31 December 2008

Economic Slowdown

I am writing this on December 31, 2008. Not physically writing, just working it out in my head. It is 6:30 p.m. and I am standing on the checkout line at Kohl's.

I have plenty of time.

The Kohl's checkout is the most maddening of all queues. The reason being that the whole cashier setup has such promise. It really should be a breeze - pay and go - with two complete checkout areas, each employing five cashiers. There's no reason this experience shouldn't be the equivalent of the old barbershop "two chairs, no waiting".

It's not that I expect supermarket swiftness. But when the line snakes all the way back to the men's footwear, I would appreciate a little urgency - on the part of the customers as well as the clerks.

On this new year's eve I can't help but think it took Dick Clark less time to recover from his stroke than it will take me to get to the front of this line.

Is it 2009 yet?

30 December 2008

Take This Snow and Shovel It!

Snow. Looks nice coming down and piling up all around - but what then? Personally, I can take it or leave it. Except that you can't really do either. Take it or leave it, that is. All you can do is push it to the side.

Every few years the subject of what to do about sidewalk snow comes up. In my neighborhood the answer is simple - shovel a path or blow it away. Nearly everyone around here follows through with that unwritten social contract - up to 4 or 6 or even 8 inches. After that, it's every aching back for himself.

And that's probably how it should be. I know I don't want any of my neighbors killing themselves to clear their sidewalk after a blizzard. If they can get their drive done that's good enough. The sidewalk can wait.

A little snow is a wonderful thing. A foot of snow - or two inches of ice! - is an act of God. And not one of those kindly acts, like a rainbow after a summer shower or the Jets making the playoffs.

Let common sense prevail. Make a reasonable effort to keep your sidewalk clear, but be careful out there.

29 December 2008

Zip It!

Christopher Cusack's mission was instigated by two words: "zip it!" That's what the Hillsborough 2nd grader's mom told him to do with his coat on the way to the bus stop a year ago. "You're lucky to have a good winter coat - there are lots of kids in New Jersey who aren't so fortunate."

Since then, Chris has been collecting gently used coats for the Jersey Cares coat drive. The Courier News reported this week that he has collected 483 so far - on his way to a goal of 1000, which he hopes to reach by December 2011.

There's no reason to think this determined seven-year-old won't make it - and maybe even finish early.

Maybe we can encourage him towards a career in the New Jersey DOT!

27 December 2008

Shadow Hill Farm

One of the nice things about having the Christmas tree in the family room - in the corner between the fireplace and the T.V. - instead of the living room where we used to put it, is that we are able to enjoy it more. And not just during the commercials!

As I have been sitting here looking at the tree, it occurs to me that in the last several years, we've never had a bad one. I can't remember one scrawny, needle dropping, flimsy limbed fir in at least the last ten years.

The reason must be that we always choose and cut our tree at the Shadow Hill Farm on Grandview Road in Skillman. I can only think of maybe two years since the mid 90s when we purchased a tree elsewhere - and in at least one of those years I believe it was because the farm didn't open!

The setting - at the top a hill at the edge of the Sourlands - is gorgeous and serene, the proprietors are friendly and helpful, and the trees are top-notch!

But, of course, as I sit here and look at the tree - all trimmed out, and tricked out, with ornaments and lights - I don't really see the Christmas tree at all.









25 December 2008

Santa Grande Vitesse

How does he do it? Rudolph's red nose notwithstanding, even Santa Claus must get grounded by bad weather once in a while. So how does he manage to get to all those homes on a single snowy night?

In France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China the answer is simple - Santa takes the train. That's because all of those countries have high speed railroads - trains with top speeds of 175 mph or greater. France's TGV broke the speed record last year for a train running on conventional rails - 356 mph!

The fastest train in the US, Amtrak's Acela Express, tops out at just 150 mph - and the twists and turns of the Northeast Corridor rail line mean that the average speed for a trip from Boston to Washington is much less than that.

So why can't we have some of those fast trains here? U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently asked for proposals for a new high speed rail line between New York and Washington D.C. Unlike the Acela project, which was designed to run over existing tracks on a route that was laid out in the 19th century, a new high speed line would need an entirely new route - eliminating curves and grade crossings - and a completely new infrastructure.

And of course, it would have to pass through New Jersey, preferably avoiding the urban areas in favor of the open spaces in the western part of our state.

Uh oh!

24 December 2008

Curb My Enthusiasm

This happens every time. We break out the DVDs and watch a few episodes of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I start to have these "Larry David" moments.

Mr. David, the creator of Seinfeld, plays himself in the series - or, more accurately, a heightened version of himself. Larry has a unique take on everyday life, which basically boils down to his questioning of most of the social conventions that we take for granted.

In one episode, his acupuncturist sends him, for no apparent reason, a large flower arrangement. Larry can't get over it, and spends the rest of the show asking people why this professional man would send him flowers.

About two weeks ago, we went out with the kids and stopped into a restaurant in Lambertville. We had a pleasant lunch, and I thought nothing else about it. Until this week when I received a postcard from the waiter who served us that day! "It was a pleasure serving you, please visit again" - that type of thing. Handwritten by the waiter.

Anyone else ever hear of something like this?

23 December 2008

Road to Somewhere!

During this campaign season we heard a lot about "bridges to nowhere". In 2009, Hillsborough could very well see construction begin on our very own "highway to nowhere" - the Route 206 bypass. The planned road will take northbound motorists from Montgomery Township and points south on a parallel course east of the old Route 206, around Hillsborough's "downtown", and link back up with the current highway near Old Somerville Road.

Anyone who has tried to travel north out of Hillsborough during rush hour knows that traffic doesn't get bad until AFTER Old Somerville Road! The real snarl begins at Triangle Road, and continues to Brown Avenue. This is the section of Route 206 that needs to be improved - with or without the bypass.

It is encouraging to see that at least some of our leaders have now acknowledged the importance of this section of highway. Last week Mayor Ferrera called on New Jersey's US Senators to include the widening of Route 206 between Old Somerville Road and Brown Avenue in any new economic stimulus package.

This $108 million project is the only part of the 206 bypass plan that could actually stand on its own - without the CSX bridge reconfiguration in Belle Mead or the bypass itself - yet it is the only part of the plan that has had no funds allocated thus far. Amazing!

Mayor Ferrera, keep the pressure on. Let's make sure the 206 bypass becomes a "road to somewhere".

Somewhere other than the world's largest traffic jam, that is.

21 December 2008

Post Office Hours

I always know when it's the holiday season, or tax time, because so many visitors reach Gillette on Hillsborough by searching for local post office information.

