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May  12

The Voting Machines That Don't Add Up

Li704385_1Here’s the good news: Essex County finally has all of the electronic voting machines it needs for upcoming elections in June.
Now for the bad: According to some outraged Montclairians, and Blue Jersey, a self described progressive source of news, political analysis and activism, the county got ripped-off, BIG TIME. They say the machines are a total waste of money and about as up to date as a 1980s Lincoln.

The new machines, about 700 of them, cost around $8,000 a piece. They're supplied by Sequoia Voting Systems, which provides machines to most of the state’s 21 counties. This week the county had to fork over almost $60,000 more on what they've already paid. Sequoia says that's the cost to get the machines ready for the election and to train election board workers.

From the Local Source.com:

Citizens and freeholders alike were not pleased about approving additional funding for Sequoia, which had already failed to meet the obligations of its original contract by not delivering the machines on time.
Previously, the board had discussed the potential of filing suit against Sequoia for failure to deliver the machines in a timely manner, and subjecting the county to possible state and federal infractions.
"This board shouldn't go five cents more contractually then it has already gone with the company," Freeholder Carol Clark said.

The county’s contract with the vendor has been nothing but contentious since it was first considered almost a year ago.

Local residents banded together in protest of the contract, citing the electronic machine’s susceptibility to tampering, and the lack of a voter-verified paper trail.

However, according to Montclair resident Richard Insley, who spoke at the May 3 meeting, the Sequoia machines are not compliant with the federal law, and are the most expensive option available to the county.  Frances Martin, also of Montclair, came equipped with a copy of Monmouth County’s contract with Sequoia, which demonstrated some cost discrepancies.

From Blue Jersey:

All of the information provided to Freeholders and the Election Superintendent in Essex pointed to a number of important facts about these new machines:
- they are not new at all, but rather use 1980s-era processing technology;
- they are among the most costly voting systems out there;
- they fail to provide for the private, independent vote for disabled citizens that Help America Vote Act (HAVA) dollars were allocated to ensure in the first place;
- they fail to comply with numerous federal voting systems guidelines, including being certified to the    2002 standard (1990 standard is the best Sequoia can do);
- computer scientists predicted as a consequence of the antiquated technology, Advantages would not be able to be retrofitted to comply with state law mandating a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) by the deadline of 1/1/2008 (an opinion affirmed in Mercer Superior Court last month), and if and when possible, the cost will exceed the already-exorbitant price of $2,000 per machine for what amounts to the addition of a printer...

Hey, at least it's better than this, right?

May 12, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (81)

daily dish

May   9

Montclair School District Sued Over Student Discrimination

David Herron, president of the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, claims his son, an eighth grader at Glenfield Middle School, was discriminated against and graded unfairly when the student took a standardized mid-term test. Herron filed suit in state Superior Court, accusing the district of discrimination and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. From the Star Ledger:

In the lawsuit, Herron, who is the president of the Montclair chapter of the NAACP, said his 14 year old son was absent because of illness on Jan. 22, the day the standardized midterm test was administered to other students, and given the exam on Jan. 24 upon his return.

At that time, the lawsuit says, teacher Sharon Hurwich on three occasions told the student that he had one hour to take the test, even though the instructions stated two hours.

"Defendant Hurwich told plaintiff "JMH" that the other students had been given exactly the same amount of time; in fact, defendant Hurwich also stated to plaintiff that he was given more time than the other students," the lawsuit said.

On March 21, the math test was returned to the boy, one of only two African-Americans in the class: The student had just one math problem incorrect, the lawsuit says, but received a "B" because seven points were taken off because he did not date the paper.

"No white students were similarly penalized; even those who failed to put the date and/or their names on the test," the lawsuit says.

Through a spokeswoman, Frank Alvarez, Monclair's schools superintendent, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial, also names Glenfield's principal, Joanne Petrigliano, and Ted Lawrence, assistant principal, as defendants.

May 9, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (228)

daily dish

May   8

These Walls Can Talk

Everyone has something to say about Duryea Road, including the Meriney kids, who grew up in the home.

Dear Ms. Kristin Kenney,

Duryearoad_2Thank you for spearheading the formation of the Huestis House Preservation Friends.  As you know, we grew up in the historic house at 4 Duryea, also known as “Gray Gables”, and it is a very special house indeed.  We feel very lucky to have lived there from 1968 to 2006, and our family has many, many fond memories rooted in that house.  With its extraordinary stained glass windows, beautiful woodwork, many fireplaces, porches, hidden passageways and tower rooms, it is truly a remarkable landmark of Upper Montclair.

