Monthly Archives: November 2010

>NJPP Monday Minute 11/22/10: Giving Thanks

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This week, most of us will enjoy a fabulous Thanksgiving feast. Our holiday will be marked by an abundance of family and football and food, all in joyous testament to the good fortune we enjoy. Our tables will be set so full that by Sunday surely there may be recriminations over the monotony — if not the extravagance — of all the leftovers from a 26-pound turkey with all the trimmings.

We must indeed find time this week to give thanks for our good fortune. We must be mindful of the shared spirit of that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation, nearly 400 years ago, when the Pilgrims celebrated the harvest in community with the Wampanoag people.

And we must also recognize that these times are not plentiful for every one of us.

In fact, 24.1 million Americans are living in poverty, more than at any time in our nation’s history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The economic recession has kept unemployment over 9.5 percent for more than a year. Home foreclosures are at record levels. Homelessness is on the rise. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported that 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, do not have consistent access to a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

This lack of plenty is evident at food pantries across New Jersey, which are seeing a 30 percent increase in demand over last year, according to Anthony Guido of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. That’s all the more remarkable considering that the Community FoodBank assisted 1,600 agencies in distributing 35 million pounds of food to 830,000 people last year, a 45 percent increase from 2005.

“Times are tough all around,” Guido told WBGO radio. “Our agencies will give out the food as soon as we can get it to them. That means as soon as we collect it and bring it into the food bank, it goes right back out to the charities in need.”

The need could have been much greater.

Amid all the budget trauma in New Jersey, the Christie administration and the Legislature protected state funding for a vital initiative in the Department of Agriculture called the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP). The SFPP is a supplement to the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which last year supplied about 12 million pounds of food to nearly 400,000 households in New Jersey.

Begun in FY2007 with a budget of $3.9 million, the SFPP provides state tax dollars to the Community FoodBank in order to buy food in bulk quantities to be distributed at local food pantries. In January, as he was leaving office, former Governor Corzine added $3 million more to the fund for FY2010. Governor Christie shaved off a token $100,000 from that total in his first budget, but continued the program at the more substantial level of $6.8 million for FY2011. The SFPP allows for the purchase of 9.7million pounds of food for distribution at local pantries.

Thirty-eight states invest in emergency food and nutrition programs. A study by the California Association of Food Banks earlier this year showed New Jersey was fourth among states in its funding of emergency food programs, with an annual expenditure of $22 per household. Massachusetts was first at $62, followed by New York at $36 and Pennsylvania at $32 per household.

Even so, New Jersey could improve. In 2007, only 59 percent of New Jerseyans eligible for food stamps received them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and there are 324,000 New Jersey households that are “food insecure,” meaning that all household members do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life at all times.

That first Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621 was a three day harvest festival, not unlike others in ancient times or other cultures. We should all keep foremost in our minds that the gathering of Pilgrims and Native Americans offered a chance for the entire community to join in the feasting and partake of the bounty that the harvest offered.

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Filed under Community Food Bank Of New Jersey, food banks, hunger, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Thanksgiving

>Saturday Morning Cartoons: Tom Turkey & His Harmonica Humdingers

>With Thanksgiving just around the corner, why not a cartoon featuring good ol’ Tom Turkey himself?

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>President Obama’s Weekly Adress 11/20/10: New START Treaty "Fundamental" to Security

>The President says ratifying the New START, a pivotal treaty with Russia on nuclear weapons, must happen this year. He explains that failure to ratify the treaty this year would not only mean losing our nuclear inspectors in Russia, but also undermine the international coalition pressuring Iran, put at risk the transit routes used to equip our troops in Afghanistan, and undo decades American leadership and bipartisanship on nuclear security.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under Afghanistan, Iran, President Obama, Russia, START Treaty, weekly address

>APP: Middletown superintendent says she’s not leaving

>According to the article below that has been recently posted on the Asbury Park Press website, it seems that Karen Bilbao is denying that she has resigned as Middletown School Superintendent.

Bilbao blames the shoolyard rumors on an announcement made by board attorney Christopher Parton who at the end of the public portion of Wednesday nights school board meeting announced that board was entering into executive session to discuss the Superintendent’s contract. She thinks that those in attendance may have gotten the wrong impression from this announcement and jumped to the conclusion that she was leaving.