You can find a lot of this information at www.usps.com, and you can even search for all the post offices in a given radius, like I did here.

Here are the business hours for all of the area post offices as given by the USPS web site.

HILLSBOROUGH Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00pm Sat 9:00-2:00pm

BELLE MEAD Mon-Fri 8:00-7:00pm Sat 8:30-4:00pm

FLAGTOWN Mon-Fri 7:00-4:30pm Sat 7:00-12:00pm

NESHANIC STATION Mon-Fri 8:30-4:45pm Sat 8:30-12:00pm

SKILLMAN Mon-Fri 7:00-4:00pm Sat 7:00-12:00pm

BLAWENBURG Mon-Fri 7:15-12:00pm and 2:00-4:30pm Sat 9:00-12:00pm

EAST MILLSTONE Mon-Fri 8:30-12:30pm and 2:30-5:00 pm Sat closed

ROCKY HILL Mon-Fri 8:00-4:30pm Sat 9:00-12:00pm

MANVILLE Mon-Fri 9:30-7:00pm Sat 10:00-4:00pm

RARITAN Mon-Fri 9:00-7:00pm Sat 9:00-4:00pm

SOMERVILLE Mon-Fri 8:30-7:00pm Sat 9:00-4:00pm

20 December 2008

Appointed Rounds

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Did you know that Ira Schnapp, the artist who as a young man personally designed and engraved the famous inscription on the James Farley General Post Office in New York also designed the logos for Action Comics, and many other DC Comics such as Flash and Green Lantern?

18 December 2008

Postmaster to Hillsborough: "Stay Home"

In a recent letter to the editor of one of our local newspapers, the Hillsborough postmaster urged customers to stay home this holiday season. Instead of visiting the 08844 post office on Amwell Road, he suggested they should buy stamps by mail, or make use of the USPS web site.

I have to agree! I wrote about my own post office woes in 2007, and a year later, I'm not sure anything has changed. The post office is slow, slow, slow.

It seems as if the postmaster has given up trying to speed things up in there. Maybe he doesn't have the resources, or maybe the lethargy is so entrenched there is no way out. In any case, his letter to the editor is clearly a letter of surrender.

We accept, unconditionally!

16 December 2008

The Rehearsal of the Reenactment of the...

We spent Sunday afternoon on the other side of the Delaware River at Washington Crossing Historic Park - but unlike "George Washington" and the many dozens of committed reenactors, we actually made it back to New Jersey before nightfall!

Sunday was the dress rehearsal of the reenactment of Washington's famous Christmas Day crossing - 2400 Americans crossed the Delaware and marched a few miles south to launch a surprise attack on Hessian troops in Trenton.

We enjoyed meeting the colonial blacksmith....

...and the colonial woman roasting almonds using an 18th century recipe.

And everyone jeered appropriately as a captured Hessian was paraded through the small historic village.

But what we were really waiting for was the Crossing!

Oarsmen gathered by the river's edge, standing quietly with the tools of their trade in a vertical salute as we anticipated the arrival of General Washington and his officers.

Alas, it was not to be. Washington addressed his troops, quoted Thomas Paine, and then turned glumly and headed in the other direction as a voice from the public address system informed the assembled that the river was too dangerous to cross today!

The reenactors were just as disappointed as the overflowing crowd of onlookers - but still, we were left with an even greater appreciation of what was accomplished on December 25, 1776.

Oh, and my kids loved the cannon, which was fired half a dozen times at New Jersey, and was VERY loud!

Do you think they were aiming at the State House?

13 December 2008

Brown's Yard Santa Train

Santa Claus arrived in my hometown of Freehold Saturday courtesy of Conrail and the Freehold Boro PBA. I posted some pictures of Santa's arrival last year, and in fact I have been attending this wonderful event each year since 2005.

The trek to downtown Freehold has become an annual ritual for myself and my six-year-old son - which also includes getting a haircut at the old barbershop I went to as a kid, a stop at Toys R Us to point out everything on our wish lists, and lunch at the area's best hot dog and ice cream joint, Jersey Freeze.

Photos 2005 - 2008

P.S. No mommies and sisters allowed!

12 December 2008

Top Billing

It's lonely at the top - the top of the food chain, that is. And it's about to get a bit lonelier now that Hillsborough Township has proposed allowing the taking of coyote and fox during the township's deer season. Hunters have been asking about other game, and this proposed ordinance will make it possible to add these predators, and others that are already approved for hunting by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.

It was just about a year and a half ago that I wrote about Hillsborough's changes to its deer hunting season and the booming deer population. White-tailed deer are not the only species that have staged a remarkable comeback in New Jersey. The coyote population, which numbered about 100 just three decades ago, is now at 3000. Of course that is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of deer that now reside in our state, but it is far from extinction.

While coyote and fox both pose threats to livestock, spread mange, and carry rabies, they pose much less threat to humans and our property than deer. What the increased population of coyote and fox does accomplish is that it makes recreational hunting of these animals sustainable.

And, of course, that ensures we humans remain at the top of the bill!

10 December 2008

Credit Crunch

I was listening to one of the talk-radio stations the other day, and the discussion was all about surviving this financial crisis - getting through the recession. Listeners called in and spoke about how they were "upside down" in their mortgages, and how they had credit card debt they couldn't pay.

The experts on the radio advised callers to seek help directly from the mortgage and credit card companies. "These companies don't want you to file bankruptcy - they will work with you to lower your rates and get you through the crisis".

Interesting. In the mail that same day I received a letter from one of those caring credit companies. "These tough economic times have forced us to raise the interest rate on your account".

What a joke!

07 December 2008

"Merry Christmas"?

We went to the annual tree lighting sponsored by the Women's Club of Hillsborough on the grounds of the municipal building Friday night. Of course, the highlight of the evening was the arrival of Santa Claus - brought to us courtesy of the Flagtown Fire Department.

The kids were so excited about meeting Santa that they didn't even appear to feel the cold. Meanwhile, moms and dads were absolutely freezing! I hope Santa's little red cottage was heated!

After giving Santa Claus our Christmas wish lists, we headed inside to listen to the Hillsborough High School wind ensemble play a selection of holiday tunes.

The mayor made a point of telling the assembled residents that we in Hillsborough were proud to call our tree a "Christmas Tree" - not a holiday tree, or some other politically correct euphemism - and that the town would also be lighting a menorah in the coming weeks.

