Mayor Richard Muti addresses Ramsey residents in Veterans Park on Memorial Day, 2012.

RAMSEY, MY HOMETOWN


Reports from a native son.

Ramsey's Downtown Train Station

One of the many things that define Ramsey is its unique downtown, anchored by the train station that has served our town, originally named "Ramsey Station," for more than a century. That structure, beautifully restored by the state during my term as mayor, at no cost to local taxpayers, also happens to be the oldest continuously-operated train station in America.

Apart from aesthetics, the downtown train station is the backbone of our business district. Close it to the hundreds of commuters who use it every day and you risk shuttering dozens of local businesses that depend on those transients for a good part of their revenue.

I support Mayor Dillon and the borough council in their efforts to make the downtown station and its crossing safer for everyone while, at the same time, keeping that vital link to our past, our present and our future open for business.

Governor Christie's Book Deal

New Jerseyans determined to dynamite the political swamp down in Washington should look closer to home for quagmires to drain – like the one just off exit 7A. In a deal that smells more like out-and-out bribery than statesman-like compromise, the Democrat-controlled legislature is about to scuttle a law that prohibits Governor Christie from cashing in on a book contract while in office, in exchange for Christie's acquiescence on increasing each legislator's office budget by $30,000.

I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies – "A Man for All Seasons." Richard Rich has just lied through his teeth to help convict Sir Thomas More of treason. As Rich leaves the witness stand, More, in the dock, notices a badge of office dangling from the man's belt.

"Master Rich," More says, "may I inquire – what does that badge signify?" Rich responds that it is the badge of his new post as Attorney General for Wales. Sir Thomas' retort is magnificent: "It profits not a man to give up his soul for the world, Richard . . . but for Wales? For Wales?"

I'll paraphrase another great movie, "Casablanca." Rick listens to Ugarte brag about he visas he helps refugees get at a cheaper price than Ferrari, his competitor. Rick replies that he doesn't object to a thief who preys on the weak and helpless. He merely objects to "a cut-rate one."

Trenton politicians should go to the movies more.


Is the Ramsey pool the right site for a community/​senior center?

Practically all those attending the June 1 public hearing in Ramsey about the proposed community/​senior center approved of the idea of a new community/​senior center. The only point of contention seemed to be the site the mayor and council had chosen for the facility. Many, including the chair of the Ramsey Pool Commission, felt that grafting a community/​senior center onto an award-winning pool facility would detract from the enjoyment that 3,500 Ramsey citizens receive from using the pool each summer.

About half the standing-room only audience on June 1 – mostly younger parents – opposed the pool site for the project and wanted assurances that the mayor and council had explored all other alternatives; the other half – mostly seniors – would brook no further delay in replacing the inadequate building seniors are now using at Finch Park. In my opinion, both sides may be right. Seniors deserve a proper setting, as do other community groups who have insufficient space for carrying out their activities.

If the mayor and council did thoroughly explore other sites for the new center, they haven't made that case to the public. One citizen suggested a large, under-utilized parking lot across from Borough Hall as a potential site for the community-senior center and received no response that the governing boy had even considered that location. There may be other sites. For example, we have, right in the center of town, a dirty, unsightly recycling center that occupies several acres of borough-owned land. Why not explore a potential agreement with Mahwah to jointly use its new recycling center off Franklin Turnpike and convert our existing facility into a higher and better use?

This issue threatens to drive a generational wedge through the heart of our community. The mayor and council should heed the warning signs and act accordingly.


Free speech, even when it's not politically correct

You have to admire politicians who stand on principle, even when the unpopularity of their stance threatens their reelection. Rep. Scott Garrett voted against a bill banning the display of the Confederate flag on graves in federal cemeteries, calling it a violation of the First Amendment. He's right.

In 1977 the Nationalist Socialist Party of America (NSPA) wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois. At the time, Skokie had the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the United States. Local officials denied the neo-Nazis a parade permit, and the NSPA sued. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which referred the matter back to Illinois courts.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “the display of the swastika, as offensive to the principles of a free nation as the memories it recalls may be, is symbolic political speech intended to convey to the public the beliefs of those who display it.” Later, a federal court upheld the ruling, declaring unconstitutional local ordinances designed to block the march.

We wouldn't need the First Amendment if all it protected was popular speech. It was designed by the Framers to protect unpopular speech, speech that goes against the accepted grain of thought. Speech that upsets, that disturbs the status quo. It is that very principle that sets us apart, that makes this country great . . . great right now. Politicians who stand on principle are rare. We should keep them around, even when we don't agree with them on every issue.


President Donald J. Trump

Remember when we speculated that NJ Governor Chris Christie's abrasive manner wouldn't play well in the heartland of America, where people were too polite and civil to accept an obnoxious bully as a presidential candidate? Ta---daaa! Introducing Donald J. Trump, the "presumptive" Republican nominee for President of the United States and leader of the free world and, in my opinion, probable next president. In 1920, the great American satirist and acerbic wit, H. L. Mencken, gave his take on the future of the American presidency. Take a moment to read it and reflect.

"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."


His eyes are on another prize.

Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald Trump is a calculated, blatantly ambitious move on the part of our governor, who has completely abdicated his responsibilities to the people of New Jersey. Christie had some early successes during his first term, for which he deserves praise, but he has been absent from the state on too many occasions during this second term, when he chaired the Republican Governors Association in 2014 and during his failed presidential campaign in 2015. Earlier this year, it was as though he had become a resident of New Hampshire . . . at a time when problems in his home state were mounting and desperately in need of attention. Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno might well have been absent herself—Christie gave her no authority to actually do anything of substance.

Now, I guess we can expect Christie will be campaigning for Donald Trump for much of this year. Or, perhaps, he will be campaigning, once again, for himself, banking on the prospect of a Trump victory next November and Christie's own installation as the next Attorney General of the United States under a President Trump. If that happens, we shall see him turn his back, once again, on the people of New Jersey by running off to Washington before his term as governor is completed, thereby keeping his presidential aspirations alive for the future. Governor Chris Christie showed such promise. Too bad for us he didn't live up to those expectations.

Selected Works

Biography
A fast-paced, one-volume study of the most fascinating entertainer of the 20th century. The book isn't an academic tome, although it is extensively researched and footnoted; rather, it is designed to be a highly readable page-turner, for avid Sinatraphiles as well as more casual fans of his music and films. It examines the forces, both positive and negative, that made Sinatra Sinatra, with special attention given to the love-hate relationship he maintained toward Hoboken and New Jersey for most of his life. He once called the city of his birth a "sewer," but later observed, "When I was there, I just wanted to get out. It took me a long time to realize how much of it I took with me."
Essays
"Richard Muti's essays are smart and provocative, personal and political."
–Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor
and crime novelist
As this eBook is published, Gov. Chris Christie enjoys a 72 percent approval rating, the highest level attained by any governor in New Jersey history. Yet, the man still evokes passionate feelings from supporters and foes, alike.
"Much needed fresh air out of New Jersey, where the political atmosphere has long been foul."
Kirkus Discoveries
True Crime
"The Charmer is definitely one of 2012's 'must read' books."
True Crime Book Reviews
Novel
Filled with “brilliant plot twists, vivid descriptions, and great dialogue, with a smooth, easy-to-read writing style.”

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