Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At least they're trying

The Senate health committee advanced the bill to close the loophole which allows smoking in casinos. This loophole should never have been there in the first place; hopefully this will go through.

Meanwhile, the casinos are attempting to find ways to make everyone happy, such as unstaffed non-gaming smoking lounges. That way, no employees will have to be exposed to the smoke, right? Just like they aren't with nonsmoking rooms in restaurants, I'm sure. Apparently, they'll clear them out before employees are sent in to clean them. (Fat chance of that happening.)

While all this goes on, the casinos are under a deadline of April 15th to make 75% of their casino floor smoke-free. I almost feel sorry for the casinos here; the improvements to their floors will cost a lot of money and they aren't sure if or what they have to do.

Let me repeat, I almost feel sorry for them for not knowing what they have to do. If they gave a fig about their employees, maybe we could feel bad for them.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The newest residents of the Center of NJ- The Brindle Brothers

This is Darkman. Darkman was a winner; he raced for two years and had a lot of wins under his collar before he came to live with us. He's a curious, active boy who glued himself to Andrew the minute they met. He also didn't get the memo that greyhounds are supposed to be scared of floors, don't like staircases and are nervous.

This is Blackjack. Blackjack is almost two years old. He never raced due to a broken toe, but he comes from a long line of winners. He's such a beautiful boy. He's nervous about everything that's new to him in the house, and while he doesn't seek out company, he hates to be left alone.

We're all going through an adjustment period right now, but it's great to have dogs back in the house again.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

property tax on solar

This article appeared in yesterday's Times of Trenton about a Hamilton family whose property taxes went up because of their solar panels:

"We were surprised," said Char ley Rouse. "When we asked the tax assessor about it, we were told that it's considered an improvement to the home."
According to township records, the Rouses' property assessment jumped $12,000 for the solar panels, increasing their taxes by more than $400 this year.
The extra tax, Rouse said, outweighs the savings they have been realizing on their energy bills.
"The way I see it, by installing the solar panels, we are doing a good thing for the environment," he said. "I don't think we should be taxed on that."
Right now there is a bill in the Assembly, A1882, to exempt solar panels from property taxes. It's sitting in appropriations, but should be an easy bill to get passed, especially with the Gov's push toward reducing our greenhouse gasses. Write your legislators today!

Now, a quick word about saving money with solar. The Times ran a picture of the house in the print version, showing the size of the array in question. I think the Rouses should recalculate- they have 33 panels and they aren't saving $400 a year in electricity? I have that many and I am saving WAY more than that. Plus, don't forget the sale value of the SRECs- a tradeable certificate of renewable energy, which also helps offset the cost of installing and owning solar panels. The article makes it sound as if the solar installation is costing money in the long run, and friends, it just ain't so. Our panels are still on track to pay for themselves within about 10 years of installation.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Everyone should back up

The state needs a back up plan if they can't get their act together to provide a paper trail in time:

Though she stopped short of pulling the plug on 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg expressed doubts they will be upgraded by a January 2008 deadline set by the state Legislature. "I can't wait until a month or two before" the deadline, Feinberg said at a hearing in Trenton. "I need to have a game plan in place."
The Legislature has earmarked $21 million to retrofit the Sequoia machines with printers, which voters can use to verify their ballots and election officials can use in the event of a recount. Feinberg, the assignment judge for Mercer County, has been monitoring the state's progress as part of a lawsuit challenging the reliability of the electronic machines.
"My concern, quite frankly, is I'm not sure what's happening with Sequoia -- and they're providing most of the machines" used in New Jersey, Feinberg said.

We should all have a back-up plan. Of course, we should all have a paper trail, too. There ought to be a law...

I hate Connecticut

Now, I'm sure there are lots and lots of nice people in Connecticut. It's not you I hate.

It's the TRAFFIC. My gawd, the traffic!

How long is 95 going to be under construction? It took me over an hour yesterday to go twenty miles. Horrid, horrid traffic.

Not like Our Fair State.


Ok, maybe just like Our Fair State. But it was really bad.

(Needless to say, light blogging for the next few days. I'm out of town.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007


It isn't warming up; it's barely 20 degrees in the Center of NJ. However, the sun has warmed the roof enough that large sheets of ice are melting off of our solar panels and sliding to the ground. It's kind of cool.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snowing, a lot

The snow has begun- and, if you're like me and don't compulsively check the weather forcasts, you might have missed the fact that they increased the predicted snowfall. I only just heard it on the radio.

Have fun! Make your plans now for what to do since the kids'll be home tomorrow!

