Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memorial Day (Traditional)

Today is the day that I choose to mark Memorial Day.

I don’t go quite far enough back to call it Decoration Day, but I am old enough to remember when this was the day families went to cemeteries and checked on loved-ones’ graves, paying special attention to those with small American flags signifying a veteran’s gravesite. When was it that Memorial Day became a chance to have a three-day weekend and hit the stores for the sales? It is now with surprise that I note some calendars still have “Traditional Memorial Day” written on them on May 30th.

Hillsborough commemorated Memorial Day on Saturday with a hometown parade that was an old-fashioned blend of flags, scouts, sports teams, a beauty queen, fire trucks and ambulances, and the High School Marching Band. Following the parade there was a service at the Municipal Building’s Garden of Honor with the placing of wreaths, firing of a salute, singing of Amazing Grace, and the playing of Taps. Then was the community picnic.

But first, early in the morning before the parades and the public celebrations, the Township paid tribute to Hillsborough’s Veteran’s at a breakfast given in their honor.

The room was filled with neighbors who had always seemed familiar to me, but suddenly I didn’t seem to know them at all. Up until that moment they were the people who move anonymously around us all: they are in line when we check out of a store, they work at local businesses, they are police officers and firemen, members of the rescue squad, politicians, nurses, they can be anyone you meet.

Each veteran present, from those who served during World War II to those currently serving, stood – some less steadily than others - and gave their names, their service branch, where they served and what they did.

These people talking about their experiences suddenly turned into people I didn’t recognize, heroes who left the comfort of their homes to serve their country in one capacity or another.

You should have been there. You should have been there.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rutgers: The State Athletic Association

A university is an institution of higher learning and students theoretically attend one to learn stuff. You know, academic stuff.

Rutgers is theoretically a university. It has recently fielded some winning sports teams and consequently increased the amount of money it has been pouring into its athletic programs, contending that successful sports programs bring more students to the school.

Okay. So what they are saying is that out there is a budding physicist thinking, “Wow, the Rutgers football team is doing really well. I think I should put that school high on the list of colleges I want to attend. And look at all the money and perks their coaches are getting. Just imagine the caliber of their professors!”

A future doctor is watching the women’s basketball team win and saying, “Mom, Dad, let’s go look at Rutgers pre-med program! If they are supporting their coaches to the tune of $2 million a year each just think what they must be paying their professors!”

And I can only imagine that future artists - writers, photographers, painters, poets, sculptors – are watching the winning teams and feeling so inspired that they are moving Rutgers up to the top of their college lists.



Unfortunately we all know this “athletics before academics” attitude doesn’t start at the university level.

This being a Hillsborough blog lets take it down to the high school level. There are many many residents who can tell you how many professional football players Hillsborough High School has produced; some even know them by name and current team affiliation.

Ask if they know how many physicists or doctors the school has produced and you get a blank look. How many artists or teachers? Any profession or career not sports-related? Blank, blank, and blank.

And this isn’t even Texas.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

We Have Met the Poor and They are Us

The Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), established by the Fair Housing Act of 1985, created an obligation for all New Jersey towns to provide for low- and moderate-income housing. These obligations are a hot button issue in many towns including Hillsborough.

After all, put in low-income or moderate-income housing and the next thing you know “they,” those unknown poor people, will be moving into your town, your neighborhood, and maybe even your block.

Simultaneously, residents are sadly shaking their heads because their children, new to the working world, maybe fresh out of college, can’t afford to buy homes in Hillsborough. Senior family members and neighbors have to give up their homes as the school taxes force them out.

Why is there a disconnect between these two thoughts? Maybe “they” are your grandparents, your parents, or your children who could be moving into the COAH units in your neighborhood.

Maybe the concept of “poor” in Hillsborough is relative in more than one way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Misinformation Miasma

Recently I was in a small business in town and I asked the owner what she thought about the Charter Study Commission’s work and the possibility of a change of government in Hillsborough.

Well… she was aware of the CSC (unlike many of Hillsborough’s residents) and she was upset because if they changed Hillsborough’s form of government all heck was going to break loose. All the ordinances and zoning would change and it would cost hundreds-of-thousands of dollars and there would be no responsibility to the voters and if we voted in a mayor and didn’t like him we would be stuck with that person for years … and the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

When she finally paused, I asked where on earth she had heard all that? She has a customer involved in all that political stuff who “knows the truth”.

