Saturday, October 31, 2009
Every election in my students’ memory, and my own, has been billed as the most pivotal in a generation, and every one has focused on the same issues. Candidates swear they’ll tackle corruption, lower property taxes, and do something good about transportation and something even better about education. Although our candidates tend to come from moneyed towns like Hoboken or Oldwick, they stop for photo ops in ailing cities like Newark and Camden, stand on some benighted corner and make noise about finally fixing the culture of failure entrenched in these places.
N.J. losing out on $6B a year when college students flee stateWhen it comes to K-12 education, New Jersey is usually A-1. The state is the nation’s yearly valedictorian, or salutatorian. Certainly never less than fifth in the class.
So why then is New Jersey at the bottom of so many high education categories: 50th in per capita funding; 47th in college capacity, and therefore, worst, by far, at keeping students in-state.
Republican Chris Christie condemns the "brain drain" of New Jersey students going away to college and envisions corporate partnerships to keep students here.
Independent Chris Daggett says higher education is one of his top concerns, condemns the culture of low state support for public colleges.
Gov. Jon Corzine is vulnerable on the issue: state support for four-year public colleges and universities decreased $63 million to $1.436 billion last year and county colleges took an $11 million hit, down to $222 million.
In this economy, more and more New Jersey students want to stay home. At the state’s 19 community colleges enrollment is up 12 percent, nearing 100,000 for the first time. The nine state colleges (not including Rutgers), are also tipping near 100,000, up 20 percent in the last decade.
Yet in real dollars, the state spends less on higher education than it did 20 years ago. That’s one bottom line.
About 35,000 kids leave New Jersey each year to go to college and take about $6 billion with them.
"When you factor in tuition, transportation and all other student spending, there is significant revenue leaving the state," said Paul Shelly of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. "My calculations put it at $6 billion."
Shelly says the money isn’t going far, either. Most New Jersey students stay in the Mid-Atlantic or New England.
"New Jersey does much research as to where the students are going. I don’t think they want to admit our money is being exported just over to Lehigh Valley or down in Delaware."
"If we have the amenities and businesses to keep students in town, maybe they’ll consider Newark as place of permanent residence after they graduate," Pryor said.
Extrapolate that to the state, and it is the solution to the "brain drain."
"Studies show a very high percentage of students get their first jobs in the state where they attend college," Shelly said. "I don’t think New Jersey can continue to lose our bright students, the very students we create."
Friday, October 30, 2009
Outmigration is also a problem for New Jersey. Rutgers economists James Hughes and Joseph Seneca calculate the Garden State lost nearly a quarter of a million people between 2002 and 2006.
People are also leaving the region. New Jersey, once a destination for New Yorkers wanting to move to the suburbs, is now a stretch of turnpike leading to Florida and North Carolina.
The reason they are leaving the region is that the cost of government has increased, but the quality of services has not.
I think that sums it up quite well.
Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey, whose jobless rate is at a 32-year high, will take a decade to get back to pre-recession employment levels, according to economists at Rutgers University.
The most densely populated U.S. state will take until 2019 before the number of people in work surpasses the 2007 peak, said Nancy Mantell, director of the Rutgers Economic Advisory Service.
“The country, in contrast, will begin job expansion three years earlier,” Mantell said in a statement yesterday. “By 2019 it will have 7.7 percent more jobs than at the previous peak.”
New Jersey entered recession in January 2008, one month after the U.S., and has lost 161,300 jobs, or 4 percent of its employment base, Mantell said.
The state shed jobs at a rate comparable with the national figure during the first year of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. In 2009, the pace slowed to 1.8 percent, compared with 2.9 percent nationally.
The New Jersey jobless rate was 9.8 percent in September, up from 4.5 in December 2007, according to data compiled by the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The national rate is also 9.8 percent. New Jersey currently has 3.9 million non-farm jobs, according to state figures. In December 2007 it had a record-high 4.1 million such posts.
