Author Archive: thecontrarian

Now here’s a school protest with wheels

Promoted from the diaries — Juan

I’m sure you remember the penny protest by Hunterdon County middle school students back in March and the national attention it received.

Now students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School are using some well-timed civil disobedience over their Principal’s refusal to allow the installation of a free bicycle rack on school property:

Yesterday, more than 50 students rode their bikes to school, commuting in pairs and groups. After studying up on state biking laws — and carrying copies with them — the students legally tethered their bikes in conspicuous clusters around lamp posts, trees and other poles dotting the circular drive in front of the school.

The Principal’s objection seems to be over concern for student safety on the roads leading to the school’s massive campus, and that is a very legitimate issue.

Those who are alarmed by childhood obesity have cited Postwar neighborhood design as a major obstacle in encouraging kids to walk or bike to school.  BRHS is probably the poster child for sprawl gone wrong in the Garden State, as the school is surrounded by acres of fields and framed by busy roads that link sidewalk-free suburban housing developments.  Walking or biking to BRHS can truly be hazardous to your health!

However, what the school should do is use this dispute as an opportunity to work cooperatively with the Township and citizens by developing pedestrian and bike-friendly ways of getting kids to school.  Rather than asking property taxpayers to provide expensive “courtesy” busing to students who live close to the school, the Board of Education and Township can tap some of New Jersey’s “Smart Growth” grants to develop paths and “safe walking” programs that use parents to take turns walking their entire neighborhood’s children to school.

Click here to see how Maryland is helping citizens take back their streets and have a real voice in how people can get around town.

Let’s hope that New Jersey’s newest school protest can draw nationwide attention to how lousy planning can lead to unhealthy neighborhoods and unhealthy kids.

Old New Jersey vs. New New Jersey

Promoted from the diaries — Juan

Yesterday in Edison, about a dozen people protested the flying of the Indian flag in front of the Township municipal building in place of the POW/MIA flag to celebrate India’s Independence Day.  Raising foreign flags in front of town hall has been standard practice in Edison for quite some time, although no protesters turned out for St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day flag raisings.

The advertised purpose of the protest was to object to the moving of the POW/MIA flag for a few minutes, but one attendee let her feelings slip out to the Star-Ledger:

“It’s no longer Edison, it’s little India,” said Rosemary Wilson, a 30-year Edison resident, whose father and brother served in the military.

Flipping a few pages ahead in this morning’s Star-Ledger the business section featured a list of the state’s fastest-growing tech companies.  While I can’t find the printed list online, a quick glance at the numbers revealed that a sizeable number of companies – if not an outright majority – were founded and/or headed by New Jerseyans of South Asian descent.

Assemblyman Manzo to give presentation on property tax reform tomorrow

I received this from BlueJersey podcaster Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-31) yesterday…

Office of Assemblyman Manzo  Contact: Mark Albiez
October 10, 2006  (201) 309-0770



Assemblyman Manzo To Present SMART Homestead Rebate Act Proposal Before Joint Legislative Committee On Constitutional Reform and Citizens Property Tax Constitutional Convention

TRENTON, NJ—On Thursday, October 12 at 1:00 PM in Committee Room 11 in the Statehouse, Assemblyman Louis M. Manzo will offer his presentation of the SMART Homestead Rebate Act before the Joint Legislative Committee On Constitutional Reform and Citizens Property Tax Constitutional Convention.

If enacted, the SMART Bill will provide the largest property tax reduction in New Jersey’s history.

The SMART Bill is seriously being considered as a viable solution to New Jersey’s property tax crisis.


You can read the text of the bill here.

Corzine: school district consolidation can increase diversity

While the political hired guns for the Kean and Menendez camps have thrown reasoned discussion to the dogs and are busy painting their candidates’ opponent as someone who has the ethics of Al Capone but is not as bad as, say, Pol Pot (wait until Nov. 4, though, when the really wacky accusations will start flying), our Governor has been proposing some solid ideas on combating New Jersey’s multiple municipal madness.

