Letters to the Editor, Jan. 8, 2004

Who did it first?
To the editor:
I would like to ask Jon Butler of Pennington one question. Here is a quote of his from the HVN published on Dec. 25: "The irony is that, among other things, sports teach the ability to deal with adversity. When your team loses, for whatever reason, athletes learn to shake hands with their opponents and accept defeat with grace, humility and sportsmanship."
   Unfortunately, the members of HOV never learned this value. Instead, they are content to require us to pay for their failure to accept a judge’s decision." Sir, if you are really serious about your comments, then answer me this. Why did HIKE and the school board not take this exact same advice when the football question was defeated by a 2-1 margin?
   If, you actually believe what you are saying, then the school board should not have just gone ahead and started the football program, right? They lost, right? That’s what you said — if you lose, then you should take it and accept defeat, right? And why did people band together and create the HIKE organization if they also were to follow what you are saying? Why should there be a need for HIKE if, as you say, the parties that lost took what you are saying to heart?
   Didn’t these people do exactly what you now accuse the HOV people of doing? If we all followed what you are saying, then football should have never been put in the school programs, and the team of people that lost should have accepted their defeat just as you say.
   Why didn’t they? Because, to use your own words, "Unfortunately" they "never learned this value. Instead, they are content to require us to pay for their failure" … Whether people wanted football or not, you cannot accuse one side of this without looking in the mirror and seeing who did it first.
James Tomarchio, Hopewell
Continuing anonymity
To the editor:
I stand by my letter questioning the leadership of the "freeHV" group, which opposes building a traditional neighborhood development south of the Route 31 circle. Bob Beyers’ letter defending the behavior of freeHV organizers is carefully crafted to distort my comments, to evade important questions, and to misdirect readers’ attention to trivial issues.
   First, I did not attack citizens who are interested in saving open space and controlling taxes, but I did question the anonymity of freeHV’s key organizers and funders. In fact, by clustering development in areas such as the walkable neighborhood, our new Master Plan will preserve considerable open space in the southern tier that otherwise would be lost to developers.
   Second, I repeat that the freeHV flyers, ads, Web site, and phone line did not identify any individual as a group leader or funder. Such anonymity is just poor politics. And although Mr. Beyers did identify himself at public meetings as a freeHV member, he did not state that he was a key organizer. Third, though Mr. Beyers now reveals that he is the registered agent for freeHV, he has still not identified its key organizers and funders. Why their continuing anonymity?
   Fourth, the criticism that I live far from the proposed walkable community is meaningless, and in fact would wrongly discount many residents’ views on this issue. A former Township Committee member, I seek to preserve as much of the township as possible. The proposed walkable neighborhood is the smallest possible concession to the legal realities created by years of heavy development in the township. These legal realities include a looming state affordable housing obligation as well as property rights that developers will be able to enforce in the southern tier if we do not make this concession. The real choice is between a limited neighborhood and massive housing sprawl, not between a limited neighborhood and open space.
   Fifth, Mr. Beyers’ track record undermines his credibility. As a leader on the township’s former economic development committee, Bob Beyers supported the massive office park development that is overwhelming the township with traffic, demand for services, and (imagine this) the very state affordable housing mandates that make a traditional neighborhood necessary. Incredibly, Mr. Beyers recently wrote advocating even more economic development in the mistaken belief that it would alleviate taxes. The Master Plan, not Mr. Beyers, will effectively limit development.
   Finally, the freeHV leadership’s idea that new development should be spread evenly throughout the township is not a prescription for environmental equity but for quality-of-life disaster. Since expensive wastewater "package plants" can fail (as in Princeton Farms), any housing required by state affordable housing mandates will need carefully limited sewering. But the "spread-it-out" demand would ultimately require something like the ill-conceived 1997 plan put forward by the pro-development wing of the Republican party to run sewers way up Route 31 and Carter Road. Then as now, such a "spread-it-out" plan will flood the township with development.
Bob Higgins, Hopewell Township
Is this democracy?
To the editor:
Democracy — is this what HIKE and Kim Bruno are teaching our children or is this a means to meet their ends?
   To the gentleman who thinks we should forget about the women and men who have given their lives in past wars and move on to the future — Well, sir, the future is here and we have women and men giving their lives in the name of Democracy and to help protect you and me from terrorism.
   President George Bush wants to export democracy to Iraq. What we need to do is clean up democracy in this township. This is still "We the people, by the people and for the people." Students, this is what democracy should mean to you. Go vote. Vote as you want, but this school board will do as it wishes. If it overturns the will of the voters, too bad. This is what it’s all about, not football.
