Saturday, January 31, 2009

THE DISCOURSE ON PLAINFIELD FINANCES PART 1

Plainfield's budget and fiscal controls have been the subject of frequent postings by myself as well as others. Since I like all of the citizens are not privy to unpublished data relating to these matters what we write is often an educated opinion based on received perceptions

Most perceptions results from comments made at the Council sessions. Unfortunately, Council committee deliberations and City departmental reports are not publicised. The annual auditors recommendations may be relayed to the Council, but too often there seems to be a repetition of deficiencies that have not been corrected. Too often recommendations for better control are honored by ignoring.

This blog was to be an attempt to clear up questions raised by Plainfield Today, Jerry Greens Page, Plainfield Plaintalker, and this blogger. I have stated that too often I do not have facts, thus what I write is opinion based on my community related activity the last 60 years. Plainfield Plaintalker is a newspaper professional column reporting facts not hearsay.

Of recent postings in the other two, Plainfield Today gave a false impression in its recent comments implying that this city had failed to meet the deadline that 132 other NJ municipalities by not submitting its application for funds from the "Federal Stimulus Package".
The document referred to was actually a request from the NJLM, This I believe was intended only for informational purposes.

Jerry Green wrote "
As part of leadership here in the State of New Jersey, I have been allowed opportunities to first-hand, deal with the governor’s office on what impact the federal stimulus package will have on the State of New Jersey. I find it very surprising when no one at this particular time has been told, including Governor Corzine, exactly how these funds can be used, and what they can be used for. So when I read people guessing about what the plan happens to be, it is very misleading to the public."

He is correct but again he is taking credit for political influence he does not enjoy. The truth is no one knows anything about the package except that the House of Representatives have just passed their version by a strictly party line vote except for Pennsylvania Republicans. The Senate at the time I wrote this had not passed its version and then there will have to be adjustments made so that the two bills agree before it can be submitted to the President for approval. The earliest is expected to be mid February.

The reality is that the "Federal Stimulus Package" can not impact on Plainfield's Budgetary process. The excuse that the delay is due to the fact that the state has delayed its determination for "Extraordinary Aid" is fallacious. Extraordinary aid not only should not but can not be included in the budget. Its impact can only result in a legally amended budget. This is directly from the state Department of Community Affairs release 2009-2.

"In addition, the governing body may adopt a resolution to increase its temporary budget appropriation to the extended adoption date of the 2009 budget; from February 25 for counties, or from March 20 for municipalities. This resolution must be adopted by February 28. If additional appropriations are needed prior to the adoption of the budget, the local unit may adopt an emergency temporary appropriation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:4-20. Extraordinary Aid applications will be due in the Division’s office by March 20, 2009. A separate Local Finance Notice on Extraordinary Aid Applications will be issued in several weeks."

The hard facts remain; the $1.6 million error in the proposed budget submitted to the state has made it impossible to arrive at a workable budget. The city has now used the vehicle of resolutions approving temporary budgets for 10/12s of this budget year. Legal but not honest. If and when a budget can be approved there will be no wiggle room. Moreover, the 2010 budget process is supposed to start in May for presentation by July 1, 2009.

Because of the length of this blog I will postpone consideration of the " Pension Payment Defferal Plan" until the next posting.







Friday, January 30, 2009

SATURDAY Jan 31,2009

Too much has been written thee past week or so in Plainfield Today, Plainfield Plaintalker, Jerry Green's Page and Doc's Potpourri regarding the "Pension Deferral Plan" and the Federal Stimulus Package". Some has just been opinion, but much has been offered as facts. Unfortunately much of the so called facts appear to be distortions from reality.

Since these two items seem too be having an impact on our missing 2009 budget, I am trying to make some order out of this confusion. Problems have delayed that re port but I hope to have it posted by this weekend.

In the meantime as an apology please enjoy these 1979 pictures from Sochi at the eastern end of the Black sea in what was once the USSR, which had collapsed with the failure of its economy.

Russian vacationers (workers) enjoying the sun on the stony beach
The next two show the beautiful Caucuses Mountains from a Russian Tea Plantation.

This theater scene was taken with available light using Ektacrome 1000 ASA film

Roman Interlude

Starting and ending with the Forum.





Thursday, January 29, 2009

State of the City

Councilor Burney's perceptive blog Thursday on Plainfield's fiscal problems should be a must read. There is no question as he states that the city (we) musty re-evaluate our core services. There is also no question that both the administrative and legislative elements of city government must share the responsibility for the deterioration of the city infrastructure. The onus falls equally on "Old","New", and Regular" Democrats.

