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“It Doesn’t Matter Where You Put a Building”

It’s not often that a public figure, such as a candidate for elected office, will offer up a succinct soundbite that – in a dozen words or less – serves as a quick and handy guide into that person’s political mindset. In Paul Perez, we’ve seen a moment like that in each of his mayoral campaigns, his first back in 2014 and the current one that will be won or lost next Tuesday, June 12.

In 2014, the recently returned (after an absence of nearly 30 years) Perez surveyed the political scene in Trenton and judged he was the right person to fix the City. His diagnosis as written up in one of his first press releases of the main problems in the City was pretty spot on and concise – “Th[e] absence of a secure environment negates any possibility of economic development and investment in the city, therefore the poor jobs situation and limited tax base.” But, in his very next words, he blew whatever credibility he had been seeking. “The problem is not that difficult to correct, however, it does require seasoned business acumen to get it done.” [Emphasis mine – KM] I wrote a piece in response to that press release and a Trenton Times (remember them?) article in which Mr. Perez made another big promise, saying “Make me the mayor today, and tomorrow you will have 105 police officers back on duty.”

More than anything else, those two lines, appearing days apart, summarized Mr. Perez’s 2014 candidacy in a nutshell: grand, bold, over-confident, over-simplified and under-informed.

You have to admit, to a great extent it worked pretty well for him. The statements quoted above didn’t really seem to hurt him any, and he upped his game significantly over the following year. The recently returning native son and political newbie came in as a very impressive second-place finisher in 2014, although carrying a great deal of electoral baggage unresolved to the present day, in the form of un-filed campaign finance reports and evidence of multiple violations in those reports that had been filed for his first race.

By the way, today’s reported endorsement of Mr. Perez by retiring mayor Eric Jackson represents an alignment of two fellow campaign finance scofflaws, for what that’s worth. The news today does nothing to advance the compelling public interest that Trenton’s citizens have in knowing that their mayors are fully transparent with their campaign finances and compliance with state law. On that scale alone, I hold Eric Jackson’s endorsement of Paul Perez as a net negative, leaving me even less inclined to vote for Mr. Perez next week.

Hubris has not been in short supply with Mr. Perez the politician, from the time he returned to Trenton five years ago to the present day. For someone who is openly running against what his campaign disparagingly calls “a career politician,” Paul Perez has certainly become a “second career” politician, seeking Trenton’s mayor’s office nonstop since his return, and including a couple of bouts of testing the waters for other county and state offices as well. He’s been well truly bitten by the political bug, with his several private commercial ventures often spoken about but never really visible other than as props to burnish his resume.

This year, Mr. Perez is running a strong race, having finished first in the first round on May 8. He arrived yesterday at the downtown Trenton campus of Mercer County Community College, location of  the final public town hall event before next Tuesday’s runoff election as if he was  already elected, accompanied by an extensive entourage and a readiness to mix things up with his opponent, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.

The Trentonian’s account, written by David Foster, accurately catches the often-combative tone of the afternoon’s discussion. But Foster’s article missed the one single line spoken by Mr. Perez that summarizes this year’s campaign as neatly and revealingly as his “the problem is not that difficult” line four years ago.

In a discussion about the prospects for economic development for the City, reference was made to the fact that Mr. Perez changed his stance on a key State of New Jersey initiative begun in the last months of the Chris Christie Administration to demolish several currently-occupied state office buildings and build their replacements far from downtown. This plan, announced last year, generated a great deal of opposition among Trenton residents and business-owners, who argued that the State’s decision to abandon Trenton’s downtown was a heavy blow to other efforts by the city and other redevelopment organizations to draw business and traffic in, as well as action in serious opposition to Trenton’s long-range Master Plan, Trenton250. This opposition, which went as far as an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the plan filed by several people including Mr., Gusciora.

Mr. Perez initially joined that opposition, but later reversed his stance to support it. The timing of his reversal suggested to many in Trenton that it was a cynical and politically expedient move, made in order to gain the politically potent endorsement of the Mercer County Building and Construction Trades Council, which strongly supported the Christie plan for the new office buildings, providing jobs for Trades Council membership, regardless of the impact to Trenton’s Downtown, its Master Plan, or its local business community.

In his statements yesterday, Mr. Perez pretty much, however inadvertently, confirmed the cynical, politically charged view of his reversal on the State Building plan, in a one-liner that deserves to be remembered.

“It doesn’t matter where you put a building,” he claimed, at 2:44:08 in to this video recording of the event, in a dismissive comment that will come as a true surprise to anyone who works in city planning and development, anywhere and anytime. He went on to say that no matter how far away from downtown the city puts these new buildings, workers and visitors will engage with downtown attractions and business, and suggested the main factor involved with this would be public safety, and not geography. “If the city is safe, people are going to walk distances.”

He then went on at length to minimize the importance of this State building project. He is seeking to develop Downtown as a whole, and the entire City. “[W]e don’t need just two buildings. We need the City to be developed.” He even went as far as to say that the State plan to move the buildings downtown was really unconsequential. “Because they moved it, you know, two feet away, now people aren’t going to walk? How many of you believe that?” he asked the audience. He was visibly taken back by the strong response to that rhetorical question.

Many in the audience were clearly more familiar with the history of Trenton’s development follies over the last 60 years than Mr. Perez was. They’ve seen too many times that state office buildings cut off from the economic hearts of the city in downtown and the Transit Center do not contribute to Trenton prosperity. They’ve seen that it sure as hell does “matter where you put a building!” They know that if, for instance, Trenton’s only hotel had been sited closer to the Route 129 Arena, it very well might have seen much more business over the years, and have become a successful business.

As they say in Real Estate, “Location, Location, Location.” It DOES matter where you put buildings!!

And this state office project has to be seen not as “just two buildings.” It’s a major initiative by the State of New Jersey, which is still de facto the biggest developer in play, by far, in this city, and the state’s decision to build far away from downtown makes all other plans and aspirations for the area incalculably harder to pull off.

Many in the audience got all that yesterday. Mr. Perez didn’t, and it sure looks like he changed his mind in order to receive a political endorsement and the likely contributions that came along with it.

There were other moments in the discussion in which, both Mr. Perez and Mr. Gusciora struck some odd notes. Mr. Perez conflated the current budgetary impasse between State House Democrats in the Legislature and the Governor into what would be an unlikely long-term retreat by the State from facing responsibility for its Capital City. He also tried unfairly and inaccurately to pin the Eric Jackson Administration’s failure to apply for Transportation Trust Fund monies on Mr. Gusciora. For his part, Mr. Gusciora’s discussion of dining with Governor Murphy as proof of access to the levers of state power were less than compelling.

