Monthly Archives: May 2008

New Jersey recreation: Egrets, turtles and geese, oh my!

My weekends often consist of at least one drive to hunt down some of the Jersey Shore’s most prized possessions: Its varied wildlife.

Forget the bennies, shoobies and nudists. The Shore has some of the nation’s coolest creatures, right in our backyard.

Living in Ocean County, I often think I have the best of all worlds. We’re close enough to the ocean, but the bay is our playground. It feels like home, yet there is so much to explore, so many niches we haven’t explored.

Below are some pictures I took during a drive in the Bayville area. The bird is a white egret and the turtle, a snapper. It was observed how the turtle is probably very old, given its external state. Assumed a male, he certainly had some pep in his step.

The egrets are common in our area, as are red shoulders. The latter are small and quick, though, and I haven’t been able to catch them on my camera yet.

To learn more about birding in New Jersey, visit this Web site. To learn more about birds in general, the New Jersey Audubon Society is a good place to start.

PHOTOS: Melissa L. Gaffney


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Filed under Birding, Egret, New Jersey, Snapper Turtle

24-hour, drive-through Starbucks? Yes, please!

I was traversing the better part of Western New Jersey today when, on Route 18, I spotted a Starbucks.

Not atypical, considering there are a few thousands locations nationwide.

But this one, this one is special: It’s open 24 hours and you don’t have to get out of the car to get your coffee. WOW.

If I lived nearby, I would be a changed person. Considering I don’t, I merely dream of the day when my 2 a.m. Starbucks cravings kick in and I can actually satisfy them.

These were taken from inside my car, I apologize. I had already gotten my iced peppermint mocha with soy at a different location.

PHOTOS: Melissa L. Gaffney

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Filed under 24-hour, Drive-through, Starbucks

BREAKING NEWS: No more injunction, attorney general asks N.J. Superior Court to void Trzeszkowski’s severance

Below is the press release I just received from Lee Moore in the attorney general’s office.

Moore said the attorney general is asking the N.J. Superior Court to declare the Keansburg severance “null and void” because it violates state law, public policy, et cetera.

He said what is in the press release and the court papers stands as the attorney general’s comment for now.

For Immediate Release
May 30, 2008

For Further Information Contact:
Lee Moore (609) 292-4791

Attorney General Asks Court to Void Half-Million-Dollar Severance for Keansburg Educator

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today that, acting on behalf of New Jersey Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, lawyers for the state have filed a complaint in Superior Court seeking to have declared “null and void” a $556,290 severance payout by the Keansburg Board of Education to Superintendent Barbara Trzeszkowski.

“For a school board to so outrageously enrich a former superintendent through this type of ‘golden parachute’ at the expense of the children of Keansburg and the State’s taxpayers is not only contrary to public policy and unconscionable, it violates the fiduciary duty and loyalty the Board owes to the public,” asserts a legal brief filed by the State this afternoon in the Law Division of Superior Court in Mercer County.

The brief was filed in support of a five-count state complaint naming Trzeszkowski, the Keansburg Board of Education and school district as defendants. The complaint alleges that the $556,290 in severance to be paid under contract by Keansburg schools is “nothing more than a bonus given to Trzeszkowski at the time of her retirement” and violates the law.

The State’s legal papers note that Davy has a substantial interest in the Keansburg matter because she has authority, as Education Commissioner, to ensure a thorough and efficient education to all school children in New Jersey, and has authority to guard against the misspending of public funds targeted for educational purposes.

A former Abbott or “special needs” school district, Keansburg received approximately $31 million in state aid for the current school year. In the previous school year, Keansburg received approximately $34 million in state aid. In both years, state aid made up the bulk of Keansburg’s overall school budget.

“Effectuation of the ‘severance’ provision and other terms of Trzeszkowski’s contract will mean that Trzeszkowski is to be paid $740,876 over the next five years – an amount that exceeds four times her final annual salary as superintendent. But the children of Keansburg and the taxpayers of the State will receive no services from her during those five years,” notes the brief filed on behalf of Commissioner Davy.