   Judge Martone based his decision on the law pertaining to football. Is there no law pertaining to the vote and what the majority voted? Shame! Shame! HIKE, Bruno, Helmstetter and the school board, can do as they please and ignore what the people of the Valley said. There should be a new law regulating what school boards can do, because now they do what they want at great cost to the taxpayers.
   The Hopewell Township mayor should represent all the people of the township, not just HIKE. There was money in a recreational fund that was withheld when football was defeated. This money should not be returned to the football program. This money belongs to the taxpayers and they have not changed their vote. Why is the township giving money to the school board? Are you trying to circumvent the "CAP" law?
   Students graduating from high school should realize that debts created now will have to be paid for by them in the future. It seems we are a "plastic society." That’s OK, but come the end of the month the debt should be paid not put off for our heirs to pay.
Catherine Bittner, Hopewell Township
Paying for both sides
To the editor:
In a recent issue, Jon Butler complained about the "acceptance of defeat." Sir, whether you call the vote as being against "funding" or against a "program" that included football, it was defeated by a 2-1 margin. A certain clique decided they wouldn’t accept this defeat and started private short-term funding. A group of people got together and said: this is not right, our vote wasn’t honored.
   Eventually they elected to put the matter before the courts. Simultaneously, the school board was offered the option of putting the question before the public. This would have cost the school board little or nothing. They elected to spend taxpayers’ money and go through the court. It is quite common, when taking a matter to the next higher court. This is what is being done at minimum expense to both parties.
   Why don’t you take the time to go to the school administrator and find out what it really cost to defend this case. If they treat this expense as they did the expense of instituting the football program you will be in for a shock. Remember too, the people on the other side of this case are sharing in the defense as well as paying the full cost of pursuing this matter.
Walter G. Bittner, Hopewell Township
‘We were swindled’
To the editor:
Last week’s letter from Mary Ellen Curtin ("Football culture involves all") motivated me to write and publicly ask the school board and the school administration to explain how we got to the point of discussing football culture at all. Like many local taxpayers, I voted against spending tax dollars to start a football team at HVCHS. The school board, the school administration and HIKE did an end run (pun intended) and devised a way to sneak the cost of the football program in through the back door. What kind of lesson about democracy are we teaching our children when the school board ignores the clearly expressed will of the voters?
   HIKE raised a great deal of money to start this team. While I commend their effort I find it unconscionable that in a few years we taxpayers will be footing the entire bill, something we told the school board we did not want to do. Is anyone in the administration or on the school board aware that there are many residents like myself who feel we were swindled?
   The voters spoke loudly when we turned down the ballot question. HIKE ought to continue to fund the team’s expenses, the extra insurance costs, the marching band, the costs of maintaining the football field, etc. Thus, our hard-earned tax dollars can be spent maintaining the quality of existing programs.
Mary Schmidt, Hopewell Township
The 20-50-30 rule
To the editor:
Being involved in organization development at work, I often encounter the 20-50-30 rule when implementing change. Some 20 percent of the people are "change friendly." They are clear advocates who willingly embrace change. You can depend on them to help drive programs. Another 50 percent of the people sit on the fence. They assume a so-called neutral position trying to figure out which way to lean. They’re not necessarily hostile to change, but they aren’t helping as much as they should. The remaining 30 percent are resisters. They are antagonistic toward change and often deliberately try to make a program fail.
   Guess which group makes the most noise? And whom do you think soaks up the most time and energy of leaders?
   The resisters, of course. Resistance is seductive stuff. It’s hard to ignore. But this is the group that gives you the least return on the efforts you invest. And giving resisters your attention often just reinforces their problem behavior. It’s sort of like giving media attention to a small band of protesters who are demonstrating. They love it when they make the evening news or newspaper, and become even more determined in defending their cause.
   Resisters rely on a strategy of delay. Naturally, speed is the adversary they fear the most. They hate "fast." Actually, the resisters don’t really even want "slow." They want "not at all." "Slow" is just an argument they use to get there. Their behavior is carefully calculated to make the change process stall. They want to sit down, talk things over, weigh the risks again, consider other options, ruminate over what might possibly go wrong. You’ll hear them emphasize the value of deliberation. They lobby hard for not making mistakes. They can present a powerful case — appealing to "reason" and doing a guilt trip on you with their holier-than-thou attitude. We should be careful or the resisters will con people into making the most fundamental mistake of all — letting them choose the pace of change.