Most of what was said yesterday will probably be forgotten by most people by the time that they go back to the polls on June 12. But, in my opinion, “It doesn’t matter where you put a building” deserves to be remembered. And not in a good way.

Don't Underestimate a Taurus

Councilman Zachary Chester: [W]ith Council, we don’t have stipend, or we don’t have funding to send out messages…

Q: You don’t have any way to contact your constituents? I mean, any funding to do  that?

Chester: No. And Council would have to be willing to put funds into our budget, which we keep our budget at bare minimum, in order to do that. Interview with Nubian News, 5/23/2018

twitter1

Just imagine how much more Mr. Chester could tell us about being a Taurus, if only he had taxpayer funding to help him communicate with us!!

#Taurus – You never know what they are capable of!

Zachary Chester 2.0

I suppose finishing Second in the first round of your re-election does give one a strong jolt of humility, perhaps teaching the lesson that what you’ve been doing in the past might not be enough anymore.

That’s the only explanation I have for the way too little, way too late reinvention of two-term West Ward City Council member Zachary Chester taking place in the final days before his June 12 run-off against first-time candidate and first-place finisher on May 8 Robin Vaughn.

Mr. Chester has scheduled a Town Hall meeting for the residents of the Ward – his first in eight years, if memory serves – for the end of this month. And a 25-minute YouTube interview, under the auspices of the “Nubian News Afrikan Awareness Forum” reveals what looks like a brand-new candidate. Call him Zachary Chester 2.0.

These efforts, plus likely others he’ll try in the next two weeks, won’t work. This is a sad attempt to reverse in mere days a record and a persona that has been set in stone for the last eight years.

As recently as this past January, Mr. Chester was well known for pontificating from his position as City Council president, blaming his Hiltonia neighbors and Trenton voters in general for failing to help him do his job. Remember his comments at Council on January 16?

[W]e as a Community find everything wrong with this City. And then I ask folks, “Help out!”

My neighbors in Hiltonia, they don’t even drive down Stuyvesant Avenue. They take the back way to 29. My house sits right there. I sit on my porch. I see who ride past my house.

But then we talk about our City. We live here. This is our City. Today is a new day for our City. We have a new Governor. A Governor that stated that he would help the Capitol City.

But no one’s going to help us if our own people are fighting against us, and not trying to understand.

And I say to all of them, all of those, all of those who want to post the picture of me and the Gravy Train, “What have you done for your City? Which elected official up here have you worked with?”

Because I know when I had an election, and I ran against folks, and they said, “No matter who, we”… We were in a meeting, a debate, and everyone said “No matter who wins, we’ll work with that person.”

I wait. Because we can do more working together, than always fighting, and putting misinformation out there. Because individuals in this City believe Black and Brown folks in this City are not educated, and we don’t understand.

Because if you can call me for a pothole, call me for policy.

That’s right, said Mr. Chester in January. We didn’t call him enough on matters of policy. Our bad!

In his latest comments, Mr. Chester sounds almost contrite, 180 degrees from the arrogance on regular display in Council Chambers.

Right off the bat in his Nubian News interview, Chester for the very first time publicly mentions the elephant in the room that he ignored for the last four years, and which he uses to explain the entirety of his performance in office over the last four years.

The very first question from the unseen, unnamed interviewer is, at the 0:15 mark is, “Many people in the West Ward complain you’re nowhere in sight and not pro-active. What say you?”

Chester’s reply, from 0:26:

Well, many, I think many of the residents of the West Ward were not aware of the divorce that I went through. Going through a divorce and Council Presidency, which was a lot of responsibility had me more focused on getting my personal life together.

It’s something I did not, did not make public.    It happened.   Went through it, came out on the other end, still standing, with the responsibility of managing Council, and working.

So, in moving forward, in the upcoming Council – you know, because,I believe, that I am going to be successful – that I am not going to be seeking the Council Presidency. I’m going to focus on the Ward. Actually, I am in the process of reconnecting with the West Ward residents. I have several community meetings set up to sit down and reconnect with the residents of the West Ward.

So, that’s supposed to explain things? He was distracted for the last four years because of his divorce?!?! That’s why he was disengaged from constituents? That explains why he presided over four years of inattention and negligence?

Why, under his leadership, his Council twice re-approved the contract of the payroll vendor stealing millions of dollars from the City? Why his Council raised no objections to the ongoing deliberate withholding of resources and attention from the Trenton Water Works leading to its current state?

And now, that he has explained that the last four years are really better off just forgotten, he says he won’t run for Council president! He’s “reconnecting” with the people he represents in the West Ward! He won’t be distracted!

One obvious follow-up question begs to be asked, but was not by the interviewer: “If you were so distracted and out-of-touch during the past four years, why didn’t you, at the very least, step down from the Council Presidency to focus on your Ward then? Why did you push through, admittedly distracted?”

That’s a good question to ask him at the May 31 Town Hall, by the way!

Even in this apparent admission of failure intended to appeal to voters for another chance, he uses language that tries to deflect any personal responsibility for his record.

In the words above, which really do sound as if he recognizes his shortcomings and is asking voters to overlook them and his record during the last term, he can’t even bring himself to explicitly ask the voters for their support. He doesn’t mention at this point the upcoming election or the need for votes. He merely says that he “is going to be successful” in the “upcoming Council.” He doesn’t even acknowledge that he needs the approval of the majority of the June 12 election voters to send him back to the “upcoming Council!”

The next section of the interview is somewhat surreal, when you consider this man has been a sitting Council member for two full terms, eight whole years! In response to questions about how Mr. Chester intends to reconnect with his West Ward constituency, Mr. Chester explains that he’s now – only now!!! – going to put together a database of his constituents. At the 2:19 mark:

Moving forward, you know,  figuring out how to capture constituents’ contact information, whether it’s cell number, or email, to be able to email out information, text information out to residents. One of the challenges in doing that, is you know first getting the information, and then being able to afford to send the information. So, text message, for those residents that are willing to share their numbers, that’s very low cost. Because with Council, we don’t have stipend, or we don’t have funding to send out messages.

You see what he did there, at the last? It’s been really so difficult for him to communicate with his constituents in the West Ward because there’s no money in his City Council budget to do so!

The interviewer picks up on that and follows up.

3:04       Q: You don’t have any way to contact your constituents? I mean, any funding to do  that?

3:08       A: No. And Council would have to be willing to put funds into our budget, which we keep our budget at bare minimum, in order to do that. [Emphasis mine – KM]

Enough.

It isn’t Council’s, or the City’s, collective obligation to keep individual members in touch with their voters. It’s not up to the taxpayers – who fund Mr. Chester’s Council budget, after all – to do that.

