A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 30th at Cliffwood Beach - Treasure Lake

Raritan Bay from West Concourse

Treasure Lake (foreground) and Raritan Bay are separated by a strip of land and a seawall.

Red-winged blackbird in the reeds.

Treasure Lake from near the seawall.

April 30th at Cliffwood Beach - Brant's Geese

April 30th at Cliffwood Beach - Fishing

Saturday Afternoon at Starbucks in Matawan

There's nothing like a Saturday afternoon at Starbucks in Matawan. I often update my blog there with a venti decaf Americano.

BTW: Starting on Monday 2 May, the Matawan store, which is located at the corner of Route 34 at Main Street, will be closing later: 10:30 pm Sundays through Thursdays and 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Starbucks will also begin opening earlier on weekends (5:30 am) starting 7 May.

Christie's Bad Karma

I remember just shaking my head and sighing when Governor Christie rejected funding for the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) project last fall. I didn't even comment on it here, frustrated that New Jerseyans could be so penny wise and pound foolish. The Asbury Park Press was boasting that Christie had made his mark with his abrupt decision to reject this $9.7 billion federal-state transportation project, but I thought he had lost his mind. Our quality of life was heading down the toilet, revenues from the largest transportation project ever were being tossed away, and the struggle between Federal and state interests was reaching a new low.

But now things aren't going the Governor's way. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) wants $271 million back that they directed to NJ Transit in anticipation of New Jersey's participation in ARC, according to press reports. If Trenton doesn't give it back, the Feds will simply withhold it from future payments on other transportation projects. Our two US Senators tried to mitigate the cost to NJ taxpayers, but Christie's legal team never pursued the arrangement and the FTA has since withdrawn the offer.

Trenton is pondering its options. So far it's arguing that the $271 million in improvements should be looked at more broadly. The FTA is hearing none of it. A bit of backlash for the Governor's boorishness, I imagine. Or maybe it is just bad karma? I mean, how many bad things can you say about teachers before you get a ruler square across your knuckles?

A Saturday Look at Wednesday's Fire Along Route 35 at Cliffwood

Northward view of fire damage along Route 35 at the Monmouth-Middlesex county line.
Southward view of fire damage along Route 35 at the Monmouth-Middlesex county line.
I checked out the scene of the brush fire in Cliffwood last Wednesday. I parked my car in the Rebound Gymnastics parking lot and walked northward along Route 35 South past the storage company to get there.  A Laurence Habor Fire Department vehicle was on the scene.

A tree continues to smolder, prompting calls from residents.

Firefighters plan to deal with this inaccessible burning tree on Saturday.
Another Laurence Harbor Fire Department vehicle arrived soon after I began snapping pictures. George told me they are on the scene to keep an eye on a smoldering tree that remains frustratingly inaccessible. They've received a number of calls from worried residents and want to assure everyone that they have the matter well in hand. Hopefully this afternoon they will reach the tree and resolve this last vestige of Wednesday evening's fire.
These Old Bridge houses were protected by a barrier of wetlands
The LH firefighter told me that homes visible on a ridge near the scene (above photos) were on the other side of a waterway and not in any serious danger on Wednesday. The real concern was to keep the fire from crossing the highway, where the backyards of many Cliffwood Beach (Old Bridge) homes would have been exposed to the flames. The fire made regional news outlets such as NJ 12 News, The Asbury Park Press, et al.
The reeds will grow back soon enough. For now, though, the area looks pretty desolate.

Whale Creek passes through scorched lands days after a huge brushfire that closed Route 35 in Cliffwood.

Whale Creek culvert on southbound side of Route 35 at the county line.
The fire exposed that troublesome section of Whale Creek, which floods so frequently and prompts officials to close Route 35. Hopefully, the Whale Creek culvert is the one being renovated in an upcoming state roads project.

Ken Aitken Wins Aberdeen Write-In Seat on MARSD Board

Kenneth Aitken received 20 write-in votes to fill Aberdeen's one-year unexpired term on the board of education of the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District, per APP. The 2009-2012 term was held by Joey Warren (2009-2010), then by Paul Evangelista (2010-2011), but no one applied to fill the unexpired term for 2011-2012, making the spot vulnerable to a write-in candidacy. Presumably the board would have empaneled a search committee to fill the unexpired term this summer. Who knows whether Mr Aitkin would have been their first choice?

Mr Aitken lives at 65 Juniper Place, in the J Section of Strathmore off Van Brackle Road. According to published reports, he was a US Navy submariner for 6 years, earned a master's degree in telecommunications from Stevens Institute in Hoboken, and worked for AT&T in Holmdel. In 2005 he had two children in the school system here.

My internet research suggests that Mr Aitken served on the school board 2005-2008. He ran for the board and lost at least one time before 2005 and again in 2008. The minutes of the 27 Aug 2007 board meeting indicate that he chaired the Finance, Transportation, and Technology Committees.

