Can you think of any subject where there is unanimous agreement that results in constant grousing other than on the subject of property taxes? Everyone complains, and I’m sure that you’ve never heard your neighbor say, “My property taxes are too low.”
But New Jersey residents, in particular, have solid footing for their complaints. We have the highest average property taxes in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation and the Fiscal Times. And, our residents have faced the gradual and tenacious rise of taxes for years. The average statewide property tax rose from $8,161 in 2014 to its highest level in New Jersey history at $8,353 in 2015.
Most of us recall the frequent admonition of our parents from when we were younger: Don’t hang out with the wrong crowd. They had a basic fear. Associating with the wrong crowd could unduly influence our moral and personal code in a negative fashion. And when we did dabble in the wrong crowd, in the back of our brain, we knew in this instance that our parents were right.
So you want to be a educator?
How would you feel about overseeing the teaching of kids, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line? What would you do if about 10 percent of your students were homeless? Any thoughts about spending your own money to help these students buy all those extras? You know things like deodorant, toothpaste and other hygiene products that many of us take for granted?
Probably not an appealing proposition and no one would blame you if you took a pass. But, thousands of people accept that challenge every day. And, I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with them to try and make education more equitable and rewarding for the children of our great state. Beverly School District Superintendent Elizabeth “Liz” Giacobbe, is someone who lives and embraces that challenge every day. And, from my perspective truly embodies what an educational leader is all about.
We know the popular advice. Don’t talk about politics and religion during a dinner party because to do so would only result in a social misstep or something worse. Many consider it a volatile social cocktail.
That is precisely why we shouldn’t be afraid to mix the two in any discussion. And by refraining from a discussion, in a fair-minded and reasonable manner, we only confirm a misguided taboo.
Some years back, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin wrote a book entitled, “How the Good Guys Finally Won,” which took to task members of the Nixon administration during Watergate.
The subject is different, but the title of this blog captures the spirit of the moment: The Good Guys (that’s you, the citizens of New Jersey) finally have a victory against some of the most despicable companies in operation throughout most of the United States. These are predatory lenders who participate in what is often called “payday loans.”
Just what is predatory lending? Allow debt.org to answer: “Predatory lending is any lending practice that imposes unfair or abusive loan terms on a borrower. It is also any practice that convinces a borrower to accept unfair terms through deceptive, coercive, exploitative or unscrupulous actions for a loan that a borrower doesn’t need, doesn’t want or can’t afford.”
The next time you fill a glass of water from your faucet, it might not be surprising if you think of Flint, Michigan.
Given Flint’s recent media coverage and the unconscionable conduct of leaders responsible for that fiasco, is anyone unaware of how important, indeed, precarious our access is to clean, safe and plentiful water? And, water problems aren’t confined only to Flint, where residents unknowingly drank water contaminated with lead for months. Before Flint, there was the issue of lead-leached water in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Maryland and in 2008 when gallons of toxic coal ash containing lead flowed into the Tennessee River causing enormous hardships to the people of that area. Clean, safe water and the infrastructure that delivers and protects it are a major problem throughout the United States.
What we face today are a myriad of circumstances and a culture of modest indifference that have pooled together and gurgled upward to give New Jersey residents and the rest of the United States a clean water crisis.
I have throughout my blogs expressed how I develop the legislative initiatives I undertake as an elected official. I typically ask myself three simple questions: (1) Does it benefit my constituents and other New Jersey residents? (2) Will it work? and (3) Can we afford it? These are straight-forward, reasonable tenets that serve as a guidepost for me when proposing any legislation.
Which is why I’m dumbfounded, yes, even a bit angry, over Governor Christie’s recent veto of bipartisan legislation (A3806) I introduced with my friend and Republican colleague, Assemblyman Ron Dancer. This proposal, known more commonly as Lisa's Law, would establish a four-year pilot program in Ocean County which would electronically monitor domestic violence offenders and allow for notification of victims. We call this initiative “Lisa’s Law” to honor the memory of Letizia "Lisa" Zindell of Toms River, a domestic violence victim murdered by her former fiancée. The bill would set aside $2.5 million to fund this legislation.
The clock is ticking (whether you hear it or see the hours slip by digitally), and the deadline is upon us.
I’m concerned about the health of my constituents and other New Jersey residents who do not have health care coverage. This unease increases daily as the deadline for enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without paying a penalty ends Jan. 31, which is 10 days away.
Next Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Like many holidays, we might revere the person or the event, but eventually its full meaning slides from our grasp. We oftentimes tend to allow it to enter into the category of a “day off” from work or school. While for some this may be the case, I hope this never happens to one of the greatest champions of human rights in the past century.
If we have heard any mantra in recent decades related to education, it’s the message that you MUST go to college if you hope to earn more and learn more in your lifetime. It’s a worthy ideal and one that I hope has had a positive influence on parents and students alike.