Honoring Those Who Make A Difference in Our Communities
By Thomas A. Arnone
While informing the residents of Monmouth County about the happenings and goings on within the county has always been the focus for my writings, I thought it best to change my focus for this submission.
Why you might ask? The reason being is that, although raising awareness as to the many gains and strides that continue to occur in and around Monmouth County is of significant importance and benefit to our residents, I feel sometimes we need to take a step back and look outside of ourselves. It is extremely important for each of us to take time and perhaps reflect, if even for a moment, on the vast array of wonderful causes out there originated for the sole purpose to help raise awareness as it pertains to the many important issues we are faced with today.
Because the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders fully understands the significance of helping to get the word out, we have taken steps by doing our part in also trying to help raise awareness.
A few of the observances made recently by the Board of Chosen Freeholders during the months of March, April and May were Autism Awareness, Alcohol Awareness, Military Awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness. The board also recognized the tenacious energy set forth by The Red Cross and Monmouth County Fair Housing.
Each of these tremendous causes was recognized by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders during one of its regularly scheduled meetings. Representatives from each of the various organizations were invited to attend a meeting to accept a Certificate of Recognition for all they do to help raise awareness for each of their causes. Additionally, they were recognized for the multitude of great things they have independently been able to accomplish thus far. They also were congratulated for their efforts in continuing to educate the public on how much work is still needed in order to maintain progress and continue to accomplish great things.
With regard to Breast Cancer Awareness, 17 municipalities within Monmouth County recently passed resolutions to have pink line striping done on roadways as a means of lending support and aiding in raising awareness through the Paint the Town Pink effort. The towns that participated in this year’s pink line striping were Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, Little Silver, Red Bank, Monmouth Beach, Shrewsbury, Fair Haven, Holmdel, Rumson, Asbury Park, Middletown, Neptune, Neptune City, West Long Branch, Avon by the Sea, Spring Lake and Manasquan.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders is extremely proud of the efforts set forth by our municipalities to help raise awareness for breast cancer, and we offer them our sincere thanks.
At the end of the day, let each of us embrace the valiant efforts made by the many dedicated individuals like the ones I have mentioned in this writing and recognize that it is the persistent perseverance of people like this who make a difference in each of our lives daily.
No one is expected to change the world single-handedly, but joined as a community with a thriving county and there is no limit to the innumerable gains that can be made when all come together in a collaborative effort to turn each goal into fruition.
Thomas A. Arnone is freeholder director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Farmland and Solar – Not Perfect Together
By Michele S. Byers
Many things are perfect together. Wine and chocolate, movies and popcorn, shorts and flip-flops, New Jersey and you.
But some are not – like solar power plants and farmland. You might think they’d make a perfect pair, since flat, open farm landscapes have easy access to the sun’s renewable energy.
But New Jersey’s farmland is precious. This state we’re in has some of the best soils in the world and a climate that fosters fresh, local food. If we want to remain the “Garden State,” we can’t cover productive farmland with utility-scale solar facilities that could easily be built on less sensitive surfaces.
Fortunately, the Christie administration has made it clear that large solar arrays should not be placed on farmland. The state’s Energy Master Plan and the Solar Act of 2012 direct solar facilities away from farmland. And the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently reinforced this policy – all steps in the right direction.
The Board of Public Utilities recently reviewed 57 applications for utility-scale “grid-supply” projects on farmland. It denied 26, approved three, disqualified seven and deferred action on the remaining 21. Hopefully, the BPU will turn thumbs down on the remaining proposals as well!
Solar power is a great resource and our state should reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. But solar energy projects only make sense if they’re built in the right places.
Solar projects are either “grid-supply” or “net-metered,” and it’s the former that causes concern in this case.
Grid-supply systems feed electricity from typically large (utility-scale) solar arrays directly into the regional power infrastructure. Net-metered systems, on the other hand, power individual homes, businesses, public buildings – and even farm operations.