It’s the sole responsibility of a Council member to do that, and the success or failure that the member has is on no one’s head but his or her own. If an eight-year member of Council has to talk about starting to put together a list of constituent contact information, you know that’s an admission of his ongoing failure to have done so up until now. And, in the waning days of his eight-year tenure on this Council, to blame a lack of City resources on his failure to communicate with residents is appalling.

How much does Twitter cost? How much does Facebook cost? How much does a basic website cost?

Next to nothing! Cost isn’t a good excuse here.

Neither is lack of resources. At the end of 2014, after his successful re-election the year before, Mr. Chester had $2,643 dollars in his campaign account. That was even after incurring over $10,000 in non-election expenses such as contributions to other political campaigns and non-profits.

Do you think he had enough money then to spend on constituent communication?

Over the following four years, he continued to raise funds for and spend money from his campaign account. Going into the beginning of his re-election year this January, he had $3,038 in his account.

Do you think he had enough money over the last four years to spend on constituent communication?

His most recent campaign finance report, filed on April 27, disclosed he had $20,038 cash on hand, more that several mayoral candidates.

Do you think he has enough money NOW to spend on constituent communication?

Of course he’s had plenty of resources available to him for each and every one of his eight years in office to communicate with his Ward!

Just in case there’s any doubt on the matter, the manual for all political candidates and elected officeholders in the State prepared by the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission explicitly states permissible uses of campaign funds. Among those are (page 33):

a.) Costs of communications to constituents, including:
i.) The production, circulation, and postage of newsletters, mailings, or
other written materials for officeholding duties;
ii.) The sponsorship or holding of a seminar or other meeting to be
attended by constituents

In this interview, Mr. Chester attempts to explain his poor record and failure to communicate with the people he represents by the distraction of his divorce, the lack of constituent contact information, and the lack of taxpayer funds.

Bullshit.

Mr. Chester would have been much better off in these last few weeks doing just as he has over the last four years: nothing. His efforts this week – a last-minute Town Hall and non-apologetic apologetic video interview – only emphasize how ineffective and out-of-touch he has truly been.

I won’t summarize the rest of the interview. The link above will take you to the whole piece. Overall, it is a very unsatisfying piece. Many of his answers and explanations are very highly edited, so that is impossible to get an idea of what Chester intended to say in his response. In any case, after the first three minutes of defensiveness, non-apology apology and deflection, you get a sense of where the whole thing goes.

I do applaud and agree with his call that, over the next four years, City Council and the rest of City Government need to focus on “getting back to the basics” of local representation.

In Zachary Chester’s case, it’s way, way too late for him to participate, or even to apologize.

By his poor performance in office, he has proven to the residents and voters of Trenton’s West Ward that the Best Basic we can work for right now is a brand-new Council member for this Ward.

The Single TWW Bid is In!

As discussed at the beginning of the month, the City of Trenton issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for “The Provision of the Operation and Administration Services for the Trenton Water System.” The existence of this RFP was tipped to me by long-time reader and retired water engineer William Pyle.

I thank Mr. Pyle again for letting me know that, as scheduled, received proposals were opened this week, on Tuesday. There was one single respondent.

We have an answer to at least one question posed on May 3, that of wondering how a new vendor would be working alongside the two other engineering firms, Wade Trim and Banc3 Engineering, under emergency contract to the City since the beginning of the year to calm the very troubled waters of the city-owned Trenton Water Works (TWW), providing clean water to a quarter-million customers in the City and throughout Mercer County.

It turns out that the only firm to submit a proposal was… Wade Trim Engineering! A summary of the proposal can be found at the City’s website, at the provided link. Here’s a snapshot of the front page.

wadetrim 5-22-18This graphic is pretty small. In case you can’t make out the numbers, this proposal carries a 3-year price tag of $14,380,449. If additional one-year options are picked up, the total cost to the City will be $24,453,154 for five years.

That’s a lot of money.

Under this contract, Wade Trim would hire new personnel or assign current employees to fill 20 positions throughout the Water Works.

wadetrim 2 5-22-18

There’s not a whole lot more that can be said about this proposal at this point, other than to repeat what I wrote on May 9, when this RFP first came to light:

All of this activity – the 2 current contractors, the proposed new one, new initiatives such as this “Lead Service Line Replacement Program” – seem to be all parts of a grand new plan for the Trenton Water Works.

Does this current, outgoing Administration have any intention of letting the public – the residents and ratepayers of the City of Trenton as well as the tens of thousands of customers in the rest of the County – in on what exactly this plan is?

All of us, as well as those who are seeking to be the city’s next Mayor and Councilmembers, would appreciate – and frankly deserve, after the last several chaotic years – to know what the plan is before it is set in stone.

For the next 2 1/2  weeks, in the lead-up to Trenton’s runoff election, whenever you run into a candidate for Mayor or Council, incumbent or challenger, be sure to ask them what the heck is going on at the Trenton Water Works. There’s an awful lot of activity and money in the works right now, with several long-term contractual commitments being pursued.

It would be nice for citizens and customers to know what it all means!

Desperately Seeking Equivalence?

Someone out there must be getting hot and bothered, as the June 12 mayoral runoff election approaches. A great deal of time and effort is being taken by parties unknown in an attempt to – apparently – smear mayoral candidate and 15th District Assemblyman Reed Gusciora with a guilt-by-association charge.

It’s seriously odd, and from what all I can see so far, it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Listen, I will warn you right now. This is really inside baseball. There’s a lot of hair-splitting, and mountain out of molehill stuff. I record it here only to pass along the circumstances by which this whole thing came up. If you’re not interested, or if it strikes you as petty, fine. Leave it. Move on with your day. You’ve got better things to do.

Just don’t whine, ok?

So, yesterday I come home to a plain white envelope, mailed to me without return address, postmarked (as far as I can tell) May 21 in Titusville NJ (I think). Another Trenton resident had previously texted me to ask whether I’d gotten a similar package. So there are at least two out there, for what that’s worth.  No name, no return address.

Inside is a cover page labeled “Reed Gusciora -Mayoral Campaign contributions and associations.” That’s all it says. Otherwise the package consists of excerpts from recent campaign finance reports filed with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) over the last several weeks; primarily reports filed on April 9 and April 27. The ELEC excerpts highlight some individual transactions, and include additional material.

This is the weird part: the additional material include State Business Registration listings, news clippings, court filings, and pictures of properties in Trenton – seemingly selected for their advanced condition of decay – allegedly owned by companies supposedly owned by some of these contributors.

That’s it.

There’s no narrative, no explanation, just a lot of individual dots left to be connected. There is an organization-chart-style “cheat sheet” graphic intending to show relationships among several individuals and companies, which I suppose is intended to tie the whole thing together, Big Lebowski-style.

There’s not a lot of connection to be made, frankly.

