Author Archive: Jeff Doshna

Embarrassed to be an observant Jew

promoted by Rosi

Awoke this morning (Monday) to read about the latest in Chris Christie’s pandering to the Lakewood ultra-Orthodox community:

When the final list was released last week, one of the biggest – and perhaps most surprising – winners was Beth Medrash Govoha, a 70-year-old, all-male, orthodox Jewish rabbinical school in Lakewood. It was awarded $10.6 million in taxpayer funds for a new library and academic center, among the highest designated for a private institution.

This comes on the heels of the same Lakewood community showing up in droves to support the Governor’s ‘school choice’ agenda of siphoning public money to private schools. He received their endorsement back in March:

At Yeshiva Toras Aron, a religious school for boys, Christie said his proposal for private school vouchers would ensure it is “the education of the parents’ choice, regardless of their economic situation, that governs how their children are educated.”

The fact is, I am embarrassed to be an observant Jew living in New Jersey today.

My children attend a private Jewish school, and I pay full tuition. Of course, I’m also still paying local property taxes that support our great public schools. As we all should. We have many families who cannot afford tuition, so we spend a good deal of time trying to raise money for scholarships — from alumni, from members of the greater community, from private foundations — and each year is a unique challenge. But that was the choice that I made, because I wanted my children to learn something that has no place in a public school!

But there’s this tendency in the ultra-Orthodox world to try and manipulate the system to subsidize their choices; in Lakewood it has gotten ridiculous. They now hold the majority of the seats on the school board — and none of their kids go to the public schools! But they are able to exert control on things like courtesy busing because their population continues to multiply — exponentially — as young men move to the area to study at this world-renowned Yeshiva, start families, and then never leave town.  

The Economics of Rebuilding post-Sandy

Good Sunday reading & an interesting question: If New Jersey had to pay for its own rebuilding – and not rely on the federal government – would we rebuild at the shore again like it was? – Rosi

In a video that's making the rounds (after the break) and in a blog post in the Harvard Business review, UC Berkley Professor Mathew Kahn raises a provocative notion — the very existence of FEMA is squelching our ability to adapt to climate change.

Over the past several days, we've seen our governor make repeated statements that we're going to rebuild all the coastal communities along the Jersey shore that were hardest hit. But he's starting to hear it from the libertarian voices that he's got it all wrong. Peter Coy, writing in Bloomberg Businesweek, says:

Christie has gained a national reputation for fiscal discipline that’s led to talk that he could be the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election. But if Christie pushes too hard for federal reconstruction funds, he risks losing his reputation for stand-up frugality.

For years, environmentalists have been warning of the dangers of over-development along the coastal zone. Urban planners (like myself) have been calling for stricter development controls for a generation. What's interesting to me is that when liberals and libertarians agree on something, there's a good shot that we might actually get something done.

Video & more – after the jump

Small victories in Flemington

promoted by Rosi

Just a quick update on last evening’s Flemington Borough Council meeting.  Recall that Mayor Erica Edwards is planning on laying off as many as 4 out of 9 employees from our department of public works, without bothering to talk to the Union first about possible cost savings that don’t require layoffs.

A brief recap…

1.  Mayor Erica Edwards, using words like ‘restructuring’ when she meant to say ‘layoff’ continued her resistance to hearing from Teamsters representatives about what might be done to save jobs and money in the 2011 budget.  She was emphatic — oftentimes combative — stating that she would not meet with them to talk about savings for this year’s budget, but would be looking for concessions in the future.

2.  When asked a direct question, Mike Campion, Director of Public Works, suggested that he was asked, “Can you run your department with 1 less or 2 less people”.  It seemed to me that the decision to reduce headcount was made first by the Mayor, then he was asked if he could maintain level of service.

Let me be clear — it’s not like the manager of this department suggested that there was redundancy or unused capacity here, and this was a way to make the budget work.  The layoff suggestion came from Mayor Edwards.

3.  When asked, each and every single council member committed to meet with Union representatives on how we might close the budget gap for this year’s budget, to see if we can cover the shortfall without losing a position.

This is huge.  As each council member spoke, you could see Mayor Edwards realize that she had no choice but to have a meaningful dialogue with the Union.  We’ll all be there to make sure that conversation happens, but this was a minor victory last night for our hard-working men and women.

The other thing that needs to be mentioned is that  “Public Comment”, and the hearing of the Union staffing issue didn’t happen until 2 1/2 hours into the council meeting.  The Open Public Meetings Act requires a period of public comment, but this seemed like a deliberate attempt to empty the room before this issue was heard.  I’m working on another post about this; more later…

Standing with Labor in Flemington

The meeting on this, Monday night, will be another where Council tries to shake off all comers. – promoted by Rosi

As I wrote about last week, Flemington Mayor Erica Edwards has refused to have any meaningful conversations with union representatives from Teamsters Local 469 about how to save money and avoid lay-offs in this year’s municipal budget.

Earlier this week, after public pressure, there was  a meeting with Teamsters representatives and Mayor Edwards, Council President John Gorman and Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Borucki.  According to Michael Broderick of the Teamsters, Edwards stated that she would not negotiate any changes nor would she discuss the budget problems as it reflects the 2011 crisis.  

Her plans are to eliminate at least one but perhaps as many as 4 employees of the 9 union workers in town.

