Friday, March 31, 2006


Later today, Assemblyman Michael Panter will post his first Q&A session on his blog. Be sure to check it out.

Update- It's here!

Taken in

I got taken in by this. Almost posted it as true fact. See, it's only 3/31...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Petty's Island- compromise?

NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson is seeking a compromise for Petty's Island, according to a Philly Inquirer article this morning:

"I think that there's no side who's entirely right and no side who's entirely wrong," Jackson, who became commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection two months ago, said in an interview. "It's not a black-and-white issue."
"Certainly as an environmentalist, all other things being equal, of course I would rather see open space and a place for conservation. But I'm not going to do that without consideration of what the folks who are trying to develop it are trying to do for their town."
Jackson agreed to reopen the state's decision after being asked about it in her confirmation hearing. She said she was keeping open the possibility of reconvening the state's Natural Lands Trust, the group that rejected the donation.
Even if she decides against that, however, DEP still controls any development permits on Petty's, she said.
Protection of the eagles' nest is a "no-brainer," Jackson said, but pointed out that the eagles had chosen to build near the island's noisy trucking facility.
She also is emphasizing the island's cleanup. Her boss said that was a top priority. "First things first: Let's get the settlement with Citgo," Corzine told The Inquirer's Editorial Board last week. He has not taken a strong position on the island's development, although he said repeatedly during the gubernatorial campaign that he opposed plans for the golf course.

This is going to be a pretty tough compromise to make, keeping both the Pennsauken development interests and the environmentalists happy; or if not happy, at least not steaming mad. I'm glad to see Corzine feels this is a top priority for the DEP, and it's pretty impressive that Jackson was willing to jump right in at the beginning of her tenure. According to the article, Jackson is widely seen as an apolitical figure, which may help her here- the development/conservation of Petty's Island has been a political mess.

Now, let's see what the compromise entails.

(Hat tip and thank-you to DBK at

Thank you

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words at the loss of our beloved dog. We're adjusting- all except our younger greyhound, who keeps expecting her sister to come home at any minute.

Your emails, calls and kindnesses are appreciated. Thank you all.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Bob at the Rix Mix asks, "Do animals go to heaven?" I don't know. I'm not really convinced of heaven either way, let alone the rules on who goes.

I was in my car yesterday morning, in the rain, thinking about information. When I was in college, I didn't have internet and rarely had access to a TV, let alone cable. So, if I had to make a decision based on weather, I heard the day's weather report on the radio or just looked out the window. "Yeah, bring the umbrella today," I'd decide, based on that information (somehow it rained the better part of four years in Delaware.) Now, I have an indoor/outdoor thermometer with barometric pressure readings, 24-hour weather on TV, and access to the internet where I can get radar pictures and dozens of predictions. Do I really need all that to decide whether to bring an umbrella today?

So, I've talked to the vet. A lot. They've done bunches of tests and they can do more. But the fact is, she's almost twelve- average life expectancy for a retired racing greyhound. They can test more, check more, get more accurate diagnosis, and find out lots more information. However, I looked out the window and I see the rain coming, and it's not far off anymore- it's time for the umbrella.

I brought her home yesterday morning in the rain. She had a day at home on her couch and a night in her own bed. Today, she went back to the vet's office, for the very last time. Toasty's race is run.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Citizens Health Care Working Group

Good friend veeganmd pointed me toward a survey online at Citizens Health Care Working Group. From their site: "Congress and the President created the Citizens' Health Care Working Group to hear what you think and then recommend how to make health care work for all Americans. By participating with the Working Group you can have an inside track to influence the deliberations of Congress and the President. Don't miss your chance."

The survey is here. It doesn't take too long, and maybe- just maybe- someone will hear us.

Carnival of NJ Bloggers- Hitchblog

Another fantastic hosting of the carnival by The Opinion Mill!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Stamp of approval

Standard and Poors, Fitch Ratings and Moody Investor Services have all given Corzine's budget a thumbs-up as proposed. Hearings begin on the budget next week, and it will certainly undergo changes before it is adopted. But since these groups have the power to raise or lower our state's bond rating, the very thing that determines how much money we pay when we borrow, I'd say those are good endorsements indeed.

While many groups faced with cuts or flat funding have objected to the budget, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services yesterday issued a preliminary report that said Corzine's revenue projections are "realistic" and gave him credit for not leaning on stop-gap revenue-raisers to close a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.
"Although marked by significant spending, the recommended budget offers a greater amount of permanent revenues to support the increased spending, unlike prior budgets where large spending increases were undertaken and funded with nonrecurring revenues," said the report.

