Page 20 THE VILLADOM TIMES III • 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: The residents and businesses of Ho-Ho-Kus have recently received a request for financial support from the Washington Elm VFW Post 192, located at 620 Cliff Street in Ho-Ho-Kus. I am writing today to add my encouragement that everyone respond positively to this request, but not for the obvious reasons. Our veterans are asking for the community’s support in launching their building fund to rebuild the building that is their headquarters. I believe that this is a worthwhile cause in itself. Their request also has more broad, implicit questions, however, and those are, “Do you value us? Do you want us to be members of your community? Do you care?” I think the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” Sadly, the veterans are not as certain. Sure, we have a great Memorial Day parade each year (which the VFW organizes, pays for, and many residents attend), but then what? The battle to regain occupancy and use of their own building has been met with disregard from the mayor and council, and minimal support from the community. Please remember, we are a nation at war. In fact, HoHo-Kus has at least two members of the VFW currently on active duty overseas: Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Dolan and Staff Sgt. Timothy Dench. We pray for their safety, and for the comfort of their loved ones here at home. The VFW Post 192 and its activities help the troops, the military families, the veterans and, indeed, the greater community -- and they have done so for 70 years. Won’t you join me in letting these men and women know that we value their service to their country, and that we value them as members of our community? It matters less that you give to the fund in large dollar Urges support for veterans amounts (although that would be terrific!) but, more importantly, it matters that as many households as possible join in to let these veterans know that their service to their country is appreciated. They have never asked for our support like this before, but now they need our help. There will be more opportunities to contribute as the days go by, but the response to this appeal will set the tone for all that follow. Won’t you please join me in giving at least a small contribution and, more importantly, your encouragement to these wonderful veterans? Thank you, and may God Bless America. Cindy Tharayil Ho-Ho-Kus Dear Editor: The members of the Ho-Ho-Kus Education Association returned to school this year without a new contract. Our previous contract expired on June 30, 2009. Despite our frustration with the pace and tone of contract negotiations, we have continued to come to work every day to provide our students with the world-class education they deserve and our community expects. But even as we continue to do our jobs professionally and with pride, we know the Ho-Ho-Kus Board of Education’s failure to resolve our contract will prevent the district from moving forward. Despite several face-to-face negotiation sessions over several months, as well as recent meetings with a stateappointed mediator, the board still refuses to offer a settlement that is comparable to the Quad District and other Bergen County districts. In fact, the board’s unrealistic offers have thwarted our efforts to move forward toward a negotiated settlement. (continued on page 21) HEA seeks new contract