Monday, November 14, 2011

The Signatures

I thought I'd only have to sign the letter and call it a day.

That's not what happened. I signed the letter of intent to recall the mayor of Trenton and the subsequent effort took over the better part of my life for the next five months. And, to be fair, I contributed a fraction compared to the folks who signed along with me.

Approximately 8,500 Trenton residents signed the petition; more people stopped by to sign and turn in petitions while we were getting ready for our press conference today. Bittersweet. Despite the fact that our cause is supported by the people of Trenton, we didn't meet our goal. I'm incredibly disappointed, and also afraid for what this means for Trenton. I don't believe Tony Mack has the mental wherewithal to comprehend what has happened over the last few months; I don't think he understands that just because he will remain in office (at least he cannot be recalled) does not mean he has won the hearts and minds of the voting public. He does not have our permission to conduct business as he has been.

The Tony Mack Fan Club will say that we were a ragtag band of favor-seeking, sour-grape-eating malcontents, just picking on poor l'il Tony. They'll say we could have spent our time better. The TMFC will probably say we weren't organized enough or didn't work hard enough. But that's not the case, as the picture above shows.

I think some of us at the center of this effort feel we could have done more. Well, I do, anyway. It's only natural. But I also know how many times I heard something like, "I completely support you, but am afraid of retaliation." I have dealt with tyrants and bullies, so on one hand, I understand the fear and confusion. And, on the other, I just look to my fellow signers — such brave individuals!* — and cannot fully understand how people could not take a relatively small risk. I hope Marion Ray doesn't take this the wrong way, but she's not exactly a young woman. Despite her age, she was perhaps the most unstoppable of all of us: she was a signature-gathering machine. Despite the aches, she rubbed her legs down with Ben-Gay and forged on. And on. And on. And on. Aida Wimbush has a full-time job and family (including four kids!), and has the charisma and infectious energy to win over so many of those who held back from signing, and she never slowed down. Craig Shofed and Dave Ponton — both of whom have very recently faced their mortality; both of whom underwent major surgery recently — perhaps have the best understanding of risks in life; they understand priorities. It's because of my affection and admiration for Dave and Craig that I just can't help feeling that the "I'm afraid of retaliation from the Macks," is shit. Pure shit. These two men — one with a new kidney, and the other recuperating from open heart surgery — pushed themselves, often past the point of utter exhaustion. They very literally risked their lives for Trenton. And people were too afraid to sign the petition. Phooey.

I keep looking at my picture of the stacks of signed petitions and feel somewhat better about the efforts so many of us made. Sure, I wish we had more signatures. But I also think it's important to point out that the process to recall an elected official is a difficult one, and in a place like Trenton, where corruption in politics and poverty among the populace is the norm, even holding regular elections is challenging. Attempting a recall is daunting. The committee to recall the mayor was given a list of registered voters in the city by the County Board of Elections; we needed to get 25% of those registered voters to sign the petition. And, in going door-to-door, we learned that so many people have left the city; some of them years ago. I truly believe if the rolls of registered voters were more accurate, our 8,500 signatures would have been more than enough.

So. What's next? I don't know. I suspect Tony's little head will engorge with self-aggrandizement, thinking he has won this battle. He is mistaken. This is just the beginning. And, with his overinflated ego, it's only a matter of time before his next act of stupidity. It's going to catch up with him one way or another.

_______

* I'm turning this into a full-on lovefest. Sorry! I just wanted to point out that in addition to those who signed the letter of intent with me, those who worked closely with the cause are also some of the most wonderful people I've met. Tracey Syphax embodies transformation and personal growth. Darren Freedom Green is just pure decency and compassion, and I might just have to make a Darren Freedom Green Action Figure to keep with me at all times for inspiration. Jo-Carolyn Dent Clark proves that strength and grace belong together. I am so glad I signed that letter of intent. Trenton has some great bones.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ironically and Somewhat Out of Context

The three people left in the city who support Tony Mack issued a statement this morning discrediting five failed 2010 Trenton mayoral candidates who are supporting the recall effort. In their statement, the Tony Mack Fan Club (TMFC) quoted an afterthought* from my blog where I called one of the former mayoral candidates now supporting my cause "The Idiot Prince." I just wanted to point out that my "Idiot Prince" comment was in small type, after the actual entry, which was, interestingly, a letter to Tony Mack, asking him to withdraw from the election. I still wish he had withdrawn. We'd be in much better shape right now. Even if the Idiot Prince were mayor now.**

I wanted to add that I am flattered that at least some people in the TMFC have read my blog, and I bet they're very happy that I have let my words remain, not only on my blog, but on the various local websites, and Facebook. I leave it all up because I stand by what I write. This is in stark contrast to at least one of Tony's sycophants, who deletes his entries as soon as the tide changes.

Furthermore, it's good news and a boost of inspiration that we've got five public officials officially supporting our cause. Politics does make for strange bedfellows, but let's be realistic here: we are just talking about five people, and it's late in the game. But, by game, I mean still on. These five people DO have loyal support throughout the city. The TMFC may call them sore losers; personally, I don't think they are. But for the sake of argument, let's just say they are; if so, they are just five people joining the a huge community of diverse individuals who believe that Tony Mack must be recalled. By diverse, I mean non-sore loser. And, by huge, I mean thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Trenton residents strong.

______

* The Idiot Prince comment used today in the TMFC's statement was an afterthought on a particular blog entry, but it was, admittedly, prevailing sentiment for three years in many of my postings.