Not everyone's happy, not everyone's gonna be. But a realistic budget is something this state hasn't seen in a long time- let's hope it stays that way through the revision process.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Got a different Question?

Jay over at Lassiter Space (and my co-blogger at Bluejersey) will be conducting an interview with Kirk Bloodsworth, who is the first American to be removed from death row based on DNA evidence. Our Fair State currently has a moratoriam on the death penalty, and we have not executed anyone in 43 years.

Jay wants your input- what would you want to ask Bloodsworth? Tell Jay.

Got a Question?

Assemblyman Michael J. Panter of the 12th legislative district will be taking questions directly from you and answering them on his blog every other Friday. See his post here for more information, and you can email questions using links found here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Governor's 2006 Budget Address

Governor Jon Corzine made his Budget Address earlier this afternoon. As reported in most of our newspapers in the last few days, Corzine mentioned raising the sales tax from 6% to 7%, elimination of 1000 state jobs, cuts in over 70 state programs, restructuring of the child welfare system, and an increase in cigarette taxes. The governor also stated that "economic growth should be the engine to expand revenues, not taxes," and announced some strategic investment concepts to increase economic growth, specifically for pharmecuticals and biotech industries.

The governor stressed that this budget contains "hard choices" and that those hoping for a magic solution from the former Wall Street CEO are out of luck- the budget solutions come down to "old-fashioned arithmetic. We can't keep spending more then we take in." The budget proposed today is only the beginning; the legislature will spend the next two months hammering out the final version.

The address and commentary are available on NJN, and will also be rebroadcast tonight at 10PM. Text of the address is available here.

There was a great moment in the wrap-up where Democratic commentator Rick Thigpen and Republican Roger Bodman began to argue about exactly whose fault is the state's budget mess, and Thigpen compared the spending of the Whitman administration to that of a drunken sailor. He also got in a partisan dig at the federal budget; nice job of hitting the talking points about Republican fiscal irresponsibility!

Assemblymen Louis Greenwald (D) and Joseph Malone (R) and Senators Wayne Bryant (D ) and Anthony Bucco (R) were interviewed by Michael Aron as a legislative response to the address. The Republicans harped on the fact that the total budget increased: "We're raising the taxes to raise the budget," said Assemblyman Malone, without noting the fact that such increases were mostly mandated by previous legislation or by the courts and not on the table for discussion- they must be funded.

Assemblyman Malone also harped on the idea of consolidation but there is no way a consolidation of towns, school districts or services will make a difference in this budget cycle. I hope and expect that the Assemblyman will remember his comments and cross party lines to support Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts when he proposes a package of bills to encourage consolidation.

The budget process will be a long fight, with everyone trying to keep tax increases lower while trying to keep services at the same levels and reducing the budget and posturing politically. As logic dictates, we can't have it all. The governor wapped up his address by saying:

New Jersey is one community, with one future.
If you don’t like what I’ve proposed, then give me an alternative that is as far-reaching and as fair.
If you don’t like the taxes, give me more cuts.
If you don’t like the cuts, then you’re out of luck – because there are already more taxes than I want.
We’ve got a tough few months ahead of us. I am sure there will be a temptation to duck some of the hard questions we must face. But in our hearts, we know better.
And most of all, we recognize that one course is not open to us - just doing more of the same.
So, let’s get at it – together.>)

(cross-posted at

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Quinnipiac Poll

A new Quinnipiac poll of voters in Our Fair State was released this morning. (I love it that they include a pronunciation guide in each of their polls (it's KWIN-uh-pe-ack), but I digress.) In general: Senator Menendez and Kean Junior are very close in the senate race with Menendez holding a slight edge, a vast majority of us dislike how the president is handling Iraq and his job in general, we don't think Senator Clinton can beat Rudy Guliani, and there are far too few Feingold supporters here.

Here's the money quote:

Among Kean voters, 32 percent point mainly to philosophical agreement, with 26 percent who like him because they liked his father, former Gov. Thomas Kean, and 18 percent who point to his record in the State Senate.
"It is significant that a quarter of Sen. Kean's supporters are voting for the son because they like the father. That could be a weakness for Kean as he becomes better known on his own by the voters," Richards added.

Sorry, Junior; sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt.

Patriot Act made fun!

The board game that brings the thrill of trampling the Constitution into your own home. It's the Patriot Act Board Game! Download your copy at home today- don't try it in the library, though, someone may be watching.

