Surreal Life comes to Trenton...
...oh wait, the surreal life IS Trenton...
...and here's why:
1. The Press: In college, I took a course called "The Trenton Press Wars." Probably uninteresting to anyone not from the area, and not interested in journalism. But there was a very simple reason for such a class: Trenton was one of a very few American cities with two competing newspapers, and the shit that happened in Trenton (the city, not the capital in this case) actually MATTERED. Many cities have two papers, but they're owned by the same company. But now, the Times of Trenton, or the Trenton Star Ledger, is all but gone. And this week, the Trentonian filed for bankruptcy. Love the papers or hate them (or their employees), this is hugely significant because Trenton runs the risk of losing the (often small and pathetic) printed voices it has, and that's unacceptable. This also indicates that the written word needs some rethinkin', since the closing of bureaux and the filing of bankruptcy doesn't just happen to newspapers in Trenton. Though, when it happens in other cities, the organization can put all of its apples into its other paper or TV or radio station. We don't have that luxury.
We already have a city government that acts with impunity, and without the newspapers, we might be in even bigger trouble.
2. The Pauls: Several of our existing politicians, and political hopefuls are the stuff of make-believe, as in, this shit would not happen anywhere else. Take the Pauls for instance. There's Paul Pintella, the Idiot Prince, who is not only unable to think for himself, but is also a completely disrespectful guy with some SERIOUS skeletons in his closet. Not only does he get elected to city council, but the other nitwits on council actually appoint him to council president. On more than one occasion. This is not the stuff of bad dreams or a work of fiction like the 1993 flick, Groundhog Day, but in this case, we — not Bill Murray — are reliving the same crap over and over again, IN REAL LIFE, because collectively, we haven't learned from our mistakes. This is real life in Trenton. Is our esteem so damn low that we cannot do any better than a mongo like Paul Pintella?
And then there's young Paul Harris, from the South Ward, who has been on the receiving end of Paul Pintella's lack of respect, and yet, has still been seduced by the Palmer machine (Pintella is a mindless cog in said machine). I have, on more than one occasion, agreed with some of the things that Paul Harris said, but it's only because he says every damn thing that pops into his head, it's simply impossible to disagree all the time. He is also planning to run against the only productive member of council, Jim Coston, instead putting his effort into one of the THREE possibly open at-large seats. This is stupid, and insane, and rude. Deep down, I suspect, he has a martyr complex, and likes the conflict, and the sound of his own voice. He does get picked on a lot on the forums, and I will admit that sometimes it is unwarranted, and petty. But often, it isn't, because Paul is driven by ego alone and does not often have a point, except when he's talking about how he's been treated. He argues for the sake of arguing; but this is not the debate team: this is real life. I think he's running for office because of the perceived prestige he thinks is associated with it, and does not understand the people he hopes to represent, nor the work involved to do that.
3. The Water Deal: I haven't said much about this, because I reached the point of bullshit saturation, last summer. My brain was simply too f'in full of all the other bullshit that happens here that I just had no room left to process the fact that the city's politicians actually want to sell off the one revenue-generating thing we have left in this city, and for the stupidest of reasons. The money will likely to cover the gaping hole in our budget caused by all that damn gas our lame-ass Mayor and his lame-ass friend, Joe Santiago, pissed away over the last couple of years while the price of fuel was obscene, and Santiago was in violation of the residency ordinance (Palmer still is); and it will balance the books after the city pissed away several hundred grand on Palmer's frivolous lawsuit to defend his friend in that residency lawsuit. Oh yeah, the sale of the Water Works will also help pay for the salaries of all the extraneous staff members Palmer has in his posse, people who should have never been hired in the first place. That our city's government cannot see the shortsightedness of this is just surreal; there are no guarantees how much we'll be paying for water in a couple years after we don't own the system anymore. Palmer needs to be held accountable for HIS wastefulness; city council, save for a few uncharacteristically lucid months last year, has been his softheaded, moronic accomplice, and also needs to be held responsible.
4. The "Don't Tell Us Nothin'" Mentality: Trenton is a small city fortuitously located in one of the nation's wealthiest states, and in a region filled with educational and cultural opportunities. Yet, Trenton spirals downward. Our kids don't graduate high school, and land in jail, while all the other kids, RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR BORDERS, not only stay out of jail, but actually go on to college and make something of themselves. Around us, there are functional, vibrant, low-crime cities (no, I'm not talking about Philadelphia; that city has been suffering from the same condition that Trenton has). So much research has been done on how to make cities more prosperous, on how to deter crime. Take a look at this eye-opening Newsweek article about a criminologist whose anti-gang/anti-crime tactics have been working in other cities; or the popular and now-ubiquitous "Broken Window" theories that are employed successfully in so many places; or Malcolm Gladwell's extremely logical, sensible essays (read some of them here) on crime and profiling and ideas that can turn a place around. Every now and then, a study group — usually citizen-driven — comes together to discuss these ideas, but I'd bet that most of our leaders don't, because they don't need to be told what to do. They can figure it all out by themselves, because, after all, they're so fucking smart. They're the elected and appointed ones, and they have things under control.
And I have a headache.