Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School Time: Backpack Safety Tips

Every so often myself and my co-workers are sent little messages from our Health and Safety Coordinator on various topic, they are often useful commonsense tip on subjects that many of us take for granted. Case in point, it's back to school time here in Middletown as well as all around the country, how many people have given a second thought to the backpacks that their kids will be lugging around with them for several hours each day? Not many, I'm sure:

With a new school year beginning soon, two orthopedic groups have released tips to help kids avoid backpack-related injuries.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America warn that wearing a backpack that is too heavy or improperly positioned could result in sprains, strains or posture problems. More than 9,500 such injuries occurred among children 5-18 years old in 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

To avoid injuries, the groups advise students to:

  • Carry no more than 15-20 percent of their body weight.
  • Use both shoulder straps and adjust them to keep the load close to the back.
  • Remove items if the backpack is too heavy and pack the heaviest things low and in the center.
  • If possible, leave books at home or school instead of carrying them back and forth.

Parents also can help by purchasing the right-size backpack for their child, and asking if their child has
any numbness or tingling in the arms, which could indicate the backpack is too heavy or fits poorly.

Choosing the Right Backpack

When choosing a backpack, look for one that is appropriate for the size of your child. In addition, look for some of the following features:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps
  • Two shoulder straps
  • Padded back
  • Waist strap
  • Lightweight backpack
  • Rolling backpack

The correct use of both of the wide, well-padded shoulder straps will help distribute the weight of the backpack.

Labor Day 2014

"If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool." -Abraham Lincoln

Union Maid - Pete Seeger

John Lennon - Working Class Hero

Saturday, August 30, 2014

President Obama's Weekly Address 8/30/14: This Labor Day, Let’s Talk About the Minimum Wage

WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the President wished Americans a Happy Labor Day weekend, highlighted the important economic progress we’ve made, and reaffirmed his commitment to accelerate our progress and ensure that our growing economy fuels a strong middle class. To do this, the President reiterated that Congress should do right by hardworking Americans across the country and raise the minimum wage and he praised the 13 states and Washington, DC as well as employers large and small who have heeded his call and taken action to provide their citizens and employees a fair wage. The President underscored that America built the world’s greatest middle class by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead – an economic patriotism worth remembering this Labor Day, and every day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Letter: Rescind Mental Health Appointment

To the Editor,

As a former mental health counselor and school psychologist with a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling, I am dismayed and aghast that Freeholder Burry has appointed William Bucco, her former campaign manager, as the acting assistant director of Monmouth County's Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Reportedly, Mr. Bucco has only an undergraduate degree in business and zero mental health experience. Mrs. Burry commented that he saved money in the last county job she gave him. Such bean -counting does not provide the much -needed empathic support to the clients of these county services.

The current county crisis of heroin addiction, homelessness and post-Sandy stress requires experienced, competent professionals to lead this critical division.

The appointment of Mr. Bucco needs to be rescinded.

Carolyn Schwebel, Director, Equalizers,
Advocates for People with Disabilities
Leonardo NJ

APP LETTER: Ex-Burry aide unqualified for post

The following letter was posted online over at the Asbury Park Press website earlier today. It hits the nail right on the head and points out exactly what's wrong with the Queen Bee of Monmouth County politics, Freeholder Lillian Burry and her lack of judgment towards the people she appoints to county postitions. It's political patronage at its worst.

 From the APP:
William Bucco of Aberdeen, a 28-year-old campaign treasurer for Freeholder Lillian Burry’s 2011 re-election campaign, should not have been appointed as acting assistant director of the Monmouth County Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Monmouth County is facing a heroin epidemic and we need competent experts, not political socialites to assist residents battling addiction. Bucco lacks the background necessary to help implement the complex solutions we need to reduce harm and save lives.

Has everyone forgotten that Bucco’s predecessor as Burry’s campaign treasurer was attorney John Cantalupo of Colts Neck? Cantalupo resigned after he came under scrutiny in relation to the corruption that took place at Brookdale Community College while he was employed as attorney for the college board of trustees.

Burry pushed the corrupt Lucas farm deal that resulted in her political ally, former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas, being given $1.2 million in county farmland preservation funds. Lucas has since been arrested by the FBI and is under federal criminal indictment on financial fraud charges relating to the deal.

