Monthly Archives: April 2010

All Candidates For Middeltown Board Of Education Urge Approval of School Budget At Friday’s Forum And Other Observations

Friday morning I attended the Middletown Board of Education’s Candidate Forum at Panera Bread in Middletown. This last of three forums was hosted by Stephanie Murray of the Middletown Mornings organization. When I got there Friday morning I didn’t quiet know what to expect in the respect of turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised to see over thirty people in attendance.

Ms. Murray opened the forum by having each candidate take a minute and a half to introduce themselves and explain why they felt they should be elected to the BOE this year.

Six of the seven candidates were in attendance and in order of their opening remarks are:

Patricia Walsh
Dawn Diorio
Gerry Wexelberg
Michael Mascone
Vincent Brand
Leonora Caminiti

Chris Aveta, who is running on the same ticket as Mascone and Brand was not in attendance Friday morning.

I recorded the meeting in its entirety and was going to break it all down into individual questions and answers, but because I have been hit with some kind of “Bug” that attacked me late Friday night and have been in bed since, I have decided just to post the whole recording.

It runs for 46 minutes but seems to play faster than that. The meeting was fast paced and kept all of those there engaged.

For me the only real news that came out of the forum was that each candidate agreed that the this years school budget should be passed by voters on Tuesday. Failure to pass the budget would only mean more drastic cuts that would penalize students and teachers alike.

After the forum was over I mingled amongst the crowd and spoke to a few candidates. I had a very nice conversation with Mike Mascone and Vinnie Brand, both of whom were polite and cordial but who took exception with me for my earlier blog post that accused them and their running mate Chris Aveta of being lap dogs for Middletown Deputy Mayor Tony Fiore and the Middletown GOP.

Each profess that they had only met Fiore no more than three times and wouldn’t even recognize him if the saw him in the street, which I took with a grain of salt put didn’t pursue.

I told each of them that my problem wasn’t with them as individuals but with the perceived endorsement of Fiore, who signed Brand’s and Aveta’s school board petitions.
Brand thought that it wasn’t a problem and that Tony Fiore (or anyone else for that matter) should be able to openly endorse his candidacy if they so chose.
I disagreed with that statement and I let them know that for years the Middletown GOP has tried to gain influence over the Middletown BOE to varying degrees of success. And when they did gain control several years ago with their “Back To Basics” slate of candidates it was a disaster. The expansion and upgrades to Bayshore, Thorne and Thompson Middle Schools were over budget and wrought with problems, and contract negotiations ended when over 200 teachers were sent to jail.
In my opinion, there is no room for partisan politics on the school board and just having the Deputy Mayor’s signature on both Brand’s and Aveta’s petitions is enough to raise doubts in my mind and others.
Fiore’s signature on those petitions poison Brand’s, Mascone’s and Aveta’s candidacy for the board of ed no matter how sincere Vinnie Brand’s and Mike Mascone’s insistence to me that they are there own men and that they would not be influenced in any way by Fiore or other members of the Middletown GOP.
With that being said, listen to the audio and make up your own mind, but most importantly vote “YES” for the budget and vote for the candidates that you think will be the best representative for your and your child’s best interests on Tuesday April 20th

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Filed under Candidate Forum, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown GOP, Middletown Mornings, Panera Breads, Patricia Walsh, Stephanie Murray

President Obama’s Weekly Address: 4/17/10 Holding Wall Street Accountable

The strongest consumer protections ever. Bringing transparency to financial dealings. Closing loopholes to stop recklessness and irresponsibility. Holding Wall Street accountable and giving shareholders new power in the financial system. President Obama lays out what Wall Street Reform is about, and questions whether opposition from the Senate Republican Leader might have something to do with his recent meeting with Wall Street executives.

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Filed under consumer protection, President Obama, transparency, Wall Street, Wall Street bonuses, weekly address

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Super Mario

Good Morning, it’s time for a cartoon!

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Former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina led charge for Battleship New Jersey


