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

25 August 2008

Memorial Run

Running is the purest sport. It requires no special skills or equipment. There is nothing to throw, catch, kick or hit - no other person to face off against, no teammate to pick you up. There is no luck involved, no friendly rim to corral an errant free throw, no fortuitous bounce from the cart path to the fairway. All that is required is dedication, determination, and will.

It is safe to say that the 400 friends and fellow athletes who gathered at the Hillsborough Township High School football field on Sunday to honor track star Jason Walton with a memorial 6.8 mile run already know this. And they know something else. Running is meditative, contemplative, and spiritual. A 6.8 mile run is a moment of silence that lasts 40 minutes, and still isn't enough time to reflect on the life and achievements of this fine young man.

That would take a marathon - or two.

24 August 2008


Bill Rodgers was one of my sports heroes growing up. Arguably the greatest road runner (as opposed to track runner) of all time, he was a four time winner of the New York City and Boston Marathons in the 70s and 80s.

He was at the top of his game in 1980 - an Olympic gold medal should have been the crowning achievement of his career.

23 August 2008

The Right to Be Fed

I wish I didn't know anything about China. Reading about China over the last several months has nearly spoiled my enjoyment of the Olympic Games.

I wish I didn't know about the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards, the "criticism" of intellectuals. I wish I didn't know about the persecution of political dissenters - whose dissent is paid back by a bullet in the back of the neck, usually in public, often in an athletic arena.

The International Olympic Committee awarded these games to Beijing partly because they believed it would strengthen human rights in China. It has had the opposite effect. It has empowered the Chinese government - at the expense of its people.

I appreciate the athletic achievements of all the Olympians, and would have been sorry for them if the US boycotted the Games this year - just like I was disappointed for the athletes when we boycotted the Moscow Games in 1980. But I believe that a boycott this year would have been more meaningful than the 1980 boycott.

Hong Kong democracy leader Martin Lee, when speaking of the rights and freedoms of the Chinese people has said, "There is only one right in China - the right to be fed. It's the sort of right all dogs and cats enjoy."

Think about that when putting out Rover's Alpo tonight.

21 August 2008

Old Folks Home

Do we really need another age-restricted development in Hillsborough? Aren't there too many "old people" here already? Will we need to rename our town "Leisure Village North"?


According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 2508 residents aged 65 and over living in Hillsborough. That makes up just 6.8% of the population - the lowest percentage in Somerset County! Compare that with Bridgewater's 5443 seniors - 12.7% of their residents, and Franklin's 5805 - 11.4%.

Does this mean Hillsborough is a less desirable place for senior citizens than Bridgewater, or Franklin, or the 18 other Somerset County municipalities?

According to Erickson Retirement Communities, who propose a 1500 unit age-restricted development at the Royce Brook Golf Course on Hamilton Road, the answer is NO. Senior citizens want to live in Hillsborough - they just can't find the right kind of housing.

Of all the arguments against the Erickson development - the project is too big, the buildings too tall, encroaches on neighbors, traffic, environmental impact - the argument that we already have too many seniors living here is by far the weakest.

Erickson may still not be a good fit for Hillsborough - there just may not be a good location for this project in our town. But if that turns out to be a true, it will be too bad for Hillsborough - for our current residents, and those that would love to make our town their "old folks home".

18 August 2008

Charge It!

Hillsborough is ready to get back into the credit card business, signing a deal this week with Affinity Credit Union. Affinity will allow interested residents to sign up for a credit card where a small fraction of the interchange rate will go back to the township to use for youth and senior programs.

I'm not sure what an "interchange rate" is, but it can't be very big. And 30% of it - Hillsborough's cut - will be even smaller. Still, it is a legitimate source of revenue, and the programs that received this money when we had a credit card program from 2001 - 2005 will surely be happy to receive it again.

And it goes without saying that this is a much friendlier way to raise a little money compared to the schemes devised by some New Jersey towns, namely speed traps and ticket blitzes.

Will I get a card for myself? Frankly, I don't think my wallet could handle another piece of plastic. But I'm giving the credit card program "two swipes up" nonetheless!

15 August 2008

Let Me Hear It

Since I started posting about half of my blog entries to MyCentralJersey.com in May, the number of daily visitors to THIS blog has decreased by about 50%. That's fine with me, as I assume most people are reading Gillette On Hillsborough at that other site.

What has disappointed me a bit is that comments to this blog have dropped dramatically - and they haven't been made up by lots of comments on the MyCentralJersey blog. I know that between the two blogs, just as many people, or maybe even more, are reading now as they were before.