I appreciate the sentiment - it's a good effort. I am as fed up with political correctness as everyone else. But I'm not sure what any of this has to do with Christmas. Is political correctness so ingrained, are we such timid sheep, that lighting up a "Christmas" tree and rolling out Santa Claus is now considered a victory?

After all, it wasn't Jesus on that firetruck.

04 December 2008

Me Too!

Congratulations are due Mayor Anthony Ferrera for receiving the Somerset County Freeholders' 2008 Disability Advocate Award. Mr. Ferrera has been a volunteer in the special needs community for nearly thirty years and serves as a regional director for the Organization for Autism Research. As a member of the Hillsborough Township Committee, and as mayor, he has been a driving force behind inclusive recreation programs and Hillsborough's award winning Camp HEART, an inclusive summer camp for children with developmental disabilities.

I have been a proponent and supporter of inclusive recreation programs in Hillsborough since their inception over two years ago. While our efforts here have been laudable, and have served as a model for other communities, I am sure Mayor Ferrera would agree that our programs can always be improved and expanded.

From the beginning, I have felt that our specific inclusive recreation programs should be used as a tool to learn how to make ALL of our recreation programs more accessible to children and adults with disabilities. A better understanding of the recreational needs and requirements of people in the special needs community can be obtained through observation of inclusive recreation.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a barrier free community, where individuals with mental or physical disabilities can participate in activities of their choosing.

Thank you Mayor Ferrera for your efforts in making this possible.

03 December 2008

Made My Day!

At the risk of having to spend the next ten years driving 35 miles per hour between Hillsborough and Princeton, I must admit I found the Montgomery Township Police standoff with the cardboard cut-out at the PNC Bank in Skillman pretty funny. I would bet even most police officers got a chuckle out of this story.

Why is it o.k. to laugh about what could have been a very dangerous situation - shadowy figure inside closed bank, SWAT team outside at the ready? First of all, no one got hurt. That's very important. But what really makes it all right to have a giggle is that the Montgomery Township Police essentially did nothing wrong. An alarm is tripped, there is a figure in darkened room of a closed bank. Who knows how many others could be out of sight in other parts of the bank? The correct steps were taken - it turned out to be just "one of those things". It really could happen to anyone, and those kinds of incidents are always worth a chuckle.

And. of course, we can be thankful Montgomery doesn't have a wax museum. (Just kidding!)

02 December 2008

COAH Glass Half Empty

Hillsborough Township's affordable housing consultant will present Hillsborough's new COAH plan at a meeting of the Planning Board on December 4. The plan, by using previous development, rental units, and other options, reduces Hillsborough's affordable housing requirement by more than 50% - from 650 units down to 296. The plan also reduces market rate units from a potential high of 2600 units down to just 437!

These reductions are a significant achievement and should be applauded. Even more significant is the fact that the plan designates three development projects on the table right now - two on Amwell Road and one on Route 206 - that will fulfill all of the 296 units of the affordable housing requirement.

Overall, the COAH plan was completed on time, with significant reductions to our obligations, and with a realistic goal for completing the building requirements by the 2018 deadline. So why am I still pessimistic - why does a 50% reduction in affordable housing leave the COAH glass half empty instead of half full?

I agree with Mayor Ferrera and the Township Committee that COAH is broken. It is unfair to municipalities both in its methods of calculation and in its overall philosophy - which forces a town like Hillsborough, with a huge variety of housing options in place, to build more unnecessary housing in contradiction to our Master Plan.

Hillsborough should continue to participate in the League of Municipalities lawsuit to overturn the COAH rules, while only taking baby sips from the COAH cup.

01 December 2008

Paper Sun

The Hillsborough Township Committee heard a presentation last week by a company proposing to install solar panels on the roof of the municipal complex. This would allow the township to derive a portion of the electricity needed at the complex from a clean energy source - the sun - and also reduce energy costs overall. Maybe.

The problem is that this plan does not yet make sense, either practically, or on paper. In order for the solar company to guarantee savings, a combination of government incentives and credits would be used for the installation, and Hillsborough would be guaranteed a fixed cost on its energy bill.

Sounds good so far, but to make this scheme work the solar company needs to generally have a 20 year contract - or at least a 15 year contract - in order to spread their costs out over time. Hillsborough can only enter into contracts of this type for a maximum of 10 years - thus making the plan unworkable on paper.

Still, sustainable energy from the sun is clearly in our future. And like most succesful plans, it needs to start in our homes and in our town, where we control what it will look like - even if right now it's only a paper sun!

23 November 2008

Stop! Look!

Listen! Did you hear anything? It's been almost a week since Norfolk Southern engineers stopped blowing their horns at the Beekman Lane and Auten Road railroad crossings - and I must say, I don't miss the blasts a bit.

Hillsborough is now one of the first communities in New Jersey to successfully implement railroad quiet zones - grade crossing improvements that allow trains to pass without sounding their horns. Once again, Hillsborough is a role model for other towns, with Branchburg now investigating establishing a quiet zone at the Woodfern Road crossing - a project that would also benefit the ears of Hillsborough residents.

In this instant-mashed-potato-world, where everything is magic, results are demanded immediately, and not seeing is not believing, it is comforting to know that at least one New Jersey town has the patience to poo-poo the naysayers and see a project through to completion.

Congratulations Hillsborough Township - where all residents live on the "right" side of the tracks!

22 November 2008

Thanks to All

Thanks to all who made the Hillsborough's Hope/Autism Speaks Basket Auction fundraiser on Friday night a huge success! The North Branch firehouse was filled to capacity as we raffled off over 200 gift baskets donated by very generous area businesses, and raised over $9000 for this very worthy cause.

A special thank you also to all of the volunteers who worked so hard to plan the event and make it run so smoothly - the Girl Scouts of the Rolling Hills Council, all of our families and friends, Patty's co-workers at Merck, and our Hillsborough's Hope Team - Kelly Neuberger, Mary Downie, Kristin O'Leary, Kathy Lang, Andrea Graham, and many, many others who contributed their ideas and time!

18 November 2008

The Myth of the Clean Northern Property

Hillsborough Township is one step closer to acquiring the 369 acre Belle Mead GSA Depot property from the federal government now that the Township Committee has introduced an ordinance to rezone the property and presented a plan for its redevelopment. This step was necessary in order to apply for a New Jersey Brownfields Grant - which will provide additional money to clean up the property. Most of the funds to be used for the cleanup will come from the federal government, which is keeping the $15.7 million purchase price in an escrow account specifically for that purpose.

