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WESTFIELD’S MARY P. RUOTOLO SWORN INTO FULL BOARD TERM
New Freeholder Chairman Initiates Scholarship, Downtown Revitalization Grant Programs
Coverage of Local Area By News 12 New Jersey
Featured on Comcast By SONIA V. OWCHARIW
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
Local news coverage of Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Mountainside by News 12 New Jersey television reporters is now available on the Comcast system through an affiliation agreement which was announced on October 28.
According to a News 12 New Jersey press release, the affiliation agreement to carry the 24hour news network states that News 12 will be reached by 1.7 million homes in the 14 counties of north and central New Jersey.
News 12 New Jersey appears on Channel 42 of the Comcast system. Comcast reaches 93 percent of the homes with cable television.
“This is a tremendous move forward for regional news and a recognition of the outstanding service that News 12 New Jersey has been providing for more than two years,” said Pat Dolan, Senior Vice President of the News 12 Regional Networks.
News 12 New Jersey is the concept of two parent companies, The StarLedger
and Cablevision. Rainbow Media Holdings, Inc. is the programming arm for the system. News 12 New Jersey opened its 24hour news network in March of 1996.
A 24hour news network was not a concept easily accepted in the early 1980s by the three major networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — which monopolized the media market.
The first 24hour news network was the brainchild of media mogul Ted Turner, who introduced CNN (Cable News Network) in Atlanta, Georgia on June 1, 1980. The concept has forever altered how broadcast news is gathered and delivered nationally, as well as worldwide, to television viewers.
There are five News 12 organizations, with the first operations having begun in Connecticut. Other facilities of news gathering have been instituted in The Bronx, Westchester and Long Island, according to Rick Young, Director of Marketing and Promotions of News 12 New Jersey in Edison.
“We go where the news is. We have a commitment, with journalistic integrity foremost, to cover the news. We may not be covering every local and civic meeting, but we are there,”
added Mr. Young. News 12 New Jersey has six bureaus. The central office is in Edison, and there are other locations in Cresskill, Madison, Newark, Trenton, and Monmouth, which also covers Belmar and Wall Township.
News 12 New Jersey has 20 reporters, 14 of whom are sent out daily on assignments.
“We cover the news whenever it happens in New Jersey, and we look forward to reaching the homes served by Comcast,” said Jeffrey Marks, News Director of News 12 New Jersey.
“Providing local coverage of the issues that affect New Jersey is our passion, and we’re pleased that people in 600,000 more homes will be able to see our coverage,” he added.
Currently, Channel 12 can be seen in cable households served by Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Adelphia Cable. Two other affiliate services pending are RCN Corporation of Princeton, which covers Somerset, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties, and Service Electric, which covers Sussex County.
“Before Comcast decided to carry us, we did an awful lot of coverage in Union County. We couldn’t ignore the community, even though we weren’t being seen by the surrounding towns,” said Mr. Young.
Under the agreement, Comcast now carries News 12 New Jersey on its Trenton, Union, Meadowlands, Ocean, Central, Plainfield, Monmouth and Jersey City systems, reaching 580,000 homes.
The Northwest system, serving 25,000 homes, will add the service on July 1, 1999.
More County News
On Page 7
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
Taking the lead from the success of last year’s Freeholder grant programs, new Union County Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari of Linden announced this week that he will continue several of the programs while initiating a new scholarship program for high school students entering Union County College.
The new Chairman has also launched a grant program aimed at economic development in downtown areas throughout Union County.
During his address at Sunday’s 141st county freeholder reorganization, Freeholder Scutari asked the board to fund another $1 million in this year’s county budget for the “Project Pocket Park” matching grant program.
In 1998, the county dolled out $1.7 million to all 21 Union County municipalities in the first year of the program, which was initiated by Freeholder Daniel P. Sullivan during his chairmanship in 1998. Mr. Sullivan will serve as Vice Chairman in 1999.
Freeholder Scutari also said he will request that the board fully fund the HEART program, a grant program initiated in 1997 which gives funds to county artists and historic preservationists.
Also, the new Chairman announced the next phase of the Access 2000 program, which places computers in all public school classrooms and makes the Internet available to all school children.
Freeholder Scutari announced that he is putting forth a $150,000 competitive minigrant program “to help teachers use the Internet as a teaching tool for our students.”
Grants up to $2,500 will be available to teachers for projects aimed at connecting their students to the Internet.
Keeping education in mind, Freeholder Scutari further explained the
establishment of the “Freeholder Scholar Program.”
High school students who earn a “B” average and whose family’s income is under $75,000 will have their first semester paid for by the Freeholders. They will earn free tuition for their remaining three semesters if they maintain that average, leading to an associate’s degree.
Students must not qualify for any other financial aid and be county residents in order to be eligible for
the program. The first group of scholarships will be awarded to this year’s high school seniors.
Freeholder Scutari has also asked the board to commit $5 million in funds this year which would be awarded to county municipalities under the new “Project Downtown Union County” revitalization program. He said the grants would be awarded “on a competitive, rotating basis.”