Slower Income Growth
Income growth in New Jersey will slow to less than 1.5 percent this year as the recession persists, after which it will increase by 4.2 percent annually through 2019, Mantell said.
Moody’s Investors Service lowered its credit outlook on $31 billion of New Jersey debt to negative from stable in August, citing the economic problems and budgetary constraints.
The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services projects the state will confront a deficit of as much as $8 billion next year as rising unemployment and damped consumer spending depress tax receipts. The revenue gap is more than 25 percent of the $29 billion budget enacted by Governor Jon Corzine, the former co- chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co., in June.
Tax and fee collections for the quarter ended Sept. 30 fell $190 million, or 3.1 percent, below estimates, Treasurer David Rousseau said. Corzine ordered $200 million in cuts and directed his cabinet members to identify another $200 million in reductions.
In that spending plan, Corzine’s administration predicted revenue would drop more than 1 percent during the fiscal year ending June 30 from the previous 12-month period.
The only industries that experienced growth during the recession were education, health and “other services,” according to Mantell at Rutgers. Losses have been focused in manufacturing, construction and business services.
“The professional and business services sector will turn around during the recovery and will be, as it was during the past decade, a strong contributor to growth,” Mantell said.
Surprise! We're Number One! We're Number One!
Oh, wait a minute...#1 isn't always good
New York-White Plains, N.Y.-Wayne, N.J.Homes affordable to median-income families: 21.2%
Affordable homes in Q2 2004: 15.2%
Median home price: $419,000
Median family income: $64,800
Unemployment rate: 9.6%
Manhattan is world famous for its culture and nightlife, but living in or near the city requires most people to stretch their finances. The suburbs include ultra-wealthy Greenwich, Conn.; Alpine, N.J.; and Scarsdale, N.Y. Long commutes are common in the tri-state area because land gets more affordable away from New York.
2. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.Homes affordable to median-income families: 26.9%
Affordable homes in Q2 2004: 13.3%
Median home price: $580,000
Median family income: $96,800
Unemployment rate: 9.3%
3. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.Homes affordable to median-income families: 31.8%
Affordable homes in Q2 2004: 10.2%
Median home price: $364,000
Median family income: $70,800
Unemployment rate: 9.5%
4. Ocean City, N.J.Homes affordable to median-income families: 32.6%
Affordable homes in Q2 2004: N/A
Median home price: $350,000
Median family income: $67,200
Unemployment rate: 8.0%
5. HonoluluHomes affordable to median-income families: 41.8%
Affordable homes in Q2 2004: 45.6%
Median home price: $395,000
Median family income: $79,300
Unemployment rate: 6.1%
We'll drive. Keep driving. Head out to the middle of nowhere, take that road as far as it takes us. You've never been west of Philly, have ya? This is a beautiful country Monty, it's beautiful out there, like a different world. Mountains, hills, cows, farms, and white churches. I drove out west with your mother one time, before you was born. Brooklyn to the Pacific in three days. Just enough money for gas, sandwiches, and coffee, but we made it. Every man, woman, and child alive should see the desert one time before they die. Nothin' at all for miles around. Nothin' but sand and rocks and cactus and blue sky. Not a soul in sight. No sirens. No car alarms. Nobody honkin' atcha. No madmen cursin' or pissin' in the streets. You find the silence out there, you find the peace. You can find God. So we drive west, keep driving till we find a nice little town. These towns out in the desert, you know why they got there? People wanted to get way from somewhere else. The desert's for startin' over.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I take it to mean one of two things:
1) NJ has a particular type of character, unique unto itself (TRUE!)
2) Everywhere else lacks character (FALSE!)
Now #1 I can't argue. NJ (like most places) has a vibe and feel that is all it's own. We could discuss for days if not weeks what it entails, but there is no doubt that NJ does have a very strong and unique character.
But #2, though perhaps somewhat based on opinion, seems to me to be more often than not, a statement of ignorance.