This latest development comes at the same time that Bhrugesh Patel, owner of the "other half" of the GSA Depot, has filed a lawsuit against the township to have his 335 acres included in the redevelopment plans. This parcel - which some refer to as the northern section of the depot - was split from the township's section years ago, but both share their 50 year history as first a military and then a federal government warehouse and distribution facility.

The most interesting aspect of Mr. Patel's lawsuit is that he is making the claim that his property has the same environmental concerns as the township property, and would, presumably, need the same type of clean up operation.

Here is the quote from Roger Staib, spokesman for Patel's Hillsborough Properties, which appeared in a local newspaper:

”The significant environmental contamination (on Mr. Patel’s property) rose due to the unified use of the whole tract,” he said. “It crosses property lines, and because of that, both properties are included in an April 15, 2000, memorandum of understanding between the GSA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which governs the terms by which the GSA must remediate the entire depot tract.”

This makes sense for two reasons. First, Mr. Staib is correct, the property has a history of one unified use, with railroad tracks, warehouses, and other facilities throughout the property. Second, Patel's "northern section" is not all in the north! The two properties fit together like a puzzle, with the eastern part of Patel's property actually further south than the western part of the township property.

For years we have been told that Hillsborough missed its chance to acquire the "clean" northern section before Mr. Patel bought it. That we blundered and are now stuck with the "dirty" southern half of the depot. Now, Mr. Patel, through his spokesman, is admitting that his property is in the same condition as the township property!

Clearly the notion that there is a clean GSA Depot out there somewhere is a myth.

17 November 2008

This Raider is a Star

Our local athletes have had their ups and downs this Fall season, but at least one "Raider" has been a shining star for nearly a year. I'm talking about Raider, the Hillsborough Township Police Department's K-9 officer.

Raider, a 16-month-old male from Hungary, has already assisted in narcotics busts and other patrol operations, and has lent his nose to missing persons searches.

Like most real stars, Raider's reputation is growing. I've heard that the mere sight of the "K-9" insignia on handler Chris Engelhardt's vehicle after a traffic stop is enough to make the bad guys roll over and play dead, or at least sit up and beg - for mercy!

16 November 2008

Bridgewater - Manville Budget Woes

One day after Bridgwater Township employees were warned of possible layoffs to close a projected budget gap, Manville announced its own hiring freeze, and intends to look very closely before filling vacant positions.

The plight of these two towns is similar, and is shared by many Central Jersey municipalities - rising costs and tough economic times are causing shortfalls in budgets. Where the stories differ is that, according to newspaper reports, Bridgewater is concerned that the state mandated cap on property tax increases - currently 4% - does not allow the township to increase taxes enough to cover costs. Manville, on the other hand, is asking all of its departments to slash their budgets by 5% - a move that will allow the boro to keep current employees in their jobs.

My personal opinion is that the 4% cap should not be seen by municipalities as a burden that they wish would go away, but rather as a tool to promote careful planning and efficiency.

15 November 2008

Happy Belated Veterans Day

On Monday morning, December 8, 1941, Tony Ballas, like thousands of other American men, walked into his supervisor's office and announced that he was going to enlist in the armed forces. Enraged by the unprovoked attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Tony was eager to defend his country.

There were a few problems with that plan - the first being that Tony was nearly 34 years old. The second was that his supervisor was a naval officer! Tony was a civilian employee at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he had worked as a skilled machinist for about six years.

His supervisor told him that he could enlist if he wanted to - but he would end up right back at the Navy Yard - in the same job. There was no way he would be going to the Pacific, or to any other theater of war - he was just too valuable at the yard, especially now that the war had begun.

This was the second time Tony (my maternal grandfather, by the way) was disappointed in an attempt to get to the "real" action. As a nine-year-old in 1917, he set out from Williamsburg, Brooklyn with a couple of his buddies on a mission to "Kill the Kaiser", as they put it.

They made it as far as Hoboken! where they ended up at the police station before being sent back to their worried mothers.

Tony ended up staying on at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until it closed in 1965 - building and repairing hundreds of ships, and giving invaluable service to his country.

13 November 2008

Right Project, Wrong Reason

The Federal Transit Administration has just approved the environmental impact statement for the Hudson River rail tunnel project. This comes amid recent statements by the Port Authority and Governor Jon Corzine touting the benefits of these two additional single track railroad tunnels that would link New Jersey and New York City, and would indicate the project is now on the fast track.

I feel the project is worthwhile. Going from two track to four will actually more than double rail capacity because it will make routing of trains more efficient and provide for detours around stalled trains and maintenance sites - something that is a real problen with only two tracks in service now. It will also make possible re-activation of passenger service on the West Trenton Line through Hillsborough, as well as other lines, and may include the possibility of "one-seat" service on the Raritan Valley Line, with no change at Newark.

But neither Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia nor Jon Corzine cited any of these benefits in their recent remarks. Each is now praising the project because of the economic stimulus the construction will provide to our region.

In my opinion, this is the wrong reason to go forward with the tunnels. I agree that an injection of federal and state money into regional projects can help the economy - but this is a TEN YEAR PROJECT, costing $8.7 BILLION that will mostly benefit unions and cronies. Many economists feel the recession will last another 18 months, not 10 years, and by the time we are out of the recession we will already have committed to this project - whose costs keep escalating each year.

If helping the regional economy is the new goal, perhaps spending $1 billion right now on short term projects that will employ people immediately would be a better use of our taxpayer money and highway tolls.

We can always take another look at the tunnels in a year or two - the Hudson River isn't going anywhere!

11 November 2008

McCain Wins!

Now that absentee ballots have been counted, John McCain holds a slim one vote lead over Barack Obama among Hillsborough voters - 8918 to 8917. In a year that saw America divided more drastically than in any recent election - black/white, male/female, rich/poor - no Somerset County town was more evenly divided in its choice for president than our own.

So how did the other Democratic candidates fare in Hillsborough? Not nearly as well as Obama. The Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress, and County Freeholder each won by 1500 to 2000 votes - and the Republicans running for Hillsborough Township Committee beat their Democratic challengers by nearly 7000 combined votes!

This was despite a mailer sent out the week before the election which urged voters to not vote for a Republican candidate at the local level, noting that in the previous year's election, residents moved away from the GOP candidate for Township Committee after voting heavily for the GOP candidate for State Assembly. The flier, sent by an entity known as "Republicans for Honest Government", stated, in part

The voters are waking up - last year at the State level, the Republican candidate won by over 1,600 votes but nearly 800 of those Conservative voters SWITCHED PARTY and voted Democrat here in Hillsborough! Very interesting!

