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NEWS & EDITORIAL
Local SP Residents Get Gift This Year But Must Decide How Generous it Was
The Scotch Plains Township Council’s passage of its 2000 budget last week provided local taxpayers with a gift — no increase in the portion of their property taxes that supports municipal government services and activities. Sitting atop a surplus of about $2.7million and working with a $17million budget just 2 percent higher than last year’s spending level, the Republicancontrolled council saw no need to hike taxes, choosing instead to dip further into the surplus to offset that need.
This was the reverse course to the one taken by last year’s Democraticcontrolled council, which raised local property taxes by 5.5 percent, despite Republican protests that 1999’s record surplus of more than $3 million should have been used to offset the need for what the GOP called the decade’s biggest tax increase.
The stage is now set, we hope, for a substantive debate during this fall’s mayoral campaign, in which Scotch Plains voters will, for the first time, directly elect the township’s mayor. How fortuitous that the two candidates for the office are the ones who, in consecutive years, have steered tax policy in different directions while working under similar fiscal circumstances. Democrat Geri M. Samuel, who, as Mayor in 1999, supported, and continues to defend, the controversial tax increase, will square off in November against Republican Mayor Martin L. Marks, who vowed at the start of his tenure in January not to raise taxes anywhere near last year’s level.
Mrs. Samuel backed a significant tax hike last year, concluding that the large surplus should not be
drawn down as much as the GOP wanted. This year, Mayor Marks, working with a slightly smaller, but still large, surplus, saw no reason why more of it shouldn’t be used to offset the need for a tax increase.
These contrasting approaches provide an opportunity for the two candidates to discuss a variety of issues regarding local tax policy. The Democrats last week said the tough, and unpopular, choices they made in 1999 made possible the zero tax increase in 2000, while the Republicans continued to say last year’s tax levy was unnecessary.
Mayor Marks and Mrs. Samuel have a great chance this fall to explain to voters the notion of surplus, how it’s generated, how it’s regenerated, and what level of surplus is appropriate and necessary for a municipality. Both candidates will also have to defend their stance regarding property taxes and why their particular approach was the right choice for Scotch Plains. Did last year’s 5.5 percent tax boost make this year’s zero increase possible? If the Township Council in 1999 had, instead, followed the Republicans’ push for a zero tax increase, would Scotch Plains now be staring at a doubledigit rate hike this year? The two candidates should also talk about how an economy less robust than today’s would affect property taxes and the municipal budget.
Ultimately, of course, the voters will have the final say on which approach was the responsible one: significant tax hike despite a record surplus or no tax increase thanks to a large surplus. We believe the voters in Scotch Plains this year will be rewarded by a healthy debate of municipal financing and spending philosophy issues.
From the Desk of Scotch Plains
Mayor Martin L. Marks
Take Time to Consider Meaning of Memorial Day
It’s hard to believe (especially with the recent April snow storm), but spring is here. We have survived yet another relatively mild winter and summer is just around the corner. Even though summer will not officially begin until late June, traditionally we have always thought of Memorial Day as the beginning of the summer season.
Unfortunately, to many Americans that is all that Memorial Day represents, a time for barbecues and picnics, trips to the shore, a day off from work, and, of course, the ever popular parade. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to participate in all the fun things that come with Memorial Day. I just wish that more citizens would at least take a moment to reflect on the true meaning and purpose of the holiday. I count myself among the fortunate in that I have never lived through times when there were prolonged wars with U. S. involvement.
At my age, I have vague recollections of the Vietnam War, but for the most part my life has been spent during peaceful times save for the shorter conflicts such as Grenada, Desert Storm and Somalia.
Perhaps here lies the problem. Maybe my generation has become a bit complacent because of the relative peace we enjoy. The obvious question is, to what, or better yet, to whom do we credit with this lasting peace? What should be the obvious answer lies in the true meaning of Memorial Day. The answer lies with the sacrifice made by the men and women who gave their very lives during the wars of America’s history.
We remember on Memorial Day the heroes that selflessly relinquished their continued existence so that we might enjoy the barbecues, picnics, shore days and parades of today.
This year, as in the past, Scotch Plains and Fanwood will hold its Memorial Day Parade, which will take place on Monday, May 29. This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, and accordingly, the Parade Committee has dedicated the event to honoring those that served in this conflict. Opening ceremonies will commence at 10 a. m. at the Towne Centre gazebo on the corner of Park Avenue and Front Street, and the parade will then travel toward Fanwood and conclude at LaGrande Park.
