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Category: Opinion

Thoughts & Views: In Normandy, ‘Longest Day’ lives on



That’s not a real paratrooper hanging from a church steeple. It’s a representation of one — and it’s a memorial to all the American paratroopers who liberated the French town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on June 6, 1944.

Our p. 1 story this week acknowledges the 70th anniversary of D-Day, but there is so much, much more to tell — literally entire libraries are devoted to the Allied invasion. So we thought we’d focus on just one incident, which most Americans likely were unaware of until it was portrayed in the 1962 movie “The Longest Day.” Many still may not know about the memorial. Read more »



Last week’s issue of The Observer contained a photo display of the new Portuguese monument slated for dedication in Riverbank Park, Kearny, on June 1. The text accompanying the photos should have mentioned that Thomas Meloro & Son Monuments of North Arlington was the designer of the structure.



To the Editor: 

Several friends e-mailed, called and sent the link to a story (“Searing Memories of a Long-Ago Fire,” May 21) containing a photo of my father, the late Kearny Mayor Joseph M. Healey, taken in 1963 at the Thompson Fish and Chip fire at 5 Kearny Ave.

Fittingly enough, the story appeared just as I’m about to mark my 25th year as a firefighter in Plainsboro Township, N.J., and I have been reflecting on the important role my father and then-Chief John Sherlock played in creating a strong interest in firefighting and the fire service.

It was a different time in government and politics and, after leaving office, my brother and I spent the better part of a day engaging my father in a dialogue about his career. Police dispatchers were instructed to notify him about any working fire or significant police incident on a 24/7 basis. I asked him why he responded, even though I had loved going with him, and he said that he felt responsible as mayor for the firefighters and police officers and he wanted to make sure anyone burned out of their home would be taken care of. In this age, that’s a refreshing approach.

The picture and the story also give me the opportunity to express my thanks to the members of the Kearny Fire Department, then and now. It has always been a great fire department and, in a younger day, I envisioned myself as a member. That didn’t happen, but I took what I learned from you and put it into work down here in Central Jersey.

Thomas C. Healey 


Plainsboro Fire Company 

Thoughts & Views: The world according to Hagel

In an interview with Charlie Rose aired last week on PBS, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was explaining the facts of global life, as filtered through the eyes of a Vietnam combat veteran.

Hagel, who claimed he was representing the views of the Commander in Chief, President Obama, said that Congress needed to ante up defense spending if it wanted to keep the American military capability in cyber warfare technology up to par with the world’s other superpowers and to beat down the forces of terrorism.

He reminded Rose that the U.S. has a military “presence” in 100 countries where, he said, we are helpmates to allies who want our help.

Hagel didn’t use the word “treason” but he came pretty close when he warned that Congress better do its utmost to avoid succumbing to the pitfalls of sequestration and accompanying budget cuts. (And it appears that Congress – facing mid-term elections – is listening, given the House’s willingness to hand the Pentagon $600 billion – more than it asked for – despite the brass’s offer to close some bases, shed the U-2 spy plane and other weapons. (Obama is seeking Congressional approval for a $3.7 trillion total national budget for 2014.) Read more »



To the Editor: As was recently reported in The Observer, a pedestrian was struck and killed at the intersection of Passaic Ave. and Belleville Turnpike in North Arlington. Earlier this morning (Saturday, May 16), I witnessed a second near-miss accident involving a pedestrian at this same location.

A group representing a North Arlington sports league was panhandling at the intersection. The intersection was extremely congested, and a young girl darted between traffic to donate to one of the individuals collecting. This girl was nearly hit by a car. Traffic at this intersection is bad enough on weekends; I am not sure why the municipality allows these panhandlers during these weekend periods, which only exacerbate the traffic conditions and in consideration of the recent fatality.

I call on the Borough of North Arlington to prohibit the practice of street collections at this location.

Dan McNamara 



Read more »

Thoughts & Views: A poet for Memorial Day




Joyce Kilmer, New Jersey native and long-time Garden State resident, is most famous for his poem “Trees,” memorized by numberless schoolchildren and, unfortunately, mocked by latter-day writers who find it too precious.

Columbia University, his alma mater, had (maybe still does have) an annual Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest.

For shame, Columbia. How about an Allen Ginsberg Memorial Bad Poetry Contest? Oh, I forgot. Ginsberg personified liberalism. Liberals can’t write bad poetry.

Despite his misguided literary critics, this week’s column is dedicated to Kilmer.

His poem “The House With Nobody In It” still makes me a bit weepy. I always wanted to see that house, located somewhere between Mahwah, where Kilmer lived, and Suffern, “along the Erie track.” Supposedly it was at 150 Franklin Turnpike, for years the site of a tavern cleverly named “Nobody’s Inn,” however there are conflicting reports that it was elsewhere on the road.

But I digress. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Sealing up the borders of our minds

There’s been a lot of talk among our lawmakers these days about how the U.S.A. should restrict the flow of illegal immigration into the country.

They gripe about how these “intruders” steal our jobs, force down wages by agreeing to work on the cheap, drive up health care costs by getting free emergency care and, of course, don’t pay taxes. Or so goes the litany of the anti-illegal immigrant crowd.

So we build miles of barrier walls along our southern border, double the number of border patrol agents, demand that voters in certain border states produce special ID cards. And those caught in our protective net, we deport as fast as we can.

And still they come, sacrificing everything, willing to take extraordinary risks – including exploitation by the “coyotes” – to pass through our “Golden Door” – even when its welcome lamp isn’t lit.

For those immigrants who play by the rules and formally apply for entry to this country, each year the U.S. – with a population of more than 300 million – admits up to 480,000 immigrants on “family-based visas,” an additional 140,000 on “permanent employment-based preference” visas, another 70,000 on “refugee” visas and 55,000 more on “diversity lottery” visas, according to the U.S. Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

“Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year,” the IPC notes.

Those who seek to become naturalized citizens are asked to take a Civics Test to see if they have a basic understanding of how the U.S. government operates so that they can “fully participate in the American political process,” as explained by the government in an introduction to a practice test booklet.

Having secured a copy of such a booklet and perused its sample questions, I wonder how many of us who were born here with citizenship rights already conferred on us could provide satisfactory answers to the questions the Civics Test poses.

Here are some samples to test our own civics knowledge: (Answers are provided below. Don’t cheat.)

1. How many amendments does the Constitution have? And what are the first 10 collectively known as?

2. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

3. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?

4. Name your U.S. Representative.

5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

6. Name three of the original 13 states.

7. The Federalist Paper supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

8. Name one American Indian tribe in the U.S.

9. Name one U.S. territory.

10. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

Well, how’d we do? Well enough to teach new arrivals to the U.S. a thing or two? Or maybe we need to remind ourselves – as the government tells us in its mini civics lesson – that, “The Founders of this country decided that the United States should be a representative democracy. They wanted a nation ruled by laws, not by men.”

The ultimate irony 

It makes me think of the scene in the Reginald Rose play “12 Angry Men” where a foreign-born juror extolls the virtues of the American judicial system and scolds a fellow juror for failing to take his responsibility seriously.

Incidentally, we are reminded by the government’s Civics Test that serving on a jury is one of two responsibilities that are required of U.S. citizens; the other is voting in a federal election.

Many of us try to get out of doing jury duty and many more can’t be bothered voting, even for President. That’s why the power elite can sit back and do as they please in a country that the Founders liked to think would be a “representative democracy.”

Immigration reform, anyone?

 (Answers to test: 1. 27; Bill of Rights. 2. 435. 3. Cory Booker/ Robert Menendez. 4. Albio Sires/Donald Payne. 5. John Roberts. 6. New Hampshire/ Massachusetts/Rhode Island/ Connecticut/New York/ New Jersey/Pennsylvania/ Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/ North Carolina/South Carolina/Georgia were the original 13. 7. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were the writers. 8. Here’s a complete list: Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, Choctaw, Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Creek, Blackfeet, Seminole, Cheyenne, Arawak, Shawnee, Mohegan, Huron, Oneida, Lakota, Crow, Teton, Hopi and Inuit. 9. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are all U.S. territories. 10. 18.) 

