Wednesday, April 16, 2008

E Pluribus Unum?

Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer must be grinning nonstop since the appellate court granted his pal, ousted Police Director Joe Santiago, a stay. After all, he promised to drag this out in the courts for years. That the hearing is scheduled for June 3, rather than any time later, is a nice sign from the courts that maybe they aren't interested in this case going on and on, even if the mayor is.

Palmer's promise to drag this out in the courts is what offends me the most, I think. Next comes what seems to be his blind loyalty to one guy, Joe Santiago. Ultimately, it shows a complete lack of regard for Trenton, for its people, its laws, its future. Putting aside all of Santiago's weaknesses, and even his strengths, for one moment, and just looking at this for what it is — Palmer defending Santiago like a pit bull defends its owner — it's just totally senseless and unfair.

I read the editorial in today's Times about the residency issue, and while it hints at some decent points, like maybe city council ought to be discussing this more (like [in my opinion] maybe they should be discussing what the heck to do in a post-Santiago, post-Palmer Trenton), it just seems that the editor who penned today's piece, as well as other area newspaper editors on different occasions, are missing the point. I have no right speaking for anyone else, but I am pretty sure that most residents of this city who are opposed to the idea of giving any Mayor (but particularly one with dictator-like tendencies) the legal ability to grant favors, do indeed realize there are big problems in this city, problems bigger than residency, even though a few newpaper editors have suggested otherwise. Santiago's lack of residency, and Palmer's improper waiver — giving Santiago the right to live in Morris County (as well as a car, free gas and a cell phone) — is that it symbolizes the complete randomness of the law here, the complete lack of regard for priorities, for tax money, for the citizens. Politics here in Trenton — and possibly all over the state — have become about favors and getting ahead; many politicians, including many of Trenton's top municipal politicians, have totally lost sight of civic duty, and bettering the community. To them, ruling has become just a job, a big powerful, money-making job.

This city is made up of individuals, and so many of them are remarkable, talented, wonderful people; and all of whom live here without a residency ordinance forcing them to stay. Sure, some of them are stuck here, tucked into the squalorous corners of the city; and some others are here by choice. Regardless of what's said about the condition of Trenton, outside of Trenton, there are many glorious homes, many maintained properties, in every neighborhood of this city (even some of the scary neighborhoods), and that's thanks to the individuals who live here. Thrown into this mix, there are the drug dealers, the robbers, the hunters who prey on others — these people exist everywhere, and not just in Trenton. We have more than our fair share here. But I'm convinced — even though we witness several criminal acts a week from our back windows — that most people ARE good. I believe this.

Santiago is just one person, a well-off guy with a hefty salary, with a lot of perks, and a decent pension from his stint with the State Police. He's got a big, expensive house in Morris County, surrounded mostly by trees, and probably has no neighbors who play their music too loudly, or sell drugs in front of his house. Probably none of his neighbors tighten their belts around the middle of their thighs, like some of my neighbors do (which I think is funny, especially when their pants fall down). Heck, I'd go out on a limb and bet most of his neighbors don't even toss their McDonald's trash into his hedges. He'll be okay without us. He'll be okay, ultimately, without the help of Mayor Palmer, even if it means he's gonna have to say goodbye to us a bit sooner. Santiago works in a city of approximately 80,000 residents, and to be fair, probably two-thirds of them are decent, quality people. Many of them protect their little patches of the city, even though they are demoralized that their fight goes unnoticed by the city's administration; many stay, despite the lack of help from Trenton's politicians, because they know their own efforts are the only reason their neighborhoods haven't completely collapsed; they know it's the right thing to do. Many other individuals are fighting for basic survival; they're living day-to-day, struggling, and yet, not turning to a life of crime. I just don't know why Mayor Palmer doesn't spend some time focusing on, or even (dare I write it?) calling in favors for these people — his own Trenton neighbors! — right here in the city. I don't know how he can call the concerned, but pissed-off resident "a hater;" I don't know how on earth he can possibly think it's a good thing that "the haters" move out of the city. I don't know how he can go to work, knowing there are people starving right here, people without shelter right here, people living in warzones right here, and not do something more for them. The people of Trenton — the people who elected Palmer — need his help far more than Santiago does.

It's a mystery as to how Palmer can even sleep at night while his city loses its hold on modern, first world amenities, but obviously, he is sleeping at night, because he's got lots of energy to fight for Santiago. It's disgraceful.

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