Burry and the Republican Party have broken the taxpayer trust. We need new leaders and a federal criminal investigation to put a stop to these incidents that have made our local government look like a “Sopranos” episode.

Justin Cooke
Middletown and Colorado

Smith Called Out For His Extremism In The NYT

Seeing how Chris Smith is Middletown's other U.S. Congressman. He started representing our town in 2012 and thought I should pass along the following Letter to the Editor that appeared in the New York Times earlier in the week.

The more Middletown voters get to know Chris Smith, the more they are to dislike him:

To the Editor:
Re “Quackery and Abortion Rights” (editorial, Aug. 21): Women in this country should not be fooled into thinking that efforts to restrict access to abortion and reproductive health services are a Texas problem or a “Southern” problem. In fact, there have been several moves to pass federal “personhood” bills by conservative House members.
Most recently, in the 112th Congress, H.R. 374 was proposed, which said that life begins at fertilization, making abortion virtually illegal, as well as virtually outlawing birth control pills, the IUD and the morning-after pill. Representatives Christopher Smith and Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Michael Grimm of New York were the bill’s co-sponsors.
If ever a midterm election were important on the issue of women’s reproductive rights, this November is it. If Republicans take the Senate as well as the House, access to women’s reproductive health services will not be just a Texas problem, but also a national one.
Ridgewood, N.J., Aug. 21, 2014

Calendar Project Artwork By Elementary School Students On Display at Arts Center

Middletown, N.J. (August 28, 2014) – In honor of the 350th Anniversary of Middletown, students from twelve Middletown elementary schools reproduced their artwork from the annual “My Middletown School Year Calendar Project” on 4’ x 4’ mural panels, currently displayed at the Middletown Arts Center (MAC), located at 36 Church Street in Middletown, N.J. The mural panels have been on display since the Middletown 350 Parade on June 21, 2014 and will be relocated for display to Croydon Hall for Middletown Day on September 27, 2014.

The “My Middletown School Year Calendar Project” was started in 2010 by Linda Kish, who serves
on the Board of Trustees of the Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council. Participating Middletown elementary schools include Middletown Village, Harmony, Lincroft, Leonardo, New Monmouth, Ocean Avenue, Navesink, Fairview, Bayview, Nutswamp, Port Monmouth and River Plaza Elementary Schools. The students work with their art teachers to create artwork of places around Middletown Township. Each elementary school teacher presents the project to the fourth and fifth grade students and several entries are selected. The selected entries are then forwarded to the Middletown Arts Center, which makes the final selection of art featured in the calendar.

This year’s calendar design was created by the Middletown High School North Graphic Design Class with instructor Dorothy Bagley. The Middletown Township Cultural & Arts Council produces the calendar each year and they are posted up at Middletown schools and throughout Middletown Township.

The Calendar Project would not be possible without the work of art teachers Diane Bajor, Sharon Stafflinger, Mary Henderson, Lisa Montibello, Laurie O’Keefe, and Doreen Georgiou. Principals Kathy Sidoti and Karen Zupancic were instrumental in coordinating the multiple aspects of the project including the painting of the panels. Mrs. Sidoti and Mrs. Zupancic served as liaisons between the art teachers, students, PTAs, the Arts Center and the Township. We even had the participation of the parents who were brave enough to come trace their children’s drawings onto the aluminum surfaces. Other students also pitched in to help with the painting.

“The Calendar Project is a great collaboration between the Middletown Public Schools and the Arts Council,” said Maggie O'Brien, Executive Director of the Middletown Arts Center. “We really enjoy partnering with the schools on enriching arts programs and experiences. This year’s Calendar Project was extra-special because of our 350 Celebration and the creation of the beautiful murals. I love seeing the student’s creativity. The pictures they draw capture all that is special about Middletown. I wish we could use all of the artwork created. It gives us a very special and unique view of our township.”

A reception was held earlier this month at the Middletown Arts Center to honor the young artists and showcase their artwork to the general public. Calendar posters will be available to the public free of charge after the reception. Call 732-706-4100 for more information.


