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ALL ARE WELCOME TO OUR GENERAL MEETINGS
For recaps of our previous meetings, scroll down this page, or click on a topic :
At our April 2022 meeting, Women in Politics, the following women provided insight on their experiences in running for office and serving in various positions, whether appointed or elected:
EVELYN SPANN, Cranbury Councilwoman
BARBARA CANNON, Former Councilwoman and Former Mayor Old Bridge
SHANTI NARRA, County Commissioner, Deputy Director
LINDA GREENSTEIN, New Jersey State Senator 14th Legislative District (Mercer and Middlesex Counties)
They all gave a brief overview of how they got into politics and what they learned:
Linda Greenstein moved to Plainsboro with her husband after a career as a practicing attorney. When she decided to become involved in the town, and run for a position on the school board, she sought out a friend’s advice on how to go about it. The advice: find out where the people who come out to vote live, meet those people, and write them hand-written notes acknowledging their questions and concerns. She has followed that advice – Focus. Go door to door. Establish personal connections. Barbara Cannon started as a teen working for Adlai Stevenson’s election office in St. Paul, MN. Her political interests led her to get a degree in political science. Her husband’s career led them to move to New Jersey, where she got interested in helping her community. When she first ran for councilwoman in Old Bridge, she knocked on practically every door in town and managed to lose election by 5 votes. But that did not deter her from running again. She eventually became Mayor.
Shanti Narra was born in India and came to the US in 1969, and moved to North Brunswick in 1974. She remembers growing up watching the news every night as the family ate dinner. During commercials, her dad would ask her opinion on what they had just been watching. And thus she developed an interest in what was going on in her adopted country. After getting her law degree, she became a Public Defender in New York. She focused on civil rights and worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. After moving back to North Brunswick in 2004, through friends she got involved on the Planning Board, then became a Committeewoman, then Town Councilwoman, then County Commissioner. She concluded her remarks with the reflection that “as an immigrant, when you serve the community, you get a chance every day to express your gratitude for living here”.
Evelyn Spann lives in Cranbury where on their Board of Education, 3 people rotate off each year. One year of the 3 people rotating off, all 3 chose not to run again, thus creating 3 open slots. She was recruited to run for one of those spots, and was helped through the process. Once elected, she served in several capacities, including sitting on the library board as the School Board representative. In that capacity, she got to know the Mayor, who was also on the library board. He then convinced her to run for the Township Committee. She feels this processes have taught her a lot about the civics of politics.
They were all asked to share their experiences about being a woman in office:
Evelyn Spann said that she has not experienced anything negative. She attributes this somewhat to being relatively new to politics in a time where there are many women in office, as well as working for the companies that the town interacts with.
Shanti Narra has often been the only woman or one of two woman in the room. She observes that men and women benefit when there are women contributing to the dialog because of the different experiences they bring to the table. She said her problem is that she doesn’t play golf and she needs to find another way to make the same connections that the guys do on the golf course (LOL).
Barbara Cannon was the first woman to be elected mayor in Old Bridge. She feels that those who were more interested in serving their own interests vs. doing their jobs and serving the people were more of a problem than any issue of men vs. women.
Linda Greenstein observed that over the last 15 years significantly more women are in the legislature and more of them are chairing committees. However, she also has observed that while some women were given leadership titles, the men remained in charge, often working behind the scenes. She feels that there are differences in thinking on issues that are generally more important to women, i.e. pregnancy issues.
Lisa Robinson, a Monroe resident and Monroe High School graduate, was sworn in as a Police Officer in 1997. She was assigned to the detective bureau as a juvenile/D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer in 1999. In 2005, she was promoted to Sergeant; then promoted to Lieutenant in 2014, where she also acted as the Department’s Public Information Officer. In 2017, she was reassigned as patrol division commander and currently serves in that capacity. Captain Robinson served in the U.S. Army and the N.J. National Guard. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and a Masters of Administrative Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Captain Robinson took questions from the audience:
What are the qualifications to become a police officer?
You must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen, have a valid drivers license, have a clean record, and complete 15 weeks of training. Many also have a college degree. After training, you are partnered with a senior officer for 90 days on the job.
In the training, is there attention paid on how to deal with those with mental problems?
Yes. And in the course of our work, we keep notes in our database on people we encounter with issues, and how to approach them. We also have professionals on call, who are available at any hour.
Do you have cases of domestic violence?
Of the 10,000 calls for help that we have had so far this year, I would guess that about 1/3 are domestic violence incidents. In addition to responding to the call, we have a domestic violence response team made up of 3 women and a liaison officer to deal with the victim to get further help. You should also know that if there is any physical abuse, it is mandated that the abuser be arrested.
