Archive for 2009

Managing the Trenton brand

The July 18th edition of Trenton’s Urban Studies group had Alan Mallach as its guest speaker. Mr. Mallach has been studying cities for 40 years and works today as a consultant and author on the subject. He was formerly Trenton’s Economic Development director back in the 90s.

The upshot of Mr Mallach’s comments was that a small city like like Trenton, should have as its objective, to increase the numbers of higher income residents. Increasing downtown residency is an important part of this prescription. Read the rest of this entry »

Some needed edits to the Declaration of Independence

Dear Mr. Jefferson,

It appears as though your successor, Mr. Obama, has reinterpreted your most excellent essay on the natural role of government.  Therefore, if you would be so kind, please update your declaration as edited below.

Changes are to the 1st sentence of the 2nd paragraph.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and, the pursuit of Happiness., public Healthcare, freedom from Mortgage foreclosure, a guaranteed Union auto job and Broadband access.


I understand, that it will be most difficult to obtain signatures from all the founding fathers on this amended version.  However, I’m sure Mr. Obama will be most appreciative of your assistance as he endeavors to re-shape the country you and your friends set forth.

Sincere regards,

Dan Dodson

Trenton, NJ

Crossroads of the Revolution

Councilman Coston and Dan debate the role of income distribution on revitatilization

Councilman Coston referenced in his blog, an email discussion he and I had about the impact of income distribution on Trenton. Mr. Coston’s blog can be found at,

I’ve taken the opportunity to restate the debate here.  It’s a useful discussion for policymakers and I thank Jim Coston for being the kind of Councilman that is open to challenging his own assumptions. Read the rest of this entry »

America’s quick slide into socialism

Before the takeover of GM, I would have said there is nothing that frightens me more than government health insurance.

The economic downturn and subsequent entry of the federal government in to a wide variety of private businesses left me searching for a way to think about this. I picked up my old copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and began re-reading. Read the rest of this entry »

The case for teacher support of school-choice

I come from a family of teachers. My mother, father, both sets of grandparents, brother and aunts are all teachers. You can imagine the fun family discussions we have when I suggest that the NEA (National Education Association) is bad for them.

I’m well aware that many Republicans have strong opposition to the NEA. But at its root, the NEA is just another union. There is a natural conflict between unions and management as unions attempt to take control away from managers. The Republican party generally shares the sensibilities of managers and therefore doesn’t get much support from the union movement including the NEA. Read the rest of this entry »

Buying out Trenton

Saving Trenton from its crazy self

The idea of the state having to take over Trenton has come up recently. However, many citizens, even when faced with the evidence that Trenton clearly can’t take care of itself, suggest that the state would do an even worse job. They have a point; even with its broad financial resources the state clearly hasn’t fixed Camden.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that state oversight is a bad option. We already know that we can’t run the city ourselves. What then are the remaining options? Read the rest of this entry »

Spawning a $290M industry in Trenton

With one act of enlightened self interest, Trentonians can spawn a new industry

It’s an industry without the risk of the car business. It attracts sought after  middle class workers. And, it’s inherently good for the community.

What’s this wonder industry? And more importantly what do we need to do to attract it?

Education can be Trenton’s next great economic engine, all we have to do is break the monopoly government has on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Hope for Trenton – Compromise on the Water Works deal

I wish it didn’t take brinksmanship to force constructive dialogue in Trenton.

Everyone agrees (I hope) that we need a rethink about Trenton’s financial health. Everyone also agrees (I hope) that there is a price at which selling the suburban portions of the Trenton Water Works is a good idea.

And, let there be no doubt that it’s too late to patch this year’s budget. Without drastic action we’re facing catastrophic disaster from a tax hike that will drive away investment, force foreclosures and thereby further reduce city revenue.

My hope is that the administration and petitioners can reach an agreement that commits the city to budgeting, openness and planning reforms that address our structural problems. I also hope that they can reach an agreement to allow the sale to move forward and, as stipulated in the City Council’s resolution, use only $20M of the proceeds to fix budget gaps. The remaining $60M should pay down long term debt principal.

Emotions are running high on both sides, for all of our sakes, let’s hope and pray cool heads prevail.

Saving the city by giving up the schools

A Modest Proposal to fix the budget and still keep the Water Works

In “Invest the Trenton Water Works proceeds in the future not the past” I argued that the proceeds from the sale of the Water Works should not be applied directly to the 2010 and 2011 budgets. I allowed that it was too late to fix the 2009 budget and therefore $20M of the proceeds should be used to patch this year’s gaping budget hole.

If a group of Trenton citizens have their way, the sale will be delayed until a public vote can be taken and it’s not certain at all that the public will go along with the administration’s plan. We’d be left with a huge problem. Therefore, we’d better come up with plan B for patching the 2009 budget. Read the rest of this entry »

Invest the Trenton Water Works proceeds in the future not the past

That the suburban portion of the Trenton Water Works will be sold seems to be a foregone conclusion. This is a good thing.

Running a water company for Ewing, Hopewell and other towns isn’t core to the business of running Trenton. It’s safe to say that we have more pressing concerns than whether or not our neighbors to the north have good water pressure. Continuing to run TWW would stretch our already thin and getting thinner, management resources.

Those that argue against the sale need to consider the big picture.

Read the rest of this entry »