I Have a Gripe

June 17, 2011

Christie and Sweeney: Shame on You Both

As Governor Christie and NJ State Senator Sweeney made a deal with the Devil, I submitted yet another letter to both of them. I wanted to share it with my readers…

June 16, 2011

In regards to: Subject: Teacher’s Pension & Health Benefit Legislation

Governor Chris Christie

State Senate President Sweeney

Gentlemen:

I have contacted your office via email and phone several times in the past to express my frustration regarding this constant assault on teachers and their pension and health benefits. I am writing again to voice my outrage.

I am the proud wife of a 24-year band director. He became a teacher for all the right reasons – to give back, to influence the lives of youngsters, and to share his love of music with others. He has successfully taught thousands of students not just how to play an instrument and appreciate music, but what it takes to be a good citizen and adult. It is also worth noting he is not one of those “80K a year teachers” you hear about on the news.

This constant barrage “on union leadership” as I often hear you say Governor, has certainly trickled down and has turned into an “us vs. them” argument. Many people already have a negative opinion of teachers. You have certainly added to that negativity. And for the record, I voted for you. I believed you when I thought you were going to make positive changes on the state’s school system. In my opinion, your changes are far from positive. You should really try reading the bully legislation you signed into law, because that is exactly what you have become.

Today, teachers are much more than teachers. They are counselors, pastors, and sadly, all too often, parents. Add to that list since Columbine, police, hostage negotiators, and body guards. When I was a child, I was told the three safest places I could be were home, school and church. Now, that is far from reality.

You want the best and brightest to be teachers in order to continue the high performance of New Jersey’s students. With your constant barrage, why would anyone want to become a teacher? Being a teacher is not the easy job many believe it is. The teachers I know spend a sizable amount of their own money on school supplies, endless hours preparing lessons, tutoring students and being active participants in their communities. This battle of yours has put neighbor against neighbor.

What I would like to see is the state government acknowledge that the reason the pension system is having financial trouble is because politicians have been using that system as their own personal piggy bank. That would be a good place to start. Next, I would like to see those politicians fix this without hurting those who had nothing to do with the problem being affected.

I would also like to know why there is such outrage about limiting healthcare options on the federal level through “Obamacare” by the GOP (my party, by the way), when you, Governor Christie, are trying to do the exact same thing to teachers? According to what I have read, there is even a limitation in the proposed legislation that you will limit the ability to seek medical treatment outside New Jersey. We live across the river from some of the finest medical institutions in the world and we wouldn’t be able to do whatever would be necessary if my husband or I was ill? I wonder how Senator Lautenberg would feel about that, given his insistence on going to New York for his cancer treatment.

I would like to know if either of you have ever gone to a school and watched first-hand what teachers do everyday. No cameras, no entourage, nothing. Just you, teachers and students. I would like to see you really understand what a teacher does on a day-to-day basis. My hope is that you would have more respect for what they do and change this from an assault to a conversation.

Shame on you both.

June 3, 2011

Christie and the Chopper…Ahhh, the Hypocrisy!

This week, a story surfaced that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used a State Trooper Chopper, not once, but twice, to see his son play in a baseball game. There are multiple levels of hypocrisy here.

First, and most obvious, is the so-called champion of eliminating waste in government spending using a state chopper as his own personal joy ride. What is even more ridiculous is that a car took the Governor and his wife 100 yards to the bleachers after they got out of the chopper. In my opinion, this is the ultimate “I’m the Gov. and I don’t care what you think” moment.

Second, I find it fascinating that he has his son enrolled in a private school (Delbarton). Now, as a parent, you absolutely have the right to place your child wherever you think is appropriate. More often than not, however, politicians have their children enrolled in public school to show they have a belief in the public school system. Well, it is no secret Governor Christie has absolutely zero respect for the work teachers do. Yes, I know; “it’s not the teachers he hates, it’s the union.” What I say to that is it all rolls downhill. His negativity towards unions is easily picked up by many of the masses and spreads to the overall opinion of teachers at large and for quite a while, he really didn’t distinguish between the union and the teachers.  But, hey, if you have $26,500 a year to spend on tuition for Delbarton…

Finally, what bugs me the most is his lack of understanding that this was completely offensive to the public at large. I mean, can I borrow the chopper to drop in on my niece’s spring concert? Must be nice to have that at your beck and call. He has agreed to pay for the use of the chopper, not because he understands it was wrong, but to get the press and his constituents off his back.

Maybe the Governor should try going back to school himself and try to learn about responsibility and economics again, among other subjects.

April 23, 2011

The Truth About Property Taxes

Let’s face it, paying taxes is far from fun. It is, however, a necessary evil. This money goes to various local, county, state and federal needs and programs to help make sure roads are plowed, police are a moment’s notice away, and children are educated.

Now, we all have programs we want to see supported and ones we want to see cut. For example, I often hear people complain about how the majority of collected property taxes go to support the local school district when they do not have a child in school. There is something important to remember about this potential sticky point. The value of your home is in direct correlation with the quality of the local public education system.

