I Have a Gripe

April 24, 2016

The Absurdity of Eminent Domain

I hate eminent domain.

There, I said it. In my opinion, eminent domain is the exact opposite of what this country means. Shockingly, this is part of the Fifth Amendment which gives the state of federal government or by delegation to third parties to take control of private property, who will devote it to public or civic use with “just” compensation. While Thomas Jefferson rejected its inclusion completely, James Madison included a compromise of the idea.

The concept of eminent domain is actually a “carry over” from Jolly old England. Eminent domain is a younger ancestor of English property law. As a result, Madison chose instead to require compensation explicitly, and he used the term public use rather than public purpose, interest, benefit, or some other term in an effort to establish a narrower and more objective requirement than such alternative terms might require (Jones 2000, 290). This is a very different approach from the original English concept.

Still, I think it is, to use a generally English term, bloody rubbish.

I understand the importance of sacrificing for “the greater good.” However, the concept that a government can take someone’s property just makes my blood boil.

This affects people – individuals who have no way to fight the government.

Years ago I saw a film “Greetings from Asbury Park,” highlighting Angie Hampilos’ fight to keep her home of 50 years safe from waterfront re-developer Asbury Partners. She should’ve been living out her final years enjoying her life tending to her garden. Instead she and her niece fought against her home being bulldozed. Due to health reasons, Mrs. Hampilos sold her  beloved home to the city of Asbury Park in 2014. She passed away in June of 2015. This is not how her life should’ve ended. She should’ve been able to live out her years in the home she loved and leave that house to her family.

Currently, residents of Clifton and Little Falls, New jersey are fighting against an expansion of Rt. 46. The Genardi Family is losing part of their yard and pool to eminent domain. These life-long residents of Clifton have invested thousands to improve their home. Now, the second phase of the highway improvement project includes plans for a 12-foot sound wall that will cut out 21 feet of their property line and run straight through the center of their pool.

According to the plans, about 1,900 square feet of yard will be taken from the property’s 7,800-square-foot lot.

An independent appraisal of homes on Normandy Road that are being affected determined that none of the property owners would experience enough “damage” following the project’s completion to warrant the purchase of the homes themselves. NJDOT officials confirmed the majority of the Genardi’s back yard was acquired in 2012 and that the homeowner was compensated $175,000 for land required for construction purposes.

Not enough “damage?” Really?

So living 11 feet from a sound wall isn’t damaging? Forget that they had no choice about losing their property. The property they have invested in and have been raising their children. Yes, they were “compensated,” but who will ever want to buy a house that close to a sound barrier? Given the choice, I am sure they would prefer to have their home in tact than offered money for part of their property.

The Great Notch Inn of Little Falls, NJ has been affected by this project as well. A Jersey landmark, the business has lost approximately one-third of its property under eminent domain.

Is this America?

How can people fight this level of government control?

There are organizations that support those in the eminent domain fight. But it will take a thorough understanding of the law and lots of support.

If you are fighting against eminent domain, God’s speed.

March 6, 2014

The Latest Round of SAT Changes

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 2:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have been a long opponent of standardized tests. Like many, I think they are completely ridiculous. The day after one of these tests, is the test taker any smarter? Today’s schools “teach to the test;” often at the expense of other subjects. For the month prior to a test, classes are essentially cancelled in order to learn how to think like a test. Kids are put under an immense amount of pressure, being told regularly that their “entire life,” not to mention school funding, depends on how well they do. My husband would regularly have kids crying and vomiting in his classroom prior to these tests – in middle school! Does this all really help a child prepare for the future? Do they learn how to think for themselves or how to fill in little circles? My biggest test issue? The SATs.

Let me explain why…

When I was a kid, I was a pretty good test taker. I regularly read and wrote two or three grade levels above me. My math? Not so much. Also, I only remember tests every few years – far from what it is now.

