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Page 4 Thursday, April 1, 1999 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION


Letters to the Editor


By Michael S. Goldberger

Ravenous: Bound to Leave A Bad Taste in Your Mouth

One Popcorn, Poor Two Popcorns, Fair Three Popcorns, Good Four Popcorns, Excellent

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An auction is a very old commercial method of buying and selling goods. In ancient civilizations, the highest bid in a stated time period was preferred. An hour glass, or the time a lit candle took to burn, often established the allowable time span for bidding.

The first recorded auction in the United States was held in 1662 in New York City, which was then known as New Amsterdam. While it is not known when the first hammer "fell," signifying a sale, the hammer is a relatively new auction device.

The word auction comes from the Latin word augere, meaning "to increase or to add." While this truly is the objective of the seller or the auctioneer, the sense of the word in modern times has shifted from increase to "sell."

The majority of auction houses, we assume, are ethical establishments. The practice of using a puffer, "an auctioneer's stooge who made false bids to inflate the price," is no longer employed by legitimate auctioneers.

It is ironic, however, that auction has the etymological ingredient (auger = "to increase") that can never be "bred" out of the word; nor is the urge on the part of unethical elements in industry for ill-gained profits ever likely to be totally eliminated. At an auction, one does well to remember: What goes up rarely comes down!

David B. Corbin


The Westfield Leader

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1 popcorns

"It's lonely being a cannibal; it's not easy making friends." So bemoans U.S. Cavalryofficer Hart(JeffreyJones)whilst trying to win a convert to his lifestyle in

Ravenous, a whacked-out, genre-defying absurdity set in 1847 that does a schlock variation on the Donner Pass legend.

True, soldier Hart gives mess kit a whole new meaning. Yet strangely, you kind of feel sorry for the crazy coot. For this is a movie of deranged moments, possessing little rhyme and even less reason. And as outlandish as director Antonia Bird'spretentiouscuriositygets, one can't help but wonder what preposterous insanity will be perpetrated next. In a film of such profound inconsistencies and disregard for logic, anything is possible.

Miss Bird can't seem to decide if

Ravenous, set in the Sierra Nevada but actually filmed in the Czech Republic, is a black comedy or a horror film. No matter, it's the sheer chutzpah of her blood-soaked effort and not the wholesale gristle that'll make your jaw drop.

In any case, the Saturday night bloodand-gore crowd will eat this slop up, while those who don't fit that film-going demography should definitely question their presence in the theater. My convenient excuse for seeing this exercise in bad taste? Why, I'm the critic.

However, I must relate that when the film reel broke just as the sanguine saga was about to head into act three, the unplanned respite to the lobby with my fellow viewers had me a little wary.

Was it the power of suggestion, or was one leering audience member actually contemplating my right leg?

That possibility dutifully noted, back to the movie. Screenwriter Ted Griffin's unappetizing saga begins with the introduction of Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce), a brooding hero who fears that his experiences in the Mexican-American War may have compromised his status as a civilized human being. He suspects his dietary preferences have been unnaturally altered.

A flashback notes that, while playing possum, he was carted behind enemy lines and virtually buried alive, piled amidst his dead fellow soldiers. So, he couldn't possibly help it when some of his commanding officer's O-negative dripped into his mouth. Charming, huh?

Later, an American Indian in residence at the fort where Boyd is stationed explains the gruesome phenomenon of wendigo, whereupon one who partakes of another assumes the traits of his nutritional benefactor. Or, as the movie's tag line playfully notes, "You are who you eat."

It was, after all, a sudden burst of strength and bravery that allowed Captain Boyd to capture the enemy fort and win his promotion. Hence, he is the accidental cannibal, a haunting secret that consumes his every thought.

But Boyd is small potatoes compared to Colqhoun. A wily Scotsman played by Robert Carlyle, Colqhoun ominously arrives at the fort one night, frostbitten, weak and purportedly on death's doorstep. Having escaped from a dastardly scene where snowbound survivors began to pick on each other once the oxen and horses were depleted, Colqhoun admits his complicity and a bit too gleefully, come to think of it.

