Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Local

11/07/2013

Despite objections, Readington officials vote to seize Solberg Airport

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READINGTON TWP. — About 500 people attended a public hearing tonight on an ordinance to allow the township to buy Solberg Airport and convert it to a municipal operation.

It took four hours to hear those who wanted to speak to Mayor Julia Allen and the Township Committee.

None of them voiced support for the ordinance, which was opposed by the family that has run the airport for more than 70 years. Thor Solberg, the fourth generation in America, was there in a baby carrier strapped to mom Ashleigh.

A number of pilots praised the operation of the airport and many people said they enjoyed the airport and other Solberg lands as they remain today.

Some offered suggestions to help end an effort that is at least 15 years long and may have cost local taxpayers $5 million, although a large share of that is interest that could be recouped because $21.7 million is in an escrow account.

One attorney suggested that the township instead seek the "right to first refusal," meaning that, should the Solberg Family decide to sell any or all of its 726 acres, members would give the township the chance to be first in line.

Another attorney said that a true accounting of legal expenses could be had by asking the attorney handling the litigation for the township for a copy of all bills.

The township has said bill payments aren't available prior to mid-2005 because the state didn't require storage in Readington indefinitely.

Many voiced opposition to condemnation — eminent domain. The reasons for doing so ranged from the principle of property rights to the cost of condemnation to the belief that the airport and surrounding open space lands aren't under imminent threat of development.

Mayor Julia Allen said that the outright purchase of all 726 acres would cost $23 million.

Allen said, as a former Bridgewater resident: "I know the process of suburban sprawl. Road are widened streetlights" are installed, along with "a gas station at the corner.

"Oh my God, if we don't do something to preserve it, it will be gone," is how she described her feelings on what has become an extended legal battle, with courts repeated ruling against the township.

Allen said, "You would think we would be able to work out a solution if we have a common goal."

At about 11:15 p.m. Committeeman Tom Auriemma made a motion to adopt the ordinance and then voted "yes" along with Allen and committeewomen Beatrice Muir and...


Solberg Airport issues should be sorted out at a trial, Superior Court rules

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A trial is needed to resolve the many issues between Readington Township and Solberg Airport. That's the thrust of a 67-page ruling from the Superior Court Appellate Division.

The ruling from the Superior Court Appellate Division has reversed the ruling of a trial judge over Readington Township's condemnation of land surrounding Solberg Airport and development rights to the airport itself.

Bill McGrath, an attorney with Smith, Stratton in Princeton and a township resident not associated with the litigation, said the opinion has the effect of ordering a trial on "all the issues" in the dispute between the township and the Solberg family that owns the airport.

The decision is a mixed bag. While it affirms the right of the township to zone and acquire the land surrounding the airport, it also says that state law does not give the township authority to acquire the development rights to the airport itself, McGrath said. The opinion also states that the township's actions are unlikely to "achieve the stated purposes" of preserving the airport, in part because "the fact that the facility will remain under the ownership of the Solbergs casts doubt on its post-condemnation survival... It appears that the decision to condemn development rights to the airport was tainted by the township's desire to control airport operations." It says "ultimate authority" over airport operations rests with the state, not the township.

The ruling also sides with the Solberg family over the township's claim that they owe property taxes on the airport dating back to 2006.

"This means that the condemnation is not likely to be upheld on the airport itself, or land within the 'safety zone'" surrounding the airport, McGrath said. "The opinion sends a message to the trial judge."



11/04/2013

EDITORIAL Bill de Blasio for Mayor

The rise of Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate, has been remarkable. In a clamorous primary campaign against better known, more seasoned candidates, he won the Democratic nomination without a runoff, by appealing directly and doggedly to struggling New Yorkers who see a city of lofty wealth rising out of their reach. With the election only 10 days away, Mr. de Blasio is polling so far ahead of the Republican, Joseph Lhota, that commentators have already anointed him leader of a national rebirth of left-wing populism.

Hold on. We’re electing a mayor here, someone to keep streets plowed and safe, budgets balanced, schools working well and constituents of five boroughs satisfied. Someone to sustain and build on the 12-year legacy of Michael Bloomberg, while realizing his own vision for New York. It’s a huge job, never mind the revolution.

Luckily, Mr. de Blasio is up for it.

During the Democratic primary scramble, the largest and most rancorous in decades, we gave our endorsement to Christine Quinn, citing her record as the City Council speaker. But it was Mr. de Blasio who proved far better at connecting with voters — and at being a persuasive advocate for his ideas. The ideas are good ones: Mr. de Blasio is right on public safety, and on the need to rein in the Police Department’s unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk tactics and restore its frayed ties to the community. He is right about the crisis of affordable housing, and he has the most comprehensive plan to attack it. His goal of expanding access to preschool education is a noble priority for the city. 

And he is giving a voice to the forgotten New Yorkers — the 46 percent living in or near poverty, the 50,000 living in homeless shelters, the millions living outside the zones of economic security and gentrified affluence. The city has had many successes in the Bloomberg years, but its rebirth is incomplete.

Public advocate is in many ways a negligible job, but Mr. de Blasio has used its bully pulpit well, to push for progress on affordable housing, health care and other issues, raising their profile (and, not accidentally, his own). His résumé — as regional housing official for President Bill Clinton, manager of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first Senate campaign, eight-year member of the City Council — has been called scant preparation to run an enterprise of 300,000 employees and a $70 billion budget. But Mr....


OPINION EDITORIAL Joe Lhota for New York City mayor

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Tomorrow New Yorkers go to the polls to choose a new mayor.

