Turtle Back Zoo a waste of taxpayer money

This is about the Turtle Back Zoo, the waste of taxpayer money, the ongoing destruction of South Mountain Reservation and bad education. The Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo, intends to build an amphitheater in the zoo. Though the budget has not been finalized, the county received 4 million from the state after Joe’s early endorsement of candidate Murphy. The freeholders (the guardians of the purse), are expected to add $4.6 million more on top of the $600K they have already allocated for design plans. The zoo’s footprint has doubled in the past ten years to 40 acres including McLoone’s Restaurant and a mini-golf course.

Joe’s justification for the amphitheater is education. He wants children to come by the hundreds to see exotic animals like giraffes and lions. These animals are native to the savanna and range freely over many miles daily; in Essex County, the giraffes are kept indoors for half the year because —  cold weather. This is called animal cruelty. Hundreds of children watching an event in an amphitheater is not education, it’s entertainment. Real education happens in small groups where teachers and students interact, ask questions and think out loud together. The only lesson taught in this amphitheater will be that cruelty to animals is wrong.



 Improving our democracy for 100 years

The League of Women Voters turns 100 on Feb. 14. Our founders achieved the impossible by passing the 19th Amendment 100 years ago. Today, The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area honors their work by continuing to improve our democracy so every voter can play a role in shaping our country.

Soon, New Jerseyans will participate in the Census, and the next decade hinges on an accurate count. New Jersey receives almost $23 billion annually in federal funding for Medicare, infrastructure, and other programs. The Census is not just about distribution of massive funding, but also about the political power of our communities at the state and federal level.

Following the Census, states must redraw the lines of our voting districts to account for population changes. However, the redistricting process is often manipulated as New Jersey’s system allows two partisan teams to work behind closed doors, developing new maps for political gain. The public cannot access records or drafts of maps and public hearings are not required.

Through our Fair Districts campaign, we are working to end gerrymandering and make our redistricting process transparent and independent. Voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.

On the 100th Anniversary of our founding, The League of Women Voters remains a strong, vital ally to voters. We are ready for the next 100 years of defending democracy and empowering voters. Join us at lwvmontclairarea.org.

The author is a board member of the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area.