Thursday, December 31, 2009

How about some leadership?

Mayor Ken Short and Committeeman Bill Roehrich recently ran for office on a platform that basically said they had more fiscal experience than their opponents. If this is the case, why do they seem so desperate in "reaching" out to the public for ideas and opinions to alleviate a severe cash crunch they created?

Instead of searching for people to hide behind (no one from the public other than Harlin Parker is going to show up anyway), how about these two do what they were elected to do by showing some thought leadership beyond setting aside $10,000 to audit the K-8 school budget, as this move has lost its political appeal now that their are two former K-8 school board members on the Township Committee.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mr. Pragmatic...

Here is an excellent NYT analysis of the President's pragmatic approach to dealing with the way things get done in DC.

Setting the record straight...

An article in this week's Observer Tribune contains misleading informatiom pertaining to next year's municipal budget.  While the article states "the township could legally increase taxes by 3.5 percent , 1 percent above the state maximum, because funds have been posted into a cap bank for the past two years", this is incorrect as the cap bank is associated with spending, not taxation.  This 2.5 percent spending limit and cap bank were in place back in 2005 when the Committee soaked taxpayers with their infamous 11.1% tax hike.

For our sake, there is now a state mandated 4 percent limit on the growth of the tax levy.  However, as noted in my posting below, Mayor Ken Short has set 2.5 percent as the target for next year's municipal tax increase.

"Realistically to keep it at 2.5 percent"

It seems my prior efforts to bring transparancy to the municipal buget process continues to have a lasting impact on the Township Committee. Prior to 2006, the Committe was reluctant to set a tax increase target prior to developing the municipal budget. It seems times have changed as Washington Township Mayor Ken Short has publically stated an intention to not to have a (2010) tax increase of zero, but realistically to keep it at 2.5 percent.  Now that Short has named a 2.5% municipal tax increase as a benchmark, let's all wish him well in meeting it.

I'll be watching and providing weekly updates on the Committee's progress beginning in January.

Stocks Hit New '09 Highs

Earlier in the year, the right was complaining about the stock mark and how it expressed no confidence in the Obama Administration.  This story is for you.

How ya like me now?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Historic Vote!

According to the WSJ, the U.S. Senate voted 60-39 to approve sweeping health-overhaul legislation, a landmark moment for White House-led efforts to expand insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans. The bill would represent the biggest expansion of the federal safety net since the 1965 creation of Medicare.

I fully support this bill and the changes that are forthcoming, including the provision that will allow my daughter to remain on my health insurance policy until she reaches the age of 26.  Under current law, our insurer could have kicked her off as soon as she graduates from college in the spring.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A good start...but more needs to be done.

According to the DR, Corzine is making more cuts in the current state budget. In addition Christie has asked his team to prepare for spending cuts in next year's budget of up to 25%.  This is good news, but it doesn't go far enough. Christie needs to cut state aid to municipalities entirely as a way of forcing towns to make deep cuts in their budgets.  For a township like ours it would mean a cut of $1.8 million.  This would force the township committee to make deep cuts in spending to balance the budget. I would love to watch the Republicans holla and scream if this were to happen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Well Done Harry!

With Senate Democrats having cleared the first step a series of procedural hurdles towards passage of their health care reform bill, this picture of the Majority Leader pretty much says it all.

I have to admit, it is somewhat entertaining seeing the party of "NO" reduced to "potted plant" status.

Just remember you heard it here first...

In an op-ed appearing in today's NYT, noted columnist Paul Krugman suggests a possible end to Senate filibusters by route of the "nuclear option". This is something I advocated over a month ago. Nice to see the rest of the world catching up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A money saving idea...

This morning I ran into Mayor Ken Short at the Post Office. After exchanging pleasantries, we talked about the challenges posed in next year's municipal budget. He offered how municipal department heads were being asked to trim their budgets by 20%. This sounds like a good idea and it is. Unfortunately, it won't yield much in a budget exceeding $17 million dollars in spending. Why? Because the amount of spending under direct control of departments is only about $2 million. A 20% cut (if achieved) amounts to $400K in savings. Most of this amount would be absorbed in increases in mandated fixed costs (salaries, social security, benefits, and pensions) associated with a total workforce the committee is reluctant to reduce.

A better idea would be to focus on where the big bucks are currently spent, which is the Police department. Since all municipalities are trying to figure this one out, why not have the county take over the responsibility of providing police service to all 37 municipalities via a single county wide police force with precincts located where some existing municipal police stations already exists? Each precinct would be lead by an officer in charge as opposed to a highly paid Chief of Police as is the case today. You probably would not need as many officers as there are today across all the separate departments to cover the same amount of territory. Imagine the reduction in management overhead and full cost sharing of such a plan. The cost efficiencies could be enormous. By the way...this approach isn't anything new. Most states already follow it.

If Washington Township saw a 20% reduction between what it currently pays for police services and what it would contribute to the county for the same, the savings would amount to over $1 million. Now we are talking!

The township committee can't make a change like this on their own. Such a change would require leadership from our new Governor. If Christie is smart (and I think he is), he will take a hard look at something like this.

