A college ‘tax’ & other thoughts


It’s no secret these days that a lot of municipalities are hurting for cash, especially since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008.

So it’s no wonder that towns are exploring new ways to rake in revenues from new sources, like non-profit hospitals, as witness the precedent-setting ruling that will see at least one community – Morristown – collect property taxes from Morristown Medical Center.

And more hospitals will likely be tapped, unless the state legislature and Gov. Christie can get together on a compromise plan to set a formula for collecting hospital surcharges.

Of course, should that happen, there’s always the danger that Trenton – as in the case of energy receipts taxes – will simply gobble up the lion’s share of those funds to balance its budget, as Kearny has made known.

But here’s an idea that those same money-hungry towns may want to jump on: Why not tap those Division 1 state colleges/universities with their high-powered intra-scholastic sports programs that pay their athletic directors and football coaches millions of bucks and build those mega sports palaces and training fields to lure the best student athletes and reap the royalties of lucrative TV contracts?

The Town of Harrison is on the brink of learning from the state Supreme Court whether the justices will affirm, reject or modify two prior lower court rulings upholding the town’s right to tax the Red Bull Arena and the land on which it sits.

Red Bull ownership has been challenging the town’s taxing authority on various legal grounds but to this observer, it’s hard to accept the notion that a privately-owned, profit-making enterprise should be exempt from paying taxes.

And if Harrison wins the case, it could open the doors for other towns hosting semi-professional teams to follow in Harrison’s wake and try to collect property taxes on those team’s stadiums.

Preserving history

Throughout the U.S., there continue to be tensions between private enterprise and preservationists over landmark properties and/or lands with important historic associates for indigenous peoples.

As The Star-Ledger reported Sunday, one such battle is shaping up in Flemington where three historic buildings standing alongside each other face the wrecking ball.

The now-closed Union Hotel – where jurors and famous reporters of the day stayed while covering the famous 1935 Lindbergh baby kidnaping trial of Bruno Hauptmann at the nearby courthouse – and two fully-stored Victorian structures would be displaced by a new hotel, condos above retail shops and parking and an educational facility.

Local preservations are hoping to save at least the facades of the old structures. The developer, Jack Cust, says he’s open to adjustments so long as the project can be economically viable.

Many cities have found ways to blend architectural elements of the past with the present by carefully keeping the outside look of old industrial buildings while converting the interior to new residences, such as the Dixon Crucible pencil plant condos in Jersey City and the wharf district in Pittsburgh, Pa., which features boutiques and eateries.

But on other, more expansive fronts, the battle to keep alive reminders of our past and prospects for our future as a nation continue to be waged.

In Jersey City, how many more years will it take to complete the restoration of the Apple Tree House, visited by General Washington during the Revolutionary War? Only memories survive of Roosevelt Stadium where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier playing for the Dodgers’ Montreal farm team.

On the other hand, the U.S. Civil War Trust has managed to keep a proposed giant shopping center from being located on part of the 49-acre Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Va., successfully opposed efforts by a developer to build 2,300 houses on a section of the Chancellorsville Battlefield in Spotsylvania County, Va., and have had mixed results with Gettysburg: losing Cemetery Hill to a Comfort Inn but thwarting efforts by a casino to build near the battlefield.

Meanwhile, American Indians in Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona and Minnesota are engaged in skirmishes to protect ancestral land and burial grounds from incursions by various commercial ventures.

Let us hope that sane minds can find workable solutions to preserve the peace and prosperity to which our politicians pay homage but, alas, don’t always deliver.

A passing to note

Nancy Reagan, widow of former President Ronald Reagan, died Sunday at age 94.

She will be remembered for her fierce devotion to her husband and as an advocate for research into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, which ultimately took the former president’s life.

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