THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY …

Burlington County Times, January 14, 2002

It’s now two weeks into the new year, but the first chance I’ve had to act in print like the Roman god Janus, who gave his name to January and could look forward and backward at the same time. After September 11, I’m reluctant to look forward. In looking over my first year of columns, however, I’ve been surprised at how many could be re-run right now with only minor changes.

My very first column (Jan. 8) talked about ecology and how, with all the problems we still have, we’ve made major strides forward in the past 25 years. I noted that in 1975 recycling, organic farming, wetlands, composting, emissions standards, environmental impact studies, and the Pinelands Preservation Act were virtually unknown.

But several environmental problems I listed are still in the news. Timber rattlesnakes still live in the Sanctuary, now under the protection of the Betty Woodford-Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and the Pinelands Commission. The Berlin well is still suspected of draining Kettle Run Creek, although the issue is finally being addressed. Global weather patterns are still weird, with mild weather in the North and snow in Texas.

Another column that could be re-run with only minor changes is the one I wrote on Feb. 26 on the attempts by the Republicans in the State Legislature to enact a Constitutional amendment mandating parental notification before their children receive surgery. As I wrote then, Jack Collins’ (R-Salem) “… proposal is not about parents’ being told ahead of time that their five year old’s tonsils are going to be removed. It is intended instead as an end run around the State Supreme Court, which found that Collins’ law mandating parental notification for abortions was unconstitutional ‘because a minor’s right to control her reproductive decisions is among the most fundamental of the rights she possesses.’” The measure has once again failed.

The traffic on Rte. 73 South where it intersects with both the NJ Turnpike and Rte. 1-295 is still impossible at rush hour (April 9). I still talk on my cell phone while driving (June 11) and, as I predicted in that same column, now that children under 8 and under 80 pounds are required to be in a booster seat, there are quite a few otherwise law-abiding citizens who have become scofflaws.

The ripple effects of September 11 continue unabated. The events of that day are being blamed for everything from the career-ending asthma of as many as 500 firefighters to the closing of Bookbinder’s to the federal deficit.

Interestingly, several topics I discussed were later the subjects of articles and columns in the Philadelphia Inquirer. As flattering as it would be to think that they’d read my columns on why South Jersey should secede from the rest of the state (June 25) and on the up-scale Promenade, including the same demographic data I’d used (Oct. 8), I’m sure it was just coincidence.

But at times, I was wrong, as my parents were quick to point out to me after reading my March 26 column on age-restricted communities. My father wrote to me: “. . . there are more theaters, cultural centers, concerts halls, museums, libraries, adult education programs, school, feeding centers, and shelters for volunteerism per square mile than could compete for density and win hands down. . . . The one biggest complaint you hear is, “’I was never so busy when I worked.’”

And I was very happy to find out that the Lenape School District had enacted a remedy for the overcrowding at Cherokee High School (May 14) with the recent opening of a new classroom wing

In my column of March 12, I wrote of my prediction that the worst blizzard in 50 years wouldn’t develop because there was no feeding frenzy at my bird feeders. I was right a year ago, but not last weekend when I predicted the opposite. Because of the increased number of birds in my yard, I was sure that the forecasters were wrong and the “coating to an inch” was going to become a major snowfall. We didn’t even get a coating. As I said then, “If we don’t get a storm, then I’ll take credit for being a brilliant observer. If all the professionals are right and we do get socked, then, hey, what do I know? I’m not a scientist.”

As I said before, I’m reluctant to look forward, a risky business at the best of times. But I will make one prediction: the three highest-grossing films of 2002 will be “Star Wars Episode II: The of the Clones,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.”

Remember, if I’m right, you read it here first. If I’m wrong, hey, what do I know? I’m not a movie critic.

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