In the past, the parade has been very well attended by both marchers and viewers, so I do not think it
necessary to provide a formal invitation to you in this column. However, I will extend a request to citizens to attend the two services held before the parade that capture the true meaning and solemnity of the holiday.
First, at 8 a. m. an outdoor memorial service will be held at the American Legion Post at 237 Park Avenue, which is located just north of Mountain Avenue. At 9 a. m. we will reconvene at the Fanwood Memorial Library for another service. At both sites, taps will be played, a gun salute will be issued, wreathes will be laid, and heroes will be remembered. I attend both services every year and am moved each time by the thoughts expressed.
If, for some reason, you cannot attend either service or have not situated yourself near the gazebo for the parade opening ceremonies, I ask you to take one moment during the holiday to reflect on the spirit of the day and remember the heroes that have come before us. Have a happy, safe, and meaningful holiday!
* * * * *
Martin L. Marks is the Mayor of the Township of Scotch Plains.
Be the best at whatever endeavor or occupation that you choose to pursue! If you’re really good, you might even achieve the distinction of having your name added to the English vocabulary. Quite a few people have enjoyed being so honored, however, others have found it to be extremely distasteful. Thomas Crapper’s family, for example, was not thrilled by the fact that his name became a crude synonym for his invention — the modern toilet.
Thomas Derrick fared much better. Derrick was the hangman at Tyburn prison in London, England from 1578 to 1610. He is credited with developing a specialized kind of crane used to hang criminals. His gallows design consisted of an upright post and a crosspiece from which the hangman’s rope was suspended. It was so efficient that he received the dubious honor of having this hoisting device named after him.
Derrick’s name is still “hanging around.” It is currently used to describe a large crane (derrick), the kind used in oil fields and on construction sites.
Community Asked to Lend Support To Victims of Fire in Westfield
Reservation Work Devastates Deer, SP Resident Says
For many years I have protested the slaughter of the deer in the Watchung Reservation.
No herd of deer ever left the devastation of county property that was made last month by humans.
Take a short drive west on Sky Top Drive toward Seeleys Pond and view this disaster.
Nancy Glynn Scotch Plains
Letter Writer Defends His Position On Congressional Nomination
Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor
Westfield School Board President Responds to Candidate’s Comments
I would like to respond to Westfield School Board candidate Peter Billson’s recent public statement in an April 13 article in the Courier News that the district does a “horrendous job” communicating with town residents other than parents.
There are six major ways in which the district communicates with the public: cable TV, Web sites, mailings, telephone, public meetings/ committees and newspapers.
All Board of Education meetings are taped and run on Channel 36 four times a week. Other announcements concerning the school district also appear multiple times during the day. Most recently, Candidates Night has been airing as well as a districttaped video explaining the major components of the 20002001 school budget. Each school in the district has a Web site highlighting special events and achievements within the classrooms. The district Web site runs general news items and announcements, as well as a synopsis of each Board of Education meeting, which appears the day after each meeting.
Although mailings to the general public are the most expensive means of communicating, we feel this is a guaranteed method of reaching the 10,800 households in Westfield. Three times a year, residents receive news about the district, the most recent newsletter mailed in early April concerning the school budget.
Board members, administration and school staff encourage and respond to telephone and email communication.
In the last two years, more than 400 residents responded to Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Foley’s invitation to become actively involved in planning for the future of our schools. Thanks to concerned people of Westfield — including senior citizens, business owners, and homeowners — a strategic plan for the district was developed.
Another example of active public participation was The Citizens Advisory Committee on Capital Projects that resulted in recommendations to deal with increasing elementary enrollment, technology goals and the physical needs of our school facilities.
Most recently, Dr. Foley sent an invitation to every household in Westfield to attend the February townwide meeting “Listening to Our Youth.” The meeting was attended by more than 500 people and aired on TV36. A tape is also available for loan at the Westfield Memorial Library. Study groups, comprised of people of all ages (not just parents), formed and will report their recommendations at the April 25 Board of Education meeting.
Last summer, Dr. Foley gathered clergy, counselors, parents, teachers, law enforcement, business, school, youth and community organization leaders to form a steering committee, which ultimately resulted in the townwide meeting of February.