In addition, the state’s complaint alleges that the severance package is unlawful and should be voided because:

  • It violates New Jersey public policy in that public funds are being used to pay for an “unreasonable and excessive (severance) provision” benefiting Trzeszkowski and not the students of Keansburg
  • The Keansburg school board members who originally approved of Trzeszkowski’s contract in February 2004 “breached their fiduciary obligation to the citizens of Keansburg and New Jersey to adequately protect the public funds in their care from inappropriate and excessive expenditures.”
  • The contract lacks “valid consideration” in that the severance provision was calculated – and Trzeszkowski was made immediately eligible to receive the severance payout – based on her 30-plus years of service in Keansburg, most of which was spent in jobs other than superintendent.
  • It “inappropriately” binds future Keansburg school boards for related costs, including administrative costs, arising under the contract for five years after the contract has terminated.

Assistant Attorney General Howard McCoach is handling the Keansburg matter on behalf of the State.

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Filed under Anne Milgram, Barbara Trzeszkowski, Keansburg, Severance Package, State Attorney General

The Courier received a letter regarding my FEMA series

The Courier often receives Letters to the Editor. This one came in recently from a concerned Republican.

His concern is that our newspaper is being used as a platform for Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and his “reactive,” not proactive, response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) situation in the Bayshore. I applaud your concern! Not many people care enough about FEMA to write such a lengthy, intellectual letter about its coverage in the newspaper.

Robert E. McLeod makes it a point to ridicule The Courier’s “journalists,” stating at one point, “I know it is easier to simply regurgitate Pallone’s press releases, but journalism does have a higher duty.”

It’s ironic, because I actually did a lot of work with Congressman Pallone and have been on the phone with him and his office quite often. No statement from Pallone was ever e-mailed to me, nor did I “regurgitate” it from a press release. I have interviewed the congressman on several occasions.

Fact: Pallone is a Democrat. Wow, really? I had NO idea. Wake up, McLeod. The Bayshore revolves around a political circus. Thanks for pointing out the obvious.

If you’ve been keeping up with my series, and if you’re actually reading the articles other than trying to decipher the headlines, than you’ll see I noted which parties, groups or persons did not return my phone calls.

If you’ll also recall, at one point Assemblywoman Amy Handlin was the subject of a story involving the “Flood map fallout.”

Fact: Most Republicans don’t return my phone calls and pretend as if I don’t exist when they see me in public. I cannot change that fact; I can only continue my persistence in presenting both sides of the story.

As for being Pallone’s “mouthpiece,” all I have to say is that journalists are exactly that: We’re the voice, you’re the bigmouths. Congressman Pallone has been persistent in making his voice heard on the FEMA issue. Other politicians have not.

I will not be accused of being one-sided when the other side chooses not to respond.

Sorry, Mr. Republican. In my opinion, if you’re been following the series, you must be fuming at this point.

As for any “neophyte” such as yourself being able to do the type of research that I have conducted: Yea RIGHT. If you’re so diligent, try checking in with your party and see that the Republicans have done little to nothing on the FEMA issue in almost the entire Bayshore, give or take Union Beach.

FEMA has said outright that any petition really does nothing within the agency – especially halt the implementation of flood maps – other than show that someone went and rounded up a whole lot of signatures. Which, by the way, apparently Handlin has about 1,300 signatures at this point. That doesn’t even encompass half of the newly affected residents who will pay flood insurance, and it doesn’t even touch the actual number of residents in the Bayshore.

I don’t create the party lines. I’m “just” a reporter.

Here’s the letter in its entirety. Enjoy :)

Pallone’s mouthpiece?

To the Editor:

Your paper’s coverage of the FEMA flood map issue confirms its role as the official media outlet of Frank Pallone’s Ministry of Propaganda.

