31 December 2010

Thank You Central New Jersey

This has turned out to be an amazing year for Walk Now For Autism Speaks Central New Jersey. Together, we have raised over $230,000 to find the causes, treatments, and, ultimately, cures for autism. We obliterated last year's total by more than $50,000!

What is even more astounding is that our own Hillsborough community, led by the members of our Hillsborough's Hope team, was once again so generous and enthusiastic in their support, allowing us to repeat as the 2010 top fundraiser - leading the way with nearly $14,000.

Hillsborough's Hope would like to thank the following for supporting our team's efforts:

Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi

Mayor Frank DelCore

Mr. Scott Rocco, Interim Superintendent of the Schools

Dr. Neil Shusterman, DDS

Dr. Laurene Wolf DMD, MSD

Principal Volpe, Teachers and Staff at Hillsborough Elementary School

Bagel Bistro & Grill, Hillsborough (formerly Bagel BOP) for their in-kind donation for the walk. Thanks, Russ!

Woods Road School Teachers:

Ms. Whitney Impellizeri and Ms. Alyson Williams for joining our team and working with our kids every day!

and to all of the Principals of the Hillsborough Elementary Schools and Auten Road Intermediate School Principal Mr. Carey

All of the families and friends in the Hillsborough School District who have so generously contributed to our fundraising efforts.

Patty and I would also like to thank the dedicated volunteers of Hillsborough's Hope - Kelly Neuberger, Kathy Lang, and Lisa Dickholz - and their families, for giving up their time to work with us on this cause.

Happy New Year!

30 December 2010

New Administrator/Clerk

Former mayor and longtime Planning Board and MUA member Mike Merdinger has been chosen from a pool of nearly four dozen applicants to become Hillsborough's new administrator/clerk. Read the full story here.

Merdinger will begin his new post on January 5th.

Although he will be new to the particular duties of a municipal administrator, the Flagtown resident has many years of private sector management experience in the environmental engineering realm, most recently working on a multimillion dollar waste management project in Kuwait.

This coming year will mark the beginning of Merdinger's fifth decade of service to Hillsborough.

29 December 2010

All the Old News That Didn't Fit

The end of the year is almost here - and I still have so much more to write.

Here are some of the stories I just couldn't find time for in 2010.

  • The murder of eleven-year-old Josephine Krysowaty
  • Forty years of Hillsborough Twp. High School Football
  • Somerset County's "Amazing Race"
  • The history of Woods Tavern
  • Hillsborough's most famous, and outspoken, freed slave
  • Elmer Clawson, boy murderer
  • The tragic murder of Bell executive Andrew J. Morton
  • The railroad that put "Hillsboro" on the map

As is usually the case, the only thing separating a job well done from a piece of garbage, is having the time to do the job right.

The beginning of a new year offers nothing if not time.

28 December 2010

See you on the "Quad"

I wrote about Hillsborough's Meadows development back in 2007 - click here to read the story of one of our town's most fascinating neighborhoods.

Then check out these two original ads from 1977.

27 December 2010

"Tastefully Appointed Luxury..." at Kimberwyck Village

Hillsborough absolutely abounds in "tasteful" apartment complexes. Don't take it from me - read this September 1974 ad for Kimberwyck Village.

That two bedroom duplex with full basement sounds like a good deal at $300 per month - even in 1974 dollars.

23 December 2010

New Jersey First, Last, and Always

It's being reported today that New Jersey faces a $53 billion deficit in its retiree pension obligations. That's a number that, according to the governor's office, could rise to over $180 billion in thirty years - if we don't change the system now.

Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie is mulling over whether or not to sign the "New Jersey First Act". The bill, passed by the Senate this week, will require new state employees to live in New Jersey, or establish primary residence here within one year of beginning work. Current employees who live out of state would be exempt from the provision.

It occurs to me that these two issues have a lot in common.

If new public employees have to live here to work here, maybe new retirees should have to live here to collect their pensions.

It would be interesting to find out how many pension checks are mailed out of state, or transferred by direct deposit to banks in Florida, or North Carolina. All of that capital leaving the state can not possibly have a positive effect on our economy.

Pension checks received in New Jersey are likely to be spent in New Jersey, benefiting our economy.

Perhaps there is a formula where part of the pension could be awarded as a property tax credit - sell your house, move away, and lose the credit.

What do you think?

22 December 2010

Barking Up the Right Tree

I had to read the MyCentralJersey.com Hillsborough dog license fee story through a couple of times, and do some math, before I figured out what was going on.

It's not obvious from the story, but with some multiplication and division, I was able to determine that there are about 3,600 dogs in the township. The $7 license fee established twenty years ago just has not kept pace with the amount Hillsborough pays annually for state mandated animal control services. In 2010, pet owners contributed $25,000 toward the $60,000 fee, with the balance being made up out of the general fund, i.e. your tax dollar.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe dog owners should shoulder the entire cost for animal control - especially since it is expected to be as much as $126,000 by 2012. After all, the entire town benefits from these services, even if you don't own so much as a goldfish.

Still, the Hillsborough Township Committee's proposal to gradually raise the license fee to $20 over the next two years will mean that leash holders will be covering about 55% of the expenditure - which seems just about pawfect.

20 December 2010


Here's a nice tool to stay on top of road closures/motor vehicle accidents in Hillsborough.


