Douglas Palmer, Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey

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Douglas Palmer
Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey
By Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor

2 March 2008: The New Jersey state capital’s four term mayor is the current leader of the US Conference of Mayors and a noted anti-gun crime activist. Douglas Palmer’s opponents however charge that the mayor has presided over economic and social stagnation and has to go, for which he looks to black leaders of the past for solace.

Douglas Palmer was born in Trenton and attended Trenton Public Schools. He then graduated from Bordentown Military Institute in Bordentown, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Virginia’s private black college Hampton University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 1973.

The city of Trenton is the state capital of New Jersey, so named after William Trent, a 17th century Quaker immigrant from England and local landowner. It is part of the New Jersey component of the tri-state New York metro area and is situated on the Northeast Corridor of the Amtrak rail network which serves the BosWash agglomeration stretching from the nation’s capital through New York to Boston. The city was also the scene of race riots in 1968, which though national in scope reflected a number of local factors such as urban decline and poor community relations. Palmer is the first African American mayor of the city, first elected in 1990 and re-elected four times since.

Palmer takes credit for the city’s emergence as a regional transport hub, with an expanded station serving the Amtrak line. He has also placed the health of citizens as paramount, with a comprehensive childhood immunisation programme, important given the lack of affordable healthcare in the US. His anti-crime and anti-drugs initiatives have also earned him a national profile among city mayors. The city is also the first recipient of federal funding to establish long term drugs prevention.

The mayor’s office website quotes Martin Luther King Jr as his ultimate inspiration: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The words of the late Dr King might yet serve the mayor as wise counsel with the challenges that will follow his 2006 re-election.

Palmer is the subject of a recall campaign in 2008, which alleges he has presided over the city’s economic demise through inept leadership. The campaign claims that the city is plagued by violent crime, poor educational achievement and economic stagnation.

The mayor claims that under his stewardship the city has seen vacant properties reduced from more than 8,000 to fewer than 2,500. However, the city has fared poorly under the recent sub-prime borrowing crisis, which has seen a rapid increase in foreclosures, which may go some way towards explaining the backlash against Palmer. Ironically Palmer has attracted some praise for his handling of the crisis, with other city mayors examining Trenton’s response, which uses non-profit organisations to buy homes under threat and lease them back to homeowners on an interim basis, rather than face eviction from lenders.

Palmer is the current President of the US Conference of Mayors and a past president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. He is also a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition headed by New York’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Thomas M. Menino. Mayor Palmer is married with a young daughter.

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