Princeton Hospital update

The next step to an improved facility has been approved:

Princeton HealthCare System's proposed Plainsboro hospital received its final state health regulatory approval yesterday, which means that planning for the 269-bed acute-care facility now can focus entirely on obtaining the building and land-use go-ahead from Plainsboro.
The hospital, which Princeton HealthCare (PHCS) hopes to open in 2010 at Route 1 North and Plainsboro Road, would replace PHCS's 88-year-old University Medical Center at Princeton on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Borough.


(I still get a lot of searches on Princeton Hospital. It's actually called "University Medical Center at Princeton" but rarely if ever do locals call it that.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sad sack

This is pathetic. Not the ad, me.

Every time I see it, I cry.

I miss my dogs. I miss them something horrible.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is on tonight and tomorrow night. I've watched it without fail since 1998, and will again tonight, even though the dogs look exactly the same year to year (which is the point, actually.) Unfortunately I'll be at work when they show the hound group tomorrow, but I'll watch the rerun.

And if I see that ad one too many times, I'll be on the phone to the greyhound adoption people tomorrow. I had planned to wait until we had the new deck installed and did some weekend traveling we want to do.

But somewhere out there, there is a good dog. In a cage. Who has to race tonight. And he just wants to come home.

I want him home.

The Fightin' twelfth

(I wrote this for Blue Jersey's Forty District Strategy. I'm also posting it here because it gives us a nice little picture of the Center of NJ. -Sharon)

The 12th Legislative District is cut across Central New Jersey, including a little of Mercer County but much more of Monmouth. Towns in the 12th are: Colts Neck Township, East Windsor Township, Englishtown, Fair Haven, Freehold Borough & Freehold Township, Hightstown, Little Silver, Manalapan Township, Marlboro Township, Millstone Township, Oceanport, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough & Township, and Tinton Falls.

The district has a population of 215,000 (2000 Census) and is mostly suburban/urban- only 452 live on areas considered "farm." The population is 80% white, 6% African-American, 7% Hispanic and 6% Asian. There is a striking contrast in economic situation in the twelfth; Colts Neck has a median household income of $309,190 and virtually no poverty, whereas Shrewsbury Twp. has a median hh income of $36,875, and both Freehold Borough and Red Bank both have 12% of the population below the poverty line.

Much of the district is being developed (or recently has been.) If you ask anyone who has lived here 25 years or more, you'll get the stories about how "all this used to be farmland." Some of the big issues here, therefore, are sprawl, property taxes, and road congestion. Consolidation of towns is also an issue, as the district contains several "doughnut" boroughs which are completely surrounded by other towns, including Englishtown, Freehold borough and Hightstown. It also contains a successful example of regional school district consolidation- the Freehold Regional High School District, which contains six high schools covering eight municipalities.

The district is represented in the Senate by Ellen Karcher (D) and is one of only three districts to have split representation in the Assembly: Michael J. Panter (D) and Jennifer Beck (R). In 2003, Karcher won her seat by beating Senate Co-President John Bennett III, who was under scrutiny for double-billing some legal work. In the 2005 Assembly race, incumbent Panter very narrowly defeated Little Silver Councilman Declan O'Scanlon while the other incumbent, Dr. Robert Morgan, fell to Beck. Karcher is seen as somewhat vulnerable and, of course, Beck is running for the Senate seat; she has a primary challenger, Manalapan Township Committeeman Joseph Locricchio. O'Scanlon has announced that he will run for the Assembly again, as have Fair Haven Borough Council President Thomas Gilmour and Manalapan municipal attorney Caroline Casagrande. Panter and Karcher are running for re-election, but Panter's running mate has not been selected yet.

Grasping at memos

I read this on Sunday, and quite honestly, I just stood there shaking my head.

This is significant because almost EVERYTHING I've read on the Klockner Woods boondoggle since I started this blog has sent me sprinting for the computer. I read it, get ticked off/laughing/sad/scared/whatever, and I just have to write about it. This time, all I could do is shake my head, and wonder what they really expect to gain this time.

A previously un disclosed memo from a township planner has cast fresh doubts on the $4.1 million price the municipality paid for Klockner Woods, re kindling the bitter debate over the property.
The memo, written in December by township planner Allen Schectel, was not disclosed to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg before she ruled last week that the township is obligated to honor its deal to buy the land.
A township official called the memo routine and said the Gilmore administration had no reason to make the planner's opinion part of the court record because it does not affect the value of the property. But township council members are crying foul over the withholding of the document. The memo surfaced last week after council members learned of its existence and demanded to see it.
In the memo, Schectel raised questions about 12 of the 40 home lots identified by consultant Van Note-Harvey Associates.

