Click here to view a study showing that speed limit changes have a nominal impact on driver safety
There are many issues and challenges we face as a society that are ripe for spirited political debate. Addiction isn't one of them. Governor Christie's position that we must treat addiction as something other than a crime is exactly correct. Addiction - whether you buy the disease designation or not - is for some people a virtually irresistible, destructive force that compels the addict's cooperation in his own destruction. That concept can be a difficult one to reconcile for those who have had the good fortune not to have battled addiction - their own or a family member's. Unfortunately, that pool of lucky people is dwindling as the heroin epidemic continues to voraciously march through our streets and schools. Alcohol, while not the substance of the moment, continues it's incessant march.
There is room for debate about exactly what addiction is. Cancer is unquestionably a disease - seeming to have a mind of its own and an unrelenting mission no matter the intentions or actions of its victims. Addiction, in many ways, is much more complicated. It is a condition whose progression depends on the direct, intentional participation of the afflicted. The fact that the addicted are complicit in their own destruction is both frustrating and confusing for all involved. It is easy for caregivers and loved ones to be sympathetic to cancer victims. Addiction is as likely to elicit anger, blame and scorn as sympathy.
Addiction is akin to slow motion suicide. It is excruciating for family members forced to watch their loved ones battle the disease or - even worse -appear to join the fight against themselves. Begging and pleading for the addict to heal himself becomes a frustrating exercise in futility. It seems like it should be so.....easy. If a cancer victim could.....just....stop her disease, she would. Why can't so many of the addicted? That's the battle. Against what is an irresistible compunction for so many people.
Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini have done incredible work in our efforts to battle addiction on the legislative front. Governor Christie has consistently espoused compassion and treatment over scorn and incarceration. The recently enacted laws such as expansion of drug courts, strengthening prescription monitoring, encouraging proper disposal of unused medications and provision of treatment provider assessment reports are a good step in the right direction. We need to prioritize addiction services, increase treatment services and provide opportunities for treatment BEFORE addicts end up in the legal system or in life-threatening crisis. As things stand now we actually place barriers in front of those seeking voluntary treatment - the very people most likely to be able to turn their lives around. There simply aren't enough beds and we focus on those already embroiled in the legal system - leaving those who might be the best candidates for treatment waiting weeks or months for help. When you're on the slippery slope of addiction hours are critical, days are interminable, and weeks are incomprehensible. It is tragic that the best advice one might give an addict begging for treatment is to get arrested. This must be the next focus of we New Jersey policy-makers.
There are areas where we can do better to head off addiction before it starts. The message we send our young people today is deeply flawed. Telling them that marijuana and heroin are essentially equal threats is a joke that only works to destroy the credibility of our overall message. Kids are smart. If we say stupid things they will begin to ignore us, even when we're being wise. We must accept that they're capable of understanding the nuance of the message "you shouldn't do alcohol and marijuana because they will damage your developing brains, but you shouldn't try pills and heroin because they will kill you".
Our own insistence that we be prescribed heavy duty opiates for every ache and pain both exposes us to potential addiction triggers and provides access by our kids to millions of leftover pills in our medicine cabinets. Our system of medical reimbursement encourages doctors to quickly assuage our requests - better to make us happy so they are highly rated and can get on to the next patient - than to take the time to convince us that an aspirin is all we really need.
Heroin is the substance of the moment coursing through our neighborhoods - and too many of our childrens' veins - knowing no socio-economic or racial boundaries. We must continue to shine a light on this epidemic - and let both addicts and their loved ones know they aren't alone and there is no shame in their torment. Only by joining together as a community united in battling this scourge shall we defeat it.