Consider the following cities, all well regarded for their character: Savannah, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Providence, Boston, Philadelphia, Austin....I could go on and on. Please note that I don't just mean the city proper either, but the surrounding metropolitan areas as well, and on into the suburbs.
The folks that argue #2, seem to have this view that once you get outside the NYC/NJ area, that the rest of the country is dull, flavorless, flat, boring, and made up of homogeneous neighborhoods with no trees and no soul. (Wait a minute, that sounds an awful lot like the many Gardens of McMansions that sprang up on manufactured cul de sacs in NJ over the past decade!)
But I digress, almost every part of the U.S. is rich in history, culture, and flavor. It's all a matter of what flavor you like. Read, travel, talk to people that live in other parts of the country. Get a true sense of life outside of NJ, don't just go by what you see on sitcoms and in movies.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
It's the pizza, isn't it?
Friday, October 23, 2009
That's an extreme example, but it seems to be a familiar story throughout New Jersey. Please share your tales of torpid constructile dysfunction.
Children's Health magazine, published by Rodale, named Jersey City the 13th best place to raise a family. The magazine released a top 100 list of municipalities across the nation. The only other city in New Jersey to make the list was Newark, who ranked 46th.
Burlington, Vt. topped this year's list.
"We compared 29 quality of life variables in the areas of employment, health, housing, safety, education and family life to calculate Children's Health's 100 Best Places to Raise Children," the magazine's Web site says.
"This administration and the City Council work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in our city and we are glad to see our efforts be recognized," Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy said. "I am proud of our diversity and progress. From art and culture to recreational activities and leisure past times, we have hundreds of things for families to do. Jersey City has great parks, restaurants, shops and wonderful neighborhoods that continue to attract families here all the time."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
First, why do we have so few traffic lights with left hand turn signals? How many of you have been in this situation? You're at a light either waiting to make a left hand turn or behind someone who is trying to do so. The light turns green, but you never get to make that turn because of the relentless traffic coming from the opposite direction. I've seen this happen where folks are stuck at the same light through several cycles because either they or the person in front of them are unable to make that left hand turn.
This frustration in turn leads to many who are attempting a left hand turn to try to "punch it" when the light goes green, in order to beat out the person in the opposing lane. And this of course leads to more shouting matches, accidents, road rage, and general confusion. The law clearly states that the person in the opposing lane driving straight has right of way. If you are turning left across an intersection you do not have right of way, you're supposed to wait until traffic is clear. But we in NJ seem to have become brainwashed into thinking that the polite thing to do is to let the left hand turning person to go first. I can't tell you how many games of herky-jerky-are-you-letting-me-turn aerobics I've witnessed because of this.
But there is an amazingly simple solution to all of this, a traffic light with a left hand turn signal. Such a simple investment would open up the blow off valve and release quite a bit of steam for stressed out (and delayed) NJ drivers. Sometimes, it is the little things that count, especially when they can positively affect our day-to-day lives.
Oh, and on a related note, traffic lights with sensors are helpful too. If you're at a light at 1am and there is no traffic to be seen, wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to sit at that antiquated, timed light for 2-3 minutes?
There was a time when I thought that this is just the way it is, that this is the best mankind had to offer, and since we live in a densely populated area, that we're just screwed. But then, about a decade ago, while out in the Midwest, I was introduced to the glory of the modern traffic light system, complete with traffic sensors and turn lights. But wait I thought, I'm from NJ, one of the wealthiest, best educated, most progressive states in the country! How is it that we don't have this newfangled technology? (and by new, I mean 10+ years old at the time).
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The only exception I can think of is that housing costs have come down a bit, making houses more affordable for those buying today. But property taxes certainly are no better and continue to push out both residents as well as businesses.
Even New Jerseyans can't stand living in New Jersey, according to a new poll that said nearly half of adults residing in the Garden State want to pull up stakes.