This very well could be so, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. However when I reached out to third party contacts they reported back that one board member confirmed the resignation, while a second board member would neither confirm nor deny it.

Being that this all happened during executive session, the board members were very upset that this news leaked out.

Whatever the true story is, I hope that it all works out for the best in the end. If Bilbao is staying as Superintendent, she has a lot of hard work ahead of her putting a budget together that will be in compliance with the new mandated 2% state cap, while trying to oversee contract negotiations with the teacher’s union in the next couple of months that could turn ugly (Which I certainly hope doesn’t turn out to te the case). It wont be easy.

If she is leaving, then I wish her all the best as she either enters into a new job position or into retirement to take advantage of current benefits before the new pension/benefits rules kick in, that have cause so many teacher and administrator to retire before they had planned to. She has performed admirably in her duties since becoming Middletown’s Superintendent, she deserve better than what she has had to put up with over the past year.

MIDDLETOWN — Superintendent of schools Karen Bilbao says she is not leaving her post in the public school district.

Following a Nov. 17 board of education meeting, it was widely rumored that Bilbao resigned her position in executive session that night.

On Friday afternoon, Bilbao said that she had heard the rumors and that they were not true.

Her rumored departure may have stemmed from an announcement by the board attorney at the end of the Nov. 17 public meeting.

“It seems to be that Chris Parton at the end of the meeting announced that the board was going into executive session (to discuss) the superintendent’s contract,” she said.

From there, someone may have “jumped to conclusions” that she resigned, Bilbao said.

Bilbao has been superintendent of schools since 2008 and served as interim superintendent from 2006 to 2008.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Karen Bilbao, Middletown Board of Education, resignation, retirement, rumors, Superintendent Karen Bilbao

>TRT Chimes In on Monday Night’s Middletown Township Meeting

>In today’s edition of the Diane Gooch owned Two River Times, appears an article written by Ryan Fennell that does a good job at reporting what actually went on durning the Township Committee meeting in Middletown this past Monday night, November 15th.

After being duped by Scharfenberger into believing that he gave up his yearly $4000 stipen as a committee member in January and is now serving as a “volunteer” Mayor after questions arose, when it came to light that Scharfenberger had been appointed to a lucrative position in the Christie administration his last article.
Here Fennell reports, “…The initial controversy developed when a politically conservative local blog revealed shortly after the election that Scharfenberger had been appointed as the director of the Office for Planning Advocacy within the New Jersey Department of State. The office was formerly known as the Office of Smart Growth and fell within the jurisdiction of the Department of Community Affairs.

Scharfenberger was appointed to the position on August 16, and while Scharfenberger claims that his appointment was not kept secret from his constituents or campaign opponents, he also said he did not want to use the news of his appointment to the state position as an advantage for him in the campaign.

“It was made public,” Scharfenberger told The Two River Times™ last week. “It’s just that they (his campaign opponents) didn’t know about it. I’ve been out in front of various groups. It was on the (state) web site.”

No formal announcement was made, Scharfenberger said, because “I didn’t want it to appear as if I was using this position to help my re-election.”

During the Township Committee meeting Monday, Nov. 15, the committee members were asked if they knew about Scharfenberger’s appointment and all but one said that they knew about it….