Go to Guantanamo, go directly to Guantanamo. Do not pass go, do not speak to a lawyer...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kicking and Screaming, part 2

The editorial in the Trenton Times today is titled High Taxes v. Home Rule:
Now it's reported that State House leaders are preparing to push more aggressively for shared services or consolidation. Under proposals in the works, incentive grants will be increased, but towns or schools that don't combine their policing, garbage pickup or other functions when they obviously should may be punished by cuts in state aid. "It clearly needs some more carrots, but it may also take a stick," says Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Brooklawn, who is drafting a package of bills on the subject. Property taxpayers are carrying a heavy burden for "the immense redundancy we have" in local government, Speaker Roberts said. Gov. Jon Corzine suggests that he'll support some judicious use of the stick, as well. "I've actually been told, `Don't touch . It's life or death for you,"' the governor said at a shared-services seminar in Teaneck. "After looking at the budget, I might as well touch it."

It is just plain sad that it has to come down to state threats and lawsuits to put a pin in the holy "Home Rule" in Our Fair State, at the same time that municipalities are bracing themselves for lowered aid money from the state.

As we've been reminded before (see comments here,) "the devil is in the details." Not all consolidations are appropriate or fiscally sound. However, I for one strongly support more agressive measures by the state to encourage consolidation, including aid cuts- at least for municipalities who refuse to even consider or investigate consolidation of services as a method to lower expenses.

(cross-posted at

I need better PR

This guy gets a newspaper article on his solar installation, and I didn't? Even though my next-door-neighbor and I did our install at the same time? Man, I need better PR.

Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers XLIV


Hello, and welcome one and all to the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers! We're glad you're here reading with us, as spring weather teases us outside. Let's see what's going on in the blogosphere in Our Fair State this week.

Our Stories

Cliches begin arguments, they don’t settle them, but the make for a bitter cup of coffee. The art of war is of vital importance to the State, and to our own checkbooks. "This is a tale of innocence and innocence lost, of friendship sometimes found in unexpected places, of ignorance about race and the true measure of a man or a woman" - and a most worthy read. Low battery beep? Must be about 3 AM. No Blooker prize, but some good attention. Ambiance, good beer, corned beef, cabbage- get ready to jig! "If you try another stunt like that again, I will destroy you," said the band director to one player who was only pretending to be a trumpeter. Check out the readings now that the wedding has happened. What to do when it's Lent but you want gut-busting pork products? WWGAD (what would the Green Arrow do?) Sometimes foreign-born stars get lost in translation. We could never forget some of these orphan brands- even if we might want to, eventually. What blew up in the laundry? Maybe you just shouldn't call- but, when tragedy strikes, make a casserole. Have some faith, and remember we all start out as artists. We never can forget the wedding from hell.

New Jersey

Should Gov. Corzine completely dismantle the SCC, cut services or raise taxes? Or should we consider consolidations, even if we have to be dragged to it kicking and screaming? There appears to be some disagreement on the State Business Tax Climate. Let's talk about Rich Sexton. The carnival's beloved Tillie needs a new home. They may call it progress, but it's the end of the Wildwood as we remember it. Don't forget Ocean Grove Wellness Weekend!

In the Headlines

Stories for sale- anyone buying? How many chances do you get when you let opportunities slide by? Sometimes, they may be squandered. Big Love, gay marriage, and cuckolds- oh my! Sometimes, you just wonder what the world is thinking. What journalists should be asking about hate crime legislation. We hear about tax-and-spend, how about borrow-and-spend? We can hear about Tony Blair, and read about President Sirleaf of Liberia.

Fun and Beauty

Remembering Shadow. Walking, or maybe dancing- taking that "good stretch of the legs." Check out the new DJ on Mango Radio. Experience the sunset of Cape May in March. I, personally, think it's all good. On St. Patrick's day, a story of tradition and heritage, and a story of the pitter-patter of little feet.

--Now that we've wrapped up Carnival 44, have you read the wrap-up for Carnival 43?--

Next week the carnival travels to The Opinion Mill. If you enjoyed reading the carnival, think about how much fun you'll have hosting! Prime weekends are available in later spring and summer, so check out the above link- just click on Tillie- and follow the instructions to sign up.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, March 17, 2006

More about beer

A good blogfriend just reminded me how much I love beer. So, here's an update on the unnamed homebrewery:

We have a Marzen in primary fermenter right now. As you can tell from the name, it's a traditional German style brewed in March, and we've brewed beers like it several times before. We'll get it in bottle in a few days, but it took a very long time to start fermenting so we're not rushing it. The ESB we brewed a little while back is in secondary while it dry-hops; will bottle next week. We're running out of Fat Quaker (it's an oatmeal stout- get it?) and Summer's Pilsner is going fairly quick, too. Time to bottle!

I do so love beer.