** Despite everything I have written above today (and elsewhere on my blog) about Paul Pintella, I am indebted to him. I started this blog as a form of therapy to cope with the death of my daughter, Catherine. The final inspiration was Paul Pintella: he called — if I remember correctly — a young man who is now one of Tony Mack's most delusional cheerleaders, a "Johnny-Come-Lately." This same Johnny-Come-Lately/Tony Mack Bidet in Human Form is the one who deletes everything he writes on the internet twice a day, but way back in 2007, the fact that he attended council meetings and had the council president dismiss him merely for being a JCL, did not sit well with me. So, I'm indebted to him as well. Newcomers do have viable opinions (even if they aren't the same as mine), especially when the status quo is totally kabolluxed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Triage

You are eviscerated, speeding on a gurney through the emergency department, to the operating room, where a team of doctors and nurses will put you back together. They will save your life.

At least in the short term.

In the days that follow, you clean up the blood, rest, tend your wounds, and re-evaluate your life. The doctors and nurses told you that you cannot live as you did, or you will die.

It's hard to change. So hard.

It's me on that gurney. And, this is you on that gurney, Trenton Resident. We are hanging on by threads. Our fear or apathy — or even criminal lifestyle — are killing us. Our choices have not been good ones.

But we can change.

Right?

____________

We are in the homestretch of the first stage — signature gathering — of the efforts to recall Trenton Mayor Tony Mack. He, and his cronies, are part of our old lives. It's easy to not answer the knock on the door; it's easy to not stop in at Recall Headquarters on your travels. It would be easy to give Tony another chance. But he will destroy Trenton. It's not all his fault, but his cognitive impairments and lack of heart are more than we can take. We cannot endure any more selfishness, ineptitude, or idiocy. We are bleeding to death.

Those involved in the Recall Effort come from diverse backgrounds, and have a host of skills. Collectively, they are the equivalent of triage doctors and nurses in the political realm. The Recall Effort — with your support — will get Trenton on its legs again. A second chance. What happens next is up to you.

Please sign the petition if you live in Trenton. The quality of your life does indeed depend on it. If you live outside the city, please don't forget about your ties to Trenton.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Just Govern" (and maybe shut up)

Last month, I had some cable issues, so the cable man came out and tinkered with the wires. He left the wall plate unscrewed and dangling, and since then, Matty periodically mentions the "Bad TV Man." Who else but a Bad TV Man would leave a wall plate in such a state?

This morning, I was watching the Times' video of Mayor Tony Mack addressing the effort to recall him, and Matthew came over to check it out. "Mommy!" he exclaimed, "it's The Bad TV Man!"

Good eye, kid! Mack does look JUST like The Bad TV Man. The Bad TV Man, but More Tired. It got me thinking that the perhaps Mack should check out the job opportunities with the cable companies when his ass is recalled. I'm sure he'll leave all the wall plates dangling, but at least we're talking wall plates, and not people's lives.

Mack also accused those of us involved in the recall effort of sour grapes: you know, we all wanted jobs or contracts and didn't get what we wanted, so we're trying to give him the boot. I cannot say enough: I never wanted a job with the city. And, even if I did, it doesn't change the fact that Tony Mack is a small and petty man without vision or love of the people, and he needs to go before he destroys the city.

As his criticism of the recallers spiraled into the incoherent and bizarre, he accused the group of remaining silent during the years Joseph Santiago presided over the police department, particularly 2005, when, in the middle of a gang war, the murder rate in Trenton was horrific. At least I think that's the year Mack is referring to; I'm not sure, because he didn't say. First, that's just a flat out stupid argument. And, plenty of people in this city WERE up in arms, but at that time, there was SO much disinformation coming from the police department. We all recall Santiago's bullshit* mantra: "Crime is down." Mack's blather on the Times' video sounded eerily similar to Santiago's lies. Crime is down, Tony? Let's just look at the last couple of weeks. Tell that to Jordan Rivera's family. Or Quadir Keys's family. Or Arman Pangad's family. Tell that to the man police say justifiably killed a man who was attacking his wife; tell that to the dead man's family and friends. Tell that to the people who live around the Calhoun Street Bridge, where there was a firefight last weekend. Tell that to Lamont Tiller; his home was invaded IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and he and his lady friend were duct taped and held at gunpoint. Tell that to the couple hit with birdshot on Coolidge Avenue last weekend. Tell that to Butch Osterman, the sheriff's officer stabbed in Kingsbury Towers last week. Tell that to the family and friends of man bludgeoned and stabbed to death near Cooper Field. Tell it to the pizza delivery drivers robbed in September. Tell that to the firefighters who — after putting out a tough blaze on Genessee St., and had to treat five of their own for injuries — had their firetruck vandalized earlier this month. Tell that to those whose violent stories didn't make it to the papers, or the details weren't revealed to the public. Tell it to the rest of us who have to live amid the real and constant threat of violence. You can say it all you want, Tony, but crime is not down. Your words mock the fear and grief of the residents of this city, and those lies insult the scores of police officers recently laid off after putting their lives on the line for the citizens in Trenton.

He also added that he should be left to "just govern." Tony, if you had been governing, we wouldn't be here right now.