This year the "trend" went completely in the opposite direction, with thousands of Barack Obama's Liberal Hillsborough supporters SWITCHING THEIR ALLEGIANCE and voting for Republicans in all of the local races. Very interesting, indeed!


The township website has a complete breakdown of all the local and state-wide races.

10 November 2008

Disney Hike

Serious hikers, like those that have completed the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail, report that it is possible to "hike yourself into shape". That means beginning in Georgia in less than optimal physical condition, and, through the daily rigors of the hike - and a little willpower - finishing in Maine five months later in prime shape - ready to go another 2000 miles.

That is what I had in mind when we began our own seven day odyssey in Walt Disney World last week. Four theme parks, Downtown Disney, the Boardwalk - so what if I hadn't trained for this trip, by the end of the week I would have walked myself into better shape than I have been in years. All it would take was some determination and a good pair of sneakers.

Boy, was I wrong!

At the end of the first day I was wiped out! At the end of the second day I began to envy the people riding those motorized scooters around Epcot. By the third day I was ready to jump into the kids' stroller.

There's just no way to take a six-year-old and a nine-year-old to Disney World without coming out worse than you went in. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Not even a basket full of Fast Passes can save you. You are doomed from the moment you set foot in the Magic Kingdom!

By the way - we had a great time!

04 November 2008

Independent Vote

Recent letters to the editor published in the Courier News and other newspapers suggest that we should forego voting for the best person to serve on the Hillsborough Township Committee and instead cast a vote based solely on party affiliation. Nothing could be more contrary to the independent minded Hillsborough voter.

When we go to the polls today, we need to choose the two best candidates - the candidates who are the best qualified and have the best vision for Hillsborough's future.

I understand that voters sometimes like to create a balance - by electing a republican president and a democratic congress, for example. And with our national officials - who we don't know and never see - this may be worthwhile. But when we are able to have direct participation in our government - which we are able to do in Hillsborough - with elected officials who are our friends and neighbors, it is much more important to get the best person than it is to sacrifice our vote to achieve a phony balance.

For the past several years Hillsborough has excelled in the areas of financial responsibility and quality of life. If you like the path we have been on, and have noted the accomplishments and continuing work on issues like railroad quiet zones, preservation of the GSA Depot, extended service hours at the municipal building, and tax increases below the rate of inflation, you need to vote for the two candidates who are committed to keeping us on that path.

Don't give up your vote in a misguided attempt to create what the township committee form of government has already given us - a transparent, open government actively seeking participation by the public on every issue.

01 November 2008

In the Zones

Hillsborough Township announced this week that the town would be getting a little quieter after November 18. That's when Norfolk Southern will direct their engineers to begin honoring Hillsborough's railroad quiet zones at the Beekman Lane and Auten Road crossings.

The township installed raised medians and other road improvements at the grade crossings and has been waiting for the railroad to complete electronic safety improvements at the crossings. These additional improvements will signal engineers to sound their horns if a power outage or some other circumstance prevents the gates from coming down.

I know what you're thinking - we're only half finished. The road improvements have been completed at the Roycefield Road crossing, and the township is seeking an agreement with Norfolk Southern to install a quieter "wayside horn" at Valley Road - which doesn't lend itself to the raised median improvement.

Once the wayside horn is installed at Valley Road, the railroad will begin honoring the quiet zone at Roycefield. Then it will be as quiet as it was in 1864, before the first train steamed into town, and all of Hillsborough was one big quiet zone!

31 October 2008

Somerville is Spooked

Approximately 800 area residents made their way to the Jersey Central Railroad passenger station in Somerville late on the night of Friday, July 23, 1915 - hoping to be scared out of their wits!

25 July 1915 New York Herald 

They came looking for the ghost that had been seen and heard scampering about the large railroad yard between the station and the cemetery. For about a week, hideous shrieks had been heard in and around the lines of freight cars and the big roundhouse. On Thursday night, twenty-five brave souls accompanied by policeman Joseph Hanlon camped out until daybreak near the station to investigate the strange goings-on. Their affirmative report of "mysterious noises [that] came and ended at frequent intervals" is what brought the crowd out on Friday.

From the 1882 panoramic map of Somerville -
the cemetery is at the bottom right

Thomas Hagan, the rail yard night watchman, was the first to hear the piercing cries and the first to see the human-like figure flitting in the shadows earlier in the week. At first, Hagan was laughed at - but then residents of Somerville began to hear the eerie cries. Cries so loud and evil that they were unable to sleep.

24 July 1915 Courier News

Borough residents began sitting up at night, leaving their lights on, listening for the ghastly yells - which now seemed to be coming from the graveyard. Hagan and three other railroad employees finally had enough and abruptly quit - unable to stand the strain of working while a ghost was lurking.

Now 800 of Somerville's bravest citizens, aided by the Chief of Police, his officers, and seven railroad detectives were determined to catch the ghost at last - and put an end to their nightly terror.

Alas, it was not to be. Sometime after midnight, strange sounds were heard, but could not be located - and the apparition failed to appear. The crowd dispersed - some relieved, some disappointed. And the Somerville Spook was never heard from again.

30 October 2008

All Together Now

When does A + B = C? When "A" is a $49,000 federal grant, "B" is $171,000 in off-site developer contributions, and "C" is the new Center for Senior Citizens at the Hillsborough Township Municipal Complex.

Senior citizens and township officials celebrated the grand opening of the center on Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a tour of the facility - which includes a 1,758-square-foot main area, a 537-square-foot game room, and a 415-square-foot computer room with internet access.

The equation can also be applied in another way, as now both local senior citizen's groups A and B will have enough room to participate in joint activities, or just Congregate!

29 October 2008

Taking a Flier?

Being an unaffiliated voter - not registered with either political party - has its advantages. One is that I tend to get election mailers from both parties. Maybe they consider me a swing vote. After all I did vote for Ross Perot - twice!

In the past two weeks I have received four campaign fliers from candidates running for election to the Hillsborough Township Committee - two from Dawson/Foranoce and two from Ferrera/McCauley. The number of mailings was the only thing the two campaigns have in common. The tone and information value of the two sets of campaign pieces couldn't be any more different.

One Ferrera/McCauley piece described their political philosophy and their personal accomplishments, and the other touted specific accomplishments of the township committee over the last several years.

The Dawson/Foranoce literature - one piece on taxes and the other alleging that the Hillsborough Township Committee is controlled by developers - told me nothing about the candidates and nothing about what their plan is for Hillsborough.

I understand that challengers need to attack, but at some point we need to know what their plan is. At this point, it appears that their plan is to do everything, make every decision, just the opposite of how the current township committee has done things.

