Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mom-Apple Pie & The Ruby Slippers

"I'll Get You My Little Pretty......and Your Little Dog Too..."

In Grand Rapids someone made off with the “Ruby Slippers” that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of OZ; it was reported in the NY Daily News. The size 6B red shoes were actually stolen from a local museum in 2005.
“The case is still active,” Police Chief Leigh Serfling said. The shoes owner, who had loaned the famous footwear to the museum, told ABC News, “When I heard they were stolen, it was like the Earth fell from beneath my feet.”
When I related the story to my son’s girlfriend, a movie musical buff, her response was an alarmed, “That’s just not right!”

There are certain things that are just a part of our American culture that we seem to possess an inborn respect for like Mom, apple pie, and of course the Ruby Slippers. Than there are those non-tangibles such as a respect for another’s personal space, abiding by the Golden Rule and the expectation that we respect each other’s differing opinions/views. The Freedom to express how one feels about an issue or a situation irregardless of who you are, is just a part of the “American Way” especially when it relates to our government after all isn’t that what the founding fathers had in mind?

An intentional ambush of those unspoken tenets has been very obvious at the most recent meetings of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, so obvious in fact that it was the subject of a recent editorial in the local Worrall Newspapers.
Rather than addressing what can be called a quality of life issue presented by county resident and activist, Mrs. Tina Renna, one freeholder has chosen to go on a convoluted attack. Not addressing the real issue, the availability of safe parking for residents wishing to attend the public meetings, Freeholder Daniel Sullivan, an Elizabeth resident, has feigned insult, pooh-poohing the FBI crime stats for the city.
Further, the freeholder has twisted Mrs. Renna’s words and the intent of her comments, which was to question why directions to the administration building and available parking is not on the county website which would encourage public participation.
It must be noted that the closest county lot, across the street, is enclosed by a secured iron fence and off limits, and that attendees must park about two blocks away and traverse dimly lit, lonely sidewalks like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sullivan, has the advantage of hopping in his vehicle in his driveway and depositing it at the meeting site in secured parking directly under the admin building in a reserved spot by the entrance, not setting foot on the city’s turf, a point made by Mrs. Renna and ignored by Mr. Sullivan.
Instead, during his closing comments he attempted to launch into a personal attack on her credibility because she attempted to clarify her previous week’s truthful comments, regarding the parking, earlier during the meeting. In an effort to defend herself, she requested time at the podium which of course was denied and a verbal free for all briefly commenced, which Chairwoman Kowalski appeared ill equipped to handle.
Mr. Sullivan definitely was on the path to “crossing the line” something that residents who attend and express their dismay over the boards activities are frequently reprimanded for by the county’s counsel.

A smart man, Mr. Sullivan, certainly knows in his heart just why county residents from towns like Westfield, Cranford and Summit don’t venture to Elizabeth except when summoned for jury duty; in fact there are life long residents who have never been there out of fear for their personal safety.
The board certainly wouldn’t relish those who pay the most in county taxes holding them accountable for their actions so why would they make it comfortable for them to do so. But, there are some hearty souls, who like Mrs. Renna, a former NYC resident and self admittedly not intimidated by the perils of the city, who do come and wish to address the issues and express their feelings as is their expected right only to be shut down.
It has become abundantly clear that this Freeholder Board doesn’t want to hear it or have the press in attendance hear it as they appear to have adopted a policy of stealing the “Ruby Slippers” right off the residents feet, and “That’s just not right”.
Toto stop your barkin' cause we're not in Kansas.... no more, no more, no more.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

They Said What???

Recently the Westfield Leader editorialized about a 2005 change in county government policy which currently bans county department directors from speaking directly with the press and dictates whether or not elected county officials should personally return phone calls or direct them to public information employees.

Could this be why there has been a dearth of direct quotes from the freeholders regarding the county budget and other matters of public interest? And could this change in policy be linked to some “Quotable Quotes” by Freeholders and County Managers past and present?

Digging back just a few years in local newspaper archives produced some genuine gems that beg to be shared.

In January of ‘02, then County Manager Michael Lapolla told the Westfield Leader: “There will be drastic improvements to the UC Police building”.