_____

* I started this blog in 2007 and immediately and publicly criticized the administration for the rise in violent crime (and be assured that several of my co-recallers did the same). It wasn't the most violent year, nor was the next. But we had 2 murders within feet of our house in 2008. Our garage and Glen's car were shot in the fall of 2010, after Tony was elected, and it could not have been handled any worse by the powers-that-be. But, hey, Crime is Down! The chant of fools.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Toothpaste Cap Administration


I used to work with a guy with a severe cognitive impairment. He happened to have a radiant personality and was adored by everyone in the company. He handled a lot of essential (but underrated) tasks for the firm: he sorted the mail, watered the plants, made sure we had coffee filters, and swept the floors. He told me once, "You don't have to be smart to do most jobs. You just have to work."

I'm not saying that cognitively impaired folks are dumb, or should be relegated to the mailroom; all humans, regardless of brain function, have different strengths and weaknesses. But what was noticeable about this particular guy was that he had a tight, caring family, the support and admiration of everyone at work, and in his case, was probably placed perfectly for his skill level.

As weeks turn into months during Tony "I'm my worst critic" Mack's reign as mayor here in Trenton, I cannot help but conclude that Mack himself must have suffered a traumatic brain injury in his past. I am by no means saying that someone with a damaged brain could not be mayor, but I am saying that this particular brain-impaired individual is not a good fit for the particular job he currently holds. The difference between Tony "A/B+" Mack and my former coworker is that Mack does not have the proper support network of friends, family, and colleagues, and furthermore, he is clearly in over his head, skill-wise.

Based on my limited knowledge of the human brain, I suspect that Tony "I don't think" Mack's brain impairment is in his frontal lobe. The front area of the brain is responsible for — among other things — problem solving, memory, and judgement, all of which are clearly impaired in our mayor.

How else can we explain the 8 business administrators (one* who quit and then plead guilty to stealing $480,000 in campaign funds from Congressman Frank Lobiondo's [R-NJ's 2nd district] campaign treasury fund; the heroin addicted deputy mayor; the 30-houses-for-$30 deal; the firing of a political rival using the SWAT officers, the do-over bullshit with the IT firm; the contaminated water; the unauthorized overtime; the raises and jobs for close friends and family, while many, many others got the axe; the empty promises to reopen the libraries; the even emptier promises to keep police officers on the job; the resignation of our law director; and the appointments of judges without background checks? Every week, this mayor is behind another insult to our dignity and intelligence. Every week, there are more episodes of poor judgement, and he is counting on us to forget.

Tony "Happy Pearl Harbor Day" Mack and his friends list mundane ribbon cuttings and photo opportunities as "monumental accomplishments" for his first year in office, and yeah, I'm sure it can go to one's head — and take awhile to get used to — to have so many people looking at you all the time. But what Tony's done so far — and I'm being generous here — is the political equivalent of putting the damn toothpaste cap on after brushing his teeth. Give. Me. A. Break. It's disturbing to see otherwise intelligent people snowed over by this**. Yeah, it's great that a boy from Wilbur has made it to the big league. I'm living just blocks away from Tony's childhood home, so I have a firsthand understanding of the hurdles Mack must have faced. What an example he could have been! It's profoundly disappointing that he's been given this chance in life — knowing that he was walking into a mess — and has chosen to surround himself with knuckleheads, thugs, and asskissers, and they are demolishing the city instead of rebuilding it.

I'm sure the mayor and his allies don't agree. They're still caught up with the newness of the spotlight; they like the spotlight. They like what it does for their ridiculous, massive egos. But the job of mayor, like so many others, has nothing to do with ego, or even brain function. It has everything to do with community and the capacity for hard work: qualities completely absent from the Mack administration.

______________

* On March 4, 2011, Andrew J. McCrosson Jr., who served as treasurer of LoBiondo's congressional campaign committee from 1995 until August 2010, pleaded guilty in federal district court to charges of embezzling more than $450,000 from campaign accounts over a fifteen year period. The charges included one count of wire fraud and one count of converting funds contributed to a federal candidate. He faces up to twenty-five years imprisonment on his sentencing date of June 16. (from wikipedia)

** If they want to worship a politician, there are so many other worthier ones out there, right now. Just about ANY other politician. Except for maybe Anthony Weiner.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Grandpa Juicebag

I'm sure I'm doing it all wrong. Motherhood, that is.

Seriously.

When Matthew was born, I still dealing with the loss of Catherine, our first child, and my mother had just died, and just before that, my dog had died as well. It was a rough spell for sure. Plus, taking care of a newborn is no easy task, even under the best of circumstances. Matthew had dropped a bit of weight right after he was born, and we had to go to the pediatrician's office for weekly weigh-ins to make sure he was packing it back on; dealing with the staff's and other parents' "Is he your first?" questions was more than I could take. But I took it, because, really, what choice did I have? Most people don't have to decide how to answer questions like that, and I'm glad for it. All the same, it still sucked for me. So, I opted not to go out much — with or without Matthew — for a very long time because I just felt so freakish. I couldn't be casual. I didn't want to let anyone in. Matty was a super-fussy baby, to boot. He screamed pretty much constantly for a good six months.

After that, I suppose I was in a bit of a rut/routine with him, and even though he was screaming a lot less, he was still difficult about clothing and riding in the car, and given my overall state, I was okay with that. Needless to say, I didn't join any mommy groups.

It's only been in the last 6 months or so I've felt better enough to get out more frequently; I've felt better about Matty's overall temperament, too. I try to get him to a playground or the playroom at a fast food joint a few times a week. I'll be honest: he still screams a lot, but it's different now, as an almost 3-year-old. He squeals with delight and he roars and he laughs, and it just warms my heart to see him so happy, even though he is so very loud. I trust him, though: he's friendly and outgoing and has never been aggressive with another kid, at least not in any typical way. He does have a tendency to roar at and around other kids, and I probably have not done a great job at discouraging it because, well, I think it's hilarious. When he does it, his eyes are twinkling and he's smiling profusely, and every kid he's roared at — until today — understood Matthew's intent, and they enjoy the playground while roaring and yelling and laughing and chasing one another.