It seems less than 15 years ago that Plainfield sold its sewer utility for something around 9 million dollars. Not one penny of that money went to maintain our infrastructure.I am sure that today we would have great difficulty in tracing where that money went. I am also sure that the people did not get value for the use of that money.

One visible evidence of the lack of attention to our infrastructure is the roads. We have to spend millions of dollars to replace bad pavements, rather than having spent thousands of dollars over the years for maintenance. It has not only been lack of proper repairs but also what may have been poor quality control during their construction. We may have also lost dollars by using "approved vendors" rather then "lowest acceptable bidder" in selecting professional services. Certainly having paid a large sum for determine the state of our streets 5 years ago we should not have had to expend large sums in 2008 to reevaluate the roads.

I would recommend pasting this http://epdfiles.engr.wisc.edu/pdf_web_files/tic/manuals/Asphalt-PASER_02.pdf in your navigation bar to understand what is wrong with our pavements, and what must be done. An illustrated point from that illustrated document copied here
Longitudinal cracks
Cracks running in the direction of trafficare longitudinal cracks. Center line or
lane cracks are caused by inadequate bonding during construction or reflect
cracks in underlying pavement. Longitudinal cracks in the wheel path indicate
fatigue failure from heavy vehicle loads. Cracks within one foot of the edge are
caused by insufficient shoulder support,poor drainage, or frost action. Cracks
usually start as hairline or vary narrow and widen and erode with age.
Without crack filling, they can ravel, develop multiple cracks, and become
wide enough to require patching. Filling and sealing cracks will reduce
moisture penetration and prevent further subgrade weakening. Multiple
longitudinal cracks in the wheel path or pavement edge indicate a need
for strengthening with an overlay or reconstruction.

Within the past ten years three major road replacement projects were done. Woodland Ave (which may have been slightly longer ago), South Avenue, and North Avenue. The first two have deteriorated to a level that has resulted in pavement destruction. North Ave has marked longitudinal cracking . This is the street where an engineering error cost the city a large sum because the specifications of concrete storm sewer pipe was wrong.

The streets are only a portion of our financial woes. Bare bones core services are part of the answer. Employees at all levels must consider making salary adjustments. Elected officials may also consider sacrifices. No avenue of governmental fiscal aid should be overlooked. Desperate times require desperate measures. The alternative will be civic bankruptcy.

Not Trivia

Today's Courier has the story about the Council meeting that was published in yesterday's on-line edition. Obviously for local news we must check both;

On the subject of local news, when I checked the city site at 7:30 AM today the events calender was blank for the last week of January and completely blank for February. I then checked for the Council meeting schedule and found a good record for 2008 but nothing for 2009. I then reviewed the Emergency Temporary Appropriations for March and April to find two items of interest.

Under "Public Information'" the budget calls for $59,600.00 for the two months. That is annualized equal to $357,600.00. For "Information Technology" during the same period the budget amounts respectfully are; $55,900.00 and $335,400.00.. What is $692,000.00 of taxpayer's money buying? Perhaps Mark Deshields can explain Monday night.

While on a bitching bend I read today that the Postal Service is considering a 5 day weekly delivery. For some one who can remember 3 cent letter stamps and 1 cent postal cards accompanied by 2 deliveries weekdays this plan is heresy. The Postal Services problems are understandable when at least one time a week I have mail belonging to some else and when letters mailed and properly addressed never arrive at their destination. That coupled with more efficient commercial package services as well as cellphones and other electronic communication methods have led to a public shift from letter writing etc. There is an adage that increasing costs and reducing services do not lead to improved operating income but rather a further decrease in usage and bigger losses.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MEETINGS

Meetings can have a great impact on future affairs. For example in 1945 FDR, Churchill and Stalin met here at the Palace in Yalta and proclaimed the doctrine of unconditional surrender sealing Hitler's fate. They also altered Europe for the next generation by delineating areas of influence. Whereas the deliberations of the Plainfield Common Council does not have that cosmic effect they will mold the future of the city, as noted below.



The Palace at Yalta (1979)
Tablet memorializing the meeting
Yalta from the sea-the Palace is to the left and not visible

One should always give the devil his due. Dan Damon's comments about citizens being given the opportunity to make comments prior to discussion of items at the agenda session has merit. The Council might change their minds about placing certain items on the business meeting's agenda.

