2006 Was Filled with These Days to Remember in Morris
By Abbott Koloff
Daily Record [New Jersey]
December 31, 2006
In a year featuring a record number of drug deaths in Morris County, debates over illegal immigration and property tax relief, and the continuing war in Iraq that took the lives of brave young local people, here are some significant dates:
Natalie Bermudez enters the world just after midnight at Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pequannock with doctors and nurses counting down the seconds with Dick Clark on television -- the whole world celebrating as she is born.
Hours later, Donald Cresitello takes office as Morristown mayor and announces a crackdown on day laborers and stacking. He plans to have police take down license plate numbers of employers looking to hire illegal immigrants and send the information to the federal government.
He said he would check to determine whether the plan was legal.
This would become a theme for the year, not only in Morristown but across the state, as other towns tried similar plans. The efforts fizzle when judges rule that local officials should not be enforcing federal laws.
Parsippany school officials announce that three students have been suspended for burning a swastika into a school athletic field. Police investigate, but no charges are filed. The students, meanwhile, are given five-day suspensions and lose some parking privileges for burning an image that represents the murder of millions of people, possibly including relatives of some of their classmates.
That'll teach them.
State officials adopt a new slogan: "New Jersey: Come see for yourself."
It could have been worse: "New Jersey: Probably not as bad as you think."
James T. Hanley, former Mendham priest and admitted child molester, angrily confronts some of his victims on a Paterson street. The victims had been warning neighbors about Hanley. They had asked Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese officials to take some responsibility for the former priest, to make sure he continues to go to therapy and is not a threat to children. One local church official responded by saying the diocese does have a moral obligation to do something.
Days later, a diocese spokeswoman said the first official spoke a little too soon. She said the diocese has no legal responsibility for Hanley, ending talk of moral obligations.
U.S. citizens apparently can breathe a little easier when David Banach, a Parsippany man who said he was teaching his daughter astronomy when he pointed a laser into the sky at a small commercial airplane, is sentenced for violating the Patriot Act.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office wanted to make an example out of him, so they charged him with crimes that could have led to a couple of decades in federal prison. But in the end, even while they continued to defend the charges, authorities agreed to a plea bargain that includes no jail time, and a federal judge says Banach's actions were not as bad as the charges would indicate.
By then, Banach had lost his job, was the object of hate mail and had been ridiculed coast-to-coast.
State officials announce that they will look into the possibility of allowing self-service at gas stations. They later reject the idea, but not before Bill Dressler, executive director of the Gasoline Retailers Association, explains to a comedy news show why the state should not have self-service. New Jerseyans have not received proper training, he said.
"If they were trained from infancy to pump gas, maybe they could make intelligent decisions when it comes to doing that chore," Dressler said on the show.
Sister Rose Thering, the Hanover nun known for a lifetime of combating anti-Semitism, dies at the age of 85 in her native Wisconsin.
State offices and parks close because of a budget impasse, and Morris County residents interviewed on the street react something like this:
"The state's closed?"
Byram police issue a press release asking for witnesses to a July 7 accident at Wild West City. Police decline to say what kind of accident. The theme park continues operating, and parents continue bringing children to watch gunfight re-enactments.
Days later, authorities reveal that a Wild West City actor named Scott Harris had been struck by a projectile during a re-enactment. The Harris family calls a newspaper to be more specific. Harris was struck by a 22-caliber bullet.
Harris survived and is living in a group home in Newton, paralyzed on his right side. Federal authorities have fined Wild West City for failing to use proper safety procedures in its re-enactments. The Harris family is planning to file a lawsuit against the theme park.
Meanwhile, authorities never really explained why they were so slow to give out information. Parents who took children to the theme park on July 8, and for days afterward, deserved to know more.
Hanover Park Regional High School District Superintendent John Adamus says an informal agreement with police is working "quite well" in response to police requesting more access to students, including the addition of school resource officers.
The Daily Record reports that drugs are killing Morris County residents at a record pace, including two recent heroin deaths of former students from the Hanover Regional district.
Adamus announces that full-time police resource officers will be assigned to the schools -- hours after police arrest more than 50 young people in Operation Painkiller, mainly targeting the area served by the Hanover Regional district.
Hanover says goodbye to Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Cosgrove III, who was killed in Iraq, with residents lining the streets to watch his body pass on the way to a Madison church funeral. His fiancée later reads the last letter she wrote to him, telling him she is proud of him and his willingness to make sacrifices for his country. She calls him her hero.
The state Supreme Court rules that gay couples should have the same rights as other couples and orders state legislators to do something about it. But the court gives legislators an out. They are required either to legalize gay marriage or to create a civil unions with the same rights as marriage, just not the name.
Legislators later choose civil unions. Some lawmakers say marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman because that's what it says in the Bible -- apparently forgetting that state law isn't supposed to be based on the Bible.
Roxbury says goodbye to Marine Pfc. Donald Brown, 19, the second Morris County resident killed in Iraq in a month. At his funeral, friends describe his strong faith in God and his willingness to die for his country. They say he never had the chance to get his driver's license.
Joseph T. LePore and Sean Ryan of Florham Park, as part of a plea agreement, admit setting a fire in a Seton Hall University dorm seven years ago that killed three students. They go on to say through lawyers that their actions didn't cause anyone to die. Their attorneys blame Seton Hall's lack of sprinklers at the time, among other things.
Prosecutors basically say the plea deal to arson charges was better than nothing.
But, with LePore and Ryan taking almost no responsibility for students who died or were disfigured, it doesn't seem much better.
Randolph school officials put off implementing a peanut ban in the Shongum School cafeteria when the father of a third-grade girl with a severe peanut allergy agrees to seek a compromise with other parents. The father later agrees to divide the cafeteria into peanut and no-peanut areas.
School officials had told parents that the girl could die if exposed to peanuts. They told them federal law requires the girl to be integrated, as much as possible, with other students. Here was a chance to teach children something about making a small sacrifice -- giving up peanut butter --to make a little girl feel more welcome.
Instead, some parents complained, missing that opportunity.
Still, the year was not without generosity. People call police and Saint Clare's Hospital asking to adopt an adorable baby girl found on Dec. 4 in a van parked on a Victory Gardens street. As the year comes to a close, it seems that the little girl will find a home and be loved.
Democrats in state government essentially say that when they set a Jan. 1 deadline for property tax reform, they were just kidding.
Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 989-0652 or email@example.com.
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