Today, we went to the Burger King on Quakerbridge Road, and a family with three kids was in the playroom, and in typical fashion, Matty roared, the kids understood, and they ran around squealing and laughing. The family eventually left, and another came in. The adult was a man, probably in his 60s, and for all I know, he could have been the father, since, in general, men can make babies until they die. The girl was probably 6 and the boy was about 5. They all looked miserable. They had yogurt, which explains some of it. Yogurt is great, but who wants that at Burger King? No one.

The two older kids got in the play contraption (I have no idea what to call it: it's a climbing apparatus with bulging windows that lead to a tunnel, which leads to a slide); they were the quietest two children I've ever encountered. Matty could hear their footsteps, though, and it excited him, and he went in after them. I should mention that Matthew is actually too small to climb the climbing part of it, so he generally just stands in it, roaring up at everyone, or crawls beneath the bottom step and hangs out.

Today, he sat under the bottom step, looked over at me and said, "Hi Mommy!" and then roared. Have I mentioned that he's a Leo? I laughed and waved back. He sat there, until the little boy came down the climbing part. Why the little boy came that way is a mystery, since there's a perfectly good slide he could have used. So, Matty jumped out at him and said, "Hi!!" And then he roared. And the little boy sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

My first, private reaction was, "Come ON, kid, you HAVE to be kidding me." But I realize everyone is different, and as much as I want my kid to be able to roar as much as he wants in a place like BK's playroom, I don't want anyone else's kids traumatized, either. So I asked Matty to apologize, and he did, earnestly. The boy continued to sob, and then, without warning, he took off out of the contraption. He didn't run to the adult man with him, interestingly; he ran to the shoe station on the other side of the room. And, of course, Matthew chased him.

The boy screamed in terror, which Matthew misinterpreted as a scream of delight, and continued laughing and roaring. I called Matty over to me and asked him to calm down a bit, since the boy was scared. "Boy is scared?" he asked. I said, "Yes, so you need to chill out a bit." Matthew said, "Okay, Mommy."

The old man forced the crying boy to eat his yogurt. Matty tried playing with the girl; she wasn't afraid, but she was absolutely irritated with him. Matthew was still unaware that his personality was too much for this particular family, so I pulled him aside again, and asked him to play a bit more quietly. He sat and drank his juice for a minute, until the little boy came back over to the contraption. The boy got into the climbing part, and Matthew followed him, and they both rested their arms on the upper level; well, Matty dangled since he can't quite reach. Sound travels in that place, so I could tell Matty was roaring away happily and laughing. The little boy just stood there with Matty, so I thought everything was okay. I took a picture (below) and then walked over to be sure. I should note, that all the while, the old guy was sitting close to the exit and at one point, left to get more soda. Maybe you've never been in one of these rooms (if so, lucky you), but it's a separate room from the main restaurant, with doors that close.

Matthew with the little boy who hated him, but refused to move. FYI: until recently we didn't take Matty's shoes off in those playrooms, since he can't really climb that well yet, and god knows what sort of funk is crawling around in there besides; but Glen had his first encounter with an asshole parent last weekend, and it was about Matty's shoes. So, we've been taking them off, just to avoid those parents.

I walked over to the kids, and saw through the "window" that the older boy's head was in his hands, and he was weeping. Matty was roar-talking and laughing at the boy, thinking they were great friends, unwittingly sending the child further into the abyss with every leonine noise. I brought Matthew out of the contraption. The old guy returned with a freshened beverage, sat back down by the door, called the kid, who jumped down and ran across the room as if his life depended on it. Before I could stop him, Matty chased the boy, and they wound up — from my vantage — on the far side of the garbage can. I could not see the kids. The old man, from his seat, yelled at my child, using his name. "Matthew!" He barked, "DON'T DO THAT." I ran over and grabbed Matthew, and asked him to apologize — he did, again, sincerely — and I asked the guy what had happened, as I couldn't see from my angle.

Matthew has never hit another child, but I had expected the man to say something like that, but instead, he snapped at me, aggressively. "Matthew was running after him and yelling. THAT IS NOT PLAYING."

I just want to say I don't have a problem with someone else reprimanding my kid, if he deserves it. I'd also like to say that I had a good comeback — after all his kid was at least two years older than mine, a good deal taller, and last I checked kids run and yell when they play. Especially in designated play rooms in fast food restaurants. But I was utterly dumbfounded. I eventually said, "I'm sorry he scared your boy." I was sorry. I felt the blood enter my cheeks; I'm sure I turned red. I walked Matthew back over to the table, packed up our belongings, and we left. We had a good run, I figured, and I knew Matty was just too young to understand the other boy was not having fun, though I'm sure he wouldn't have any fun without Matty, either. As we walked out of the restaurant, I started to get pissed: at the old guy for being such a douche, and at myself, for not being quick enough to respond in any kind of intelligent way.

I packed Matty into his car seat, and under my breath, I said, "Grandpa Douchebag." But it probably wasn't under my breath, since Matty heard me and attempted to repeat after me. "Grandpa Juicebag?" Matty asked.

