Page 28 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • November 18, 2009 proposal that prompted some council members to ask the school delegates if they have taken a look at the economic indicators. Ridgewood schools are justly famous for their academic excellence, but at a time like this, many voters may decide that having a titled nobleman move into the neighborhood does not seem like a good idea when his name is Count Dracula. The schools need to think about cutting expenses and not adding them. This is not an era for expanding programs and cutting class sizes. It’s an era for quietly saying goodbye to teachers who can’t teach, and cutting the sports programs that aren’t supported by game tickets and generous parents. The logic that the whole world is rich because I’m not hurting is the logic of Marie Antoinette and of Nicholas and Alexandra. Let’s hope the U.S. revolution stops at the voting booth. Ridgewood’s third jewel, local shopping, also has its intrinsic value. The point of the local stores is simple. Money spent there is spent voluntarily, not extorted from senior citizens and the hard-pressed blue-collar residents who man the fire departments and do the road work for multi-millionaires who could afford private schools if it weren’t easier to fleece the middle class instead of “the rich,” who have the tax lawyers and accountants to avoid most fleecing. Local merchants are a precious resource three times over. They provide basic and not-so-basic needs without a long haul on a sometimes treacherous highway; they pay taxes into the same tax coffers as the residential taxpayers to support the schools and social services right here where we all live; and they enhance the beauty of the holiday season with decorations and special programs. These benefits are not extended by the other two jewels. Schools and hospitals are utterly vital, but they don’t put money back into the tax base, and they don’t make us feel especially cheerful unless our own kids get to be the sports stars or the top college freshmen. The collapse of small local stores is insidious, but palpable. Most families who have lived here a few years, or a few decades, have felt it creeping up on them. My wife is one of those rare creatures who still knows how to sew. She grew up in the aftermath of the Tokyo Fire Raid when the clothing went up with the house, and her family had to start over from scratch. Every once in a while, she gets her sewing kit in order and fixes any salvageable clothes with thread that matches the fabric. She used to be able to walk to a local store where the owners, who changed three times during our tenure in town, stocked a whole inventory of hand and machine spools of thread in a wide array of colors, along with needles, thimbles, seam rippers, and other sewing necessaries. She can’t have been the only person buying this stuff. The last time the store changed hands, it tanked. Now there is no place where she can walk to buy thread. The last time I drove her, we had to go to the Ramsey-Mahwah border, and the parking lot was jam-packed with cars. One hopes that parking lot is jam-packed with cars this year. My wife also used to knit. Our kids marveled at this. She made them all kinds of reindeer sweaters and hats while she was listening to classical music and exhorting them to keep studying. There was a store right in our hometown that sold yarn and offered lessons. It’s not there anymore. It’s great to be able to do your banking, food shopping, and gift shopping all in the same town – and have the option to do all of those things without having to use a car. It’s great to have a service station you can walk to instead of having to schedule rides if you’re in a one-car family, or break up someone’s workday when you aren’t. It’s great to have local stores that might give your teens a part-time job instead of depending on town-run projects where it couldn’t hurt to “know somebody” to get hired. Most Northwest Bergen County towns used to feature these conveniences, and some of them still do, but increased property taxes, especially to subsidize the schools, and the generally dismal economy are having a heavy impact on the era’s commercial independence. One Christmas Eve many years ago, when my daughter and son were still children, I was in temporarily tough economic shape until I got a freelancing check at the last minute. It was a dark, snowy day, but I was able to cash my check at the local bank, and stopped in the local stores to buy some Christmas treats and some toys for the kids, which the stores gift-wrapped. Some of the places that made this possible are still there, and some of them are gone, but they will all be gone if people don’t patronize local stores and banks and keep the local merchants alive so the local merchants can keep the communities alive. Private schools are always an option for people who insist on private-quality schools so their kids can get into the Ivy League – which isn’t going to happen based on anything any schools can do for ordinary kids unless their parents are legatees. The real spirit of Christmas is to read and consider the story of what it all means, to get together with family and friends, and to share with those most in need -- not to force the seniors and the working people out of town to sustain rich people’s fantasies of