As I got older and began to truly understand what these scores meant, I would put so much pressure on myself I developed terrible test taking anxiety. I began to do worse and worse. By my test scores, I should’ve barely graduated high school, let along college.

The worst one? The SATs.

I took that test three times and my score went down all three times. My scores? In the words of George Costanza – I’ll take them to the grave. Even my husband doesn’t know. I don’t recall any “test prep” classes like today. I took a book out of the library and read it in an effort to prepare, but other than that, I went in cold. And calculators? Forget it. As I result, I barely made it into my college of choice.

My process couldn’t have been any worse.

I took my SATs twice before my interview. Even though my grades were quite good, I was completely stressed – those scores hanging over my head like a raincloud. Then, to make things worse, I somehow was interviewed by the person who decides on sports scholarships.  If there was one thing I hated more than the SATs, it was gym. I made a career out of skipping it. Band lesson. Orchestra lesson. Test makeup. When I broke my hand freshman year and went sent to the library daily instead to shelve books, I was in heaven! You needed an excuse? I was your girl to come up with one. I found it completely useless and a waste of time. My favorite days (besides when a sub was in and we could just sit in the stands) were the days we could sign up for the weight room or we were sent outside to run laps. The teachers wouldn’t come with us, so we were left on our own. I would stick a book in my shorts waistband and when I got there, I would hide in a corner and read. Pure heaven! Now I sitting in this guy’s office and I’ll never forget his complete disdain for me when he learned I was not an athlete, but a music student, and worse yet, my SAT scores were terrible. As a result, I was wait-listed.

I took the test again and my score dropped further. Completely panicked, I asked just about every teacher, school administrator and local politician I could think of for reference letters and I wrote a letter as well. My second interview I thankfully met with a different person and was admitted. Four years later I graduated cum laude and carried a perfect 4.0 my last three semesters. This would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for my test scores and an idiot who was not interested in interviewing a music student instead of an athlete.

Let’s not forget a number of the athletes (that were on full scholarship) who could barely put two sentences together. But that’s a blog post for another day.

The entire point of this rant is that my life could’ve been completely different if not for my SAT scores and I doubt it would’ve been for the better. I am a proud graduate of Seton Hall University. To this day I still have many books from my major and use exactly what I learned in college in my job. My education was top-notch and when students I know are looking at colleges, I always advocate for SHU.

So do I think too much pressure are put on students and too much weight when it comes to college admittance due to the SATs? You bet!

Yesterday I saw a report that the test is being revised again. Some say it is for the better other say not. What is apparent to me is that this country is focusing more and more on standardized tests instead of the abilities and potential of the student; something that cannot be truly measured by filling in dots on a page.

January 18, 2014

My Reality on Reality Shows

I fully admit it – I generally don’t watch reality shows. I’ve never seen an episode of Survivor, American Idol, or any of the “Real Housewives” shows. And I certainly never watched Jersey Shore. I never understood the interest or attraction. Most of these shows seem like nothing but train wrecks. I don’t really care who the Kardashians are and the whole Honey Boo Boo thing is just plain scary. I do watch Duck Dynasty, American Pickers, American Restoration, and Pawn Stars. They are all about successful family businesses. I especially enjoy the love and faith expressed during Duck Dynasty and I always learn something interesting during American Pickers, American Restoration, and Pawn Stars. These are the few I find not a complete waste of time.

So I am sure I am late to this party, but I just learned Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s big claim to fame is that she was on Survivor. And she replaced a person who won Miss America.

This is the best that is out there to anchor a national morning program?

Now I’m going to sound like a cranky old woman…

When I was younger, if someone wanted to be famous they needed a skill. Be an actor. A ground-breaking researcher. An athlete. They needed to do…something.

Now? Make a fool of yourself on a television program. Make a sex tape. Let the entire world see what a train wreck your family is. Pow – you’re famous.

What are we teaching our children? That this is acceptable behavior? Go on a ridiculous reality show and become a millionaire.

Now being famous is the skill.