Do you have a holding cell in Monroe?
We do, but normally an arrestee is taken to the correctional facility in North Brunswick.
Is the D.A.R.E. program effective here?
I taught the D.A.R.E. program in the high school for about 10 years. The program provides a curriculum but you have to make the information local and relevant. It’s not only how to resist drug abuse but how to fit in without giving into peer pressure. It’s letting kids know the police are not your enemies. Also, being in that program in the high school allowed me to get to know teachers and school administrators.
How many women officers are there on the Monroe force; how many officers in total; and how many police cars?
When I was hired, I was one of two women officers. Currently there are 5. The total force numbers 66. There are 7-10 officers on each shift in cars, covering the 42 square miles of Monroe.
Are there programs that police provide for senior citizens?
The police support the food pantry, and we have an excellent presentation online that speaks to avoiding scams (phone calls, email, etc.). https://monroetwppolice.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/New-Crime-Prevention-and-Scam-Awareness.pdf While I have you all here, I urge you to not make yourself a target of crime:
• Lock your cars
• Lock your house; and if you have an alarm system, use it.
• Keep your garage doors closed.
If you see exceptional traffic violations (e.g. lots of speeding on a certain road), call our office and report it. We’ll add it to our list of assignments.
What helped you to advance through the ranks?
I did have military experience, so I knew how to protect myself, how to go through training, how to listen to experienced people. And also how to listen to myself: how to be myself and at the same time be taken seriously.
In closing... “The goal is to serve the community effectively and determine what officers need to make that happen.”
At our February 2022 meeting, Linda Kinsey spoke about the CASA organization and her role as a CASA volunteer.
Linda became a CASA when she retired from teaching high school and working in the tech world for AT&T and Mutual of America. She was assigned her initial case in 2014 and has since had 2 more. In 2019 she was recognized as CASA Advocate of the Year.
CASA a non-profit organization dedicated to serving abused and neglected children who are up to 21 years old and living in foster care. CASA recruits and trains volunteers to advise the courts and advocate for the children’s best interests. CASA was started in 1972 by a Seattle Family Court judge who wanted unbiased information about children who experienced neglect or abuse.
There are many people in and out of a foster child’s life. The CASA worker is the consistent support person who looks out for their interests, including their educational and medical needs. For example:
Children who receive support and care:
The CASA makes court appearances to advocate for the child and to answer the judge’s questions. Recommendations are sometimes hard, but need to be made based on what is best for the child.
Volunteers are trained and supported by CASA staff of the county. Each volunteer is matched with a child or sibling group, and agrees to stay with them until they finish care (about 18 months).
Volunteers get 30 hours of pre-service training, and then:
Volunteers get a summary of the child’s situation before agreeing to be the CASA, in case that situation is something the CASA does not want to take on. Volunteers have peer coaches to help them with questions and problems (such as where to get specific help, resources, etc.).
There is a need for more male volunteers, as well as more volunteers who are bilingual Spanish-speaking, Hispanic/Latino, and African American. The racial breakdown of children in the foster care program is 45% White, 22% African American, 7% Asian, 6% Multiracial, 20% other. 28% are Hispanic/Latino
How Can You Help
Questions from the Audience
How is CASA funded?
Federal grants and donations
Where do you usually meet with the children?
We meet at the foster home or any public place, like school or the mall. However, you cannot have the child in your car. And we keep in touch by phone.
Can you maintain a relationship with the child after the child has left foster care?
If the child or foster care family invites you to maintain a relationship, you can; otherwise not.
How do you keep from getting emotionally involved?
You are involved, but not overwhelmed because you see yourself as doing something positive. I see myself like a teacher…concerned about the child but with some distance.
At our July 2021 meeting, Patty Lang gave a presentation on the National League of Women Voters program focus for 2021-2024: Women Power Democracy.
Following are descriptions of the four programs under ‘Women Power Democracy’:
John Riggs was the speaker at our annual meeting on June 2, 2021.
John has lived in Monroe since 1972. He has served Monroe Township in many capacities; such as, member of the Zoning Board, Councilman at Large, Director of Environmental Protection and Affordable Housing. He and the League of Women Voters established Green Fair and developed the Township Green Book. He currently serves on the Planning Board and on the Open Space and Farmland Preservation Committees.
John began his talk with a discussion of the Master Plan, now in development. The plan will serve as a development guide for the next 10 years, and is being put together by the Master Plan Committee. The plan will deal with areas such as, open space and farmland preservation, transportation, Environmental Resources Inventory (ERI)—which includes geology, forestry, and an update to the bike and trails plan.
An unusual feature of this planning process is gathering input from residents via a Master Plan Survey.