I know that this isn’t Wisconsin, but I’m asking folks to come out to the next Flemington Borough Council Meeting, April 11th at 7 PM.  Stand with labor, stand up for common sense, and demand that Union-proposed budget-saving measures be considered by the Mayor and Council.

[UPDATE] Letter to the editor published online today from the Union’s representative

New 16th District

I leave it to other on Blue Jersey to talk about the rest of the map.  Here’s my first thoughts about the re-drawn 15th / 16th and 23rd districts affecting Hunterdon, Somerset and Mercer Counties.

To put it simply — I think this is a far better map for the Dems than is being portrayed.

The lead story is that Princeton has been taken out of the 15th — taken away from Trenton — and progressive Assemblyman Reed Gusciora has no chance to win in conservative Somerset county.

But folks need to take a look at the rest of the district.  

First of all, Bedminster, Bridgewater and Bernards (and environs) are no longer in the district.  Neither is Assemblywoman Coyle for that matter.  This takes away some of the most conservative part of the district.

Second of all — and here’s where I think there’s gains to be had — Flemington Borough, as well as Raritan and Readington townships in Hunterdon County are now in the 16th.

So the new district includes much of the Democratic core of Hunterdon County, along with Princeton, Somerville and Manville — town centers that have voted Democratic.

Most importantly, the district is far more diverse. About 70% white, over 16% Asian and 8 percent non-white hispanic.

I’m not saying it’s a lock district for Democrats, but Bateman and Biondi have a greater chance of losing to good Democrats than ever before.  Reed Gusciora has announced his intensions to run and I hope doesn’t try to move back into the 15th, and stays here to run with Marie Corfield.

Health, Wealth and Happiness

promoted by Rosi

As reported in the Star Ledger, Hunterdon County is the ‘healthiest’ in all of New Jersey.

It’s also the wealthiest, if you didn’t know.

Is anyone really shocked by that correlation?

Take a look at the list, in ranked order.  It’s not a question of urban or rural, or simply a question of race.  The single factor that explains the bottom third of  counties is this:

                                            Poverty

1. Hunterdon          8. Burlington          15. Cape May

2. Morris                  9. Warren               16. Hudson

3. Somerset          10. Ocean                17. Atlantic

4. Bergen              11. Union                 18. Camden

5. Sussex              12. Mercer               19. Salem

6. Monmouth        13. Gloucester        20. Essex

7. Middlesex         14. Passaic             21. Cumberland

Until we truly de-couple access to care from ability to pay, this will continue to persist for generation after generation.  

Want to look at the underlying data — navigate to http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/

The Teamsters come to Flemington

I was at this meeting. The union wants to know what they can offer to keep their colleagues’ jobs; they’ve done it before. – Rosi

The  About 25 members of Teamsters Local 469 were out in force at last evening’s Flemington Borough Council Meeting.  They represent both blue and white collar workers in our small town.

Turns out that 2 of the 9 employees that are part of the bargaining unit may be up for layoff due to budget cuts. And they learned about it by reading the newspaper.  more below

Does the GOP want to read my email too?

How does this hit you, Blue Jersey? – Rosi

Not sure how many have been following the latest chapter in the Badger State, but it has to do with academic freedom, and a blatant overreach by the state GOP in using the ORPA laws in a way most of us would find shocking.

To help folks get caught up quickly, let me lay out the broad details of the story:  –More after the fold–

[UPDATE] Flemington Union Hotel

promoted by Rosi

Last week, I wrote a long-ish piece on redevelopment efforts at the Flemington Union Hotel.  Remember that two redeveloper candidates were being considered — one who had a contract to buy the Hotel, obtain a liquor license, restore the property to its former use, and had the overwhelming support of the public.  And the other candidate team, who wanted to build apartments, and was looking for tax abatements, eminent domain  — and was recommended by the committee headed by the newly-elected mayor.

Well, as they say, the people have spoken. And this time someone was paying attention.

As reported late yesterday online at nj.com, the second team has withdrawn from consideration.  In a letter to the Borough Council, (as quoted in the article), they say,

“A project of this importance to Flemington must have substantial support from the town council and the community at large” and that “it has become clear to us the second group’s proposed hotel concept has struck an emotional chord with the community. We also recognize, it is near impossible to combat said emotions with business proformas, charts and schedules no matter how realistic, professional and well-done they may be.”

“Although we have serious concerns about the marketability of the hotel concept, we find it necessary to withdraw from the Union Hotel redevelopment process. We will put our support behind the other team and aid them whenever possible,” the letter said.

Well, I never said that they had to be entirely gracious about it.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  — Margaret Mead

Why I’m supporting Jeff Gardner

Are you in? promoted by Rosi

Last week, I posted on my FB wall that I was supporting Jeff Gardner’s primary campaign — in particular the Money Bomb going on today.  A friend — a fairly progressive person in her own right — sent me a note asking why would I spend money on someone who isn’t in my own district.  Wouldn’t my dollars be better spent helping local candidates (myself included) in Flemington and Hunterdon County.

On the surface she’s right.  Democrats — let alone anyone willing to call themselves a progressive — don’t have the easiest time in my part of New Jersey.  We need all the help we can get. If I forego my Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte, shouldn’t that $5 be invested locally? more below