31 December 2007

What Happened?

December 31. All of the newspapers have their best and worst of the year stories, top ten lists, most noteworthy and newsworthy, etc., etc. The big end-of year wrap-ups! "The Fewest Homicides Since 1992!". "The Least Rainfall Ever".

Since I don't write about everything that happens in Hillsborough, this blog is already composed of what I felt were the biggest or most interesting stories of the year.

Maybe you are of a different opinion. What did I miss? Here's your chance to make your own Top Ten Hillsborough Events of 2007 - The Good, The Bad, and you know the rest.

Let us know by leaving a comment down below.

See you next year!

30 December 2007

Hellooooooo Chiyoda!

As 2007 draws to a close, I realize that I have been writing the On Hillsborough blog for almost 7 months. I have enjoyed working on it, and enjoy hearing feedback and questions from readers.

Probably the question that is asked most frequently is, How many readers do you have? Funny - people never ask, How do you get your ideas?, or How do you find the time to keep doing this?! Readers want to know if they are the only ones reading! This is the same kind of psychology that makes movie box office receipt lists and television program ratings charts so popular. And also why we need to know which candidate is leading in the polls, or who has raised the most money.

Everyone wants to be on the winning team. If no one else is reading On Hillsborough, why am I wasting my time!

So, for all of you time-wasters, here are some blog stats. I started keeping track of blog traffic on July 3rd - and since that time I have had 5,405 visitors to On Hillsborough, and have had over 8000 pageviews. Over 3600 of those visits have come from people who have surfed over from the Courier News web site. About 500 have found me through NJ.com, and 300 from Blogger.com. People searching with Google have been directed here 250 times, and finally, 515 of you have this site bookmarked or have typed cnhillsborough.blogspot.com into your browsers.

Those are just the top five ways you've gotten here - there are 93 more! On Hillsborough has been linked around the web, and many of you have emailed a link to someone with a web mail service.

2,180 visits came through the Patriot Media Cable Network, 731 through Verizon, 309 through Juno, 196 through Embarq, 164 through America Online,114 through Optimun Online, and 55 through Comcast. The rest of you have been logging on from work - especially from the big pharmaceutical companies!

Around 2000 visits came, as you would expect, from Somerset County - but the rest of Central New Jersey is well represented. And I have had 300 hits from New York. People have logged on from as far away as Santiago, Chile and London, England. But the prize for the most far-out reader goes to some anonymous soul in Chiyoda, a section of Tokyo, who visited On Hillsborough twice on July 28th!

There you have it - all of your questions answered. I think I need to make a resolution tomorrow to never write a blog entry like this again!

29 December 2007

Patriot Media Raises Rates!

I have been a cable television customer in Hillsborough for almost fifteen years now. I have generally been pleased with the service. In fact I would say service has improved markedly since 1993. Outages are almost unheard of, and the cable modem service has been getting more reliable and faster year by year. I really can't live without it.

So I guess I shouldn't complain about the notice that arrived with today's mail. Yes, Patriot Media will be raising the rates for almost all of their services in 2008. Most items will be going up a dollar or two, with many increasing by six or seven dollars a month. My bill, for Full Basic Cable (not digital) and Internet service (including modem rental) will go up $3.25, or about 3%. Not too bad.

What is lousy, however, is the justification for some of the increases. In their letter to customers, Patriot Media touts the addition of four new channels in 2007. Fox Business Network was added to Digital Basic - and that service is increasing by a dollar a month. TBS HD was added to HD Basic - and that service is increasing by a dollar a month. The NBA Network and the NHL Network were added to Digital Sports Arena - and that service has no increase.

So what do I get for the $2.25 increase for Full Basic? Nothing - the same old lineup of channels that they have offered for a few years now. And that other dollar? That's the 50% increase in the cable modem rental! Even at the former $2.00 a month rate, I've probably paid for that modem many times over already - do I really need to throw away $36 this year? Seeing as how the modem has worked flawlessly these many years, and the fact that I need it to post these blogs, that answer is probably yes - I hate to change something that I depend on when it's working.

And anyway, when factored into the total entertainment budget for our family, this 3% rate increase turns out to be less than 1% - and I can live with that!

