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Randy Bergmann's blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New home for my blog

My blog, "New Jersey: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," has moved to our brand-new Web site. Please visit me there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lower speed limit on Parkway in Ocean County

I took the Garden State Parkway north up to Union County twice over the weekend, and was struck by two things: how many troopers there were north of Holmdel - they seem to be a rare sight south of Asbury Park - and how the average rate of speed was well over the posted limit, even in the right lane, despite the troopers' presence. The flow on Saturday, when the roads were dry, was about 68-70 in the right lane. On Sunday, when it was raining off and on much of the day, it was virtually the same.
One trooper, just north of the Driscoll bridge, was running radar. Everyone was exceeding the 55 mph limit there by at least 10 mph. On the bridge itself, where the limit is 45 mph, it was common to see people weaving through the narrow lanes of traffic doing 70 or 75 mph, despite construction in the right lane.
The speed limit on much of the Parkway north of the bridge is 55 mph. It should be. Traffic is dense, and in many areas new lanes were added to accommodate it by restriping narrower lanes rather than increasing the width of the roadway. If you don't stay in your lane, there is virtually no margin of error.
The same response to dense traffic - creating narrower lanes rather than building new ones - was employed in much of Ocean County, where the Parkway is even more dangerous due to narrow, or nonexistent shoulders, and steep embankments with uninterrupted banks of trees awaiting those who leave the road.
Portions of Ocean County are among the most dangerous stretches of the Parkway. Making them safer will require wider lanes, wider shoulders, guard rails and stepped up enforcement - including the use of new electronic technology. Unless, and until that occurs, the speed limit in Ocean County should be reduced to 55 mph, as it is along other hazardous stretches of the Parkway.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Keeping eminent domain reform alive

The need to change the ground rules for eminent domain barely registered a blip on the radar in the recent legislative elections, and efforts at reform have been stalled by the state Democratic leadership. Public Advocate Ronald Chen, one of the leading voices for reform, continues to push for change.
Chen was a panelist in a session titled "Recent Development in Eminent Domain Law" at the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City this week. The text of Chen's prepared remarks is worth a read if you're interested in the subject.

Convention no longer conducive to taking bribes

Here's the quote of the week, from U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, addressing public officials Wednesday at the state League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City. By way of context, the convention has been a convenient meeting place for those prone to offering bribes and those prone to taking them, including some of the Monmouth County officials snared in Operation Bid Rig.
Christie's quote: "Let me urge you. I can be no more direct than this. If over the next couple of days someone approaches you with an envelope of cash looking to seek some type of favor from you, unless it is your mommy, turn and run for the ocean. It's probably us."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

If only driver safety could be upgraded...

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's newly released annual list of the safest cars is three times longer this year, largely because more car and truck models have added anti-rollover technology.
The institute says 10,000 lives could be saved each year if all vehicles had electronic stability control (ESC). Last year, 42,642 people died in traffic accidents.
ESC senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to help keep it stable and avoid a rollover. An institute video explains how ESC works.
This year's 34 safest cars:
Large cars, Audi A6, Ford Taurus with ESC, Mercury Sable with ESC, Volvo S80.
Midsize cars, Audi A3, A4, Honda Accord, Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy with ESC.
Midsize convertibles, Saab 9-3, Volvo C70.
Small car, Subaru Impreza with ESC.
Minivans, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona.
Midsize SUVs, Acura MDX, RDX, BMW X3, X5, Ford Edge, Taurus X, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Veracruz built after August 2007, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes M class, Saturn VUE built after December 2007, Subaru Tribeca, Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90
Small SUVs, Honda CR-V, Element, Subaru Forester with ESC.
Large pickup, Toyota Tundra

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New hope for affordable housing

We've leaned on Gov. Corzine and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, D-Camden, pretty hard for their failure to convert their words expressing opposition to Regional Contribution Agreements into action. Well, it looks like they may be following through.
The Assembly Democrats today unveiled a 12-point affordable housing plan that includes eliminating RCAs, which allow wealthier communities that don't want to build affordable housing to satisfy their obligations by making cash payments to other towns - typically cities - that are used to build or rehabilitate affordable housing there. The practice has helped contribute to racial and economic segregation in the state, which in turn has helped make New Jersey's schools among the most segregated in the nation.
The plan includes a number of other excellent recommendations, including a mandate that towns give density bonuses to developers who provide affordable housing in their projects, and a 20 percent set-aside for affordable housing in all state-assisted development projects, including those in Smart Growth areas and transit villages. It also recommends directing all state agencies with land-use authority, including the Pinelands Commission, to require mixed-income housing in their master plans.