I started to laugh, and Matthew laughed too, and then he started chanting, "Grand-pa Juice-bag! Grand-pa Juice-bag! Grand-pa Juice-bag!" as if we were at a sporting event. I joined in, and together we chanted "Grand-pa Juice-bag! Grand-pa Juice-bag!" for the next few miles. I felt a lot better.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meow



My friend, Megan, took three sickly kittens from my backyard today (two pictured above), and she is probably right now up feeding them with an eyedropper. Their eyes are in rough shape: one has two bulging eyes, completely closed and crusted over. Another one only has one eye like that. The other just has oozing eyes, but has a few open sores on her brand new body. They go to the vet tomorrow, and we're hoping for good news. Hopefully these little guys will grow strong and will get adopted.

Politics in this town are mindboggling, but my experience with the animals is just heartbreaking, and hands down the worst part of living in the city for me. There just seems to be no end to shitty conditions for companion animals. We've been here 7 years, and we've come across countless stray, feral, and abandoned animals. All of our indoor cats are city strays (though one came from Camden); Steve the dog was tossed out into the streets and came to us in 2008. Someone hopped the fence of the abandoned property next to us and dumped a pit bull. We called Animal Control to get him. I have no particular fondness for that type of dog, but the fear in his eyes is never far from my mind. We don't know what happened to him. We've found domestic rabbits. But it's the cats — the endless cats — that get to me the most...and I never considered myself a cat person.

I care because they're in my yard. I care because they're supposed to be domestic, companion animals. We made them, and we have failed them. You may say "who cares?" and, that's fine. But there's a link between unsuccessful governments and abandoned animals: these governments cannot properly govern their people, so of course the non-human life forms suffer even more than the citizens. I'm not doing nearly enough for the cats in my yard, and it kills me.

I'm not sure what to do about the people who kick animals out of their homes. I'm not sure what to do about little assholes who run their big strong dogs without leashes, who encourage the dogs to kill other smaller animals. I have no idea how to change the minds of those who think dog fighting is cool. I cannot imagine — no matter how I try — the utter depravity those people must have been subjected to to make them act the way they do toward animals.

Glen and I care for nearly 20 cats currently, between our own and the strays in the neighborhood (in case you're wondering, our indoor cats are sterilized and so are several of the outdoor ones: there's just no end to animal abandonment, and I suppose the cats can smell the suckers). You may wonder how we do that. It's difficult and financially draining.

Maybe you don't have a cat. Or maybe you only have one or two. Maybe you are so sick and tired of listening to me bitch about my cat situation. I know you can help, and I'd be so grateful if you could take a kitten or two, or maybe one of the mama cats. I can hook you up with so many wonderful resources so it's not a hardship at all, and it will mean everything to the individual/s you take home with you.

Click to enlarge. And, Trenton TNR's contact info is: trentontnr@gmail.com; (978) 228-5239

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monumental Accomplishments


Yesterday's videos* of Mayor Tony Mack were a TREASURE TROVE of blog fodder. Thank you, Mayor.

He said, "I'm so excited about the fact that we kept garbage collection two days a week when it was slated for one day a week," he added. "We are making monumental accomplishments with less."

How is no change in service a monumental accomplishment? There have been NO monumental accomplishments at all in the last year, no matter how many times Tony says it. Our finances are a monumental disaster, and the mayor's priorities are monumentally screwed.

___________
* You can watch the videos here.

From his own mouth

Monday, June 6, 2011

Recall!

A year ago, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I pulled the lever for Tony Mack on election day.* I'm not making excuses, but the write-in option in the booth I used was covered (I had planned write in another name). I stood there for a moment in confusion, staring at the two names, holding a squirming toddler, forgetting I could abstain from that particular unsavory race. To quote my friend, Mr. Clean, "It's like someone comes up to you and says, 'Would you like your left eye poked out, or your right eye poked out?'" I muttered, "Fuck it," under my breath and voted for Tony Mack. I lamented my decision immediately, and wrote about it here, to try to sort it all out.

Tony won by a sizable margin, so the chaos, embarrassment, and — I'll say it — illegal and unethical activity that has taken place since then is not all my fault. But I feel the burden of my poor decision. Today I had an opportunity to atone for my voting sins by joining a few of my fellow Trentonians in signing a letter of intent to recall Mayor Tony Mack.

Recalling an elected official is a very difficult process in the state of New Jersey: it takes time, money**, and requires a huge effort. You can watch a quick video about the recall process (with some festive music!) on Kevin Moriarty's informative blog. Tony Mack walked into a terrible mess courtesy of the previous administration and council, but he had so many opportunities to do things better. Instead, he appointed his friends and family, and gave them raises; he allowed his house to go into foreclosure, but took a loan from a Burlington County "friend" to fix it. He fired a political rival by using the SWAT team. He's the man in charge while time cards are forged, and the Water Works practically melted down. And he hired a heroin addict as his right hand man! These are just some of the things that Tony's done in his first year in office; just some of the things we know about. Tony Mack has screwed up enough so that it shouldn't be too difficult to get 9,860 (and extras for good measure) signatures in 160 days so we can hold a recall election. It does seem a bit daunting right now, though! Citizen campaigns have gone well in recent years and I believe this one will, too. It's also my hope, though far-fetched, that Tony will acknowledge this effort to recall him by stepping down.

Everyone asks, "Who will replace Tony?" I don't know. And, it hurts my head to think about it. We had 10 candidates in the last mayoral election: some of them were decent, and some were downright comical. The bottom line, though, is that there were about 8 too many. Over time, I'm hoping this recall effort will bring Trentonians closer, so we're more engaged with one another, so we can pick the best candidate to replace Tony. We have a difficult process ahead and we need to work together.