Also, the new Chairman said he will establish a Mobile Immunization Clinic that offers “basic health service to our neighborhoods and schools throughout Union County.” He said the aim of the program is to
ensure that all school kids “get a healthy start by receiving all of the necessary immunizations from childhood diseases.”
Prior to Mr. Scutari receiving the vote of his colleagues as Chairman, Freeholders Sullivan, Mary Ruotolo of Westfield and Lewis Mingo of Plainfield were sworn into new threeyear terms on the board. Mrs. Ruotolo and Mr. Mingo joined the board last year to fill vacancies.
Mr. Sullivan was named by the Democratic Party to fill the seat of Casimir Kowalczyk in 1993. He was elected to full terms in 1995 and 1998.
Freeholder Ruotolo was introduced by County Manager Michael J. Lapolla, her former schoolmate and longtime friend and fellow Westfielder.
He noted the government service of not only her husband, the late Union County Prosecutor Andrew Ruotolo, but her three children, Lindsay, 16, Andrew, 14, and Jayne, 10, all whom have been elected to the school governments of their respective schools in Westfield.
“I think Mary’s success can be attributed to the fact that Mary the freeholder is the same as Mary the mom and Mary the friend and Mary the daughter and Mary the neighbor,” he told those gathered in Union County Superior Court Assignment Judge Edward W. Beglin, Jr. ’s court room.
Noting her “compassion” and “kindness” to others, Mr. Lapolla said Freeholder Ruotolo “has the dibs on inner strength.”
Congressman Donald Payne of Newark, who represents a section of the county, said Mrs. Ruotolo “puts the human touch” on the freeholder board.
Freeholder Ruotolo, who established the county’s Child Advocate’s office in her first year on the board, said she is “aware that not all children awake each day and receive the care that I give my children. And we need advocates for the neglected and abused children of our society. And I see as a Freeholder I have a chance to be one of those advocates.”
She said the board also “needs to be advocates of better education.” Noting that her parents are now in their 80s, she said as a Freeholder, she has the opportunity to ensure that the elderly “have in place programs for their comfort and safety.”
Originally uncomfortable with the term “politician,” she said she realized that “being a politician puts you
in a position of trust, of honor and responsibility, and it is a label we should wear with pride.”
“Today, I wear that label with tremendous pride and tremendous honor. And I promise to use my compassion and my talents in making decisions that will impact on the lives of our other Union County citizens,” said Freeholder Ruotolo.
In his remarks, Freeholder Mingo, a retired executive with NYNEX, joked that politics “was not a place I was going. This is not a part of the master plan.”
He said his particular interests in county government are with seniors and young people, including problems associated with alcohol and drug abuse, as well as disabled Vietnam veterans.
In 1998, Freeholder Mingo worked with the county’s Division of Aging, which serves thousands of senior citizens in the county with its hot lunch program, transportation, informational services and legal assistance. He also worked with the Division of Community Affairs as it provided new and rehabilitated housing to lowincome persons.
“My goal on this board is to bring county government and its services to the people,” Freeholder Mingo noted, adding that he is especially interested in serving residents on the western fringes of the county, including his home town of Plainfield.
Freeholder Sullivan, a former President and Vice President of the Elizabeth Board of Education, said 1999 “looks to be an exciting and interesting year” in county government.
Noting the strong economy, United States Senator Robert G. Torricelli, a guest speaker at the meeting, urged the board not to be complacent.
Quoting President John F. Kennedy, he said, “The time to fix the roof and ceiling is when the sun is shining.”
In term board assignments, Freeholder Alexander Mirabella will chair the board’s Fiscal Affairs Committee. which is in charge of releasing the county budget to the board after it receives the initial spending plan as put forth by the County Manager.
Freeholder Scutari has promised a flat county tax rate for the third consecutive year.
Freeholder Linda d. Stender, a former Fanwood Mayor, will chair the Economic Development Committee after heading Fiscal Affairs in 1998. She was board Chairwoman in 1997.
The Policy and Administrative Code Committee will be headed by Freeholder Donald Goncalves of Elizabeth, while Freeholder Chester Holmes of Rahway will chair the InterGovernment Cooperation and Legislative Affairs Committee.
College Club Slates Theater Party Event
FANWOOD – The College Club of FanwoodScotch Plains will host a theater party tomorrow, Friday, January 15, at 8 p. m. as the Westfield Community Players (WCP) perform
Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas. The play, a fantasy comedy about the mysteries of love set in a modern fairy tale, is being presented through Saturday, January 23, at the WCP theater at 1000 North Avenue, West, in Westfield.
Founded in 1934, WCP has brought more than 185 comedies, dramas, musicals and mysteries to its stage.
Requests for tickets, which cost $15 and include coffee and dessert to be served at intermission, may be sent to The College Club of FanwoodScotch Plains, P. O Box 32, Fanwood, 07023. Tickets will be mailed.
For further information, please call Jill Barbier at (908) 8892292.
Nicholas P. Scutari