Circle of life connects people and animals

In the Broadway musical “Lion King,” actors assume animal personas to remind us that all living things are part of the “Circle of Life.”

What a wonderful message to reflect upon following a troubled and turbulent year of natural and human-made disasters.

We are inextricably connected to each other and to all living things. Taken to the next level, how we care for animals is a telling reflection of who we are in the “Circle of Life.”

Could it be that the possibility of a healed world rests, in part, on how well we live up to our shared responsibility of taking care of the animals that depend upon us for their survival? At the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we believe this to be true.

Over the course of the year, we have cared for thousands upon thousands of unwanted, injured and homeless animals.

Since the county has no municipal shelter, we rely on the generosity of the community to help us provide for these unfortunate creatures.

As the executive director of the Monmouth County SPCA, I would like to thank all of our loyal and generous supporters who have helped us on this winding path in the “Circle of Life.”

Ursula Goetz

executive director

Monmouth County SPCA


Group pays attention to senior population

As our average population grows older, we all begin to think about the quality of life in later years.

Where will we live? Will we be happy? Will help be available for our health-care needs?

In other words, who will be listening to our concerns?

We can depend on the Organization of Residents Associations in New Jersey (ORANJ), whose membership has already been paying attention to seniors’ well-being. ORANJ represents more than 9,000 residents in 23 of the 25 continuing-care communities (CCRCs) verified in this state. A CCRC provides residents with facilities for independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and long-term care. They have on-site entertainment, dining facilities and medical care.

ORANJ is working hard to make sure that older citizens are heard in the halls of the state Legislature. The issues are important. ORANJ has helped CCRCs, and their residents who occupy nursing beds under Medicare, to obtain an exemption from an onerous tax on nursing home beds benefiting only Medicare patients. This is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for most CCRCs.

Now several issues arise that involve all Jersey residents, both young and old who face the prospect of living in a senior residence or have relatives and friends who do.

So far we’ve had two bills get some attention in the Legislature. One would ask the governor to activate the Continuing Care Advisory Council approved previously and to appoint three of its members nominated by ORANJ.

The second would require CCRC boards of trustees to discuss issues with residents before making major decisions that would affect the lifestyle and finance of residents. It would also require resident membership on the Boards of Trustees. If we fail to secure passage of the bills this year, we plan to start again next year with the new administration and we therefore urge your help in this effort.

Other issues of importance to us all:

• For veterans, property tax benefits and retention of the Veterans Tax Exemption that is being taken from veterans who move into CCRCs.

• Planned property tax reductions that are revenue neutral.

• Keeping CCRC fees more in line with the annual increase in the Social Security program.

• Protection against identity theft.

• Guarding against electronic monitoring technologies that invade the privacy of Long- Term Care individuals.

I urge all citizens of New Jersey to support these efforts involving your personal concerns about the future. Don’t let short-term apathy hurt you and those for whom you care. Pitch in for the quality of life.

Gary A. Baldwin


Organization of Residents Associations in N.J.

Tinton Fall s

Survey sponsor weighs in on what distracts drivers

Recent coverage of the state Legislature’s attempt to rein in the use of cell phones when driving is now broadening to include driving distractions on the road. As the sponsor of the Response Insurance National Driving Habits Survey, the survey that launched the current debate on distracted drivers, we would like to weigh in on this issue.

Although cell phone use seems to receive much of the attention, our surveys revealed American drivers are being distracted by many activities. When asked what drivers fear the most about other drivers, aggressive driving and drunken driving are now taking second and third place to the fear that the other driver is simply not paying sufficient attention to the road. People are putting a higher priority on making better use of their time than getting to their destination safely.

Seventy-six percent of those polled indicated they engage in one or more distracting activity while driving. They are eating, reading, talking on the phone and combing their hair. Amazingly, 20 percent are so busy multi-tasking they acknowledge steering their car with their thighs on occasion.

There is a battle under way on America’s roads. It is literally a battle for drivers’ attention. Ultimately, it will not be won through legislation alone. It will be won by a change in public perception of the stakes involved.

Mory Katz

chairman & CEO

Response Insurance Group

Meriden, Conn.

No happy new year for immigrants

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigra-tion Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437). The new act criminalizes undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Tancredo (R-Colo.), a darling of anti-immigrant groups, said, “You will find people will go home and they will go home by the millions. Those who don’t go home, you deport.”

He was talking about the millions of poor people who break their backs to keep the U.S. wheel of fortune spinning. He and his caucus even tried to end citizenship for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. They failed to mention whether these “aliens” would ever get the benefits of the $7 billion they put each year into our Social Security funds before they’re kicked out.

The new act is dangerous, and it’s antithetical to American and moral values. Enforcement-only immigration policies do not work. Congress must pass laws that enhance border safety as well as enforce a bipartisan immigrant worker program with a clear path to legal status and citizenship.Let’s reject the politics of paranoia. America can do better than that.

Partha Banerjee

executive director

New Jersey Immigration Policy Network