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A& E and EDUCATION
NEWS & EDITORIAL
Adam Smith, the philosophical father of modern capitalism, observed nearly 330 years ago that “as soon a government management begins, it upsets the natural equilibrium of industrial relations.” Smith was uncannily prescient about the federal government’s attempt to manage Internet commerce.
With sales through the Internet exploding, Congress declared those transactions off limits to state sales taxes for three years, while a federal commission studies the intersection of ecommerce and tax policy. In doing so, the federal government interfered with both the funding of state and local government services as well as with the level playing field that creates a competitive free market.
This question of tax policy has profound repercussions for the present and future. To put this in some perspective, ecommerce transactions total $301 billion, climbed 300 percent this Christmas and, depending on whose crystal ball you are looking into, may grow to as much as 20 percent of gross national product by 2010. To quote the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, “a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
Exempting sales over the Internet from the sales tax is not necessarily the right thing to do. If you dropped your newspaper when you read that, I can understand why. The nineteenth century philosopher William James once observed that “habit is the enormous flywheel of society, its most conservative agent. It is alone what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance.” I have made a habit in my legislative career of voting for and sponsoring tax cuts. In eight years I have voted 37 times to cut taxes, from cuts in the state income tax to tax cuts for veterans to cuts which allow real estate taxes to be deducted from the income tax. I even voted to exempt Internet access fees from state taxes. These tax cuts returned $10 billion to New Jersey families.
I am proud of that record, and will continue to vote for the right tax cuts. The problem is, exempting Internet sales from sales tax isn’t one of them. It’s much more than a matter of dollars and cents. New Jersey does lose an estimated $21 million a year that would be raised taxing cyber sales.
But it’s also a matter of good economic sense. Consider the case of two businesses, an Internet seller and a Main Street merchant. If we exempt the Internet business, but not your merchant on Main Street from sales tax, the Internet vendor gains an unfair advantage. Government should not tell you where to shop. Providing a sixpercent advantage for one type of retailer over another is the sort of government interference in the marketplace Adam Smith warned us would “upset” the natural equilibrium of the marketplace.
How much does it upset the natural equilibrium? We know the rough outlines of the problem, but we need to know with greater precision the impact of this unfair advantage Congress has conferred on one merchant over another. We need to know with greater detail how much lost revenues our state and local governments suffer. And we need to take this hard data back to the federal commission studying Internet commerce.
If the Congress is really willing to listen, then we have an obligation to speak up.
That is why I am sponsoring a Resolution to create the New Jersey Internet Tax Revenue Impact Study Commission to examine the problem here in the Garden State. This commission’s job is to complete their study and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature on sales tax policy for Internet
Printing an “unfounded, false, or deliberately misleading story,” would not be tolerated today, but at one time such actions were apparently considered great fun. Such a story is currently known as a canard, originally a French word for a “duck.” Brewer’s Book of Phrase and Fabl e reveals the following “foul” story that caused the word canard to become a synonym for “a hoax”:
“Cornelissen, to try the gullibility of the public, reported in the papers that he had 20 ducks, one of which he cut up and threw to the 19, who devoured it greedily. He then cut up another, and then a third, and so on until 19 were cut up; and as the 19th was gobbled up by the surviving duck, it followed that this one duck actually ate 19 ducks — a wonderful proof of duck voracity.”
This story apparently had the run of all the papers and provided a new meaning to the word, canard, as well as the addition of a “ducky” idiom to the English language.
NEWS FROM TRENTON
22nd Legislative District
Tax Exemption on Internet Sales May Not Make Good Economic Sense
By Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger
sales with the intention to share that information with the Congress.
The Founders of our nation could not have anticipated the Internet. They were, however, shrewd students of human nature and the kinds of governments human nature could produce. Thomas Jefferson shared Adam Smith’s fear that government meddling in the marketplace could lead to some very distorting and improvident results. Jefferson advised that when government acted to remediate what it considered to be a problem that “the hole and the patch should be commensurate.” The current Internet sales tax approach of Congress is not commensurate with reality or fairness. It upsets “the natural equilibrium of industrial relations” by preferring one seller over another. We must advise them of the inequity. The commission I am proposing is the vehicle to do that.
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Richard H. Bagger is a New Jersey State Assemblyman representing the 22nd District.
Is Fluoridation Priority for Water Supply Or Do Other Issues Demand Our Attention?
Since last year, Mayor Thomas C. Jardim of Westfield has been pushing for fluoridation of the region’s water supply. Because 27 communities in the region must agree to fluoridate the local water supply before it can become a reality, Mr. Jardim has a tough row to hoe. Considerable public talk has arisen that questions the tooth decay prevention benefits of fluoridation and warns of possible deleterious human health effects. Earnest and well researched discussion is ongoing by both sides. Much has been published in this newspaper over the last few months.