That being written, that which would be of greater value would be the Council's paying attention to public comments before the presentation of resolutions at the voting meeting. There is an impression that everything on that agenda is cast in stone. It has been a long time since there was a beach day in January or since a citizen's comments at the Council meeting resulted in discussion or even a change in action. That should be what citizen participation should mean.

As to the reduction in meeting schedule; I could live with it although my opinion remains that it is a mistake. If actions that now take two sessions to complete are crowded into one, there will become a tendency to rush through the agenda without discussion in order to preserve the same meeting length.

This weeks abortive attempt to eliminate a position or as alleged an individual, recalls that former Police Chief Santiago has a civil action against the city. What is its status? Since legal costs are a large portion of of the city expenses should we not have a breakdown as to the amount that is for salaries and retainers, as well as the costs of litigation.

FYI: Mark Spivey's truncated report about Monday's Council meeting appeared only in the online edition. For those who looked for it in the printed copy all that was there was an unimportant report of a meeting that took place two weeks earlier.

Potpourri

The good and the bad. First the good; two views of the Hudson River (valley) from Hyde Park NY, FDR's home.



The BAD; During City Administrator Deshield's remarks on the still not approved budget, he mentioned that the city would take advantage of the States temporary permission to forgo mandatory pension plan deposits. This is a copy of the states and federal governments solving a present crisis by creating a bigger one for future taxpayers to face. In essence a glorified credit card scheme, buy today and pay nothing for two years. No wonder we have an economic collapse.

The GOOD; for rebels against excessive taxation these two should recall olden days.


Where else but Boston, and two stops on the Freedom Trail

The BAD: last but not least; comment that refer to an anonymous blog are among items that are not acceptable for publishing. The Plainfield bloggers of whom I am aware do not hide their identity and accept all non inflammatory comments. We do not censor, but will not be the vehicle for potential attacks by those who hide upon others.

(2nd of two posts today)

Afghan History Vignette


In a comment to my remarks in my "Kabul' post Duncan wrote "I think the British Disaster in Afghanistan was in the 1838-42. In the 1870s, Lord Roberts of Kandahar (as he was later titled) decisively defeated Afghan forces and forced a treaty on the country which held for decades."

Duncan is correct that the greatest British disaster occurred in 1842 during the first of the three so called Anglo-Afghan wars". This was at the time the British East India Company was the English power in India.

In January 1842 the British after an Afghan uprising in Kabul were supposedly given safe passage for Elphinstone's army to go back to what is now Pakistan -the Northwest Territories. this is a description from Wilkepedia: "As they struggled through the snowbound passes, the British were attacked by Ghilzai warriors. The evacuees were harassed down the 30 miles (48 km) of treacherous gorges and passes lying along the Kabul River between Kabul and Gandamak, and massacred at the Gandamak pass before reaching the besieged garrison at Jalalabad."

Later that year the English decisively avenged that massacre.

My error was a confusion arising from the disaster of the The Battle of Maiwand which was one of the principal battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The battle ended in defeat for the British Army. This battle took place I believe in 1880 and was later followed by a war ending British victory. I misplaced in time this disaster by confusing its date with 1892 the date that this Kipling poem was published.

There was thirty dead an' wounded on the ground we wouldn't keep -
No, there wasn't more than twenty when the front began to go;
But, Christ! along the line o' flight they cut us up like sheep,
An' that was all we gained by doing so.
I 'eard the knives be'ind me, but I dursn't face my man,
Nor I don't know where I went to, 'cause I didn't 'alt to see,
Till I 'eard a beggar squealin' out for quarter as 'e ran,
An' I thought I knew the voice an' - it was me!
We was 'idin' under bedsteads more than 'arf a march away;
We was lyin' up like rabbits all about the countryside;
An' the major cursed 'is Maker 'cause 'e lived to see that day'
An' the colonel broke 'is sword acrost, an' cried."

The third Anglo-Afghan war was in 1919-20 and resulted in the installation of a strong King of the English style. About 1973 shortly before we visited Afghanistan he was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup and a so called democracy established. \Shortly after our visit but not as a result, that government fell victim to Soviet aggression. The second and third Anglo-Afghan wars were in reality an attempt to counteract Russian influence.