The carnival is coming!

I will be hosting this week's carnival of NJ bloggers. Please submit your post by about 11PM Saturday night to to be included.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St. Baldrick's day

Remember Nathan, who visited us here at the Center of NJ Life for a couple of weeks on the sidebar? The guy who plans to shave his head tomorrow in support for children with cancer?

What, you forgot to donate, didn't you?

There's still time!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kicking and Screaming

Regionalization of services and an interlocal spirit of communication and cooperation? Only if we're dragged into it kicking and screaming, according to the article in today's Times of Trenton:

For years, Pennington and Hopewell boroughs have refused to consider extending much needed sewer services to Hopewell Township, saying it would violate longstanding borough policies.
And the boroughs have all but turned a deaf ear to the township's repeated suggestions for sharing municipal services.
But a new era of cooperation may be dawning in Hopewell Valley, thanks to a legal maneuver the township used to put its neighbors in a more accommodating mood.
In settlement made public last week, the township has agreed to drop a tax appeal that could have spiked school taxes in Pennington and Hopewell boroughs next year. In exchange, the boroughs made concessions regarding sewers, police services, budgets and other key interlocal issues.
"This is major progress in terms of interlocal cooperation, no doubt about it," said David Sandahl, deputy mayor of Hopewell Township. "It's a shame it took a lawsuit to get them to sit down at the table."

What were some of the issues that Hopewell Twp. wanted to talk about? Well...

A major component of the settlement calls for Hopewell Borough to pay $349,500 for township police coverage this year, 10 percent more than last year. Borough officials previously refused the township's call for more money, saying they couldn't afford more.
"We had to agree to that if we wanted the settlement," said Hopewell Borough Mayor David Nettles. "It's what we had to do, so we did it."

Seriously, they refused to pay the increase for police services because they couldn't afford it. I wonder if that would work in my own finances? "Say, Shop-Rite, I can't afford your increase in grocery prices this year, so I just won't pay it. Give me my apples at last year's prices." I wonder if it works on the police officers? "Sorry, guys, you get 10% less pay for the time you spend in the borough. Oh, by the way, there was a traffic accident and a robbery in the borough today- hop to it." Bet they'd want to rush out right away to help!

Another settlement coup was getting both boroughs to agree to hold "substantive and good faith" discussions for providing sewer services to Hopewell Township. The talks would include service to Pennington-area neighborhoods with failing septic systems and a site outside Hopewell Borough being considered for a new YMCA.
The boroughs previously refused to discuss the possibility, citing strict policies that prohibit extending sewer service beyond their own borders.
"They wanted a discussion and we agreed to that," said Pennington Borough
Councilman Edwin Weed Tucker. "We don't have any immediate plans to change our philosophies but we will talk with them."
Well, that's nice. You will agree to have talks with them, but not actually to listen to what they have to say. Just lovely.

Why are we so married to the idea of Home Rule in Our Fair State, so much so that we have to get into lawsuits with our neighbors to try to cut our tax rates by sharing services? About a month ago, we were thrilled to hear that attempts were being made by Mercer County, and Hightstown and East Windsor, to consolidate certain services. It's a shame that message never made it into the Hopewell Valley.

More specific details about the settlements here and here.

Space fun returns to Trenton

The state planetarium reopens this Saturday, March 18th! Free admission all day! Laser Chase! Hubble Vision! Telescope demonstrations! I wish we didn't already have two social commitments that day!

The planetarium is way cool and, on the days it's not free, dirt cheap. Plus you can get a coupon for $1 off admission for adults!

Woo-hoo for Tuckerton!

From today's Press of Atlantic City:

TUCKERTON — The borough is debating going solar when it renovates Borough Hall.
Borough Environmental Commission President Kim Heinle is urging the borough to install solar panels on the roof of the Public Works building roof as well as Borough Hall when it is renovated.Heinle said the borough could save some money and even earn money if the solar panels produce more electricity than the building needs, which would get the borough credit from the electric company.
“The trick is making sure you can afford the initial capital outlay to pay to install them,” Heinle said. “Historically, it's paid off in five or six years. What happens then is that your utilities almost reverse.”

I hope they see their way clear to the installation!

The article also describes Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Long Beach Island, who installed 160 solar panels on their roof last summer. They are truly good stewards of the earth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Busy, busy

Been busy in real life so I'm sorry I've let my blog slide for a few days. I'll have something interesting to write in a few days, maybe, but right now I'm focusing on paperwork. Much of it, tax paperwork.

However, I bet you have something you wrote on your blog that's really good, huh? Well, send it to the Carnival of NJ Bloggers! I'll be hosting this week, so send me an email with the permalink to your post at and I'll include it.