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll, released Wednesday, found 49 percent of those polled would rather live somewhere else.
New Jersey already is suffering from an image problem and bears the brunt of jokes because of its corruption and pollution problems. But 58 percent of those residents polled said the heavy financial burden of just living in the state is no laughing matter, and that's why they want to leave.
Poll participants cited high property taxes (28 percent), the cost of living (19 percent), state taxes (5 percent) and housing costs (6 percent) as the main reasons they want out. The poll also found that 51 percent of those who expressed a desire to leave planned to do so, with adults under the age of 50 making between $50,000 and $100,000 the most likely to flee.
"If you have the ability to leave and you don't see any possibility for change with the way the state is run — and that's the No. 1 issue here — you have to vote with your feet," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Gilfillan said Corzine also had cut costs by reducing the government workforce, though he noted people would continue to leave New Jersey as baby boomers retired.
"Demographics are only going to accentuate this trend, as the bulk of these folks have yet to leave the workforce," Gilfillan said.
But a Rutgers University report released last week found that New Jersey, with nearly 9 million people, is experiencing a population loss and said the number of residents who had left the state more than tripled from 2002 to 2006, with 231,565 people moving elsewhere.
The Rutgers Regional Report, which examined U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service data, noted 72,547 people left in 2006, ranking New Jersey fourth — behind California, Louisiana and New York — among states with the highest population losses in the nation.
High prices aren't the only thing driving people out. New Jersey ex-pats headed in droves to warmer climates, with 124,584 moving to Florida and 29,803 moving to North Carolina. Others (42,459) moved to neighboring Pennsylvania.
That migration depleted the state's tax coffers of an estimated $10 billion in personal income and $680 million in sales tax, according to the Rutgers report.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Regardless of the source, our poor air quality leads to both chronic and acute health problems, which in turn results in an increase in sick days for both students and workers. It's of particular concern to children, the elderly, and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
You can read more about it at the links below:
New Jersey officials estimate a third of the air pollution in the state drifts east from power plants and other sources in the Midwest. Lagarenne says the biggest problem area "is really the Ohio River Valley, that's where all these big coal plants are, that's what dumps the mercury which is the worst pollutant."
Air pollution takes a significant toll on human health in New Jersey every year, shortening thousands of lives and sending thousands of people to area hospitals.
Premature death and hospital admissions are the most visible indicators of widespread health damage caused by air pollution. This damage manifests itself in the incidence of disease like chronic bronchitis, increased emergency room visits, more frequent asthma attacks, and missed work days due to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy people. At the root of all of these health problems lies irreparable damage to lung tissues not unlike that caused by second-hand tobacco smoke.
And while our air quality today is somewhat improved from ten years ago, it still gets a failing grade.
New Jersey's air was given failing grades for a 10th consecutive year by the American Lung Association in its annual "State of the Air" report, which again found that people in rural corners of the state suffer as badly as they do in the grittiest urban areas.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The number of people leaving New Jersey continues to beat the number coming into the state, based on an annual report by Mayflower Transit LLC.
Through August 2009, 58.6 percent of the New Jersey moves handled by the St. Louis-based national moving company were “outbound,” or exiting the state. Only three states — Maine, Nebraska and Michigan — had a higher percentage of people fleeing.
The state’s ranking did improve from 2008, when 59.8 percent of Mayflower's New Jersey moves were outbound and only Michigan and Nebraska fared worse.
“The good news is that we’re not the worst in the nation,” said John Holub, president of the Trenton-based New Jersey Retail Merchants Association.
“It’s no surprise, since reports indicate that New Jersey has one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, and a tax and regulatory climate that’s consistently rated one of the least friendly for businesses,” he said. “It’s a costly and difficult place to do business, and the ripple effect is that people are moving out.”
Organizations like the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program Inc. are trying to help businesses cope with New Jersey’s costly climate by helping them adopt lean manufacturing and other techniques, but it’s still a struggle, said Robert L. Loderstedt III, chief executive officer of the Morris Plains-based organization.