27 December 2007


The New Jersey Department of Transportation is set to codify regulations that allow 102 inch wide tandem tractor trailers to use Route 206 through the Princetons, Montgomery, and Hillsborough. This is exactly the opposite of what Hillsborough Township was expecting - especially since the state DOT classified Route 206 as a "safe corridor zone" in 2002. That designation called the highway a "congested and hazardous traffic area" in need of improvement.

The Big Rigs have never been officially banned from Route 206 - truckers have apparently been using their common sense and staying off the road anyway. What this new regulation does is advertise 206 as an acceptable truck route. Drivers who have not been using the highway may be fooled into thinking that some improvement has been made, or some new safety study has been conducted. Unfortunately, they will find the same road that existed in 2002 - just as congested and hazardous as before.

The new truck access rules will be released on January 22. That gives us less than 4 weeks to protest this absurd plan. All we need are about a dozen tandem tractor-trailers and drivers. We can line them up by Mountainview Road, and head south. A real Convoy! Through Montgomery, Princeton Township, Princeton Boro, Lawrenceville, and right down Broad Street in Trenton. Then it's just a right turn onto State Street - and pull up right across the street from the State House!

Let's see how many legislators like these trucks rumbling down their "main street"!

24 December 2007

en jay dot com

I'll admit it - I still read the Hillsborough Forum over at NJ.com. And, although I haven't participated in any discussions there recently, I still find it to be fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, reading. It is especially frustrating when people post completely incorrect information about our school district and Board of Education. I hope NJ.com readers know not to trust everything they read on that site!

One recent interesting discussion has expanded to cover many topics of interest to Hillsborough residents: the role of government, open space, property taxes, free speech, farming.

I have been thinking about these topics also - and I am sure I will cover all of them in the upcoming year.

For those of you that have put in requests, I have been researching the Duke Estate and hope to start posting on that topic soon. Until then, let me know which other topics are of greatest interest to you.

22 December 2007

Factually Speaking

I continue now with my comments on the Letters to the Editor of the Hillsborough Beacon from December 20.

Commission presented truthful information - Glenn van Lier, Commissioner, Hillsborough Charter Study Commission. Mr. van Lier writes about the campaign against government change. He believes that the Charter Study Commission provided truthful, factual, and useful information during their study. I agree. Before the charter study, I did not know about all of the different forms of government that were available to Hillsborough. And while I admit that I was predisposed to keeping our current township committee form - because I could not see any major flaws in it - my mind was definitely open to finding a better government for Hillsborough if one existed. I could not have been confident in my final decision to vote no if not for the information provided by the Charter Study Commission. Thank you Glenn, Chris, George, Gloria, and Bill!

Here is where Mr. van Lier and I apparently disagree. He seems to believe that a rational person knowing all of the facts about the Mayor-Council form of government as presented by the CSC could not have possibly, conscientiously voted no. He believes the only way a person could vote no is by listening to the well-financed "lies" of Residents Against Larger Government. This is an incorrect notion.

Although the CSC presented many facts about the TC and MC forms of government, the conclusions they reached from those facts were in many cases merely opinions or judgements. For instance, Mr. van Lier stated many times during the study that the system whereby township committee members acted as liaisons to the various departments was "confusing". The testimony of our township committee members was that it was not confusing at all! The department heads report to the administrator. The liaisons are in place so that the township committee members can confer with each other - so that all five can be kept abreast of what is happening in the departments, without having to be on top of each one on a daily basis.

Liaisons are just one example. Township Committee Member Carl Suraci came to the microphone on more than one occasion at a CSC meeting to question whether certain facts about the TC form of government should be placed with the strengths or the weaknesses. In fact, the CSC acknowledged this uncertainty by placing "annual elections" on both lists!

What Mr. van Lier describes in his letter as lies are really only different conclusions. One of the RALG lies - the Beacon recommendation - was no lie at all. The Hillsborough Beacon editor said that there was no overwhelming need for change, and from that he concluded that we should vote yes. The RALG concluded that we should vote no.

In essence, the CSC did exactly what they should have done - lay out the facts and let the people decide. The voters said no to a "more complex. larger government".

And that's a fact!