Go to https://publicinput.com/MonroeMP to view a Master Plan flyer with information about the Master Plan, answers to frequently asked questions about the plan, and links to key planning documents. John stressed how rare this level of transparency is.
Looking forward, 95% of development will be in the area of affordable housing. By law, builders can build 4 market-rate units for each affordable housing unit. To qualify for affordable housing, a family of 4 has a yearly income between $35,000 and $94,000.
Monroe began its first round of affordable housing participation in 1987-93, in conjunction with the passage of the New Jersey Fair Housing Act (commonly referred to as “Mount Laurel”). Monroe approved Monroe Manor (behind Wawa on Rt. 33) for affordable housing. This development was just finished last year. It took 30 years to develop it. During this period, we could transfer up to 20% of our affordable housing obligation, which we did by paying New Brunswick, who was able to develop faster.
The second round of development began in 1994 with the approval of Stratford at Monroe (located behind the Senior Center). This development is still being built out 23 years later.
The current round of development covers the years 1999-2025. Monroe won a court action that reduced our obligation to build affordable housing units from 2,323 to 850 (which will include 567 family units and the 283 senior units).
In addition, 80 units of affordable housing for veterans will be going up behind Walgreens on Applegarth Road.
The Planning Board approved the building of an Amazon Distribution Center that will be across from Make a Wish on Perrineville Road.
Other development is contained by:
· farmland preservation and open space
· wetlands (8,900 acres)
· areas with 10 acre minimum zoning (5,300 acres)
· limit of 625,000 sq. ft. of commercial property
We should be on track to meet our goal of 50% open space in Monroe Township.
In response to questions on traffic, John noted that we have not had an updated traffic plan in 20 years. But this new Master Plan will include one.
John confirmed that Green Fair will be online this year in the Fall.
The Environmental Commission worked on stream cleanups. Its work at the stream near the Community Garden Center resulted in 900 lbs. of trash. It will also be doing road cleanups.
John observed that the Community Garden on Applegarth Road has been one of Monroe’s most successful ventures. 176 plots are cultivated. In addition, there is a beekeeper with beehives and butterfly-attracting plants, so pollinators are close by. Northfield Bank donated $10,000 for a greenhouse, in which plants have been grown to sell. The volunteers here have been phenomenal, as have the scouts who have built and maintained trails in the area. Monroe hopes to add picnic tables and a restroom to the area. In addition, Monroe is investigating building a second community garden on Spotswood/Englishtown Road.
July 20, 2020
Speaker Olivia Forte-Gardner, the Recycling Program Assistant at the Middlesex County Improvement Authority provided an informative and interesting presentation.
As League members, we’ve all been made aware of the importance of recycling and the impact on our environment. And as much as we think we know everything on the subject, this presentation homed in on all the things we need to do on a personal level to correctly recycle. Olivia’s PowerPoint presentation emphasized CLEAN, LOOSE AND DRY as the rule to follow.
It was interesting to learn why we should not put plastic bags in the recycling bin. It seems to go against the basics. But a short video showed how the plastic bags often get tangled up in the recycling machinery, causing loss of time and manpower since the machinery needs to be shut down. So plastic bags should go back to the stores that have special collections. Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, McCaffrey’s, Wegmans and Whole Foods are some of the stores that will accept plastic bags.
In addition, only clean jars, bottles and pizza boxes should be placed in our recycled garbage. Olivia explained that recycled materials become contaminated with left-on food, and vendors will not purchase contaminated recyclables. This is a business, and--once processed-- the recyclables are put on the market for sale. Only non-contaminated items can be easily sold.
We also learned that there are special collections for shredded paper, paint, lithium batteries, household chemicals, computers, cell phones, clothing and textiles and liquid cooking oil. The Township website will list the dates and times of these special collections.
NOTE: Some communities in Monroe have private recycling vendors that differ from the vendor used by Monroe Township. Check with your community administration for specifics on what you can recycle and for a schedule of pickups.
And you’re not alone if you can’t remember all the rules and regulations! So there’s a website and app that Olivia suggested we try. These tools can answer questions 24/7 and information can be obtained specifically for Monroe Township. You can download Recycle Coach app and search Middlesex County's website for helpful tools and keep up to date on recycling.
We want to thank:
Click here for Monroe Township Curbside Recycling Guidelines
Monroe’s Recycling Drop-Off Center is located at 76 Gravel Hill-Spotwood Road. In addition to the usual list of recyclables you can leave for curbside pickup, this center accepts motor oil, antifreeze, auto batteries, scrap metal, and broken or outdated consumer electronic items. Items must be separated prior to drop-off. You must wear a mask and present ID. Phone (732) 656-4575 for hours of operation, and for when paint can be dropped off.