On 11/6/08 my post was about Afghanistan and I exhibited some other photos including some the interior. I intend to do so again in the near future in the hope that perhaps we can better understand what our troops are facing. This photo was taken on the flight from Kabul to Bamyian, the snow covered mountains are the Hindu-Kush, the time early September.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Plainfield Items

The best thing about the Council meeting was finding Councilor William Reid sitting at his usual seat at the table. It is nice to know that he is doing well after his recent surgery. Perhaps he can give us a first hand report on JFK , and its staff. We keep hearing third hand too many horror stories.

It was not until I read today's Courier that I knew that Adrian Mapp had announced his not unexpected candidacy this year for Mayor. Although JG and the Mayor have been for months actively although unofficially campaigning for her reelection, I would not be surprised that for personal reasons she may announce that she will not seek a second term. The announcement will come from her not the city committee. Carol Brokaw awaits in the wings but I do not expect that there will be a announcement with JG's support before the end of March. In the mean time she does have an albatross by being one of the board members of PMUA which will be announcing a significant rate increase.

However back to the Council; a resolution to authorize the approval for the submission of a layoff plan to the New Jersey Department of Personnel created a great deal of discussion from Councilor Mapp as well as Councilor Storch. Bewildering, City Administrator claimed that in reality it was meant to abolish an unfilled position (involving a single individual) and would save the city $16,000.00 this year.

Could someone explain how abolishing a position that is not filled could save the city money? The math reminds me how the 1.6 million dollar error in the submitted budget proposal would not cost the city any money. I may be stupid but 0-0=0. Anyhow since this apparently involved a single individual it was first suggested that it be discussed in executive session before any agenda action occurred. After the meeting was over at the public comment time in answer to a question from DG, Corporation Counsel Williamson announced that the resolution had been withdrawn for certain technical reasons.

Another resolution awarding a Professional Service Contract to approved provider Remington and Vernick Engineers to the sum of $26,880.00 for engineering services relating to electrical services upgrade at City Hall was approved. It was pointed out by the firms representative that this was just a revision of a previous plan that had to be changed due to IT wiring changes which had taken place since the original plans were drawn. Were the IT wiring changes done without the engineers knowledge or if there were plans drawn up for those changes why were not the needed alterations in the new wiring plans made at that time? If this sounds convoluted, it is. However how can we avoid the impression that we are involved in a make work program?

A suggestion, instead of the taxpayers having to pay for such alterations could not a package including the wiring be put together to be presented to the Feds when Obama's "make work program" is approved? With over 75,000 jobs nationwide being reported as lost on Black Monday, when is our local government and workers going to realize that we are in an economic crisis which by history will get worse?

In answer to one of my questions regarding the budget , City Administrator stated that although there is an official State deadline for the municipality's budget to be submitted before the State by mandate imposed a budget, in actuality it can be waived until a request is received from the State.

Also in answer to my question, The City Administrator informed us that Plainfield was on the list of communities to receive Federal funds for home owner's mortgage relief. I hope someone makes sure that all the "i's are dotted and the "t"s crossed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

COUNCIL MEETING 1/26/2009

Monday night's Council Agenda Session lasted about 2 hours and was well attended by the public.

There was little that was routine at the meeting. At the end of the meeting an ordinance was introduced for first reading changing the meeting schedule to an Agenda Session the first Monday of the month , and the business session for the second Monday.

Using last night's meeting as an example I would wonder if on the new schedule the Council would be comfortable with a four hour meeting before the Public comment portion . If they kept to the rules presently in effect they would only have to listen to public for only 30 minutes a month rather than 60. So much for openness.

While on the subject of transparency, at the beginning of the meeting, changes in the Council calender were announced, including 4 agenda meetings, each one to be held at a different school in one of the 4 wards. I find the genuine desire to make Council meetings more available to the public admirable, but the application faulty;
  1. There is continuity in having the meetings in the same location, making it a no brainier where to go.
  2. Plainfield's municipal area is approximately 6 square miles, thus it is unlikely that a central location would be any less accessible.
  3. If it is felt that the City Hall Library is n o longer conducive for public meetings, there are other central sites-the city court or High School auditorium- the could be used a s a permenant site.

In a period of opaqueness in this era of transparency, it had been decided that the Council would hold 4 town hall type meetings during the year each one on a specific subject; (1) Public Safety, (2) Economic Matters, (3) PMUA, and (4) Information Technology. The order may be different. Again an admirable idea, but one that apparently had sub rosa Council approval since I do not remember any prior official discussion. I would think that at least a Resolution will have to be enacted.

