Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

T.G.I.F!

A former aide to James E. McGreevey said yesterday that he had three-way sexual trysts with McGreevey and his wife before they occupied the governor’s mansion, challenging Dina Matos McGreevey’s assertion that she was naive about her husband’s sexual exploits.

The aide, Theodore Pedersen, said he and the couple even had a nickname for the weekly romps, from 1999 to 2001, that typically began with dinner at T.G.I. Fri day’s and ended with a threesome at McGreevey’s condo in Woodbridge.

They called them “Friday Night Specials,” according to Pedersen. (Judith Lucas, John P. Martin, The Star-Ledger)

Party over for county tax boards?

Aiming to correct “an error” they made three years ago, legislators are pushing forward plans to cut the size of county tax boards.

Legislation in the state Assembly and Senate would trim by two the number of tax board members in all 21 counties and save taxpayers an estimated $1 million annually. But the fact the Senate bill also seeks to eliminate health and pension benefits for future tax board members could derail the measure.

Assemblymen Jerry Green (D-Union), who recently pushed the Assembly bill through the Housing and Local Government Committee he chairs by a 6-0 vote, wants the Senate bill, co-authored by Sens. John Adler (D-Camden) and Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), to remain simple. He suggested dealing separately with health and pension issues, possibly for all part-time boards and agencies. (Lawrence Ragonese, The Star-Ledger)

No Gore? I’m with Obama, Gusciora says

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) sported an “Obama” button at the Mercer County Democratic Convention on Saturday and affirmed his support for the presidential candidacy of the junior senator from Illinois.

Gusciora had originally hoped former Vice President Al Gore would enter the 2008 presidential contest. Late last year he filed an “Uncommitted” slate of delegates to run in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary, with intentions of nominating Gore from the floor of the national convention. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.co)

Move afoot again to streamline local elections

A proposal to move nonpartisan municipal elections for more than 30 small towns from May to the November general election day has been revived in an attempt to cut costs and increase voter participation.

Though the proposed shift has been before the Legislature for years without movement, backers of the plan hope the recent budget scrutiny for municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people and a historic presidential primary year for New Jersey that added another election day to the calendar could propel the measure.

Eighty-two towns have nonpartisan municipal elections, which are scheduled for May 13. The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) and state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) would change election day for the 32 towns with fewer than 10,000 residents. Elections for larger nonpartisan towns like Newark, Perth Amboy and Jersey City would be unchanged.

The proposal would allow towns to nearly eliminate local costs for municipal elections by consolidating with the November general election, which is funded by the state. (Christopher Dela Cruz, The Star-Ledger)

Trump project sparks call for more regulation

As lawmakers assemble in Trenton today for hearings on the EnCap mess, a leading Democrat plans to introduce reforms designed to curb abuses in major public-private projects.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo’s bill would force developers in projects backed by $25 million or more in public financing to open up their books every year for an independent audit. What is already being called “the EnCap law” would force developers to disclose all public subsidies and divulge payments to investors and consultants. (Jeff Pillets, The Record)

Vineland mayoral hopefuls spar on reassessment

It’s common for municipalities to try to put off reappraisals of all residential and commercial properties.

Vineland is no exception.

That’s because the process could cost the city $900,000 or more, while raising property taxes for some residents.

The reappraisal, known as a revaluation, would bring the properties’ assessed value in line with their true market value. In turn, the revaluation would ensure the city pays its fair share of county taxes.

The revaluation is expected to become a campaign issue in the weeks leading up to the May 13 municipal election.

Mayor Perry Barse seeks a third term; his opponents are Robert Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant, and Nick Girone, a former city Board of Education president.

“We are in absolutely no rush to do the revaluation because it’s time-consuming and costly, but it’s the law, and we will comply with it,” Barse said in an interview Friday.

Barse’s opponents, however, say the mayor’s planning for the revaluation has been insufficient. (Tim Zatzariny Jr.., The Daily Journal)

New Jersey clears up succession

New Jerseyans no doubt had a feeling of deja vu last week as they watched New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resign in disgrace, a betrayed wife standing at his side. Not too long ago, they too had seen a governor whom they had elected by a big margin undergo a similar humiliation.

Spitzer will be succeeded today by his lieutenant governor, fellow Democrat David Paterson. New York is lucky in the swiftness of the transition. Jim McGreevey, for partisan political reasons, made New Jersey wait an agonizing three months after his confession before he stepped down and yielded the governorship to Senate President Dick Codey. New York will be luckier still if Paterson’s service turns out to be as honorable as Codey’s was.

