On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

It came. It got a catchy name. It disappeared. The “Polar Vortex” gave us a unique weather experience last week. Our Mountaintop weatherman Tom Clark will surely have some unique temperature statistics for the New Year. Here we are half way through January and we enjoyed a bit of a thaw after last Tuesday’s -3° and -26° wind chill readings evaporated. With the climbing temperatures came the rain and lots of it and then the sun shone for three days of 40ish degree weather. The “Polar Vortex” could come back. Or it might just be called January weather. It doesn’t get any more imaginative than that. How would you like to live in a climate that is 65-70° year round? Boring? That isn’t NEPA.

While most of the country battled the harsh weather the other news of the day took a ridiculous turn. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “bridgegate” drama was big news for three days. The governor spent nearly 2 hours apologizing at a televised press conference for some aides who engineered traffic congestion in Fort Lee, New Jersey for travelers trying to get onto the George Washington Bridge. You can’t make this stuff up.

Charlie and I have driven across the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and occasionally the Verrazano Narrows Bridge hundreds of times in the past 45 years. We never know what traffic situation we will find, but we try to time our crossings at less congested times of the day. When we sail through we count ourselves lucky. When we sit and wait the torture is bad.

I really can’t understand why aides would want to muck up the traffic going onto the bridge. I’m glad they were fired for their stupidity. As for a political payback reason, that is even more absurd.

What is really the most absurd is the amount of time the news media gave to the mystery behind the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September, creating a monster traffic jam that turned the city of Fort Lee into a parking lot for four days. Just about everybody who travels the New York metropolitan area has been in traffic jams at one time or another. It comes with the territory.

The Fort Lee traffic jam was four months ago. How many of us remember the traffic pattern of our journeys that far down the road? Not many.

The United States economy continues to struggle with job creation, crime, and protecting our citizens who serve in foreign countries in the military and peacekeeping roles. A traffic jam in New Jersey doesn’t begin to rise to the escalation of the real news of the day. Give it up my fellow journalists. You are ridiculous.

Football Playoffs

On a lighter note the NFL Football Playoffs offer plenty of excitement as we move toward the Super Bowl on February 2, 2014. Our family has some skin in the games this year. Seattle Seahawks win over the New Orleans Saints and then San Francisco 49ers win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday had all of us rooting for home teams. Our daughter Amy lives near San Francisco, Mark Grubert lives in North Carolina and I am a Seattle native. The fans in Seattle are rabid. The town never had a professional team until well after I left the area for college in New York in the 1960’s. They are as loyal as can be and this year they want to play at the Meadowlands on February 2. The third west coast team San Diego Chargers gave a valiant effort after going far short in the first half against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos will take on the New England Patriots, the only east coast team in the hunt. I’m not a season fan, but I do get interested at the end of the seasons, when the most competitive teams play for overall honors. The fans have only one more playoff game before the Superbowl. Go Seahawks!

Municipal Reorganization Mountaintop’s municipalities

reorganized last week. Reorganization meetings are held the first Monday in January, with newly elected officials taking their seats and board positions shuffled. Committee appointments are also made. With a new voting majority in Rice Township, the result of Marcia Thomas winning in 2011 and Mark Taney in 2013, board leadership changed. Thomas is the new chairman replacing Miller Stella, who had aligned with former supervisor George Venesky for the past three years. Thomas was ousted as secretary-treasurer and replaced with Venesky/Stella appointee Don Armstrong three years ago. Thomas sued and the litigation continues. Stella and Venesky spent more than $54,000 on legal fees in 2013 to two attorneys, more than half directly linked to the litigation.

Thomas told the public that she wanted transparency in Rice Township business from now on, an objective sorely missing with the Venesky/Stella regime. The public will have access to public documents and information without a time consuming and futile “Right to Know” run around.

In the beginning of the Venesky/ Stella/Armstrong tenure I regularly asked for public documents and because it was me asking I never got them. The paper chase was ridiculous. I didn’t give up. I covered all the township’s business from the information discussed at public meetings. When Venesky and Stella spent thousands of dollars on services that had no bearing on the administration of local government, I told the public. When Venesky and Stella tried to block and abandon Heslop Road, I told the public. When Venesky and Stella wanted to dig up the Ice Ponds for the benefit of several property owners, I researched and exposed the ruse to the public. It is just what journalists do.

Last week’s Rice Reorganization meeting was a sweet one for the public. Just about every seat was filled with Rice resident who had participated in the public process over the past three years. Supervisor Marcia Thomas told those present, “Thank you all for being here and celebrating with us tonight.” I don’t know that I have ever heard a simpler or more heartfelt thank you in all the years I have been writing up the news. It took three years, but the public will now have a civilized rational forum for participation.

From time to time other Mountaintop boards have had troubled times. They have all come through them and they have earned the respect of their constituents at the same time. I wish all local governmental boards, police departments, and fire companies a peaceful, productive 2014.