He echoes the "protect the taxpayer" refrain that always seems to come up when someone, Republican or Democrat, is wrestling for power in the form of control over budget monies. He voted against major football field, lighting, and track improvements back in 2006 but supported steep administrator pay raises in the above minutes from August 2007. His editorial in the 18 June 2003 edition of The Independent complained about inadequate communication from the "Democrat-controlled Aberdeen Township Council" on its plans for the Railroad Plaza project.

Mr Aitkin filed an accusation of ethics violations against a fellow board member after a contentious April 2008 election. His complaint developed into a valued member's suspension from the board for what turned out to be the remainder of her tenure. And it set a tone that makes public service seem more like a minefield than a contribution to community.

Matawan Fails to Advance at 2011 TIA Championships at Wildwood

Here's the results from 2011 TIA Championships at Wildwood. Matawan's Winterguard team didn't qualify to advance to the finals.  Looks like the competition was fierce, with scores up to 90.50.

Scholastic A Color Guard Prelims

Friday April 29, 2011

unit score
div class type

Washington Twp HS 90.50
Scholastic A Guard
East Stroudsburg South HS 89.00
Scholastic A Guard
Daniel Boone HS 88.30
Scholastic A Guard
Southern Regional HS 87.50
Scholastic A Guard
Quakertown HS 86.90
Scholastic A Guard
Central Mountain HS 85.70
Scholastic A Guard
St Marys HS 85.30
Scholastic A Guard
Triton Regional HS 85.10
Scholastic A Guard
Windber HS 83.80
Scholastic A Guard
Johnstown HS 81.70
Scholastic A Guard
Matawan HS 81.30
Scholastic A Guard
Parkland HS 77.70
Scholastic A Guard

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cliffwood Beach Burglaries Continue Unabated

I see that our local burglar is at it again here in Cliffwood Beach. This time the victim was on the Middlesex County side on Boulevard East. Based on reporting at My Central Jersey, he watched the house and entered through a rear window when no one was expected home. It could easily have been a daytime break-in. He stole a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver this time, so future burglaries could become violent.

I hope that Old Bridge PD and Aberdeen PD are comparing notes. This has been going on way too long.

Congressman Frank Pallone Greeting Constituents

Congressman Frank Pallone is greeting constituents at Aberdeen Matawan rail station.

UPDATE: I had nearly half an hour to wait for my train so I had ample opportunity to chat with the Congressman and his aide, who were handing out constituent services brochures and offering to talk about whatever the public wanted.

I expressed my concern about the possible loss of Medicare funding for medical intern programs. The Congressman pointed out that the health care reform package contains wording to deal with the shortage of general practitioners. He said doctors favor medical specializations and at the same time discourage anyone with lesser qualifications from stepping in to help deal with the shortage of general practitioners. I wryly joked that that is what Emergency Rooms are for.

2011 Matawan-Aberdeen School Budget Passes in 53/47 Squeaker

Unofficial 2011 School Election results below were found tonight at a Monmouth County Government website:

Matawan-Aberdeen Regional Question
20/20 100.00%
Under Votes 16
Over Votes 0
  Vote Count Percent
- Yes 898 52.76%
- No 804 47.24%
Total 1,702 100.00%

Matawan-Aberdeen Reg BOE (Aberdeen) (Full Term)
13/13 100.00%
Under Votes 992
Over Votes 0
Vote Count Percent
- Dennis Daniels 602 50.42%
- Todd Larchuk 547 45.81%
Write-In 45 3.77%
Total 1,194 100.00%

Matawan-Aberdeen Reg BOE (Aberdeen) (1Yr Unexp)
13/13 100.00%
Under Votes 998
Over Votes 0
Vote Count Percent
Write-In 83 100.00%
Total 83 100.00%

Matawan-Aberdeen Reg BOE (Matawan)
7/7 100.00%
Under Votes 197
Over Votes 0
  Vote Count Percent
- Charles Kenny 400 94.56%
Write-In 23 5.44%
Total 423 100.00%

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Broken Windows in a Spray Can

James Q Wilson, in his foreword to Fixing Broken Windows (1996), reminds us that the battle to protect the community begins with the little things, like broken windows in an abandoned factory, or graffiti on a seawall promenade.

The title -- Fixing Broken Windows is an allusion to an essay Kelling and I published in The Atlantic Monthly in March 1982. We used the image of broken windows to explain how neighborhoods might decay into disorder and even crime if no one attends faithfully to their maintenance. If a factory or office window is broken, passersby observing it will conclude that no one cares or no one is in charge. In time, a few will begin throwing rocks to break more windows. Soon all the windows will be broken, and now passersby will think that, not only is no one in charge of the building, no one is in charge of the street on which it faces. Only the young, the criminal, or the foolhardy have any business on an unprotected avenue, and so more and more citizens will abandon the street to those they assume prowl it. Small disorders lead to larger and larger ones, and perhaps even to crime.

If you're interested in further information, read Atlantic Monthly's interview of the authors of Fixing Broken Windows, including Wilson's partner in the 1982 article, George L Kelling,

Cliffwood Fire - 27 April 2011

Photo from Greenwood Avenue across from Bayview Church looking towards Lakeshore Drive in Midnight Point.