If you do want something fun online, Janet at the Art of Getting By does a "Tell it to me Tuesday" every week on, you guessed it, Tuesday. They're often a lot of fun, so maybe you can stop by there and tell Janet somethin'.

Also, if you haven't heard, Russ Feingold is sponsoring a resolution to censure the president for his illegal wiretapping scheme. Contact your senators and tell them how you feel, that they should support this move. I realized I didn't have web page info for Our Fair State's senators, so I added it to the links in the sidebar. I wrote both senators yesterday and have yet to hear back, but you can bet that someone in their offices is keeping track of the emails/calls/letters recieved, pro and con, so make your voice heard.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Blogging: effect on relationships

My blogging spouse and I just sat down in the same room long enough to listen to this NPR commentary on blogging and marriage. I probably could've just emailed his pocket PC phone, since I think that's what he's got right now. Often he's in the dining room on the laptop while I'm in the office on the computer, if we're both home; or he's at his office during the day (I can check his webcam to see if he's at his desk.) Scary.

(I owe someone a hat tip but I can't remember who. Sorry.)

Koufax Award voting

The deadline to submit votes is tonight at 11:59PM. Check out Wampum for nominees. Or, just because they're cool there.

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 43

Bounce on over to The Jersey Goddess, who's hosting this week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

And now for something completely different

The writer Jeri Smith-Ready posted recently about Bill Napoli, and opened up a debate on abortion issues. Not pro-life v. pro-choice, but defining whose choice and when. Note that it's a discussion, not a typical screaming match or name-calling session. Discussions are all-too rare where abortion is concerned.

7th Congressional district forum this afternoon!

Democracy for America is hosting a forum on NJ's 7th congressional district, home of Congressman Mike Ferguson, today March 11, from 1-3PM. Candidate Linda Stender will be attending. For more info check here.

If (like me) you are unable to attend, will be liveblogging the event!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

News coverage of land deal

NPR's All Things Considered did a good story on the Bush Admin's plan to sell valuable land in a one-shot budget trick for rural school funding here. It is one of the precious few news items I've seen covering this issue.

Unfortunately the audio isn't posted yet (try after 7:30PM) so I can't get the exact quote, but someone from the Sierra Club said something that bothered me. He said something to the effect that it's the Bush Admin's job to come up with an alternate method of funding, not his.

Is he right? Well, yes, I guess he is. Is this the attitude or the public face that's going to make folks sympathetic to the cause? Hell, no. That kind of public comment hurts the image of environmentalists, giving the opposition the easy option of painting the Sierra Club as caring more about unwanted scrubland than the education of children, and being a bunch of unhelpful whiners to boot.

Not that I want to appear an unhelpful whiner, but I must admit I don't know how they should pay for the funding of rural schools. I do know, however, a one-shot land sale won't be a permanent source of funding, and therefore is a sleight-of-hand, funding the schools for maybe a couple years. I'm sure the big environmental lobby groups- like maybe the Sierra Club?- must have a lawyer or policy wonk or two handy who can come up with a suggestion for funding, and maybe they should make it.

Another valid point mentioned in the NPR piece is the schools which will be benefiting are not necessarily in the states in which the land is being sold. That kind of stinks, doesn't it? As does most everything about this deal. Here's the info on how to make your voice heard. And if you have an alternate method of funding up your sleve, share it too. The comment deadline is the end of this month.

Regional Community Dialogue- Central NJ edition

Last night, I and a few hundred other concerned citizens in Central NJ attended the Governor's "Regional Community Dialogue" (read: semi-scripted town hall meeting) at Monmouth University. Attendence was so large that the meeting was moved to Pollak Auditorium at the last minute. Attendees included State Senator Ellen Karcher and Assemblyman Michael Panter.

The first portion of the evening were opening remarks by the Governor, and a presentation by State Treasurer Bradley Abelow, whose powerpoint presentation is here. He stressed that this is a bipartisan mess in the making, and will need to be a bipartisan effort in the clean-up. 75% of our state budget goes to State Aid and Grants; only 18% total goes to State services and Employees. Of State Aid, 82% goes to schools. Politicians talk a good "clean up corruption and waste" game, but if we fired every single state employee and quit services, it still wouldn't fix the problem. How's that for sobering?

In his comments, Gov. Corzine named some of the strategies he intends to employ to fill the $4.6(ish) billion hole in the budget, including reducing political employees by 400, state hiring freeze, improving technology and efficiency, bulk buying strategies for pharmecuticals and greater generic usage in state plans, and looking at programs for "outcome-based management"; eliminating programs that aren't working, as well as turning a critical eye to school and municipal aid packages.