Lapolla certainly wasn’t kidding as the county increased the burden of debt on the taxpayers by bonding for and erecting a brand new building on North Ave, which could be called the Darth Vader’s Fortress and wins the prize for the ugliest building in the county.

Recently reelected to a third term, Freeholder Deborah Scanlon was quoted on Oct. 28, ‘03 in the Cranford Eagle: “We achieved an unmatched record of providing tax relief to our residents”.

One has to wonder what county this freeholder was in then, since U C taxes had already increased during her tenure 48% and have continued to climb. But we shouldn’t have been surprised because she gave us a warning in 2001 in the same paper when she said: “Paying taxes is part of living in America.”

Early retirement programs are often touted as being money savers at budget time and in ‘02 a county press release quoted in the Cranford Eagle in January predicted that “early retirement will save $1 million per year,” County Manager Devanney followed up in April ‘02 stating to the same paper: “The County hopes to save $1million annually with early retirement. Initially we hoped for $3 million.” appears that there was a $2million miscommunication someplace.

The next year, 2003, the Eagle quoted county press releases on the same topic with the following results: 1/4/03 – “Early retirement will save $1million per yr”. 4/24/03 – “Early retirement will save $500,000 per year” and finally 5 weeks later on 6/5/03 – “Early retirement will save $1million per year”.

The following year Freeholder Mirabella told that Eagle when referring to the benefit of early retirement on the 2003 budget, “We saved $4 million per year on early retirement”.

Well what was it? Hopefully it didn’t shake out like last year’s early retirement package which when reviewed by the state accountants was predicted to actually cost the county money.

The Open Space Trust Fund approved by the voters in 2000 became the topic of conversation in July of 2003. When discussing a recent land purchase by the trust fund Freeholder Scanlon told the Westfield Leader “this is open space. We are proud to be protecting it from development”. Well it seems someone forgot to tell the other freeholders who one week later were also discussing the fund as well as a children’s museum.

On 8/3/03 in the same issue of the Cranford Eagle Former Freeholder Mary Ruotolo is quoted: “It’s not our intention to pay for the construction of a museum”, followed up by Al Mirabella: “As for where such a museum could be built, the 5 acre property we bought in Union is an option.”

Coincidently the 5 acre property was Freeholder Scanlon’s open space and the board gave $1million seed money to an unproven charity who wanted to build a museum, where did that money go?

And last but not least, Al Mirabella, quoted in the Oct. 28th 2003 Cranford Eagle just before Election Day “We reconnected county government with the people it serves.” Too bad that less than a year later at a Freeholder meeting in June of 2004 Chairman Angel Estrada’s remark: “We don’t have to answer the public’s questions.” shows just how unconnected they prefer to be. It’s no wonder that these public officials and the high ranking employees are no longer allowed to speak with the press or the taxpayers personally, because who knows what they might say.

Monday, June 06, 2005


I am a Union County Gal, having been born and raised here and I am not going anywhere any time soon!!!

Along with my husband, we have raised our seven children, ages 33 thru 14 years, at the same UC address for the last 25 years. The children all attended the local public schools with a few putting in time at Union County Tech, Union College and Kean College as well. We have been involved in various community activities including Little League, PTA and service organizations.

We have also been in the trenches, so to speak, myself a council woman, chair for a number of years of a municipal committee and lastly as the team leader of a UC Domestic Violence Response Team on call 24-7 working with the PDs of 5 municipalities assisting in domestic violence situations. My husband is a Past President and Co-founder of the Battleship NJ Historical Museum Society.

Currently I am a GOP candidate for UC Freeholder.
Becoming involved in local politics, actually quite by accident, I learned first hand that some things just weren't right and that all the citizens were not being given a voice in the process. Admitedly becoming jaded over the years I started becoming aware of goings on that made me step back and say to myself "Whoa Jack!!".

I concluded that if after working closely with government I was amazed, surely others would be as well, if only they knew. So I have made it my personal mission to see to it that other people do know.

I am confident that as I continue to share what I learn many other people will also say "Whoa Jack" as well. I am also confident that they will share what they learn and together we will change it from what it is to what it should be.