Dr. Foley also spearheaded the Partners in Education program, where he has
invited more than 100 business and community leaders to learn more about our schools and to consider participating by providing funds, services or volunteers.
Newspapers are certainly an important way to communicate with all our publics. The district sends 1015 news releases to several newspapers each month. PTA/ PTO representatives also send information specific to their schools. Unfortunately, we are office told by Mr. Billson’s newspaper that there is simply not enough space for our information to appear. This is a disappointment to us, since it is a key method of communicating to nonparents.
Another disappointment is that the newspaper which Mr. Blllson represents has not sent a reporter to the Board of Education meetings in the last three months. This has severely decreased the amount of coverage that school business has received and at such an inopportune time, when important items like special education, grading systems, curriculum changes, long range planning, and the budget were being discussed.
Furthermore, although recaps of each meeting were emailed to the newspaper the day after each meeting, little or no mention of the meeting’s details appeared in the newspaper.
Although we strive to communicate to all our publics effectively, we certainly realize there is room for improvement — some within our control and some that’s not. If it weren’t for the support of our schools by the majority of the community, our district would not hold the reputation for success that it does today.
Darielle Walsh President Westfield Board of Education
Proposed Park Place Diner Plan Draws Criticism of SP Resident
This intent of this letter is to bring to your attention the tragic situation one of our Westfield families. The Aliche family suffered a hardship as their home was involved in a fire last week when an outdoor fire penetrated the family’s home.
By the grace of God, no one was injured. Thanks to the youngest hero of the family who awakened the mother who was asleep after working her evening nursing shift, everyone was evacuated safely. Firefighters were able to quell the fire before it enveloped the entire home. The home is unfortunately devastated by smoke and water damage.
The Aliche family has graduated three of their eldest daughters from Westfield High School (now currently pursuing their chosen professions through higher education) and currently have two of their younger daughters in the middle and high school grades. Life will be disrupted for our fellow neighbors for
quite some time. As the holiday season approaches, we request that you open your hearts to your assistance in a “fundraising campaign” to assist our neighborhood community. Contributions can be made to The Aliche Family Neighborhood Campaign and mailed to the care of Town of Westfield, Department of Human Resources, 425 East Broad Street Westfield, 07090. Thank you for your consideration!
Gene and Louise DeDea Westfield
I am responding to June Fischer’s letter of March 30. For her to think I would be so Machiavellian to praise Marianne Connelly because she is the weakest of the three Democratic choices
is as bizarre as calling me the “black sheep” of my family.
First, I wrote the letter of support because I am repelled by what Mr. Lapolla and his friends have done to the Union County finances. Secondly, I didn’t like the way Mrs. Fischer and some of her friends treated Ms. Connelly during our trip to Israel.
Now let’s get to the heart of my letter. Did Mrs Fischer’s Democratic bosses offer Ms. Connelly a no show job to drop out of the race?
Ms. Fischer knows I never hid the fact that I support Tom Kean for Congress and Bob Franks for Senate. I wrote the letter to support a person I respect.
As far as my family, they are quite proud of my business success and philanthropic efforts.
What is really shocking is that politically correct June Fischer, a Democratic activist since Franklin Roosevelt, would fall in the footsteps of her new hero, Jon Corzine, and insult a large group of New Jersey Citizens by using the term “black” sheep as something bad.
Again, this all started with getting to the truth. Did Mr. Lapolla supporters offer Mrs. Connelly a job (at the tax payers’ expense) to drop out of the race?
David Golush Westfield
The struggle to preserve the residential character of Scotch Plains in the districts which are zoned residential appears never to end. The Scotch Plains Board of Adjustment Review is considering an application for two variances in an R1 zone for two separate buildings, including a 3,649squarefoot Commerce Bank with four drivethrough lanes and a 10,125squarefoot CVS Pharmacy with one drivethrough lane on the 2.5acre parcel of land presently occupied by the Park Place Family Restaurant and a oneanda half story building. The two variances sought must be opposed for the following reasons:
First, the “development” would adversely affect the residential nature of the R1 zone.
Second, the intersection at Raritan Road and Martine Avenue is one of the busiest in Scotch Plains. Across the street from the proposed “development” is a recreation field and new recreation facilities are planned by the township in the adjacent Ashbrook Reservation, a fire station, and a doctor’s office. Anyone riding down Martine Avenue during rush hour knows how adversely the CVS on East Second Street affects the flow of traffic.
