Blogs > Hamilton in focus

Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NJ activists, pols celebrate DOMA ruling, contemplate next steps

A legal wrinkle has shown up in New Jersey amid celebration and consternation at the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Aside from the immediate reactions to the landmark 5-4 Supreme Court decision, activists are already talking about the next steps for the issue in the Garden State. The recognition of same-sex marriage for states that already have it also presents a pickle for married couples living in New Jersey, according to several proponents.
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the recognition of same sex marriage by the federal government, was unconstitutional. It allows more than 1,000 federal rights, responsibilities and guarantees to go to same-sex couples who are married in the 12 states — now 13 with the court’s ruling on California’s Proposition 8 — that allow same sex marriage.
Rep. Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) said the ruling was a step forward for the movement to give same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones. Gusciora led the push for last year’s bill that would have made same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey, which Gov. Chris Christie vetoed.
“It’s great for the 13 states now including marriage equality in their laws,” he said. “But it really doesn’t give anything for New Jersey. It’s certainly a starting point for public debate, but unless the legislature, the courts or the governor act, things won’t change.”
You can read the full story here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hamilton Board adopts long-term plan, changes stance on polling places

Hamilton School District has a variety of problems, and after a presentation Tuesday night, it has an official plan meant to deal with them.
The administration presented its “Five Year Strategic Plan” at the Board meeting, which marks one of the largest projects of Superintendent James Parla’s first year in office. It defines goals for improving student state test scores, graduation rates, attendance rates and SAT/ACT scores, among others. The plan, developed by board members, staff and community members
“This is helping us chart the future in Hamilton Township,” said Michael Gilbert, the director of Curriculum and Instruction for the district.
Parent Teacher Association member Jennifer Kraemer said she was glad the administration had reached out to parents for input on the plan, and said it was a step forward for the board.
“We have our most prized possessions invested in the success of our school district: our children,” she said. “It is our hope that you continue to hold paramount our students’ interest at heart as you earnestly work to rebuild trust between the community and the school district administration.”
The plan also sets such goals as “Recognize the diversity of all students in each of the schools,” and “Enhance forms of communication,” that are slightly more nebulous than test scores. Parla said he will give updates to the board throughout the year as more data on student achievement.
Board member Patricia Del Giudice said the board had not always followed through on its plans and goals in the past, but thought this one was different.
You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Birdsall allegedly made donations to Mercer County pols

The engineering firm at the center of a statewide Pay-to-Play violations case has hit closer to home after a report on the firm’s political contributions was released.
According to a database made public by the Star-Ledger, employees of the company, Birdsall Services Group, were reimbursed for donations allegedly made to several Mercer County politicians, including Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, County Executive Brian Hughes, former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo and other politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The database shows tens of thousands in donations that were made to the local party committees and individuals, including more than $13,000 to the Hamilton Township Republican Committee and $5,000 to the election fund of Mack. Hughes, whose campaign received $5,100 between 2008 and 2012.
“I followed all the rules, I filed all my reports on time. I did all the things ELEC asked me to do,” Hughes said. “Birdsall was the ones going around the corners in the dark of night paying their employees for donations they may or may not have wanted to make. What I did was legal, what they did was not.”
Read the full story here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hamilton Board of Education votes to create elementary Spanish program

Hamilton’s elementary school students got one step closer to having a restored Spanish program after the board approved money for the teachers at its meeting Wednesday night.
The board voted for salaries for four Spanish teachers out of the district’s annual balance of money. The board took $500,000 out of a recommended $3.5 million transfer to capital reserve that Superintendent James Parla said would go toward replenishing funds depleted by emergency repairs.
Board President Jeff Hewitson said the district had several priorities in the situation, including longterm facilities problems and lagging student achievement. The idea, forwarded by Board Member Al Gayzik, would also include more money for positions supervising extracurricular activities.
“Our education has been suffering and our facilities have been suffering, both,” Hewitson said. “Language is so important, it helps them with our other courses as well.”
Board Member Jennifer Barnock-Ridell and Parla recommended the board hold off until the administration had a better plan for the program. Barnock-Ridell was the only board member to vote no.
“There’s an attitude of ‘Let’s put it here let’s put it there’ without anything real well thought out,” she said.
Board Vice President Joe Malagrino said the district will work with its food provider, Chartwells, to improve the quality of the schools’ food service. He said the company will provide higher quality ingredients and rotating cooking workshops at the middle and high schools in the district.
You can read the full story here.

Princeton man indicted in second animal cruelty case

From reporter Scott Ketterer:

TRENTON — A Princeton man already indicted on animal cruelty charges in the death of a German Shepherd mix he was hired to train was indicted for a second time in another animal cruelty case involving his own pets.
Michael G. Rosenberg, 31, of Princeton was indicted by a Trenton grand jury on two-counts of fourth-degree animal cruelty on Tuesday.
In the latest indictment against Rosenberg, authorities allege that he “purposely, knowingly or recklessly, tormented, tortured, or unnecessarily or cruelly beat his own mixed breed dogs Kaiser and Sanford.”
Rosenberg repeatedly picked his dogs up and threw them across the room, slamming them into a concrete floor, according to a signed complaint by Princeton Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson on Jan. 31, 2013.
Rosenberg could face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The 31-year-old was previously indicted on animal cruelty charges for allegedly whipping and killing a three-year-old German Shepherd mix named Shyanne in August of last year.
According to a criminal complaint signed on Nov. 16, Rosenberg, who was hired as a dog trainer, hit Shyanne with a crop whip, picked up and slammed the female dog on the ground, jabbed his fingers into the dog’s ribs and did not seek medical attention for Shyanne.
You can read the full story here.