“Companies usually don’t like to leave a state, especially if they have customers and families there,” he said. “But I’m sure that high taxes, a high cost of living and other burdens have something to do with [the Mayflower] numbers. These issues impact individuals and businesses alike.”
What destination (or destinations) do you have in mind, and what is it about that place that appeals to you?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Don't get me wrong, many if not most of these points do contain at least some shred of truth, but the weight of that truth varies tremendously depending on what your interests, values, hobbies, and desires are.
One of the most frequent points raised as to why someone wouldn't or shouldn't want to leave NJ is because it's close to NYC. This is true, NJ is close to NYC. But why does that matter? First, allow me to explain why it's not a big deal to me.
NYC is a fascinating and interesting place. It's rich in history and culture and pretty much anything you could ever think of can be found there. Yet, I find myself only going there maybe a few times each year. It's just not where I typically tend to choose to spend my time. I go for the occasional obscure, underground concert, museum visit, auto show, etc. Suffice it to say, NYC just isn't a huge priority for me. Therefore the fact that I live near it is not of great importance to me.
To this, many would say that I'm omitting the fact that NYC is an economic powerhouse and a big part of the reason why there are so many good jobs in NJ. This is true, but it also ignores the cost that being near NYC imposes on living here. Higher taxes, higher cost of living, endless traffic (and the resultant air pollution and road rage), crime, corruption, and a culture which values hyper competitiveness and nearly frowns upon cooperation. To some, this may be a plus. The extreme Type A personality might well thrive here.
Now, I do know some folks for which living near NYC is important, either due to career choice or lifestyle. If you're a Broadway aficionado, then it's understandable. If you want a shot at the Gordon Gekko lifestyle, I understand (though I would argue that that could also be pursued in London, Chicago, Tokyo and many other cities in Asia).
The point I'm trying get at here is that it strikes me that very few people consider what they mean when they say that living in NJ is great because it's close to NYC. It's a meaningless statement without being defined. Its like saying that you're great because your live next to a famous athlete, actor, or other person of renown. Why is it great? Why does it mean so much to you that it would play an active role in your decision either to move or not move out of NJ? If you spend great amounts of time there due to your career, hobbies, or family, then OK, that makes sense. But, if like me, you rarely go there, then what difference does it make? You're in effect, paying the high price of living near NYC for no other reason than that it's nearby.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP -- In less than a month, Mike and Victoria Malinics, two lifelong Mercer County residents, will move across the river to Pennsylvania to pay half the property taxes on a bigger house.
"We couldn't sustain the cost of living and provide for (our children)" said Mike Malinics, 37, adding that New Jersey "has become a case of overwhelming taxation without representation."
Wife Victoria, 34, said she feels state legislators have ignored middle class residents like her and her husband, forcing them to make the difficult decision to move across state lines.
New Jersey continues to have the highest property taxes in the nation, according to a recent analysis by The Tax Foundation. After analyzing census figures, the foundation found the median property tax bill was $6,320, with 7 percent of the state homeowners' paychecks going toward property taxes.
Republican 15th District Assembly candidate Werner Graf and Ewing Mayor Jack Ball joined the Malinicses, a Ewing couple, on the New Jersey side of the Washington Crossing Bridge yesterday morning to call on state government officials to stop driving residents out of New Jersey.
"I'm not happy to see them leave, but ... I hope it sends a message to New Jersey politicians about why they're leaving," said Ball, adding that the state's high taxes have drawn away businesses from Ewing.
Graf said a large portion of residents' tax bills goes to schools, and even with a new school funding formula designed to shift some of the spending from urban districts to other districts that have large percentages of children from low-income households, there still is "no accountability" and wasteful spending in districts that are failing. He also said funding for special education should be part of income tax payments instead of being borne by residents when special needs children move from district to district.