  • Photo 1: Calendar winners (from left to right): Sabrina Mendez, Victoria Povall, Chloe Zenker, Georgia T., Volunteer - unsure of name, Peyton Le Bourveau, JJ Bifulco, Richard Ens
  • Photo 2: Calendar winner Sabrina Mendez and two teachers with mural
  • Photo 3: Calendar winner JJ Bifulco with mural

Pallone Participates in Roundtable with Nation’s Top Public Health Leaders in Lancaster, PA

LANCASTER, PA – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) participated in a roundtable discussion at Lancaster Farm and Home Center in Lancaster, PA. The roundtable’s discussion is part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures initiative, which seeks to examine the steps Congress can take to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices that treat or cure diseases in the United States.

“As we search for better ways to bring treatments to patients, our committee is in a unique position to help move our country’s health care system into the 21st century,” said Congressman Pallone. “We must continue working together to improve the delivery of health care in the United States and ensure that innovative treatments and cures are getting to patients quickly. I appreciate Jennifer Westdyke joining us today to share her invaluable insights as both a parent and an advocate, and I thank Chairman Pitts for bringing us together for this bipartisan discussion.”

Congressman Pallone, a senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, joined other leading national, regional and local public health officials in the public and private sector, including Congressman Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Congressman Joe Pitts, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health; Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others.

Congressman Pallone was joined at the roundtable by Jennifer Westdyke of Edison, NJ, whose son suffers from a medical condition called hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a lifelong condition that is characterized by the buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. The causes of hydrocephalus are still not well understood. Ms. Westdyke is also the Treasurer of the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation, which a non-profit organization committed to raising awareness, finding a cure for hydrocephalus and ensuring that those who suffer from this condition are able to lead normal, productive lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

And So It Begins: Trinity Hall lawsuit seeks immediate action

Yesterday's article in the Asbury Park Press concerning a lawsuit filed by the all girls school Trinity Hall, against the Middletown Township Planning Board's June 11th decision to deny Trinity Hall's application to build a school over on Chapel Hill came as no surprise. It was expected by everyone.

Now however, it isn't just the local residents known as the Chapel Hill Neighboorhood Group, that have to foot the bill for rightfully  fighting Trinity Hall's application, it's all the taxpayer of Middletown.

Here is a snippet of what the APP has reported:

MIDDLETOWN – A lawsuit has been filed against the township Planning Board after it denied an application to build a campus on Chapel Hills Road.
Officials of Trinity Hall girls high school asked a judge for a prompt review of the suit because the lease on the school's current building expires in August 2015.
The suit asks a judge to overturn the board's decision and approve the plans for a multi-building campus, which the planning board rejected after a six-hour hearing on June 11.
A lease extension also would require approval from state Green Acres officials because the building is located in a park, said Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante, who added there is an option to renew the lease on the township-owned Croydon Hall school building for six additional months.
Board rejects school's proposal
Trinity Hall proposed a campus to ultimately house 500 girls and 60 staff on 37 acres on Chapel Hill Road, which previously was approved for 19 homes. It is the only all-girls high school in Monmouth and Ocean counties and is conducting classes in a rented school building in the Leonardo section of the township.
School officials didn't wait for the board's August vote to finalize the June 11 decision to reject the plans, announcing their intent to sue five days after the planning board meeting and vote.
The school filed the lawsuit in Monmouth County Superior Court on July 3....
Continue reading

August 18, 2014 Middletown Township Committee Meeting

Highlights from the August 18th, 2014 meeting of the Middletown Township Committee included:

  • A new police chief was sworn in, along with a new police officer and a promoted officer.
  • A Belford fireman received the key to the town for his 53 years of service.
  • Proclamations were presented for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness and National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
  • The Township refinanced $3.2M in bonds
  • Amended the local film ordinance
  • Introduced ordinances for a 4-way stop intersection by Bodman Park and the installation of a crosswalk at theMiddletown Arts Center.

As always, you can download a copy of the Meeting Agenda that contains the discussion items and the proposed resolutions and ordinances that were voted on or presented during the meeting. A box around an item is a link, bringing you further into the document to that resolution or ordinance. At the end of the resolution there will be a link bringing you back to the agenda. Attached to this agenda is also the monthly bill list, so that everyone can see how the Township is spending our tax dollars.

