Snooki is cheap

By Art Gallagher

I’m not talking about her lascivious lifestyle—that’s no longer newsworthy and I still don’t get the entertainment allure of the train wreck while there are so many real disasters on TV.

I’m talking about her $32K speaking engagement at Rutgers.

Compared to the largess that Rutgers is bestowing on outgoing president Richard McCormick, Snooki’s $32K is cheap. McCormick with receive a one year paid sabbatical at his salary of $550,000.  After his full year paid vacation he will return to the faculty as a history professor with a $335,000 salary.

I don’t have a major gripe with McCormick personally.  His is just one more example of a golden parachute for a government employee .  I was surprised to read that he is making only $550,000 to lead the 57,000 student university.  That sounds cheap compared to former Brookdale College President Peter Burnham’s salary and perks before Freeholder John Curley tore down that ivory tower.  McCormick’s compensation sounds cheap, given the job, compared to the numerous $200K plus superintendent of school salaries we’ve read about throughout New Jersey before Governor Christie reformed that absurdity.   McCormick’s golden parachute is a bargin compared the almost $800K the former superintendent of the Keansburg schools tried make off with.

McCormick hasn’t been as blantently greedy as some in government. He refused to take raises to his salary from 2002 through 2008 and he hasn’t taken another raise since the 4.75% bump he got in 2008.  Also, in 2008 he donated the $100K performance bonus that the Board of Trustees awarded him back to the university to fund financial aid to students based on need and performance.  It’s tough to make a case that McCormick’s a bad guy.

But the system that the government class designed for themselves and continues to exploit is increasingly tough to take and increasingly difficult to pay for.  It’s tough to write the tax check knowing that too much of it is going to pay high five figure pensions and lifetime health benifits for men and women in their forties and fifties.    McCormick’s case is just the latest reminder of all that is broken in New Jersey.

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Pensions, Rutgers | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

School Funding Is Thorough, But Certainly Not Efficient

By Andrew Bruck

Forty years of school finance litigation – and we still can’t agree what it means to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education.  The latest Abbott v. Burke ruling didn’t distinguish between the two parts of New Jersey’s most famous constitutional phrase, but it seems unlikely we’ll ever get to thoroughness without efficiency.  In the real world if not in the courts, there’s no separating the two, and it’s time for the legislature to give both their due. 

The system for funding and operating our public schools is hopelessly wasteful: a fractured, Byzantine system that allows good money to be wasted on redundant programs and unnecessary bureaucracies.  The problem lies with New Jersey’s overabundance of local government.  With 566 municipalities and 616 school districts, we simply have too many administrative entities trying to do the same thing.  New Jersey taxpayers elect mayors to govern towns with fewer than 25 residents and pay superintendants to oversee districts with fewer than 50 students. 

The waste is remarkable.  Consider Mendham, home of Gov. Chris Christie.  It’s a single community, but the town is split into two local governments:  Mendham Borough and Mendham Township.  Each municipality has its own K-8 school district, each with fewer than 1,000 enrolled students and each with a superintendant making more than $150,000 per year.  The two municipalities are also part of the West Morris Regional High School District, which includes Chester Township, Chester Borough, and Washington Township, and which pays its own superintendant $192,000 per year to watch over the five towns’ high school kids. 

It’s an elaborate – and expensive – mess.  It’s no surprise that, at a spring 2009 town hall meeting, Christie called the divide between the two Mendhams “crazy.”

There’s a better way.  Representatives from the Mendhams, the Chesters, and Washington Township are discussing several cost-saving measures, including a consolidation of the various school districts and, more boldly, a consolidation of the five municipalities.  A recent study commissioned by Courage to Connect NJ, the only statewide non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to consolidation and shared services, found that multi-town municipal consolidations could lower property taxes by up to 40 percent in some cases. 

The real question is whether Christie and the State Legislature are committed to fixing the problem.  The state’s fiscal 2010 budget eliminated virtually all funding to study consolidating municipalities and other local districts.  Now that Trenton must come up with an additional $500 million to comply with Abbott, it’s going to be even harder to convince politicians that consolidation is worthy of additional funding.  But a small increase in state funding for consolidation could save tremendous amounts of money in the future – and make it easier for New Jersey to provide the “thorough and efficient” system of education that the state constitution requires. 

A good first step would be to reform the way that New Jersey funds consolidation studies.  Across the state, there are scores of local officials and grassroots community groups that want to know whether their towns could save money and lower taxes by merging local governments or school districts with neighboring communities.  But these studies require towns to shell out between $30,000 and $70,000 for private outside consultants to perform relevant financial analyses. State law obligates Trenton to help towns defray the cost of these studies, but it has long since given up funding these projects.  Cash-strapped towns wind up abandoning study proposals because they can’t afford the up-front cost.

