Monthly Archives: December 2010

>NJPP Monday Minute 12/27/10: To Insure Promptness: Tips for the Holiday Season

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As the holiday season winds down, many have said thanks by tipping the people who take care of them during the year. These are the people who take care of their children, clean their houses and cut their hair. They are the people who walk their dogs, deliver their newspaper and prepare and serve their food. And, because many of these people are only guaranteed a fraction of the full minimum wage from their employer, they rely on these tips to help them make ends meet.

Tipped workers earn less than one-third the $7.25 an hour New Jersey state and federal law guarantees to minimum wage workers. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay workers who rely on tips as a major source of income as little as $2.13 an hour, as long as the worker earns at least the full minimum wage when his or her hourly wage and tips are averaged over a full work week. The definition of a tipped worker is one who earns at least $30 a week in tips. That includes waiters and waitresses, bartenders and parking lot attendants whose wages averaged about $11 an hour in 2009 when tips were included.

The problem with a job that relies on tips is that workers can see wide fluctuations in their income, which can make it difficult to pay their bills. All but two states, including New Jersey, have established a minimum wage for tipped workers to help alleviate the problems associated with these fluctuations. Because New Jersey has not established a minimum wage for tipped workers, the state’s rate defaults to the federal standard of $2.13 an hour, a wage that was last raised in 1991 and is the same in New Jersey as it is in Mississippi. Imagine living in New Jersey on a Mississippi wage that has not increased in 19 years.

The last time New Jersey addressed the issue of minimum wage workers was in 2005 when it raised the wage for most workers to $7.15. At the same time, it established the New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission to report on the adequacy of the wage and the condition of minimum wage workers. The commission issued two reports – the first in December 2007; the second a year later. Both reports recommended that New Jersey’s minimum wage be raised (first to $8.25 an hour, then to $8.50) and adjusted annually to reflect increases in the cost of living, as has been done in 10 other states.

But New Jersey lawmakers have failed to act. Only because the federal minimum wage increased in July 2009 did New Jersey’s minimum wage workers receive a 10-cent increase, which increased the hourly wage to $7.25. Perhaps frustrated by the state’s inaction, the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission has not met since 2008.

Today 14 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages than New Jersey does. On January 1, three more states will provide a more generous wage than New Jersey currently does. A minimum wage worker in New Jersey who works full-time 52 weeks a year earns $15,080 annually, barely above the federal poverty level for a family of two ($14,570) and less than the federal poverty level for a family of three ($18,310) or four ($22,050). Supporting oneself or one’s family on salaries like that is especially difficult in New Jersey which now has the fifth highest cost of living in the country.

Raising wages for the lowest-paid workers helps sustain consumer spending and will boost the economic recovery. Minimum wage increases go directly to workers who spend the additional money immediately – on food, rent, gas and clothing. Without action by New Jersey lawmakers, the value of New Jersey’s minimum wage will continue to erode, making it even harder for minimum wage workers to make ends meet. And, without the establishment of a statewide minimum wage for tipped workers, the people who depend on tips to pay their bills will continue to fall into deeper and deeper poverty.

In this season of giving, New Jersey owes it to these workers to raise the minimum wage; to restore its value; and to establish a minimum wage for people who rely on tips to supplement their income. The minimum wage was set up to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable workers. It’s time for this to actually mean something.

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Filed under hourly wage, minimum wage, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, part-time work, Tips

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 12/25/10: Merry Christmas from the President & First Lady

>President Obama and the First Lady wish families across the country a “Merry Christmas” and encourage everyone to support the troops and their families this holiday season. Visit http://www.serve.gov to find ideas for what you can do to help our servicemen and women and their families.

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

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Filed under Christmas, Michelle Obama, President Obama, the First Lady, weekly address

>The True Meaning of Christmas

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Filed under Charlie Brown, Christmas, Jesus Christ, Linus, peanuts

>Santa Recites "The Night Before Christmas"

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T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Filed under Norad tracker, Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, The Night Before Christmas

>Santa Norad Tracker – Santa Is on His Way

>It may be the morning of Christmas Eve but that doesn’t stop Santa, he has already left the North is on the way.

This year, as in years past, you can keep an eye on where Santa is all throughout the day by checking in on his travels with the NORAD Tracker (NORAD is the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada).
The NORAD Tracker is a great interactive website for the kids to explore, there are a number of items on the website for kids of all ages, to play with while waiting for Santa’s arrival.
As an example, there are videos (like the one below) that show Santa leaving the North Pole that give updates to where Santa has been and where he is heading next. Kids can track Santa via Google Earth, a fun interactive play area that is called Countdown to Track Santa, where kids can play fun games while waiting his arrival. There are also tabs to the website that explain all about Santa and NORAD, so the Santa Tracker website is not only a fun place for kids to spend time while waiting for Santa, it is also educational.

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas Eve, NORAD, Santa tracker

>West Wing Week: "AKA Santa Claus"

>It was a very busy week which saw a lot accomplished by the President and those down in Washington. This video from the White House Blog gives us a recapped of what went on while we were preoccupied with holiday shopping and decorating –

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” looks back at an historic lame duck session, reads to kids for the Holiday season, and receives the Census report.