Maybe it takes a cannibal to know one; Colqhoun instantly sniffs out and begins to chide Boyd. But while the suggestion of compatriotism is abhorrent to Boyd, he listens intently just the same. Perhaps he can gain insight from a real gourmand and somehow shed his heinous affliction.

The confirmed cannibal talks ghoulishly about the curative powers of his diet, claiming it has healed him of tuberculosis. But Boyd is further repulsed, and from this moment on a war of wills ensues between the two.

Meanwhile, Hart, the glibly philosophical colonel who looks more like Ben Franklin than an army officer, orders a rescue mission, with Colqhoun leading the soldiers to the cave in question. The findings are devastating, which causes the plot to take a 180 degree turn (hopefully, by this time you haven't become too attached to any of the twodimensional members of Colonel Hart's rag-tag crew of motley soldiers).

Suffice it to note that the previously loony doings are now officially upgraded

to entirely hairy. A case of purposely confused identity has us wondering who is and who is not a cannibal when Colonel Ives arrives to take command of the fort. Gosh, he sure looks like Colqhoun. How can that be?

Boyd tries to warn his fellow troopers about their man-eating leader, and of course they are either too drunk or stupid to believe him. By now, the story has taken on the ethos and conventions of a vampire movie. And the film's Diner's Club members zealously wish to proselytize Boyd, insisting that it's a man-eatman world eat or be eaten.

The moral center of the story, he resists. But for how long?

As if none of this were quite ludicrous enough, to her cockeyed ideas about ethics, bravery and table manners in general, filmmaker Bird feels compelled to add a sophomoric parallel between manifest destiny and cannibalism.

Spreading his arms from one imaginary sea to the next, Mr. Carlyle's overthe-top wild man tells how America is destined to consume the entire continent.

Ifmemory serves,HoraceGreeleysaid, "Go West, young man." Not "Go West, young man, and eat a whole bunch of people while you're at it."

Miss Bird reminds of the ambitious high school student wishing to pad her essay with every fact and fancy, no matter how incongruous or sophistic. Just think: Ravenous is what happens when said student grows up and has about $15 million to blow on a movie project. It's enough to give you indigestion.

* * * * * Ravenous, rated R, is a Fox 2000 Pictures release directed by Antonia Bird and stars Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle and Jeffrey Jones. Running time: 100 minutes.

Commitment of Troops in Kosovo Reminiscent of U.S. Action in Vietnam Editor's Note: The following letter was received prior to NATO's attack last Wednesday night.

* * * * *

At his March 19 press conference, President Bill Clinton defended his proposal to commit U.S. ground troops to action in Kosovo in terms hauntingly reminiscent of those used by an earlier President, Lyndon Johnson, to defend his proposal to commit U.S. ground troops to combat in Vietnam.

Bill Clinton quote on March 19: "This is a conflict with no natural boundaries. It threatens our national interests. If it continues, it will push refugees across borders and draw in neighboring countries.

"It will undermine the credibility of NATO on which stability in Europe and our own credibility depend. It will likely re-ignite the historical animosities, including those that could embrace Albania, Macedonia, Greece, even Turkey.

"And these divisions still have the potential to make the next century a truly violent one for that part of the world that straddles Europe, Asia and the Middle East." Domino theory, anyone?

With full benefit of hindsight, it is relatively easy to recognize what went wrong in Vietnam. Although an in depth analysis would take volumes, one syllogism goes something like this: (1), We could have succeeded in imposing our will upon the North Vietnamese had we been willing to employ an unlimited amount of force. (2) In the face of potential massive intervention by Red China, it seemed unwise for us to incur the risks that use of unlimited force might entail.

(3) Therefore,PresidentJohnsonwould have been better advised in 1964 to remain out of a civil war were not going to affect in any decisive manner.