Graf said he and running mate Kim Taylor would serve the needs of the residents of the 15th District, which includes Trenton, Ewing, Hopewell Valley, Lawrence, the Princetons and Pennington.
"They're part of the establishment in the Legislature of New Jersey, which has very little regard for middle class tax payer," Graf said of incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton Borough, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Ewing.
Graf also cited the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services' report from this summer which highlights an $8 billion structural deficit for the next fiscal year.
Coleman said she agrees property taxes in the state are high, and has encouraged municipalities and other governing bodies to consolidate. But she said the challenge for New Jersey is to continue to provide a high level of service people expect, such as road improvements and a commitment to open space, yet provide property tax relief.
"Almost half of the budget comes back to taxpayers in the form of services" like tax freezes for senior citizen homeowners, Coleman said, adding, "under this Democratic administration and Legislature, more property tax relief has gone into the hands of residents ... Republicans like my opponents are great to criticise, but they haven't come up with any solutions that work. If they cut services and fired everybody in state government," it still may not be enough to tackle the "huge" budget deficit, Coleman said.
Gusciora, said he has introduced a bill to find alternative methods for funding local government, and that lowering property taxes should be the priority for every elected official. "(Gov. Jon) Corzine should be given credit for increasing property tax rebates in the last four years. ... We've worked on returning more rebate dollars to tax payers," he said.
Pennsylvania ranked third, just behind New York and Florida, in the top 10 destination states for those leaving New Jersey, according to an October 2007 report by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
According to that report, the state's population started to decline in 2002. New Jersey's 2005 aggregate adjusted gross income was reduced by $7.9 billion, a direct loss to the state economy and state taxes, due to the cumulative net outflows of people since the start of the decade, according to the report.The report states "high housing costs, and its high overall cost of living" are possible explanations for the out-migration.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways: High taxes, stifling traffic and ever present road rage, terrible roads with poorly placed signs, bad attitudes, rampant political corruption, as many brownfield toxic sites as actual gardens, sickening air quality, violent crime, and not even a single good buffet in the entire state!
And more recently, we can also add to the list: Housewives of NJ, the return of medical waste washing up on the shore, and the blight of all buildings/scourge of all sights/bane of Bauhaus architecture - yep, XANADU.
OK, enough NJ hate. I love NJ, and most people who want to leave do as well. It's close to so much: hiking, NYC, beaches, historic areas, cultural events, farms, etc. It is true that pretty much anything you could want to do can be done around here. It's rich in local lore, just pick up a copy of Weird NJ.
But, there comes a point when the love is overwhelmed by the bad. When the pro/con list becomes so badly weighted towards the 'cons', that the love just isn't enough anymore. This blog is to discuss just that conflict; to debate the pros and cons of NJ as well as why the grass just might very well be greener on the other side, be it Pennsylvania, California, Maine or Nebraska.
I invite those that have made the move elsewhere to discuss why they did so and to explain why where they are now is better (or possibly worse) than NJ. Folks who are considering leaving are welcome as well. It's never an easy decision to move, especially if you've lived here all of your life. And in general, I'd love to hear from those that live all over our country, to get a more complete idea of what life is like beyond the borders of NJ.
Finally, I'm hoping that we can break down and dismiss a great many stereotypes and assumptions that exist about other states in our country. Just as we Jerseyeans can be irritated by stereotypes of 'big hair' and 'Lawn Guyland accents', folks in other states share that sensitivity about their homeland. The middle of America is not all Walmart, inbreeding, NASCAR, and hunting.
I've heard plenty of asinine reasons for not wanting to move out of NJ to X or Y state, because 'militias are out there!' or 'don't they have meth labs out that way?!' So let me get this straight, we live in a state with some of the worst gang violence, and epidemic levels of heroin and crack on our streets, and you're worried about militias and meth labs? Seriously?
So without further ado, I welcome you to Escape from NJ.