starlady: (revisionist historian)
[personal profile] starlady
This is a post about Philly and New Jersey, or more precisely, about how they're all going to hell in a handbasket.

The news this evening that The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News have been sold to their creditors in bankruptcy auction is, quite frankly, a huge blow to the region--The Inquirer has 180 years of history in the area, and The Daily News is actually doing okay despite print journalism's woes, but none of those will matter a damn to the creditors and hedge funds in on the deal. I can't pretend that I actually really read The Inquirer anymore, because it's gone to hell in the last 10 years and only recently started getting better under Brian Tierney and company, and I've never really been in The Daily News demographics, but it seems a very real possibility that the region could lose one or both papers--and if The Inquirer goes, south Jersey will be entirely bereft of a paper even halfway deserving of the name. Both papers perform important investigative and public watchdog functions, and civil society will suffer without them.

The fact that 60% of school budgets were rejected by New Jersey voters last week is just fucking depressing. I don't, don't, don't understand why a) education is not guaranteed certain amounts of funding; and b) why education is not the absolute last thing that is cut in a budget, rather than the first. As the product of private education from K through B.A., I can tell you that teachers absolutely make a 100% difference in education, but money--aka "resources"--absolutely makes a 98.9% difference. And Chris Christie, our absolutely atrocious governor, has decided in his infinite asshattery to cut the education budgets in this state. As a New Jerseyan born and bred, I have to ask, WTF does he think people are going to stay in this state for if the schools are crap, the property taxes stay as high as they are and the auto insurance rates keep climbing? Without good schools there's no reason for people not to move to New York or Pennsylvania, and a poorly educated population means a smaller tax base twenty years down the road. Brilliant, dumbass! Just brilliant! And while we're at it, cutting the library budgets is shooting yourself in your own fucking foot. But Christie's children go to parochial school, so WTF does he care? None, that's what.

This is part of why I was so pleased to see 18,000 high school students walk out of class around the state yesterday protesting the cuts. The students know what's what; unlike the head of the NJ Senate education committee, who was quoted on WHYY this morning saying she didn't think the school day was an appropriate time for protests (but favors a longer school day--how, prithee, will you square that with letting Christie slash the budget to the bone? Idiot!): the point, methinks you have missed it by miles! 

I can tell you how to fix New Jersey, which is currently rated the #2 most dysfunctional state in the Union (and yes, California is #1 and New York is #3). It's simple, but no one will do it.
  1. Enact a ten-cent gas tax. New Jersey has some of the cheapest gas in the nation because we fund our roads through property taxes.
  2. Force municipal and school district consolidation. New Jersey, the most densely populated state, has the highest number of municipalities per capita; my favorite example of this out-of-hand phenomenon is Tavistock, which is a doughnut town completely encirlced by Haddonfield, population: 24. School district population: 1. At least Jon Corzine, before he was stupidly voted out, signed a law forcing school districts without schools to consolidate into districts that did have facilities.The waste and graft that arises from every pissant town having its own police, fire stations, and schools is staggering, and it's part of why we pay so much damn money in taxes.
  3. For the love of lucre, stop raiding the state pension fund like it's a piggybank, because it's not.
Per the terms of my graduate fellowship I am required to become a resident of California by the summer of 2011. I'm anything but wild about that, because California is a strange place to my East Coast eyes and because I feel like a rat disloyally abandoning a sinking ship. But I also have to admit that there is a part of me that thinks that we deserve what we got ourselves into with Christie (or, more precisely, what approximately 3% of the electorate got us into; thanks so much, guys!). In any case, it won't be pretty, and I'm both unhappy and glad that I won't be around to see it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 05:28 (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Royally pissed about everything related to this New Jersey education mess. Thankfully, the district my mom works in passed its budget; the district I went to school in did not, with voter turnout on both sides of the question being stunningly high.

The idea that Christie could have the fucking gall to not only cut state aid to many schools by millions but to then turn around and tell voters to add insult to injury by voting against the budgets... asshat is the only word for him.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 23:35 (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
I have to admit I voted for him, but then, the options were Corzine or Christie, and I don't know that I'd be more comfortable with what Corzine would be doing right now to balance the budget- privatizing the Turnpike and assorted other lunacies.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 06:16 (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
It really astounds me, as an Australian, to see the number of things that are subject to public vote in the US.

Force municipal and school district consolidation.
That happened in my state (Victoria) in the early 90s, but didn't involve the police (who are state-run) or the fire departments (state-run in the city and large towns, volunteers everywhere else). I can't say that it saved that much money in the long run, but it did raise funds immediately with the sale of council buildings.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 23:42 (UTC)
lilacsigil: Jeune fille de Megare statue, B&W (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil

The other thing that's dumb about the school budget votes is that's they're always the Tuesday after tax day.

Wow, that's poorly thought-out, assuming that they would *want* a basic education for the populace.

Australia has state police and Federal police - the Federal police are like the FBI, the state police handle everything else. The volunteer fire service is organised state-wide, but also has semi-autonomous units in every tiny rural community. I live in a town of 800 people, so pretty much everyone is involved in one way or another.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 16:40 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow. I am so, so sorry. About the paper, especially, but also about the schools. That's horrifying.

And it was good to read your thoughts about it. Why don't they tax the gas? Given how many non-NJ residents use those roads, and use them heavily, it seems a bizarre benefit for out-of-staters.

(Also, I'm a bit surprised that CA, NJ, and NY have cornered the dysfunctional-state titles. I thought that #1 slot had been a toss-up between Louisiana and Rhode Island for years.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-29 22:27 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, the CA-NJ-NY ranking is according to The New York Times Magazine. I trust you to connect the dots for yourself on that one. :-)

Though, I think the point the Times Magazine was making was about the problems in each state's government structure--I know very little about LA and RI, but I don't think their problems are quite the same nature.

NJ doesn't tax gas because it's just not done. Well, okay, the second thing that's just not done, the first being making it legal to pump one's own gas (even though it's estimated that that adds approximately ¢6-¢10 per gallon to the cost). But it's basically a prisoner's dilemma--I think people would accept a gas tax if property taxes were lowered, but see above about the intractability of lowering property taxes (and this year Christie has cancelled the rebates on same, joy! My cousin in Boston pays per year on her house with an underwater mortgage what we pay per quarter)--they're all interrelated.


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