The discussion on use of city owned vehicles continued. Apparently these have been granted by an oral agreement which the Corporation Consul stated was legally binding even though the Council was not privy to the agreement but had passed a resolution authorising the use of city vehicles. Except for the Mayor's vehicle there are restrictions on there use. The actual dollars and cents are minuscule compared to the overall budget and if used as intended there should be no objection . However, that Administration in hiring individuals should make verbal commitments without the Council's approval is unconscionable, and probably illegal.

During the meeting a resolution "to appoint Sirrocco Financial Group as risk management consultant to the City of Plainfield " was on the agenda. When it was noted that the term of thee contract was from 7/1/2008 to 6/31/2009 the explanation was startling.

This group has been doing this work for years under a preferred provider status without bids be requested. Apparently the annual renewal of the contract had "slipped through the cracks". This was caught because the people responsible for paying them refused too issue a check since Sirrocco had no authorization. Another fiscal blunder by Administration, although this one could not hurt the city finances like the budgetary one. However there seems to be a lack of oversight.

One should be very disturbed by the practice of awarding professional contracts, some of sizable financial importance, by the "approved provider route" rather than competitive bidding. "Pay to Play" could rear its ugly head.

(7:00 AM) There were several other items on the table, and I will comment upon them later. Sadly at this meeting once again amateurism and sloppiness on the part of our leadership again cast its shadow.

KABUL

One of the many facts that the Cheney/Bush arrogants failed to understand was the nature of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq was and is a 'Balkan State". Like the late Yugoslavia it is composed of different ethnic groups that hate each other. To even think that the US could impose a working "democracy" was the height of their superciliousness. They will find their own way out of the mess we created. We can only hope to give them support so that it is not an anti-American solution.

Likewise, Rumsfeld, Cheney at al failed to read history and to learn from the British fiasco in the 1890s or the Russian disaster which happened a few years after these pictures were taken and led to the breakup of the Soviet empire state. Once we understand that only with a cooperative ruling body in a local area can we have a degree of success and perhaps destroy the ben Ladens that bedevil us.

In the near future I will post some photos of the country outside of Kabul , which will give an idea of the land and what faces our troops. Right now here are some scenes of Kabul in the early 70s. I apologize for the poor quality of some shots but all of this batch of slides have undergone sever degeneration.










Tonight's Council meeting 1/26/2009

Tonight's Council Agenda Session could mark the beginning of the end for citizen's involvement as we know it in local government . Council President Burney and the three other returning members seem determined to cut their public exposure by half.

An impression is emerging that the 'Agenda Setting Meeting will be done away with in favor of a monthly rotating meeting in a ward location that would have a single subject town hall format. The nitty gritty work done at the agenda sessions would be accomplished by small not open to the public Committee meetings, who could conduct their discussions electronically. So much for transparency.

The loyal few who attend the Council business sessions kmow that the action there is mostly rubber stamping what was decided at the "Agenda" meeting. That is where the real discussions may happen. A decade or more ago the Council meetings were well attended. The public's comments prior to the voting on resolutions sometimes had an impact. Nowadays so much is put into the consent agenda, irrespective of funds involved,that the emphasis has become window dressing and lets get out of here. The standing Council Rules of order even have a time limit for the meeting.

It had been my hope that with the majority the 'New New Democrats" added to the "Old New Democrats" have over the "Regular (JG) Democrats" the Council would be more public oriented. I hope that there can be a convincing argument made to show that is the way it is going. Despite the rhetoric I now am dubious.

Among tonight's items are the awarding of additional contracts to approved (could they be considered "pay to play") providers such as Remington and Vernick Engineers and the Scirocco Financial Group. Should we not have an accounting about how much various vendors receive from the city during the fiscal year What is the total legal costs the city pays.

On this subject some of the numbers for the next 1/6th of the budget year that the Council is to approve tonight are amazing. If annualized we are spending $330,000 on Information Technology, and almost $360,000.00 on Public Information. Other numbers are equally eye opening. Since an emergency allocation of funds must be on a proportional basis of the existing budget that can be the only way these figures are derived.