The solution is simple:  Trenton should take over the study process.  Remove private “consultants” and assign two or three non-partisan experts in municipal finance to examine the various proposed consolidations – which they could do for far less than $30,000 to $70,000 per study.  At long last, weary taxpayers can finally figure out if consolidation is the answer.

Making it easier to consolidate towns and schools won’t magically solve our budget problems.  But a short-term investment now will help communities find new ways to fund local services – including public education – without bankrupting taxpayers.  More money for New Jersey’s schools won’t do any good unless we create a system that is both thorough and efficient.  Here’s hoping Trenton makes the best of this opportunity.

Andrew Bruck is a former law clerk to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.  He is the co-author of the Courage to Connect NJ Guidebook, a citizen’s guide to municipal consolidation in New Jersey, and “Overruled by Home Rule,” a legal and historical overview of consolidation.

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Andrew Bruck, Education, Property Taxes | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Now that you’re back…

….from your holiday weekend, be sure to check out the video biography of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Cpl Bud Thorne.

The video, An American Hero, was first produced for the 50th anniversary of the Thorne Middle School in Middletown.  It was shown again last Thursday as part of the Battle of the Bulge Survivors Reunion and Monument Rededication which took place at the school.

For me, and I hope the many others who have never experienced war first hand nor lost a loved one to battle, viewing the video deepened my gratitude for all veterans as well as for the men and women who are currently serving in the military.

Thank you to Edith Nowels, Thorne’s sister, for providing the video for MMM readers.

Nowels is a hero too.  

She has done a tremendous job reuniting WWII vets and making sure we have an opportunity to express our gratitude before they pass.  But Edith never stops to take a breath, even after such a successful event like the reunion on Thursday.  When I reached her over the weekend while I was writing the story on the reunion, Edith was on the road delivering Thank You cards to veterans in nursing homes and at VFW posts.

You can view An American Hero by clicking here.

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Veterans | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

A Dumb Poll

By Art Gallagher

Fairleigh Dickinson University released a PublicMind poll this morning that indicates that U.S. Senator Robert Menendez would beat bio-tech entrepreneur John Crowley in a hypothetical matchup for the U.S. Senate election that will happen next year by a margin of 45%-26%.

50% of the respondents have never heard of Menendez. 

The Hudson County Democrat first went to the Senate in 2006 to complete Jon Corzine’s term after Corzine became governor.  He was elected to his own term over State Senator Tom Kean, JR the following November.  Prior to being appointed to the U.S. Senate by Corzine, Menendez represented the 13th congressional disrict in the House of Representatives for 15 years.

50% of the voters don’t know Menendez.   The conclusion of the poll should be that the PublicMind is empty.

84% of the respondents said they never heard of Crowley.  Why would they?  He’s a private citizen who has never run for office.  He is an impressive figure, to those who have heard of him.  He was written up in the Wall Street Journal eight years ago and there was a movie, Extraordinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford about his efforts to find a cure to a disease that inflicts his children.   Brendan Fraser played Crowley in the movie.

Extraordinary Measures was not exactly a blockbuster.  It didn’t make Crowley a celebrity.   Maybe if FDU polled Menendez against Fraser it would have been a closer poll.  Maybe not.  If they polled Menendez against George of the Jungle or Dudley D0-Right, film characters Fraser played in the 90′s, it might have been closer.

Menendez outperformed Crowley so handily in the PublicMind Poll released today because he was identified in the questions as the incumbent and as a Democrat.   If the question had been, “Who do you favor for U.S. Senate in 2012, Robert Menendez or John Crowely?” without identifying Menendez’s status as incumbent or either man’s party affiliation, the results would have been very different.

If FDU PublicMind follows their usual pattern, they will shortly release match ups between Menendez and other GOP potential contenders for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.   The polling was done between May 16 and 22.  They release the data and their conclusions piecemeal. 

With the exception of polls that rate the executive, the President and the Governor, the conclusion will most always be that the public is not paying attention.

MMM demonstrated that conclusion in March when we conducted person on the street interviews to see if members of the public could possibly care about “continuity of representation,” the abstraction that Rutgers professor and legislative map selector Alan Rosenthal invented to justify gerrymandering. 

We repost the video of those interviews today for your amusement and dismay:

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

The Jersey Shore Is Safer With Snooki In Italy

Paul Mulhshine says that Snooki and her Jersey Shore crew have been an economic boom for Seaside Heights.  Ocean County body shops, as in auto body shops, are missing out on the action this summer as the MTV reality show is shooting in Italy.