Others may prefer a different syllogism, but at least this one gives us a starting place.

Have we learned anything at all during the ensuing 35 years? We know now that, in the late 1960s, Bill Clinton vowed that he "loathed the military," helped organize demonstrations on foreign soil against U.S. efforts in Vietnam, and evaded (as opposed to avoided) any personal military service. Now, somehow, everything is different.

Before he gets the country into yet another military quagmire in Kosovo, doesn't Mr. Clinton at least owe us answers to some questions more pointed than the soft balls he received at his press conference?

For openers: (1) Mr. President, in what way is the threat to U.S national interests do you perceive Kosovo as different from the threat that existed in Vietnam in 1964? (2) Mr. President, in view your own unwillingness to perform military service when called, would you please describe for us the aspects of that difference which make you willing to place the lives of American military personnel at risk in 1999?

(3) Mr. President, how do you assure the people whose lives will be placed at risk that you are not going to repeat, in Kosovo, the mistakes that President Johnson made a generation ago in Vietnam?

In the view of this writer, we will all risk becoming somewhat blue in the face should we decide to hold our breaths while waiting for President Clinton to provide satisfactory answers.

As The New York Times commented editorially about our president last December 16 (even though opposing impeachment on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice), "He is, in sum, a man you cannot trust whether you have his handshake, his signature or his word on a Bible."

The U.S. military has always performed and will always perform as directed by its Commander in Chief. The real question now is whether Congress will, before funding U.S. intervention in Kosovo, perform its own constitutional duty and insist that the national interest involved there be clearly identified, that the forces employed be adequate to achieve the intended result, and that an appropriate exit strategy be both defined and fully understood in advance.

Is it too much for us to look to our own New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg andRobertTorricelli, bothofwhomvoted in January to retain this man in office through the end of his term, to assume leadership responsibilities?

Robert B. Ardis Mountainside

Elm Deli Thanked For the Memories

Today, Saturday, March 27, Elm Deli served my family and I our last Saturday lunch of mini-deli's. We just wanted to thank Timmy, Angie, and Dennis one last time for many, many years of not just lunches and sandwiches but friendship.

It is hard to say good-bye and even harder to realize that we will soon be walking by an empty storefront. To Timmy, Angie, and Dennis we wish you the best of luck in any and all your future plans.

God Bless you and thanks.

Jimmy, Dawn, Jacqueline, and JJ Fabricatore

Westfield Legislators Urged To Support Notification

Bill on Kids Abortions

We are urging our New Jersey State Legislators to pass the Parental Notification Bill (Assembly Bill No. 527 and Senate Bill No. 813). It would require that parents be notified if their minor child wants to abort her baby.

Pennsylvania already has a parental notification bill. Ads now appear in that state's telephone book yellow pages urging girls to come to New Jersey to abort their babies. We don't like the bad reputation our state is getting as a haven for abortion mills.

Charles & Julianne Carl Westfield Three Government Entities Need to Look

At Total Impact on Property Tax Bills Mayor Samuel Urged to Offer Opinion on Magnolia Gardens Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to Mayor Geri Samuel with a copy sent to The Times.

* * * * *

I'm sure you're aware, due to recent publicity in The Times of Scotch Plains and Fanwood and The Star-Ledger of the Magnolia Gardens development project for Martine Avenue currently before the Scotch Plains zoning board.

The project is a clear subterfuge of the zoning laws intended to sneak a 95person housing project into a residential neighborhood under the guise of assisted living.

This project, a vast for-profit enterprise, is trying to obtain these variances simply because they find it cheaper to subvert our local zoning, rather than purchase more expensive appropriately zoned property.

Their use of "good of the community" is transparent, as residents of the community have presented data that shows there is substantial local capacity without this project, and that legally no preference could be given to local residents

over others in entering the facility. Do you have an opinion on this development project? Can you attend these sessions to see your constituent's view of this project?