U.S. Economy Grew At Brisk 4.2 Percent In Q2

I'm posting this as a contrast to the previous blog post. The U.S. economy expanding and picking up steam. there many reasons why we should be happy and optimistic about the economy  heading into 2015.

From The Huffington Post via AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a bleak start to the year, the U.S. economy grew at a brisk annual rate of 4.2 percent in the April-June quarter, the government said Thursday, slightly faster than it had first estimated. 
The upward revision supported expectations that the second half of 2014 will prove far stronger than the first half.

The Commerce Department's second estimate of growth for last quarter followed its initial estimate of 4 percent. The upward revision reflected stronger business investment than first thought.

The seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent annual growth rate for the gross domestic product — the nation's total output of goods and services — came after the economy had shrunk at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter. That was the economy's biggest drop since the depths of the Great Recession, and it reflected mainly the effects of a harsh winter that kept consumers away from shopping malls and disrupted factory production.

Many economists say they expect growth of around 3 percent in the current July-September quarter and for the rest of the year.

The government's upwardly revised estimate of business investment last quarter showed capital spending growing at an annual rate of 8.4 percent last quarter. That was sharply higher than the government's initial 5.5 percent estimate.

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the strength in business investment has likely extended into the current quarter, lending support to the economy.

In its second estimate of growth for last quarter, the government said companies' restocking of supplies contributed less than it had first estimated. But a higher trade deficit subtracted less from growth than initially estimated.

The downward revision in inventory building will likely help boost growth in the current quarter because it means that businesses may need to restock their supplies to meet demand....

Continue reading

Positive Information For Millions of Americans or Snippy Partisan Swipe: "America a rising manufacturing star?"

I subscribe to the "Daily Grind", a conservative right-wing newsletter put out by the people behind the Americans for Limited Government blog NetRightDaily. To say that I read their content would be a misnomer,but I do quickly skim over the content occasionally and agree with some of what they have to say. When those occasions arise, it's generally because the articles start off as a commonsense appeal for bipartisanship legislation that address many of issues affecting our country but quickly disintegrate into conservative speak and political bashing of  Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, President Obama and liberal/progressive ideology, while completely forgetting that Republican conservatism as practiced by those in House and Senate are just as much to blame for the current political problems that we face. 

Case in point, below is a recent article that touts the potential reemergence of the American manufacturing sector due to the improvement of the manufacturing climate in U.S.  Many companies that fled this country over the past 3 decades for cheap labor and less restrictive regulations are now looking to come back to this country because labor and energy costs have become more competitive in recent years. 

By the end of what was a good news, positive story about the return of manufacturing jobs to this country and what it would mean for millions of Americans, becomes a snippy, partisan swipe at the Obama Administration for trying to ensure that we have clean air to breath and water to drink. 

Take a feel good story and turn it on its head in an attempt to score a political point.  It's maddening! 

By Rick Manning 
The Boston Consulting Group just released a study comparing manufacturing costs around the world, and the United States fared surprisingly well. Writing about the U.S. and Mexico, the authors explain the improved manufacturing environment saying, “Because of low wage growth, sustained productivity gains, stable exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage, these two nations are the current rising stars of global manufacturing.” 
The big energy-cost advantage is the key. 
While China struggles with higher energy costs, the United States is just scraping the surface of its natural bounty of fossil fuels. The innovative unlocking of a vast sea of natural gas and oil over the past decade has transformed the United States’ position in the future of where world manufacturing will grow and prosper. In fact, CNBC reports that natural gas prices alone have fallen by between 25-35 percent in the past decade in North America. This drop in energy costs is contrasted by a 135 percent rise in natural gas costs in China. 
And the U.S. manufacturing sector is beginning to respond with federal government measures of industrial production up 0.4 percent for its sixth consecutive monthly gain, the Federal Reserve reported last week. Manufacturing output advanced 1 percent in July, its largest increase since February. 
CNBC quotes Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group saying that the old assumptions that manufacturing is cheaper in Asia and South America have “fundamentally changed.” 
“This means companies will start to move manufacturing out of those expensive countries if they can, to cheaper countries like the U.S.,” Sirkin said. 
Increased U.S. manufacturing means more much needed good paying jobs, and while the days of hundreds of workers operating alongside one another building a car is outmoded, a resurgent U.S. manufacturing sector is welcome in what has otherwise been a jobless recovery. 
These are the exact kind of jobs that our nation still desperately needs as the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that more than 7.5 million Americans are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job. What’s even more startling is that for the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the number of food stamp recipients remains at crisis levels with more than 45 million people receiving food assistance each month for three straight years. 
Ironically, the very Obama Administration which purports to want to help those in need is pushing regulations like EPA’s proposed power plant rules. Regulations that put the very energy cost advantage our nation currently enjoys at risk by deliberately driving up energy costs by closing down dozens of coal burning power plants. The same agency is also pushing ozone standard regulations that the House Energy and Commerce Committee says “is already contributing to uncertainty and holding back investment.” 
America’s free enterprise system and abundant natural resources have given our nation another opportunity to rebound from the moribund new normal of despair that President Obama and those of his ilk seem to embrace. 
The only question that remains is whether America will choose a path toward prosperity or the continual downward drift to the ash heap of history. 
Rick Manning is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