(The Xpatriated Texan, who attended the Dialogue in the North on Tuesday, did a more comprehensive summary here of the financial issues facing Our Fair State as outlined by the Governor and Treasurer. The Asbury Park Press write-up is here. )

The evening was then opened up for questions. Of course, questions were asked about the funding of the Transportation Trust Fund proposals, of which many have been critical, like me. Abelow made a distinction between borrowing for capital expenditures such as roads and borrowing to ballence the budget. He also reiterated the point that we need funds in order to get our federal matching money. Gov. Corzine stated that he thinks gas taxes should be dedicated to transportation, and he got a massive round of applause.

Questions posed by audience memebers were very broad:

  • S1701, the law signed by Gov. McGreevey to restrict school budgets, was questioned and Gov. Corzine said directly that he will not be asking to repeal it, but that there may be a need to ammend it in order to consider exceptions, especially for energy costs, and the ability to retain surplusses for capital costs.
  • When asked about incentives for increasing maunfacturing industry in Our Fair State, the governor pretty much said he's not going to try. There are other industries, such as Technology, bio-tech, research and development, even solar development, that are more important in driving our economy.
  • Abbot district funding was questioned. "Throwing money at problems isn't an answer," and basically they didn't have an answer for what they will be doing about it now.
  • The governor was asked if he would support selling the air space over NJT tracks for business or residential development. Basically, there may be applications for this idea, but it's a one-shot revenue trick that can't be used to ballence the budget.
  • Can the state help municipalities share services? "YES. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes," said the governor. He trumpeted the aid of incentives to do this, such as increasing aid to municipalities who "trade a little bit of autonomy for a little bit of efficiency."
  • Teacher pay and pensions were questioned. Treasurer Abelow noted that pension and pay are negotiated in advance, and in some cases are law. In the future they may be able to be worked with but not for this budget. Gov. Corzine noted that we must fund it fully, the state hasn't been making proper contributions for years.
The overall tone of the evening was, well, dire. The Governor and the Treasurer both stated several times that we are in a crisis, that serious cuts were going to have to be made, and tax increases are definitely possible. Temporary tax increases are on the table. The governor commented while discussing the TTF problem something to the effect of not wanting to raise gas taxes in the light of other revenue increases this year. In other words, no gas tax hike now because they're going up somewhere else. To be blunt, after a while I felt as if much of the presentation and answers were simply to prepare us for big slams when the budget comes out.

When asked about whether there is concern about the fiscal status of our state universities, the governor quipped, "I haven't seen anything in New Jersey that we shouldn't be concerned about the fiscal status of." The forum last night certainly backed up that assesment. However, tough measures are exactly what are needed to get our fiscal house in order, and this budget will probably be full of them.

Note- there will be another "Regional Community Dialogue" tonight at Rowan University. As of 3:30 you could still RSVP online. I encourage you to consider it if you live down that way- it was an enlightening evening. Also, the Governor made reference that there may be more of these community dialogues in reference to Property Tax changes down the road.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Petty's Island- DEP Review

Recently in the Courier Post:

Lisa P. Jackson, (acting) commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, got a first-hand look Thursday at embattled Petty's Island.
She toured the island for about two hours, in the process launching a review of the state's controversial rejection of CITGO's offer to donate the island as a nature preserve.
She was joined by Jay Watson, her deputy commissioner in charge of land acquisition, parks and wildlife conservation programs, and Adam Zellner, deputy commissioner for policy and legislative affairs.
A DEP spokeswoman said Jackson felt the best way to understand the ongoing controversy over whether to preserve or develop the Delaware River island was to see it for herself. Environmentalists want the land protected as a nature reserve. The township has chosen a developer to build homes, a golf course and retail shops on the island.
"This is the beginning of a total re-evaluation of all the issues surrounding Petty's Island," said DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura.
Environmentalists argue a September 2004 lands trust vote rejecting the offer was tainted by pressure on former DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell from Camden County Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III, Pennsauken officials, and the project's developer, Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh, N.C.
Gibbstown resident Elmer Clegg is the state's official nest watcher for a pair of bald eagles that once nested on the island and are at the symbolic heart of the controversy.
They started nesting on the mainland after a surrogate chick the state placed in the nest fell and died. Cherokee and its former birding consultant, Thomas Cullen, face civil charges in Superior Court for causing disturbances that led to the chick's death.
Clegg said he happened to be observing the eagles as they were building a second nest on the mainland Thursday morning when Jackson's group stopped on the narrow bridge to the island.
Jackson, he said, spent four or five minutes looking through his sitting scope at one of the eagles, perched on a tree across a cove.
"She was really quite impressed," Clegg said. "She said, "Oh, wow.' I said to myself, "That's a good sign.'
"I'm hoping it's a good sign."

