Letters to the Editor

For the Feb. 19 issue.

Time to speak up

at committee meetings

To the editor:
   High-octane politics.
   My wife, our three high school-aged young adults, and I, reside in beautiful Mansfield Township. For now. My Baltimore-based accountant would prefer I move to Maryland. He tells me masked politicians don’t collect the property tax rates there.
   I’m the type of guy that will travel 10 miles to save .0299 cents for a gallon of regular gas. After reading today’s BCT I’m relatively certain 160 miles to save a few thousand dollars on property tax makes some sort of cents.
   To his credit Committeeman Ray Stupienski warned that past borrowing from the new construction tax surplus would catch up to us. To his discredit Committeeman Art Puglia, even as late as yesterday, told a reporter that he stands by that decision. Maybe Art’s at a place in his life where thinking in terms of dollars doesn’t require sense. Or maybe he desired to keep last year’s tax rate low so his party could write the 2004 – 2005 political agenda.
   I feel for every homeowner in Mansfield Township, most for those living in Four Seasons and Homestead. You fine folks, the better generation, the people that, for the most part, have integrity and honor, have been swindled. You’ve been lied to, you’ve been manipulated. You came out, supported the wrong gang. The ticket that spent money on gray ink will now spin again. I implore all Mansfield residents to read your local newspaper. To attend meetings. To demand black ink on white paper. To get involved. I’ve been lazy. I’ve made excuses. I’d attend a basketball game instead of a township meeting. I thought my voice would fall on deaf ears. I’ll be out at the next meeting. Township servants, at the bear minimum, should held as accountable as basketball referees. If need be I’ll yell as loudly as I do from those high school bleachers.

   Steve Urbish


Resident pledges support

for Sen. Martha Bark

To the editor:
   Open space and farmland preservation are very important issues to me, as a resident of Springfield Township, Burlington County. I am concerned that unless we save as much land as possible, we risk indiscriminate development. The quality of life here in Burlington County is dependent upon the rural character that we now enjoy. Frankly, we moved here because of it. Because of these concern, I am and will continue to be very supportive of Senator Martha Bark.
   Sen. Bark has been in the forefront of farmland and open space preservation. She not only serves on the county’s advisory committees for both of these areas, but has also sponsored legislation saving our lands from development. As a prime sponsor of the Transfer of Development Rights bill, she again is hard at work saving still more land from the bulldozer.
   Through the efforts of Sen. Bark, our air is cleaner and our water is clearer. Our county is the garden spot of this "Garden State". I know that Sen. Martha Bark will continue this fight for a greener Burlington County.

   Patricia G. Steel

Springfield Township

Thomas Paine’s words

still pertinent

To the editor:
   I am sure Thomas Paine would have been honored by the birthday celebration held in his honor on Jan. 24 in Bordentown City. He certainly would have been flattered that the citizens here would dedicate a fine statue at the end of Prince Street entitled, "Father of the American Revolution" in 1997.
   By continuing such efforts to keep his memory alive, it is clear that here in Bordentown, "We’re into Paine."
   It was suggested after that recent celebration was concluded that Mr. Paine would likely agree with America’s push to rid the world of terrorism. Thomas Paine was a man who spent his entire life attempting to help free humanity from both political and religious tyranny. Indeed, he would applaud any nation’s efforts to bring peace and harmony to the world. However, it was also suggested earlier that day that he would likely approve of the President’s efforts to bring democracy the to the Middle East. This statement was met with a few objections and "harrumphs." I can clearly understand why.
   Since his death in 1809, Paine has been much abused and his writings misunderstood, misused, and almost always taken out of context. There have been a few that could comprehend the meaning of Paine’s writings, but there have been many more who merely use those words for their own political aims.
   In 1968, President Johnson said, "Those who reap the blessing of freedom, must like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it" to justify and unjust war in Vietnam. In 1984, President Reagan quoted Paine saying, "We have it in our power to begin the world again." I am not sure that Reagan had an understanding of Paine’s political ideas, but indeed he was right. Looking at the past 20 years, the world has begun again and unfortunately it does seem like it has been for the better.
   President Theodore Roosevelt mistakenly called Paine "a filthy, little atheist." Clearly this man had never read the "Age of Reason." Roosevelt could not have known that Paine stood 5’10", a full 2" taller than he himself. As for "filthy", there are no credible resources to justify that insult. However, it is a common tactic to attack someone’s appearance when one cannot argue a point with reason.
   I suggest to all who love freedom and justice to take the time and read Paine’s works, especially "Rights of Man" and the lesser-known "Agrarian Justice." From these two works you will know his politics; his religious beliefs are made quite clear in the "Age of Reason."
   While I am often disturbed when Paine’s name or his writings are invoked to further a personal political opinion, I must admit, I do it myself. It is hard not to do since Paine wrote about so many things and much of it is as pertinent today as it was then. This is one of my favorite quotes from "Rights of Man":
   "When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars, the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness; when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government."

