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.

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.

March 12, 2011

Letter from Roger Goodell – Shameful

Filed under: Economy,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 4:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has appealed directly to the fans by emailing out a letter to everyone on their mailing list. I received this email and I was outraged.

I sent Mr. Goodell the following response:

Dear Mr. Goodell,
I received your email to the fans of the NFL and wanted to express my outrage for everyone involved.

In today’s economy people are out of work, barely hanging on to their homes and truly struggling. And what is happening here? Both sides are fighting over how to split up the billions made by the NFL. I think it is important to remember it is the fans who pay the outrageous ticket prices and purchase over-priced jerseys. In my opinion, all involved are incredibly selfish and insensitive.

The players make millions doing exactly what they want to do. Add to that the endless opportunities for product endorsements and the potential for television analyst jobs after their playing career has ended.

The owners spend more and more on mega-stadiums and expect the fans to pay, often in the minimum triple-digits, for tickets. Add to that the cost of parking, some food and a souvenir of some type, and you can could be looking at a thousand-dollar day for a family to see a game.

Meanwhile, the NFL, and you specifically Mr. Goodell, sent out a letter to the fans of the NFL saying “First and foremost it is your passion for the game that drives us all, and we will not lose sight of this as we continue to work for a deal that works for everyone.” Well, I would have to say sir, the fans are last on the list of all those involved.

I would like to remind you all of the ramifications of the last lock-out. It took a long time to win back the fans of the NFL. If it happens again in the midst of so many struggling to make ends meet, the NFL will suffer more now than the last time. It will appear just as it seems to me – millionaires fighting over billions.

Shame on all of you,

Do I think he will see or read this? I highly doubt it. However, the NFL, the players union and the owners need to understand exactly what is at stake if the season goes to a lock-out and doesn’t happen. As usual, many who make millions, even if they are self-made, have forgotten what “normal” day-to-day life is all about. Honestly, I doubt they really care.

February 22, 2011

The American Labor Movement – A Brief History

All that seems to be on television lately is the “war against the unions” and how they are bankrupting our country. I thought I would take a moment to remind everyone about what unions have done in the past and continue to do now.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have several family members who are in a union. I am not and was actually turned down for the typographer’s union after graduating college because I wasn’t a “traditional typographer.” I believe the unions have done and continue to do a lot of good, however, at the same time, they have not kept up with the times. My rejection is a perfect example.

The first labor law to protect working children was first put into law in Massachusetts in 1836. Massachusetts’ chief justice, Lemuel Shaw ruled in 1842 that a strike for a closed shop was legal. By 1886, the Knights of Labor was a champion for the unskilled laborer and encouraged and fought for its African-American membership.

Since then, unions have fought for safe working conditions, the eight-hour working day, supported equal rights and equal pay in the workplace for minorities and women, a minimum wage, healthcare and more. The concept of the “weekend” is because of unions. The entire country celebrates “Labor Day.” Whether or not you participate in, or agree with, the union and labor movement, you have benefited from it.

That is what they have done right. Unfortunately, there are plenty of things they have done wrong. I don’t believe that a majority of dues should pay for supporting political candidates. They have not kept up with the times in areas of education and training, technology, accepting membership from technology-based changes in the industry (like me) and of course, contributions to healthcare and pensions.

What is going on in Wisconsin, Ohio and my beloved New Jersey is shameful. I would think most reasonable people understand they have to contribute more to their pensions and healthcare benefits. It is disingenuous, however, to expect unions to give up collective bargaining or make a union member make a huge jump in contributions in one year when so many families are already hitting tough times and barely hanging on.

These Governors don’t understand that their hateful comments about “union management” ultimately hurt those who actually do the work every day. I guarantee, this is the new class warfare.

So both sides are right…and wrong. All this back and forth isn’t helping anyone. To quote my Grandmother: “fight nice children.”

January 24, 2011

The Real Story About New Jersey’s State Pensions

Filed under: Economy,Finances,New Jersey — alvb1227 @ 7:47 pm
Tags: , ,

As of late, it has become very fashionable to beat up on state employees, their unions and so on. Especially in New Jersey. Now, while I am not a huge fan of the union establishment, I will stand up for those public servants just about every time.

There is an important story that is not being told about the New Jersey pension system “issue” and I feel it is important to get this information out. For close to a quarter century, the state government has been using the pension system as their own personal piggy bank.

From NakedCapitalism.com:

“Governor Chris Christie skipped the required $3.1 billion pension fund contribution last year. He claimed this move was to force reform, but what impact does another $3.1 billion failure to pay have on an unfunded liability that was already over $50 billion?”

Now, it isn’t any secret that Christie has been gunning for the teacher’s union and their membership since his candidacy. I really what to know what a teacher did to him as as kid. Personally, I think Christie is turning into a one-trick-pony: beating up the teachers of this great state.

I am disgusted by those who make it sound so easy to just cut benefits because these state employees are lazy and looking for handouts. I ask if any of these individuals have ever walked into a classroom? Anyone remember Columbine? Pulled over a car unsure if the officer will be shot? I highly doubt it. Despite what some believe, these are not easy jobs.

Are there bad teachers, police and other state employees? Sure. Just like there are bad private sector employees. However, I do believe the large majority of them are good people who go into public work to truly serve their communities. Like I said, these are not easy jobs.

So, while those are finding it fashionable to follow Christie’s rhetoric and beat up on the NJEA and teachers, I ask you really think about who really started us all down this slippery slope.

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