Boss Palmer's Slate Rears its Ugly Head
by Dan Dodson
It was too much to hope that Mayor Palmer's cabal of Trenton City Council candidates would run independent campaigns in 2006. Instead, they are once again pledged to be Palmer's rubber stamp as evidenced by Manny Segura's campaign literature proudly announcing the agreement.
The slate consists of Paul Pintella, Cordelia Staton, Manny Segura and Boss Doug Palmer.
Trenton's elections are non-partisan, so the evolution of a quasi-party alliance is not unexpected. However, it does thwart the goal of having independent voices in Trenton's political process. Also, it gives Palmer a method to leverage his fundrasing capability (where does his money come from anyway) into unchecked power on council.
More than anything else, this arrangement between council and Mayor disturbs my sense of good government. This isn't how a Mayor / Council form of government should work.
It is especially disturbing today, as a gang war rages around us and innocent bystanders are being shot down. The early inattention to Trenton's gang problem was a result of the administration's rose colored glasses and a council that wouldn't challenge him. Even now, Council President Paul Pintella refuses to hold council hearings on the issue. Pintella is apparently waiting for his boss, the Mayor, to return from a business trip so the council can be given its orders.
Another disturbing aspect of this arrangement is the chilling effect it has on political expression in Trenton. City employees refuse to support non-incumbents in fear of retribution. Employees have been known to hide their political contributions in order to avoid being "on the record". It's not just city employees though. Developers who do business with the city are expected to raise money for the slate. This is the essence of "Pay to Play". I won't blow anyone's cover due to the reprecussions it would have, but just think about what this means. People are being blackmailed into supporting the slate and are being pushed underground in their support of opponents. Is this good government?
To be clear, a three candidate slate won't carry the 4/7 votes necessary for a majority on council. In our last election, the Mayor waited until the final weeks of the campaign and then struck an unholy alliance with the South Ward's John Ungrady. He funneled $15,000 into Ungrady's campaign in return for the councilman's oath of loyalty.
So, Trenton voters, your task is clear, if you're enjoying the gang war, if you prefer an increase in taxes every year, if an anemic economy floats your boat, then by all means vote for the slate.
Otherwise, pick any other candidate for council. My personal picks are Carlucci, Coston and Harmon for mayor.
Dan Dodson is a management consultant and Leadership Trenton Fellow.
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Copyright 2006, Dan Dodson