Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scharfenberger' Plan: Raise Sales Tax By Unknown % To Fund Education

It seems as though Middletown's appointed Republican mayor Gerry Scharfenberger has a rather novel, but highly unoriginal idea to help unburden tax payers by asking his good friend, Governor Christie, to increase the State’s sales tax by some unnamed percentage and use the money to offset property taxes, using the revenue from the sales tax increase to pay for school funding. He thinks that it is such a good idea that he recently instructed the Township Attorney to draft a resolution that would call upon the Governor and the State Legislature to consider his idea to solve the school funding issue.

He has been quoted as saying that “Everybody sort of commiserates, (and thinks) this could be a great thing...It’s something that’s got to come, because we can’t just keep burdening taxpayers.”

Wow, Scharfenberger has become a liberal Progressive overnight? I would be impressed if this was his idea, but as I mentioned it wasn’t an original idea on his part, similar proposals have been made by others in the past, most recently by the progressive think tank, New Jersey Policy Perspective, which addressed this very issue in its Monday Minute newsletter back on March 8, 2010, while the Governor was in the middle of his battle with teachers and their union over a wage and benefit freeze prior to school board elections.

If Scharfenberger had proposed this idea earlier in the year, before he joined the governor in his attacks against the teachers of Middletown’s school system and their union, blaming them for driving the local tax rate up through the stratosphere, I very well may have given him kudos for think outside the box (even though he gave no details or guidance on how the State should allocate or disperse funds to local municipalities once it was gathered by the State).

Unfortunately that is not the case.

This latest headline grabbing scheme by the mayor however, seems to be more driven by his intention to deflect criticism away from his personal record of raising local taxes. Since Gerry Scharfenberger joined the Middletown Township Committee, the local municipal tax rate will have risen by 41.9% over the 5 year period in which he has served on the Township Committee (3 of those years as Mayor, 2 as Deputy Mayor) if the currently proposed Township budget, which includes a 13.87% tax increase, is adopted by the first Township Committee meeting of September, which seems unlikely at this point due to the cancellation of the town’s hearing in front of the Local Finance Board on August 11th, which was to decide if Middletown could exceed the 4% state mandated cap on spending.

The mayor must figure that if he can raise the evil specter of the Middletown Board of Education and the perceived wasteful spending of tax dollars that are being paid to those that educated the Township’s children by pointing out once again, that ~60% of local tax bills go to support the education system, people will forget his tax and spend record, if only somehow, those in Trenton could take care of educating Middletown's kids so that residents can forget about the municipal portion of their tax bills.

Based on past performance and record of the legislature, it sounds unrealistic to think that those in charge of Trenton can be trusted with the revenue raised by a sales tax increase. After all, look at what happen to the money that was raise the last time the sales tax was raised a couple of years ago, the tax was raised from 6% to 7% and half of that increase was to fund property tax relief through homestead rebates, which have now been eliminated by Governor Christie.

It is evident from comments left on my MiddletownMike blog and the 100 that were left at the website after first reporting Scharfenberger’s idea, that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Here are just a few:

“So instead of finding a way to lower operating costs and reduce budgets, the mayor seeks out a way to shift the burden to someone else. Great job.” - Tom S. -

“Let me guess- the town council will support this inane, meaningless resolution 4-1. He’d rather see sales tax increase to something like 15% so that every NJ resident will go out of state or online to shop, which in turn will hurt NJ businesses? Well thought out.” - Midletown4eva –

“Middletown will the laughing stock of this state. No fiscal responsibility for the last 6 years and he wants to pass the burden onto everyone else. Great example of leadership. This guy ceases to amaze me!” – John D –

“Gerard Scharfenberger is totally out of touch with reality .His excuses only reflect just how at fault he is and it's about time he accepts responsibility for his mismanagement. He was mayor 3 of the last 5 five years and he has been a disgrace as far as representing the "people" of this town.... ALL of the people !!

His sole purpose has been republican politics. 

Can't wait to bid GOOD RIDDANCE to this inadequacy !!” - Anonymous – MiddletownMike blog

Instead of focusing on ways to raise everyone’s taxes and divert attention away from his abominable tax and spend record in this time of economic turmoil, Gerry Scharfenberger and those in the majority of the Township Committee need to figure out a way to decrease the proposed 13.87% tax increase that he supports, by cutting spending rather than relying on others to do it for them or writing resolutions that fall within the jurisdiction of the State Legislature.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Jersey Shore Media buys former Courier websites

It has been a long time since people have heard from The Inside Clamdigger ( after The Courier newspaper closed its doors on April 3.

