioning the Jews.  True, the Jews made up the largest group of Nazi victims, but they were by no means the only ones.  That is because the Nazis took Jesus's philosophy and turned it on its head.  Rather than "Whoever is not against me is for me." they believed "Whoever is not for us is against us" and backed it up with brutal punishments right out of the middle ages.

Take a look at some US films made of Nazi facilities right after the war to see what really went on in the Nazi penal system.

In fact about 11 million were killed, of which 6 million were Jews and 5 million were non-Jewish.
Who were the non-Jews.  Well, they were prisoners of wars, underground fighters, Communists and other political anti-Nazis as well as Catholic priests and people who were simply in the way:   Slavs, those who were not liked by the Nazi cops and other undesirables like homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses and Gypsies.

Not all Jews are unobjective.  Here is a video made by a Jew which basically speaks about the Holocaust from the contemporary Jewish perspective but acknowledges that it was a universal experience and not simply a Jewish experience.  No, I am not a denier, the killing was dominated by racism, but the truth is that the test was three-pronged.  You had to be liked by the establishment, be sufficiently enthusiastic about their politics and be of the right racial and ethnic stock and religion to be considered acceptable.  If not you were open game.  Many more than Jews qualified for death.

To see what the Nazi's Croatian brothers would do to their Orthodox Christian enemies, click here

Tell Me If This Video Helps Sell Our City

If you need a place to live in central New Jersey, Trenton, by far has the lowest cost housing.  But you will think that anyone living somewhere else that is thinking about buying here has to be crazy after watching this video.  Here is the Gangland Trenton video that aired several years back.  It is about the Trenton Sex, Money Murder set of the Bloods street gang.

While Sex Money Murder is currently out of business, we have other Bloods sets that are equally dangerous.  So if you like watching police drama without needing to turn on the television, perhaps Trenton is for you.  If you like it quiet, than the suburbs will be more to your liking.

Here is the Gangland Trenton about Sex Money Murder and the Gangster Killer Bloods:

For the Gangland Trenton about the Netas and the Latin Kings click here:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Truth About Governor Christie

Now I can see it.  All the Republicans out there are going to be writing in saying that I got it all wrong, just like they always do when I criticize the governor.  But let's face it, you have to admit it was a little disingenious to spend two years cutting back on aid to municipalities and cutting wages and benefits of public employees, not only for the stated purpose of "we can't afford it", but to finance a tax cut as well.

After our governor went ahead with the cuts which have left Trenton, Newark and Camden together short over 1,000 police officers and caused a massive spike in crime in these cities, our governor now thinks we deserve a 10 percent cut in the state income tax rate.  Of course, such a tax cut is being done to boost his popularity in the suburbs because it proves he can "do something" about the high cost of government here.  He certainly believes such a move will help boost his reelection chances when he has to run for office next year.

When talk of the cuts surfaced at the start of his term, I said that they will lead to more crime, bigger fires and larger class sizes.  Well my prediction was right, and at least some of the impact is being felt in the suburbs where things like Chinese classes and varsity hockey had to be cut out.  In the cities however, the cuts have done more than cause some budgetary trimming around the edges.  Rather it has required cuts in essential services that wouldn't be tolerated in more wealthy communities.

Consider the cuts to Camden's fire department, which almost went to the breaking point after being overwhelmed by a series of factory fires.  Or how about Trenton, where the mayor proposed getting rid of the TAC squad (SWAT team) because we did not have enough patrol officers.  Here we got things like a shootout on Route 29 that caused the road to be shut down when state workers had to go to work the following morning, costing the taxpayers millions in lost workplace hours because anyone using this road was at least a hour late for work.  Those of you that don't work for government may think "so what", however it was a bid deal when a car is traveling south at a high rate of speed in the northbound lane of a divided highway and when gunfire is being exchanged between two other cars all when bystanders are using the road to go home from work.  See, its not just Trenton people that are affected, but anyone who has to pass through our city.  For a news video about the shooting, click here.    