   Jim Downey

Bordentown City


puzzles neighbor

To the editor:
   I am not a resident of New Hanover Township, however, I am absolutely amazed at what is going on in that quite little community. Are all of the citizens sleeping? Are they not concerned about what is going in their quaint little bailiwick?
   Allow me to inform them. Their former mayor, Patrick Malloy, has been convicted, yes convicted, of a crime, he is going to be sentenced the week of 02/16/04 to a prison term in the federal prison system and he still had the authority to nominate three people to replace him on the Township Committee.
   Why wasn’t he thrown out of office the minute the conviction — yes, he was convicted in a Federal Court, remember — was handed down? He still had the unmitigated gall to nominate his son as one of his replacements along with the son-in-law of the current mayor, Sharon Atkinson. Also a church administrator who, unfortunately, was a Republican, and not allowed to replace a Democrat.
   Being the ever gracious and magnanimous person she obviously is, Mayor Atkinson accepted the nomination of a member of the local Democratic Party and in her words, "I think what was done was right for the town. There should be no controversy because of this. There should be no repercussions because of this." Still the vote was 3-1 with a committee member voting against the motion because he favored the former mayor’s (Malloy) son.
   These are the same people who gave the convicted mayor a gavel to in "appreciation for a job well done" at a prior township meeting!
   Now for my question to the residents on New Hanover Township, how can anyone feel comfortable knowing that they are so well represented at the local level and how could they possibly complain about their representatives at the county, state or federal level? I would suggest that someone gently nudge the citizenry of New Hanover Township and wake them up. It’s a very curious situation at best, wouldn’t you say?

   Louis V. Bunnick


Comment session

deserves priority

To the editor:
   I attended the Mansfield Township meeting on 2/11/04, picked up the agenda along with approximately 28 pages of other township business. On the agenda I noticed Public Comment, (which will be referred to as PC) was listed as Number 5 on the agenda. (1. Call to Order, 2. Flag salute, 3. Open Public Meetings Statement, 4. Roll call then 5. Public comment).
   I have a real concern with this new format as did other residents. With work obligations, home life, etc., if you’re five minutes late to the meeting, your voice will not be heard!
   Previously PC was at the end of the agenda, which gave residents time to read the barrage of papers as stated above and listen to items discussed on the agenda. Your comment would then have some merit to it.
   How can anyone comment on the agenda when it hasn’t been discussed? The Council’s reasoning for the change as stated at the meeting is that they do not want to get home at 1 or 2 a.m. Do they forget that we as residents are also getting home the same time? After doing some research, a letter dated 9/06/02 was sent to every mayor from the New Jersey League of Municipalities advising of the new law A-332, which sets the forum for PC. Unfortunately, after reading A-332 there is no stipulation of where PC should be on an agenda.
   You would think that our elected officials would use common sense and put PC back where it should be at the end of the meeting. This council is being totally unreasonable! If the township administration is concerned about the time they get home in the evening then put a time limit on each individual who speaks. I would even volunteer to be "Time Keeper."
   I can only hope the council will listen to the people and put PC where it belongs. Maybe Assemblyman Kevin J. O’Toole, (Sponsored A-332) will e-mail me back to state that the bill will have to be amended to include where PC should be on an agenda.
   I wonder how many other townships have PC at the beginning of the meeting? It is my opinion that Mansfield Township Officials are violating Bill A-332 by limiting active participation of the public by placing PC at the beginning of the meeting.

   Linda McCann


Property tax debate

will not end soon

To the editor:
   A meeting attended by Senator Lance, Assemblyman Greenwald, Education Commissioner Librer, representatives from school districts and the public property taxes was convened on Feb. 11, 2004.
   As a result of the discussion it was determined that: property taxes are too high; freezes in state funding allocations and increases in student population have increased property taxes; high property taxes are especially hard on senior citizens many of whom are forced to sell their homes; and the Education Commissioner stated we need to re-examine the funding formula and the state, as well as local districts, must find efficiencies to cut costs. It was agreed that changing the funding base would not be simple.
   Now that the problems have been re-identified for the "umpteenth" time and it was again determined that implementing a fair and equal funding source would be difficult, our elected and appointed officials returned to Trenton and began working on a solution. Right? Doubtful. If the minutes of the meeting are treated like its predecessors, it will be placed on a shelf to gather dust until election or school budget referendum time. When the subject of high property taxes increases the heat on our elected officials they will form another committee and start the cycle again. To save time and money, maybe they should tape a committee meeting and change the names of the participants. The tape could be played as often as required as usually there is little difference in the findings and recommended solutions.
   During the next election campaign the candidates will promise, "If you elect me I will solve the problem." After the election, the party not in power, it doesn’t matter which one, will blame the party in power for not solving the problem. Sound familiar? It should be as it is the same sham that has been fostered on New Jersey residents over the past several decades. There is an old axiom which states there are two things we can be sure of, "Death and Taxes". In New Jersey it should be changed to, "Death and Higher and Higher Property Taxes."

   Rahn O. Beeson