Third, the increased traffic the “development” would create would complicate the work of the Fire Department. Fourth, there are more than enough banks and ATM machines and pharmacies in Scotch Plains and the surrounding municipalities, including a CVS on East Second Street. It is not necessary to have a pharmacy within a mile of each resident as Michael Buckless, who is the
Regional Director of Real Estate for CVS, argued at the April 6 meeting of the Board of Adjustment. The existing pharmacies are most capable of filling any emergency prescription. The proposed “development” can only thus draw business away from the Scotch Plains business district.
Fifth, the proposed new buildings and parking lot would environmentally adversely affect the Ashbrook Reservation because of increased air pollution and increased water runoff and disruption of the natural water drainage system in the reservation.
Sixth, the precedent will have been established should the “development” be approved for further erosion of the residential character of the township.
Seventh, Mr. Buckless also testified that the architecture of the proposed CVS would look appropriate in the neighborhood. The CVS Pharmacy on East Second Street is one of the ugliest of buildings with its garish brick and lack of proportion and one enormous sidewalk unbroken by shrubbery or so much as a flower bed.
Eight, State Certified Real Estate Appraiser Robert Heffernan testified irrelevantly at the April 6 meeting that the land in question is worth in excess of $1 million. The increased tax ratable cannot justify variances when the variances are so out of keeping with the character of the R1 district in question.
I hope the proposed “development” is not permitted.
Stephen Schoeman Scotch Plains
Westfield Schools To be Spotlighted In ABC News Program
Westfield High School is scheduled to be featured on ABC News at 11 p. m. on May 16 as a model for its Integrated Pest Management program (IPM). Recognizing that pesticides are a major contributor to nonpoint source pollution and indoor air pollution, the IPM approach can win significant reduction in pesticide and herbicide use, while still controlling the problem pests.
Hopefully our school program will be a role model for our town’s properties and our residential properties. The little flags on lawns and the usual overspray on sidewalks are in no conceivable way a benefit to health or safety. Let’s learn from our schools.
Harvey Roberson Westfield
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Town Resident Supports Building Two Decks on South, North Sides
I am amazed by all the animosity surrounding the proposal of a parking deck.
I have lived in Westfield for over 25 years, the last eight as a south side taxpaying resident.
I think that two moderately sized decks should be built. One on the south side, in the train station lot for resident commuters, the second one in either the Trader Joe’s or Baron’s lot for shoppers and employees of local merchants.
What is all this “noise” about outoftowners? The commuter lot is being considered for the hundreds of fellow taxpaying residents. I have a prized parking permit, yet I remember the twoplus years I was on the waiting list and scrambling for a legal spot anywhere in town. I was lucky to have only waited such a short time.
The reasons we all moved to this town are well known and listed in other letters.
We like the small town charm of Westfield. If any of our town leaders or persons involved in this project build something that is not in keeping with the town’s charm, they should not only be voted out of office but also be publicly spanked or otherwise publicly humiliated.
Do the local residents near the station enjoy all the illegally parked cars? Were they unaware that the train station built over 100 years ago was in use and would generate traffic?
I would be very interested in any factual report that can show property values decreased when the local community added parking for its residents and shoppers. All the other local communities that have added amenities have seen property values increase.
Ken Lipper Westfield
SP Resident Defends Stance Taken About Local School Groundsman
I would like to make it clear to everyone in the Scotch PlainsFanwood community who signed the letter/ petition regarding the groundsman, who is employed by the SPF Board of Education, that this letter/ petition was correct as written regarding his volunteer firefighter situation!
This was not properly handled by the administration and, as usual, no one wants to take responsibility for this act! As you can see, the SPF BOE made a quick turnaround and corrected its mistake!
If it weren’t for this petition/ letter, the following would have been the circumstances:
If this groundsman was doing a job at Terrill Middle School and he was called to respond to a fire on the south side, the SPF BOE/ Administration expected him to come all the way back to Park Middle School, punch out, and then go back to the south side to fight the fire! Well, by then it would have been too late, the
damage would have been done. Even though the SPF BOE and Anthony Del Sordi (Business Administrator and Board Secretary) refuse to acknowledge or take any responsibility for their actions in this situation, I would like to thank everyone who signed this petition/ letter — it served its purpose and it was correct as written.
It’s a shame that this situation came about and we had to go to this extent to get it corrected!
Ellen Freitag Scotch Plains
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