The Clamdigger website, which was originally developed by former Courier Publisher Jim Purcell, was transferred to Bayshore Press just before the newspaper concluded operations. Consequently, according to John Azzolina, vice president of The Courier, there has been a transition period to updating the Clamdigger.

The Inside Clamdigger is now a part of Bayshore Courier News (, which is owned by Denise Reinle and Rose Marie Maier. The new ownership tandem formerly worked for The Courier newspaper, as its production manager and sales manager, respectively. The Courier’s website was originally constructed in 2006 by former Courier Associate Editor Jacklyn Corley.

“Ms. Reinle and Ms. Maier realized that digital news is the next generation of journalism. They have resumed the partnership in place with Rutgers University, which was developed by The Courier,” Azzolina said. As part of this partnership, Bayshore Courier News will continue to receive various levels of support from the university.

According to Azzolina, Bayshore Courier News and The Inside Clamdigger were both acquired by Jersey Shore Media, LLC. (t/a. Bayshore Courier News), and he has great confidence in their future. “I think every part of the printed news industry, not only locally but nationally, is going through a very challenging period,” Azzolina said.

The Courier’s printed edition was supposed to be sold to a local media company. However, Azzolina said, negotiations involving the sale of the newspaper could not be concluded. In the meantime, Azzolina said the former employees came to him with a hope of buying the online edition of the newspaper, as well as The Inside Clamdigger, to operate and build.

Reinle concluded, “There is a transition period going on at the websites right now. My mission, and Ms. Maier’s, is to create even better websites that can be the local news sources for Northern Monmouth County online and there is a lot to do in order to get it where I want it.”

For more information call Azzolina at (732) 671-2220, ext. 6210.

52nd Annual Veterans Day Parade to be Held Nov. 8

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP, MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ -- Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2179, along with its Ladies' and Men's Auxiliaries, Port Monmouth, and the Mayor and Township Committee of Middletown will jointly sponsor the 52nd Annual Veterans Day Parade on November 8. All fraternal, veterans and civic organizations, as well as schools and scout troops, are invited to participate.

The parade will assemble at 12:30 p.m. at the Bayview School, 300 Leonardville Road, Belford. The parade will step off at 1 p.m. and proceed through Campbell's Junction. The theme of this year's parade is "American Heroes." Grand marshals for this year's parade are William J. Travis, past commander of VFW Post 2179, and Mary A. Weber, president of the Ladies Auxiliary.

Interested individuals or groups wishing to participate should contact Jim D'Elia, parade chairman, at (732) 275-1588 (email:

Former area journalist's book to premier at Keansburg library

KEANSBURG -- Journalist-turned Baptist Minister Jim Purcell will be reading excerpts from his new book, "Faith Outside the City," at the Keansburg Waterfront Public Library, 55 Shore Blvd. on Sat., Oct. 24th. The reading will take place between noon and 2 p.m.

Purcell will be joined at the reading by "World Takes" author Tim Waldron, who is an editor at Word Riot Press, based in Middletown. Waldron will also be reading excerpts from his book, which has been in print for several months and has been featured in such publications as NJ Monthly Magazine.

Purcell, who formerly published The Courier weekly newspaper for Bayshore Press before it closed in April, said he wrote most of the 177-page work last summer. "I think there was this need within me to talk about everyday Christianity, and some of those things that hold people and communities back from finding real peace in faith," Purcell said.

Purcell began attending the New York Theological Seminary, in Manhattan, during 2006. He is scheduled to graduate from the seminary in May, 2010 with a Master's of Professional Studies. Yet, he credits his renewed interest in faith to his coverage of the World Trade Center attack, in Lower Manhattan, during September 2001. Purcell covered the efforts of Keansburg volunteers at Ground Zero, and consequently chose the borough as the place to premier his book. It was at Ground Zero, Purcell said, that his witness to the courage and devastation of the attack sparked his call to ministry after a long absence from his Baptist faith.

"There is a political element to the book, I suppose," Purcell said, "because it talks about those who are marginalized in American communities of faith: homosexuals, the poor, women, immigrants, those of faiths other than Christianity, and minority groups, among others." Inspired by Christian theologians like Cornel West, Obery Hendricks and Dale Irvin, Purcell said he found his voice in print after coming to the realization that much of what separates communities of faith usually has something to do with human agendas. "So much of the pain, guilt and division that plagues us as communities and peoples of faith is this idea that there are some groups that love God or humanity more than others. Walls get put up to people and groups, shutting them out and it is these walls that weaken, not strengthen, our individual and collective beliefs in God and salvation," he said.