21 December 2007


I like to read. Most of the time I have at least two books going. I just finished the phenomenal Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar - Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, and I have just started Paul Theroux's China travelogue Riding the Iron Rooster.

But the majority of my reading is devoted to the newspapers. I receive three daily papers and the weekly Hillsborough Beacon. I invariably turn to the editorial page first to get a feel for what's on the minds of the editors and letter writers.

Thursday's Hillsborough Beacon contained four important letters to the editor. I am going to use this space to briefly comment on each one.

  1. Farm sale helps land preservation - by Sam Conard, Agricultural Advisory Committee. This letter talks about the sale by the township of two farm properties on Mill Lane that were acquired as open space. Mr. Conard goes on to say that the properties are deed restricted to remain as farms, and that it was always Hillsborough's intention to put these properties into the hands of private owners. What this letter doesn't say, although it is implied, is that there are many ways to preserve open space - purchasing property outright, buying development rights, having farms enter into the Farmland Preservation Program - as well as buying properties for later sale. Hillsborough does and should use all of these methods to preserve the character of the township.

  2. Vaccines should be free of thimerisol - Peter J. Biondi, Assemblyman, 16th Legislative District. Assemblyman Biondi's letter is about a pending state mandated plan to require preschool age children to receive flu shots. Almost all of the flu vaccine currently produced contains the mercury laden preservative thimerosal. Thimerosal has been linked to an increased diagnosis of autism in children. Some experts will try to tell you that studies have found no link between autism and childhood vaccines. The truth is that there is a statistical link - scientists just haven't been able to find the medical link between the two - at least not yet. Until they do, this issue is really about money. Thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines save the flu shot. Currently it is more costly to produce a thimerosal free product, but with state mandated vaccinations for all children, it seems to me that the drug companies could easily make up lost revenue in the sheer volume of vaccine that will be sold. Not to mention that New Jersey is the first state to propose such a vaccination program - and when other states do the same this will surely be a windfall for the drug companies. I agree with the Assemblyman that New Jersey should err on the side of caution, and demand a thimerosal free vaccine for our children.

  3. Salary debate misses real problem - by Amadeo D'Adamo Jr., Professor Emeritus of Biology, CUNY. Mr. D'Adamo writes about teacher salaries and administrative costs of our school district. This is a letter that I cannot comment on. But I will tell you that the Hillsborough Township Board of Education will be negotiating a new contract with the teachers in 2008. I know the Courier News and the Hillsborough Beacon will be covering this story - so look there for news!

  4. Commission presented truthful information - Glenn van Lier, Commissioner, Hillsborough Charter Study Commission. This important letter needs its own blog entry. I think I'll hold off until tomorrow to delve into old CSC business.

19 December 2007

Who Needs Enemies?

Today's Weird, Wild, and Wicked story is a quick one. So quick that I'm going to let the long forgotten anonymous New York Times staff writer tell it in his own words, which appeared in the November 12, 1896 edition of the paper.

Accidentally Shot by a Friend.

FLEMINGTON, N.J., Nov. 11. - George D, Maybuff of Little Ferry, N.J., a business man of New-York, was accidentally shot by Herman Fagan, a close friend of his, while gunning on Sourland Mountain yesterday. One grain of shot entered into his neck and two passed through his left wrist and two teeth were knocked out. The wounds bled freely, but are not dangerous. [Sure, nothing dangerous about being shot in the face, causing one to "bleed freely". He probably didn't need those teeth anyway!]

16 December 2007

Post Office Woes

About six weeks ago I wrote about the Hillsborough Post Office on Amwell Road. I am still amazed that the 08844 US Post Office is open for business just 40 hours each week - especially since the Belle Mead office is open 62 1/2 hours!

Maybe the Hillsborough Post Office doesn't need to be open many hours because the employees are so efficient and work so quickly. Or maybe not.

I paid a visit to the post office one afternoon last week. There were about 10 people on line ahead of me. This won't take long, I thought, especially since two windows were open. Boy, was I wrong. I stood in line for almost 30 minutes before I gave up and walked out. In that time, just three customers were served.

