By far my biggest complaint is our city’s lack of a strategic plan. All of the mayoral and council candidates stressed the need for it in the election, all of them.
So here we are one and a half years later and we have nothing, no plan at all. Not even a bad one.
The Mayor says the “state of city” pamphlet is his plan. It’s a document full of past statistics that are mostly irrelevant. Nothing about it discusses our measurable goals and how we’ll use our limited resources to achieve them. There are no strategic themes around which departments can build their operational plans. There is no new thinking. There’s nothing.
When I complain to the Mayor, he says, “I have a plan, just not one you like Dan”. “Really”, I say, “Could you email me a copy?” I’m still waiting.
The other day it hit me between the eyes how bad not having a plan can be.
Great cities are made by bringing creative people together. This isn’t a new thought and it’s been crystallized for me recently as I read the Richard Florida author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City. I’ve been thinking about what we could do in Trenton to jumpstart own value generating creative juices.
My idea was to help organize an entrepreneur’s conference in Trenton. It’s something I’d be interested in and perhaps we could pitch Trenton as a good business location.
I went to city council meeting on Dec. 13 and my hopes were dashed.
A local business owner and several other speakers were at council to complain about a rise in the business registration fee from $10 to $300. You can pay even more if you’re a more successful business. Basically our city council and administration are planning to institute a business tax. Nearby Hamilton doesn’t have a registration fee and yet Trenton is going to add a new one. We’re adding a business tax in addition to having the highest property tax in the State.
Is this part of the plan? Is making Trenton the most expensive place in the region to do business part of the grand plan?
And now for the dysfunctional part.
At this same city council meeting, our council members were confused about how and why the business tax was so high even though they approved it. Apparently the ordinance creating the tax was put together by the city clerk with consultation from the Trenton Downtown Authority. However, the Chair of the Downtown Authority, John Clarke, spoke at council to oppose the business tax.
It seems as though the tax is some kind of miscommunication. Wow!
Slapping business owners in the face isn’t all our city council has been busy doing. It seems they have been going through the city budget line by line. They’re doing this not because they want to but because they have to.
According to council members and members of the public who’ve been there, the city’s business administrator isn’t aware of the particulars of our budget. It seems as though department heads haven’t been very involved either. In other words, they took last year’s budget, which was based on the budget from the year before that and have just copied the numbers. There’s no new thought in the budget. Imagine that our city’s only important strategic document has no strategy and no new thinking. In fact, council members are finding personnel and expenses simply shifted around.
Trenton’s dysfunctional government is managing our affairs by wandering around aimlessly, with no serious forethought and without a strategic plan. Please someone email me the strategic revitalization plan that includes rehashing old department budgets and increasing the business registration fee by 2900%.