Trying to be the voice of reason, I pointed out that all ordinances wouldn’t change, just the few that needed to be reworded or updated to reflect the new form of government. Zoning wouldn’t change if we had an elected mayor or a manager. While we could be stuck with an elected mayor we didn’t like, we could – under our current form of government - get a council-appointed mayor we didn’t like. No one could judge the cost without knowing what the change was.

She listened politely [I am a regular customer] and reluctantly conceded that okay maybe those things wouldn’t change, but it was obvious that in her heart she believed that, for the most part, horrible things were going to happen if we changed our government to any form other than the one we have now.

It is apparent that an anonymous Hillsborough cabal has made it their mission to run a misinformation campaign that started even before the CSC members were sworn in. They work through individual contacts, repeated anonymous postings on Hillsborough-related forums including personal attacks on the duly elected CSC members, and disrupting websites that attempt to provide neutral educational material on the alternate forms of government available to Hillsborough.

This campaign has involved name-calling, causing alarm amongst the residents, threats of multi-million dollar tax increases, and unfavorable comparisons with the governments of large urban towns in New Jersey. They are convincing residents that any changes will mean soaring township costs, no responsibility to the voters, changes in all the ordinances and zones - always for the worse, and [one of the most bizarre] the entire municipal government – staff, commissions, boards, volunteers, employees - will cease to exist at midnight, December 31st of the year the change occurs throwing the entire town into disarray.

We can only hope that through citizen education Hillsborough residents will begin to recognize tactics that are so obviously outrageous they will be seen as the desperate schemes they are.

This has gone beyond misinformation and become the worst of politics and power.


miasma: 1.- A poisonous atmosphere once believed to rise from swamps and cause disease. 2. – A harmful influence (Webster’s II Dictionary).

Monday, May 7, 2007

Hillsborough's Website Whimsy

The Hillsborough Township Website includes a spot where various pictures of the township slowly fade in and out: the old church at Amwell and Main, barns and silos, the Garden of Honor at the Municipal Building.

They are beautiful verdant pictures, but I am not sure they represent most of Hillsborough as it currently exists and I have been pondering why they were chosen.

Are we proud of our past and not our present? Are we embarrassed by our current landscape? Is there something wrong with townhouses or condominiums, or the towers, or Route 206? Will pictures of our high school remind prospective residents of our soaring school taxes? Are photographs of strip malls so universal that they don’t speak of Hillsborough in particular?

If strangers saw those and came here to visit they would think they were in the wrong town. Maybe it’s time to do some updating.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Simple Bathroom Update

We have finally decided to update one of our bathrooms. [Those of you who have been through recent home improvement projects can stop laughing now!]

Even though we aren’t going to start this project for a few months, our contractor suggested we take a trip to the local bath decorating center, see what is out there, what’s new, what we like and dislike, and what these modern marvels cost (gasp!).

Geez! The prices!

It’s a bathroom for Pete’s sake! You use it for… well, you know…and reading and working on the crossword puzzle. And not, in this case, even a bathroom that will, for the most part, be seen by anyone outside the family.

Within a half-hour of entering the store, we both developed headaches. We thought we remembered going into a home-improvement store and saying, “I want one of these and two of these, and, oh yeah, a medicine cabinet with a mirror, and this. Okay, anything else? How much?”

Instead we wandered through dozens of model bathrooms containing equipment we would never put in our bathroom even if we could afford it or figure out how it works.

We are much too practical for current decorating trends or trendy decorating. When I see glass showers I picture trying to clean the watermarks off. When I look at a fancy bowled sink on a gorgeous wooden dresser, I wonder how you get the toothpaste from under the bowl and how the wood is affected by water. Will I be able to fix the new toilet if it involves anything more involved than bending the little float thing to stop it from running?

We finally fled the store with a handful of pamphlets that we could study in relative privacy – maybe in the bathroom.


I have just realized that our contractor has worked on our house before and knows our lifestyle and probably deliberately suggested that particular bathroom decorating store so that when he gives us the final figure for our regular standard bathroom stuff it will look downright cheap.

While walking around the fancy bathroom fixtures I just couldn’t bring myself to ask how some of the stuff works. Do the employees have a breakroom where they exchange stories about the rube who couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet or adjust the water temperature in the NASA-designed shower?

I was going to call this "Part I", because you know there will be more on this in the future. But I resisted the urge.