The fire was actually across Route 35 in a marshy area south of County Road.
There's been quite a bit of fire and rescue activity in the Cliffwood Beach area in the past hour. Black billowing clouds of smoke began at dusk. The sirens continue to wail even now. I heard from one passer-by that the fire is on the northbound side of Route 35 near County Road. That would put the fire at or near Reflections Banquet and Catering, 111 Route 35 N. I'm staying off the road to allow for emergency vehicles to get around. I recommend you do the same.

UPDATE 11:30 PM - Route 35 North is closed at Cliffwood Avenue. There are a couple of construction vehicles in the middle of the road directing traffic north into Cliffwood Beach and around through the beachfront across Whale Creek and into Middlesex County. That route takes you to Ocean Boulevard and joins Route 35 N at the 7 Eleven in Cliffwood Beach.

UPDATE 12:15 AM - Thank you for the reader's feedback on the fire location in a marshy area off the southbound side of Route 35 near Salem Place. Yours is still the best detail on where the fire was. The Asbury Park Press has published a story and I just saw a News 12 New Jersey video. Hopefully the residents in Cliffwood are doing ok.

Matawan Varsity Winterguard Heading to Wildwood

Matawan Varsity Winterguard "Enigma" is scheduled to compete at the Tournament Indoor Association's Tournament of Bands All-Chapter Championships at the Wildwood Convention Hall this Friday evening with finals set for Sunday afternoon.

Scholastic A Color Guard Preliminaries begin at 7:15 pm on Friday 29 April in the Wildwood Convention Hall. Matawan's preliminaries performance is scheduled for 8:03 pm. The top 8 out of 12 teams move on to the finals on Sunday afternoon. Matawan is in Group D and will be vying for one of two finalist slots with Southern Regional (performing at 7:31 pm) and Central Mountain (performing at 8:35 pm). Groups A, B, and C likewise will advance only two of three guard teams per group on Friday evening.

Scholastic A Color Guard Finals begin at 1 pm on Sunday 1 May at the same venue. The two Group D finalist performances are scheduled for 1:08 pm and 1:40 pm. The top performances will be announced at the full unit retreat scheduled for 3:35 pm.

Enigma earned the gold medal (as did the MAMS guard) at the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Network (MAIN) Championships at South Brunswick on Saturday 16 April. Enigma also ranked 1st in their category at the Tournament of Bands (TOB) Chapters 1/10 Championships at Timber Creek High School on Sunday 17 April.

A word of warning: Southern Regional and Central Mountain each scored in the 86 point range in their respective 17 April championship performances, while Matawan scored an 83, so this Friday's event presents a sizable challenge to Enigma.

Congratulations to all on performances to date and the best of luck to Enigma this weekend.

Phoebe Snow Dies in Edison

Teaneck-born singer Phoebe Snow died Tuesday, per North Jersey. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage last year and been in a coma in an Edison hospital for over a year, according to the BBC. She previously lived in Fort Lee.The Star-Ledger and Chicago Sun-Times have detailed pieces about her life and career. Check out an audio reprise of Phoebe Snow's songs and testimonies to the effect her music had on people such as Queen Latifah at NPR's All Things Considered. I've included a couple videos so you can sample her work.

Matawan and Aberdeen Vote - 2011 School Election

Don't forget to vote today! Polls are open 1 pm to 9 pm. One position on the school board remains vacant, a one-year unexpired term, so a write-in campaign could be effective today. The budget question is really the only matter before the voters.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Medicare's Unsung Role in Medical Education

Did you realize that Medicare is a major sponsor of medical residency programs in teaching hospitals in the United States? I didn't. I'll bet you didn't either.

According to Elissa Fuchs of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Congress makes direct (DGME) and indirect (IME) payments to teaching hospitals to fund graduate medical education (GME) and defray the countless unattributable costs associated with treating the difficult medical cases such hospitals tend to attract. These facilities need state of the art equipment to do the tough jobs. They are research centers, leading the way in medical breakthroughs. And they are universities.

But gradual cuts in funding to Medicare for nearly fifteen years have been reducing the number of physicians being trained, causing a shortage of physicians. One can only wonder what the elimination of Medicare, as proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, would mean for the number of interns in our teaching hospitals and, by extension, new doctors.

The blogosphere has been hot on the immediate loss of care for the elderly, a grave concern with this ill-advised plan. But what about direct and indirect funding of medical students in our teaching hospitals? Will no one carry that torch?

We have great teaching hospitals in this country -- nearby in this state, in fact. What are you going to do to preserve your access to quality medical professionals? It's presently at risk.

History: Cliffwood Elementary Construction Approved, December 1956

The 13 December 1956 edition of The Matawan Journal displayed state-approved plans for the new Cliffwood Elementary School. The county superintendent was concerned that such a large facility was being suggested for the site, but ultimately those objections went unheeded in Trenton. A bond issue of $705,000 was destined to include $660,000 for the elementary school and $45,000 for a few additional rooms at the old Matawan High School.