To the Editor:
Find Other Areas
For Salary Cuts
The West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education’s consideration of privatizing maintenance/janitorial services in the district’s schools is embarrassing. If the school district is having financial problems, this proposal amounts to taking it out on the backs of the lowest-paid workers in the system. Under a private employer, the maintenance workers would probably receive both a reduction in pay and the loss of health insurance.
If salary reductions are needed to balance the school district’s budget, it would be more ethical to impose them first on the highest-paid staff, or else to require that all workers, from superintendent down to janitor and school crossing guard, accept the same percentage pay cut.
West Windsor is a wealthy community with fine schools, and I have often been impressed by the charitable community service projects that its accomplished, affluent students perform, mostly in communities much less wealthy than their own. The school board’s consideration of privatizing the janitorial workers to address the district’s financial issues is a poorly thought-out notion that sets a very poor example for the students. The members of the board should be looking for a solution that retains the maintenance workers as part of the school district’s operations, just as are the teachers and the administration.
Outsourcing — not with my tax dollars” signs have been popping up all over West Windsor and Plainsboro in the last week, and I am sure that many people are wondering what that means.
In the past couple months the WW-P School District administration, finance committee, and school board have started to investigate “outsourcing” the custodial and maintenance staff of our school district. They want to save us, the taxpayers, a million dollars by eliminating/firing all the janitors and maintenance workers in our district. They want to hire a firm that says they can do the same job for less and says it will be better for employees and kids in this district to have their workers in buildings where your kids spend the majority of their day.
I am sure that the private cleaning firm says it can do it for a lot less than the taxpayers are paying now. However, I feel it is like a cable company or credit card application that says in small print, for the first year this is what you will get and then into the second or third year you get hit with charges that you never saw the first year. Then, wham, up go the taxes.
I have raised two children in this district, and my youngest is a junior. I have volunteered in the classroom, been PTA president, and now work as an instructional aide at Millstone River School. I have been able to work with the custodians and maintenance personnel and have seen their dedication: keeping the lawn mowed and the sidewalks cleared and safe from snow and ice, changing the air filters, setting up for fairs, cleaning up after sporting events and dances, removing the garbage, cleaning the bathrooms, and keeping the classrooms sanitized when a child is sick. Their dedication is something that you will not find in a private firm.
For parents these are the unsung heroes of our district that make a building the home away from home for your child and mine with cleanliness and safety. I feel you should stand up and say, the overall well being of our children is worth more than the million dollars of proposed savings. Retain these dedicated workers.
The economy is such that everyone is looking to save money, and that is good. But I have to ask why the administrators got raises in the last year if we are hurting so much for money. The privatization issue for the custodian and maintenance workers is only the tip of the iceberg. The “Kelly Girls” are on the doorstep waiting to replace the secretaries, the IAs will all be under scrutiny to potentially be hired as part-time employees, nurses and librarians will be privatized, the Geek Squad will be hired for technology, and then we might as well turn out the lights on our Blue Ribbon schools when the teachers are outsourced. Yes, it is a joke and a laugh, but in this day and age anything is possible.
I hope that the administration and board have spoken to neighboring districts that tried this and rehired their own employees after theft and poor performance by the private firms. I do not think that it would be any different for WW-P. Where would all these people be, after being fired? Would they still be around and available for the district to hire all of them back?
Parents, please let the administration and the board know that the million-dollar savings is not worth it. Keep the integrity and quality that we expect of this great district. I hope that as your kindergartners go through the district, they will have the same good services that my two children had. Say no to privatization” of the dedicated custodial and maintenance teams. They keep our schools safe, clean, and running efficiently.
I am a long-time, tax-paying, voting resident of Plainsboro and a mother of three students in the WW-P School district attending South, Grover and Millstone River. I am both shocked and dismayed at the rather weak parental turnout at the recent School Board meeting in regard to the possibility of privatizing our school custodial staff. We all understand that it comes down to dollars and cents in this economy, but will privatization really save the district money in the long run?
The custodians do so much more than empty trash and clean the restrooms. The custodial staff is the day-to-day backbone of our excellent school system. Has anyone from the School Board followed around a custodian during the day or evening to understand what they really do for the schools? I highly doubt it.
Certainly, they maintain the integrity of both the buildings and the equipment within. Beyond their obvious maintenance duties, these people are on the front lines of providing security for our children.
Can I expect that my children will have the same level of safety in the buildings with staff that will have high turnover? Besides keeping the facilities meticulous, our custodians are also stakeholders in security and safety. Will we be able to feel this way with privatization? TRUST is not a commodity that you can buy — it is earned.
As a parent involved in the PTA, I can attest that these custodians are accessible, responsive, efficient, and trustworthy. The PTAs have thousands of dollars in parent orders that are delivered to the schools on a fairly regular basis. We have never had a theft of a single order. Can we say this if service is privatized? What about the laptops, desktop computers and other high tech equipment — will it be safe? Or will the lost and/or stolen equipment lead to yet another increase in our taxes?
When my high school daughter was locked out of the gym locker room after practice (where her dry clothing was) after running 10 miles in the rain, will someone be available to let her in? Will our doors even be locked — or will they be propped open because someone is too lazy to care who gets into our schools after hours?
Our school communities are extensions of our families. Please don’t replace members of our family with strangers. I have a feeling it will cost us more in the long run — because trust, safety, and peace of mind are priceless. Andrea Crossey
Tennyson Drive, Plainsboro
Fix Main Street
Before New Garage
The “Plywood Junction” moniker is a painful reminder of the state of West Windsor’s Route 571 Main Street. I’m concerned that support for fixing up Princeton-Hightstown Road will be crowded out by building a new parking garage at the Princeton Junction Train Station, since they appear to be competing for federal funding. If so, I respectfully prefer a new Main Street over a new parking garage.
The project to revitalize the area, called Princeton-Hightstown Road Improvements, CR 571, is ready to be funded, according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s draft list of 2010 projects www.dvrpc.org/tip/draft/merc10d.pdf).
The project cites “a severe safety concern regarding the area where the roadway drops from four lanes to two. Mercer County and West Windsor Township hope to make “Main Street” pedestrian, bicycle, and site access improvements, including sidewalks, protected turn lanes, and no additional through travel lanes.” An artist’s rendering of the proposed streetscape is available on the township’s web site ( http://www.westwindsornj.org/CR571_cross-section.pdf).
Fixing Main Street won’t be cheap — the cost is estimated at $1.1 million, and if funded, design will start in 2010 and construction in 2013. But that estimate isn’t the likely total cost, since it doesn’t include right-of-way acquisition. It might be as high as $10 million, according to knowledgeable sources quoted on the West Windsor Community Discussion Google Group.
In the meantime, Rush Holt’s web site ( http://holt.house.gov/FY2010transportation.shtml) lists support for “$16 million for the construction of a parking garage at the Princeton Junction train station” and “$624,000 for right of way acquisition and construction of a left-turn lane, and installation of new signalization at the Route 1-Harrison Street intersection.”
These are worthy projects, but in my view not as important as fixing up Main Street. The Harrison Street improvements, which will help the new hospital, are largely a stop-gap until the Penn’s Neck (aka Millstone) Bypass is built, which calls for an overpass interchange at that location. The parking garage will in my view further detract from the quality of life because, in addition to its utilitarian appearance, it attracts increased traffic.
Rush Holt also supports alternatives to more traffic, including “$24 million for NJ Transit to purchase high-capacity vehicles and construct park and ride facilities along the Route 1 corridor.” At the train station, many alternatives are in practice or in various stages of planning or development — walking and bicycling, jitney and regular buses, taxis, Zipcar hourly rentals, Bus Rapid Transit, even creating new stops for the Dinky, such as at parking lots near Route 1, or extending it to Plainsboro and the new hospital. I view investment in these alternatives as key to our future. Jerry Foster
15 Suffolk Lane, West Windsor
Some Modest Ideas
For ‘Main Street’
I’m sure many recipients of the Redevelopment Newsletters that have been sent to residents of West Windsor appreciate the township’s effort to keep them informed. Since so little apparent progress has been made on the plan, it’s good to have an update. It is especially good to have the township’s COAH obligations spelled out.
But the township continues to turn a blind eye to the issue that has so many people upset: the significant population increase and congestion that would result from the concentration of new residential development in the “redevelopment” area. The proposed COAH units would be in addition to the unmentioned “market rate” housing that any developer will insist must be built with them.
A major drawback is that all this redevelopment in one small 350-acre area does nothing to benefit most of the people who already live in West Windsor. The only real beneficiaries of a so-called “town center” in the redevelopment area west of the station would be the new residents of housing yet to be built. Few people who already live in West Windsor would go there to shop or for any other reason.
Moreover, much of what has been called the “redevelopment area” shouldn’t be redeveloped in the first place. It includes valuable commercial ratables the township needs to offset its heavily unbalanced residential ratable bias. That unbalance is a major factor in high residential property taxes.
The unsightly conditions along Route 571 and the Junction parking situation are problems that affect the people who already live here. And few who live here have suggested that a town center has to be part of a grandiose plan to transform far more than a portion of Route 571. The township should concentrate on the need for a parking garage near the station and improvements to Route 571 between Cranbury Road and Clarksville Road. That area is already our “town center” because it’s easily accessible to most of the township; its improvement would benefit all residents, old and new. There are many businesses that would thrive there because that is where people from most of the township have shopped for years.
Most importantly, we need an affordable, pedestrian-accessible supermarket to serve the immediate Princeton Junction area. (How about an Acme? Don’t laugh. Stranger things have happened.) And we definitely need something there besides real estate offices and banks. These are not places to shop. There are already five banks within a few hundred yards of one another. With all the turmoil banks have caused recently, you’d think they’d want to hide someplace.