_____________

* In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for Eric Jackson in the first election. If only he had filled a couple of friggin' potholes, we would not be in this mess right now. Tony Mack and then at-large councilman, Manny Segura, had made it to the run-off election.

** A recall election will cost the taxpayers an estimated $90,000. It is a disturbingly high number, and a lot to ask from an already overtaxed and underserved group of taxpayers. It weighed heavily on me that by joining this group to repent for my voting error, I'd be personally responsible for yet another tax hike. But the thing of it is, as of today, Tony Mack's list of improprieties is so very long. But next week, it will undoubtedly be even longer. He's been paying people who were not even technically employed by the city...and in some cases, paying them overtime. His actions are bankrupting this city. I'm not a big fan of state hand-outs, but Mack is singlehandedly making that aid less likely in the future...without a plan for self-sufficiency in place. Tony Mack is a one-man PR nightmare for the city of Trenton, to the point Trenton has become the punchline of disparaging jokes (more so than any other time in our history).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conflicting sensations

If anyone deserved to be, hmmm, removed from world affairs, it was Osama bin Laden. But I can't help but think about how long it took to get him, and the hundreds of thousands (Americans, Iraqis, and Afghans, in particular) who have been killed for that happen. Still, the world is better without him, and I could be wrong, but I don't think someone will step up to fill his shoes any time soon. People like him don't come along every day.

So it was with a conflicting sense of heartbreak for what and whom we've lost in the last ten years, and an undeniable sense of satisfaction about bin Laden's, ahem, departure, that I drove to work late yesterday afternoon. All the while, I was thinking about another conflicting sensation: the simultaneous entertainment value and embarrassment of Trenton politics, when I ventured upon this on Olden Avenue:

A patriotic tribute on a particularly unloved part of Olden Avenue, just north of the train bridge.

I loved the roadside tributes after the September 11th attacks; I loved that people took the time to make them. I loved that here in New Jersey, for days after the attacks, people with flags and candles stood along the roads and highways to just...I don't know...be together? I put a little flag in the back window of my truck 10 years ago because I couldn't figure out how — and perhaps I wasn't bold enough — to fly a big flag in its bed. But I loved the big flag flyin' truck drivers — and the motorcycle guys with the flags flapping behind them — most of all in 2001.

I lived in a different part of the state at that time. Now I'm in Trenton, and I'm faced with far more ignorance and stupidity than I've ever dealt with in my life — from the self-inflicted variety of the local knuckleheadery, to the look-up-the-word-idiot-in-the-dictionary-and-see-a-picture-of-our-current-mayor variety, to those in the suburbs who think it's a great idea to just burn the whole city down.

I can't quite bring myself to feel the elation of the artist behind this tribute, but it touches me. It just takes a few to tarnish the reputation of an entire group, and most people in the city — including those who are downtrodden, forgotten, and impoverished — hold true the same values as those on the outside.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dystopia

Just some random thoughts on a rainy day in Trenton.

Spring has become a conflicted time for me here in Trenton. On one hand, there's a basic human need to see young life start and green things emerge; it's been rewarding to watch my own gardens come into their own, and I'm excited for what's in store in a few weeks. I love to pick a few hyacinths on the very first day I'm able, and bring them inside. Their scent fills my house and erases the drudgery of winter, instantly.

On the other hand, the leaflessness of the trees exposes the despair of boarded up homes, litter in the shrubbery, peeling paint, and broken architecture. It's not consistently warm enough for most people to tend to their properties, but many people wouldn't do that here in Trenton, anyway. And, there are some some days that my friends elsewhere would describe as beautiful and hopeful for their warmth and sunniness. Who doesn't love a surprise 70+ degree day in late winter or very early spring? No one, that's who. Not even those concerned with global warming. And certainly not even knuckleheads. And it's the latter types of people who have made me loathe the warmer months in this dystopia.

I don't mean to bitch, really. But it's healthy to vent, and occasionally, I do more than just complain about this place. But probably not today, unless you think posting pictures of my recent outings is somehow productive. The warmer weather has drawn me — like my knuckleheaded neighbors — outside, and I'm depressed by the state of my own yard; the front, in particular, is LOADED with litter, and is so overgrown, partially due to my own stupid landscape choices, but also because the property next to us is abandoned and is falling down, reverting to a sylvan state, and is hellbent on taking a couple of other properties down with it.

The back of the house next door.


A lamp post outside my front door; signs like this are attractively nailed all over my neighborhood these days.

It really isn't ALL bad. In my wanderings around Trenton in the last few weeks, I've been occasionally inspired by work my neighbors have done on their back deck. It tickled me to discover the Sword Guy walking around on a Saturday while I was out recently. He's a local gem and he makes Trenton better, and even cooler, just by his existence. Another positive morsel is that the Trenton St. Patrick's Parade — which wasn't even supposed to happen — was impressive.

A left-handed banjo-playing Mummer in Trenton!

And, I'm not sure why the evidence of beavers in the Assunpink, along that stretch of parks — Hetzel Field/Assunpink Park/George Page Park — off of Lawrence Street makes me smile, but it does. I like trees, and hate to see them chopped down for construction, especially in the city, but beavers are more successful than any of the recent developers who've come to Trenton, and I need a story with a happy ending from time to time.

Beavers! Well, beaver damage.

