Archive for November, 2010

Christie Buries Trenton’s History – Kills 1730’s Petty’s Run Restoration

November 30th, 2010 7 comments

Richard Bagger, Gov. Christie's Chief of Staff, chairs the State Capitol Joint Managment Commission's approval to fill and abandon Petty's Run excavation and restoration.


[Update 2 : 1/27/11 – efforts are being made to stop DEP from burying the site, see today’s Trenton Times coverageHistorical society calls city dig site ‘endangered]

Update 1: 12/1/10  NJ Newsroom coverage:  Commission votes to fill in Petty’s Run archeological site on Statehouse grounds]

Trenton Times story: Plan to bury Trenton archaeological site is blasted – end updates]

In an appalling and senseless move to destroy a unique and valuable historical asset, an obscure body called the State Capitol Joint Management Commission voted this morning to kill the Petty’s Run Project.

The 5-2 vote allegedly was based on a recommendation by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

But, amazingly, on May 25, 2010, the same DEP Commissioner Bob Martin issued an historic preservation award to the Petty’s Run project, honoring it as an example of “NJ’s best and brightest”:

Petty’s Run Site archaeological explorations public outreach, Trenton, Mercer County

The Petty’s Run archaeological explorations were undertaken as part of the design of the proposed Capital State Park. Phase 1B of the park, just east of the State House, calls for a series of conserved foundations, restoration of flow to Petty’s Run, and the installation of an operational waterwheel in a 19th century paper-mill wheel pit to educate visitors about water-powered industry around the time of the American Revolution. The park design team realized the work, because of its location, would generate considerable attention. The team used the excavation itself to inform the public about the history of the site. Outreach included a web journal, an on-site interpreter, and periodic site tours and presentations.

The political decision to reverse course and kill the project was not based on any well considered rational plan, alternatives or as a cost savings move. Funding is available and dedicated by the voters, and the costs to close the project exceed those to finish it.

Similar to Christie’s termination of the tunnel to NYC known as “ARC”,  “The state has money for the project that under law cannot be used elsewhere.”

The Capitol Joint Management Commission is Chaired by Governor Christie’s Chief Of Staff, Rich Bagger. News sources indicated that Lt. Governor Guadagno wanted the project killed because she didn’t like the view of it out her State House office window. (see Tom Hester, NJ Newsroom: Lt. Gov. Guadagno wants archeological dig on Statehouse lawn buried

So, while there was virtually zero public awareness or debate on costs or alternatives, the involvement of Bagger and Guadagno and the reversal of DEP’s prior support mean that the decision to kill the project was a political one made by Governor Christie.

Christie’ decision is an affront to NJ’s history and an attack on Trenton and the idea of urban parks in NJ. If defies strong public support for parks for people.

Petty’s Run is an ongoing archaelogical excavation and restoration of a mill that dates to pre-Revolutionary War Trenton of the 1730’s.

History buffs should visit for a description of the archaeological dig and restoration project, with excellent photos.

The Petty’s Run project is an essential element of Trenton’s Capital State Park (click here for Master Plan), which showcases Trenton’s rich history:

Capital State Park

The State of New Jersey is creating a new urban park in downtown Trenton. Named the Capital State Park and following a master plan created by WRT Design, the initial phase of the park focuses on the area between the State House and the War Memorial and on the strip of land extending up behind the Old Barracks Museum and Thomas Edison State College to West State Street. Ultimately Capital State Park seeks to reconnect the city to the Delaware River and the water resources that have underpinned its growth and prosperity.

Trenton’s rich history is one of the main themes that will be incorporated into the park design. The area behind the Barracks contains the buried remains of several 18th- and 19th-century industrial sites along Petty’s Run. The goal of the archaeological excavations currently in progress is to inform the park design and devise a means of exposing, stabilizing and displaying the buried ruins as an addition to the complex of historic sites that is anchored by the State House and the Old Barracks.

Read the Park Master Plan’s vision and design options for Petty’s Run (click here @ page 76)

NJ has just one urban State park, Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The new Capital State park would enrich the State park system, capitalize on Trenton’s tremendous historic assets, and serve as a magnet for tourist and historic preservation based economic development.

Funding for the Park was dedicated via the 2003 voter approved constitutional amendment to dedicate $50 million of corporate business tax proceeds to State Park maintenance and restoration. So budget shortfalls can not be the reason for killling this project.

This is politics at its worst – our sources told me that this battle is not over.

We’ll keep you posted. Below are photo’s I shot after the hearing this morning. They give a sense of the linkage to the Old Barracks and the State House.

[Update – photo reply to comment. Read the sign at Historic Barracks: “Our funds cut 100%, Please donate”. Shot at May 22, 2010 protest

Trenton's Historic Barracks fundraising at May 33, 2010 protest

Trenton's Historic Barracks fundraising at May 22, 2010 protest




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I Get The Urge For Goin’

November 28th, 2010 No comments



I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a girl in summertime
She had summer-colored skin
And not another man in town
My darling’s heart could win
But when the leaves fell on the ground, and
Bully winds came around, pushed them face down in the snow
She got the urge for going
And I had to let her go

She got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow
They’ve got the urge for going, and they’ve got the wings so they can go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I’ll ply the fire with kindling now, I’ll pull the blankets up to my chin
I’ll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I’d like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she’s got the urge for going and I guess she’ll have to go

And she gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empire’s falling down
                        ~~~ Urge for Going – by Joni Mitchell (gender adjusted pronouns!)