Sign up to receive email alerts from the Hillsborough Township Police Department.

17 December 2010

Get Employed Sooner

Contrary to Assemblyman Alex DeCroce's assertion that the unemployed are "gaming the system" by not taking jobs, I would offer that the majority of people receiving unemployment benefits are making valid economic decisions for themselves and their families.

Look at it this way - a person who has been out of work for more than a month or two has probably taken the kids out of daycare, started cutting his own lawn, saved a bunch of money on gas, tolls, and lunches, etc. And I haven't even hit on all of the other opportunity costs of having to get up to work your nine-to-five job - or the stress that comes with the daily grind.

In order to go back to his previous lifestyle, that person will need to find a job that pays significantly MORE than unemployment. The trick is to hit that sweet spot - and it's different for everyone.

If the goal is to prod people back to work, the New Jersey legislature should start by creating a system where the tipping point comes sooner rather than later - perhaps by reducing benefits over time, making an undesirable job at week five look like a great job by week fifteen. Only then will we be able to fix this mess.

15 December 2010

"These People"

"Who ARE THESE PEOPLE?" That's not the tag line from Jerry Seinfeld's latest stand-up routine. It's what Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is asking Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.

While speaking about unemployment insurance benefits, DeCroce used the term "these people" to refer to unemployed individuals who were "gaming the system" to continue receiving benefits instead of looking for work.

Oliver was quick to play the race card. Whether or not she is particularly sensitive to the words "these people" is unclear. What is clear is that she lost no time in seizing this opportunity to turn a real issue - New Jersey's broken unemployment insurance system - into politics as usual.

And yes, Seinfeld fans, there IS something wrong with that.

09 December 2010

"Fake Farmers"

There are two interesting stories in today's Courier News about the New Jersey farmland assessment program. State Senator Jennifer Beck from Monmouth County is once again calling on lawmakers to reform the outdated program whereby property owners with as few as 5 acres of land can get a significant tax break - up to 98% off! - by selling as little as $500 worth of farm products.

Senator Beck goes so far as to call these people "fake farmers". I think she may be right.

The key statistic for me - and these stories were full of stats - is that people are paying up to $1 million per acre for some of these "farms" - and paying just a few dollars in taxes. Obviously, the land's value doesn't derive from being a farm. It's value is as a buffer for a grand estate, or as a potential development. Take a look at this farm for sale in Titusville to see what I mean.


There is a simple first step that NJ lawmakers can take to fix this broken system. The $500 threshold was created in 1964. Simply allowing for inflation would raise that number to $3500. At that amount, a property owner might have to have some sort of real operation - some kind of "real farming" - and not just a half dozen beehives, or a couple of alpacas.

08 December 2010

Irrational, Cynical, Adulthood

It was April 1970. Must have been just after noon, as I was in PM Kindergarten at Burlington Road School. We were getting settled at our desks when a classmate whispered, "the Beatles broke up, my sister told me."

I remember thinking, how old is this girl's sister? how would she know if the Beatles broke up? this doesn't make any sense.

"The Beatles are NOT breaking up." I was as defiant as a six-year-old can be. None of my friends' parents were divorced, everyone had two grandmothers and two grandfathers, and the Beatles will never break up.

That ten year period brom April 1970 to December 1980 was my whole rational, idealistic, childhood. I'm not sure what to call the last thirty years. Irrational, cynical, adulthood, perhaps?

07 December 2010

Goodbye, Mercury

Now that the last shipment of mercury has left for Nevada, it might be pointed out that thirty years ago, the General Services Administration's South Somerville Depot was just one of 117 Federal depots charged with stockpiling 93 strategic commodities. Among the 35 materials stored at the Hillsborough Township location on Route 206 just south of the Doris Duke estate were antimony, asbestos, beryllium metal, cobalt, copper, crude rubber, iodine, tin, and mercury - an inventory that was then worth a half billion dollars.
Photo from The New York Times, 25 May 1978

Originally intended to store enough materials to fight the first five years of a war, cutbacks under President Nixon reduced the nation's stockpiles to less than three years. President Ford initiated a program to rebuild the stockpile - a program that was continued by Jimmy Carter.

Photo from The New York Times, 25 May 1978

When a New York Times reporter visited the depot in May 1978, managers were quick to point out the dangers posed by many of the materials. The more than 1,000 tons of crude iodine was said to be particularly hazardous, as was the 12,000 tons of crude asbestos stored in burlap bags. Employees were required to wear protective clothing and follow other OSHA regulations when handling such materials.

As you might expect special mention was made of the 2,659 tons of mercury stored in steel flasks. An electronic sniffer that could detect mercury odors as small as between one and two parts per million was employed in the warehouse. It was noted that inhalation of mercury vapors "can damage the brain and kill."

Good riddance!

06 December 2010

Hard to Swallow - But Worth It

Since I endorsed Chris Christie for governor, people have been asking me if I still support him. The short answer is "yes".

Does this mean that I agree with every decision he has made? Actually, It's hard for me to think of one I DISAGREE with. Certainly, losing $6 million in state aid for our Hillsborough Township Schools - including $800,000 of our surplus - was tough to swallow.

But look - it's not a cop-out to ask, "what's the alternative?" When I was a kid, I didn't like swallowing that awful spoonful of cough syrup, but it had to go down.

What Christie is doing has got to go down, too. The state will be better for it.