Multiple news sources are reporting that Snooki crashed her car into the police cruiser that was assigned to her protection. Co-star Deena was a passenger and had to climb out the window to escape the wreckage.

The police officers involved were treated for whiplash and bruises.  Snooki, who was briefly taken into custody but not charged, and Deena were not hurt.

There was no alcohol involved, according to the reports.

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Snooki | Tags: , | No Comments »

A Day In The Life Of America

By Ralph Avalone, President, National Green Energy Council

May 2, 2011 5:00A.M.

I woke up today from the alarm set on my blackberry. A mobile office that uses 300 watts of energy per day. Did you know that? I just learned it recently. Now multiply that energy use by all the Blackberrys in the World and boy are we using more energy than we ever did before.

I jumped in the shower and used more water in ten minutes than most third World families use all year. I brushed my teeth and made sure I shut the water off while I brushed. Every American uses 29 gallons of fresh water per year just brushing their teeth, let alone shaving.

I shaved with a razor that uses a battery to vibrate it to give me a closer shave..oops battery ran out. I replaced it. What do I do with the old battery? Oh that’s right…. don’t throw it in the garbage because 84,000 tons of batteries go to landfills here in America each year. Plus I shut off the water in between strokes. More water saved. Doing my part…..Hope everyone else is.

I walked in to the kitchen to thumb through yesterdays mail. Bills and junk mail. What do I do with all the junk mail? Hmm. Garbage? Oops.. nope. Every American throws away 40 pounds of junk mail in landfills each year. Put it in a pile to bring out to the recycle bin.

Time to go to work….First stop 7-11 for coffee… $1.67 for a cup of Joe?  I remember when my dad gave me 35 cents to get him a cup at the local donut shop. You know the one about 5 blocks from my house growing up that I never had a problem going for my dad because I didn’t have ninteno ds, video games or a phone at 9 years old to text my friends I was gonna see later on in the day.

My dad didn’t worry about asking me to go for him because back then we didn’t have to worry about people grabbing kids and doing evil things to them. When did it get to be so much to get a cup of coffee? Oh yeah Starbucks trained people to spend five bucks on a cup of crappy joe and everyone else raised prices or is it just that there are so many more people on the Planet that there is not enough crops to supply the coffee? Oh well , gotta spend the money because I cant start a day without my joe!

Oh no.. I forgot a water! I gotta run in and get a bottle of water. I have a lot of phone time today and I’m gonna get dry mouth…. need that water bottle!…. $1.60 for a bottle of water. So that’s about $10.00 per gallon right? And I’m complaining about $4.00 per gallon gasoline. What’s the real heist here? Gas or Water? Mental note: Research population increase and availability of water for a growing World population.

Looked at my watch… only 7:00am to early to start making calls. Bottle of water in place. One of over 350 million that will be bought this year in America. And most tossed into a land fill.

 Stopped a light I see a young woman who is at the corner holding a sign that says. Lost my job  11 months ago, lost my husband 8 months ago, lost my house 4 months ago. Please help I need an apartment for me and my unborn baby. I gave her $20. She was 7 months pregnant…Why am I so angry that I just experienced that? That’s right I know why. Because this is America and its supposed to be the greatest country on Earth and the only change I see is the balance of power shifted in the Congress. I see 24 million Americans without jobs, one out of every 10 houses in America has either been lost to foreclosure or is in foreclosure. Change! Give me a break. Still victims of OPEC, big oil and coal.

Speaking of Big Oil…….I should get gas. I have to get to the airport to get on a plane to go to another Tornado zone and see what can be done to use new green technologies to help in the disaster relief areas and I’m going to be too tired to get gas when I get back from the trip, better get it know.          $4.01 per gallon. I remember waiting in the odd and even gas lines in the 70′s with my dad. He had two license plates you see, he was in the car business and he could get gas whenever he wanted just not when the pumps ran dry. I remember helping him push the car toward home sometimes with my brother until some neighbors felt bad and helped the rest of the way. We lived three blocks from the gas station. Now hold on a minute!… the sign from the street said $4.01 per gallon and the pump says $4.10 per gallon. What gives? I squint at the road side sign….a little message under the $4.01 per gallon. Cash price only  Who carries cash? I carry a card made out of petroleum materials and so does everyone else. Another great plan by big oil…weave the product into everything so that we can never get off it!

Well I’m off. Now I’m going to be late!