Before them will be a choice between two profoundly different visions for this city. It comes down to this: While Joe Lhota seeks to build upon the key reforms of the past two decades, Bill de Blasio campaigns on a platform that calls into question almost every stride forward the city has taken since the 1970s.

For this reason, The Post endorses Joe Lhota in this election.

For any mayor, the three most critical responsibilities are keeping the city safe, ensuring that every child has a shot at a decent education and insisting that the city government lives within its means. On all these issues the differences between the two candidates are stark. Consider:

Crime: Bill de Blasio has made his attacks on police practices — he claims cops are guilty of racial profiling — a centerpiece of his campaign.

Up to now he’s been able to point to Judge Shira Scheindlin to back him up. But last week’s stinging rebuke of Scheindlin by a federal appeals court undercuts the entire de Blasio premise. How can it be plausible for de Blasio to still insist he’s going to withdraw the city’s appeal of Scheindlin’s outrageous ruling that undercut the NYPD’s highly effective stop, question and frisk crime fighting program when the Second Circuit has made clear the judge was biased and the appeal may well prevail?

And let’s put this in proper context: Twenty years ago, New York had in excess of 2,000 murders a year; today, the figure is down to 417. Every time the experts said crime rates couldn’t get any lower, they did.

Lhota wants to keep these practices while de Blasio is for handcuffing the people that gave us the safest big city in America.

Education: Our public schools are doing a rotten job of meeting their responsibility to give our children the skills they need to succeed in this century. Mike Bloomberg came into office 12 years ago promising to fix this, and though in some areas he has fallen short, he has moved us in the right direction. In particular, he has nurtured the growth of a new kind of public school that is accountable to parents and actually teaches its students: charters.

De Blasio has put a bull’s-eye on charters, claiming in his divisive way that they are “wealthy” and represent only 5 percent of the school system. But make no mistake: Charters serve some of the least well off kids in this city, and they might well...



10/31/2013

Christie, Buono diffee sharply on tax cuts, fiscal policy

 

Christie, Buono diffee sharply on tax cuts, fiscal policy

By Mark J. Magyar NJ Spotlight | Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 9:27 am

The policy choices that Christie made to address those fiscal crises, the tax and budget votes that his Democratic challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), cast in her 18 years in the Legislature, and the sharply divergent approaches they would take to the state’s future funding challenges are the most critical differences they have laid out in their year-long campaigns:

  • While Christie rules out any tax increase and has been pushing the Legislature to implement an immediate tax cut to be funded out of future revenues, Buono questions whether the money will be there to pay for it. Instead, she favors reimposition of a millionaire’s tax to pay for property tax relief for lower- and middle-income taxpayers.

  • While Buono charges that net out-of-pocket property tax costs for the average family have risen 18.7 percent since Christie took office because of rebate cuts, Christie touts two years of near-record-low increases in actual property tax bills because of legislation he championed that imposed a 2 percent spending cap, limited arbitration awards, and required public employees to pay more for their pensions and health benefits -- a bill Buono opposed.

  • While Christie calls Buono a “tax-and-spend liberal” who does not regret voting for 154 tax and fee hikes, Buono has been calling for the state to spend billions more on preschool, K-12 education, property tax relief, tuition aid, transportation, and higher education. Christie criticizes Buono for not saying exactly how she would pay for the new spending, which Buono says she would phase it in using normal year-to-year revenue increases.

  • While Buono criticizes Christie for cutting $7.5 million a year in funding for family-planning clinics that would have drawn down $67.5 million annually in federal matching funds and for cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor as he was paying out billions in subsidies to corporations, Christie charges that Buono would favor public employee unions over the tax-paying public.

  • And while Buono charges that Christie cancelled a needed rail passenger tunnel to New York and borrowed heavily to fund the Transportation Trust Fund, and relied on one-shot revenue gimmicks and overinflated revenue estimates to fund his budgets, Christie says the bottom line is that he has...


Chris Christie claims there have been no tax increases since he's been governor

If Chris Christie is sure about one thing, it’s the lack of any tax increase in New Jersey since he’s been governor.

So confident is the governor that he pointed out his achievement during Wednesday’s monthly "Ask The Governor" radio call-in program on New Jersey 101.5 FM. It’s a claim he’s made before.

"Not one tax has been raised since I've been governor," Christie said during a brief portion of the show where he compared his fiscal actions as governor with those of state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who is challenging him in the Nov. 5 gubernatorial contest.

Previous Truth-O-Meter rulings have determined this claim isn’t entirely accurate. And PolitiFact New Jersey remains as confident as the governor in that fact.

Let’s begin by reviewing the major taxes in New Jersey.

It’s true that rates for income, sales and corporation business taxes -- the state’s three biggest revenue generators -- have not gone up under Christie.

But tax increases have resulted when Christie cut funding for tax-credit programs, according to several experts who have told us that those reductions are essentially tax increases.

"For practical purposes, decreasing tax credits is the same as a tax increase. The person's effective tax rate goes up," David Brunori, a research professor of public policy at The George Washington University, explained in an e-mail. "Still, most people think of tax increases as rate hikes."

Rates haven’t increased, but the reduced tax credits mean some homeowners and certain low-income individuals are receiving less money to offset their tax bills.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is one example.

New Jersey scaled back the EITC during Christie’s first year in office. The state Treasury Department website has explained that the EITC "reduces the amount of New Jersey tax you owe and may also give you a refund, even if you have no tax liability to New Jersey."

In addition to that reduction, Christie cut spending for two property tax relief programs.

Budget analyses from the state’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services showed that  homeowners who qualified for one of those programs, now called the Homestead Benefit program, received an average rebate of more than $1,000 in fiscal year 2010. Now, the average credit is less than half that amount.  

State Treasury Department officials have argued that the tax credit...



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