OK, the first set of dots laid out for me regards a $2500 donation on the report filed on April 27, from an entity labeled as “Province Line Ventures, Inc.”

province line 1

My Anonymous Correspondent (going forward, “My AC”) was no doubt pleased to call that out as a mistake or violation. I was provided by a state Business certificate showing that Province Line Ventures is a LLC, a Limited Liability Company, not a Corporation. The contribution should have been recorded and reported to ELEC under the name of the owner (properly, “member”) of the LLC.

province line 2

My AC has that one correct! That contribution, received three days before the report was filed, and fourteen days before the election, was improperly recorded, and will need to be revised.

No argument here.

But from this point on, My AC provides only small beer.

As mentioned above, My AC included a lot of material connecting several contributors to each other using business and family connections. As I mentioned above, some business entities allegedly connected to some of these donors appear to own real estate properties in the City of Trenton.

However, the named individuals highlighted on the ELEC excerpts I received in the mail are all associated with contributions at or under the legal limit set by state Election Law. They are reported properly, from what I can see, and reported on a timely basis. Other than the one business entity listed above, none of the other businesses listed on the Big Lebowski cheat sheet appear anywhere on Mr. Gusciora’s reports.

So, in other words, BFD?

I don’t want to put words into the mouth of My Anonymous Correspondent, but I don’t really don’t see anything egregious out of all this. Are there accusations to be made about the businesses and holdings of some of these individuals? If so, I don’t see it, and I don’t hear it. I won’t make any on my own.

Is there a suggestion that somehow a candidate is required to vet the background of anyone presenting a check at a fundraising event? I’m not hearing it. If there is a longer history somewhere here that puts the present  one-off records of this current campaign in some relevant context, it’s not here.

Is there some problem with family members making individual contributions to the same candidate? As long as the individual donors stay under the maximum contribution limit, and are properly identified in the appropriate timeframe, I say Go At It!

I will not identify any of these persons or businesses any further, because frankly I don’t see any problems by their contributions. Reed Gusciora’s ELEC reporting seems pretty buttoned-up to me, with the notable exception of that one mis-recorded corporate contribution. Notable only because it’s the only major problem surfaced by this mailing.

What I do see in this anonymous white envelope is an attempt by someone – I won’t speculate on who that might be – who feels that my notes on campaign finance reporting discrepancies and failures might be rather too one-sided or biased against one candidate and in favor of another.

The fact is that both of the remaining candidates in our election threaten the status quo that’s existed in this City for far too long. There are too many people defending too little turf to feel comfortable with either Mr. Perez or Mr. Gusciora coming into office in July. There are several folks who might feel that wounding both with mud in the run-up to June 12 might neutralize them somewhat coming into office.

Let me say this again. I will not speculate who My Anonymous Correspondent is. I will not accuse the Perez campaign. I will not accuse any other failed mayoral campaign or supporter. Someone has a grudge, and took the time and effort to take it this far.

Both candidates have faulty and misleading ELEC reporting, so the two sides should sort of cancel each other out? Is that what My Anonymous Correspondent intended?

There’s no equivalence I see here.

This anonymous package is an attempt to smear a candidate by association with individuals whose only links to the candidate that can be seen are legal and timely contributions. That’s all. Period.

Nothing to see. Let’s move along.

Now, on the other hand, if you want to see what a more serious allegation looks like, here’s some other material I was sent some weeks ago. I haven’t published it before, because I could not verify it. Because I couldn’t verify it, I couldn’t stand behind it. But it’s worth printing here, today, to show what a substantive charge really looks like. So to avoid the issue of credibility, I’ve scrubbed these sheets of all individual identifying information, since none of this is about the individuals. These are included here today as an example of what would be good, credible evidence of campaign finance reporting problems.

brushed perez funds1 5-3-18brushed perez funds2 5-3-18brushed perez funding 3 5-3-18

brushed perez funding 4 5-3- 18

What these have been described to me as being are screenshots of a contribution log recorded for an election fundraising event supporting  the 2014 mayoral campaign of Paul Perez. An event with donations recorded both by Check and by Cash.

None of which donations and donors were reported to NJ ELEC before, during or after the 2014 campaign.

Do you now see the difference between the treatments of the the 2018 Reed Gusciora and the 2014 Paul Perez campaigns?

The charges made by My Anonymous Correspondent apparently intend to tarnish this year’s candidate by connecting him – by nothing more than innuendo – to legal, timely contributions made by individuals whose non-campaign-related lives and businesses that may be less than sterling. So what? The candidate and his campaign have Nothing. To. Do. With. That.

Nothing.

The 2014 material alleges that the candidate and his campaign failed to disclose to the State – at least concerning  this one campaign event – individual donations made by check and cash. During a campaign which has claimed for the last four years not to have received ANY cash donations.

This behavior, as compared to that of the 2018 candidate discussed above, continues to be the responsibility of the Candidate – as it has been for the last four years.

You see? These two situations are not remotely similar.

If My Anonymous Correspondent – are you out there? – feels that I didn’t understand what he or she intended to tell me about the Reed Gusciora campaign, I am still open to hearing an argument and seeing the evidence.

You still have unmarked envelopes and stamps?

This Stuff Writes Itself!

UPDATE: As of Monday, 5/21, there will be at least one Town Hall/Debate event featuring both mayoral finalists.

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 4:30PM, on the Trenton Campus of Mercer County Community College.

More details to come.

Hooray!

NOTE: Below is a piece from May 29, 2014. I’ve had to do a remarkably minimal amount of editing to update this this year. Events don’t usually parallel themselves so closely, but hey! This is Trenton, where if something is worth doing once, it’s worth doing over, and over, and over again.

Even if all we end up doing is picking mistakes.

To make it easy to follow where I’ve made edits, I have put the updated text in Bold Red. Just in case you really can’t follow what I’m saying here.

— # —

Would you be ready to marry someone after a courtship consisting of only a half-dozen speed-dates? I wouldn’t!

Yet, Trenton mayoral candidate Paul Perez is ready to call the caterer and get measured for his tux. He’s done debating opponents for this current election, and thinks he’s done all he has to in order to tie the knot with the City of Trenton.

He apparently believes that there is a quota for such appearances, and that he’s reached it.  His campaign must believe – with some justification, it has to be said – that he is a strong favorite to win the June 12 runoff election against Reed Gusciora, and that at this point any further public debates or forums can only provide opportunities to make public mistakes. Better that he limits any further appearances to small papal-type audiences, where he can tailor his message to each person he speaks with, and can be less concerned with communicating a consistent and coherent public message that he would be held accountable for.

His campaign strategy seems to be geared toward mistake avoidance, just planning on coasting from now until June 12. This lack of activity extends to his campaign website and Twitter feed. The candidate has messaged only once since May 8‘s election,  only to announce his first place finish on May 8. This seems to me to be a “Rose Garden strategy” for someone who isn’t even an incumbent!