The owner of a net-metered system can receive retail credit for unused energy generated, but profit is not the main purpose. For this reason, state regulations prevent owners from sizing solar systems larger than what they need for their own electricity needs.
The Energy Master Plan – the administration’s guidance on energy policy – discourages the development of grid-supply projects on farmland and, instead, directs them to sites like brownfields, landfills, rooftops and parking lots. The Solar Act says the solar industry shouldn’t harm the preservation of open space and farmland.
To date, our state has spent over $1.5 billion to preserve more than 2,000 farms covering over 200,000 acres. These lands – and other agricultural lands that could and should be preserved – are critical for our food supply and should not be covered by renewable energy projects.
Christie and the Board of Public Utilities are headed in the right direction, and should follow through by denying the 21 remaining grid-supply projects targeted for farmland.
Speak up for farmland and send your comments to the Board of Public Utilities! Go to www.bpu.state. nj.us/bpu/about/contact/index.shtml. For more information on solar siting and sustainable land use, go to www.anjec.org/pdfs/SolarWhitePaper2012.pdf.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation. org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Send Healthy Message to Children: Don’t Legalize Dangerous Substance
By Mary Pat Angelini
As someone who shapes public policy and works to keep children, healthy, safe and drug-free, I’m often asked to explain my opposition to legalizing marijuana.
It’s best explained with a twist on the iconic Field of Dreams phrase, “If you build it, they will come.” When it comes to marijuana, the facts show that “If you legalize it, young people will use and abuse it.”
It seems obvious that more people will use a substance deemed legal and presumably safe by government than they will use an illegal and presumably dangerous one. This logical conclusion has serious consequences for young people.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is funded by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, released a study earlier this year that proves the less dangerous young people consider a particular substance, the more they used it.
Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 54.6 percent to 44.8 percent. At the same time, young people who smoked marijuana in a given month increased from 6.7 percent to 7.9 percent.
Those numbers reflect a time when policymakers in New Jersey and several other states were debating medical marijuana. When then-Governor Corzine and the Democrat-controlled Legislature legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, I predicted it was the first step toward legalizing dangerous drugs. This is an instance in which I wish I were wrong.
Three years ago, the message to children was that marijuana can be medicine for some. Today, the message has devolved further to say, it’s OK to smoke.
As some continue to push for legalizing marijuana regardless of medicinal circumstance, young people will continue to think it’s safe. The numbers of young users in New Jersey will shoot through the roof if New Jersey ever sanctions the use of an illicit and dangerous drug.
This is sending the wrong message to young people. Marijuana is an addictive drug that often leads users to use other illegal drugs and down a path toward a number of medical and social problems.
The science is clear: Marijuana can cause disinterest in activities, lower grades and isolation. It affects the brain, heart and lungs. Teen users have an increased risk of schizophrenia and depression and suicidal thoughts. And, they are more likely to engage in delinquent and dangerous behavior, whether it’s unsafe sex or driving under the influence.
Studies have shown that children in treatment facilities are more likely to have abused marijuana than any other drug – alcohol included.
If those are the consequences, why on earth would government send the incorrect message by legalizing this drug?
I have many friends on the other side of this debate and their most compelling argument is relieving the courts from being bogged down by drug offenses.
There are better ways to accomplish this such as our landmark bipartisan mandatory drug court program that will allow non-violent offenders to get the treatment they need.
Under Gov. Christie’s leadership, our focus has been on helping people break free from addiction to dangerous substances.
Instead of changing the law and ignoring a problem, we have changed our approach to help people reclaim their lives.
Another note about that National Survey gives me hope that we can teach children to lead healthier lives: as marijuana use increased, binge drinking decreased because the message has been sinking in about this hazardous behavior.
Instead, of building a ballpark that teaches young people it’s OK to put a harmful substance in their bodies, we can build one where the first base is the correct message that marijuana is dangerous and not part of a healthy future.
Mary Pat Angelini is the Assembly Republican Deputy Conference leader who represents the 11th Legislative District in Monmouth County.
Two River Moment
The year is 1946 and railroad tracks were still a feature of Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright.