Archive for the ‘Vision and Management’ Category

A better way to spend $100M on revitalization

Over the last several years I’ve compared large urban revitalization project to a hypothetical program I call the down-payment grant.

Government folks hate comparing their revitalization projects to my hypothetical suggestion. They like to point out that the funds they propose to spend are restricted in nature and aren’t available for my crazy scheme. OK, I never said they were, but they shouldn’t argue that those funds are for the purpose of revitalization unless they can be shown to at least approach the simple benefit of the down-payment grant.

Let’s remind ourselves what revitalization means

Revitalization is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. In fact, that’s one of the problems. Our government officials shy away from specifying what they mean by the term.

I propose increased per capita income as a single clear and measurable standard for revitalization.

Economists and sociologist consistently link improved per capita income to better housing and education and to lower crime. Furthermore, it’s a statistic that the Census Bureau measures for us. A city with a high per capita income is better able to afford schools, the arts, charity for the poor and lower tax rates. It will also spend proportionately less on police and fire protection.

The down-payment grant is a good hypothetical way to spend $100M

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Modeling Trenton Dynamics: A scientific approach to revitalization

Trenton is far from average

Trenton’s median income is in the bottom 9% of communities in New Jersey. Our schools are in the bottom 2% and our crime is in the bottom 1%. Real median income (adjusted for inflation) in Trenton actually declined 6.7% during the ‘90s while New Jersey’s median income rose 4%.

Because our income level and resulting tax base is so low we receive subsidies from the rest of the state most notably Abbott funding. To be a sustainable community we need to pay our own way which means our income must be in the 50th percentile, roughly that of Hamilton.

One can argue though that an urban city in New Jersey with “average” income would be a great place to live.

Making revitalization decisions isn’t easy

Trenton has been trying to revitalize for many years but with little success, therefore its time to realize that if revitalization were easy everybody could do it. Read the rest of this entry »

A Vision and Plan for Trenton

Unlike other industrial towns that have re-invigorated themselves (Pittsburgh, Jersey City and even Newark) Trenton has been left behind. Trenton’s Mayor Palmer is a nice guy and seems to mean well but just hasn’t been able to steer the city towards any meaningful revitalization. For the past 17 years during the Palmer administration, we’ve been treated like a welfare state chasing every government handout available and with predictable results. We’ve chased away high income residents and attracted poverty.

The facts speak for themselves.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1999 to 2006 New Jersey’s per capita income has risen 18% while Newark’s has risen 24% and Jersey City a whopping 29%. Meanwhile, Trenton has lost ground with a meager 9% gain in the same seven years moving from $14,621 to $15,933. In 2006, while Trenton was busy electing the mayor that delivered these sad results, the city’s per capita income actually shrunk by 0.4% while New Jersey, as a state, grew 1.3%, Newark gained a respectable 4.8% and Jersey City grew an astounding 14.6% and

Given Trenton’s abysmal record it’s clear that the current administration either doesn’t really want to fix the problem or just doesn’t know how. Furthermore, it pains Trentonians to see the US Conference of Mayors being led to believe that Trenton is a model of economic revitalization. It clearly is not!

As a long time Trenton activist, real estate investor and student of urban economic issues I’m offering this paper as an alternative approach to Trenton’s revitalization.

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Welcome to Re-Inventing Trenton

My name is Dan Dodson.

Over the years I’ve written quite a bit about Trenton, New Jersey and all of our various issues. The articles were published in the Trenton Downtowner, The Trenton Times and sometimes just my own Trenton Page on Livingonthenet.com.

This blog will attempt to continue the same dialogue with Trenton citizens and policymakers but now with more of a two-way approach.

The blog will accept comments. (Though offensive and incoherent language will not be tolerated).

I look forward to debating the issues of the day affecting our efforts to turn Trenton into a great city.

I’ll be impressed with data driven arguments that guide our policy and approach.