Ok in the parking garage. Scrambling to get to the ticket counter…Ok slide my credit card so it can find me…WHAT! I have to pay for a carry on bag now? $25??? Oh well, I need the laptop. Gotta pay! Now the checked luggage $28 Waiting… processing….Ok chosoe a seat. Dear God now I have to pay for a seat? What the hell did I pay for a plane ticket for? How much is it gonna be to fly when the oil runs out? How are we gonna get around. Too deep.. Gotta concentrate. Get this done cause the line in security is gonna make you miss the flight. OK done.. Let’s go.

License..check. no water bottle.check. ( just wasted $1.60) a little bags of my liquids. Check. Did I forget shaving cream? Ok here we go!  Im gonna make it! Shoes off, hat off, belt off, laptop out. Scanning bags…good…. walk through new contraption……..Ok, gotta get to my stuff. Why is my heart beating so hard. ” This your bag” says the TSA guard. “Yup” come with me. ” I have to remove all the items of your bags ok sir?” “yup” gotta love what the terrorists did to our travel experience!  I’m not complaining. Israels been dealing with it since some numskull decided to set them up surrounded by Muslims that hate their very existence. Would have liked to been in that room to hear how that plan unfolded…

Finally, on the plane. It took me an extra $100 for this flight with the bags, the seat and now my magazine and snack. Not even 8:00am and I just burned $100 on nothing. Unbelievable.

Oops gotta turn the phone off. It will make the plane crash somehow. OK stewardess message. No smoking! Really??? Remember when there was a smoking section on every flight? Now you cant even smoke outside in Disnelyland. What a different World….. Ok one last scan of the plane to try to see if I can identify a potential terrorist.. scanning….Is there an air marshal on this flight? Who might he be?

Why is my heart racing again. Wait a minute. That guy looks strange. Is he? Maybe? Wait a minute I can take him. Let me plan my reaction if he decides to take over the plane. Oh yeah got it. I just run up to him take as many bullets as I can to give another guy the chance to take him down? Really that’s the plan? I need a better one. I know, if my phone being on can make the plane crash somehow then maybe while its off I can crush him in the temple and take the plane back. Yeah that’s it! plan handled.

Uh oh! Too much coffee. Gotta go. Wow tiny in here. Wheres the button? Here we go? Wait a minute where does that blue water I just flushed go? Oh yeah it just falls out of the bottom of the plane. Another room I would have liked to be in when the government said ok you can do that!

Gotta get some sleep. Its gonna be a long day in the trenches. Why is this seat that cost me $15 so small? Am I getting fat? That’s it no more peanuts!

Landed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Time to get in the trenches…….

It’s a war zone… Houses gone. Porches left behind. Debris in trees..Wait a minute… I have been here before….9-14-01 New York City?   No………..People running around.. No one knows who’s in charge.. The gulf coast .. Deep Horizon spill???? No…….Why does this all feel so familiar? Hurricane Gustav? No… people crying.. sorting through what’s left of their belongings…posted signs of the missing..radio playing  “this is the worst tornado season in the last 50 years”………. Worst season…..worst hurricane in 100 years. I’ve got it! HURRICANE KATRINA! Leaders who can’t lead, no one knows who’s in charge…people crying…. Americans without power, food, water and shelter. Again!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God damn it! Nothings changed! Its all the same.

The politicians fight over partisan garbage and my America bleeds….

Soldiers die on foreign lands for oil that doesn’t come back here or lower the price or lower our dependence.

Unemployed families who were already suffering now have lost everything…..

Green companies that could have deployed life saving technologies to this disaster zone still haven’t been funded…. Still haven’t scraped the money together to be a registered government contractor. Regulatory crap! Political red tape! Bureaucratic horseshit!

People in lines to get permits to go see if any of their belonging are salvageable. Dead loved ones in morgues that won’t let people in because they made a mistake in false identifying a body and now these people who lost everything including a loved one can’t get closure. I AM ANGRY!!!!

And where is our beloved catalyst for change. Oh that’s right he’s in Ireland speaking about the strong partnership between our countries. REALLY? Get back here president Obama! Come back and give us the CHANGE you promised! Because all I’m seeing is the same old heartache I saw in 2005 under another president. You know the one who you bashed for his administration! Well you got the job, now do the work or I can guarantee you that come next November every American will show you what change really means, when you change your address to someplace other than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

And by the way, my offer to walk across the street so I can give you a few tips on how to help America get back on the path of prosperity and greatness again still stands. Only call me ahead of time because the price of coffee is ridiculous!