And with the Governor's two percent cap on pay raises and property taxes, you will see that over time, this is not sustainable.  A better plan would have been to tie raises to the Consumer Price Index, but that wouldn't have made as good a sound byte.  When inflation exceeds two percent (which it does now), the earning power of public employees will be eroded.  Eventually their wages will fall far enough behind the private sector that nobody will want to take jobs with the state, county, police departments or school districts.  My guess is that in 10 years, this scheme will become unworkable.

But what does the governor care anyway.  He is a fake and a fraud that isn't really solving problems.  He is just shifting the burden to the cities (where nobody votes Republican and few people bother to vote at all), and to public workers.  And eventually all this will come back to haunt all taxpayers in the state.  But Christie knows that this won't happen right away.  He will keep the illusion going just long enough to finish his second term then move on to bigger and better things.

Sounds like the true pandering political whore that Christie is.

2/6/12;  Its Monday, one day after writing the above.  Perhaps the language is a little coarse, but you have to admit that a tax cut in the face of ongoing state deficits is not a good idea from a fiscal standpoint.  It only makes sense as a political statement to convince voters he has been more successful in getting costs under control than he really has and to buy some votes for next year's reelection effort.

Even the Trentonian, which is a stoutly Republican paper, doesn't like all of Christie's program.  Click here to find out what they have to say:

The Money Pit

The Marriott hotel opened on Lafayette Street in downtown Trenton.  The hotel is owned by a city-owned nonprofit corporation.  So far it has consumed millions of taxpayer's dollars, yet has never made a profit.

How much would you be willing to pay to keep a hotel in your city?  For Trenton's mayor and city council, the answer of course is "plenty".  Last week the city council voted to shovel another $500,000 into the hotel to pay for operating expenses.  The hotel's board asked the city council for the additional money because it was unable to pay its vendors and probably would have gone out of business without the cash infusion.  The money is intended to keep the hotel open until the end of March when, guess what, more money may be needed.

And the half a million is just for operating expenses.  The city is required to pay $1.2 million per year for the bonds that were used to build the hotel.  So the hotel is unable to meet what amounts to its mortgage payment and is also unable to cover the day-to-day expenses for its operation.

Here, we are a place that has a high school that is falling down with garbage cans inside that are used to catch the water when it rains.  We are short 100 police officers after layoffs in July made necessary by Governor Christie's aid cuts and we are stuck with this albortos.  You would think the money would be better spent on public safety or schools, especially since last week's shootout on the Rt. 29 freeway.

Not here in fantasyland.  To truly understand the mindset of our public officials and the spineless mentality of the city's newspapers which help mold public opinion, you have to go back to the 1990s during Mayor Palmer's administration.   Palmer used to say that we were the only state capital in the country without a first class hotel and that such a hotel was needed to stimulate economic development.  He proposed that if a private company wasn't willing to come here and build one with their own money, then the city should borrow money and build the hotel on its own.  And that's just what we did.  In order to get a better interest rate on the bonds, we even signed an agreement binding the city's taxpayers for repayment of the bonds.  Which means that we can't just walk away from the $1.2 million per year, but must still pay it even if the hotel is shut down.

And where was the Trenton Times and Trentonian when our public officials came up with this stroke of genius?  Why they vigorously supported the mayor's plans.  And these are the same papers today which are loudly complaining about the city financing a bottomless pit.  They should have seen the possibility that perhaps companies wouldn't build a hotel here on their own because it wasn't profitable to do so.  Perhaps the "build it and they'll come" approach wasn't a good idea after all. 

So now we're stuck with this thing.  And it has had no impact on economic development as far as I can tell.  Even with the hotel, private companies aren't exactly breaking down the doors to open businesses here. 

Perhaps a functional school system and police department would do more than a fancy hotel to attract investment.  What do you think?  Exactly.