I know this is a busy time of year, with people mailing packages, etc. I understand that each customer may need a little extra time to figure out that the envelopes for their holiday cards need $0.90 stamps. All of this would be fine if the employees didn't move so slowly. They seemed to be moving underwater, with no concern that the line behind me was now snaking around the inside of the building, not to mention the unmoving line in front of me!

Employees were constantly being interrupted by other employees to explain something or help with something, or to call a supervisor, or whatever - right in the middle of waiting on a customer!

Is there no one there that says "Wow, look at this line! Let's work quickly and get these people out of here"? On the contrary, these employees seem to know that the Hillsborough Post Office has one of the shortest work weeks in Somerset County - and they can't wait for that whistle to blow!

15 December 2007

I Forgot to Mention...

...my other idea for a Hillsborough train station on the West Trenton Line. In a previous blog entry I wrote that the train station location should be reconsidered. I would favor a station south of Hillsborough Road, possibly in the vicinity of Mountain View Road. This would provide access to both the southern terminus of the proposed Route 206 bypass, the "old" Route 206, and the Belle Mead GSA property.

What I forgot to mention was my idea for the Pike Run "right of way". The Pike Run development in Montgomery Township is bisected by a swath of land that was reserved for the previous Route 206 bypass plan. That plan would have had 206 running right through the middle of the development. I would suggest a road being built on that right of way - a street that would intersect Pike Run Road and Township Line Road, and would lead to the parking lot of my "Hillsborough/Belle Mead" station.

What do you think?

14 December 2007

Kid Nation

Wednesday marked the season finale of "Kid Nation". Both of my kids, ages 5 and 8, have been fascinated by this CBS reality show for the past thirteen weeks - and I have watched along with them.

Forty children ranging in age from 8 to 15 spent 40 days last April and May in the wilderness of New Mexico, at a privately owned ranch built to look like the fictional ghost town Bonanza City. The kids were completely (well, mostly) on their own - cooking, cleaning, and generally looking after themselves for 6 weeks.

Divided into four teams, they competed in challenges every three days. How well each team did in the challenges determined what place they had in Bonanza City society - the Upper Class, the Merchants, the Cooks, or the Laborers.

Kid Nation was also an exercise in government. There were elections, and four kids were chosen to be on the "town council". What was this town council? It was essentially the township committee form of government - just like we have here in Hillsborough. There was no directly elected mayor - no separate branches. The four council members worked together to solve problems, lead the town, and most importantly, award a $20,000 gold star to one lucky kid at the end of each episode.

Overall the kids did a nice job running the town. So good in fact, that Bonanza City just might make Money Magazine's best town list next year - at number 24!

12 December 2007

"Old Bill"

"Please - let my son go with me! I'm all he has - he needs me - don't separate us!" The cries of a mother soon to be parted from her infant child? No. These were the pleas of "Old Bill" Conover asking a judge in Somerville to let him take his fourteen-year-old son to the state prison with him!

20 July 1900 Brooklyn Citizen

It is said that Mr. Conover came from a respectable family - but alcohol was his downfall. Sometime around 1890, with two young daughters, a four-year-old son, a wife, and a liquor habit to support, he took up thievery. Horses mostly, as they were easy to steal and easy to dispose of.

It was in 1890 that his wife left him, taking his two daughters, leaving him with his little son Elyah. The two grew attached to one another - it was the two of them against the world. Elyah was described as "half-witted", but whether this was truly the case is unclear - although we can be pretty certain that he did not attend school.

20 July 1900 Brooklyn Citizen

Bill and Elyah lived for many years in a cave in the Sourland Mountains. The cave was furnished like a typical home, with a bed and other odd pieces of furniture, kitchenware, and oil lamps. Most of these were acquired by begging - and stealing. The cave home was Bill's base for his raids on neighboring farms across the countryside of Somerset and Hunterdon Counties.

20 July 1900 New Brunswick Daily Times

One night in the summer of 1900, "Old Bill" went down to Hillsborough Township for a raid on the farm of Richard Carter near Frankfort. He got away with a horse and a carriage - but he was spotted.