To me, Mr. Perez misses two important considerations. First, his finishing first on May 8, a result that he apparently felt entitled him to state on the record that “Reed has no business standing in my way right now.  He should just go back to the House (sic) and pass some bills that will help our city.”

He neglects to note that his finish in this election came from a total turnout of only 22.80% of the city’s registered voters, a more miserable number than even 2014’s small voter turnout of only 26.93% of registered Trenton voters. The runoff is likely to bring out a number smaller than that.

Mr. Perez is OK with that? In his position I think I’d want to campaign harder and more publicly in order to get the vote out, to engage more voters to show up at the polls. If the June 12 turnout is anything like this month’s, then the new Mayor of Trenton will be elected with only something like 14% or 15% of Trenton’s voters. It will be hard to govern like that. The new guy will find it difficult to claim any kind of mandate, or to be treated seriously by anyone with the State or New Jersey with pitiful election numbers like that. But apparently that’s not bothering Mr. Perez. He’s content with the effort he’s made so far, figuring that should be just enough to get him over the top.

A second relevant factor to look at is the example of how Kathy McBride fared at the mayoral polls in 2014. Her campaign strategy specifically avoided appearances at public candidate forums, because as reported in the Trenton Times, “she also has declined to participate in the forums because the people who will pull the lever for her do not attend candidate forums. She said she is pulling her support from the people in the community who know her personally and have seen her around.” [Emphasis mine – KM] Then again, she has just won an At-Large City Council set this month with very little public campaigning and no town hall appearances. What do we conclude from this? That Trenton’s voters, as fickle and hard to figure as they are, appear to have different, higher standards for their mayoral picks than their Council preferences.

A candidate or his campaign manager shouldn’t have to ponder very long about how well that kind of strategy paid off. McBride’s deliberate choice to avoid candidate forums had to have contributed to her sixth-place finish out of the field of six.  Perez‘s stance of disengagement from further public debate is a poor choice to have made.

His new emphasis on individual meetings with voters hearkens back to two other recent examples that I doubt Mr. Perez wants to be associated with, but it is inevitable.

Remember that long ago time in the Fall of 2012 when He Who Will Not Be Named embarked on a series of weekly “Ask the Mayor” sessions? Remember how, after only three of those meetings – held in a City Hall conference room and open to the press and all citizens – abruptly ended after the fourth scheduled event “erupted in protest this morning and drew police involvement after Mack barred the press and unexpectedly required residents with questions to meet with him one-on-one ?”

I’m sure Tony Mack also figured that individual meetings were a better venue to talk about HIS plan to “reduce crime, improve schools, create jobs and restore ethics to City Hall!”

And in 2014, Eric Jackson basically campaigned for the runoff the same way he ended up governing, in seclusion except for occasional photo opportunities. He figured, correctly as it turned out, that he could coast on his May result and hide from the voters. He won, and we were stuck with him for the last four years. History does seem to be repeating itself in Trenton this month.

Are these associations with Kathy McBride and Tony Mack and Eric Jackson the kinds of examples that Mr. Perez really wants for his campaign? I can’t think of any possible reason why, but they are inescapable after this latest announcement.

He really should re-consider his decision to avoid further debates and public joint appearances with Mr. Gusciora.

Come On In, Boys! There's Plenty for Everyone!

The outgoing Eric Jackson Administration and lame-duck City Council are planning on leaving a nice parting gift to the new Mayor and City Council .And they are creating Christmas in May for two dozen of New Jersey’s leading – and politically connected – law firms.

In the published Docket for Thursday’s City Council meeting are no fewer than 25 separate Resolutions that – if all are approved – will provide for contracts with 20 different law firms (some of the lucky firms are looking to get two different contracts) for various legal services to the City in the amount of – wait for it – $1,490,000.

You read that right. Nearly $1.5 Million Dollars in new contracts for work that will be mostly be done well after July 1, the expiration date for this current crowd in City Hall.

Here’s a spreadsheet showing a summary of the Resolutions (which can be read on pages 3-6 of the Docket), the firms involved, the proposed amounts of the contracts, and what they are for. It’s quite the list. Here’s a snapshot:

trenton legal2

Of this amount, $1,350,000 is for new contracts, with $140K added on to several existing city contracts. Considering the significant amount of the amendments, I would say the odds are good that the $1.350 Million worth of new deals will not be the final amounts.

This is a HUGE amount for a city like Trenton to be paying for outside legal services. Let’s try putting this into some context. Every city and town in New Jersey prepares their budgets using the same Chart of Accounts, making it easy to see how much each town budgets for the same items because they all have the same account numbers.

In the Adopted Budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30, Trenton budgets  (in Account #20-155-2, for the nerdy among you) $1,464,800 for all Legal Costs other than Salaries and Wages for the in-house Law Department. This, for Trenton, isn’t anything really new. The budget for this line in FY 2014, the year before the Jackson Administration, was $1,302,000. The number for 2010, the last year of Doug Palmer’s Administration, was much lower however, $760,000.

So, we can see that the City’s outside legal bills, while large under Mr. Palmer, really exploded under Tony Mack. And this current Council.

Back to the present. Since, as mentioned above, most of these outside legal services are likely to be actually used during the new Council Mayoral term, the Jackson Administration is either spending all of next year’s Legal budget right now; OR next year’s Budget for Legal will be hugely higher than this year’s.

Either way, whoever the new Mayor and Council will be, they should remember to say “Thank You!” for dumping this on them before they have a chance to settle in to their new offices.

Trenton’s outside Legal costs dwarf those of other New Jersey communities. Next door Hamilton, comparable in population to Trenton, has budgeted in their 2018 Introduced Budget only $107, 050 for their current budget year, which started January 1.

Up Route 1 North, New Brunswick, a city similar to Trenton but with a slightly smaller population of about 57,000 people estimates $371.001.52 for their outside Legal expenses in account #20-155-2. I like the “52 cents” in that budget line; it strikes me as a kind of quaint confidence in their ability to estimate the expenses to the penny. Trenton estimates to the nearest hundred dollars, which I think is also kind of quaint.

From my limited tour of NJ Municipal budgets, I only found Newark with a higher Adopted Budget line, for 2017 (the latest year on the website)- 20-155-2 $2,526,000 This city budgeted $2,526,000 for its Outside Legal, far more than Trenton. However, Newark is the state’s most populous city, with a population more than three times that of Trenton, at about 282,000. That city’s Legal Budget per person (a rough guide, but one that can be calculated apples to apples) comes to around $8.95. For Trenton’s approximate 84,000 residents, that amount is$17.44, almost double per person.

How is it that Trenton spends so much more on legal services than places like Hamilton and New Brunswick, and nearly twice as much per person as the State’s largest city, Newark?