So, let me get this straight- a township planning official disagreed with the professional surveyors' report and had questions, that memo wasn't disclosed to the judge, so the council is saying that if it was disclosed the judge may have made a different ruling?

HALF THE TOWN disagreed with or had questions about the lot sizes and yield in Klockner Woods. That's WHY an independent firm was hired to survey it. The official wasn't swayed by the independent firm's audit? Wow, I'm shocked.

I'm no lawyer, but I can't really believe that the judge would take this with more than a grain of salt.

(The township planner's boss, Director of Planning Lloyd) Jacobs said "there was no reason to" disclose the memo, because Feinberg was already aware that six lots needed variances and had already dismissed them as minor.
"The memo was an internal communication and is consistent with what the planner does on any application," he said. "All of the is sues raised in this memo were addressed by the judge in her ruling."

This council is frantically grasping at straws. According to the esteemed Darryl Isherwood in the article, the town has already spent over ten thousand dollars on their case and hasn't decided whether to appeal or not, which will cost even more.

For the sake of Hamilton property taxpayers, drop it. It's over. Stop spending more money on it. You want the town sufficiently pissed at Gilmore before the election and look like the good guys, we get it. Spend campaign money on that, not precious tax dollars.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

School Report Card

Our Fair State's school report card for 2005-2006 has been posted. Go see how your school district is doing! Find out if they've been spending your property taxes well.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Trenton Times: Let It Go

I think the Times of Trenton editorial speaks for most Hamiltonians here:

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg's lengthy opinion in the Klockner Woods property-tax case may be a bitter pill to swallow for the Hamilton Township Council's Republican majority. But for the sake of the taxpayers in the township, they should let it go and rethink their tentative plan to appeal the ruling.
An appeal likely will be costly and time-consuming and a further distraction in the running of Mercer County's largest municipality.

They acknowledged that they "understand (the council's) bewilderment" at the exorbitant price. However, this town council majority was elected on the bewilderment of the voters at this in the first place- and they now want to milk it. Bad idea. Folks, if you push this too hard, you'll look like you're only trying to ensure your "we did all we could" stance at the next couple elections while costing taxpayers even more money on unsuccessful appeals.

I'm angry. Anyone who follows this story, Hamilton resident or not, should be angry. What I'm angry about, however, isn't the ruling- which we were sincerely hoping but not expecting to go a different way- but about how his debacle was handled from the very beginning. The ruling isn't what was screwed up here.

Please, after this parcel is saved and you put up those preserved open space signs, have the dignity to call it "Taxpayers' Preserve." We deserve that much- we sure paid enough for it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

St. Baldrick's Day

My buddy Nathan Rudy is shaving his head for children with cancer:

This is my third year getting my head shaved for St. Baldricks, and I am thrilled to be doing it again to find a cure for childhood cancer. As a father of a two year old little girl, I would want people stepping up to help my family if we found ourselves facing this tragic disease. Please, step up to help those families who already do.

St. Baldrick's is a foundation to raise awareness and funds to cure kids' cancer by supporting cancer research and fellowships. This is their eighth year. There are eight venues in Our Fair State this year holding St. Baldrick's events, most of them in March.

Shave your head for a good cause, or support someone who is!

Better than I could've said it- ralph edition

George Amick on the front page of today's Times of Trenton:

Ralph Nader is back in the spotlight again.
He's the subject of a new documentary film, "An Unreasonable Man." And he's making the rounds of the talk shows, promoting his latest book -- and continuing to insist that he didn't cost Al Gore the 2000 election. In fact, he claims, Gore would have received fewer votes than he did if Nader hadn't been on the ticket as the Green Party candidate, pushing him to the left.

If this kind of rationalization gives Nader comfort as he contemplates the ruinous handiwork of the Bush administration, he's welcome to it.

The whole piece is on instant runoff voting, and idea whose time is more than come.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Fleecing of Hamilton and NJ- The Last Word (?)

Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg has made her ruling. Just as she hinted she would, she said the sale's going through as planned:

A Superior Court judge upheld yesterday the township's agreement to purchase the 50-acre plot known as Klockner Woods and ordered township officials to pay for the land within 30 days, capping more than three years of dispute over the tract.
In her complicated 80-page ruling, Feinberg also ordered that some $327,000 in interest the township has already paid will not be credited toward the purchase price as the township had requested. The ruling means the township's final price tag for the land will be nearly $4.6 million.
Judge Linda R. Feinberg also shot down claims by the township council that the purchase agreement was illegal because the council never voted to appropriate the funds and ordered the township to abide by all terms of the consent order she issued in June 2005, which set the terms of the purchase.
In the strongly worded opinion, Feinberg took a chastising tone with the township and the council, going as far as to say she regretted a decision made last year to postpone the purchase while the township investigated the land's value. The judge seemed to blame politics for the strife over the purchase.
"Looking back, the court regrets that decision (to postpone the ruling,)" the opinion said. "Now, several years later, clearly the allegations by the township were wrong. Furthermore, at this juncture, the action by the township appears to have been motivated purely as a result of outcry from members of the public, who while urging the township to preserve the property, objected to the price."

She's right, of course. This was all motivated by the outcry from the public, who objected to having to buy land for $4.1 million that they sold barely four years earlier for $375,000. Clearly, if the land is really worth $4.1 million (and it sure looks like it is), we got screwed when it was sold off for vastly less than it was worth.

The payment is now $4.6 million. The article by Times reporter Darryl Isherwood explains that the interest from Sept. 2005 to Sept. 2006 must be paid, but the interest since then may be credited to the purchase price.

Mayor Glen Gilmore sent out a news release yesterday, tooting his own horn:

Gilmore, who only days before, in his State of the Township address, re-asserted his belief that Klockner Woods were, in fact, worth preserving, said, after learning of the Court's decision: "I am glad that the court has confirmed what we had said from the very beginning, namely, that these woods are woods that could become a housing development, and that the price we offered to pay for them was a fair price." Gilmore went on to say, "This is an important vindication for a number of good citizens whose reputations went on the line to save these woods."
The judge's decision also contained a stern warning that additional costs to fight the purchase are an unnecessary and unwarranted burden on the taxpayers of Hamilton that are to be laid directly at the doorstep of the Council, who, from the beginning, has misrepresented the land, its price and their motives for opposing the preservation purchase.
Rejecting all the arguments raised by the special council retained by Council, the Judge has ruled:
1. The price negotiated by the Mayor was a fair price and that if the negotiated price were set aside, the taxpayers would have to pay more for the same land;
2. The purchase of this land can be made without direct resort to using money raised from local property taxes and that the council's contention that the agreement was void was without merit;
3. Further delay by opponents of the purchase can only waste taxpayers money and endanger the preservation of this parcel of green.

Surprisingly he didn't go so far as to thumb his nose while shouting, "I told you so!" Hamilton has a mayoral election this year, if you hadn't guessed. Gilmore doesn't mention that he was mayor when the land was sold to Fieldstone in 2001 for $375,000.

Let me state again that the reason we're all being fleeced by this deal is spelled out by the mayor in #2: Mercer County and the State are chipping in for this one, so we all have to pay. Also let me state again (because it bears repeating) that there is no question that this parcel of land should be preserved; just whether or not the price was fair.

So, is that it? Is this the last word?

Councilman Dave Kenny, who raised issues about the land before he was elected to the council and later led the effort to nullify the purchase, said the opinion represented "a sad day for Hamilton taxpayers" and promised to appeal.

Somehow I doubt that will help. Since the judge was pretty clear that the price was fair, I think an investigation needs to be launched into original sale price, including into the rumor that Gilmore recieved campaign donations from Fieldstone during his last election battle (he denies this.) Also, maybe a look should be taken at the the decision to avoid the costs of a court battle by not using Eminent Domain to secure the land for preservation.

It appears that the court decision was fair, but that doesn't guarantee that justice was served.

Go Red for Women

Today is National Wear Red Day, part of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Campaign.

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in our country- not breast cancer, not lung cancer. Heart disease kills nearly half a million American women a year. You should know what your risks are. Know your numbers, then eat better, get moving and take care of yourself*.

You're important to us here at the Center of NJ Life.

(*Men too. Thing is, heart disease is often thought of as a men's issue, when it really isn't- it doesn't discriminate by gender.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Biggest Solar in the Country

Biggest corporate solar installation in the country, coming to South Plainfield:

Business icon Ted Turner stopped by Hall’s Warehouse in South Plainfield today to announce the installation of a 1,400 killowatt (kW) solar-energy system spread across two roofs on the company’s site.
The system will hold nearly 8,000 solar panels when completed. It is expected to produce 1.5 million kW hours of electricity per year and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 24,000 tons over the system’s 30-year lifespan.
Hall’s Warehouse expects energy savings in excess of $600,000 a year.