The Star-Ledger’s Tom Hester and Robert Schwaneberg are reporting that Governor Corzine is encouraging a reduction in the number of public school districts in the state from over 600 to 21.  While the Gov is touting the obvious cost savings of such a measure, a bonus benefit would be that it would promote increased diversity in the 21 county school districts, although he did not get into specifics:

By combining many small districts into fewer larger ones, “you end up having greater diversity in your school system,” Corzine said. “If you went to a county system, you’d have a much broader, diverse community.”

Corzine said he is not supporting local government or school district consolidation as a way to confront segregation in New Jersey schools, but he sees it as a side benefit of consolidation in the interest of property tax relief.

New Jersey is insanely segregated by race and class.  Most often, municipal boundaries are the dividing line between a future of hope and expanding horizons for young people or one of little opportunities. In my home county, just stroll from poor, crime-ridden Plainfield into tony Scotch Plains next door, a distance of only a few hundred yards.  Compare housing values and school performance data.

While I don’t think that the Governor’s plan (if enacted) will destroy neighborhood schools, it may make school administrators more serious about designing relevant curricula and other policies if their students hailed from a broader spectrum of households.  It would also benefit students from all social, ethnic and economic groups who will be exposed to peers who aren’t just like them. Third, making rich people sweat from time to time is probably a good thing.

Rucking Futgers

C’mon guys, lighten up!  Don’t you want free tickets to the Birmingham Bowl this year?

Jon Corzine’s austere state budget has led to the slashing of athletic programs at Rutgers University.  On the chopping block is men’s swimming. 

The tuition hikes and cuts in the number of professors are far more serious issues facing New Jersey’s largest public university than the destruction of a few sports programs, but I’ll just blog about the latter because, well, I really, really like swimming.

RFK’s funeral train comes to NJ

28 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train rolled down the Northeast Corridor to the slain Presidential candidate’s final resting place in the nation’s capital.  Not since Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train 98 years prior had so many people turned out to witness a train trip, and most likely, none ever will again.

Here are some photos taken from Paul Fusco’s excellent book, RFK Funeral Train.  The book is less about Bobby Kennedy and more about the throngs of people who turned out to pay their last respects to the guy.

The Washington Post also has an interview with Fusco, but I couldn’t get the RealMedia player to work properly.  The paper also features an excerpt from Evan Thomas’s book, Robert Kennedy: His Life, that describes the ride to Washington.

Finally, WBAI radio personality Mike Levine describes his ride on the funeral train on a hot June day in 1968 and what happened when a northbound passenger train slams into onlookers at the Elizabeth station who were obviously not looking where they were standing.  Today, Elizabeth has high-level platforms (props to DJ Rix for the photo), making it quite difficult for people to stand on the busy train tracks without tumbling down on them.

Cross-posted at The Contrarian.

Gannett, to 13th CD race: yawn

In the weeks preceding a relatively quiet primary election day, arguably the only Congressional race that excited anyone was the mudfest between Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas and West New York Assemblyman Albio Sires.

In the end, Sires thumped Vas, 3-1.  The story was big news in Hudson County, garnering the lead story in today’s Jersey Journal plus some election night coverage from Vas HQ by Journal reporter Jarrett Renshaw.

How about Vas’s hometown paper, the Gannett-owned Bob Ingle penned a generic “staff and wire report” (read: we were too cheap to send a reporter to Hudson County so we tried to do it by telephone) story that doesn’t even include a comment from the local candidate. once again failed to link to any of today’s Jersey Journal coverage of the race (wow, there really is a paper in this state called Today’s Sunbeam). 

Maybe the site has an anti-Hudson bias.  Despite my constant nagging dating back a few years, has consistently ignored my e-mails asking when it will start linking to Al Sullivan’s fantastic ‘Between the Lines’ political column in the Hudson Reporter weekly newspaper.  Sullivan has been covering Hudson politics since the late 1990s and has inherited the esteemed mantle as the county’s best political writer since the 2003 passing of longtime Jersey Journal columnist Peter Weiss.