Wake Up, Madison
Madison, it’s time to take a step back. The “Rose City” needs to take a moment and step away from the negative criticisms and comments and take a moment to “smell the roses”. Madison is one of the most amazing towns I have ever had a chance to live in, and while it is always nice to strive to improve, the climate has gone from one of constructive improvement to one of complaining. That really doesn’t help anyone. After reading through a lot of comments that are in different articles on the Madison Patch and reviewing all of the rhetoric that accompanies upcoming elections, I have decided that I wanted to take a moment and write about everything that is amazing about Madison. I feel I’m in a unique position to start this conversation as my family and I are preparing to relocate from Madison to San Diego, CA. We are looking forward to the opportunity (and weather) that is offered to us with this move, but we also lament that Madison is our home and we will miss it.
My wife and I moved to Madison back in June of 2001. We both have lived in a number of places, my background is in NJ where I grew up (Byram Twp) and I have lived in Harrisonburg VA, Baltimore MD, Ponte Vedra Beach FL, Montclair NJ and West New York NJ. I knew nothing of Madison before we moved here. We just knew that the train was convenient and we had been told it was a great place to live. Little did we suspect how involved we were to become.
What’s So Special
So, what’s the point right? Well, really this is the heart of what I’m talking about. Everyone has their own reasons for why their town is so special, I feel very strongly about why Madison is so much better than all of the communities surrounding it. We could have easily moved to another town and afforded a larger home, or newer home, or what have you. Reality is, nowhere else is there a place like Madison. What is it that makes Madison so special? Let me try to articulate at least some of what I feel makes Madison stand out
So there are the obvious things that make Madison stand out:
- The schools – As a former member of the BoE I am proud of this. Madison consistently has highly rated schools. That is not by accident and doesn’t come cheap. It requires a combination of time, money and expertise. What can’t be lost here is that if you remove one of those three, the other 2 will be impacted. That means that if school funding continues to decline, then ultimately it has to be made up by the time of parents and volunteers and the expertise of the volunteers, parents and staff. Even that may not be enough and ultimately, our schools (and children) will suffer.
- The commuting options – this is also obvious. Madison is blessed by being on the train line with direct trains to Penn Station and Hoboken. We also have a significant amount of parking available, but that is assuming that you aren’t in a situation where you have the ability to walk or bike to the train which really covers a large portion of town.
- Downtown – Who wouldn’t love the downtown environment? Madison has a main street that can be the envy of most towns. There are an amazing number of restaurants of all types of ethnicity, a museum, 2 supermarkets, a bowling alley, comic book shop (who doesn’t like comic books, really), car dealerships, live music, 2 coffee shops (including one that is a much better alternative to starbucks), a movie theater, Candy shop, cupcake shop, toy store, 2 veterinarians, and the list just goes on.
- The Library – Madison has its own branch of the county library that has such a huge variety of content and such amazing resources. Its truly a gem in a gem of a town.
- The Recreation programs – Lets face it, Madison is a great place to raise kids. I’ve mentioned the school, but when you look at all of the recreation programs, it’s just amazing. The Madison Soccer Club in fall, to the Madison Little League in spring, to the Summer Musical. There is no shortage of involvement or options for kids (and parents) to participate. I for one have had the opportunity to coach tee ball as well as soccer and I am happier for it. Especially when my daughter comes to me asking if I will coach her team again.
The Not So Obvious
I think there are a LOT of things that we (the citizens) take for granted and I feel requires some reminders:
- The Fire Department – ok so this is self-serving as I am a proud member of the Madison Fire Department. Madison has paid professional firefighters around the clock keeping citizens of Madison AND neighboring towns safe. They are joined by a dedicated group of volunteers that are trained just like their paid counterparts and are prepared to risk their lives for their neighbors. This is a group that is always looking for volunteers so give it some thought and contact Chief DeRosa. That said, what is often overlooked is that the fire department provides a number of services (such as basement pump outs, smoke detectors for seniors and others) that are simply overlooked.
- The Police Department – The Madison Police are tasked with keeping Madison safe and lets face it, Madison doesn’t have the kind of crime that a LOT of other communities might deal with. That doesn’t happen by accident. These are dedicated officers who have a tough job and if you stop and talk to them, they always have a good word for you.
- The Ambulance Corps – A dedicated group of volunteers that are always available to medical emergencies (joined by the Fire Department) and do so at NO CHARGE to the community. They operate on donations, how great is that in a time when many communities are having to outsource to paid services and increase taxes to cover the charges.
- The lighting department – When you consider that many towns that surround Madison had their power out for more than a week after the hurricane hit, does it really need to be said that our local crews managed to keep power outages in town to a minimum. This is a benefit that I think gets taken for granted way too much.
- The Public Works team – Are you starting to see a theme here? The reality is that Madison’s taxes are ok compared to other towns when you consider that we have the public works team keeping the town beautiful, ensuring that the water is flowing, and more. They respond to emergencies in a pretty timely fashion and they are all local. They have a vested interest in their jobs because they are our neighbors and live here too.
- The sense of community — Something that is lost in the hustle and bustle of today’s daily life is a sense of community in many locales. Everyone is so busy with work and trying to keep things going in a tough economy that many towns simply don’t have the time for community. Madison doesn’t have that problem. There is a tremendous sense of community that I don’t see matched in too many places. There is tremendous volunteerism, in the schools and in the different civic organizations and there is no shortage of volunteers. This is the kind of place where neighbors look out for neighbors and in today’s times, we all need that comfort of knowing we aren’t alone.
- The Arts – Is there a place that supports the arts more than Madison? I met the president of the NJ Jazz Society one night at Hibiscus in Morristown and when I mentioned I was from Madison, she couldn’t say enough about how the Jazz Society looks to Madison and specifically MACA as a partner. Wow, that’s quite an endorsement.
- Grace Church – So I’m going to make a plug for Grace Church. I don’t have anything against any religion, but what has made Grace so amazing is that beyond what my family gets spiritually, is the community and what has been taught to my kids. The choir program there for children has given my daughter more than I could possibly hope for and Dr. Anne Matlack is a treasure. My daughter sings and has confidence that I could only hope for in an 8 year old and it’s because of the opportunity offered by Grace in their choir program. So I’m including it here.
I could continue all night, but I think I would rather see a comment from readers about what YOU think is great about Madison. We have elections coming up and there is a lot of talk about all the things that need to be fixed. I’m not saying there aren’t things that need to be done better. I know there are, heck, I could probably put up a different list of those items. I am just suggesting that at the same time, we need to remember that we are a community and that local politics shouldn’t have room for partisan nonsense. We should be united as a community in celebrating how great the town is and trying to come together on what the priorities should be. I suppose that is where the rub is. Folks will gravitate towards other folks that agree with their priorities. That’s fair, but let’s try to keep to the facts and the issues then, remember that we live in an amazing community (one that I will miss immensely), and keep the discourse civil and on point.
Thank you Madison for 10 amazing years. The Cavaliere family will miss you.