From NJ.com –

MONMOUTH COUNTY — Former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, a former Navy reserve captain who served 24 years in the legislature, relished his effort to bring New Jersey’s namesake battleship back home.
“He never got the salt out of his veins from serving in the Navy,” said Assemblyman Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex), who spent eight years representing the same district as Azzolina.
Azzolina, 84, a longtime Republican lawmaker from Monmouth County, died Thursday night at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City from complications related to a December surgery for pancreatic cancer. His three sons were by his side.
“He was a great mentor to his family, friends and people that surrounded him,” said his son, Joseph Azzolina, Jr.
Azzolina served in the occupation forces in Europe after World War II and in the Korean War. He remained in the naval reserve until the 1980s, when he served an eight month stint aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey. He later led the charge to refurbish the ship and bring to the Garden State. It sits as a museum in the Delaware River in Camden.
Azzolina, a Republican from Middletown, was first elected to the Assembly in 1965, where he served until moving up to the state Senate from 1972 to 1974. He returned to the Assembly from 1986 to 1988, and again from 1992 to 2006.
Azzolina was born in Newark and grew up in Highlands, over a candy store his parents owned. He opened a grocery store called the Food Basket with his father in 1950 and expanded it into Food Circus Supermarkets, a chain that today has 10 stores. He also owned the Courier, a weekly newspaper that covered the Bayshore area.
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said he first heard of Azzolina from his fourth grade teacher.
“Little did I know that I would go on to work in his supermarket as a teenager and to serve side by side with him in the Legislature,” he said.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), who was Azzolina’s chief of staff in the 1990s, said he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food from his supermarkets to local charities.
“To the chagrin maybe of some of his management, he never said no,” she said. “At one point I asked him if he wanted to write a press release. He looked at me and said ‘No, I don’t do it for that reason.’”
Beck said Azzolina established the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program, which treats sexual assault victim and trains nurses in the collection of forensic evidence.
Calling hours will be held Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. and Thursday from 2-8 p.m. at Saint Mary’s Mother of God Church in Middletown. The burial service is set for Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the church.

(picture Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina and son Joseph Jr.)

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Filed under Battleship New Jersey, Joe Azzolina, Monmouth County, NJ State Assembly

1926-2010 Bayshore Legend & Former NJ Statesman Joseph Azzolina Sr. Passes Away


It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of a true NJ Statesman, Entrepreneur, philanthropist and Bayshore Legend Joseph Azzolina Sr.

“Big” Joe Azzolina served Middletown and the Norhtern Monmouth bayshore regione in both the NJ State Senate and Assembly serving in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1992-2006 where he represented the 13th legislative district. He also served in the Assembly from 1986-1988 and from 1966-1972. Azzolina also served in the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature, the New Jersey Senate, from 1972-1973.

Mr. Azzolina served in the United States Naval Reserve from 1944-1986, Captain (Retired).[1] As a reservist, he returned to active duty in 1983 for a tour of seven months – four of them off the coast of Lebanon – aboard the battleship USS New Jersey. He received three Meritorious Service Medals and two Navy Secretary Commendation Medals in addition to other combat awards and honors. As an Asemblyman, Azzolina led the effort to acquire the retired ship and have it docked in New Jersey waters where it has been transformed to a floating museum.

Joe Azzolina was also the founder and President of Food Circus Super Markets, which has many locations through out Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Mr. Azzolina received a B.S. from Holy Cross College in (Naval Science) and attended the New York University Graduate School of Business where he earned his Masters Degree.

Joe will be missed greatly by all who know him.

I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions and he was always a gentleman and was someone I grew to admire even though I really did not know him well. He always greeted me with a warm smile and a big hello whenever our paths crossed.

Joe Azzolina leaves behind his wife Lynn Azzolina and his six children sons Joe Jr.,Mark, Greg, John and daughters Mary Anne and Judith.

Mr. Azzolina was predeceased by another son Paul when the child was seven years old.

There is no news as of yet on funeral arrangements.

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Filed under food circus, Joe Azzolina, super markets

Happy Tax Day: Tax Day rhetoric aside, Americans’ bills are lower

Happy Tax Day everyone,
 
Dispite what the Tea Partiers and others may want you to believe the tax burden on our fellow americans is not as high as we may all seem to think according to the following article posted at Yahoo Finance:
 
WASHINGTON (AP) — You wouldn't know it by the Tax Day rhetoric, but Americans are paying lower taxes this year, even with increases passed by many states to balance their budgets. Don't expect it to last.

Congress cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion shortly after President Barack Obama took office, dwarfing the $28.6 billion in increases by states.

In the next few years, however, many can expect to pay more. Some future increases were enacted as part of Obama's health care overhaul. And former President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire in January. Obama and the Democrats want to renew only some of them, thus raising taxes for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.

As this year's April 15 federal deadline passes, the debate about future tax increases has Republicans in Congress and conservatives across the country portraying Democrats as tax-and-spend liberals even before any new levies are approved. The discussion also is helping frame the congressional elections this fall.

"The fact is in the past year we have had more tax cuts than almost anytime in our nation's history," said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. "It's something that people don't realize because of the false rhetoric that is spread throughout this Congress."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said conservatives didn't see any need to wait before protesting.

"I thought that we were going to have to wait until the tax increases started to see popular unhappiness," Norquist said at a Capitol Hill forum Wednesday. "Last year, people started reacting, the tea parties started organizing, in reaction to spending too much. They didn't wait for the tax increases to come."