Those who have a realinterest in our city should come to this meeting.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

SERENE TIME

It is time to relax and reflect without comments. Tomorrow is the Council Agenda meeting but for today lets go down the Intracoastal Waterway and sit back and enjoy

Floating hinged bridge
Three Yachts under power
Clamming, don't know if the waters are protected.
Bird's Nest

MEMORIES

last week I was invited to a 90th birthday party at the Bridgewater Commons for a childhood friend who I had not seen after the en d of THE WAR. I had all the best intentions of going but at the last minute had a car problem and decided not to go. To my surprise and delight after I had settled down the daughter of one of the guests came to take me there. Thank you Erica.

Once I got to the party I found out That the honoree, Philip Kaplan could shake a mean leg. I have always had two left feet so to see this 90 year old dance was a joy. There were two other PHS graduates from the 1936-37 class there. Louis Mandel and Joe (Tombro) Tamara.

Obviously we had a great time talking about the good old days. We used to walk or ride our bikes to school. There were the East Enders and the West Enders and we usually amalgamated into a large group from our part of the town by the time we reached PHS.

T here were many stories about our high school days, and about certain favorite teachers, and some not so well liked. Among them was Herr Hauck who was a "Prussian Marinate" with the heart of a puppy. He could frighted us but also earned our respect and admiration. There were also the Hendersons who taught Latin . Leslie Beers and Vic Liske also were subjects of fond memory.

One special story was about the time a very popular Physical Ed teacher and coach who did not get along well with Hub Stine the head of the department was transferred from the high school to the K-8 schools program. About twenty of us went down to Principle Galen Jone's office at the beginning of the school day and instituted a one day sit-in strike . We were not successful in changing the transfer nor did we receive any punishment. We felt great that we had challenged the establishment.

There were many other High School tales, most were of the Huckleberry Finn type. We recalled others of our peers who are no longer with us, some like Jack Glass were killed in WWII. Jack was a casualty of the Ploesti oil field raid.

Even more interesting to me was on the ride to Bridgewater, Erica was talking about the "bands" that existed during her High School Years. As she was mentioning names like the Mazurs, Bob Levinson, Rich Heyman and Jeff Fink. I informed her that my son Andy had been guitarists for "The End" with the Mazurs and Bob Levinson. This band practiced in our basement and the house vibrated. "The End" was popular i its day and managed to rent the Cook School for a concert. They made a pile of money which they all put back into new equipment. After Andy left them to play with another group that was doing Rutger's frat gigs, the others renamed themselves as "Spring Plowing'. I know very little about its activities. All these boys continued to be active musically for years even unto today.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

RANDOM THOUGHTS JAN. 24, 2009

These mortars dating from the late 19th Century and the cannon from WWI were part of the fortifications defending Helsinki. They were ineffective by the time of WWII. They do remind me of our attempts to combat the rising costs of living in Plainfield as illustrated by the items below.






Friday's Plainfield Plaintalker in reporting on the PMUA's meeting states "The last hike was in 2007 and before that, rates did not increase for three years. But now householders will be asked to pay $191.45 per quarter for solid waste costs, up from $159.65, and $578 per (Correction: per year) quarter for sewer services, up from $509".

I happened to find a 2003 PMUA bill and my calculations determine that the 2009 fees equate to a 65.5%increase in solid waste rates from that year and a46.2% increase in sewer services charges. I would dare say that if I could find the initial charges when the PMUA was formed that the increase in a little over 10 years would be nearly 100%.Yet we have no accounting of the salary costs and executive compensations. Is the PMUA our own little Lehman Brothers?

Friday's paper had a small blurb stating that the Freeholders are considering a 4.9% increase in their tax rate. Also as an economic measure they will close the Oak Ridge Golf Course the County's #3 course but a challenging one.

We have no idea what increase the Board of Educations budget will impact on our 2009 taxes, much less that what our city's budget will be.

Obama has directed that any one in the White House Staff earning over $100000.00 a year will get no raise this year. Other communities have made similar announcements and some have taken de facto reductions by eliminating one day of work to preserve positions for others.

Locally we must have a government including any municipal established authority that can operate efficiently without burdening the taxpayers. Is it being done?

I happen to see this in Jerry Green's latest posting; "It was very encouraging to feel and hear the response of the large crowd at our Inaugural Ball when I informed them of our construction and sustainment the coalition in which we have started on behalf of Pres. Obama and his movement for local and national change."

Please Jerry enlighten us peons about the nature of the "coalition" to which you are referring.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TUNIS

Backtrack about 40 years and be in Tunis, or looking at the ruins of Carthage. Since Scipio Africanis supposedly salted the site of Carthage with salt, this probably represents ruins of a subsequent Roman city, but remains of the Phoenician Carthage remain.