Old Courthouse, Somerville, circa 1905

He was arrested on July 20. Elyah begged to be allowed to go with his father to the County Jail. The scene was so pitiable that it was allowed. When Bill was sentenced a week later to three years in the state prison, Elyah was ready once again to accompany his father. Instead, he was sent to an institution - and neither was ever heard from again.

11 December 2007

Pheasants Landed

These four Ring-necked Pheasants are the current residents of the triangle of land bounded by Beekman Lane, the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and the Rohill development. This patch of land has been in the news recently, but I don't think the pheasants read the paper.

I wonder what they'll think of their new neighbors.

10 December 2007

The Big Puzzle

In reading all of the recent articles on the possible reactivation of the West Trenton rail line, it occurred to me that passenger train service for Hillsborough is really part of a bigger puzzle - one that includes not just the train station and transit village, but also the creation of Hillsborough's "town center", the redevelopment of the Belle Mead GSA Depot, and the Route 206 bypass.

While the town center plan has been around in its present form for several years now, the purchase of the old GSA depot is recent, and the Route 206 bypass plan has changed several times over the years - the newest plan being unveiled this past summer.

With these changes in mind, it makes sense to me to also re-examine the future location of the Hillsborough train station. The planned placement of the station at Amwell Road may no longer make sense.

It has been pointed out that the Amwell Road station would be less than three miles from the proposed Belle Mead station in Montgomery. While it is possible for two stations to be this close, or even closer - Somerville and Raritan, for instance - those stations serve existing town centers. There is nothing like that along the line from Amwell Road to Township Line Road.

I would like to see a proposal for a combined Hillsborough/Belle Mead station south of Hillsborough road, with direct access from the 206 bypass to the parking lot. A location that would serve the needs of Hillsborough and Montgomery residents, and also be near the GSA depot. In this proposal, Montgomery does not get a train station within their borders. Too bad. They could live with it - the same way Hillsborough had to accept the revised 206 bypass that took the highway away from Pike Run.

09 December 2007

Make Me an Offer

Ten days ago, I wrote about some of the reasons the reactivation of the West Trenton rail line doesn't make sense. Chief among these is the cost. It's hard to get around the idea that this 27 mile railroad will cost $220,000,000 - and will benefit only a few hundred commuters, and a handful of weekend day-trippers. Is it really worth it?

Today's Courier News is full of articles touting the benefits of bring passenger train service back to Hillsborough, Montgomery, and the Hopewells - and I agree with most of those also. So, lest you think I'm all negativity on this, here are some reasons to get the trains a-rollin'.

First of all, building this kind of project always seems to make sense in the long run. Twenty years from now, people will likely say "they should have built this ten years earlier"! And they would probably be right. The cost of building only goes up, and patrons nearly always materialize to fill up the infrastructure. You never hear about highway authorities removing lanes!

People want to live in towns that have rail service. It's no good if the station is in the next town, four or five miles away - it needs to be here. And this is true even for people that have no plans to ever ride the rails. Residents feel that having a train station in town adds to the value of their properties - and they are correct! The added value of the station gets built into the selling price of your home, even if the home is never sold to a commuter!

A Hillsborough train station and "transit village" opens the door for new business opportunities. In a town that has been trying to attract commercial and industrial development for 50 years, and has not had a lot of success, the promise of economic prosperity through redevelopment sounds promising, and should be tried.

Finally, we know that Hillsborough residents pay more than their share of state income tax, but do not receive much back - in state aid to schools, for instance. So, despite that whopping $220 million price tag, this is a chance to get some of Hillsborough's money back in Hillsborough. And that's an offer I can't refuse.

08 December 2007

December 8, 1980

The following piece is what I wrote in my journal on December 8, 2005 - the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Very rough - and no Hillsborough content (!) - but here it is anyway.

It is amazing to me to think now that there was a time in my life when every door was open - when the world was wonderful and full of possibilities. When evil only existed in fairytales.

Was I ever really so young - naive - optimistic? I was born five months after JFK was assassinated - and all I knew about Viet Nam was what I read in Mad Magazine. In 1980, there was no tragedy that had ever touched my life. I had lived through no world wars or depressions, as my father had. Parents and grandparents were all alive, no one was ill, no one was divorced. Life was - despite typical teenage traumas - a wonderful journey.