The township of Pennsauken, however, still wants to move forward with developing the island. They have this snazzy web site with their side of the Citgo "vague ploy" to donate the island for wildlife preservation. Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are backing the donation.

I appreciate that now-Commissioner Jackson took the time to go visit the site, following through on her promise to the State Senate Judiciary committee that she would view the situation with a fresh perspective. Petty's island is an example of the environmental issues faced by most of the state- the balance of development with conservation, corporate environmental clean-up, and financial responsibility for all of it.

(Part of a continuing series examining some of the issues surrounding Petty's Island. Prior posts here and here.)

Watching the odometer change

This time it's for real*- I've crossed 10,000 on the ol' Blogpatrol meter.

Let me say it again- Thanks for stopping by. I really do appreciate it.

(* I thought I hit 10K a few weeks back but that was due to a blogpatrol meter misoverestimation. I wrote it up, and about an hour later when I realized it couldn't possibly be right, I pulled the post. This time it's the real deal.)

Say Hello To...

Assemblyman Michael J. Panter of NJ's 12th legislative District.

Monday, March 06, 2006

What I should have said

I did the wrong thing, and now I realize what I should have said.

Here's the scene: I'm waiting in the lounge for my car to be finished; the other person waiting has just left. I'm reading a magazine and ignoring the talk show blaring on the TV. A person who works there stops by and makes some small talk; she wasn't the first, I guess they have a policy of not letting the customers feel abandoned. She asks if I saw who won the awards last night; I reply that I didn't watch it, and go back to reading the newsweekly. I realize I'm being impolite so I quickly say that I had heard Crash won best picture. The woman says that that's good; she didn't want Brokeback Mountain to win because "I don't like the idea that a movie about homosexuality would win a top award."

This is where I did the wrong thing. My immediate reaction was intense fury, but instead of acting on it, I immediately went into conflict-avoidance mode. I gave the briefest of shrugs before agressively burying my nose in my Newsweek, saying not one word more. She left. With steam pouring out of my ears, I quickly grabbed a pen to write what she'd said on the back of the magazine so I would remember it exactly when I told it to you.

I was, and am, so annoyed it's hard to pick just one aspect that bothered me the most. Her sheer homophobia. Her annoyance at a movie about homosexuality being not only widely accepted but honored. Her belief that this type of remark is acceptable small talk. Her unspoken assertation that a movie about homosexuality shouldn't win Best Picture, but a movie dealing with strong themes of racism and prejudice is ok. Her expectation that her view is so normal and common that I would share it.

Why did I shut down instead of calling her on it? I admit, I avoided a conflict. I saw nothing to be gained by calling her a homophobe and starting a fight, so I didn't. Screaming at people who are clearly ensconced in their views rarely has any effect.

My car was finished shortly and I left. I spent the ride home going over and over in my head what I should have said or done, and then when I got home I related the whole story to my husband, which was the first way to sort it through. The second way is to talk it over with you, fans and friends.

With the perspective of hindsight, I realize what I should have done was clearly, calmly state that it's sad that she feels that way, and gone back to my magazine to end the discussion. Not be confrontational, just simply articulate that it's a shame. Because it is. She's entitled to her views, I guess; but I could have made her aware that others don't necessarily share them, and maybe given her the idea that homophobia is not accepted by many, certainly not by me.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to do that. Instead, I blew it. I was furious silently and just ignored her. Maybe that got the message across; I don't know. I wish I'd been able to be calm and strong and say what I should have said.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pay attention folks!

A friend asked me to put up a link to this story in I'm not sure if he wanted me to put it up as a reminder to all our bike-riding readers out there to pay full attention to the road, or simply to point out that whenever George W. Bush is waving and smiling, chances are he's also ramming into someone innocent who's working in the public interest.

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 42

The carnival is up over at "D"igital Breakfast. Have fun doing the reading!

There are lots of weekends coming up without a carnival host. I signed up again, but if you haven't taken a turn yet or it's been a while, now's the time to get on the bandwagon. Send the organizer folks an email with the Sunday you want to host.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Something's happening here

(Today we have a guest poster... Miss Tata from Poor Impulse Control, Running Scared and Blanton's and Ashton's fame. She's got my attention about an important issue; she should have yours too, and she's told it better than I have, so I stole her post. Oh, also, it's a post from Tuesday that I just got around to stealing today- so when she says 30 days, I mean 28.)