All one has to do is type “FEMA” and “flood plain maps” into the Internet search engine of choice and up pops volumes of articles from across the country addressing this controversy. Every salt water and fresh water coast or river bank has been under review by FEMA pursuant to Congressional mandate. The most recent flurry of activity appears to have begun in 2001/2002 but some of it appears to have started in the late 1990s.

When it reaches a Congressman’s district the voters start to complain about the impact of the new maps on their flood insurance and the value of their property. The Congressman scampers to propose some “remedial” or palliative legislation or regulatory moratorium such as Pallone has done. Such actions are always “reactive,” yet your paper presents Pallone’s as proactive. That is misleading.

Interagency conflicts between FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers – or any other set of overlapping agencies – are not new. Pallone is not directly at fault for the current “problem,” but it is a creation of Congress, a body of which he has been a member for 20 years. It should have been no surprise to someone in Washington who has had the vantage point to watch this controversy unfurl across the littoral and riparian regions of the country.

If a technical neophyte such as myself can discover all of this information during an hour or so on the Internet, one has to ask why your “journalists” could not have done the same. Subheading a full page article “Veteran congressman takes federal agency to task about new maps” depicts as decisive action what is simply an after-the-fact attempt to cover one’s political nether regions now exposed to a foreseeable controversy. It is a reaction to an event which should have been no surprise, if one were paying attention.

I know it is easier to simply regurgitate Pallone’s press releases but journalism does have a higher duty.

The issue posed by the new flood maps is not new; it has simply taken this long to hit the northern Monmouth Bayshore. Pallone’s actions at this point are simply another example of his penchant for grandstanding. The Courier is apparently ready to provide the podium and assist him in scripting his presentation.

Robert E. McLeod
Republican Candidate for 6th District

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Filed under Bayshore Flooding, FEMA, Flood Map Fallout Series, Politics

Super party?

Keansburg Superintendent Barbara Trzeszkowski will celebrate her retirement tonight during a party in Holmdel, from what I’ve been told.

Apparently, tickets for the event are $70, and there are still some available. Where and from whom, I have no idea.

It will be held at the PNC Bank Arts Center banquet hall, which has a name no one seems to be able to recall, including Google.

I heard from a bird that reporters might show up. I would think young people have better things to do on a Friday night than burden this woman who is trying to retire in peace.

No matter what the circumstances, I draw the line at some point. Especially when it comes to crashing Barbara Trzeszkowski’s retirement party.

I do, however, think the fact that one would have to pay to attend this retirement party is slightly inconsiderate. What if students want to attend? I’m pretty sure none of them have an extra $70 sitting around, nor should they have to spend money if they want to honor their superintendent.

Not to mention the cost is rather outrageous, even for an “upscale” location, the name of which is not well recorded, if you ask me.

I hope the superintendent enjoys her party. She put in all those years for something, even if it does involve money.

She should at least take a moment for reflection. And maybe another to have a drink.

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Filed under Barbara Trzeszkowski, Keansburg, PNC Bank

More parade pictures online

The Courier Web site has more pictures online from its coverage of the Bayshore Memorial Day parades.

Click here to visit the Web site.

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Filed under Memorial Day Parades 2008, The Bayshore, The Courier

Elks host Christmas in May

The Middletown Elks Lodge No. 2179 hosted Christmas in May as part of the St. Catherine’s fair on Saturday, May 24.

Although I was not able to attend, Bob Santoro of the Elks forwarded me some pictures and said the event was great.

Santoro said about 60 kids attended, met Santa, rode the rides and had a lot of fun.

I have been privileged to do a lot of work with the Elks in Middletown. This particular lodge does a great deal for the community of Middletown, and it has another event schedule for Saturday, May 31.

The Elks will host a wheelchair dedication at Croydon Hall, Leonardville Road, at 11 a.m., so long as the weather holds out.

Check back for more information over the weekend.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Special Children Committee (SCC) Chairman Todd Syrdale

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Filed under Christmas in May, Middletown, Middletown Elks Lodge