Jet Bus!

Board of Ed candidates pushing the edges of busing technology.

An audio clip from a public Jackson Board of Education Meet and Greet sent to us by a reader details one prospective school board member’s plan for private school busing: consolidating students headed to 56 different schools on to a single bus!

Listen here:

Question: One of the most important problems you are going to face is busing to private schools. As you know, every year the number of students has increased. How will you handle that since it comes off the top of the school budget?

Elenor Hannum: Alright, so currently we have 84 out-of-district Gen. Ed. schools that Jackson students are attending. 56 are in one town and 28 are spread throughout. We do bus to four schools that are out-of-district schools. I believe that we could probably consolidate two of the schools for busing to make that most cost-effective.

As far as the 56 schools in one town, where students are attending, it’s 56 separate schools. I believe we would have to look at what’s most cost-effective. We’re looking at, I didn’t do the actual numbers, but I know that there’s 484 that are not being bussed and the last count was 367 students are receiving a transportation in-lieu-of, the transportation reimbursement.

I believe that whatever is most cost-effective, down the road we have to look at that, look at those numbers. They would all have to be put on one bus going, basically it’s going to one town, so there would not be separate buses for separate schools. So that’s, you know, we’d have to look at what’s most cost-effective.

We’d hate to be the one planning the route for this bus. How will this single bus pick up every student headed to that one unnameable town (hint: its name starts with L and rhymes with Cakewood) and make 56 distinct stops to deliver them all to school on time?

Thankfully, scientists have been planning for this scenario for a while now. May we present: jet-powered busing! This baby can go almost 400 MPH, easily making up for the time spent loading and unloading students at dozens of stops.

jetbus
Hearing protection not included.

However, the exorbitant cost of jet fuel might just tip the scale in favor of traditional buses, in which case maybe at least a few more bus routes will be needed.

The Hunt for the Great White Code Violation

Jackson Township enters muddy waters in search of long elusive “right-of-way” violations.

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A wild code violation stalks its prey.

As the OPRA documents continue to pile in more interesting facts are starting to come to light. Initially, the Jackson Code Enforcement Department determined that eruvin (plural of eruv) were not a violation of any Jackson code and planned on leaving them be. However, then politics came into the picture and Code Enforcement had to change course.

Ordinance 05-64

After many months of eruv complaints, the town determined in April that a “right-of-way” ordinance, passed in 1964 to ensure that streets and sidewalks were passable and free of snow and ice, could be applied to the thin poles in the grass as well. This “seldom enforced” statute would now need to be enforced vigorously. Mayor Mike Reina states that this was the result of a “cry to increase code enforcement from our residents” in the first half of 2017 about “items in the right of way with examples such as hockey and soccer nets, basketball hoops, skateboard ramps, furniture, tires, brush and grass not being cut”. However, almost all complaints found in any emails we have pertain to eruvin (there is a single complaint about business signs).

How does one start enforcing an ordinance after 50 years? Township Attorney Jean Cipriani explains that the ordinance “applies to all obstructions in the right of way and should be uniformly applied throughout the Township”. This is likely taking into consideration the situation in Tenafly Eruv Assn v The Borough of Tenafly, where a posting ordinance was found to be unconstitutionally enforced when applied to an eruv as it was “selectively enforced”. Jean helpfully suggests other items that could be taken down to ensure uniformity, such as “basketball nets (sic)”.

The hunt begins!

Following this advice, the Jackson Code Enforcement department was issued very clear guidelines that the line to repeat was that ”anything” in the public “right-of-way” was to be removed (underlined in the email for emphasis). The township nickednamed the new plan ”PROJECT ROW” and the hunt was on for the elusive “right-of-way” violations!

However, despite all the supposed “right-of-way” complaints, the town did not seem to know where to start. In an email, Code Enforcement Head Ken Pieslak asks his officers to “take a little time” and come up with some ideas for “anything other than a street sign or mailbox placed in the ROW”. Code Enforcement Officer Connie Sidor helpfully suggests some objects they can target including “Real Estate signs, Bulky Trash, Flower boxes”. Notably absent from her survey are the actual items for which violations were ultimately issued: basketball hoops and eruv poles.

But why not just look at the “multitude” of complains that were received? Is it possible that they couldn’t because such complaints were only about one specific type of object ostensibly in the public “right-of-way”, one which they couldn’t be perceived to be targeting? The emails, after all, show almost no complaints for anything else.

At least they were consistent about enforcement, right? Anything found in the public “right-of-way” should be removed, and no exception can be made. Well, maybe not everything:

In this case, the Code Enforcement Officer is told explicitly to leave something be, in direct violation of the advice of Jackson’s attorney. Could it be they are discriminating in enforcement of the ordinance, picking and choosing when to issue violations? Piesklak says they will look at things “on a case for (sic) case basis”, but didn’t the attorney say “all obstructions”?

A bigger boat

What is clear is that the uptick in enforcement is about one thing: banning of eruvin. For the past 50 years, the “right-of-way” ordinance was “seldom enforced”, only being invoked when a citizen complained about something blocking a street or sidewalk. So, when looking for a pretext to take down eruvin, the town was forced to claim that people had suddenly and inexplicably started complaining about everything in the “right-of-way”. This left Code Enforcement scrambling to figure out exactly what their goal was here, how it could be accomplished uniformly, and maybe, in the words of one officer, “in need of a bigger boat”.

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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Chief Martin Brody, Jaws

Documents

Click here to see all code enforcement emails.
Click here for a searchable list of all notices of violation issued in 2017.

Agudath Israel v Township of Jackson

Jackson sued over targeting of Orthodox Jews.

Agudath Israel has filed a motion to amend its lawsuit previously filed over ordinances adopted to ban schools and dormitories to include allegations that an ordinance which effectively blocked requests from residents to construct eruvin (plural of eruv) was made with discriminatory intent as well. This should come as no surprise as recent township emails released pursuant to NJ’s OPRA laws (and all available here) revealed the obvious targeting of eruvin. As reported elsewhere, the “Jackson Eruv Association”, which made its own request for an eruv back in August, is considering their own lawsuit as well.

The updated lawsuit is available below, the judge will rule whether or not to accept the amended version despite Jackson’s objections on November 20th.

Update: The amended complaint has been accepted.

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Someone sent us the following image, originally attached to a social media post.

socialmedia

A few notes here: The First Amendment prohibits governments from stifling the free speech of individuals. It says nothing about what private citizens can and cannot say to or about one another. By contrast, the actions of the Jackson municipal government are restricted by the First Amendment, which is forbidden from adopting ordinances with the intention to constrain religious practice. There is no contradiction here, as implied by the creator of the image: rather, private citizens are afforded the right to criticize one another while also advocating for the free exercise of religion unimpeded by the government.

Additionally, by NJ State law, any written communication sent to a public official in their official capacity is automatically a public record and can be made available to the public.

The intention of this site is to inform and shed light. We seek to analyze public documents that have been made available online or sent to us, not to make any individual feel attacked or harassed. If you feel that a particular public document we have contains personal data and wish it to be redacted, we understand your desire for privacy; after all, the contributors to this website are as of yet anonymous themselves.

If you find your full name or contact information on any post or document here and would like it removed (and are not a public official relevant to that post or document), we’d be happy to redact anything uniquely identifying including last names, email addresses, street addresses or phone numbers. Please email us at tips@jacksonleaks.com and let us know the exact location.

Note however, that many of the documents we have posted are already publicly available on the internet in other places, and any redaction we do won’t affect copies stored elsewhere. Also, anything obtained via OPRA can be re-requested by a determined person from the Jackson clerk in its original form.