Thursday, January 17, 2008

WiFi = NoGo in Lawrence

I just read in the Lawrence Ledger that Lawrence Township has put the kibosh on their dreams for town-wide wireless internet. While the article is lacking some critical details, by not delving into the reasons why the township won't be providing the service, the officials involved in Lawrence's six-month feasibility study have made their conclusions clear: WiFi is not for Lawrence.

Even though the article had me asking more questions than it answered, I noted that Lawrence studied FOR SIX MONTHS whether or not it was possible to provide WiFi to Lawrence residents. Compare that approach to what happened here in Trenton: Mayor Doug Palmer liked the idea of WiFi (but does he even know how to operate a computer?), asked for council approval, and got it. I know I'm oversimplifying a bit (except for the part about the mayor not even knowing how to use a computer), but that's basically how things work here. So, the city gave the WiFi a contract to a firm called E-Path Communications, who has an unproven track record. I'm not trying to be overly negative, but it seems that city-wide wireless access may be unattainable for years and years and years, and even when (and if) WiFi is up and running here, we gotta hope that the atmosphere in this city has changed significantly, so that:
A) average residents can afford a computer, and

B) our restaurants and coffee shops have real world hours, which might attract out-of-town guests with laptops.
To me, the possible unattainability of WiFi in Trenton isn't so much about cost, which may not even apply to our WiFi efforts at this time, it's about pride. Every few weeks the Mayor gets in the spotlight and announces some other grand dream for Trenton, which always sounds good in theory — who doesn't like the idea of a greener city, for crying out loud? — but winds up being either entirely impractical in our city because of the current state of finances, or the grand dream is just hot air streaming meaninglessly out of the mouth of Doug, whose REAL dreams are only for himself and his close buddies who might be able to help him down the road.

This sort of approach: "WiFi for Trenton!" or "We're gonna have a green city!" or whatever the catch phrase of the week is, is just demoralizing when the plans are so obviously discarded or impossible to achieve. Doug is blabbing on and on about WiFi and all the great environmentally-minded things we're gonna do in Trenton, after, of course, we raze a perfectly good high school building, and build a new one (probably for too much money, and without a care for the environment, and certainly without WiFi capabilities), even though every single person in the whole world — except Doug and the folks getting the contract to build the new high school — know that demolition the stupidest course of action ever, especially for a supposed green city, and one as financially strapped as Trenton, to boot.

There's a new deli across the street from DeLorenzo's on Hamilton Avenue, in the same neighborhood as the high school. While I try to be supportive of businesses in the city, that place flat-out scares me too much to even look at it for more than a few seconds, because there's always several thuggy looking dudes hanging out in front, and the back alley behind the place is a rat's nest waiting to happen that I just can't stand to see that kind of mess. If we're so green, why isn't this new shop forced to keep tidier? I hope the store owner takes a bit more responsibility, or the city encourages him to do so, before DeLorenzo customers decide the best pizza in the world isn't worth parking on that side of Hamilton Avenue, or on the first block of Ardmore, which ultimately causes DeLorenzo's to bail, too. This part of the East Ward can't afford another loss of an established business, especially after Michele Lorie's pulled out recently.

It just seems to me that Trenton — under the leadership of Mayor Douglas Palmer — is all about blather, mindless, pointless, embarrassing prattle, without any results. There are real, tangible, fixable things that need addressing right this very second, but we spend way too much energy and time Gettin' Dreamy with Doug. I am sick, too, of the shitty hours at the local restaurants, but even sicker, still, that the crap going on around them may drive them away once and for all. I'm tired of, and embarrassed by, the empty promises of a green city and WiFi and nearly everything else that comes out of city hall. I want some pride. I want my neighbors to have pride. And sure, that comes from within. But it also trickles down. We need more cops patrolling the streets — here's an idea, how about ON FOOT, so we stop experiencing so many muggings, and which would curtail loitering around neighborhood shops; we need Inspections to help keep lazy residents and shop owners on their toes and fastidiously tidy; we need a mayor who will listen to our concerns, not force us to file suit against him. We never asked for WiFi or a green city*, and we absolutely should not have to ask for the various departments in this city to simply do their jobs to the best of their abilities (where's their pride?). But if that's how it has to be, then I'm asking: city officials and employees, you need to get back to work. On your listening skills. On real projects. On quality of life issues. Please.


* Again, for the record, I like green a lot, and the idea of WiFi is kind of cool. I'm not against it. But I'm not gung-ho for it, if the time invested in those things sacrifices what we need fixed — and can fix — now, before this city reaches the point of no return. A green, wireless enabled city won't mean shit if Trenton becomes a ghost town.


Miss Karen said...

Amen, sister. A-freaking-men. Baby steps is all we're asking here. Not sound bites and pipe dreams.

Old Mill Hill said...

But when all you have in the pockets of your empty suit is empty promises and an imaginary vision, what else are you gonna sell to the folks but sound bites and pipe dreams!