It is an understatement to say we were heartbroken to hear the realtor who bought the house is considering demolition.  Allowing the real estate agency who bought the Huestis house at 4 Duryea to destroy it would be absolutely scandalous, and from the standpoint of Upper Montclair’s allure, a true shame.  We agree with you that the surrounding neighborhoods and, for that matter, the town itself would be losing a significant landmark. What would happen if most of the large properties around town, such as the notable ones on Upper Mountain Avenue, were sold, the big, old houses demolished, and five to 10 new houses were put on each lot? Does this set a precedent for the demolition and development of other areas in Upper Montclair and Montclair? We can see it has happened already to the old Marlboro Inn. Is this the Montclair that people want to live in?

We believe people move to Montclair based not only on its school system, its diversity, and quick access to NYC but also because of the charm of the lovely, old houses that make up its neighborhoods.

Thank you, again, for working toward preserving the Huestis house at 4 Duryea and for all your work with the town council members and the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission.  Thank you for caring about our old house and for the future of development in all of Montclair. All I can tell you is the Huestis house at 4 Duryea holds a special place in our families’ heart, and we truly appreciate your efforts. If there is anything we can do to help, please contact us.

Lisa Meriney Williams
Mike Meriney
Paul Feshbach-Meriney
Steve Meriney

May 8, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (19)

Bloomfield Development Halted

Copecks2018Forest triumphs over condomania? The story from EcoRealty...

The five acres of pristine "forest" along Liongate Drive off of Broad Street, which the landowners Tilter Realty (Patty Copek and her sister Marie Ruvo), through their developer, DeSimone, dreamed of turning into another chock-full instant neighborhood, received a reprieve from falling under the developer's earthmovers.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reviewed DeSimone's plans to
build 42 townhomes on a flood plain of Spring Brook and the Third River and denied him approval to build. We haven't received the formal letter detailing the reasons for the denial. We will pass it along when we get it.

May 8, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (19)

daily dish

May   5

Bloomfield's Tamborini Pleads Guilty

Remember this series of unfortunate events?  The conclusion, reported today in My Bloomfield:

Earlier this week, Second Ward Councilman Ray Tamborini pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, stemming from an incident in the winter when Tamborini crashed a township-owned vehicle into two parked cars.

Tamborini will have his license suspended for seven months. He also suggested starting a novel service in town that would pick up drivers who are too drunk to drive.

May 5, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (29)

Invasion of Privacy?

DoorWhile some Montclairians may not be open to the prospect of increased taxes as a result of the upcoming revaluation of their homes and businesses, they will have to open their doors and let inspectors in.

From the Montclair Times:

Appraisal Systems representative Rick Del Guerico noted every taxable property in Montclair must be inspected inside and out. "People need to know how to make appointments for the property to be assessed if they are not there,” Del Guerico said. “The assessors will need to know how to gain entry to every home and every commercial establishment.

And those inspectors will be looking closely at what’s inside: From an ASI brochure sent out by the Township this week:

It’s important to point out that the valuation of your home will be based on the total living area in terms of square footage rather than a room by room count, although the inspector will list the total number of rooms for descriptive purposes only. Aside from the living area, other features which will affect the valuation of your home include: remodeled bathrooms and kitchens, finished basements, central air conditioning, decks and patios, pools, garages and the overall condition of the home.

In a letter from the Township sent with the brochure, home and business owners are warned not to let anyone into their property without a photo ID authorized by the Chief of Police.

May 5, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (83)

Who'll Get Mountainside Hospital?

Img_0510_1_1The May 12 deadline to submit formal offers to acquire Mountainside Hospital is imminent, and we are still in the dark about who exactly will apply. Richard Harries, spokesperson for Community Friends of Mountainside (CFMH) a community based group that is trying to get the hospital back, may be competing against as many as seven other entities. Hospitals that have expressed interest are Newark based Cathedral Healthcare System and St. Joseph's Healthcare System in Paterson. And Harries said of CFMH "Everything is on schedule for bidding on May 12, at 2 pm." From the Montclair Times:

Not wanting to tip his hand to potential competitors, Harries would only say that the community group’s bid would include plans to introduce “a new lead surgery and would be modifying a lot of the hospital departments.” However, in earlier interviews with The Times, Harries has indicated it was likely that CFMH’s takeover report to Atlantic Health would propose the addition of elective heart surgeries, not currently performed at Mountainside.

In a prepared release issued this week, Harries stated that the CFMH’s membership now tops 1,000 citizens. In addition, he stated that “140 attending physicians have now contributed financially and given full support and express solidarity for the Community Friends to be the sponsor of Mountainside Hospital.”