This is classic Scharfenberger bullshit! If 4 out of the 5 members of theTownship Committee knew about the appointment, why the effort to keep it from the 5th member? It’s obvious that the only functions that Scharfenberger attended and made such an announcement were those that were attended by GOP party loyalists and insiders, otherwise the information of his new job would have become common knowledge around town.
After the meeting was over Fennell questioned Scharfenberger about his statement at the Lincroft Village Green Association’s Candidates Night, where Scharfenberger stated that he had given up his stipend for the year and was acting as a volunteer. It was Middletown resident Don Watson, who initially questioned Scharfenberger over this during public comments, Scharfenberger reaction was to deny he said such a thing and to immediately instruct the Clerk to note for the record that Mr. Watson’s comment was incorrect.
Unfortunately for Mr. Scharfenberger an audio recording of his statement from Candidates Night says otherwise.
When Fennel asked Scharfenberger for and explanation, Fennell reported “…Scharfenberger told The Two River Times™ that he stopped receiving his paychecks in July “more out of concern for the budget.”
More Scharfenberger Bullshit! Did he really think that $153 a week would make a that much of a difference in a budget that was already $5.5M in the hole, can he really say with a straight face that $2,000 would make a difference in a 14% municipal tax increase? I very much doubt it, he gave up his stipend because he knew that he was taking the job within the Christie administration and that the Governor had already reversed his opinion of whether elected official could hold dual offices. According to Christie it is now OK to hold dual offices with in the state as long as those who were elected served to so voluntarily. That is why Scharfenberger gave up his remaining $2000, not out of any concerns over the financial well being of the Township or worries over the budget.
The article goes on to address much of what was brought up that night, much of which is on video and posted here previously on the blog. I recommend reading the article for yourselves this way you can determine if my earlier reporting was inaccurate or biased in anyway.
Scharfenberger is the one that brought this onto himself, all he needed to do was to be honest and show a little integrity when questioned earlier by reporters when asked before the election what his current job position was. Instead he failed/refused to reveal his new position as the Director of Planning Advocacy.

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Filed under candidates night, Gerry Scharfenberger, honesty and integrity, LVGA, Office of Planning Advocacy, Ryan Fennell, Two River Times

>Letter: 5 Years Later It’s Still Politics As Usual

>In the fall of 2005 I wrote an opinion letter that today I discovered had been printed by “The Suburban” of Old Bridge-Sayreville,as well as by newspapers locally. I noted also that my observations then are still true today, five years later. Politics doesn’t change much as politics and politicians are just as bad now or perhaps worse – if that is possible.

Election day is over and the “silly season” has also ended…at least until June when it’s primary time. Did you ever ask what motivates a politician ? It is not always explained by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the desire to serve.We have learned greed,power and ,corruption can be the most powerful of motivators,overriding any virtue or conscience an individual may have. Then there are times when some politicians have more nerve than brains.

Solutions for some of politics ills are term limits. Term limits are necessary to correct the evils of politics. Don’t kid yourselves ….. some aspects of politics are corrupting. Just read the newspapers in the aftermath of the recent elections. Too much concentration of power in one party or one politician is unhealthy for the masses. This is why we have more than a single party system. Our forefathers were not naive.

There are different schools of thought and different approaches to governing and solving problems. That does not make one proposal wrong because it is proposed by one party and opposed by another.

Negotiation and consensus minus the corruption, greed, power struggles and egotism might really make headway in solving some of this country’s and this state’s critical issues as well as many issues in local communities. Unfortunately I don’t have any delusions about New Jersey, or the communities or politics. i just hope for a better world…. someday !

Currently, as was true five years ago, this state can hold itself up as the epitome of all that’s wrong with politics in this country. It’s time for the residents of New Jersey to really pay attention to current events,educate themselves,and exercise their franchise to vote. Make politicians prove their integrity and worthiness of the public trust. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric,much of it is hyperbole or worse !

Regardless of your political persuasion, understand we can no longer afford the follies of the fools. Character flaws are character flaws. We do not need politicians whose sole purpose is to serve themselves or their political parties. They are elected to serve all of us regardless of party affiliation. We, the residents and taxpayers,the citizens of this country,this state or our communities are the losers if we allow this.

Remember always the old adages “to the victor goes the spoils”.”if you don’t vote, don’t complain”,and if you are a politician reading this ” there is no honor among thieves” and “if the shoe fits wear it” !

And last but not least…. the sun will come up tomorrow and “silly season” will come again. You can bet on it !

Barbara R. Thorpe
Lincroft,N.J.

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Filed under letters to the Editor, Middletown, Politics

>Breaking News: Rumors From The School Yard; Middletown School Superintendent Karen Bilbao Resigns

>When picking my son up from school today, several mothers in the school yard were talking about Middletown School Superintendent Karen Bilbao. The rumor that spread across the schoolyard like wildfire was that she had resigned her position as Superintendent of the Middletown School system at last nights Board of Education meeting during Executive Session. No mention of her resignation was made during the public portion of the meeting I am told.