November 15, 2013

The True Sleeping Dragon – The Band Geek

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
~Isoroku Yamamoto

While this quote from Yamamoto is referring to the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, today it is referring to the collective community that is the “band geek.”

Yesterday I posted about a shameful event that took place at the final football game of the season at Annandale, Virginia, where a football coach threw a temper tantrum that included shaking the podium of an assistant drum major and yelling at the director to “get the band off the field.” An editorial appeared on the school’s news site about the event and in one resounding voice, proud marching band members, former band members, music educators, and the like have said ENOUGH.

For a long time, those involved in the music department have been disrespected while those who play sports are seen as the school heroes. This terrible event has rallied those of us who have valued their time involved in their music departments to take a stand. I have read comments on this event all over the Internet from Texas to Minnesota to Jersey (including me) aligning themselves with the marching Atoms to show support. I hope the musicians of Annandale know they have the support of music students (and former students) from all over the country.

Additionally, the story has been picked up by The Washington Post, NBC, The Huffington Post, Patch, CBS, and other local Virginia websites.

I say good. Enough is enough!

Today, the principal issued a letter to the parents and an apology to the band for the actions of the football coach and according to reports, an apology from the coach himself to the band and the director is forthcoming.

The principal and the coach owe much more than that.

This was the last game of the season. Senior Night. A special moment in high school to celebrate all they have accomplished. Now, that memory is forever tarnished. They didn’t get to finish their final performance properly.

Now I will say I did read a few comments actually “sort of” defending the situation. My personal favorite comment mentioned how band members should “learn their place” because the band exists “for the entertainment during the foot ball game.”

Um, what?

The music department does not exist simply to be a court jester for school athletes. Playing an instrument AND marching takes skill, practice, and discipline.

Now, let’s look at the other side of this coin. This coach shook the podium of the assistant drum major. Now, I know nothing of law in Virginia, but I would think in New Jersey he could potentially be charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. And if that student fell, I’m sure a lawsuit would follow and rightfully so.

An apology? Well, that’s a good place to start, but the band and the director are owed much more.

Oh, and don’t think marching band members (and former members) will forget about this until we hear of a final resolution.

#bandgeekforlife!

September 8, 2011

American Atheists and the World Trade Center Cross

As we move closer to the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the organization American Atheists have filed a lawsuit to exclude what has become known as the “World Trade Center Cross” from the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, claiming separation of church and state.

I had an opportunity to review the American Atheists’ website and they are what I call an “equal opportunity offender.” They have quite a high opinion of themselves and belittle those of any faith – Christian, Judaism, Muslims (or as they refer to Muslims as “Mohammedans”), Mormonism – the list goes on and on.

According to an article about the lawsuit on their site, the buildings of the World Trade Center were made of steel girders, so it would make sense that “in the rubble some Christians found a pair of girders still welded that closely (not exactly, but closely enough) resemble a Christian Roman Cross.”

They continue to say that this Cross had been blessed several times by “so-called Holy Men” and “presented as a reminder that God, in his infinite power of goodness, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists, or stop the fire, or hold up the buildings to stop 3000 people from being crushed, cared enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. Ridiculous.”

Now, I don’t begrudge anyone who has a belief in anything – Jew, Pagan, Christian, or Muslim. As long as your belief is pure and not “warped” (a.k.a. terrorists), that is fine with me. But for these people to not only belittle someone else’s belief system, but claim separation of church and state on this issue is shameful and plain wrong.

Over time, the concept of separation of church and state has been molded into whatever a specific group is trying to push; when in reality, it is not what our founding fathers had intended. The original plan of separation of church and state was based on a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist organization in Danbury, CT in 1802 (from which the First Amendment was based). The letter notes the government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In the instance of the World Trade Center Cross, the government is not creating a law or prohibiting the exercise of religion. Therefore, their lawsuit is unfounded.