If I were Christie, I would mandate a consolidation of all municipal police services across the state by 2011 and stipulate no resident would pay no more than 80% of what they now pay to the municipality to the county for police services. No ands, ifs, or buts. Just do it.

Progress on Heath Care Reform

This morning's news on health care reform is good on two fronts.

  1. The CBO has scored the latest bill and it will reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion over the next ten years. An earlier GOP alternative would have save only have as much.
  2. Democrats have secured a 60th vote that will end debate and bring the current bill to a vote before Christmas.
Clearly, there is a lot of emotion on both sides of the issue, but the extreme positions of far left liberals like Howard Dean and Keith Obermann, along with the do nothing antics of the entire GOP congressional caucus (less one) make the pragmatic approach taken by the President and the Democrats of the Senate even more satisfying.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mitt who?

Earlier this morning while watching "Meet the Press", I had to ask myself, after claiming the Obama Administration has done nothing to help the economy, what part of the chart on the right does Mitt Romney not understand? He would have more credibility if he were talking about the last 6 months (Aug 2008 - Jan 2009) of the Bush Administration.

Bottom Line: It's killing the GOP how President Obama saved the economy from the falling off a cliff and now has it on a path towards a full recovery.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Christie completely frustrated with himself?

While I remain somewhat optimistic, I hope this tidbit, captured by the Daily Record, isn't a sign of what we can expect from a Christie administration. We have enough to worry about with our own incompetent Ken Short led local government.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What about our budget?

While it's great for Mendham taxpayers to see theirTownship Committee hard at work providing details of next year's municipal budget, it's not suprising we have heard NOTHING from our own Washington Township Committee when it come to specific details on next year's budget.  Why is it Mendham can be so far along and our committee be so clueless? This is what happens when you eliminate a Finance position on the committee to protect a fiscally novice committeeman, then make purposely misleading hypocritical claims in your campaign mailers about your performance in that same role, right Mr. Short?

So far all we've heard are excuses from Mayor Ken Short as to how "extremely difficult" next year will be.  Yet, only last month Short told us he thought the 2010 budget wouldn't be as bad as the 2009 budget. This contradiction may not seem so bad, but consider it comes from the same guy who soaked us with an 11.1% tax increase in 2005, it definitely something to keep a close eye on.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mr. Bill speaks...

In the latest example of intellectual dishonesty by a Township Committeeman, Bill Roehrich recently made the following statement in the OT with respect to the issue of leasing township property to hunting clubs:
“It doesn’t mean as a municipality that we do or don’t condone hunting. We’re just making it available as a recreational resource.”
Sorry Bill, but that's kinda like saying you can't tell if a madam does or does not condone prostitution just because she rents rooms to whores.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nice job Mr. Brooks!

This NYT op-ed by David Brooks (a conservative) is the best analysis of President Obama's approach to governance to date.

The dumbing down of America

I'm sorry but this woman is just plain stupid!

I wonder how many degrees of separation there are between her and Ken Short?

Road to recovery...

There is good news on the econony.

From a macro perspective losing 11,000 jobs in November of 2009 is GREAT news when you consider our economy was losing over 700,000 jobs back in January 2009. Give credit where it is due. The President's stimulus package is obviously working. I am sure the GOP will find every way to say it isn't. My answer to them would be where were you in the final quarter of the Bush administration?

From a micro perspective if you are one of the 11,000 who lost their job, good luck!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The sky is falling!

It's not suprising the news of a $17K cut in state aid has Mayor Ken Short acting like the sky is falling. To put this cut in perspective, it's against a budget that exceeds $17 million.  In other words, it represents one tenth of one percent. the National Guard!

Let me throw poor Ken a bone...look at your payroll numbers for dispatchers and you should see savings that are more than enough to cover the $17K, especially since the Committee has reduced the number of dispatchers on a shift from two to one. If the savings are not there, then the question becomes what did you spend the money on and why?

Also, what happen to the $10,000 Short had the Committee put aside to audit the WTBOE school budget if they had failed...which it didn't as it contained a tax increase one seventh the size of the skyrocket municipal tax increase Ken Short soaked taxpayers with this year!

Maybe if the Committee had a Finance Chair, Ken Short wouldn't have to openly audition for the role of "Chicken Little."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Please just go away, Dick!

Cheney's criticism of the President's strategy in Afghanistan is so far off base it's embarrassing. For someone who skated on 5 draft deferments, when it was his turn to serve, to now criticize the President’s noble attempt to mop up a mess created by the Bush administration’s poor war planning and execution is beyond belief.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Commander in Chief Speaks

President Obama has made a pragmatic decision to send 30K additional troops to Afghanistan over six months with a planned withdraw of all our forces to commence in July 2011 with an estimated completion in 2012.

As a former military enlistee, cadet, commissioned officer, and now veteran, I fully support the President's decision.

While just about every corner of the political spectrum will find something it doesn't like, what we witnessed was LEADERSHIP, something the county hasn't seen throughout this decade.