One of the mothers that told me of Bilbao’s resignation is an active PTO member and a class mom at my son’s school. She had heard for weeks that Bilbao was planning on retiring but never thought that it would be before the school year ended.The mother told me that she had heard that Bilbao had gotten “Some big state job” having to do with education.

I made a couple of phone calls to try and confirm what I hard heard, and I found out that the rumor seems to be fact. Evidently Bilbao doesn’t want to be the fall person or lighting rod for this years upcoming battles over the school budget or contract negotiations between the Board of Education and the teachers union, so she thinks now is the best time to go.

Another possible reason why she is leaving now I was told, was because the current members that make up the Middletown Board of Education has made it difficult and at times caustic to work with.

The one thing that I wasn’t able to nail down as of yet is the exact date that she will be leaving, but those that I have talked to seem to think that it will be at the end of this month.

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Filed under Middletown Board of Education, Middletown NJ, resignation, retirement, school administrator, Superintendent Karen Bilbao

>Monday Night: Scharfenberger Is Tongue Tied

>As promised, this is the last video clip from the November 15th, 2010 Middletown Township Committee meeting. Resident Paul Jansen read into the record, the Asbury Park Press editorial “Tongue tied for a reason” which lambasted Middletown”s mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger for not disclosing his new job as Director for the Office of Planning Advocacy until after the November 2, 2010 election.

Again, throughout Jansen’s address, just like the others, Scharfenberger’s body language tells a story. He is clearly agitated with the proceeding during the night, which he should have been and keeps his head down seemingly writing (doodling) on some type of paper until Mr. Jansen is finished.

I only point this out because this type of body language displayed by Scharfenberger is at many meetings where residents have a difference of opinion from him. When he has had enough, he interrupts to interject the 5 minute rule (times up,sit down) as seen in other videos, or he tries his other method at silencing those at the podium, offer to speak with them after the meeting, which seldom happens due to the late hour in which the meetings generally finish, often after 11pm.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, editorial, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee, Paul Jansen, Tongue tied for a reason

>And Here’s Another Clip From Monday Night’s Township Committee Meeting: Grenafege to Scharfenberger; It’s about Honesty, Integrity and Character

>I have one more clip to post after this one from Monday night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting. If these meetings were televised over Middletown’s public access channels I wouldn’t have any need to post them here, but that is an ongoing issue that one day will be resolved (I hope).

In this clip, resident JIm Grenafege admonishes those on the committee, particularly Gerry Scharfenberger, about the importance of Honesty, Integrity and Character of those that are elected to serve.

His comments were driven by the apparent deceitful and hairsplitting answers given by Scharfenberger during his re-election campaign and during the current proceedings of the evening.

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Filed under candidates night, deceit, Gerry Scharfenberger, honesty and integrity, Jim Grenafege, Middletown Township Committee, New Jersey

>Middletown’s Byrnes & Mahoney Wish To Thank Their Supporters

>Dear Supporters,

We are so grateful to all of you for sacrificing your time and supporting us during our campaign for the Middletown Township Committee.

Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome, but not with the effort put forth by all of you. We would encourage you to remain engaged and optimistic about the future. We saw many new faces this year, and those of you who have been working on the Party’s behalf for many years helped us to convince over 2,000 voters, who voted for Republican Congressional candidates, to cast a vote for us. We believe these “crossover” voters were the product of your door to door efforts and running a campaign based on substance.

Our goal is to build on these efforts. We learned that knocking on doors and delivering our message in person can deliver a district to our side, even in a tough election year. Some of you covered every door in your district, and we won those districts.

Above all, we are proud of the professional campaign we ran, which focused on issues and never allowed our approach to descend into name-calling or personal attacks. Our written materials relied upon empirical facts, and we took great pains to make sure that our assertions were factual. We established ourselves as a credible alternative to those that have controlled this Township for too long.

Looking ahead, we will continue to fight for greater transparency in our local government and work to hold all elected officials accountable for their actions.

You have given us a great gift, and we will never forget it—a gift of your time and energy and deep concern for all of us who live in Middletown. We will forever hold you in our hearts remembering your generosity.

With the warmest regards,

Sean Byrnes & Mary Mahoney

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Filed under Byrnes and Mahoney, Middletown