Author Archive

Big suggestions for Fixing Trenton

 Not every big revitalization idea takes big money.  There are low cost policies that Trenton can either implement on its own or begin lobbying for that will fundamentally change how our city works.

I’m hopeful that our current city council will be inspired to act on these ideas as it has shown signs of willingness to move in a new direction.  I’m encouraged by many of their private and public comments especially around the subject of refocusing our economic development efforts on attracting disposable income.  Read the rest of this entry »

Discipline and Focus – Learning to say “NO”

While at the November 23rd City Council meeting I noticed, buried in the back of the ordinances section of the docket, some details that show our government is not yet focused on Trenton’s economic recovery. 

Most budget-minded Trentonians bemoan the high proportion of tax-exempt property in Trenton due to our status as a state capital.  Not only do we house a large number of tax-exempt government buildings but we also house tax-exempt buildings owned by non-profits.  Non-profit organizations tend to cluster in state capitals and in urban areas.  We also know that Trenton’s heavy proportion of subsidized low income housing has added to our cost structure without a corresponding revenue benefit.  Trenton outpaces all other Mercer County towns in low income housing combined.  As a result, our population can’t afford to support the services we all want. Read the rest of this entry »

The State’s Role in Fixing Trenton (Part 1): “What a Good Community Partner Should Do”

Gov. Christie’s “money with strings” approach to giving charity to NJ cities (and Trenton in particular) is to be applauded.  Our democratic form of government requires clear distinction between the roles of government at each level (city, county, state and national).   When funds are intermingled and distributed between levels as they have been in NJ, voters no longer have direct control or responsibility over their government and we get NJ politics.  NJ’s urban centers are almost totally dependent on state aid and for that reason we have no real responsibility for the actions of our elected officials.  The state always bails out Trenton and the others. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is Dan Dodson and what’s he done in Trenton anyway?

My Trenton Resume

Apparently, one needs Trenton “cred” to be part of the political discourse in Trenton.  It’s obvious that “clear thought” isn’t a pre-requisite.  So to try and establish a bit more “right to talk”,  here’s my Trenton story.

Unlike a lot of people involved in Trenton politics and revitalization I wasn’t born and bred here.  I was born in Alexandria, VA and was raised mostly in North Carolina.  My wife, Michelle Emerson, and I moved to NJ from Dallas in 1998 and to Trenton in 2000.  That’s 11 years in Trenton, not exactly born and bred, but pretty long. Read the rest of this entry »

Shining the light on Budget Prioritization

In normal times, in normal cities, budget prioritization isn’t really a big deal.  Political factions will scream and yell for their interests to be accommodated.  In a complicated dance of political give and take eventually budgets get done.  

For the most part, even if budget items don’t yield their promised results no one really cares because the basics were covered.  The trash still got picked up, schools didn’t close, the police responded to calls and property taxes are still a fraction of the cost of home ownership. Read the rest of this entry »

TWW: Hate to say I told you so

Back during the Water Works debate when times were less turbid, I made one central argument for selling the suburban water works. (see Invest the Trenton Water Works proceeds in the future not the past ,   Valuation tips for voters on the Water Works deal  and  Hope for Trenton – Compromise on the Water Works deal)

My thesis was that the suburban pipes were not strategic for the operation of Trenton as a city and that it would, instead, divert management attention from out critical issues. Read the rest of this entry »

The right kind of Citizen’s Advisory Committee

There’s been a lot of talk lately about citizen’s advisory groups in Trenton politics.  We’re in such a bad state that it seems a good idea to get citizen input on the policies that might revitalize the city. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beer Drinker’s Parable

The following story is often passed along by Republicans who wish their liberal friends could understand economics.  They hope that making a simple parable out of the down-side of progressive taxation they can stop the madness.  As Dr. Kamerschen (the author) and many other economist and philosophers (including my favorite Ayn Rand) have pointed out, there is no stopping the madness of self destructive societal behavior that attempts to feed on the success of others.  That’s certainly one of the factors that’s contributed to Trenton’s mess.  We love the poor and hate the rich.

Read the rest of this entry »

Economic “Must Reads” for Trentonians

Reinvent Trenton is published to help policy makers and voters think about Trenton’s issues and how to resolve them.  The site introduces new ideas, it presents data and it offers what I hope are constructive plans to revitalize the city.    Quite a bit of what you read on the site comes straight out of business, economics and public policy reading that I’ve done.  The idea is to interpret academic ideas and apply their central concepts to our situation here in the River City. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t know what to say

Like many Trentonians, I approached the 2010  mayoral run-off with trepidation and knew I had two less than perfect options.  But there’s always hope. 

Since then, I’ve largely taken the summer off from Trenton politics because I was too depressed about the election including the city council contest in which most of my choices lost.  But still there’s hope. Read the rest of this entry »