May 5, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (2)

daily dish

May   4

Putting High School Athletes To The Test

Today's Star Ledger reports that New Jersey high school athletes may be subjected to random testing for a "wide range of performance enhancing substances, from amphetimines to steroids".  We first reported in December that high school drug testing might be in the works, and now the executive committee of the state's Interscholastic Athletic Association has unanimously approved the testing plan. If passed next month, New Jersey would be the first state in the nation to enact drug testing in high schools. Sixty per cent of the tests would target football, wrestling, swimming, lacrosse, baseball, and track & field.

The NJ ACLU director Deborah Jacobs stated that the plan "undermines parental decision making and the privacy rights of families...we consider this ill-informed public policy." Former Governor Codey, who first introduced the testing plan, applauded yesterday's vote.

"Our mission is to become the first government in the world to test high school athletes for steroids," he said. "It's clearly the right thing to do. We have to send a message: One, you're cheating. And two, you're harming your health in the future. It's almost gotten to the point where it's accepted by teenagers that they should do this if they want to succeed athletically."

Montclair resident Stephen McCarthy has a daughter playing varsity Lacrosse and Field Hockey at Montclair High.  He told Baristanet: "I can understand drug testing for airline pilots, bus drivers, police officers, but I think we should stop and think about how far we should let the government intrude in our lives, particularly in the lives of our children."  Baristanet has a call in to the athletic directors at the three Baristaville high schools.

Parents, athletes, Baristareaders, tell us what you think..

May 4, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (40)

daily dish

April  28

Update on Art Teacher Case

The Glen Ridge Paper reported this week that charges may be dropped against Jerry Juzdan, the Glen Ridge elementary school art teacher accused two years ago of inappropriately touching a male student. According to the story, Juzdan, who asked for and received a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year, is applying for a "pre-trial intervention program," which might allow him to avoid indictment.

His lawyer, however, says that doesn't mean Juzdan did anything wrong.

In a recent phone interview, [Juzdan's attorney Timothy] Smith reiterated his position on the case, saying of the accusers, “These people are fanatics. This is a witch hunt.”

Smith said Juzdan will never accept any admission of guilt or any condition which stays on record as such.

“He will never admit to guilt because he did nothing wrong,” said Smith. “He has passed four polygraphs, two issued by the government. They have no case and they know it.”

A reader wrote us earlier this month to tell us of Juzdan's sudden departure from Linden Ave. School. Juzdan requested a leave of absence around the same time that parents learned that the librarian was going on extended medical leave. Our reader forwarded a letter she sent to school principal Joseph Caravela.

From speaking with my daughter, it seems that no one from the school has shared any information regarding these teachers' absences with the students. The kids are no doubt confused and feeling some sense of loss at this point. What, if anything, is being said to the kids?

Caravela's reply suggested that nothing had been explained to the kids, but that the principal would talk to classes once replacements were found.

The issue of the accusations against Juzdan is a divisive one in Glen Ridge. Because he has taught every public school student in the primary grades for years, almost everybody in town knows him and most like him. Many of his biggest supporters are parents with older children and no current links to the primary grades. Reportedly, school officials have required an aide to be with him ever since charges were made.

Juzdan is accused of having put his hand under a six-year-old's shirt and rubbed the child's stomach.

April 28, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (45)

daily dish

April  20

Montclair Board Of Ed - Got Something Against Green?

The Board of Ed's environmental report card isn't looking too good lately. First it was the trees, then the diesel fumes, and now it's traffic congestion.  They just got a big fat F for the for the heavily congested location of a new elementary school planned at Washington, Elm and Fulton Streets. That stirred things up at a BOE/Planning Board meeting Monday night as plans for a new elementary school and the Woodman Field House expansion were scrutinized.  From the Montclair Times:

Architects from The Thomas Group, the architectural firm hired by the Montclair School District, said about 15 cars could fit onto the Bloomfield Avenue entrance to drop off and pick up students, though parents could also take another route to drop off their children. Planning Board members noted that if the school will hold 550 students and about 30 to 50 percent of students are dropped off by their parents, then that leaves about 250 vehicles scrambling to find an area to drop off or pick up children. “Where are all of these vehicles going to fit? Where are they going to drop them off?” asked Planning Board member Frank Haimbach. “If we haven’t thought about that, then we have a big problem.” Questions were also raised regarding a traffic study of the area. A grade lettering of “A” was presented for the less congested streets and an “F” for the most congested areas. Washington and Elm streets were graded with “Fs.”

Residents across from Woodman field spent an hour and a half discussing issues about parking, excessive lighting, and questioned if buses will be able to turn around on the narrow street:

“There are cars parked up and down Essex Avenue, so buses aren’t going to be able to turn because the street isn’t wide enough,” Langell said. “It’s not physically possible.

Joan Furlong, whose family is donating $3.75 million of the total $4.75 million cost for the Field House expansion, also spoke at the meeting and recommended that the municipal government create a parking task force.

April 20, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink | Comments (49)

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