Damned if I know! This has been a long-running problem in Trenton. Every couple of elections, a candidate or two will promise to cut back on the use of outside lawyers, but they never seem to get to do it. During this election, I don’t think I have heard or read of any candidate talking about that. If I am wrong, please correct me!

Are people in and around Trenton more likely to sue this town than others? I don’t know if that’s the case.

Are Trenton’s legal problems inherently that much more complicated than other towns? I kind of doubt it.

So, why does Trenton spend so much money on lawyers?  Part of the answer might be found in looking at who gets these contracts from this City.

Long-time readers of this space will well remember the problems the last two mayoral Administrations had with some of the law firms it hired – or just tried to hire. Who could ever forget Tony Mack’s efforts to bring in the Cooper Levenson firm from Atlantic City, which ended when news broke of an illegal donation made to Mack’s campaign using a local Political Action Committee as the middleman.

Eric Jackson’s young Administration experienced similar complications with its 2015 attempt to award a contract to the firm of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick and Cole (remember that firm!). This firm hired the City’s Law Director of the time, David Minchello, as a partner, and he then tried to get his new firm some City business. In the words of a news story of the time, “The news raised concerns about a perceived conflict of interest because the Teaneck firm was awarded an $80,000 contract with the city to provide legal services regarding labor and employment issues at Minchello’s recommendation.”

As  the result of these developments, DeCotiis ended up without a contract, and Minchello left his City job.

This is just a little background on how much Trenton spends on law firms around the state. Now let’s take a brief look at the firms to whom all this contract work goes under this Administration.

One theme throughout this list is the frequent and high-profile connections among several partners of these firms with state and federal Democratic Party players and personalities. Of course, politicians and lawyers often tend to overlap the private and public spheres, all across the country. It just seems sometimes that in New Jersey, the frequent overlap and deep-seated connections have been raised to an art form. Let’s look at a few of the firms who are slated to receive contracts from the City.


One of the name partners at Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor (up for one $50,000 deals), Elnardo Webster, is described on that firm’s website as “active in Democratic politics, most notably serving as Treasurer and Finance Chairman to Senator Cory Booker’s mayoral campaigns.”

If you were thinking that the “Florio” in Florio Perucci Steinhardt & Capelli ($30,000) is THAT Florio, you are correct! James J. Florio, himself, Democratic 49th Governor of this fair state. Another name partner, Lou Capelli, is a Democratic Camden County Freeholder. In a demonstration of political “diversity,” another name partner, Douglas Steinhardt, has been Chair of the Warren County Republican Committee, since 2004, and Chair of the New Jersey State Republican Committee since last fall.  According to the firm’s website, Michael Perucci does not seem to have been involved in state politics for either party, as a practitioner, although he has been a frequent and generous contributor – mostly to Democratic candidates, but some Republicans as well – having donated at least  $27,000 and as much as $47,000 per year for the last half-dozen years to candidates in NJ, Pennsylvania and New York, mostly.

Edward Florio, of the firm of Florio & Kenny ($50,000), doesn’t seem to be related to the former Governor, from what I was able to find out, but he does seem to be another Democratic heavy-hitter. According to his page of the firm’s website, “He has served as coordinating attorney for the John Kerry for President Campaign, the Jon Corzine for Governor Campaign and the Campaign of Robert Menendez for United States Senate. Mr. Florio also was coordinating attorney for the successful campaign for Barack Obama for president of the United States.”

I think you get the idea. I’ll just mention one last law firm for now. Rainone Coughlin Minchello ($175,000) is a relatively new partnership, having formed only at the beginning of 2017. But what they lack in history as a firm, they more than make up with the history and experience of their name partners.

Louis Rainone is described on his webpage as  “one of the most well know and accomplished municipal attorneys in New Jersey. He has served as counsel for many of the state’s largest municipalities, including: Newark, Edison, Trenton, Franklin, Marlboro, Perth Amboy, Clifton, Brick, Piscataway Rahway, Sayreville, Bound Brook and Green Brook… He served as Legislative Assistant to the Chairman of the New Jersey General Assembly Committee on Taxation and in the same capacity to the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee… Mr. Rainone practiced law for 17 years in Middlesex County as the Partner of former Assembly Speaker Alan J. Karcher.” And, one more credential: “Prior to forming the firm Mr. Rainone was the Co Chairman of the Municipal Law Section at DeCotiis FitzPatrick and Cole.” [Emphasis mine – KM]

Hey, you remember them. From that ruckus described above, with then-City Attorney David Minchello!

Well, you won’t be surprised (spoiler alert! He is a name partner in the firm) that David Minchello is also at the Rainone firm, and seems to have finally landed a big contract with the City of Trenton, his old employer, just before his friend Eric Jackson leaves office.

It’s important to mention that the current Speaker of the NJ Assembly, Craig Coughlin-D, is the other name partner. That makes two Speakers who Louis Rainone has partnered with in his career.

This new law firm has been very successful in drumming up business with local NJ communities during its first couple of years. According to Politico.com, the firm has received one $300,000 from Somerset County’s Franklin Township (nearly half its annual budget for outside lawyers) , and one for $250,000 from Marlboro in Monmouth County (almost its entire outside Legal budget) .

Trenton apparently likes to spread the wealth around, with a large number of moderately-priced contracts awarded to several law firms, as in this week’s proposed Resolutions, which seek to hire twenty different law firms. It’s a very different approach, having the City of Trenton figuratively announcing to the state’s Legal Community, including all those politically “connected” firms with which the City might hope to earn some good will, “Come On In, Boys! There’s plenty for Everyone!”

Regarding this week’s proposed Resolutions, it’s very possible that the City does face a number of new situations that may require the kind of specialized legal services offered by many of these firms.

But, 25 of them all at once?? That Resolutions need to be urgently passed and contracts urgently signed before the new Mayor and Council have a chance to look at them?

Something here does not seem right. I think this situation needs attention, and I think this process needs slow the heck down. To be clear, there’s nothing with these proposals that seem on the face of them to be illegal or otherwise improper.

But there are just so many Resolutions! So many law firms! So much money!

Last week, we seem to have elected three new At Large Council members. They might like to attend Thursday’s session to persuade this lame-duck Council to hold off on all of these and give them a chance to review them in July.

There are three Current Council members running for re-election who might want to think if they want to be noted on the record as voting in favor such a big payout to so many “connected” law firms so soon before the runoffs.

And there are two mayoral candidates who may also want to attend Thursday’s session for a quick education on Trenton’s many legal woes.

All the current and potential new officeholders have a personal stake in Thursday’s session. since they – and not the current Administration! – who will have to live and face the consequences of these huge lame-duck proposals on deck this week. Time for them to step up and slow this down.