Purcell said he would specifically be reading excerpts from his book regarding borough volunteers' efforts at Ground Zero during this upcoming reading. Purcell noted he is also honored to be joined by Waldron, whose work the author said he is a fan of. "Tim Waldron is one of the most talented young writers out there, in my opinion," Purcell said. "He has an amazing amount of talent and I have heard him read his work several times, in venues from Rhode Island to Manhattan, and keep finding new ways to appreciate his work." Purcell also thanked Keansburg Librarian Darlene Franklin for scheduling the reading at the popular borough library. He noted that, when contemplating where he would launch the new book, "It couldn't be anywhere else other than the borough. It is like a second home and a place that has been and is very important to me."

"Faith Outside the City," which is Purcell's first book, is being published by Word Riot Press. The book sells for $14.95 per edition, and will be available for purchase online at Amazon and at selected local bookstores by mid-October. As well as in print, Purcell said "Faith Outside the City" will be available in a Kindle format.

For more information about the reading, call the library at (732) 787-0636..

Supporting the fight against cancer

There is a website that has some great information about breast cancer awareness at There has been an increase in the amount of support for fighting cancer that I have seen. In particular, Major League Baseball and the National Football League have each made great strides in becoming partners against cancer. Be sure to link this organization if you operate a site or stop by next time you are browsing the Internet. In the end, we’re all in this one together.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rehabilitation Hospital Offers Stroke Survivors

Tinton Falls & Toms River, NJ – Imagine technology so advanced it helps stroke and other neurological patients in their recovery of hand function to grasp and release objects, tasks some stroke victims believe to be impossible.

This technology is now a reality at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospitals of New Jersey located in Tinton Falls and Toms River through an advanced therapy system called the NESS H200™. Distributed by Bioness Inc., ( the neuroprosthesis consists of a simple splint that slips over the patient’s forearm and hand. Embedded in the device are five surface electrodes that stimulate muscles responsible for grasping and releasing objects. A microprocessor allows the therapist to program the device with a series of exercises customized for each patient.

Dr. Todd Cooperman, medical director at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Tinton Falls, says “NESS H200 offers tremendous benefits over traditional therapy for patients with stroke, spinal cord and brain injury, helping them to restore lost hand function.” “We are very excited about incorporating this technology into both the acute rehab programs and outpatient services,” Joseph Stillo, MD and medical director of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River says, “There are substantial clinical studies pointing to the value of functional electrical stimulation for neuromuscular re-education early in a patient’s recovery.”

It is believed that following a stroke, through repetitive training using electrical stimulation, the patient reeducates his/her muscles using new connections formed in the brain. After a patient has put on the NESS H200 he/she can move, grasp and release objects immediately. In addition to muscle re-education of the arms of stroke survivors, the NESS H200 may also improve circulation and reduce muscle spasms.

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospitals of New Jersey located in Tinton Falls and Toms River are accredited by the Joint Commission and hold disease-specific accreditation for stroke rehabilitation. HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospitals provide a higher level of rehabilitative care to patients who are recovering from stroke and other neurological disorders, brain and spinal cord injury, amputations, orthopedic, cardiac and pulmonary conditions. For more information regarding the variety of programs and services offered at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Tinton Falls and Toms River, please visit or call (732) 460-5320 in Tinton Falls or (732) 244-3100.

Short will seek 3-year term on committee

Middletown Committeeman Patrick Short has decided to once again seek a three-year term on the governing body. According to, Short made his final decision to stand for re-election recently. For more information, go to:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Courier trades hands on April 3rd

As a reminder, The Courier newspaper under the Azzolina and Scaduto family ownership will cease as of Friday, April 3rd. The Courier has been sold, though, and will be re-opening under a new owner in May.

On behalf of of the the staff, management and ownership, it has been an honor and privilege serving the residents of Northern Monmouth County.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Corzine needs Federal bailout to pay uunemployment claims

According to the Asbury Park Press, the Garden State has taken its place among those states within the U.S. that is unable to pay for rising unemployment insurance claims. However, badly needed financial help from Washington, DC can allay Gov. Jon Corzine’s fears.

To go to the story, click on the headline.

TOMSA reluctant to release records?

Middletown resident and activist Carolyn Schwebel has an active discussion going with the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority about the Open Public Records Act. Specifically, Mrs. Schwebel wants access to what, if anything, is the health insurance situation for the commissioners. However, she is reportedly receiving some resistance from TOMSA where it involves actually getting copies of what she is looking for. For more information, go to:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

‘March for Meals’ focuses on needs of seniors

Volunteers serve more than 400,000 hot meals each year

ASBURY PARK – Monmouth County Freeholder Amy A. Mallet joined Interfaith Neighbors at the Comstock Court Senior Housing Complex in Asbury park today to kick off the annual “March For Meals” effort by distributing hot meals to area senior citizens.