Everything changed on the night of December 8, 1980. Now the world was an evil, dangerous place - where there was no fairness - no justice.

At that time I was a huge Beatles/Lennon fanatic - following all the news, clipping every article on his musical comeback. I was really never bitter or sarcastic before that time - but I recognized right away that I had changed.

How could he be killed? Why? Why NOW? I still find myself asking those questions 25 years later. Two things are clear - the music of John Lennon and The Beatles helped shape the person I am today, and John Lennon's tragic death marked an important turning point in my psychic journey.

05 December 2007

A Mighty Wind (watch out chickens)

Have you been enjoying the windy weather? It seems that Hillsborough has a long history of windstorms - some quite severe, even freakish in nature. Today I offer up two stories of strange wind.

New York Times headline, 20 May 1936

In July of 1915, a deadly storm that had wreaked havoc across the Midwest made its way through Somerset and Hunterdon counties. One of the worst-hit towns was East Millstone, just across the river from Hillsborough. The cyclone-like storm tore the roof off the Pennsylvania Railroad roundhouse and snapped the trunks of 75 trees. A piece of the galvanized roof of the Harmer Rubber Reclaiming Company was ripped off and spun through the air 700 feet before coming to rest in the backyard of a neighboring home.

8 July 1915, Home News

The town was in chaos for the few minutes that the storm lasted. Abraham Nevius reported that his chicken house had been lifted whole into the air - only the floor remaining firmly attached to the foundation - with chickens clinging desperately to the interior, while some fell out of the bottomless building. The chicken house was carried on the wind across two fields before finally crashing and smashing to pieces.

9 July 1915, Courier News

In ten minutes it was all over, with farmers and townsfolk pumping out their cellars, and wondering how they would recover all of the seriously damaged crops.

20 May 1936 Home News

Twenty-one years later the folks - and chickens - on the other side of the river, in Hillsborough, got their freak storm. Alfred Huff, whose farm was on Blackwell's Mills Road described what happened after his cousin, Reynold Olsen, shouted out a warning to run:

"All of a sudden I heard a whistling and a rumbling. I saw a funnel-shaped cloud coming from the southeast. The next thing I knew, the combination tool-shed and chicken coop was sucked off the ground. It must have gone up about forty or fifty feet. It was carried about forty feet from where it had stood and then dropped and scattered all over the place.
"Eight fruit trees were pulled up and some of the siding and shingles torn off the barn. The whole thing happened in less time than it takes to tell it. Then it was calm. It was kind of creepy, it was so still."
Huff also reported that his son, Thurston, was lifted up in the air while riding his bicycle and ended up, unscathed, in a ditch at the side of the road.

19 May 1936 Courier News

Peter Clerico's farm was also struck by the storm. Once again, chickens got the worst of it, with the twister tossing the chicken house several hundred feet. Oddly, these two farms appeared to be the only ones affected - other farmers in the area had no idea any kind of a storm had passed through!

04 December 2007

Tilting at Windmills

Hillsborough is set to take another tilt at windmills later this month. Discussions to make small wind-energy systems a permitted use in certain areas of the township were suspended last month over concerns about the environmental impact of the towers.

Are there any forms of energy - renewable or not - that don't have a negative impact on the environment? We know the consequences of relying on oil, coal, and natural gas to power our modern world. Less obvious perhaps are the negative side effects of hydro-electric power, solar power, and now, wind.

Ecology aside, the greatest problem with wind and solar power is that they are too expensive - more expensive than the fossil fuels - and it will always remain so. Why? Because the people that control the oil can charge whatever they want for it. And in spite of the fact that the the price of oil has been rising for decades, there is nothing that says the price of oil couldn't begin to fall. Fall just enough so that it is below the price of the renewable energy sources.

Here's why: Despite being told for years that oil is a finite resource, there is still plenty of it in the earth. Oil will not become truly expensive until there is almost none left! Perhaps instead of trying to conserve oil, proponents of renewable energy should be trying to use it up!

Crazy? Possibly. But no wilder than seeding the atmosphere with dust particles or putting giant reflectors into orbit to cool the earth - two ideas that scientists are working on now. Talk about "tilting at windmills"!