Dysfunction in Trenton, NJ – but officials say no to state aid

TRENTON — The government in New Jersey’s capital is in turmoil, but local officials say they aren’t ready for state intervention.

City Council and Mayor Reed Gusciora agree that the political solution has reached “a crisis level.”

Amid the chaos, the City Council led by Speaker Kathy McBride has suspended meetings until April. Their last meeting dates back to March 3.

In response, Gusciora published a controversial article Executive Decree allocate nearly $6 million in new spending without approval from the other agency. The mayor’s office says it’s necessary to preserve the health and safety of residents.

But when asked if the city government needed more help from the state, spokesman for the mayor’s office, Timothy Carroll, said the mayor was looking after the situation on his own. his business.

“Mayor Gusciora is demolishing abandoned homes, improving water quality and integrating social services with the police force – all of which improve the quality of life for Trentonians. He has no control over the city council or city clerk , and neither should he. Their actions speak for themselves.”

Almost all of the presidential decree funds cover water infrastructure and health services. He is also setting aside $520,000 for the demolition of an overgrown abandoned warehouse at 942 Prospect Ave.

Under normal conditions, the approval of contracts and demolitions is the responsibility of the council. However, the state’s Department of Community Affairs has a tax comptroller in Trenton who could give the green light to the executive order. New Jersey 101.5 has contacted the DCA for comment.

Chaos affects a city that was once a thriving manufacturing center, but is now plagued by crime and poverty. At $37,000, the median household income in Trenton is less than half the state average – and many of its 90,000 residents are in underserved communities that would be hardest hit by a service outage governmental.

Takeover by the State necessary?

The reason cited behind the council’s sabbatical is City Clerk Michael Conlon’s indefinite sick leave. It comes after two law firms substantiated allegations against Conlon of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

The temporary clerk’s replacement resigned after a single day where the mayor challenged a possible conflict of interest.

Marc Pfeiffer, deputy director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers, said in New Jersey that 101.5 actions can be taken at the local level.

The city council or a single member could file a complaint about Conlon with the local government services division within the DCA.

“They have responsibility for certification and disciplinary action that can be taken against City Clerks and that process must start with a complaint. It’s possible the Division could initiate its own action, but apparently that hasn’t happened yet.

It is likely that the state overhead would not resemble the financial takeover of Atlantic City. The state government has limited power and can only intervene when a municipality is heading towards insolvency.

As for the city council, Pfeiffer said the best solution may be citizen engagement rather than sweeping changes by state officials. He recommended that citizens attend public meetings, address local issues and talk to council members on the streets.

“The state has some power to step in and deal with these failures. But those powers are very rarely and very carefully used.”

Adding to council concerns, two members at large will have changed jobs in June. Former councilman Jerell Blakeley resigned from the organization in January for a position in Indiana.

Meanwhile, City Councilor Santiago Rodriguez announced this week that he would leave office early on June 30. Council members passed an election ordinance last year to extend their terms to the end of December instead of June.

Rodriguez told New Jersey 101.5 that he would complete his original four-year term, but not the additional six months. He then plans to move to Florida to care for his grandson because he says the public schools in Trenton “don’t have adequate services.”

The general counsel called Mayor Gusciora a “dictator” for the recent sweeping executive order. Rodriguez called on him to resign, adding “he should go to jail.”

A few days earlier, Rodriguez had planned what the local newspaper called a “coup” against Council President Kathy McBride.

“It was a desperate measure, but it was impossible,” he said. Rodriguez got just two of the five council votes needed to impeach her.

He also told New Jersey 101.5 that the mayor is a Princetonian, not a Trenton man.

“His go-to places were New Hope, New York, those gay clubs,” Rodriguez said. Gusciora is the city’s first openly gay mayor. “He never spent a penny in Trenton.”

As for possible state intervention, Rodriguez disagrees.

“Over my dead body,” Rodriguez said.

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