One tragic thing occurred and one tragic fact was laid bare as a result of the Princeton professor’s arrest and subsequent saga that ended yesterday with her quietly paying her fines. She both succeeded in cheapening future legitimate charges of racism, and highlighting the deterioration of society’s opinion of our cops. Specifically she attempted to ameliorate her humiliation not through accountability but by blatantly fabricating mistreatment by police officers – while invoking the charge of racial motivation. Both the dishonest act itself, and the ease with which the charge might have been accepted as legitimate – had there not been incontrovertible evidence proving otherwise – are tragic. The professor was pulled over for a legitimate charge of speeding and treated with deference and professionalism by the Princeton police officers. The officers were obligated to arrest her when they became aware that she had habitually ignored parking tickets and notices that her license was suspended. Rather than be thankful for the truly sympathetic and decent treatment she received, she lashed out at the officers in a Facebook rant that could have ended the officers’ careers and Fergusonized the reputation of the Princeton Police department for years. She trashed the officers, pushed all her chips into the pit and threw down the race card. Only problem was, the whole, genteel interaction was caught on tape.
The proposal by the Democrat legislative leadership to constitutionally mandate pension payments each year may sound like a nice thing to do and like “we’re just keeping our word.” But it would be a disaster for the taxpayers of New Jersey as well as the very people the amendment is supposedly intended to benefit.
First, if we enact this amendment without simultaneously enacting reforms that will permit us to make the massive payments, we will be digging our huge budget hole even deeper. We will be making the same promise we had to break in 2011. This time without even a thought about reforms that would enable us to keep that promise.Read more
Bills that would have provided that Florida residents get treated a little more fairly by the red light camera program were gutted recently by the Florida legislature. This is more than sad. It is disgraceful - particularly because the gutting was done by a group of legislators from both the Democrat and Republican parties. Essentially members of both parties have sold out so that out-of-state companies - whose product claims and tactics are more than exaggerated, they are down right fraudulent - can continue to steal from the legislators' constituents. And the legislators who gutted the bills last week know it. Or should have known it. The evidence is clear and convincing - red light cameras don't improve safety. Every competent, objective study conducted over the past 15 years demonstrates this. The pro-camera Florida legislators are particularly lazy, or worse, given they didn't have to go very far to avail themselves of some of the best research on the subject - done by the folks at the University of South Florida.Read more
Last year, the New Jersey legislature voted on a measure that prohibited the infliction of “sexual orientation reparative therapy” on young individuals of our state. This is the frequently torturous “treatment” designed to turn the gay straight. Although I abstained on the vote because of a potential technical issue, I vocally supported the initiative. Recently, the debate on this issue has re-emerged as several high-profile national and local Republicans have discussed both this issue and homosexuality. Their words demand comment.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, taking issue with policies prohibiting this “treatment,” justified his position last year by suggesting that homosexuality was simply a destructive lifestyle choice, which he went on to say was just like alcoholism. Perry managed to insult and infuriate the entire gay community along with every member of every family who has ever dealt with addiction issues – all at once. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon also vying for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested that being gay was a choice – as evidenced by supposed prison conversions. The most recent commentary came from Congressman Scott Garrett (R-5th District), who expressed a refusal to support gay candidates and said the Republican Party shouldn’t either.Read more
Now that the 2016 budget debate is over, we must get back to the most pressing state issue of our time. The suggestion of some in the public worker sector that those of us who voted against the budget are in favor of our abandoning our commitment to ensuring their pensions is completely false. For any responsible elected official, and decent human being, it is imperative that we meet our commitments in a way that protects our pubic workers – and the NJ economy at the same time.Read more
Now that the 2016 budget debate is over, we must get back to the most pressing state issue of our time. The suggestion of some in the public worker sector that those of us who voted against the budget are abandoning our commitment to ensuring their pensions is completely false. Any responsible elected official knows it is imperative that we meet our commitments in a way that protects our pubic workers and the N.J. economy at the same time.Read more
The May 7 editorial chastised the Christie administration for what it referred to as a "bait and switch" regarding the administration's budgeting some of the open space acquisition funding authorized last year to pay salaries of park workers. On the surface this seems like a reasonable gripe.
But when one digs further it becomes evident that the real offense wasn't committed by the administration. It was committed by the legislative sponsors of the initiative authorizing the referendum in the first place.Read more