Mark H. Davis Scotch Plains

Letters to the Editor

SP-F PTA Council Endorses School Budget

The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Council has voted to endorse the 1999-2000 school budget. We believe this budget to be fiscally and educationally responsible, balancing the needs of students with the concerns of taxpayers.

We urge all community members to vote in favor of the budget on Tuesday, April 20.

Sharon F. Machrone Corresponding Secretary Scotch Plains-Fanwood PTA

Council Mindowaskin 'Friends'

Thank Mayor Jardim Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to Mayor Thomas C. Jardim, with a copy submitted to The Westfield Leader.

* * * * * On behalf of the Friends of Mindowaskin Park, I want to thank you for including in the capital budget $125,000 for the overlook reconstruction project.

The response from the citizens of Westfield has been very enthusiastic, based on the many calls I have received following The Westfield Leader's report on the budget. It is obvious that this park is very important to the citizens of Westfield.

I understand that the ordinance for this budget amount will be adopted on Tuesday, April 20. Please inform me if there are any changes to be made.

I look forward to working with you on other improvements to the park, especially the ordinance concerning not feeding the waterfowl.

Again, thank you for your positive response for a very important asset of this town.

Nancy W. Priest President, Friends of Mindowaskin Park


More letters on Page 7

Over the next few weeks we are going to be hearing a lot about the proposed school tax levies which go before voters on Tuesday, April 20. What we feel needs more attention is the total impact on taxes. The school portion, the largest chunk of your local tax bill, incidentally, is the only portion that is voted on by the public.

Let's first take a look at the numbers: In Westfield, we are being told that the increase in the tax rate, from $2.55 to $2.62, will only cost the average property taxpayer $10 more per month over last year as part of an overall $54 million budget. The proposed tax levy is $47 million. But wait, folks, we haven't calculated in the municipal and county portions of the tax bill.

The town rate is rising from 63 to 66 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If the county rate stays flat at 80 cents, that would give Westfield a rate of 4.08, or a whopping 10 tax points, over last year, or $174 for the average taxpayer, for a total tax bill of $7,099. The municipal budget this year is $23.6 million.

Of course, if the county's final budget, which is in the $285.6 million range, goes down three points like last year, the result would be a drop of $52 thus bringing the overall increase to $122. That would place tax bills at an average of $7,047.

In the Borough of Fanwood, all 1.3 square miles of it, the municipal tax rate will remain flat at $1.40. On the average assessed home of $83,000, that comes to $1,162. The proposed school tax rate in Fanwood is $3.995, which in real dollars comes to around $3,315 per household. This year's budget, just introduced, is $5.65 million.

The county tax rate, which has yet to be finalized by the Freeholder Board, was $1.115 last year in Fanwood. If that number remains flat, Fanwood residents would pay $954 for the county purpose tax. Adding up the numbers, that brings the average tax bill in the borough to $5,431.

Last week, Scotch Plains' governing body introduced a municipal budget of $16.7 million which calls for a sixtax point increase over last year, or $69, on the averaged home in the township assessed at $116,000. The school tax in the township, as proposed, will go up 10 cents, or $116, thus putting the increase at $185. Again, that's if the county tax rate remains the same. The Scotch PlainsFanwood Board of Education's budget is $44.5 million, of which $39.4 million would be raised through local taxes.

All but six of the 21 towns in Union County saw their county rate drop last year. Mountainside was not one of those towns.

After looking at property tax bills, it has become obvious that if the overall increase continues at the current rate, the bottom may fall out for our elected officials. Our officials at the municipal, county and school level must begin to take a better look at sharing services.

For instance, why does every school district need a director of technology? Couldn't these positions be either shared or contracted out as a consulting service? Also, each town has its own parks and recreation department. Couldn't some of these services be shared between several towns or with the county?

These are just suggestions. The key is all property owners get one tax bill. Thus, all three government entities need to be in touch to determine what areas can be combined.

For instance, can school districts enter into joint purchasing agreements for everything from desks to textbooks and school supplies? Could the State Department of Education help formulate such agreements?

