“Here’s What You Need to Know”

“Here is what you need to know about yesterday’s winter storm.”

That was how an entry began written by Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson for his private Facebook page “Mayor Eric E. Jackson,” and posted this morning. It’s a post that only exists on the Mayor’s Facebook page, visible only to the Mayor’s “friends” (I am not one, by the way. This screengrab was sent to me by another reader who has been befriended by Mayor Eric E). As of 2:45 PM Friday afternoon, it has not been posted on the City’s public website, which is available to… well, the public. All that is there are notices posted before yesterday’s storm.


What’s that, you say? A Mayor with a private Facebook page, that is closed to many thousands of Trenton citizens? One that very prominently uses his “Mayor” handle? How is this permissible?

Well, it shouldn’t be permissible, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

It’s “Here’s what you need to know” that rankles. From a man who has been notoriously uncommunicative and informative over the 3 1/2 years of his term, such a statement implies “…and what I don’t tell you, you don’t need to know.” I do not accept that Eric Jackson is a fair judge of what we need to know as Trenton citizens. He and his Administration simply cannot be trusted to tell us what we really do need to know.

Case in point, the latest incidents at the Trenton Water Works.

Yesterday, a Notice was posted on posted on the City website that stated “Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard.” The notice describes how testing of a water sample from November 14 2017 indicated an abnormal level of a substance called Haloacetic Acid 5 (HAA5), and how this abnormal level may have been caused in part by yet another, earlier incident, the low water pressure occasion in early November.

The notice stressed that “This is not an emergency. If it had been an emergency, you would have been notified within 24 hours.” [Emphasis in the original.] So, since it wasn’t an emergency, giving us the information about this incident nearly two months later is OK?

I guess this is all we “need to know.”

This is an odd notice. It was posted on the City’s website yesterday, January 4, although the notice itself is dated at the top “December 26, 2017,” and says at the bottom “Date distributed: January 5, 2018,” today. The Spanish-language version only has the January 5 date.

Also yesterday, the Trentonian published a piece by David Foster that reported, “From Sept. 25 until Nov. 2, the failure of a Trenton Water Works (TWW) Combined Filter Effluent (CFE) went undetected, according to a four violations the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hit the city with in November.” The article goes on to say, “The violations outline that TWW should have notified customers of the problem but it is unclear if that ever happened.” [Emphasis mine – KM]

I didn’t get a notice about that problem. Did you get a notice about that problem?

Didn’t think so.

These are just the latest in a long series of recent “incidents” (read, fuck-ups) at the Trenton Water Works. Mr. Foster reports “Since Mayor Eric Jackson has assumed office in July 2014, the city has been hit with a whopping 16 water violations from DEP, with 12 of them coming in 2017 — it’s worst year ever on record. As a former Trenton public works director, Jackson used to be responsible for overseeing TWW’s operations.” [Emphasis mine – KM]

Things are getting worse at the Water Works, and things are getting worse in Trenton. And yet, we continue to get crucial, vitally important information about all sorts of City problems, not just the ones involving the safety of our water supply, late or not at all. We see today that water problems known 3 months ago were hidden from the public. The critical state of insufficient staffing – the root of a lot of these recent occasions – at the Water Works only came to light after the release of documents by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to this writer.

The same with news about the poor state of the relationship between the City and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development leading to the loss of millions of dollars in federal grant funds. And ditto for the story about the number of warning notices received by Trenton while millions more in city dollars were being embezzled right under our noses.

All that information had to be dragged out of this secretive Administration, each and every time.

And now we finally know why. Because this Mayor thinks that this kind of information is not “what we need to know.” The Mayor will tell us what we need to know! The rest, apparently, doesn’t matter.

But, we can’t even rely on what he DOES tell us to be true.

On December 1, Eric Jackson told Kevin Shea at the Trenton Times that the urgent discussions with the State revealed to the public at that time “which was contentious in the past few months, but centered on staffing, not water quality.” [Emphasis added – KM]

You just can’t believe a statement like that, especially now that we know the City received a whopping 12 water violations from the State last year, “its worst year ever on record.” It is about water quality, Mayor! It is! Twelve violations in one year proves that!

It’s too late to expect this Mayor and this Administration to level with us. About anything. All we can hope at this point is wait it out until the May election, and vote Eric Jackson out of office.

And hope our water doesn’t poison us before then.

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