Ultimately, the World Trade Center Cross is more than a cross; it is a symbol – an artifact from a horrible day that brought comfort to many who toiled on that pile of rubble for months on end to try and bring some closure to the families that lost a loved on that day we will never forget. It is that reason alone why it should be included. It is more about  hope than a specific faith.

August 7, 2011

Bear that Wandered into Stokes Campsite Killed

This week was a mix of lies, stories and excuses on a multiple of fronts. No, I’m not talking about the ongoing nonsense in D.C. – I’m talking about the killing of a black bear in Stokes State Forest.

According to the initial story, a bear attacked two young campers sending them to the hospital with minor injuries. The bear was shot (non kill shot) in the  neck and left the area wounded. A search continued until the bear was caught in a snare and killed.

Later it was learned the counselors jumped to conclusions about the event and the kids lied about being attacked, as doctors that examined the boys and determined their wounds were not fresh. It was also learned that the food at the camp site was not stored properly, which will always bring a bear curiously looking for an easy meal. DEP still classified this as a “Category One” bear, meaning, it displayed “aggressive behavior.”

This was a travesty on multiple fronts. First, the two camp counselors obviously didn’t stress bear safety and food storage properly to their campers. Next, you have two boys who lied about their encounter. You had a representative make an incredibly poor shot that failed to kill the animal the first time, so the bear headed off injured. Finally, the DEP stood by their initial decision, classifying this animal as a category one, setting traps and ultimately killing the bear. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Let’s remember this was an 18-month-old yearling who smelled food and set off looking for an easy meal. It was in a wooded area, not a residential neighborhood. Yearlings are on their own for the first time and are naturally curious about their area and new found independence. If you are in bear country, you need to understand how to store your food, and take important safety measures in order to minimize negative encounters. After all, you are now in their home. My husband and I often fish in bear country and we are always armed with whistles and bear spray and are sure to stay alert and aware of our surroundings. This is just common sense.

These suburbanites need to understand the ramifications of their actions that resulted in the death of a young bear.

Now to clarify, I am not “anti-hunt.” I believe it is important to hunt responsibly, following all safety regulations as a way to control population by “thinning the herd” and avoid starvation by these animals in the winter. Additionally, all hunters I know consume what they harvest, using it as a food source. At the same time, Jersey needs to stop building strip malls in every open space. It is because of the lack of open space that you see more and more wildlife coming into residential areas.

This is a very unfortunate example of ill-prepared counselors, lying kids and over-zealous officials. I hope they all understand the ramifications of their actions.

August 6, 2011

POTUS, Congress and the S&P

It was announced last night after the markets closed that the S&P downgraded America’s “AAA” rating to “AA+,” claiming a variety of issues, including the political tone in D.C. and lack of specific plans to reduce the nation’s debt, to name a few. There was push back from the Obama administration, citing a potential “math mistake” in S&P’s calculations, however, the rating agency still moved ahead with the downgrade.

Now, in my opinion, there is plenty of blame to go around. You have the Congress, which is about as organized as a kindergarten class; you have our “Deflector in Chief,” who is the champ when it comes to blaming and delegating to everyone else; and finally, you have the S&P, who didn’t see the recent recession coming and thought all the questionable mortgages that got us in trouble was a great idea.

Here’s the best part of the whole mess – China took full advantage of this opportunity to lecture us on how we manage our bills. We are borrowing from our enemies and giving money to countries that hate us. Does anyone else see an issue with this?

What we should really do is take a hard look at where our funds are going and make a conscious decision to help our citizens FIRST. We also really need to look at the tax code and both really have everyone “pay their fair share,” to steal a phrase from our President. Right now, 51 percent of all citizens do not pay income taxes of any kind. So, our country is expecting 49 percent of the citizens to carry the load for everyone. This is an impossible task. By moving to a flax tax, everyone is truly part of the solution.

We also need to really address and develop a real immigration policy. Illegal immigration is a huge suck on the economy that is unnecessary.