As far as COAH is concerned, spread it around. Some of it in the Junction area might make sense, but not all. West Windsor is a big place, much of it still unpreserved or undeveloped. There’s a lot more to it than Princeton Junction. Realize that a significant increase in the population of this small area would bring part of West Windsor one step closer to the urban centers so many who live here tried to get away from.
Richard S. Snedeker
A Voter’s Quandary
Hollow victory? Indeed! I voted for Chris Christie and in doing so took a page from the Obama Supporter’s 2008 Play Book. I simplified my decision matrix to one single element: change. When I entered the voting booth, I didn’t vote for Christie as much as I voted against Corzine. Heck I even voted against McGreevey for good measure. I realize he didn’t run but I figured if Bush was a reason to not vote for McCain, I felt the same card could be played from both sides of the table.
Not terribly logical, but sometimes elections do not follow logic. Emotion, however, is a far greater motivator. I did no homework. I conducted zero research.
Gone was the summer of ’08 when I consumed every bit of information my mind could process: tenure in office, foreign policy experience, abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, taxes, education, political colleagues, friends, and spiritual advisors. You name it. I read it all.
Not this time. It was the easiest vote I ever cast. Where does Christie stand on gun control? Don’t know. What is Christie’s plan to revive the economy? Can’t tell you. Property taxes? Nope, don’t know. I just wanted a change. So I cast a vote for the most important post in the state based on one simple and easy word: change. I felt no responsibility to educate myself on candidates’ positions. I just wanted a change. It was odd and unfulfilling, and yet quite liberating.
Some kidding aside, Christie has his work cut out for him. And I agree with my fellow citizens that unless he can create jobs, lower taxes, and help create a brighter future, it will be the second hollow victory in the last 12 months. To date, Obama has been unable to achieve those lofty goals either. Hollow victory indeed.
I do have one piece of advice for the new governor, whatever you do, please do not emulate FDR. The last thing we need right now is a Newer New Deal. The New Deal, economically speaking, was an abstract failure. If you don’t believe me then read what FDR’s Secretary of the Treasury had to say in 1939 (six years into the New Deal): “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started . . . and an enormous debt to boot.”
The New Deal programs were so bad that unemployment did not begin to rebound until after the start of the war, the stock market did not recover until well after the war, and two New Deal programs were actually later deemed unconstitutional and repealed by the Supreme Court. Roosevelt’s answer to the repeal was to attempt to change the laws by adding more Supreme Court justices. That attempt failed also.
This all sounds eerily familiar and eerily current. Please Mr. President and Mr. Governor, no more new deals. New Deal-type programs fail for one main reason: governments do not create wealth, they consume it. Ask any octogenarian, economist, or European. Every temporary job created by Uncle Sam diverts a job from the more permanent private sector.
There are no easy answers. This will be painful. But trying to kick-start a morbid economy by making government even larger makes no sense at all. Cut personal taxes, cut business taxes, don’t force healthcare down the throat of small businesses, and don’t stifle growth by implementing cap and trade. We can do this. This country is, if anything, resilient. Remember where we were in the late 1970s. We came back better than ever.
Limit government and give the small businessowners, the entrepreneurs, and working people a chance by lessening their burdens and by getting out of their way.
Thanks, WW Voters
I want to thank the voters who expressed their confidence in me by electing me to fill the unexpired term vacated by the Hon. Will Anklowitz. I will continue to work on behalf of all residents to work with the council and administration to find solutions for a sensible and sustainable budget. Our taxes are of primary concern to me as I continue to serve on the council. We must find ways to control costs and taxes as we continue in these tough economic times when we see many losing jobs, decreasing house values, rising health costs and a myriad of other issues.
We must continue to strive to maintain essential services that have made this town a great place to live. While we work for solutions for today, we must also work for solutions for tomorrow: positioning ourselves to attract businesses of the 21st century, work towards preserving our natural resources, do our share to reduce America’s dependence of fossil fuel and continue to insure the safety and quality of life we have come to expect for all our citizens.
We need to work toward finding solutions for our main street on Route 571, parking solutions at the train station, and road improvements to reduce traffic congestion and provide safe alternatives for those who wish to use their bikes and feet for transportation for commuting or leisure.
I congratulate Andrew Hersh for running a positive campaign. Our respective campaigns demonstrated that focusing on the issues in a positive and respectful manner can work. I hope that he continues with his energy, vision, and commitment to help us make our town a better place for all.
I hope that you will let me know your thoughts and suggestions and stay engaged as time and energy allows. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank the voters of Plainsboro for their support this year and appreciate the confidence placed in us by our re-election to the Township Committee.
We can assure all of the residents of Plainsboro that we recognize their commitment to cost-effective township operations and their dedication to our very special place to live and work. We plan to do everything within our abilities to maintain the highest possible quality of life for all Plainsboro.
Neil J. Lewis
Deputy Mayor, Bradford Lane
Kinglet Drive South