Right now Hillsborough is in great financial shape (while the state and nation collapse all around us), we have controlled spending and reduced costs (spending less per person than Bridgewater. Montgomery, or Franklin), and we are a leader in quality of life issues (including open space, recreation, and railroad quiet zones).

Do you really think Hillsborough would excel in all of these areas if every decision had been made "just the opposite"? Of course not.

My mailbox is still open for business, and I'll be checking every day for new fliers. Keep 'em coming!

28 October 2008

1923 Hillsborough Commuter Train

In the 1920s, the Lehigh Valley Railroad still had regularly scheduled passenger service between Easton, PA and New York City - including their signature "Black Diamond Express" whose only intermediate stop was at South Plainfield.

Hillsborough commuters had a choice of two station stops for boarding - Flagtown or South Somerville (previously named Royce Valley) - and you had to be on time because there was only one train each morning that stopped at these stations.

The train left Flagtown at 7:00 AM and South Somerville at 7:06, and arrived in New York at 8:43. The return trip in the evening was 3 minutes faster as the 5:22 PM train got into Flagtown at 7:02 PM.

Check out this schedule from 1923!

26 October 2008

Flemington Wants Trains

Like many Central New Jersey communities, Flemington is seeking restoration of passenger rail service. Hillsborough is already on board with plans for the reactivation of the CSX West Trenton Line - a project that is at least 10 to 20 years in our future - but Flemington's plan should also be intriguing for Hillsborough residents and officials, because 7 miles of the 18 mile line between Flemington and Bound Brook would run through our town. There would be more track in Hillsborough than in any other community along the line!

Flemington last saw passenger service along this corridor on April 25, 1953 when Jersey Central's No. 1555, nicknamed "Old Friendly" made its final run on the South Branch Railroad between Flemington and Somerville. The photo below is from the station stop at Neshanic Station that day.

CNJ Last Day Neshanic Station 1953

The section of those tracks between Three Bridges and Somerville was torn up years ago, and the proposed route wouldn't use that exact alignment, but would use the existing Norfolk Southern Lehigh Valley Line which closely parallels the old Jersey Central route.

This line also had passenger service a century ago, with stops in Hillsborough at Flagtown and at Royce Valley, where the railroad crosses the present day Route 206.

What do you think? Should Hillsborough endorse restoration of passenger service along this corridor? How about turning Flagtown into a "transit village", or building a commuter rail station at Docherty Park?

If the West Trenton Line is expected to take another 10 to 20 years, this plan will take about 20 to 30. Still, it will never happen if we don't plan for it now!

23 October 2008

Puzzle Pieces

Thank you to the following Hillsborough and area businesses that have supported Autism Speaks and Hillsborough's Hope by selling Puzzle Pieces in their stores.

Bagel Bop - Hillsborough

Learning Express - Branchburg and Hillsborough locations

Maggie Moos - Hillsborough

Hillsboro Pharmacy - Hillsborough

Kidz on the Move - Hillsborough

IHOP - Hillsborough

Secrets Salon and Day Spa - Bridgewater.

Please help us thank these area businesses by patronizing their stores!

20 October 2008

Time Warp

Members of the Hillsborough Township Committee joined the Planning Board on the dais of the multipurpose room to hear the concerns of citizens and citizens' groups about the proposed development.

Residents of the town had been hearing about the project for weeks, and had legitimate concerns about what impact this massive project would have on the town - especially property values, school enrollments, and environmental impact. After all, the project was planned for an environmentally sensitive area of the town. Experts came forth to state that projects like this in Franklin Township and Bridgewater had caused taxes to rise, and had strained those communities.

Sound familiar? This event took place in the multipurpose room of the Hillsborough Consolidated School - now known as Hillsborough Elementary School - on May 15, 1953!

It concerned the proposal by 3M to build the quarry and roof tile granule manufacturing plant on the border between Hillsborough and Montgomery.

Fifty-five years later, Hillsborough faces another tough development challenge. And though much has changed since 1953, one thing remains the same - Hillsborough's open, resident-friendly municipal government still encourages citizens to come out and actively participate in the democratic process.

19 October 2008

Thank You!

What an amazing day! There are no words to describe what it was like to look out from the stage at our 9th annual Central New Jersey Walk Now for Autism and see the thousands of walkers committed to our goals of raising awareness and funds for autism research.

It was each of you, who came out to Mercer County College on a beautiful, crisp, Sunday afternoon, who made the day so special. Each year we are getting closer to finding the missing pieces of the autism puzzle - and it's because of you! Thank you for once again making the Central Jersey Walk a huge success!

For the next few weeks, we will be entering your donation information into our Walk website. We will let you know when the entry process is complete. We will continue to credit your team until December 31.

Post Walk Donations: (Be sure to indicate the team to be credited.)

Autism Speaks
Walk Donations Department5
455 Wilshire Blvd, #2250
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Attn: CNJ Walk

Walk Day Photos are now posted to the website. Thank you again for all of your hard work! We will continue to keep you posted as our total continues to rise. Enjoy your week!

Patty & Greg Gillette

16 October 2008

Finances Shaping Up

According to one of our area's oldest road signs, the southern border of our town is just 3.9 miles from the "New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute". But when it comes to sound fiscal policy, Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships are a world apart.

An article in today's newspaper describes the problems Montgomery is having with development plans for the former "Institute" - which began as the New Jersey Village for Epileptics in 1898, became the NJ Neurpsychiatric Institiute in 1952, and changed its name to the North Princeton Developmental Center in 1975.

The Center closed in 1998, and Montgomery purchased the site from the state in 2005 for $5.65 million - and then spent another $22 million to clean the site with the hopes of developing 42 of the 257 acres as Skillman Village.

The crippled economy has wreaked havoc with those plans. None of the developers contacted by Montgomery Township have committed to the project, and taxpayers are left holding the bag.

How big of a bag is it? The debt service on the loan Montgomery took to buy the property is $880,000 per year. That amounts to 3.25% of their annual budget! Yes, three and a quarter percent of Montgomery Township's municipal budget is used to pay the debt service on this ONE project.

Hillsborough's Chief Finance Officer recently released his annual report on the state of Hillsborough's finances. The eight page report is full of interesting information, not the least of which is the fact that while other municipalities - like Montgomery - have been borrowing, Hillsborough has been paying down it's debt - saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year and putting the town in great financial shape!

We're in such good shape that if our financial report had legs it could make that 3.9 mile run down to Skillman Village in about 20 minutes!