   We are experiencing a great deal of change in Hopewell Valley. Through the school system we continue to introduce exciting new academic programs for our students and at the same time strive to maintain long overdue updating of our facilities, technology, and extracurricular activities. With a new year beginning, we should not let the resisters stand in the way of a growing community whose children have school and athletic needs. One of the key contributors toward increased home value is the quality of our schools and the overall quality of life in the Valley. I would encourage those folks with the vision of the future to remain resilient and continue for a higher standard of living for our children and residents. Let’s use the 70 percent of our population that is open to these changes to help educate our "local resisters." We should join forces and work together in 2004 to make Hopewell Valley a great place to live.
Michael Bruno, Hopewell Township
Some more on football debate
To the editor:
I would like to thank Peter Ashton for his letter on Dec. 11 that thanked HIKE for all of its hard work in bringing another opportunity for children to play a sport in the fall at the high school.
   Though half of the boys got the opportunity to play, it is unfortunate that not everyone could participate if they wanted to. Since we funded it out of our own pockets, it was the best we could do. Though Peter felt slighted by the cut-off grade of starting the program, HIKE would like to make it up so that you may experience just some of the "football experience" that your younger classmates did.
   We are willing to give you $500 (because you must include the busing experience) but in order to do this, we have some stipulations. We will give 50 players from this past season $10 each and they will be responsible for handing over the cash to you. All you have to do is convince each player that you’ve experienced just a portion of this past season of football to them and when they are, they will hand over their $10 portion to you. I’m sure they will convey to you which one of their experiences they would like you to feel — like the wind sprints in the sweltering heat of August or an endless practice in the cold mud of a rainy day in November. I’m sure a freshman player will not want you to miss out on some of their games when they were getting blown out and when all seemed hopeless — but somehow did not give up and turned it into a challenge. Or there’s the late bus rides back to the school, sometimes not arriving until 7:30 p.m. and then go home exhausted to do homework.
   When they are satisfied you’ve experienced some of their memorable, but satisfying moments, listen to them to learn how football gave them discipline, friendship and determination. Listen to some of the juniors who did absolutely nothing before football came along but to watch TV or to get into trouble. Listen to how some of their grades were horrible before playing but now are respectable and show improvement. You see, to be "enriched" you have to go do it yourself. HIKE can’t give it to you. We merely supplied the initial opportunity for that to happen. That’s all we are about. My advice to you if you are not interested in football is simply to ignore it. It’s not for everyone.
   Some say that football supporters are forcing a "football culture" on them. I don’t know what that is or how that happens when football is played for just three months of the school year? And if there is a great negative "football culture" in other high schools with football teams, why don’t we hear uproar from the other 500 or so schools in the state?
   Craig Bell, who also just doesn’t get it, wrote in his Dec. 18 letter that "I don’t understand how in the world all those students who attended CHS over the past 70 years survived the omission of football." Before the 1950s, how did we survive without televisions? Could you survive without one now? Before the 1980s, how did we survive without computers? Surely we did fine with writing things down or using a typewriter. Surely we went to the store and bought things without scanning them or when we wanted to send a letter we could write a letter and mail it. Could we do without them now?
   Ms. Curtin also seems to be consumed with the problem of "preferential treatment" and "favoritism" that athletes and football players will seem to get. What she needs to do is actually talk to children who are on various teams in the high school. She’ll find the exact opposite is true. Not only are Hopewell Valley athletes held to a higher standard than the rest of the students, but they are somewhat unfairly punished if they are to get into trouble outside of school. Most athletes will tell you that if they get into trouble by, let’s say, having a bunch of children getting caught drinking a beer in the park on the weekend, then the athletes not only pay the consequences with their parents, but will usually be suspended from their teams for X amount of days. Now I don’t advocate "hanging out and drinking a beer," but the non-athletic HV student gets away with no consequences whatsoever! As I see it, the favoritism is with the non-athletes. You don’t have to read a book about this, just ask one of the students or the athletic director or the principal because it has happened before.
   Finally, I wanted to update everyone on what our school district does pay out with our tax money in terms of legal fees for the school district. Last year the district spent a total of $183,008 just on attorneys. This does not include administrative time spent preparing, working on various cases, time in court or the fees paid out to settlements and/or judgments. This year, so far at the half way mark in December, we’ve already paid out $152,248. Is it really necessary to continue this debate on football and spend more of our tax money?
George Helmstetter, Hopewell Township