Un-Worthy

“We must hold our elected leaders to a higher standard and they must demonstrate they are worthy of the voters’ trust.” – Walker Worthy, as quoted in the Trenton Times, April 21, 2014

If we use the “higher standard” that he used against his then-rival, Eric Jackson, then we have no choice but to conclude that Mr. Worthy flunks his own test, and is not deserving of the public’s trust this Tuesday, May 8.

Here’s  piece of last-minute campaign literature produced by the Worthy Mayoral campaign. There’s nothing subtle about it.

worthy2 5-5-2018

worthy1 5-5-2018

One of Us? One of Us? One of Us? One of US?

Sorry for the repetition, but this flyer uses that phrase no fewer than four times, just in case the message wasn’t being communicated strongly enough.

Who exactly is US, Mr. Worthy?

Yankees fans? Libras? Left-handers? Cookies and Cream Ice Cream fans?

If it’s that last choice, then I am definitely with you, Mr. Worthy! You and I, we are US!!!

Somehow, I really don’t actually think that’s what you’re going for here.

In this last. long week of Trenton’s city elections, conventional wisdom (and word on the street says so, for what that’s worth) seems to be that the three leading candidates are Mr. Worthy, Paul Perez and Reed Gusciora.

So, other than Mr. Worthy, that would mean that the other two presumptive contenders are a Hispanic male, and a gay white male.

Hmm, so your use of “Us” might mean…?

Look, I won’t go there. I don’t think I have to.

The use of the phrase “one of us” in politics in this country has a long and ugly past. There’s not a chance in hell that a political operative or consultant worth their salt would not know about it, and its baggage. But the Worthy campaign is using it here, they are using it now.

Mr. Worthy, and his campaign team and consultants, must be worried enough about his prospects on Tuesday that they feel it’s time to play the race card. I think it’s pretty infuriating, and yet one more demonstration that Mr. Worthy has been this year’s candidate least hesitant and quickest to take the low road and fling mud when it suits his purposes. So, I ask the candidate,

Is this what all that donated campaign money is supposed to pay for?

Is this the kind of campaign that your  high-priced consultants planned out for you?

I sure as hell hope not, but that’s what I see with my own two eyes.

This approach may help him eke out some extra votes on Tuesday, perhaps enough to get him in to a runoff.

But to what end? It sure seems to me that playing the race card as obviously as this might earn him electoral success this week, and perhaps even in the runoff next month. Is that worth selling his integrity? Is that worth selling his soul?

Mr. Worthy, if you win the Mayor’s office using this kind of tactic, this kind of appeal, what happens on July 1?

You know, when you have to represent the rest of… us?

Make a New Plan, Stan

Whoever the new Mayor and Council will be, the outgoing officials will be leaving a very large present for them.

rfp 2 5-3-18The City is soliciting proposals for vendors to provide “Operations and Administrative Services” for the troubled Trenton Water Works (TWW). This is in addition to the contracts in place with the Wade Trim and Banc3 engineering firms, who are providing personnel for technical operations with the utility. Unlike those two contracts, which were written for one-year terms, this Request for Proposals (RFP) envisions a three-year term for this proposed deal.

As you can see from the image above, proposals are due to the City by May 22. Conceivably, a contract could be awarded and put in place by the end of June. The new Mayor and new Council may have no input into this contract, and may have to live with it for three years of their terms.

Clearly, much, much more work is desperately needed at the Water Works. Much of the day-to-day chaos at the Filtration Plant and other TWW facilities has died down since the beginning of the year when emergency contracts for Wade and Banc3 were hurriedly written and signed. The pace of water quality incidents and required notification letters has dropped off considerably from last year’s record-setting pace.

Dropped off, but not stopped. This week, some TWW customers in the Mercer County service area received rather alarming letters from the utility. The letter announced a “LEAD SERVICE LINE REPLACEMENT PROGRAM,” and said the following:

tww1 5-3-18The prospect of putting out $2,000 to $5,000 is something that would scare the bejeezus out of any homeowner. It would scare me, although we didn’t get a copy of the letter. Presumably our service line is ok. Presumably.

However, there is some reason to think that not all of the households who received this notification actually have lead service lines. For one thing, I was tipped to this letter, and the RFP, by long-time reader and retired Water engineer William Pyle, who has contributed always useful information about the workings of civil water utilities since this space was started in 2010. He, in turn, found out about the letter, when a homeowner in the TWW service area who received one asked him what he thought. His reply, excerpted:

The letter will lead people to believe that they have lead lined pipes from the water main to the curb and also lead-lined pipes from the curb into their houses. It is unlikely that the utility pipes from the water main to the control valve, also known as a curb valve, are lead lined. There may be some lead-lined pipes but most of the older pipes are probably just unlined galvanized iron pipes. What is likely is that the galvanized pipe is connected to the water main by a piece of lead pipe, which is about 18-24 inches long and is sometimes called a gooseneck.

The property that received this letter does not have a lead-lined pipe from the curb valve to the meter in the house. It has copper. Nevertheless, the occupants wouldn’t necessarily know that and could sign on for replacement of a customer-owned service line that doesn’t need to be replaced. When the City’s contractor attempts to replace the line, hopefully, the contractor would recognize this and the contractor would not replace the line. However, the contractor would then be looking for someone to pay for the contractor’s time and lost profit. Or, the contractor would just replace the line and the homeowner wouldn’t know that it wasn’t necessary.

Although each homeowner’s situation may be different, anyone who received the letter should be concerned, but might not want to shell out thousands of dollars right away, until more details of this Program are known.

And more trustworthy information, too. Just in case Mr. Pyle’s advice isn’t persuasive enough, maybe this detail might suggest to you that this letter might not be 100% accurate: the version on the City’s website, the one linked above, is an online correction to the one TWW’s customers this week. The mailed copy of the letter listed the wrong area code for the Water Department. Yep, the area code given was 973, NOT 609. Oops.

tww 1 5-2If the folks in the Water Works can’t even get their own phone number right, maybe they do need help with their Operations and Administration. Which brings us back to the RFP.

This is a very ambitious plan proposed by the City. There is a very long list of duties and obligations to be assumed by the successful bidder. The language in Section 5 on Pages 23-24 provides a good summary:

The Successful Responder shall be responsible for the direction of the operation, management, administration, maintenance and repair of the Water System in compliance with all permits and Administrative Consent Orders, in accordance with the Agreement. Meeting the terms of the Administrative Consent Order entered into by the City of Trenton and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on February 5, 2018 shall be the priority.

It’s a very good sign that the City seems to be serious about complying with the terms of this year’s Administrative Consent Order (ACO), considering how it essentially blew off the last couple.