You’ll have to make an appointment though, because while you’re sitting in your shiny white house that the sweat of our forefathers built and was built brick by brick by the best workforce in the World, I’ll be the one in the trenches helping any way I can to make America great again. I’ve gotta go. There is an American crying and I need to give them a shoulder to cry on!

I may not be able to go in the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but I can make sure that someday soon our soldiers won’t be sent to foreign lands to fight for God Damn oil!

Nothings changed… Just the talking head.

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Energy, Global Warming | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

His Sacrifice Must Not Be In Vain

By Art Gallagher

This Memorial Day has a special meaning to me, and the hundreds of participants at the Battle of the Bulge Survivor Reunion and Monmument Rededication Ceremony that took place last Thursday at the Thorne Middle School in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown.

The event, which included a general assembly of the student body at Thorne and over 86 veterans of the Battle of the Bulge was organized by Edith Nowles of Brielle.  Nowles is the sister of Cpl. Horace Marvin “Bud” Thorne, namesake of the school, who was post-humanously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the battle that cost him his life.

There was so much to be impressed with and moved by at this event. From the pride and happiness of the veterans present to the attentiveness and enthusiasm of the students, staff and faculty.  From the courage of the eigth grade nominee for the Corporal Thorne Award who got out of her wheel chair and walked with assistance to accept her citation from Freehold John Curley and to join her fellow nominees on stage to the ovation her fellow students gave her when she did so.

Hopefully this slideshow will give a sense of how special the event was:

One of the most moving elements of the Reunion and Rededication was that all present got to “meet” Cpl. Bud Thorne.  A video biography of Thorne, his life, heroic death and legacy,narrated by his sister Anita, that was originally produced for the 50th anniversary of the Thorne Middle School was shown to the assembly.

By virtue of the generousity of Edith Nowels, MMM is able to share the video with you.  I encourage you to take the 12 and 1/2 minutes it takes to view it.  It will make Memorial Day personal.  It will give you an even greater sense of who the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom were and are:

Posted: May 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Lonegan Praises Christie For RGGI Withdrawal

By Art Gallagher

In an email to Americans For Prosperity-NJ activists, Steve Lonegan delivered strong praise to the Governor, his former primary opponent:

Today, Governor Christie dealt Cap & Trade a death blow – one that could well signal not just the end of RGGI but the end to any effort to implement a job-destroying Cap & Trade energy tax in America.

At a press conference today at the statehouse in Trenton, Governor Christie announced his decision to use his executive authority to withdraw New Jersey from the ten-state scheme.

“RGGI is nothing more than a tax on electricity, a tax on our residents and on businesses with no discernible effect on our environment,” Christie said. “We remain completely committed to the idea that we have a responsibility to make the environment of our state and world better. We’re not going to do it by participating in gimmicky programs that don’t work.”

Governor Christie deserves enormous credit for taking this stand on behalf of our state. The Governor easily could have succumbed to mounting pressure from the left and its many environmental special interest groups.

Instead, Governor Christie stood tall knowing that this was the right thing to do for New Jersey and our state’s future economic prosperity.

Governor Christie will no doubt come under attack from the left for his decision and you and I need to lend him our support.

I urge you to call Governor Christie now at 609-292-6000 to thank him for taking this stand on behalf of New Jersey!

Additionally, a tremendous debt of gratitude goes out to those legislators who have sponsored the repeal effort – in particular, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-24), Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25), Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) and Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24), primary sponsors of the repeal bills in the legislature. These legislators were the first to step up and lead the fight against RGGI and they, too, deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Today’s victory is also a credit to you, our valued AFP citizen activist. Over the past year, many of you have contacted your legislators, signed petitions, written letters to the editor or joined us at numerous press conferences and rallies around the state.

Thanks to your dedication, Cap & Trade is one giant step closer to being tossed on the ash heap of history!

Posted: May 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Energy, Global Warming, Steve Lonegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Christie On (Not) Running For President

Governor Christie spoke at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University earlier this month.  The final question of the evening was asked by Linda Sipprelle, mother of Lincoln Club President and former congressional candidate Scott Sipprelle.  Linda didn’t really ask a question.  She told the Governor how she would love for him to be President.

Christie’s response was perhaps his most comprehensive answer to date as to why he continues to reject the calls for him to run for President and to why he keeps entertaining the question.

At the time of this posting, the video of Christie’s answer has only been viewed 46 times.  It really should go viral.

Hat tip to InTheLobby.  Watch the video here

Posted: May 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: 2012 Presidential Politics, Chris Christie | Tags: , | No Comments »

Christie Announces NJ’s Withdrawal From RGGI Cap and Trade Scheme

Posted: May 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Economy, Energy, Global Warming | Tags: | 1 Comment »