Think back to when you were purchasing your home, what was one of the first questions you asked the agent? “How are the schools here?” Even when you are taken to a property by a real estate agent, they often start off with information related to the school system. They will even steer you away from certain towns because their school system may not be considered “of high quality.” Whether someone has a child or not, the answer to that question will definitely affect real estate buying habits.

Generally speaking, those who complain the most about their property taxes are the elderly and those without children. What the elderly forget is that when their children were going through school, someone else who didn’t have children in school was flipping the same bill. Maybe they forgot that little point. Others who do not have children are also paying towards that same school budget, which will help keep the value of their home up.

Now before you get a knot in your shorts…yes, there are certainly areas where money is wasted in the public schools and yes, as tax paying citizens it is our responsibility to understand what our tax burden is and how it is spent.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, if you live in New Jersey, like me, you know how high the property taxes can be. Due to the high tax burden in this state, many are moving away and some businesses have left for other states with a smaller tax burden. Add to that the current negative opinions of “those greedy, lazy teachers” and their union, there are many on a witch hunt to further vilify the connection between public education and property taxes.

Some also complain that their property taxes are too high. Well, that may be true, however, it is important to remember every home will be assessed differently. Do you live in an urban area or a small rural town? Do you have a McMansion or a small two bedroom colonial or condo? Do you live on the waterfront or on a small piece of property with no “major amenities” to speak of? All these issues are taken into consideration and go into the tax assessment on a property. If you disagree with your assessment, you are completely within your right to challenge it. It is important to remember, however, that if you go from a small house to a giant McMansion, don’t be shocked when you get a major increase.

To steal a line from our President, “let me be clear;” I am far from advocating for MORE taxes. Additionally, I don’t particularly mind paying my taxes. I just want to reduce the amount of waste involved and look at what taxes are being spent on – such as healthcare for illegal aliens. Cut that out and we could save billions.

Ultimately, by spending more time examining how to eliminate waste, instead of going on a wild witch hunt spending money unnecessarily, the taxes collected can go towards important things, like our police, fire department, school systems, infrastructure and more.

April 23, 2010

Another Example…It Isn’t the Teachers

Filed under: Education,New Jersey — alvb1227 @ 3:51 pm
Tags: ,

Just reported on NorthJersey.com, the executive director of the B J Wilkerson Memorial Child Development Center received a salary of more than $300,000. Most of the funds for the center are from the government.

Ron Williams first began the center in 1991 and claims he received no salary the first three years of the center’s existence. Even so, with all the proposed cuts in New Jersey education, is this a realistic salary? In comparison, City Schools Superintendent Donnie W. Evans makes just over $200,000 a year to run an entire school district.

According to research by NorthJersey.com, the most recent tax filing for the B.J. Wilkerson Memorial Child Development Center show that more than $4.2 million of the organization’s $4.3 million in revenues in 2008 came from government funds. The center raised the remainder through school tuition and donations.

Now, many complain about high salaries for educators, but I believe the majority of the money is sucked up by administration and NOT school teachers. I certainly do not begrudge anyone for making a competitive, or even lucrative, salary, however, when there is such animosity right now against teachers, I think people often lump teachers and educators together and that is completely wrong.

April 4, 2010

Short-Sided Thinking in New York State

Filed under: Finances,New York,Outdoors — alvb1227 @ 10:20 pm
Tags: , ,

In case I never mentioned it before, I love fly fishing. It one of those passions in my life that is hard to explain to those who don’t enjoy the outdoors, especially fishing.

Well, this past weekend was opening day in New York State, so Glenn and I headed up to one of our favorite places to enjoy some fishing…Roscoe, NY. This is a great little town where people stop and say hello to strangers and everyone talks about the big stonefly hatch. Like the Jersey shore towns in the summer, Roscoe survives on the fishing season.

This is why I was so shocked when an annual non-resident fishing license has increased by $30 to a whopping $70 a year! That means just to fish, my husband I spent $140 on licenses. To put this in perspective, we stayed in a great resort that had an opening day special for $120 per night. So our licenses cost more than one night’s stay.

Now, you may think I am just complaining about license fees, but I’m not. As usual, like most state governments, and our federal government, the New York State government has decided to raise fees on hunting and fishing licenses instead of belt tightening like many families are doing right now. I was chatting with the woman who was issuing the licenses told me multiple times she has had to cancel out the license and each time she would, she would make a note “canceled due to price increase.” She wants the state to see how many licenses are not purchased due to the new cost.

In my opinion, this is short-sided thinking. Ultimately, fewer people will purchase hunting and fishing licenses and ultimately, fewer people will visit towns like Roscoe. It is those towns this will hurt more than anyone. Fewer people will go to the Roscoe Diner for french toast, fewer people will visit the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum and Center, shop on the main street of Roscoe and stay at the small individually-owned hotels in the area. Like I said, it is the outdoors that keeps this town going. That’s why it is known as “Trout Town, USA.”

So, I say shame on New York State’s short-sided thinking. Not only will less license fees be collected, fewer taxes on hotel rooms, meals and impulse purchases will also be a result of this ridiculous increase.

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