While I was over there taking photos of beaver damage, I noticed a bedsheet memorial and I got pissed off all over again. I immediately assumed that another young, and probably stupid, kid was murdered. It may seem uncharitable of me to call murdered kids "stupid," but many of them are. I'm not saying they had it coming, or they deserve it. My heart breaks for the families who lose kids to violence, but urban machismo and gang participation is short-sided, self-destructive stupidity. But since I had my camera with me that day, I quickly snapped a picture, and when I got home, I combed through the whole wide interwebs to find news about a recent murder, because SURELY there must have been one: it's nice out, and that's what happens when it's nice outside in Trenton. Fueled by red wine, I was irritated by the whole concept of bedsheet memorials. They're tragic and represent a failure in society that is mind-boggling. When people here in the city die to violence, the loved ones feel the only way to honor their dearly departed is to create a bed sheet memorial. No one talks to the police about the crime. No one seems to counsel the kids on how to break this cycle, because — I don't know — living hard and dying young and getting a lousy looking magic marker memorial on a big piece of MAYBE 200-thread-count fabric is somehow their flickity-fly ghettoriffic birthright? I'm sorry if my suburban upbringing prevents me from understanding those kinds of aspirations, but it just hurts my head and heart.


I'm hoping this small-minded, "Snitches Get Stitches" idiocy stops.

But despite my best efforts, I couldn't find information on any recent murder. I was grateful for that, but confused, too. Why else would I have come upon a bedsheet memorial? I reached out to The Trentonian's Joe D'Aquila, and he found out for me that an older man, known as "Uncle Randy" in that neighborhood, passed away; he was loved by everyone. The wheels started spinning in my head, and I figured Uncle Randy must have been one of the two Caribbean drummers, along Lawrence Street, across from Hetzel Field/Assunpink Park/George Page Park. Like the Sword Guy — yet different — the Lawrence Street Drummers are a wonderful addition to that neighborhood. The drummers are just two guys who play all summer long, and their music sounds so nice when I drive by with my windows down. I asked Joe if he could find out more, and he reached out to the family, and confirmed that Randy was one of the drummers. It's never a good thing to hear about a death, but I am particularly saddened by this, because I am — despite my negativity — proud of all the local color and characters here in Trenton, and I'm sure those drummers, in their own way, improve their neighborhood and keep it safer. Randy's death is a loss to Trenton.

Given my feelings on bedsheet memorials, I'm somewhat disgusted with myself that the whole reason I took a picture of that tribute was to criticize the practice. I invaded a sensitive moment in time, and I'm sorry for that. At the same time, I stand by my assertion that bedsheet memorials are a wholly inadequate way to honor the deceased. Perhaps the community and city can work together to create a proper memorial at the park that Randy must have looked at while he was drumming?


A heartfelt, if inadequate bedsheet tribute to the North Ward's Uncle Randy.


I am terribly down on Trenton lately: everything is inadequate (not just bedsheet memorials). There's perpetual roadwork, but never any improvement to the streets.

Olden Ave. looking north; perennially under construction, never improved, complete with a bit of graffito (art?) on — wait for it — a building on the grounds for the Department of Justice.

There's an impressive arts movement here in Trenton, yet despite the accessibility to programs, budding "artists" choose to deface what's not theirs. And, at the same time, we have schools here in Trenton, but they're failing on an embarrassing scale.

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE: The door to the shed just outside the tennis courts at the Villa Park playground. This is not only another example of graffiti in Trenton, but also the failure of the Trenton schools.

Oh, Trenton, I feel that this is your last warning. I don't think I have it in me to survive another summer here without you at least TRYING to get your act together. Please?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yay! Who's a big boy?!?!?

"Look, Mommy! I brushed my teeth all by myself!
And, I balanced the budget!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toadies! Wake up!

The occasionally literate Tony Mack toady, Lauren Ira, graced the op-ed page of today's Times (formerly of Trenton) with a spider web's worth of empty words addressing the mayor's so-called accomplishments, calling out his "staunch critics," and cheerleading Trenton's progress.

This makes me sad, and it gives me a headache. Don't get me wrong: I, too, dislike the gratuitous negative generalizations about the city, especially when those attacks come from outside the city. And, sure, maybe we can all be more positive, and work to improve the city, but those of us critical of the city (and especially the administration) do indeed love it; we're just a bit more realistic about it. Trenton is like a child with a broken leg, and the folks currently running the place, as well as those who ran it for the last 20 years, are so fucking accustomed to failure and pain and idiocy and ineptitude that they will not address the obvious. We are broken, damaged. We continue to limp along, and make foolish decisions — sure, former Mayor Doug Palmer set us up to fall into the abyss, but Tony Fucking Mack has driven us off the edge, and down into the unknown — instead of taking much needed time to access our problems and work to heal them.

We must stop dragging a broken limb behind us while proclaiming, "Look at us, we're awesome!" We are not awesome. We are not progressive. We are not in a renaissance. We cannot be trusted to handle the resources we have. We are damaged. Lauren Ira and others like her, whether elected or appointed, should start to listen to those supposedly "slandering" the "duly elected" Mack. It's not "character assassination" if it's true; there are no "back-door meetings" if they're "not-so-secret."