But, there are several other points, in addition to fluoridation, that we think the public should consider in debating the issue of the quality of our drinking water.
In September of last year, tropical storm Floyd knocked our water supply for a loop when the Bound Brook water treatment plant was flooded. As one of the 500,000 people affected, don’t you remember not taking a shower for a week, boiling your water and worrying if it was okay to sponge bathe your child? Did you notice the inadequacy or nonexistence of the emergency communication system?
It seems to us that our first priority with the public water system is to make sure that there are adequate backup provisions. As a correlation to the Floyd experience, it is apparent also to us that we need a vastly improved emergency public notification system to deal with all predicaments that may befall us, not just water. If you want to refresh your memory of the Floyd events and of everything that was at risk at the time, go to the Internet, www. goleader. com/ 99water.
Secondly, minimizing chlorination of potable water is “an emerging issue” because of the potential for the formation of chlorinated organic compounds in drinking water. Even at very low levels (measured in parts per billion), many of these chemical byproducts are proven carcinogens for humans.
Some use of chlorine in potable water treatment is essential to ensure that the water is properly disinfected and that it stays that way as it flows through the pipes to the faucets. However, chlorinated organic compounds can form during the first steps of the water treatment purification process of surface waters. Rivers inherently contain some organic compounds, natural and manmade, that react with chlorine. Our water supply is drawn from the Raritan River.
There are engineering measures that can be taken to avoid formation of chlorinated organic compounds, such as with the use of ozone in the first steps of the
treatment process, rather than using chlorine. Elizabethtown Water Company, which services our area, employs ozone treatment at its newer Franklin facility. But, the bulk of our potable water is produced at the older Bound Brook facility, which is not equipped with ozone generators.
It costs money to improve water treatment and to have protected backup systems. But, these are high priority issues in our view.
Thirdly, emergency communications systems must be put in place to avoid the chaos of Floyd. This will require a little technology and a little organization. More challenging, it requires knowledgeable and forthright people at the political helm. We didn’t find this the last time.
During the water emergency of last fall, it was
comforting to be able to walk over to the Elizabethtown Water Company headquarters in Westfield to get the real story. They were great in dealing with the situation. But now, Elizabethtown Water Company has been sold to Thames Water in the United Kingdom. So, the walk may be a little longer during the next crisis. Have we lost control of our water?
Fourthly, consider the fact that scientists are detecting Methyl tertbutyl ether (MTBE) in our water supplies around the country. This serious contaminant emanates from the additive in gasoline. MTBE is the most widely used oxygenate in the United States. It’s showing up most everywhere in the water supplies. The nation’s water treatment plants are not capable of removing MTBE from your drinking water. We think something more needs to be done to prevent this contamination of our nation’s water supplies.
So, is fluoridation the priority for our water supply? We think not. Why dose the entire water system with a debatable chemical and force everyone to drink it? If someone wants fluoride for their teeth, it’s their choice. They can brush with fluoridated toothpaste.
If the politicians want to focus on the important water issues, good. In our view, these issues include backup supply equipment, an effective emergency notification system, chlorination reduction, ridding our drinking water of MTBE, and make sure the water company management stays close enough to care about you.
* * * * *
Editor’s Note: Internet references for more information include: Comprehensive water information, http:// water. usgs. gov
Profluoridation, The American Dental Association, http:// www. ada. org/ consumer/ fluoride/ flmenu. html
Antifluoridation, http:// www. rvi. net/~ fluoride/ index. htm
Letters to the Editor
Thanks Extended to People, Groups Helping with Girl Scout Service Day
“To help people at all times” is an important part of the Girl Scout Promise and is emphasized by all persons involved in Girl Scouting. In keeping with that promise, over 350 Westfield Girl Scouts participated in the Westfield Girl Scout Community’s Annual Service Day on Saturday, March 11, when Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, and Senior scouts and their leaders came together to help enrich the lives of others.
Younger Girl Scouts, with guidance from the older girls, enjoyed working on eight different craft projects.
The girls made picture frames, filled hand painted flowerpots with paper flowers, painted tile trivets for area nursing homes, senior citizen community groups and assisted living centers, and decorated placemats for the American Red Cross and Mobile Meals of Westfield and painter’s caps to benefit Tomorrow’s Children Fund at Hackensack Medical Center. The younger girls also crafted Christmas stockings, which will be filled with goodies and then donated to The Salvation Army for distribution. The girls also sewed “personal packs” and filled them with toothpaste, toothbrushes and other necessities for veterans at Lyons VA (NJ Health Care System) hospital.
