How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Excessive Hubris in Mercer County Politics

This column is going to explore some possible explanations for the recent bizarre political behavior in the City of Trenton and Hamilton Township.

Let’s start with the City of Trenton. Municipal government is by-and-large dysfunctional. The level of antagonism towards Mayor Gusciora by the majority of the Council is palatable. The Council rejected a development proposal that would have brought a significant number of jobs to Trenton and replaced an eyesore in the Roebling Complex with an attractive new building. Granted the Mayor could have done a better job of presenting the project to Council -- not as a fait accompli but rather a joint undertaking of the Administration and Council. Nonetheless, the Council rejection of the Princetel proposal to redevelop the rundown Roebling building known as Block II was wrong and, like many of their actions, irresponsible and counterproductive. The Council definitely has oversight responsible but not carte blanche to take actions that are detrimental to Trenton’s best interest simply because they do not like the way the Mayor, or for that matter the State, is operating.

Council’s latest irrational gambit is to launch a suit against the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for exercising its statutory authority under the terms of an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that put the state in control over Trenton because of past improprieties. DCA holds all the cards. Trenton has no leverage with DCA. The City of Trenton must abide by the MOU which grants the State broad power. No ifs, ands or buts. Trenton needs to convince DCA that they have righted the ship to earn more leeway with regard to financial and personnel decisions. The Council’s suing DCA and the Mayor trying to sneak by pay raises by them is not the way to build trust with DCA and make the case that they are good stewards of taxpayer funds.

At the root of bickering between Council and the Mayor is the perception that Gusciora is weak politically and can be easily defeated in three years. There are elected officials in Trenton who want to be mayor or have a candidate they would like to see replace Gusciora. Their thinking is that if he is not successful governmentally, he can easily be defeated.

It is hard to imagine a political scenario under which any of the current feuding Council members come out on top. If the situation is not reversed, the more than likely end-result will be housecleaning and lots of fresh faces in Trenton in the next municipal election in three years. It will be a plague on all their houses. Gusciora may go, but so will the Council members who brought him down.

It is about time that Trenton’s Council comes to the realization that the best way to ensure their political future is to accomplish something during their tenure. If the current gridlock continues and Trenton deteriorates even further, the City will remains under the yoke of DCA and see further reduction in State aide and even higher taxes. Even worse, there could be a state takeover.

If you want to replace Mayor Gusciora, the best way to do it is make the case that much has been accomplished in spite of his lack of leadership and that so much more could be achieved with new leadership. That means more cooperation and less “nonsense” (a term used recently by DCA Commissioner Sheila Oliver to describe what is going on in Trenton),

Hamilton Township is right up there with Trenton when it comes to being political dysfunctional. Kelly Yaede handling of the townships animal shelter situation has been poor. She should have indicted early on that the premature euthanizing of animals before the required seven day holding period was wrong (not just a record keeping error) and would be expeditiously corrected and those who made mistakes would be appropriately dealt with.

The same goes for the inappropriate approval by her brother-in-law of $4,686.36 in hotel lodging expense. The Mayor should have stated it was a mistake and that the only person authorized to grant the approval was the CFO, John Barnett. She should have humbly pronounced that appropriate procedures would always be followed in the future and that it would not happen again. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as you fess-up and take corrective action it usually has a happy political ending.

Many of the problems in Hamilton and Trenton stem from excess hubris on the part of key players. Both situations would improve dramatically if key leaders would try to tone down their excessive pride.

Likewise Democrats in Hamilton would be in a better place if Barbara Plumeri, the very connected, generally astute and powerful Chairman of the Democratic Party, had supported Joanne Bruno, the long-time head of the Hamilton Democratic Club for Council instead of two lesser known Democrats.

In politics, knowing when not to flex your political muscle is sometimes more important than knowing when to flex it. Kathy McBride, Kelly Yaede and Joanne Plumeri would be well-served by he exercising restrain in the use of their considerable political power.