So, where is everyone right now who should be handling this issue? Well, President Obama is at Camp David and Congress is on summer break. Awesome. Here’s an idea – how about you all come back to work, check your egos at the door and do your job!

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.

March 27, 2011

Customer Service and Verizon

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t done a post in a while. This is for good reason. Verizon left me without a phone or DSL for exactly one week. Now, I would like to say this is an isolated incident, but it is unfortunately just another round in the joy of being a Verizon customer.

About every eight months, we loose our phone and internet service. And every time it takes a week to get it resolved. The funny thing is that it is the same issue each time. I call, tell them it is a problem on the pole. They dispatch someone to come three or four days later. They check the house and the basement and determine that yes, it is a problem on the pole.  They dispatch a “splicer.” He doesn’t show for two or three days. I pitch a fit and then it is resolved right before the end of the day on a Friday or Saturday. The resolution (according to Verizon)? They needed to create a new splice. Big freakin’ shock.

Where we live we only have copper, so there is no Fios in our future. Here is the biggest joke. As I ask others about their service with companies like Comcast and Cablevision, they have similar thoughts I have about Verizon. “The service is great, but their customer service sucks.”

Customer Service. Let’s think about this term. Service to and for the customer. These large companies call it “customer service” and have “customer service departments,” but do they really care? Honestly, I doubt it.

I remember as a kid, my mother going to East Orange to the “phone company” (in the good ‘ol days of Ma Bell) to pay a bill, resolve an issue or exchange a piece of equipment. You know the people who worked there and they knew you. They were your  neighbors and members of the community. Now? You have no idea where you are calling and more than half the time, it is on the other side of the world.

Small businesses understand that a big part of their business’ success directly relates to their service to the customer. As small businesses become major companies, customer service seems to fall by the wayside.

Companies like Orvis, LL Bean, Starbucks and Cabela’s are a few exceptions that come to mind. These companies never forgot what customer service is all about. Why? They have a passion for what they do and that passion shines through each and every day to their customers.

How much money is wasted by big businesses managing customer complains and screw-ups? Companies like Verizon should consider taking a page or two from the playbooks of Cabela’s and the like. Ultimately, they would have better customer loyalty and a more satisfied customer base.

February 7, 2011

NFL Players Union vs. Owners: The Ultimate Nonsensical Showdown

While the football season is over by less than one day, reports on the news about collective bargaining have already begun. Some are already even talking about a lockout for the next season. I’m sorry, but if you ask me, both sides need their heads smacked together like Moe.

So most of these team owners are billionaires and most of the players are millionaires, plus the  millions they make in endorsements. The NFL wants to extend the season by two games, the players want more money (big shock) and the owners don’t want to share (again, big shock).

So, let’s make the assumption that everyone doesn’t play nice and they go to the lockout. Who is this really going to hurt? The guys who sell the hot dogs, the people who take the tickets and all the other people with jobs related to the games, but don’t play in them. I seriously doubt that any of these individuals are millionaires.

So what is this really all about in my opinion? One word: Greed! The median salary for an “average” player is roughly $700,000. The median salary for the “average Joe” is $46,000.

Also, let’s think about the prices of tickets for a game. In 2010, Giants tickets increased 26 percent to $111 for an average ticket and Jets increased 31.8 percent to $114 on average according to an article on the New York Post website. So, when a father wants to take their child to a game, when you count up two tickets, parking, a couple of hot dogs and sodas and maybe some kind of souvenir, we are up around $500 for the day. Seriously, who can really afford that?

So while all the boys posture for position, I suggest they remember who their fans are and what it costs for them to attend a game. Ultimately, if they go to lockout, it will hurt the NFL big time. In today’s society of high unemployment and making tough family budget decisions, I think the fans will retaliate and just like the last lockout,  it will take a long time to win back the fans.

Trust me, the NFL, the owners, the players; they will gain sympathy from no one. They all need a dose of reality.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: