Columns

A Grand Decision – Grandparent Visitation Benefits Children

It is difficult to explain the type of bond that can develop between grandparent and grandchild when grandparents play an active role in the lives of their children’s children. It is nearly impossible to put into words this connection that is unlike any other for the individuals involved, and yet many grandparents and grandchildren have experienced this profound connection.

The grandparent/grandchild relationship is profound, in part, because it forms the connection between past and present– serving as a fundamental link between the history and future of a family. This link is especially critical when a parent is deceased, as in the case recently considered by the State Supreme Court.

Advocating For The Children Who Most Need It

On June 30, the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly unanimously passed legislation to create the Office of the Child Advocate within the State Department of Law and Public Safety. The legislature’s action was a significant move toward enacting the measure I introduced nearly two years ago. This measure would institute an independent watchdog to represent the interests of our State’s most vulnerable children–those under the care of the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The legislation now awaits the Governor’s signature.

The tragic death of 7-year-old Faheem Williams shocked the entire nation, as did numerous other incidents involving children under DYFS supervision which were reported in the wake of young Faheem’s death. Department of Human Services Commissioner Gwendolyn Harris announced in February that 123 children have died in New Jersey in the past five years–a rate of nearly 25 children per year. Of the 123 deaths, two-thirds of the children were from families under DYFS supervision or with closed DYFS cases. These statistics have clearly exposed the failings of New Jersey’s child protection system.

Cities Under Siege On The Homefront

Americans are not strangers to gun violence. Many of us are confronted daily with television images depicting the harsh reality of gun violence on our local news programs. We are aware of the havoc wreaked by firearms upon individuals, families, and schools right here on American soil. And yet few of us stop to think about the many costs incurred by a community when handgun after handgun literally ends up in the wrong hands.

No community is immune from the perils posed by firearms. Gun violence stretches across all demographic groups in this country. However, urban communities are disproportionately affected by gun violence, and thus incur a sizable portion of the costs associated with this violence. These costs stretch across many parts of a community’s infrastructure, significantly burdening its health care, social service, and criminal justice systems, while greatly detracting from the economic productivity and overall quality of life of a community.

The State Of The Garden State

In Governor McGreevey’s State of the State Address, he recognized one of the key problems affecting the lives of many New Jerseyans: excessive sprawl. According to the Governor, the state loses 50 acres of land a day to uncontrolled development. That is a loss in land that New Jersey’s citizens cannot afford.

As a representative of one of the most developed areas in the State, I can attest to the problems of overdevelopment firsthand. All one has to do is travel on Route 17 near the intersection of Route 4 in Paramus at rush hour on any given weekday to see what sprawl can do. That person would see unending lines of cars at a complete standstill. These roadways cannot handle the number of commuters brought into the area as a result of sprawl.

Making The Northeast Connection: The Underground Railroad In New Jersey

Few people are aware of the important role that New Jersey played in the Underground Railroad Movement and how central this role was in the successful freeing of tens of thousands of Africans held in bondage in the American South. More important even than numbers freed, though, is the abstract contribution towards emancipation made by New Jersey residents, black and white, who participated in the state’s Underground Railroad network.

Despite its northern locale, New Jersey was not a “free state”–one which fugitive slaves could reach and find freedom. To the contrary, New Jersey participated in the practice of slavery almost from the time the first African slaves arrived in North America at the beginning of the 17th century. By 1726, New Jersey slaves numbered roughly 2,600, approximately 8% of the colony’s population at the time. Twenty years later, this number had nearly doubled.

Correcting Misconceptions About New Jersey’s Stem Cell Legislation

In a recent Washington Post article, conservative columnist Robert Novak asked America the question: “New Jersey, the Cloning State?” This question and the column that followed focused on a bill I sponsored to promote embryonic stem cell research in New Jersey–a bill which expressly prohibits and criminalizes human cloning. This bill was recently approved by the State Senate and now awaits approval in the Assembly. Despite its explicit ban on human cloning, misconceptions exist about this legislation in New Jersey and apparently in other parts of the country.

As much as I would like to credit New Jersey with taking the national lead on both advancing the field of embryonic stem cell research and banning human cloning, we are not the first to do either. California was the first state to pass legislation like the New Jersey stem cell bill, although the California bill did not contain a provision against human cloning. California passed a separate law specifically banning human cloning. In New Jersey, we can only take credit for being the first state to combine these two important issues into one piece of legislation.

A Thanksgiving Deal For Power Plants

Just like many of you, I sat down this past Thanksgiving to a delicious dinner relishing the extra time with family and friends. Each year around the holiday time, amid hectic work schedules and party events, I make it a point to take time out and think about all of the things that I am thankful for. However, this year my thoughts were redirected toward issues surrounding me in my home state and across the country. I reflected on the ways in which families were handling the second holiday season following September 11, the many individuals struggling to survive in the Middle East, and about major policy decisions being implemented by President Bush.

This year, I wonder how former Governor Christine Todd Whitman spent her Thanksgiving, considering how she spent the week before–preparing to announce the Bush Administration’s decision to allow old, coal-powered plants in midwestern and southern states to continue to emit harmful airborne pollution over New Jersey and the Northeast. Did the former governor even consider her home state and the public health problems this decision will ultimately cause?

The Telemarketing Intrusion — Give Consumers Their Rights

With today’s hectic lifestyles, the home often becomes a retreat, a place where one has control of one’s life in an often uncontrollable world. The home is a sanctuary where one can rest from the fast pace of modern society. To be offered an invitation into someone’s home, to be allowed to share a piece of that sanctuary, is a privilege, not a right, and who is and is not allowed in should be at the sole discretion of the homeowner.

Telemarketers believe otherwise.