We want an adult in charge. An adult with listening skills, and a brain, and ethics, and heart. An adult who feels the pain of this broken city and who will take the time to realistically address the brokenness — of crime, ridiculously high taxes, no budget sensibilities, cronyism, poverty, and an embarrassingly shitty educational system. The critics' "schemes" are not "feeble" if people — not only those within the city, but those outside as well — are beginning to take notice of the chaos in Mack's mind, and the damage he's doing to the city. Ms. Ira, we will stop "slandering" the administration when it wakes up and deals with our problems head-on; we will stop "slandering" other elected officials when they get they hell out of the mayor's ass. Trenton does have hope; it does have potential, but we cannot "make a breakthrough" until y'all see the light of day.


____

A special note to Aladdin Sarsippius Sulemanagic III: I don't have your email address and this is the only way I know how to reach you. Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your insight, advice, as well as your long history with Trenton. I am reluctant to use the word "enjoy" to describe what I felt when reading your latest 2-part commentary, because much of it was tragic and shameful, but it was an engaging tale, to be sure. I considered publishing your comments, but they had nothing to do with the topic I wrote about. Since you were looking to reach the folks behind the Missing Mayor blog, as well as the Trentonian, I respectfully suggest you contact them directly (contact links supplied). I also think you should start your own blog because you have a lot to say, and do so in a colorful manner. Good luck!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Man-Child's Growing Pile of Rejects

I did not make any contributions to Tony Mack's election campaign; on the contrary, I asked him to take himself out of the running; and, after that sad day in July, I called for him to resign. I think Trenton was going to hit the wall without Tony Mack's interference (thanks, Doug Palmer! And, oh yeah, the economy), but Tony has put us on a warp-speed collision course with that brick wall, because, let's face it: Tony Mack is a very special kind of moron: egotistical, stubborn, petty, small-minded, disloyal, selfish, and self-destructive.

I'm not the sort of gal who makes political donations, but that's in part because I haven't had much work this last year. You didn't ask, but right now I have less than $30 in my bank account. But, hey! that's ALMOST enough to buy 30 houses in the east ward at the price Tony was asking! I love this city so much that I'd be willing to buy just 10 houses with my $30, which is 3 times the amount SR Development Enterprises was going to pay per property, before they got caught up in Tony's tangled web of bullshit, questionable finances, and ethics violations. I've landed a bit of work, and when my next check comes in, I'd gladly pony up the rest of the money for all the available houses on Walnut Avenue, and/or East State Street, if Tony is still naming the price and the defining the development district.*

I'm sure my offer** will fall on deaf ears, not so much because I've called Tony "Happy Pearl Harbor Day" Mack a moron, but because he is a moron and — oh yeah — a man-child. He summarily dismisses all offers from the good, smart citizens of Trenton, choosing instead to surround himself with other morons and toadies (making him King of the Sycophantic Morons); and it's apparent he'll only deal with those who have made contributions to his election efforts (Hi there, Lloyd Levenson!). All you morons, toadies, and favor-seekers shouldn't get too cozy. Let the angry, growing pile of discards (containing, but not limited to, a police director and former friend who found out he was fired from The Trentonian, a deputy clerk fired while she was on her lunch break, an unqualified judge, a directorial appointee to the office of Housing and Economic Development with a criminal record, and a cornucopia of business administrators, one of whom was working for free) be your guide to Tony Mack. You think it can't be you in that writhing pile of Mack rejects? Think again.

We've been calling for a more transparent government in Trenton, and it looks like we got it.


______

* You may wonder what I'd do with those properties. I wonder, too. Mostly, I would not open them up to low-income tenants, though I have nothing against poor people (since I am currently repping the underprivileged myself). I think I might repeatedly ram my truck into some of the properties until they fell down.

** I also offered to work in the city's sign shop and as Tony's spokeswoman, for free. I never heard back.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More bad ideas

The news in Trenton is just so weird and upsetting these days, and with limited time at the computer, I don't know where to start when I feel like bitching. Luckily, some of my fellow local bloggers are so involved and on top of all the happenings here* that they work out a lot of my frustration for me. However, the story about 36 homes on Walnut Avenue (and environs) going to a developer for $36 kinda has me rattled, as a city resident who lives a few blocks away from Walnut. The developer, SR Development Enterprises, plans to turn the properties into — go figure — low income housing.

Walnut Avenue, with its firebombings and drug dealers and abject poverty really can't get much worse, but I cannot see how any good can come of this plan to bring even more vulnerable (at best) people to one of the city's worst neighborhoods. How can more poor people be a good idea when Trenton has scant employment options? How can more poor people be a good idea when Trenton has some of the worst schools in the state; schools that already fail our existing population? How can more poor people be a good idea when low income housing already exists in abundance, and it's already filled with and attracts and/or nurtures— I'm sorry to say — an antisocial personality type?

Trenton is failing all of its residents — the poor as well as those with options — and loading the East Ward up with more people without resources or options will only create more poverty and despair.

I'm no municipal planner, but rather just a dummy with windows facing Walnut Avenue, and I think if any of our elected officials could see half of what I see (which isn't even that much), everyone would agree with me: we don't need any more low income housing. Since there seems to be no common sense in this idea, it's caused people to look for ulterior motives on the part of the Mack Administration, and go figure: SR Development Enterprise's parent company shares a mailing address with company that made a $6000 donation to Tony Mack's campaign back in May. Read the story here.

How many more bad ideas can Tony Mack try to implement? I urge our city council members to vote down this proposal. And, in the meantime, Tony, I'm still urging you to resign.




____

* I'd like to give a shout-out today to blogger Robert Chilson and activist Jim Carlucci for their fantastic dirt digging skills regarding the inexperienced IT company, Lynx, who's in a position to win a costly contract from the city. Read more on Chilson's blog, here.