“March for Meals” is a month-long campaign that focuses attention on the thousands of senior citizens who, were it not for the partnerships Monmouth County has with Interfaith Neighbors, could wind up in unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization. Many of them, but not all, are either disabled or homebound and unable to prepare their own meals, but they choose to live independently.

“March for Meals is a national campaign, in which Monmouth County is a participant,” Freeholder Mallet said. “It is aimed at raising awareness on the part of the local community about seniors who, perhaps, live alone and are in need of a hot meal. The county’s participation in the Meals on Wheels program is an example of how public and private partnerships can benefit people in need.

“Meals on Wheels helps not only the elderly, but also those who are homebound, disabled, frail or at risk,” Mallet continued. “It also improves their social, physical, nutritional, and economic well-being. It is important to remind everyone that there are people within our own communities who need help and rely on the assistance of others, even for a hot meal once a day.”

In addition to Comstock Court, meals were delivered to home-bound seniors throughout Monmouth County as well as to those who were able to get their meals at a number of senior centers.

Through this program, thousands of seniors and disabled persons in Monmouth County receive nutritional meals every day. For example, Interfaith Neighbors Inc., Asbury Park, serves nearly 63,000 meals each year to 1,900 seniors who come to 11 nutrition centers across Monmouth County to eat. In addition, Interfaith Neighbors’ volunteers deliver another 352,325 meals to some 1,850 senior citizens or disabled persons who cannot leave their homes.

“For many of these residents, this is the only hot meal they will eat each day,” Mallet said. “When you look at the broad scope of what we do here in Monmouth County, we’re serving a tremendous population. We want to get the word out – if there is anyone 60 or older or who is disabled and needs a meal, we can provide that for them.”

The “March on Meals” program is part of a larger, national campaign sponsored by the Meals on Wheels Association of America. Anyone in need of a hot meal who is 60 years old or is disabled is urged to contact the county’s Office on Aging at (732) 431-7450.

To make a donation to Interfaith Neighbors or to volunteer for the meals delivery program, please call (732) 775-5155, or visit their Web site at

The month of March was chosen to raise the awareness of the Meals on Wheels program because it was during this month that the law was enacted that included senior meal programs in the Older Americans Act.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saying goodbye to the Courier family


As the production manager at The Courier since January 2006, I have worked with a great team. I became the production manager after working at The Courier for almost four years.

I wanted to work at The Courier because it was family oriented and friendly. It was also one of the few places I have ever worked at where, during the creative process, there is such a high level of teamwork.

Being in the Production Department, my experience was challenging, and I worked side by side with great professionals from production and the other departments. In production, all of the varied and unique talents Courier’s graphic artists possessed were brought to the table and, regularly, produced not only award-winning work but art that represented the best of what we, as a team, could realize.

That is not to say there were not, at times, great challenges. When I began as production manager, there was so much that was new (despite the fact I had been here for while). For two editions during the transition period, production missed its deadline by an hour. Though this was a setback, it also was a challenge that brought the team together in a way that was more solid than ever before. When deadlines are missed, revenue is lost, the issue of job jeopardy shows up, and it’s a lot of responsibility. I learned so much about leadership and teamwork in those moments, lessons I will take with me the rest of my life. Of all the things I learned, though, it was the ones about teamwork that resonate most clearly with me.

Graphic arts was not my first career: it was my second. Formerly, I owned a para-transit company in New York City, but decided to make a change. So, after Skidmore Computer Graphics Institute, in White Plains, N.Y., where I studied computer graphics and web development, I interned at “Seventeen” magazine and Good News Broadcast (the owner was the producer of the hit TV show “All in the Family”). This took me to the Bronx Press and the Riverdale Review, respectively, both in New York.

This was good preparation before coming to The Courier, and its rigorous production needs that were sometimes, due to the nature of news, sometimes very last minute.

I was so fortunate to have Associate Production Manager Christopher Blaszczyk onboard for the past two years. Chris was so detail-oriented that he would catch so many potential errors while I was multi-tasking. What he does was invaluable.

I was so happy to see former Courier graphic artist Tim Kovach win best Black-and-White Ad Campaign in the N.J. Press Association contest. Tim was such a wonderful young talent to work with, and I am sure that The Courier was only his first step along a very bright career.