Extremism Is Alive and Well in Middletown

The Bad News: New Jersey's revenue-estimating process - the bedrock of the state's annual spending plan - is broken.

The Good News: It can be fixed.

Revenue forecasting in the states Each year, New Jersey estimates how much money it will take in during the upcoming budget year. Lawmakers rely on that figure to know how much the state can invest in schools, roads, and other public services. While revenue estimating is a relatively unknown function of state government, it has entered the spotlight in New Jersey over the past few years as revenue projections have repeatedly been overly confident and inaccurate, leading to last-minute budget maneuvers and accounting gimmicks to keep the budget in balance.

Revenue forecasting in the statesNew Jersey can make a big improvement in its budgeting and take a major step towards a more financially responsible budget by having the governor and the legislature - which both currently make projections independently - jointly produce the official revenue estimate.

This type of "consensus" process helps reduce political gridlock and increases the revenue estimate's value as a trusted starting point for writing the state budget. Adopting a consensus model would mean no more dueling revenue projections, no more ad hominem attacks on the estimators and an overall budget-making process that is far less political.

A new national report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities confirms the need for New Jersey to take common-sense steps to fix its revenue-estimating process. In the report's evaluation of how states come up with a revenue estimate for the annual budget, New Jersey scored only a 2 on a scale of 0-5 due to its failure to employ sensible and proven practices that create reliable revenue estimates to guide state spending. This means the state ranked as one of the dozen worst in the nation.

We think the Press of Atlantic City summed it up well in a favorable editorial:

"New Jersey should join the majority of states that make revenue projections in an open, joint process that results in numbers everyone can agree on. Certainly, such projections are an inexact science. But as it is now in New Jersey, politics and wishful thinking drive the process."

Let's hope lawmakers heed the call for a better budget process.

NJ WATCHDOG: 'Christie slept here' is state secret


For immediate release:

“Chris Christie slept here” is not a historical marker. It’s a state secret in New Jersey, according to the governor’s lawyers.

The attorney general’s office is trying to block release of records that identify which hotels Gov. Christie stayed while traveling on state business at taxpayers’ expense. The lodging receipts are among the documents sought by a New Jersey Watchdog reporter in a public records suit against the governor’s office filed in Mercer County Superior Court.

“In the opinion of the State Police, releasing that information could put the governor’s physical safety in danger,” argued Deputy Attorney General Todd Wigder last week in a brief to Judge Mary C. Jacobson.

How could records of past trips from 2012 and 2013 possibly jeopardize Christie’s present and future safety? Well, those reasons are also secret, detailed in a hush-hush certification by Kevin Cowan, acting State Police captain.

Cowan’s statement will “reveal exactly the tactical decision-making that cause them to deem this information confidential in the first place,” wrote Wigder. “This can only be done under seal, for the court’s eyes only.”

Concealing the records from the public could hide possible abuses by Christie, who has argued that he is exempt from his administration’s travel rules for state officials.

Wigder is asking Jacobson to accept the Cowan certification as evidence without allowing the plaintiff a chance to review it and respond. The judge is tentatively slated to consider the motion in court on Sept. 19.

Before taking office as New Jersey governor, Christie already had a reputation as a high-rolling traveler when taxpayers are footing the bill.

The full story is now online at