The Eye wandered East to our New Jersey birthplace to spend Thanksgiving with relatives and came back with a few random observations:
The trip once again demonstrated how utterly full of crap the arguments in favor of self-serve gas are. The biggest of them, of course, is that if Oregonians allow self-serve we'll pay less for gas.
Jersey is the only state other than Oregon that forbids self-serve by law. (When New Jersey Gov. John Corzine tried to lift the ban on a limited, tentative basis this month he ran into a political buzz saw.)
So Jerseyans must be paying an arm and a leg for gas, right?
Wrong. Prices for regular are hovering around $1.70 a gallon. In Long Island, NY - practically next door - they're around $2, according to Mapquest's latest data. And New York is a self-serve state.
If anybody out there really believes self-serve would mean lower prices for consumers, I have some oceanfront real estate in Wyoming to sell you. What happens with self-serve is that the gas station owner puts one schlub inside a bulletproof cubicle to collect your money, pockets what he would have paid the pump jockeys and leaves you to wrestle with hoses and slosh gas on your shoes.
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country (more than 1,100 people per square mile, compared to about 39 for Oregon) but they've managed to preserve a surprising amount of open space. Driving through central Jersey we passed acres of cornfields, pasture and woodlands somewhat incongruously stuck out in the middle of the shopping malls and office parks.
This is thanks in part to the state's Green Acres Program, created "to achieve, in partnership with others, a system of interconnected open spaces, whose protection will preserve and enhance New Jersey's natural environment and its historic, scenic, and recreational resources for public use and enjoyment."
The Green Acres Program, it should be noted, was started in 1961 - long before Oregon's supposedly "landmark" state land use laws went into effect. Through 1995 New Jersey voters passed nine bond issues providing a total of more than $1.4 billion for the program. Ten years ago they passed a referendum to provide permanent funding.
Driving to and from our hotel and our relative's house we had to pass what appeared to be a pretty significant highway construction project. Traffic slowed in both directions (it was only a one-lane road) to creep past the workers and equipment, but it didn't come to a full stop.
If we had been in Oregon there would have been a brigade of flaggers and a pilot car, and traffic would have been backed up for five miles in both directions.
Also, incredibly, one time we saw one of the highway construction workers actually running - well, okay, trotting. You'll never see an ODOT worker doing that unless he's trying to escape from an oncoming landslide.