How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

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

The good, the bad and the ugly in government today

New Jersey Newsroom
By Irwin Stoolmacher

If the polls are right, the public is totally fed-up with government. More than 70% of the public says government isn't working well. Fewer and fewer folks see government and its leaders as a force for good in their lives. Many are mad as hell at the government. A recent TIME Magazine cover story entitled "It's Tea Party Time," described the group as a "diffuse collection of furies and frustration."

In this environment, it is encouraging when good things occurring in government.

The Good:

As I have previously expressed. I'm not a big fan of Governor Christie's general approach — I find it to be decisive, but divisive. I do like the approach the Governor has been taken in putting pressure on the Delaware River Port Authority to reform. From everything I've read, this authority has lost its way and has drifted from its mission. They definitely need to be reined in. The Governor should keep vetoing their minutes until they mend their ways.

Likewise, I like the Governor's proposal to eliminate about 300 boards and commissions that are either defunct, inactive or have met very rarely over the years. Although I suspect that the actual dollars savings will not be enormous, it is a step in the right direction. Many of these entities have state employees assigned to work with them. Freeing them up for productive activities is a good move.

I also like the way Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama responded to Pastor Terry Jones, the nutty Quran-hater from Gainesville, Florida.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got it right when she said in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations that "it is regrettable that a pastor ...with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now."

Likewise the President was on the mark with his response to questions from George Stephanopoulos about Pastor Jones.

STEPHANOPOULOS: "Let me ask you about Pastor Terry Jones. He gave a press conference today. Says he's going to go through with burning the Korans. Is there anything you can say to him to convince him not to?"

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "If he's listening, I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values of Americans. This country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. And as a very practical matter, as commander of chief of the Armed Forces of the United States I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We're already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat."

The Bad:

What is happening to municipal government in the City of Trenton is bad. The situation is a quagmire, and in my opinion, on a collision with disaster.

Providing basic services in cities with aging infrastructure is very difficult. In spite of its aging bones, Trenton has generally over the years provided adequate services to its residents because of a dedicated core of mid-level career civil service employees. Many of these employees have gotten their pink slips from the Mack administration and will be leaving their positions. The consequence will be a dramatic decline in the quality of services from: water and sewage, planning and zoning, social/human care, and recreational/culture to police and fire services. People in Trenton desperately need competent government services.

I'm not blaming Mayor Mack for the cuts he made. He inherited a terrible fiscal situation. Making up for the loss of $34.5 million in Capital City Aid is an impossible task.

I have not, however, been impressed with the track record of the people he has brought into his administration. From a reputation perspective, they fall far short of the talent that Mayor Palmer attracted during his first administration.

The Ugly:

Before the situation gets ugly, Governor Christie should consider appointing, with the approval of the mayor and the municipal council, a blue-ribbon team of urban experts and practitioners to study the state of our capital city. If these experts determine based on generally accepted criteria, that the health and safety of the City's residents will be in jeopardy if the fiscal situation continues to deteriorate, he should consider a "mandatory voluntary" state/local partnership as a pre-condition for providing the badly needed supplemental state aid.

I'm not talking about a traditional state takeover. This radical course of action, which is generally dreaded at the local level, is usually called for when corruption is rearing its head. This is not the case in Trenton. However, Trenton desperately needs some short help from both a talent and treasury perspective. The Governor should consider providing this help through a partnership with city. The partnership should be grounded in the proviso that continued support will dependent on the city meeting certain agreed to performance/efficiency criteria — not dissimilar to what the Governor is seeking with regard to linking teacher compensation to performance.

I urge the Governor to consider this course of action which would be extremely decisive, not at all divisive, if done in a spirit of partnership.