Maybe the topics haven't been as conducive to comments - I'm not sure. But I am going to make a renewed effort to respond to each comment I receive - so - let me hear it!


And remember, there are twice as many posts here as there are on that other blog - so be sure to keep this one bookmarked, and check back often!

14 August 2008

"Smiles Everyone, Smiles"

It is often said that giving one's time for a cause or to help those less fortunate does as much for the volunteer as it does for the recipient. I don't know if that is always true, but it is certainly what I witnessed at the third annual Softball Saturday event at Singley Park - where volunteers comprised of current and former members of Hillsborough High School's softball team, as well as members of the Hillsborough Hustle youth softball team, outnumbered the special needs children they were hosting by a 3 to 1 margin.

Hillsborough NJ Softball Saturday 2008

This wonderful event, which I also wrote about last year, is designed to give kids with disabilities a chance to have a fun day practicing their softball skills and playing in a game.

Hillsborough NJ Softball Saturday 2008

I can't imagine these young mentors, aged 10 to 25, having any more fun than they did last Saturday as they guided the kids around the bases on a picture perfect morning. It was evident that they were having as much fun as the kids!

Hillsborough NJ Softball Saturday 2008

Hillsborough NJ Softball Saturday 2008

Even Sparkee had a smile!

12 August 2008

Up and Over

Hillsborough Township residents will be pleased to learn that of the $240 million in Somerset County road and bridge projects authorized by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, $85 million is slated for the Route 206 bypass project. This spending covers the four year period between 2009 and 2012.

There are 20 Somerset County projects in the agency's Transportation Improvement Program - which encompasses 13 northern New Jersey counties and calls for $10 billion in total spending.

The Route 206 bypass is by far the most expensive project in the county - but I was most intrigued by the least expensive project.

$770,000 is allocated for "grade separation" of the Norfolk Southern rail crossing at 13th Avenue in Manville. This is Manville's only grade crossing on this rail line, and the only place other than Main Street for cars or pedestrians to legally cross between the northern and southern parts of the borough.

To separate the grade crossing, 13th Avenue will need to go over or under the tracks - not easy to accomplish in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Hillsborough has four grade crossings on this rail line - Beekman Lane, Auten Road, Valley Road, and Roycefield Road. It seems to me that any one of these would be easier to "separate" than 13th Avenue, and of course no grade crossing means no more train horn.

So, will Hillsborough ever get any bridges over the railroad tracks? Yes! $4 million has been allocated to replace the existing bridges at Hillsborough Road and Homestead Road over the CSX rail line.

Ho hum.

10 August 2008

Not to Worry

Speaking of "All the Trouble in the World", for a look at why none of the fashionable world crises of the 20th century should worry you, take a peek at the P.J. O'Rourke best seller of the same name.

This book has been a favorite of mine since its publication in 1995. Mr. O'Rourke's views on overpopulation, famine, ecological disaster, ethnic hatred, plague, and poverty are as relevant today as they were a decade ago.

Also, he makes me laugh.

09 August 2008

All The Trouble in the World

If the Somerset County Multi-Jurisdictional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan has you wondering about what types of disasters may befall our county, I suggest you check out Doris and Stuart Flexner's newly updated The Pessimist's Guide to History.

The Pessimist's Guide is a chronological look at world disasters, catastrophes, massacres, etc ranging from air crashes to volcanic eruptions - and including every bizarre or devastating event in between.

Assassinations, avalanches, earthquakes, bloody rebellions - it's all here.

And you thought we had it rough because it takes 20 minutes to get to the mall at rush hour. Ha Ha!

08 August 2008

Amwell Road, Before and After

Some portions of Amwell Road are being repaved now through August 15.

It's hard to get excited about this kind of work, because the road will be just the same after it is repaved as before. It will just be the same old surface they have been using for decades.

Ho hum.

It wasn't always so boring. When Amwell Road was "improved" in 1905 it was something to get excited about. The state highway department even took before and after pictures.

neshanic [amwell] road 1905

Now THAT'S a road to be proud of!

07 August 2008

Home Grown

Daniel E. McCallister, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after police discovered that he was growing marijuana plants in the basement of his Hillsborough Road home in 2002, has had his appeals denied and will not be eligible for parole until September 30, 2009.

After receiving a phone tip, noticing the blacked-out basement windows, and observing that this home was using a greater amount of electricity, police obtained a search warrant and raided the home on October 8, 2002, finding 293 marijuana plants.

