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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rutgers Law: Preventing Matt Kenseth From Running Over The Diamond-Spotted Swamp Frog

Ah, Jersey. You do everything wrong.

Whether it’s planning your merges on the Turnpike (whose idea was it to have six lanes turn into two in a half-mile stretch?) or trying to build an East Coast Vegas (stop charging for casino parking in a crackhead-infested neighborhood), you may have good intentions, but like Kim Bauer, you always do something stupid anyway.

In an effort to bring an influx of Tony Stewart merchandise into the Garden State, Millville, N.J. officials are planning to build a $100 million motorsports park on 700 acres of land. A thousand jobs, money flowing through the economy, caravans of Winnebagos clogging up the Turnpike on their way in from Alabama…yep, everything seemed great about the New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Except for the fact that, like most everything else in the state, it’s bad for the environment. And so a bunch of tree-huggers – Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries Inc., the state Audubon Society, and the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions – sued to hold up the progress of the tracks’ construction. They did so with a little help from their friends at the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic.

Now, you’re probably either thinking, “Go, law students! Fight the man!” or “NASCAR? Git-r-done!” But the real issue here is that Rutgers is a public school, and therefore receives taxpayer money – some of which goes to fund the law students who are working this case.

As a result, proponents of the track are passing resolutions left and right. The New Jersey Association of Counties (every county in the state), the Southern New Jersey Freeholders Association, the Cumberland County freeholders, and the New Jersey Association of Dale Earnhardt Memorial Windshield Sticker Makers have all made their voices heard – government is bad and should not be paying these egghead law students to fight this glorious monument to restrictor-plate racing. (I exaggerate, of course. There is no New Jersey Association of Dale Earnhardt Memorial Windshield Sticker Makers.)

I’ll leave the deep legal analysis of the issue to some other law student’s blog. The fact is, this motorsports park, for all the good it does (and seriously, there is good being done here – the economy of Cumberland County will likely get a huge boost), is an environmental hazard. There are some endangered birds and frogs in a nearby wetland, or something like that, and the encroachment that the 700-acre development entails will make them really endangered. And we don’t want to kill off the purple-billed sapsucker. Or whatever it is.

So I think it’s a good thing that someone is taking up the case on behalf of the environmentalists. Progress unchecked isn’t always a good thing, and if anyone knows this, it should be the residents of New Jersey, who have built their homes in, on, and around the smog and pollution left by the past 150 years of industrialization. If the track is ultimately worth the environmental sacrifice, then the courts will allow its construction.

What the Jerseyites ultimately seem to be upset about is that their tax dollars are used to fund law students who are opposing their motorsports park. Cumberland County Freeholder Louis N. Magazzu said, “New Jersey has legitimate environmental challenges. There are many other places these students could learn their skills in a way that would not have a devastating effect on the economy.”

As I see it, Magazzu’s point is that Jersey is already an environmental disaster area and that the law students should take their state-granted money and go fight someone else’s development.

If he’s right about his home state having environmental challenges (and of course he is), then he should recognize the importance of a group – even a state-funded one – whose mission is “to serve the state's environmental community.” The motorsports park will probably end up being built in the end, and by contending with the environmental advocates, the progress of the park may end up infringing a little less on the already damaged environment of New Jersey.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Real Men of Genius: Mr. Los Angeles Freeway Driver

Bud Light presents...Real Men of Genius (Real Men of Geeeniuuus!). Today we salute you, Mr. Los Angeles Freeway Driver (Mr. Los Angeles Freeeway Driiiver!). Behind the wheel of your car, with no passengers, you steadfastly refuse to use your turn signal, unless you're not turning at all (Turn off your left bliiinker!). Whether you're yapping on your cell phone, eating a bowl of soup, watching a DVD on the screen you installed in your dash, or all three at the same time, you are definitely not paying attention to the road (You're multitaaasking!). Your six-figure sports car is moving along at a blazing 15 miles an hour (That's not that faaast!). So crack open an ice-cold Bud Light, O Sultan of the Speedometer. For no matter where you're going...you're sure to get there late (Mr. Los Angeles Freeeway Driiiver!). Bud Light beer, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri.

(By the way, did you know that the guy who does the singing in those commercials is the lead singer of Survivor?)