private Ivy at public cost. The best way to show some of that spirit is to save your local merchants so that, now and in the future, they can save what is left of the civility and the charm of Northwest Bergen County. The Ridgewood Village Council made the right decision on a tough call last week and the council members may have set a vital example for all of us who care about Northwest Bergen County. The council had some acrimonious words about the need to use parking meters to support a budgetary crunch brought on by the current depression. (That’s what it is, folks, no matter what they say in Washington and Trenton.) Metered parking is a component of Ridgewood’s economy and a nuisance for people who shop or visit there. The Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce wanted the council to relax metered parking as much as possible, and there was resistance to this because other sources of revenue – tax money from people who have seen their jobs disappear or the interest on their savings and investments dwindle – is slowly drying up, and may not be back in a hurry. The bureaucrats in Washington, the folks whose secretaries’ secretaries have their own secretaries, may think things took a turn-around, but the numbers are a better prognosticator. October showed an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, the highest since 1983, and another 190,000 jobs vanished. Some people say the real figure is actually 16.9 percent because half of the people who signed up for extended unemployment never found work and quit looking. That is pretty close to the 1930s figure of 25 percent, though the number of people who work for the government and the prevalence of two-income families and an expanded public assistance program have substantially reduced the incidence of bread lines and soup kitchen use. People still get dusted, but programs in place to help them almost invariably keep them alive, though not in the middle class of tax-paying homeowners. Friends in real estate tell me that there are a lot of properties for sale, but not many are selling. Friends in accounting tell me there is no case for a recovery at the present time. We’re in for it, and everybody knows it. Do we panic? No! Confronted with the choice of plunking some quarters into the coffers or helping the local merchants save their businesses – and by extension, the community – the Ridgewood Village Council unanimously decided to suspend parking meter requirements for the first three Fridays and the first three Saturdays in December. People will be able to shop without plunking a single dime into the meters, and can keep shopping without running back to feed the meter. Ridgewood Deputy Mayor Keith Killion, a life-long village resident, said that, as far as he is concerned, there ae three jewels in the village: the schools, the hospital, and the downtown commercial district. Two of the jewels, the hospital and the schools, are more than a little controversial at the present time: Valley Hospital wants an expansion that the immediate neighbors and some other residents don’t seem to like much, though some other residents have supported it. Recently, the Ridgewood Board of Education formally introduced a $48-million school renovation and expansion Support for local businesses helps keep communities vibrant Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Wyckoff community for its support during this past election and congratulate Chris and Kevin on their success. I look forward to staying involved and offer to volunteer my time to work on important issues facing Wyckoff. The Wyckoff voters have spoken, and I believe they now expect to move beyond the campaign literature and see results in our community. Wyckoff voters approved the ballot question and voted for the continuation of the state level open space tax. I believe this means that we recognize that more value is received for this tax than we pay. I hope to see Wyckoff benefit directly by accessing funds as appropriate. It was an honor to have the opportunity to work with Brian Hubert. We thank the community for the tremendous support and encouragement during the campaign. Together, we remained focused on our track records and experience that supported our message, and I am disappointed that we did not end with a victory. Our team worked tirelessly to Candidate appreciates support help us get our message out to the Wyckoff public and we thank them for their hard work and dedication. I thank the many contributors who donated to help us deliver our message to Wyckoff. We simply could not overcome the partisan lines on the ballot this year. Wyckoff residents were again given a choice, so we all won, and we hope that we have inspired the community to stay involved, volunteer, and remain informed about issues facing the community. The value of community service is truly priceless, and every elected official and appointed board in town needs a supportive and interested community. As we move ahead, let your voice be heard in town hall so officials can be judged on what they do, not what they say. Finally, I’d like to thank my family for supporting my efforts. I hope that my children are inspired to stay informed and get involved in the community, because even if it is only a small effort, small actions can make a big difference. Diane L. Sobin Wyckoff