Saxton takes exception to war cost estimate

It is no secret that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost taxpayers dearly. A new report, "War at any price?" has put it in terms Americans can understand. For a family of four, it has cost $20,900 since 2002, Congressional Democrats say.
The report, issued Tuesday by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee, estimates that the conflicts have cost a staggering $1.6 trillion - $1,600,000,000,000. That number includes interest on the money borrowed to pay for the war, lost investment income and health care for injured veterans.
Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., a member of the Joint Economic Committee, and Sen. Sam Brownback, the commitee's senior Republican senator, quickly asked that the report be withdrawn, criticizing its methodology. Their statement.
As of noon today, a link to the report on the Joint Economic Committee Web site took you to the Saxton-Brownback statement. Saxton and Republicans have every right to take exception to the report. But there is no justification for preventing citizens from reading the report and judging its merits for themselves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is anyone else NOT interested in Saxton's seat?

So many people have announced they are considering a run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. James Saxton that it is actually more newsworthy when a public official from Saxton's 3rd Congressional District says they are not throwing their hat in the ring.
Assemblyman and state Sen.-elect Christopher Connors sent out a press release about a half hour ago saying he would not be interested.
"Today, I am ending any and all speculation by formally announcing I do not, nor did I ever, have any intention to run for Congressman Saxton’s seat. I recognize that this is an enormous opportunity, but the truth of the matter is the 9th Legislative District is my home and that is where my heart is."
Saxton, whose district includes parts of Ocean, Burlington and Camden counties, announced last week he would not be seeking a 13th term because of health reasons.
Among the Republicans who say they may run: three-fifths of the Ocean County freeholder board, Ocean County clerk and Stafford mayor Carl Block, former state Lottery Director Virginia Haines and state Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington.
Wealthy, politically connected attorney David A. Norcross, who lost a U.S. Senate bid to Harrison A. Williams Jr. more than 30 years ago, also may be a candidate.
State Sen. John Adler is the likely Democratic candidate for the seat.

State A.G.'s office in good hands

The state's new attorney general, Anne Milgram, spent about 90 minutes with our editorial board today, discussing a variety of statewide and regional concerns. It was my first opportunity to meet with Milgram, who replaced Stuart Rabner in June.
Two thoughts came to mind early in the discussion: How could Corzine ever have chosen Zulima Farber over Milgram, or Rabner, for the job? And state law enforcement is in good hands with Milgram and U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.
Milgram is bright, articulate and personable. She has made a number of personnel and structural changes that should make the A.G.'s Office, which has 10 divisions and 9,600 employees, far more effective. She identified fighting public corruption and gangs as top priorities. She has tripled the number of investigators in the state's public corruption unit, and is making getting guns off the street a major initiative.
Hopefully, Milgram will help make us forget the disgraceful reigns of Farber and Peter C. Harvey.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Time to rethink teachers' convention

School districts throughout the state were closed Thursday and Friday last week for the annual teachers convention in Atlantic City. According to the NJEA Web site, "nearly 29,000 members" attended. There are more than 175,000 public school teachers in New Jersey. That means 83.5 percent of the teachers who were given two days off for professional and career development were off doing something else.
A state statute dating back to 1920 requires that school districts give teachers permission to attend the annual convention at full pay. But it does not mandate that schools be closed those two days. If the NJEA convention is that valuable, everyone should go - preferably after school lets out for the summer. If it isn't - and judging from the attendance figures, that is the perception among teachers - it should be canceled altogether.