Monday, June 9, 2008

Whoever smelt* it, dealt it
and the 2010 municipal elections

Disagreement and dissension can be helpful in politics, when used to guarantee that all avenues have been explored, and all groups of people have been represented.

This isn't happening in Trenton, and hasn't been. For years, council served only as a rubber stamp for the Douglas Palmer Administration; the rubber stamp council would have been more palatable if Palmer were a visionary, and improved the city. But after nearly 20 years in power — most of that time has been with a cooperative council — it's apparent by our dwindling population, our suffering businesses, our decaying architecture, and our rising crime, that the Palmer reign has been a wholesale failure.

Again, it's healthy for a legislative body to argue and have different opinions, but it's obvious to everyone in this city, we're left with a group of three council representatives who pledge allegiance to Palmer, instead of the people they were elected to serve. In recent months, the Palmer administration has introduced several controversial items for a council vote; items loaded with short-sightedness and cronyism, and nearly every time, the West Ward block on city council — West Ward rep Annette Lartigue, and at-large reps Paul Pintella (who is also our rude council president), and Cordelia Staton — defy logic and the will of the people, and vote for the Palmer initiatives; initiatives, which, at best, do nothing for the citizens of this city, and at worse, will continue to raise taxes. And I'm not one of those people who bitch about taxes; they are a necessary evil; but there's no reason why homeowners here in Trenton pay as much as we do, especially considering the services we get in return. Palmer, too, comes from the West Ward, though he most likely does not live there full-time these days.

Not only do Lartigue, Pintella, and Staton, support short-sighted Palmershit, but they do so blindly; South Ward rep Jim Coston asked the administration for more information about a number of items up for vote last week, and his request for information was ignored. He, and East Ward rep, Gino Melone, North Ward rep, Milford Bethea, and at-large rep, Manny Segura did THE ONLY THING thinking people could do: they tabled the items until they had the information necessary for a vote. In doing so, Lartigue accused the four of collusion, which makes me think about psychological transference; after all, she and her colleagues from the west were ready to vote on those items, seemingly without any background information, which is incredibly stupid, and indicates that perhaps the three council reps from the West were actually the ones colluding with the mayor. Transference, Annette, is just another way of saying, "whoever smelt it, dealt it," and it just seems to me, and a lot of other people, that you've be dealin' it. A LOT of it. You can't get away with blaming the new guy anymore.

The municipal election is two years away, and all of us haters are, of course, talking about it. But we need to do more than talk. We need a plan of action so we don't have a repeat of the 2006 election, which was one of the most disappointing elections in which I've ever participated (save for South Ward rep Jim Coston's victory; the mailman had to go). And we need to start planning our strategy now.

I have a lot of thoughts on strategy, including marketing and winning the hearts of voters, but for now, we have one very important task; we haters need to find fantastic, dedicated candidates. Here are my thoughts on that:

Elected office is about civic responsibility and service, plain and simple. It's not about ego or career or personal goals. So we need a few good candidates, who just want to serve the people properly, and have the ability to do so. And I do mean a few. In my mind, we have several smart, functioning, accessible representatives on city council, and while I personally may not agree with every single decision they make, or everything they do, they are doing their jobs, serving the people who elected them. Maybe they collectively only grew a spine in recent months, or maybe they didn't have a majority before. Either way, better late than never. We need to focus on the detritus hailing from West Ward; and so we need four solid, electable candidates: one for mayor, one for West Ward rep, and two for at-large.

I think it would be a wise idea if everyone interested in running for these positions make it known now; and let's all get together to talk. We can hold a Hater's Primary, so that way, we can pool resources, money, talent, and put our best candidates forward, so we don't have a gaggle of people running for the three at-large positions (as we saw in 2006), and a small army running against itself for mayor (again, as we saw in 2006). Seriously, time to put the egos aside; we need to work as a team. We need FOUR — just FOUR — people to run for these positions. Of course, the two at-large positions I'd like to see targeted need not be filled by people from the West Ward. Ideally, it would be sweet to see at least one person from the North or the South fill one of those positions, since those areas are underrepresented on council (Manny, I believe, lives in the East [though feel free to correct me if I'm wrong; he lives close enough, though, to see what happens here]). Balance and equity among the wards and people of this city is critical now.

I realize that the West Ward, in many ways, is this city's anomaly, but is currently a tad bit over-represented, if you can call what Palmer, Pintella, Lartigue, and Staton do "representation." (I can't.) On the West side, there are much tighter civic associations, higher real estate prices, better schools, and at least in certain communities, almost a downright suburban feel. Still, Doug Palmer, and his slate of West Side puppets do not have their constituents' best interests at heart; it's about ladder-climbing for them. That has to change: some of this city's most horrific crime takes place in war-torn pockets of the West Ward; the more affluent West Ward communities have not quite been able to completely shield themselves against that. And it will get worse if the elected West Side Vacuum of Free Thought gets reelected: the disparity between neighborhoods in the West is incredible. The West is worth fighting for by all of us in the city; we are one city, and if the tight-knit civic groups in the west can put forth two electable at-large candidates who see the writing on the wall, the tenuous situation they're in, and will act on behalf of all of our best interests, well, then, that's cool with me.

So that's my morsel of wisdom for the day: we need to get rid of the current slate that crawled out of the West Ward, including the mayor. And all of us who want change need to band together and put forth just four awesome candidates to make that happen. My fellow haters, don't populate our 2010 ballot with names, please. If the vote gets split and Palmer, Pintella, Lartigue, and Staton get re-elected, oh, I'm gonna be pissed.

For the record, while it's been funny read comments here, and over on The Front Stoop that I should run for office, I can tell you, that ain't gonna happen. It ain't gonna happen, because if all goes well, we're in for complete lifestyle change in mid-August. Plus, I can't think of anything less appealing than campaigning: I have a love-hate relationship with society, and if I get too up-close-and-personal with my neighbors, the hate would handily win the war within me. I make no apologies for that, or that I'd get caught too many times rolling my eyes at people, or sighing, or cussing; qualities I certainly admire in others, but I know not everyone feels the same way. Plus, I don't have the wardrobe.


* When I worked for a food distributor/manufacturer several years ago, I learned smelts are fishes that are sold in cans, like sardines or anchovies. I also know that smelting is a process to remove iron from ore. And it's a very antiquated word for the past tense of the verb "to smell." Normally, I prefer modern vocabulary, but smelled, while grammatically correct, doesn't provide the same cadence or written visual appeal to the old fart adage.

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