– Ron Leir 



To the Editor: 

As a cofounder of Belleville United Coalition, a growing grassroots organization comprised of concerned citizens, employees and business owners of Belleville, I am insulted and ashamed of the deceptive actions of some of our local political figures.

These actions have occured despite our multiple requests that the Burke/ Longo/Freda campaign cease and desist from using our untainted, trademarked name to deceive the community into thinking that we support their campaign—and by extension, their purported values.

Belleville United has a focused mission to evolve the district’s educational standards and create a stable, positive school climate in pursuit of social and academic excellence for all children within Belleville. It is ironic then that this coalition was founded because of the alleged role some of these candidates play in degrading our once forward-moving educational system.

These candidates chose to waste taxpayer money on a $2 million surveillance system that does not make our students and faculty any safer while at the same time diverting the necessary funds for the tools our students need to succeed and measure up to their surrounding districts. Our school funds are depleted, and our teachers are financing basic school supplies so that their students can continue their education.

Additionally, our schools’ technology is outdated, insufficient, and flat-out broken with no immediate relief in sight—even though these candidates pushed for and… approved a five-year, million-dollar technology support contract with the same company who installed the security system.

At a time when the educational staff reports being bullied, intimidated and harassed by this current board of education and administration, it is astonishing to find these candidates using our name to further their political careers. Even more disconcerting is the accusation of this same alleged behavior being displayed at the township level by their running mate to gain political support of municipal workers.

So I’d like to set the record straight: the real Belleville United will never support any political figure that chooses to use harassment, intimidation and bullying methods to govern. The real Belleville United will never support anyone who considers themselves before our children. The real Belleville United has not and will not endorse the Burke/Longo/ Freda campaign and publicly asks them to refrain from associating themselves with us.

Michael Mignone

President, Belleville Education Association

Thoughts & Views: Picture windows on the past

Photos courtesy of Kearny Museum

This week’s column is a thank-you to the Observer readers who have provided such positive feedback on our “Then & Now” feature. Your compliments are much appreciated. But credit really belongs to The Observer’s general manager, Bob Pezzolla, who suggested the photo feature in the first place and who asked us to take the assignment.

It is an incredible amount of fun locating the old pictures. (Thanks also to Josh Humprey of the Kearny Public Library, Kristen Nelson of the North Arlington Public Library and Kearnyites Paul and Donna Rogers, all of whom have been invaluable in providing photos and postcards.)

It is an adventure discovering tidbits of local history.

We never knew that the Belleville Pike dated to the 1750s. Or that a reservoir once occupied the land at the corner of the Pike and Ridge Road. Or that Passaic Ave. had been so beautifully rural.

Frustration sets in, too, at times, when, despite all the information available in books and online, something remains a mystery. We have a picture of a place called “The Glens,” described as being “near Arlington, N.J.,” which shows a woody tract and a babbling brook.

Where is that brook today? We’ve been told it still exists but have yet to find it.

Our education has extended into the area of antique postcards, as well. Two of these are shown here, both identified as being scenes “along [the] Passaic River near Arlington,” obviously from the very early 20th century. (But again, finding the exact “Now” location would be virtually impossible.)

When we first started using postcards for the feature, we were intrigued by them. In one caption, we wrote the following:

“The older image is from a 1906 postcard, ‘Made in Germany’ if you can believe it. (Why is a European company publishing local N.J. postcards? Why is there a postcard of railroad tracks in Arlington? Perhaps because back then there was money to be made in this highly popular early version of social media.)”

That particular mystery was solved thanks to Sandra McCleaster, Kearny Museum board member, who answered our questions with an essay, “A Town View Through the World of Vintage Postcards,” which we are pleased to share here. McCleaster wrote:

“Colored image postcards originated in Germany in the late 1800s. Acquiring the rights to the Germany lithographic process, the U.S. government authorized the printing and sale of postcards here in 1898. This action launched our country’s early ‘Golden Era of Postcards’ (1898-1915). Cards were purchased and posted for 1 cent. Thus, the term ‘penny postcard’.

“Postcards were a major means of communication. Mail was collected and delivered two, or sometimes three, times per day. Postcards became the cheap and entertaining way to send quick messages. (More charming than email or texts, don’t you think?)

“Since that time, ‘town view’ cards have been the mainstay of this early art form. People have long gathered and traded cards of their hometowns and places they’ve visited. These views provide an historic reference to buildings, streets and towns which may no longer exist or that have changed significantly over the years.

“The coming of the telephone marked the end of the postcard era.

“In part because they are so easy to collect and don’t take up much room, postcards have always been highly collectible. Long stored in shoeboxes and vintage containers, millions still exist in pristine condition today.”

The two postcards shown here are of the ilk McCleaster describes. As “Then & Now” continues, we hope to offer more images to entertain you and also to branch out to other Observer towns.

–Karen Zautyk

Thoughts & Views: Football union could be ‘extra point’ this sport needs

Football players at Northwestern University, a Division 1 team in Evanston, Ill., may soon have a union to call their own, depending on the outcome of Friday’s vote by players and a review by the National Labor Relations Board.

How cool would that be … in a fiscally conservative RED state in America’s Heartland … in a state where worshippers of former President Ronald Reagan want to build a statue of their hero in Eureka.

If the efforts, backed by the United Steelworkers union, to organize a College Athletes Players Association bear fruit, just think of the possible consequences: Northwestern’s Wildcats are invited to a postseason Bowl game but the players vote to strike unless they get a higher percentage of the gate. I

ndeed, the possibilities are endless: What happens if the quarterback wants to renegotiate the contents of his athletic scholarship with Northwestern? What if the team refuses to execute plays drafted by the coach and files a grievance, claiming he’s “favoring” certain players?

Perhaps I unduly exaggerate.

On the other hand, if the courts – which may, in the end, have to arbitrate the whole labor relations precedent – uphold the union for the Wildcats on the gridiron, there is no doubt in my mind the movement will spread to other Division 1 campuses.

And maybe football is only the beginning. Organized labor is using that college sport as a launching pad for the movement since it generates the most revenues but if unionization grows there, who’s to say it couldn’t migrate to other interscholastic team sports? Let the games begin!

In view of the concussions litigation now afflicting the National Football League, maybe the organizing of college pigskin will serve at least one really useful purpose: giving the players a legal venue to force their “owners” to take a hard look at the safety risks inherent in the game, based on the values of hard “hits” being made by bulked-up defenders.

I mean, that certainly falls under the category of “working conditions,” in traditional labor parlance, doesn’t it?

And lest we forget, our college years are supposed to mold fledglings still finding their way into responsible adults to whom the nation looks as its future leaders. Why shouldn’t student-athletes’ association with a union – and learning how capitalism works in this country – be part of their curriculum?

Speaking of working conditions, we feel nothing but sadness for the legendary Sherpas of Nepal who make their living as guides to climbers of Mt. Everest and who lost 16 of their members in an avalanche earlier this month.

Many of the Sherpas walked off the job, at the peak of the climbing season, refusing to take further risks that, they feel, would place their lives at further peril, leaving many would-be climbers who’ve invested big bucks in ascents of the fabled mountain.

According to news reports, a Sherpa guide can earn up to $5,000 during the climbing season. To Western ears, that doesn’t sound like much but in Nepal’s economy, it’s apparently significant money.

Still, in terms of the degree of difficulty faced by a Sherpa, I’d sure want a union defending me. Maybe they don’t have the equivalent of Civil Service there and maybe they don’t have licensure requirements for mountain climbing, but Nepal and the multi-billion dollar hikers industry ought to think about bowing down and kissing the feet of these valuable guides.

And that’s just for starters.

 – Ron Leir