Our concern continues to be the overall impact higher property taxes have on a community. We do not want town services cut; we do not favor reductions in education programs. We do believe, however, that our school systems are bogged down by far too many administration costs then was the case decades ago.

Does Westfield really need a superintendent and an assistant superintendent? There were previously two assistant superintendents, the second of which is now has the title of business administrator. If they do, why does the district have so many department heads? When retirements come up, is there a concerted effort to eliminate or combine positions?

Fifteen years ago, Mountainside had a superintendent, school board secretary and principal for its one school, Deerfield Elementary. Those three positions have since been woven into one. What a great concept! We would like to see more of that approach. When cuts are made they should be at the administrative end, not in the classrooms or to the extracurricular programs.

In terms of municipal and county services, we are tired of hearing municipal or county officials talk about grants asiftheyare "free"or"found"money. Justbecauseatown or county is not paying the full cost of the program doesn't mean we are not paying. Its simply moving over to the state or Federal income rolls.

Regardless, we are happy that Union County has been making a concerted effort to lower the tax levy. If the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would pay its fair share, perhaps the six towns where the county portion of property tax bills rose would actually see either a flat or reduced county tax rate.

The best time to have a joint meeting of county, school and municipal officials is probably in January when spending plans are being put together. Other than existing contracts, all items in all three budgets should be put on the floor for general discussion.

Let's have a meaningful discussion instead of just another photo-op. After all, if all three portions of our tax bill are flat or have minimal increases, such as those based on the cost of living, everyone will be a winner.

Resident Learns Lesson On Home Repairs

Let us scam the scams. Report anything that is wrong, You will get help.

I was raking leaves last summer when a truck stopped, and someone called out, "Clean your chimney."

Having a wood burning stove installed in my fireplace, I use it 24 hours a day in the winter.

I hired the company and told them to clean the chimney and point the bricks which they appeared to in addition to installing caps.

I understand that when they clean a chimney it is not shining bright. Some residue of suit reaming. On April 4 we had a chimney fire, a real good one with smoke coming out the side chimney.

After the recent cleaning, some suit may have been there, but not enough to have the large hot fire we had.

I later learned, the chimney was not cleanedproperly, brickswerenotpointed properly, caps were not installed properly. They billed me $1,500 for this unsatisfactory work.

I filed a complaint with the Union County Department of Public Safety. My case was transferred to the County of Passaic Department of Consumer Affairs. My case is still pending.

A thought for the day, When we think we know it all, we should think again. I will be 92 in July and still learning.

August F. Setzer Westfield Publisher's Note

For the last four weeks, our towns have been littered by plastic wrapped advertising packets.They'vebeenstrewn on our lawns and thrown on our sidewalks downtown.

For the first two weeks, I've called the distributor's recorded message and sent e-mails requesting help to some of the advertisers, including the ShopRite Consumer Affairs Department. Also, e-mails were sent with copies to the Mayor of Westfield, to Town Council members and to Michael LaPlace, Director of Downtown Westfield Corporation.

I've received some polite responses saying that matters will be looked into and corrected.

In the third and fourth weeks of the littering, I've stepped over the debris on the streets and refused to pick it up on my front lawn. Now, I'm aggravated. If you feel the same way as I do, please call the distributor at (800) 376-6222 and ask that it be stopped.

You can also lend your support to Mayor Thomas C. Jardim, (908) 2333021; to Mr. La Place, (908) 789-9444; and to Debbie Schmidt, Executive Director of the Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce, (908) 233-3021, by calling them and so letting them know.

For you commuters that are upset at the flyers placed on your car windshields in the train parking lots, you can also voice your support for bringing these matters under control.

April, with the beginning of spring, is the traditional start of all this littering. As the weather gets nicer, matters only get worse. Let's do something about it now, let's not be "April Fools."

Horace Corbin Publisher
Copyright 1999 The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch Plains-Fanwood