Another thing that the City is quite adamant about in this document is that even though operational and administrative responsibility is to be contracted out and privatized, the City of Trenton’s ownership is not in play. On Page 5,

tww3 5-3-18

To actualize this plan, the RFP envisions several management and operational personnel to be provided by the successful bidder. Below is the list of 20 positions as written on Page 33, in Schedule C. Eleven positions are anticipated to be filed at the very beginning of the contract, with another 9 following on in later weeks and months.

tww2 5-3-18The existence of this RFP raises several questions. Among them:

This new vendor will be in place for at least several months alongside two others, Wade Trim and Banc3. Some of the positions to be filled by this new vendor, such as “Senior Operator” and “Operator” sound they may overlap with similar positions provided by the two existing vendors. How are all of these vendors intended to work together?

Will Wade Trim and Banc3 transition out of TWW at the conclusion of their one-year contracts, or will they continue, alongside this new vendor?

The current contractors appear, as far as it’s publicly known, to be providing its personnel from outside the city. Will this also be the case for these 20 new positions? After all this activity started during the last several months, how many city residents will be employed at the end of this process, compared to its start?

How will the addition of all of these commercial contractors and new personnel affect the utility’s rates and budget?

All of this activity – the 2 current contractors, the proposed new one, new initiatives such as this “Lead Service Line Replacement Program” – seem to be all parts of a grand new plan for the Trenton Water Works.

Does this current, outgoing Administration have any intention of letting the public – the residents and ratepayers of the City of Trenton as well as the tens of thousands of customers in the rest of the County – in on what exactly this plan is?

All of us, as well as those who are seeking to be the city’s next Mayor and Councilmembers, would appreciate – and frankly deserve, after the last several chaotic years – to know what the plan is before it is set in stone.

Right now, the only way we are hearing about these new plans is by unanticipated letters in the mail (with wrong phone numbers!), and being tipped off to important purchasing plans located in the depths of the city’s website.

As of today, it looks like this Administration is being consistent with its behavior over the last four years.

It’s taking care of major city business, and making crucially important contractual deals, while leaving its citizens and customers uninformed.

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

An update to last night’s piece:

Based on assurances from the Paul Perez campaign last night, that the Perez campaign was not responsible for producing or distributing a tasteless graphic yesterday featuring the late Ray Charles “endorsing” Paul Perez’s candidacy for Trenton Mayor, I wrote the following: A representative from Paul Perez’s campaign denied that they had anything to do with both the Ray Charles and the MLK graphics. So, as of this evening, this short-lived graphic seems to be a genuine dirty trick, produced by others to embarrass the Perez campaign.”

Sorry about that. I based my statement yesterday on the denial below from campaign representative Michael Ranallo, which appears to have been a false statement

mr 5-2-18That was before another reader sent me the following screengrabs, made before the original posts were deleted from Facebook.  Note: I will not post the full original graphic, so the image below has been cut-and-pasted.

rc composite

Michael Torres, you may recall from yesterday, is the Perez supporter who reported the distribution of Walker Worthy campaign literature at the downtown Motor Vehicles office. Bill Kearney is a Perez supporter who has been producing a number of Perezz graphics for social media. Since Mr. Torres asked Mr. Kearney to make the RC graphic public, and he did so, one may assume that Kearney produced this graphic as well.

You will also note that the candidate, Paul Perez, was tagged in the original post.

This is really a small insignificant incident in the grand scale of Trenton’s election season. Except for a few things.

In my post yesterday, I wrote how Reed Gusciora owned up to and took responsibility for a probably more offensive campaign graphic that he told me was produced and distributed by a campaign supporter without his or his campaign staff’s knowledge. Subsequent to my post, by the way, Mr. Gusciora wrote a note on Facebook explaining the incident in greater detail.

I also wrote how Walker Worthy campaign manager Reese Lennon took responsibility, however awkwardly, for supporters associated with his campaign distributing their literature in the MVC office.

Of the three examples I cited yesterday, two campaigns took responsibility.

Paul Perez’s campaign responded by both deleting the graphic, and intentionally misled me about the role played by the campaign in the creation and distribution of yesterday’s graphic.

Not cool.

Michael Ranallo, responsible for yesterday’s written denial, is a senior campaign worker with whom I have been in contact on other matters, namely regarding the status of the outstanding and problematic campaign finance reports overdue from Mr. Perez’s failed 2014 mayoral campaign. On April 19, he sent me an email assuring me that work had nearly been completed on addressing these open questions. I excerpt that email below (Emphasis mine):

ranallo 4-19

The candidate assured me, both by directly speaking to me and having his lawyer send me a letter, that he took “full responsibility” for both the mess created by his 2014 reports and for the clean-up. Which, as Mr. Ranallo told me several weeks ago, was “complete.”

As of this morning, however, there are no updated, revised reports from 2014 posted to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) website. Although both Mr. Ranallo and Mr. Perez offered to have me review all of their documents, I told them I looked forward to seeing the updated reports on the ELEC site. Looking through a campaign’s internal reports proves nothing, not until the candidate signs a report and sends it to the State.

Which has not been done.

Which means all of the questions I raised in February – about improper cash expenditures, the total absence of cash receipts, missing in-kind income and/or expenses – are still open. None of them have been answered.

As far as the campaign is concerned, wrote Mr. Ranallo, there’s “no proof” any cash was ever received by the campaign. Any thought that cash may have been received or spent around the many campaign events held around town, is just “speculation.”

We are only six days from the election. Paul Perez’s 2014 campaign reports are as elusive as Donald Trump’s tax returns. We are not likely to see them before the election.

In February, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I trusted Mr. Perez, Mr. Perez’s lawyer, Mr. Ranallo, and the Perez campaign, when they promised to clear up serious campaign finance questions. They haven’t done that. They fooled me once.

Yesterday, about what should really be a silly insignificant matter, relative to much bigger issues, the campaign chose to intentionally mis-state their involvement. On the basis of the written reassurance given me by Mike Ranallo, I wrote that the Perez campaign wasn’t involved. And that does not seem to be the case. They fooled me twice. Shame on me.

The Ray Charles graphic is a throwaway, a stupid idea stupidly executed, laughed over by their creators like junior high school students’ first experiment with Photoshop. Yet they lied about it to me.

The graphic yesterday is not important. That Paul Perez has not answered four-year old campaign finance questions six days before the election, is.

The failure of Donald Trump to release his personal tax returns during of after the 2016 Presidential election was one of many indicators during that election that he was the kind of person that he has proven to be in office: venal, duplicitous, not to be trusted. It was there for all to see. Not enough people believed what they saw. And the man is doing incalculable damage to this country and its democracy.

Paul Perez and his campaign are showing us the same types of indicators of what he may be like in office. It’s there for all Trentonians to see.

Will we believe what we see? We’ll find out May 8.