A Digression from Obama to Qaddafi

As I was scanning Thursday's Times I was struck by the author of an Op-Ed article titled 'The One State Solution". I usually read the pundits with a degree of skepticism, and justifiably so since they tend to exhibit their prejudices in their writings.

This one though was not written by one of the Times' stable of columnists but by the head of an Muslim African state, Muammar Quaddafi the ruler of Libya. This once world terrorist who has metamorphosed into the champion of appeasement was proposing a unique solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

He suggested that instead of two separate nations occupying what was know as Palestine before 1948 that there be one nation combining both the West Bank/Gaza Palestine lands and present day Israel. This would make sense politically, militarily, and economically. There would be only one problem to work out. Could the Israelis retain their religious freedom?

Quaddafi is right when he mentions that a two state solution could (he used the word "will") create an unacceptable military threat to Israel be an armed Arab state at the 1948 border lines. He also notes that any solution that keeps Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the borders of Israel/Palestine would be no solution. He points out that Acre, Haifa and Jaffa now part of Israel were old Arab towns. Of course Acre was a Crusader stronghold. He also acknowledges that the Jewish historical kingdoms of Judea and Samaria as well as the lands of the twelve tribes now compose the West Bank.

I would submit that there is merit in Quaddafi's argument. First there would have to be have be to be a methodology by which one religious group would not overwhelm the other. That has been Israel's fear that in their present country if the refugees were allowed to return and given the full citizenship rights that the Arabs who never left now have, that within a generation their birthrate would make them the dominant ethnic group in Israel. This could well be followed by anti-Jewish laws.

Therefore any unified state must have guarantees for equality the two major religious groups plus representation from the present minority religions. This did work in Lebanon until Syria and Iran chose to seize power.

We have forgotten the the refugees fled Palestine not because the Israelis forced them out, but the Arab nations advised them to flee and then would not accept them as equals in their countries. Those countries must be part of the solution even if it meant to resettle these individuals not in their lost homes but in unoccupied parts of the West Bank, or even in a could be productive Negev.

Yes Qaddafi given his history cold still be the wolf in grandmother's clothes, but his premise should be given major consideration. If it could be workable it would be the only practical solution for the area. But who will convince Hamas and Hezbollah that they should disband?

While we ponder this, I still intend to post my comments on Obama's Inaugural speech and perhaps the initial signs from this new administration.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

HAIL THE 761

64 years ago nearly to the date I had the extreme pleasure of making the acquaintance of a group of the bravest men I have ever known. The ground then was snow covered as it is today, only knee deep. The temperature was below freezing as it is today. The place was in Belgium in the Ardennes known to history as "The Bulge".

Several years ago at the request of my children, I wrote the following in a memoir which I titled "Old Doc's War" . Don't get me wrong, I was not being a hero or masquerading as one, just a Battalion Surgeon with a division in combat. This is from that treatise.

"The Airborne divisions were not equipped with any armored vehicles or even heavy guns other than the 75 mm sawed off pack canon. Rocket launchers were just beginning to be supplied to us. We were happy to have attached to us the separate 761st tank battalion, a now famous black Afro-American unit. They were crazy men who would run their tanks full blast down icy hilly village streets and lock the tread on one side to make a 90 degree turn at a corner. Often they had to bounce off a building to make the turn. They were replaced by Co.C 15th Tk Bn (6th Armd.Div)."

Unlike the " Tuskegee Airmen" the 761 was not a glamerous unit but one that any trooper wanted at his side. The 761 was the first "black combat unit" to see action in the war. One member belately in 1967 was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Jackie Robinson , who later became the Baseball barrier breaker was a Liutenant in the outfit. He did not go oversea with it because he was subject to a Court Marshal which was dismissed while in the States because he refused to go and sit in the back of the bus. Check web site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/761st_Tank_Battalion_(United_States)).

The events of Jan. 20, 2009 was part of something I had hoped for but did not think would happen in our lifetime. May the peeling of the layers of bigotry continued to be extended to all ethnic and religious groups. Let those who have been freed from such suffering not inflict the curse of discrimination upon others.

Unfortunately there are groups of individuals who two generations after WWII,and one generation after President Johnson fathered the civil rights act have reverted to the teachings of a Hitler. Today's generations should not,must not listen to them. The fight against terrorism and those that would destroy the American way of life is not only abroad but also within the borders of this nation.