There are many things I don't understand, and that's okay. I work in a university library, where I am surrounded by smart people with graduate degrees in Finding Stuff. Two weeks ago, we at B & A found the Bush Administration has johnnied up a plan to sell off a huge and unprecedented number of tracts of national forest lands to partially finance 2007 budget shortfalls in a rural school finance program. We the public are invited to place comments where responsible parties - stop laughing! - read them but until today, instructions for commenting were unavailable. I didn't grasp what the process involved in commenting was so I asked one of those degreed people for assistance. By the time our librarian friend finished helping me she was composing a letter in her head.

Step by step, then:
National Forest ServicePresident’s FY 2007 Budget Proposal for the Forest Service - Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act Extension

Today's News Release

Today's listing in the Federal Register

Cutting to the chase, where we find a very important paragraph I'm sure you'll agree is now weeks overdue:
DATES: You should submit your comments by March 30, 2006 to be assured of
consideration. Comments received after that date will be considered only to the
extent practicable.ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by e-mail to, by facsimile to (202) 205–1604, or by mail to USDA
Forest Service, SRS Comments, Lands 4S, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Mailstop
1124, Washington, DC 20250–0003. Electronic submission is preferred. If you
submit your comments by e-mail or fax, you do not need to send a paper copy by

The reason to comment loud and long is this appalling list of lands potentially for sale.We have thirty days to raise a ruckus. Write to the comments address. Call your congresscritters. Demand they take positions on this matter. The sale of these lands is ridiculous and irresponsible. They don't really belong to us. We care for them now for future Americans, our children and their children. We can't sell them to finance our failures, or we fail our future twice over.

A few phone calls. A few emails. We have thirty days, starting now.

Talk back to the Gov

Governor Corzine is holding three "regional community dialogues"- well, at least we've stopped calling them "town meetings"- to talk and hear about the budget. The dates and locales are:
  • North Jersey RegionTuesday, March 7, 2006 7:00 PM at Montclair State University, University Hall - College of Education and Human Services Building
  • Central Jersey RegionWednesday, March 8, 2006 7:00 PM at Monmouth University, Woodrow Wilson Auditorium
  • South Jersey RegionThursday, March 9, 2006 7:00 PM at Rowan University, Student Center Building

Information on the forums, RSVP info and a link to submit budget suggestions are all here. Come out and make your voice heard!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The pension system

Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger has a commentary this morning on the pension system for public employees. He cites abuses and legal tricks, such as:
Edison Police Chief Edward Costello is one lucky guy. On his final day in office, he negotiated a whopping pay hike that boosted his pension to $115,000 a year. That's on top of the $62,000 he got for unused vacation and sick time.
In Newark a few months ago, the deputy police director retired to take a pension, then was rehired to do the same job as a consultant, for a combined income of $221,000. It was apparently legal, but so embarrassing that the plan was scratched.
South Orange allowed 11 police officers to boost their pensions by counting unused vacation time as salary. Bradley Beach gave several top officials big raises in their final year, and counted sick and vacation time as salary.

Now, do I blame guys like Chief Costello? Not really. He made his pension contibutions for decades, and served with honor. Apparently, he hadn't gotten a pay raise in three years, so his last-minute raise was to make ammends for that. He played the system and came out on top. (Is it the 'right' thing to do? No. Would you do the same in that position? Damn right.) The blame falls squarely on a system that allows these tricks. The benefits plans are excedingly, embarrasingly, ridiculously generous and must be changed.

Remember in the private sector, you couldn't get away with this. I know people in the private sector who went five years between raises; instead of being angry, they feel lucky to simply have their jobs, since their co-workers have been laid off. Most folks who work in the private sector have no chance at a pension; they get a 401K (if they're lucky) and a "good luck to ya."

Politicians always talk about cutting waste and fraud. Some of this is fraud, but even with what's legal there's a lot of waste. Our public employees deserve a fair shake and decent pay, but this goes way beyond that. I hope Governor Corzine will make good on those promises, and propose a plan soon to cut the fraud and waste here. Moran states, "unless these benefits are somehow reined in, at least for new employees, you can expect a taxpayer revolt at some point." I sure hope so.

...and the universe laughs, again

Twice in my life I've been in the position of making a major repair to a car, which would cost almost the car's worth, and I've decided to go ahead and do it. Twice, now, the car has died within a few weeks of that decision. (Well, more accurately, once it died and once I killed it in an accident.)

I think the universe is trying to tell me something- trash old cars when they're almost dead, don't try to eek out a few more years.

Anyone had experience with eBay motors? I've heard good things from a few folks.