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

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Filed under Christmas, don't ask don't tell, President Obama, Santa Claus, Washington DC, White House Blog

>NJ Sen. Robert Menendez: A Letter to Santa Claus

>I found the following Letter to Santa written by Senator Robert Menendez, posted over at the Huffington Post. The letter address his concerns over global warming. I think it is a cute and novel way to inform people of the problem that global warming presents.

In his letter Menendez lets Santa know that if he needs to relocate from the North Pole, due to the continuing melting of the polar ice cap, he would be happy to have him live here in the great State of NJ.

Senator Menendez also lets Santa (us) know that he is fighting to help put an end to global warming by supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dear Santa Claus,

I am writing out of concern, because you may have to move from the North Pole due to the dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice. The Navy’s chief oceanographer says that by the summer of 2020 the North Pole may not have summer ice and other scientists project that an ice-free Arctic is possible as soon as 2012!

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that polar ice is melting because of greenhouse gas pollution and I am working hard to reduce these emissions. But there is probably nothing we can do in time to save the North Pole. I am worried about your safety and your ability to deliver billions of Christmas gifts if the ice cap on the North Pole no longer stays frozen all year. What will happen to your house, your workshop, the elves’ houses and your reindeer barns?

I want you to know that if you want to relocate to the beautiful state of New Jersey, I would be proud to assist you. But given the climate you are accustomed to, I will understand if you would like to relocate to the South Pole. Just be sure not to move to the Antarctic Peninsula or West Antarctic ice sheet, areas that are also experiencing rapid ice melt.

Please know that I will work to mobilize the U.S. federal government to assist when you relocate. I am sure we can both agree that on a warming planet, we need to do all we can to save Christmas.

Sincerely,
Robert Menendez
U.S. Senator

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Filed under global warming, Letter to Santa, Santa Claus, The Huffington Post, US. Sen. Robert Menendez

>Happy Festivus, Everyone!

>From Yahoo News

Commercialism of Christmas got you down? Not feeling the holiday spirit? Perhaps Festivus (aka “the holiday for the rest of us”) is just what the doctor ordered.

Made famous by a 1997 “Seinfeld” episode in which George’s father explains the alterna-holiday, Festivus has since taken on a life of its own.

Celebrated on December 23, the nondenominational holiday involves a metal pole (instead of a Christmas tree). Instead of exchanging gifts, participants are encouraged to air their grievances. After that come the feats of strength (push-ups, for example). The party continues until the head of the family is wrestled to the floor.

The story of how Festivus came to be famous is almost as hilarious as the holiday itself. According to a 2004 article from The New York Times, it all started with Dan O’Keefe, who invented the holiday back in 1966. His son, Daniel O’Keefe, a writer on “Seinfeld,” told the story of Festivus to his co-workers. Before you can say “Vandelay Industries,” the writers worked up a show about it. The holiday has been in the public consciousness ever since.

Web searches are certainly on the rise. Over the past week, online lookups for “festivus poles” and “festivus activities” have both spiked over 150%. Also getting a seasonal bump: “festivus cards” and “how to celebrate festivus.”

To answer that last question: Just get a pole, hang some tinsel, tell your family what you really think of them, and then wrestle grandma. Boom! Instant Festivus!

Get up to speed on Festivus with this “Seinfeld” clip:

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Filed under Christmas, Festivus, Seinfeld, Yahoo News

>The Issue of Artificial Turf Fields In Middletown Was Officially Put To Rest With Resolution 10-310

>Last night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting brought the official end to the artificial turf field issue. The committee voted 3-1 to approve Resolution 10-310, which authorized that the unused bonded money that was meant for the installation of two artificial turf fields at West Front Street Park and Croydon Hall, be used instead to pay down existing bond debt.

In the audio clip below Committeewoman Pam Brightbill discusses why she reluctantly voted to approve the resolution, after which you can hear why outgoing Committeeman Sean Byrnes voted against it.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

The one curious thing about Resolution 10-310 is the fact that it is the only resolution that was discussed last night that has not made it’s way onto the Township’s website, for some reason it is missing. I am wondering if it has anything to due with the potential controversy that may surround it.

The controversy being that the original bond that was issued in 2006 which allocated funding for the turf fields specifically stated that these funds could not be used for any other purpose other than recreation, and with the nature of bond issues those funds cannot be used for the purpose offsetting operational budgets.

Using these bonded funds to pay off debt may not be legal,so until the resolution is made available to the public we’ll just have to wait to see how the Township intends to do this.

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Filed under artificial turf fields, Croydon Hall, Middletown Township Committee, Pamela Brightbill, resolutions and ordinances, Sean F. Byrnes, Turf project, West Front Street

>Committeeman Byrnes Presented with Certificate of Appreciation For His Service To Middletown

>Last night the Middletown Township Committee presented a plaque to outgoing Committeeman Sean Byrnes that expressed the Township’s appreciation for his 3 years of service to Middletown.

The plaque was presented by Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger and was followed by a few words from Sean Byrnes.

All of Sean Byrnes’s supporters and friends wish him all the best in whatever endeavors he now plans to pursue in his “free time”. His presence on the Township Committee will be greatly missed.

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Filed under certificate of appreciation, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee, Sean F. Byrnes