The massive economic recovery package enacted last year included about $300 billion in tax cuts over 10 years. About $232 billion was in cuts for individuals, nearly all in the first two years.

The most generous was Obama's Making Work Pay credit, which gives individuals up to $400 and couples up to $800 for 2009 and 2010. The $1,000 child tax credit was expanded to more families, and the working poor can qualify for as much as $5,657 from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

There were also credits for qualified families who buy new homes or make energy improvements to existing ones, as well as tax breaks to help pay college tuition or buy new cars.

"From investing in small business to buying a home or making it energy efficient, to sending your children to college to buying a car, these tax cuts are helping families and businesses across the country," said Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo.

At the same time, many states raised taxes last year because they are required by state constitutions to balance their budgets, even during a recession. In all, states increased personal income taxes by $11.4 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They increased sales taxes by $7.2 billion and business taxes by $2 billion.

States also increased a number of other taxes, including levies on alcohol, motor vehicles and tobacco, for an additional $8 billion.

The biggest tax increase in the health care overhaul is limited to individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000, though other increases would hit lower income taxpayers.

For the first time, the Medicare payroll tax would be applied to investment income, beginning in 2013. A new 3.8 percent tax would be imposed on interest, dividends, capital gains and other investment income for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000.

The bill also would increase the Medicare payroll tax by 0.9 percentage point to 2.35 percent on wages above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

"We know the tax man cometh, and over the next few years, boy, will he be coming with a vengeance," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

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Here’s An FYI On That Call For Change On The Middletown Board Of Ed.

Below is the text of another email that is circulating around that was written by Middletown resident Kathy Noah. This email is a direct counter to the anonymous letter posted by someone calling themselves ” Jersey Strong” that was making the email circuit tour and was posted on another out of town, local blog that has been known for its right-wing views:

Yikes! People like this scare me!

I did a little checking into this group/person. The word around town is that the 3 guys running are fairly well tied to some of the people on the Middletown Town Council. I don’t have a big problem with that, except I hear that the Town Council is looking to have more say over the Board of Ed. I don’t think people should be voting in less qualified people just so it will make life easier for the Town Council. I think we should be voting on the best qualified person for the job. I guess using the word “job” is not right considering it is not a paid position.

This person/group who wrote this seems to think that the Middletown Board of Ed should be breaking the union. This is a very big fight, and it would need to be addressed at the state level. When the contract with the teachers was negotiated it was considered to be fair and comparable with other local teacher’s union contract. The BOE did request that the teachers consider taking a pay freeze, the the local union leadership did not allow the teachers to take that vote. The union does have the right to work out their contract as written. I do think you will see some changes in the upcoming contract negotiations.

The idea that “you don’t like how life is, so let’s bring in all new people” is just crazy. The fact that our Real Estate taxes are tied to the quality of the education that our children receive is another broken system. This is not something that the BOE or the Town Council can fix. It must be dealt with in Trenton. We need people who are smart and dedicated, and they must have the children’s needs at heart. I think the people on the BOE work very hard to do that. I question the dedication of some of the gentleman this person is recommending. Mascone did not show to the 1st Candidate Forum, nor did he even have the courtesy to respond that he would not be attending. Brand also did not attend the forum, but he sent a very long statement that did not really say much. Hard to know what you are really getting with them.

They also seem very concerned with the number of Administrators that the district has. They do plan to cut 7 (15%) with the proposed budget! These people have big job descriptions including curriculum, state testing, staff oversight & evaluations, student discipline, security, oversight of sports & clubs, etc. I am sure years ago you expected 1 vice principle to handle all the discipline for 1,500 students, and security was not a big issue. Times have changed. In a corporation of 1,500 employees, 10,000 daily guests/students and 17 buildings how many managers and Vice-Presidents would you expect to have?

One of the only things I do agree with them on is nobody wants their taxes going up. Unfortunately, New Jersey is in a fiscal crisis, and Governor Christie has forced large cuts everywhere. He decreased state aid to our school alone by 34%, and some schools lost all state funding. We all pay a lot of income tax to the State of NJ, so I personally have a hard time understanding how this is fair. Considering these drastic cuts the Board of Ed did their best to come up with the proposed budget.

Voting down the school budget on April 20th will still mean Middletown will lose 72.5 teachers positions, 7 Administrators, 20 Para professionals, etc.

If this budget fails, these cuts will still happen and even more will be cut. That means more teacher cuts and larger class sizes. Most likely all Middle School sports and clubs will be eliminated. Maybe the Freshman teams will be lost too. To stay on a sport you cannot miss too many days of school & you must keep your grades up. Not all kids are the perfect academic student by nature. We need ways to keep them interested in going to school and learning.

APRIL 20th VOTE YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4 PM – 9 PM

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education, School Board elections, Taxes