Junior scouts stitched sock dolls to be donated to St. Joseph’s Social Service Center in Elizabeth and Madonna House in Neptune Township. Junior, Cadette, and Senior scouts, with adult guidance, were also encouraged to crochet afghan squares to be donated to the Warm Up America! program through the Rag Shop in Edison.
In addition to these craft projects, each Girl Scout brought a baby item for the Baby Bundles collection. Thirtytwo laundry baskets filled with diapers, wipes, bath products and other baby necessities were donated to Rafael Life House in Elizabeth, The Rose Garden in Rahway and Pregnancy Aid and Information Center in Raritan.
Of course, the Westfield Girl Scouts would not have been able to undertake
such a worthwhile and successful event without the help of many generous individuals and businesses. The Service Day Committee offers its sincere thanks to the following companies: King’s, Pathmark, Edward’s, Jasco Tile and Carpet, Crafty Kitchen, The Beauty Outlet (Westfield), Target Stores, Trimfit, Sara Lee Sock Co., Stauffer Glove and Safety, and Fabric Land.
Thanks also goes to the following local dentists: Drs. Jeffrey A. Everitt and Lee M. Maisel, Trudy M. Burke, Rudolph M. Feuerstein, Howard J. Drew, Louis L. Galiano, Sandra E. Kupferman, Iosif Shuster, T. Dhaliwal, Brian Harding, Adam E. Feret, Jeffrey S. Thaller, Ralph G. Maines, and Elaine M. Swingle.
There are also numerous other individuals who helped with this project to whom we are very thankful.
We would also like to recognize and express our deepest gratitude to the Service Day Committee chairperson, Malissa Cass. We are extremely fortunate to have Malissa’s spirited leadership as well as the enthusiastic support of her entire family on this important day for the Westfield Girl Scouts.
Paula L. Bartsch Westfield Girl Scout Service Day
Committee member, Leader, Brownie Troop No. 623
Letters to the Editor
DWC Executive Director Addresses Points Raised About Parking Deck
I would like to address several of the points raised by Sally Wilt in her March 16 letter to The Westfield Leader regarding the Town of Westfield Comprehensive Parking Plan:
The height and actual size of the first parking facility is not firmly set at this time — the design phase of the parking plan is still to come. From the beginning of the process, the Parking Steering Committee and the consultants have been very concerned about the look of a deck and how it can enhance the surrounding area.
I agree that the view of buildings, steeples and trees is attractive from Boulevard. I did observe on a recent walk that the firehouse tower is only visible from the intersection of South Avenue and Boulevard. The view of the firehouse tower is blocked from view by buildings as you move south along Boulevard and away from South Avenue. Another observation is that the new Paine Webber building on North Avenue obscures the view from Boulevard of the Post Office cupola and other buildings. I am confident, however, that working with the neighborhood and other interested residents, a visual link to downtown from Boulevard can be maintained.
The Parking Plan calls for the construction of the first deck at South Avenue in order to address the high demand for longterm parking by Westfielders. The deck is not intended to be a regional parking destination. It is to be designed and built by Westfield, for Westfielders. Not only will this be a service to Westfield residents, it will help relieve the commuter parking problem on residential streets such as Boulevard, Ross Place,
Temple Place, Summit Avenue and Westfield Avenue.
Traffic will be carefully studied in coordination with the Comprehensive Parking Plan. I anticipate that the traffic congestion will actually be improved when a real parking system and a welldesigned facility is in place on South Avenue, as opposed to the current chaotic, scattered parking situation.
I strongly agree that Westfield needs to provide shopper parking downtown. The plan calls for creating a mostly longterm parking facility on the South Avenue lot in order to get commuters and employees out of prime customer spaces on the streets and lots in the center of town. Simply put, free up convenient street and parking lot spaces for shoppers by getting commuters and downtown employees out of the prime parking spaces and into the new facility.
The plan calls for strict enforcement of parking throughout the downtown, so the result should be a significant increase in available parking spaces for shoppers throughout the shopping district.
I urge interested citizens to visit the Westfield Memorial Library to review the plan, or stop by Town Hall, 425 East Broad Street, and pick up a copy in the Town Administrator’s office. The Parking Steering Committee and the consultants are working hard to address the parking needs of Westfield, to preserve and enhance the character and beauty of the town, and to ensure the stability of our downtown and neighborhoods.
Michael La Place Executive Director Downtown Westfield Corporation Scotch Plains Resident Wonders
Where All Her Tax Money Goes
In case the residents of Scotch PlainsFanwood were not aware, we pay one of the highest dollars per student to educate them. This is an interesting fact when we consider that our schools appear to be so far behind in technology that we must increase our taxes to fund major upgrades to our schools. And, some of our schools are so run down from years of neglect, that they need major renovations (including the removal of asbestos!).
We all know what we pay in taxes every year. Isn’t it time that someone asks where all of our hardearned money is going? The new school budget, which will go to a vote on April 18, is estimated to increase our taxes by over $200 for the year. It includes items that are already in place such as fire alarms, and also includes funding for programs that have
not been approved yet. And now on top of that, our Board of Education plans to hit us in the fall with a hefty tax increase to fund a bond referendum to update our schools. It makes you stop and wonder, where does all of our tax money go?
It is important to support your community, but in return, you should be able to reap some rewards. Our school system is falling behind and yet our property taxes keep increasing. Does anyone realize what that does to property values? Where are our rewards?
If the taxpayers of this community must tighten their belts to continue to afford to live here, then shouldn’t it be time for those who spend our money to do the same?
Susan Cespedes Scotch Plains Former Mayor Decries Location
Of Proposed Downtown Deck
In regard to the need of more parking in downtown Westfield, the plan recently submitted to the town by an outside consultant stating that deck parking should be built on the south side of town is ridiculous. Although we have need of more commuter parking, the more serious parking problem is in the heart of town where we do not have adequate parking to accommodate shoppers and those business people whose offices are in the center of town.
Deck parking only on the south side would not serve Westfielders, but only residents who are commuters. Two good locations: 1. Across from the Post Office; 2. On Elm Street next to Trader Joe’s. Both of these would serve the
shoppers where the south side location would not. We need it in the shopping area or we are going to lose local stores. We also need deck parking on the south side. Thus, we should consider deck parking on both the north and south side.
When I was Mayor of Westfield in the 1950’s, I proposed such a parking facility, but could not get enough support for it. Everyone complained about lack of parking but no one was willing to make a decision. Now nearly half a century later, people are still talking about the need for a multilevel parking facility. Let’s not wait another half century, I’d like to see it in my lifetime.
H. Emerson Thomas Westfield
Reader Applauds Battiloro Letter; Says Town Must Listen to Residents
I applaud retiring Fire Chief Paul A. Battiloro for his candor and courage. The town needs to seriously examine this rare opportunity to reallocate government services so they address the needs of their constituents (as the business community does daily). Didn’t some councilman recently chastise Councilman Carl Salisbury for actually trying to reduce taxes?
On the parking deck topic, the first issue in designing a plan is to state an objective. Further embarrassment of the town administration on the location issue could be avoided by disclosing (or deciding) who the deck is for, commuters or shoppers.
Vin Fischer Westfield Town Resident ‘Appalled’ at Action
By Mayor at Recent Council Meeting Reader Agrees With Opinions On Parking Deck
Finally we have some sensible opinions about the proposed parking deck. I agree with the comments by Bud Boothe (The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood, March 9) and Garrett Verdone (The Westfield Leader
and The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood,
March 16) about using lots 1 and 8 for the parking deck.
Putting the deck on South Avenue will do nothing for the shopper and would standout as an eyesore for anyone passing through Westfield. The deck would fit in perfectly with the existing buildings on Prospect and Elm Streets and be convenient for shoppers.
Frank C. Froelich Westfield
After sitting through a recent Westfield Town Council meeting I was appalled at the Mayor’s latest attempt to paint Republicans as obstructionist partisans — this time over a disagreement on appointments. The Mayor apparently doesn’t understand the fact that he is an executive who must share power with a council currently controlled by another party.
The council, legally endowed with the power to confirm the Mayor’s appointments, simply exercised their right to reject the Mayor’s politically motivated choice to fill a vacancy on the Recreation Commission. The vote to deny former Democratic Councilman Jack Walsh’s nomination was a vote against the process, not against Mr. Walsh as a person. He is qualified to sit on the Recreation Commission, as are numerous other individuals in town.
Past mayors have sought input from council regarding such important appointments. This Mayor refused to consult with the council refused to even look at resumes and ignored discussions considering other qualified candidates. It is his right to make these appointments, but when his will is opposed, he refuses to sit down at the table with his council colleagues to discuss compromises and instead accuses Republicans of partisan politics.
The bottom line is that the mayor needs to practice what he preaches. I distinctly remember him campaigning
for Democratic Council candidates last fall. He spoke of the need to “build consensus” on the important issues facing Westfield. Did he only mean he would build consensus with those of his own party? Apparently so.
It is clearly in the best interest of Westfield for the Mayor and the Republicancontrolled council to work together. As a voter and taxpayer, I would ask the Mayor to stop casting stones and start working with the council for a better community.
Karen Masciale Westfield
Erratum The name of Denise Mayo Moore was inadvertently misspelled in the March 9 issue of The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood. The name incorrectly read “Denise Naomore.”
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)