15 October 2008

Walk Now For Autism 2008

[This is the official press release for our upcoming event on October 19. Many of our Hillsborough friends will be joining us for the walk.]

Dina Schwab – 609-228-7315; dschwab@autismspeaks.org
Lauren Havanki – 609-228-7332; lhavanki@autismspeaks.org


-- Increasing Awareness and Raising Funds to Support Research into the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Developmental Disorder--

Thousands of walkers – including individuals with autism, their families and friends – are expected to join together to raise much-needed funds for critical scientific research and to increase awareness about a growing health crisis that now affects 1 in every 150 children at Autism Speaks’ 9th Annual Central NJ Walk Now for Autism on Sunday, October 19 at Mercer County Community College. All proceeds from the event benefit Autism Speaks, the nation’s leading autism advocacy organization.

Last year’s event raised more than $280,000 with 4000 participants and 115 teams. This year’s goal is to break $400,000.

Toys“R”Us, Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund and Parade Magazine proudly serve as national sponsors of the Autism Speaks Walk Now for Autism program. Other sponsors are Fruscione Foundation, Janssen, Merck, Black Rock, Nutricia, and Wilshire Enterprises.

Walk Now for Autism is a unique fundraising event which creates a safe and fun day for families who are affected with autism. The day includes a 2 to 3 mile walk and Community Resource fair with educational sources, therapists, schools, recreational organizations, and creative child-friendly activities; a true “one-stop-shop” for families affected by autism. This year Toys“R”Us will have a tented space serving as home base for Geoffrey the Giraffe. Attendees will also be able to stop by and sign their children up for Geoffrey’s Birthday Club and pick up the “Ten Toys That Speak to Autism” handout, a list of toys that help build the skills of children with autism, created in collaboration with Autism Speaks.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Another child is diagnosed every 20 minutes.

WHAT: Autism Speaks 9th Annual Central New Jersey Walk Now for Autism

HOW: To register, visit http://www.walknowforautism.org/

WHEN: Sunday, October 19
12:00 pm Check-in
2:00 pm Walk starts

WHERE: Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, NJ

14 October 2008

Are We There Yet?

Hillsborough NJ Old Mileage Sign

3M 1.1 Mi.
J&J 2.4 Mi.
N.J.N.P.I. [NJ Neuropsychiatric Institute] 3.9 Mi.
Hopewell 8 Mi.
Princeton 9 Mi.

13 October 2008

Worst Ever?

I think it is very possible that yesterday's blog post titled Norz Hill Boo and Moo was the poorest writing I have ever done for On Hillsborough. There was almost nothing interesting about it at all - which is a shame because we DID have a great time at Norz Hill Farm, and they deserved a better piece.

I usually strive for better than this - I really do not know what happened. Very disappointing.

It's like going to the movies expecting to see this

And getting this instead!

12 October 2008

Norz Hill Boo and Moo

Halloween is in full swing at the 1500 acre Norz Hill Farm on South Branch Road. We enjoyed a fun Sunday afternoon at the farm - including picking pumpkins, finding our way through the corn maze, and taking the farm tour.

Norz Hill Farm is home to 300 milking cows who supply milk to Quick Chek and Shop Rite supermarkets.

Norz Hill Farm 2008

The farm tour included information about the herd, which also includes heifers - cows too young for milking - as well as dry cows who no longer produce milk. Norz Hill is also the "go to" farm when cows are needed to appear on television and in print ads - which means Hillsborough has some of the most famous cows in America!

Norz Hill Farm 2008

We didn't stay late enough for the haunted Creepy Hollow attraction, but the kids posing like this in the corn maze is always creepy enough for me!

Norz Hill Farm 2008

11 October 2008

300 Reasons to Keep Looking Up

Is this it? Is this what 400 years of American achievement has brought us? Have we finally become a society that measures its worth solely on the size of our bank accounts rather than on the value of our contributions?

It wasn't that long ago that the thirty year long "me decade" was a punchline. It's not so funny anymore. J.F.K.'s inaugural exhortation has been flipped on it's head - and a nation where hard work was once valued is now the nation where gamesmanship is most prized. Why work for your money when your money can work for you! Sounds good until your money goes on strike!

So what is there to look forward to? Where can we find optimism in a bearish world?

The ideas and ideals that made America are still here. There are still people that want to live up to them - leaders and followers.

As this is my 300th blog entry for Gillette On Hillsborough, I have given it the traditional nominal title. I don't have all 300 reasons to keep looking up, but I will get you started with a few.

I believe we can have compassion without resentment.

I believe we can have assistance without entitlement.

I believe we can have ambition without greed.

I believe we can have service without self-interest.

What do you believe?

07 October 2008

Good Farmer, Great Neighbor

Are you taking the kids to one of the local farms this Halloween season? There are at least three farms right here in Hillsborough that rev up the "agricultural tourism" aspects of their businesses this time of year, and all are a good bet for an afternoon of family fun.

Hillsboro Farm is located on Hillsborough Road, Norz Hill Farm is out on South Branch Road, and Doyle's Unami Farms, which I wrote about last year, is near the end of Mill Lane. All of the farms generally offer all of the usual Fall season activities like hayrides and pumpkin picking, and you can visit their websites for more info.

The photos below are from our 2003 trip, just down the block, to our favorite Hillsborough family farm, Everett's. Tom Everett's name is well known in Somerset County and across New Jersey for his leadership on agricultural issues and farmland preservation. The Everetts exemplified everything that makes a good farmer a great neighbor - not the least of which was a generous hospitality, shown to its best advantage each Halloween.

After Tom Everett's untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 2005 at the age of 55, Everett's Family Farm ceased their farm stand and Halloween activities. Thanks Tom for being a friend to the New Jersey farmer, and a great Hillsborough neighbor.

Everett's Family Farm 2003

Everett's Family Farm 2003

Everett's Family Farm 2003

06 October 2008

Bye Bye 7?

Could this be the end of New Jersey's 7th Congressional District? According to a recent article in the Courier News, our state's slow population growth over the last decade could mean a loss of one congressional seat after the 2010 census. It just could be number seven!

New Jersey at one time had as many as fifteen seats in congress, but lost one after the 1980 census, and another after the 1990 census as population growth boomed in the "sunbelt" and slowed in the northeast. Now the decade long exodus of New Jersey residents - 377,000 lost to out-of-state migration - may mean that our thirteen congressmen could be reduced to twelve.