Graphic artist Tom Fenton joined the team in May 2007, and brought an innovative professionalism to the field of graphic arts that was outstanding. But, above all, Tom has been such a selfless team player that we could not have gotten along without him.

It was said, years ago, that O.J. Simpson had the “Dream Team” for his legal counsel during his murder trial. Well, the truth is that I was the one who had the real “Dream Team,” working right here at The Courier in the Production Department.

I want to thank Joseph Azzolina Sr., his son, Courier Vice President John Azzolina, and Courier Publisher Jim Purcell. “Big Joe,” as Mr. Azzolina Sr. is called, has been someone who appreciates hard-working people and is more than just a fair person: He has been great. John Azzolina has made Courier someplace that people always looked forward to coming to everyday. And, without his leadership it could not have been the same positive experience. Finally, I would like to thank the one person who gave me this opportunity and believed in me, even after I missed a deadline, and still believed in me – Jim Purcell.

Everyone has been wonderful here and I will not forget any of this.

Azzolina, Scaduto families bid farewell to Courier


For the past 11 years, as of April, I have been employed at The Courier: first as its editor and then, later, as its publisher.

Three obvious signs of time passing have been the graying of my hair, my need to use reading glasses to peruse anything in print, and the steady expansion of my waistline. But, the less obvious signs of my service at the paper includes my deep appreciation to the owners of The Courier, the Azzolina and Scaduto families, for their great support over the years; as well as my many friends and well-wishers in the Bayshore. So often during difficult times, these friends have meant so very much to me and have sustained me. Thanks.

When I came to Middletown to edit Courier, from Greater Media Newspapers (when it was still headquartered in East Brunswick), I knew absolutely nothing about the Bayshore. Truth be told, I’d been in this area maybe once or twice in my life.

It was ironic to end up at Courier for so long, though, because, as a child, Keansburg was the first place my parents brought me home to from the hospital. Born in Newark, Mr. and Mrs. Purcell had rented a house in the borough (along Beachway), so the first place I put my feet on the ground was a stone’s throw away from the Boardwalk. In essence, my tenure at Courier has educated me about my first home, the place the family moved away from before I even began kindergarten.

Three decades later, I was back. During my time at Courier, I had the privilege of reporting the good and the bad, the happy and sad. I am immensely proud of our work at the newspaper. There have been highs and lows, without doubt. Yet even with the “lows,” there has been a sense of family and community.

I will forget very little of my time at Courier. But no moment will be quite so vivid as the time when I witnessed and reported upon the darkest moment in U.S. history from the scene of the World Trade Center attack, on Sept. 14, 2001.

I had the privilege of writing about some of the bravest men and women I have ever witnessed. I did this while in the company of a contingent of steadfast police officers, firefighters and public works employees from Keansburg, led by Chief Raymond O’Hare and Deputy Chief James Pigott. In my book, if one were to look up the word “courage” in the dictionary, they should find these men’s photos there.

The Bayshore has never been in short supply of character or courage, though, and that is reflected in the daily lives of the men, women and even children that call this wonderful, special place their home.

While strength is a virtue, so is quiet service, and in no place have I seen so much of that either. Whether it is Jan Vassar, who dutifully serves as a volunteer for the eye center she and her family built at Bayshore Hospital (she can always be found there until 3 on Wednesdays) or Sister Garvey, at the Bayshore Senior Health, Education and Recreation Center, in Keansburg, it is these people who exemplify the best in people here and everywhere.

There are many incredible chapters to my time at this newspaper, and all special. The last one I wish to share, though, was not just an area resident but was a member of our own Courier family. Kristin Kinlin was a Monmouth University graduate who was physically disabled from the time she was born, but overcame so much to lead a life that many of us take for granted.

I saw this young woman, who was so full of promise, grow during the five years I knew her. She first came to Courier as an intern in 2001. Being so spirited, bright and hard working it was impossible not to hire her as the legals and classifieds coordinator for the newspaper right out of college. Sadly, she died April 10, 2006 from a long-standing ailment while vacationing in Chicago. She is still remembered by those of us who knew her, and myself especially. If for no other reason, my tenure at Courier allowed me the opportunity to know this incredible person.

The Courier does have a new owner, who will announce the re-opening of the newspaper during early April. I wish that person all the luck and good fortune there is and encourage our readers to support this new person’s ownership. The Courier is, after all, not just the property of one person, but, in a larger sense, the entire Bayshore. Owners come and go, yet this newspaper is as tied to this area as the beaches at Sandy Hook.

The Courier’s last edition as a property of the Azzolina and Scaduto families will be on the newsstands April 3. It has been an honor serving this company and the Bayshore. All my best.