(I prefer the Tom Rush version)

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November 27th, 2010 No comments
Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

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What’s Wrong With Bloomsbury?

November 27th, 2010 4 comments

Tiny Boro Balks at Recycling – Are Republicans Ginning Up Faux Controversies?

Or After Denying Global Warming, is Recycling Next on the Hit List?

File this under “A” for Absurd.

First it was the “Rats in Raritan” - where Town officials refused to adopt a DEP required ordinance to assure that garbage dumpsters have lids so that rats, vermin, and leachate don’t become local public health and water quality problems. They called it an unfunded state mandate.

Shortly after this controversy emerged, Governor Christie appeared for a Town Hall meeting in Raritan, which prompted us to write about the larger political and policy context of the Raritan Revolt in  Gov. Christie Joins Rats in Raritan (No Joke) 

Did the people of upscale suburban Raritan Township really oppose efforts to control rats? Or was this a political stunt?

Now, the tiny Borough of Bloomsbury, less than 1 square mile and population of 881 - which surely must make it a prime target for consolidation reform –  won’t adopt a DEP recycling ordinance, also using the same bogus rhetoric of “state mandate“. (see Hunterdon County Democrat story:  Bloomsbury mayor calls mandatory recycling rules ‘absurd’ and ‘unreasonable’ as officials criticize Hunterdon County, state)

BLOOMSBURY — Borough Council members postponed a vote on the state-mandated recycling ordinance at their Tuesday meeting after expressing objections to the garbage inspections and fines that the ordinance would authorize.

“Obviously, this is not a popular ordinance. The state has come out with its recycling goals, and they’re hard goals,” said Mayor Mark Peck. “The state is threatening us with $3,000 fines a day if we don’t adopt an ordinance that meets their goals

Recycling has been mandatory at the municipal level in New Jersey for 23 years – the law was passed in 1987. Recycling enjoys widespread public support, which helps NJ lead the nation in recycling goals and rates achieved. Recycling is as close to political motherhood and apple pie as it gets.

The passage of New Jersey’s mandatory recycling legislation in April, 1987 was a major milestone in our state’s solid waste management history and helped establish New Jersey as a leader in this field. The “New Jersey Statewide Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act” (Recycling Act), N.J.S.A. 13:1E-99.11 et seq., set forth an ambitious program that reshaped at least one aspect of the everyday lives of state residents, businesses and institutions. Among other things, the Recycling Act required New Jersey’s twenty-one counties to develop recycling plans that mandated the recycling of at least three designated recyclable materials, in addition to leaves. County recycling plans were also required to designate the strategy to be utilized for the collection, marketing and disposition of designated recyclable materials. Other provisions of the Recycling Act required municipalities to adopt an ordinance based upon their county’s recycling plan.

So, I smell a rat – this appears to be a manufactured controversy.

Is this a TSA “porno-scanner” like set up to generate astro-turf political support for further attacks on government, especially DEP and environmental programs?

Senator Michael Doherty - global warming denier and right wing republican

Senator Michael Doherty - global warming denier and right wing republican

Are Town officials looking out for the best interests of their residents or playing state level politics?  (like Ocean County Republicans)

Both Raritan and Bloomsbury just happen to be located in the 23rd legislative District, home of fellow Gov. Christie global warming denier, Republican Senator Michael Doherty.

Is right wing Republican leadership ginning up these kind of bogus local disputes? 

The press and residents of Bloomsbury should be asking local officials these hard questions.

(ps - yes, the title of this post is a riff on Thomas Frank’s wonderful book “What’s the mattter with Kansas?”) 

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Principles to Live By

November 26th, 2010 No comments

I just listened to a fascinating interview on Democracy Now! with economist Manfred Max-Neef.

I was not familiar with his work, but knew I was in for a treat after hearing Amy Goodman’s introduction:

He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. “Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty,” Max-Neef says.

As Mr.Max-Neef spoke, it became apparent that “Barefooot economics” sounded a lot like the “Buddhist economics” I first read of almost 40 years ago in E.F. Schumacher’s classic 1973 work “Small is Beautiful“.

I hadn’t heard the issues and problems articulated so beautifully, simply, and clearly, so I wanted to share his wisdom and restate the five postulates and one over-arching fundamental value principle he outlined (verbatim):

“1. The economy is to serve the people, and not the people to serve the economy.

2. Development is about people, not about objects.

3. Growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

4. No economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

5. The economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

The fundamantal value to sustain a new economy should be that economic interest, under no circumstances, can be above the reverence for life. Nothing can be more important than life – and not just human life – but life in all its manifestations. 

These principles reflect the conclusions of another pathbreaking 1972 book that also has guided my thinking and shaped my values: “Limits to Growth

I urge all to listen to the entire interview – click here.

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