If you ever visit the New Jersey State House in Trenton, something to keep in mind is that there is plenty of free parking. And, of course, this being New Jersey, you’ll never be far from a highway if you need to make a quick getaway.
I learned this in 2002 when I made the rookie mistake of paying for metered parking on West State Street. It seemed like a great spot. New Jersey’s capital isn’t situated on a bucolic hill evocative of the country’s idealized pastoral origins; it’s on a street, and you can’t miss it. The architect who designed the facade was doing his best to keep up with the City Beauty movement of the early 1900s, so it looks nothing like the 19th century Federal and Greek Revival row houses and brownstones just down the block that are today used as lobbyists’ offices.
With the exception of school tours, the building is ordinarily very quiet. Despite the fact that the 120 members of the state assembly and senate are paid $49,000 per year, serving in New Jersey’s legislature is considered to be a part-time gig. Most members have other jobs; many are lawyers and until recently many actually held another elected office. This meant you could be a mayor and state senator and hold down yet another job, all at the same time – something you don’t find in many non-feudal modern states. (The state outlawed the practice of plural office-holding a few years ago. And the only plural officeholders who now remain were grandfathered in as part of the rule change.) Because of this, unless one of the legislative houses is in session, the capital can feel deserted even on a business day; everyone has somewhere better to be.
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