Our 435 United States Representatives are apportioned by Congress, but the congressional districts are drawn by the state legislatures. The 7th district, a traditionally Republican territory, meanders from Hunterdon to Union Counties, and borders more districts - six - than any other district. It's easy to see how a Democratic state legislature and Democratic governor would carve up the 7th, with the western and central parts of the district being joined to the 5th and 11th districts, while the eastern portion is gobbled up by the 6th, 10th, 12th, and 13th.

Take a look at the map below to see what I mean.

Subtle boundary shifts would also have to be made, to keep populations fairly even, and the districts would have to be renumbered from 1 to 12, but the 7th as we know it may be finished!

Of course the re-districting would not go into effect until 2013 - just in time for Leonard Lance's third term!

05 October 2008

GSA Depot Blaze

Last week's fire at the former Belle Mead GSA Depot exemplifies the danger inherent in vacant properties in general, and in disused Federal properties in particular. We can be thankful that no child vandals, or firefighters, were injured or killed in the blaze - and can view this incident as a wake up call for township and federal officials , and the general public.

Part history, part curiosity, and part eyesore, the GSA Depot has been part of Hillsborough for over 65 years. Now we need to kill the curiosity by demolishing the eyesore. The township committee has taken the first steps by approving acquisition of the 369 acres to be used primarily for recreation. The federal government needs to replace missing security fences and tear down unsafe buildings on the property.

Mayor Ferrera has called on Hillsborough Township Police to increase patrols in the area. When the depot was in operation, it was regularly patrolled by guards wearing this patch on their uniforms.

Belle Mead GSA Depot Military Police Patch

02 October 2008

Absolutely Positive, For Sure

It's campaign season in Hillsborough! Did you notice? Letters-to-the-editor, campaign signs on every corner, internet forums overflowing with vitriol - all the good stuff!

Mayor Anthony Ferrera and familiar face Gloria McCauley are set to square off against newcomers Matt Dawson and Manny Foranoce for two, three-year seats on the township committee.

So what sort of campaign can we expect from these four? It seems like negative campaigns are the norm these days - unfortunately, none of the four candidates has a name that rhymes with "spender" or "dance", so I guess that's out!

What I would really like to see is a positive campaign of issues and ideas. Mayor Ferrera has a record of service on the township committee with accomplishments he can tout, and decisions he can defend. Gloria McCauley has served proudly on last year's Charter Study Commission, and on various township boards and commissions. Matt Dawson and Manny Foranoce each have ideas to bring to the table, and criticisms of the current township committee.

All four candidates have a vision for the future of Hillsborough, and strategies for making it happen.

And that's all you need for an absolutely positive campaign. You don't need personal attacks on a candidate's character, libelous claims of immorality, or misinformed charges of unethical behavior. Those are the tools of the desperate, and none of us are that desperate, I hope!

31 August 2008

Dear Readers and Friends [Update:October 2, 2008]

Final Update - My mother is in a sub-acute care facility in Baltimore where she still awaits further surgery. Thank you to all who have inquired as to her condition and have kindly offered assistance to our family, it is much appreciated.

I hope you enjoyed rereading the old, and not so old, blog entries that I reposted during September. I think I'm about ready to get back to work - just in time, it seems! [October 2]

For those of you who have asked, here is an update on my mother's condition.

After 17 days in intensive care, she was moved this week to a sub-acute nursing facility where she will continue her recovery while doctors wait for her overall condition to improve and for her leg to heal enough to undergo further surgery.

As for the blog, the first ten re-posts were the most visited pages when they were originally published. The next ten re-posts will be my personal picks.

Thanks for reading! [Sept. 18]

Dear Readers and Friends,

As some of you may know, my mother was involved in a very, very serious car accident on Sunday morning in Pocomoke City, Maryland.

As a consequence, I will be spending much of the next month traveling to and from the University of Maryland Medical Center R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

I hope you won't mind reading some re-published blog entries for the next few weeks.

Rest assured that I will be monitoring the Hillsborough news over this period, and will be back with some brand new commentary very soon.


30 August 2008

Walk Now For Autism

Please join us Saturday October 19, 2008 at Mercer County Park for Autism Speaks' signature fundraisng event "Walk Now For Autism". Click here to join our Hillsborough's Hope team.

Last year we raised $40,000 for this worthy cause, and we need your help for another succesful season!

28 August 2008

I Can't See It

Hillsborough Township is once again revising its sign ordinance. Businesses will now be able to put up temporary signs twice a year. This is a definite improvement over the previous rules, where temporary signs could only be used during the period when a permanent sign was being constructed. Temporary signs can help to advertise seasonal sales, and the like.

Who is driving these changes? It is Hillsborough's business owners. And in changing the sign ordinance multiple times, the Hillsborough Township Committee has shown that they are being responsive to the needs of the business community.

The questions I still find myself asking are:

  1. Are Hillsborough businesses relying too heavily on road signs and drive-by traffic?
  2. Are our attempts to speed traffic more quickly on Route 206 hurting businesses?
  3. How will drivers on the Route 206 bypass see ANY of the signs, no matter how big they are?

27 August 2008

So Bad...It's Bad!

For the past year I have been undecided as to whether I believed the Route 206 bypass through Hillsborough would ever be built. I have had many doubts that we would ever see another highway in this town - all justified seeing as "paper projects" such as I95 and the Somerset Freeway have been planned and discarded numerous times since the 1950s!

New Jersey has a long history of not implementing projects and initiatives until they have been folded, spindled, and mutilated into worthlessness. Take for example COAH - where we now learn that a family whose house was lost in a fire can't rebuild without paying a COAH fee. Or Abbott schools - where one of the worst performing districts in the state has a superintendent making $300,000.

Because up until recently I still felt that the 206 bypass had some value, I was very doubtful it would ever be built! Even with the truncated route, the two lanes at the southern end, and the traffic lights, the plan was not quite ruined.

The revelation earlier this month the the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority has allocated no money for what is arguably the most congested part of Route 206 - from Triangle Road to Brown Avenue - has finally convinced me that this project IS going forward. A great useless road that will speed northbound travelers quickly to Triangle, and then leave them in a rush hour nightmare on a daily basis.

Yes, this finally sounds like a New Jersey project. I can hear the DOT sharpening their shovels already. They sure didn't sharpen their pencils!

26 August 2008

All's Fair

For some reason I've always been partial to the Hunterdon County 4H Fair.

Does this make me a traitor?

Hunterdon 4H Fair 2008
Hunterdon 4H Fair 2008
Hunterdon 4H Fair 2008
Hunterdon 4H Fair 2008
Hunterdon 4H Fair 2008