Does that seem like a lot of plants? It is impossible for me to characterize the size of this operation just based on the number of plants. But I know one thing - police found 292 more plants on Hillsborough Road than they found at the home of Millstone Mayor Gail Anglada in 1974!

Here's how The New York Times reported the story on July 12, 1974.

Millstone Mayor Seized on Drug Count

Mayor Gail Anglada of Millstone, and her husband, Elgin, were arrested Wednesday by Somerset County detectives on drug charges after the police found marijuana in the living room and in a bedroom and a marijuana plant growing outside the house. Mrs. Anglada, an instructor at Rutgers University, and her husband, a Rutgers professor, were arraigned on charges of possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana and were released in their own recognizance. The offense is a high misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
County Prosecutor Stephen Champi said the couple came under suspicion "quite by accident" last Tuesday when two county investigators, wanting to examine property-tax records, found the Municipal Building closed and went to the Mayor's home. There, Mr. Champi said, the conversation turned to marijuana use in the borough and some of the couple's comments made the detectives suspicious. The Mayor was elected in 1972 to fill an unexpired term and has announced her candidacy for reelection in November.

Note that the Angladas were facing a maximum penalty of five years for one marijuana plant, while Mr. McCallister was sentenced to ten years for 293!

06 August 2008

Sleep Well, Hillsborough

When people describe Hillsborough as a bedroom community, they're not kidding. According to the statistics provided in Somerset County's Hazard Mitigation Plan, Hillsborough has over 10,000 residential buildings with a replacement value of $3.7 billion. This puts us just behind Franklin Township (14,000 - $5 billion) and Bridgewater (13,500 - $4.9 billion).

This makes sense considering Hillsborough is the third most populous municipality in the county.

Where things begin to get skewed is in the value of our commercial and industrial building stock. Franklin has a combined commercial/industrial building value of $2 billion, Bridgewater, $1.5 billion, Hillsborough, $102 million. That's million, with an "m".

Our other close neighbors also have a greater commercial/industrial presence than Hillsborough. The replacement value of Branchburg's commercial and industrial buildings is $650 million, and Montgomery's is $350 million. In fact, of Somerset County's 21 municipalities, only South Bound Brook, Rocky Hill, and Far Hills have lesser building stock values than Hillsborough.

Here's a better way to see it. The first map represents commercial building stock in $million per square mile. The second map represents industrial building stock in $million square mile.

Somerset County NJ commercial building values

Somerset County NJ industrial building values

You don't need to be a geography genius to find Hillsborough on these two maps!

Three things occur to me while looking at these maps and the related data. Firstly, the lack of commercial and industrial buildings is clearly what gives Hillsborough its character. Anyone who wants to know what distinguishes Hillsborough from Bridgewater, Franklin, Montgomery, and Branchburg need only glance at these two maps.

Secondly, there is no "period of rapid development" long enough to ever allow us to catch up with these other towns.

And lastly, when the lights go out in our 30,000 bedrooms tonight, we'll sleep well.

05 August 2008

Huff and Puff, We're Ready, Kind Of

If I remember the story correctly, the Third Little Pig didn't really have a plan. He saw what happened to Pig Number One and Pig Number Two, and went with the bricks. With the Wolf on his way, there was no time for risk assessment or analysis - and certainly no time to read a 1129 page hazard mitigation plan!

Somerset County, on the other hand, can not afford to rely on intuition alone. That's why they have prepared the Somerset County Multi-Jurisdictional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. The key word in this plan is "mitigation". It is understood that there is no way to prevent the various natural disasters and calamities outlined in the report - floods, high winds, snowstorms, drought, excessive heat, and forest fires - but with careful planning, we may be able to prevent or reduce some of the inevitable damage, especially damage to houses and other buildings.

Unfortunately, although the report is detailed - and at 1129 pages it ought to be - and provides a wealth of information about Hillsborough Township and the rest of Somerset County, it tends to fall short on real, practical, innovative ideas.

Most of the recommendations fall under the heading of "I could have told you that". According to the plan, we need to identify areas of the county subject to natural disaster - flooding, primarily - identify disaster relief resources, identify emergency shelters and evacuation plans, etc. In fact, all of these things ARE identified in the report.

The rest of the recommendations are of this variety - "buy up houses and buildings that are in flood-prone areas - Green Hills is specifically mentioned....eventually...some day...when you have the money." P.S. We'll never have the money.

If there is one thing the report does show, it's that we appear to be stuck in our straw and stick world, just waiting for another huff and puff!