Since Codey served his hitch as acting governor (the Legislature has retroactively revised that title to simply “governor”), New Jersey has made a major change in the way it fills a vacancy in its top office. Its political leaders were slow learners, though. McGreevey’s resignation was the second by a governor in four years — Christie Whitman started the exodus in 2001 — and it took two such shocks to bestir them to replace the old system of succession by a Senate president who simultaneously held on to his legislative power.

What the Legislature finally did was write a constitutional amendment creating the office of lieutenant governor and submit it to the voters, who ratified it in November 2005. Next year, New Jersey will elect its first lieutenant governor. After that, the next time a governor leaves office, whether by death, impeachment or resignation, he or she will be replaced by another member of the executive branch who was elected by the voters of the entire state, as now is happening in New York. (George Amick, The Trenton Times)

Voter registration surges in Passaic

Intense interest in the presidential race has spurred a rise in new voter registrations in North Jersey that has continued beyond the Feb. 5 primary, election officials say.

The primary itself drew 1.5 million voters to the polls statewide, or roughly 35 percent of registered voters — the highest percentage in more than 50 years. But the level of excitement has hardly faded, with hundreds of residents sending in registration forms every day in Passaic County. (Joseph Ax, The Record)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT- NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND

GOP consultant Blakely dies

Republican political consultant Tom Blakely died this morning after collapsing during a 5k run in Bordentown. He was 48.

Blakely was the President of Jamestown Associates, a New Jersey-based GOP consulting firm. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he served as an aide to Rep. Dick Zimmer and was Campaign Manager of Zimmer’s 1996 U.S. Senate bid against Robert Torricelli. He also ran County Executive campaigns for James Treffinger and Robert Prunetti, and was Director of Appointments for Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. (PolitickerNJ.com)

 

Dems fear cuts

One thing is certain about New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s cost-cutting budget plan: the lawmakers who must approve it are very uncomfortable.

Corzine’s fellow Democrats who control the Legislature are among the most anxious.

“I understand the necessity of freeing up funds to help improve New Jersey’s fiscal standing, but it is imperative that we look at the people who will be affected,” said Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham.

The governor and legislators must agree on a budget by July 1. (Tom Hester, Associated Press)

 

Schundler on comeback trail?

Ex-Jersey City Mayor Bret D. Schundler is eyeing a return to City Hall, according to Saturday’s New York Times.

The former mayor, now 49, said he’s thinking about tossing his hat in next year’s mayoral sweepstakes because of rising taxes and other quality-of-life issues.

But Schundler, who teaches public policy at King’s College in Manhattan, said he’s hesitating because being mayor would take time away from his two children, ages 9 and 16. (Journal staff, Jersey Journal)

Bloom off Corzine’s Rose

 

Governor Corzine wants to cut municipal aid to Riverdale.

So Riverdale has responded by crossing out Corzine — on its Web site.

The borough’s homepage features a stock photo of a smiling Corzine bisected with a red diagonal crossbar, the universal symbol protesters use to declare vehement opposition to something or other. Riverdale, with a population of roughly 2,500, is slated to lose 31 percent of its state aid this year. (Charles Stile, Bergen Record)

 

Cumberland GOP picking up the pieces

Jim Sauro seems like a lonely voice sometimes.

Six years ago, he headed the only Republican-controlled Cumberland County freeholder board since the early 1970s.

Today, he might still be the most publicly outspoken Republican in the county, but he does it as host of the “Straight Talk” radio show Saturday mornings on 92.1 FM. To some Republicans, that’s about the closest they have to real influence in county politics.

“The (Cumberland) Republican Party hasn’t distinguished itself,” Sauro said. “You have to give people a reason to vote for you. I think that’s something we haven’t done.” (Daniel Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

 

Fox hounded by whistleblower

The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold a confirmation hearing on Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox until after a whistle-blower case against the BPU is finished, the committee’s chairman said Friday.

“Well, we wouldn’t call it before the trial is over, some sort of whistle-blower case,” Judic
iary Chairman Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, said. “I don’t want to predict what might happen. We have to go slow on nominations of this importance.”

Fox, the BPU, and two other top officials are named in the suit brought by BPU fiscal chief Joe Potena, who claims retaliation for alerting state officials to an $80- to $100-million ratepayer-funded Clean Energy account set up outside state Treasury purview. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett State Bureau)

 

Universal health care means “hard decisions”

Lawmakers intend tomorrow to unveil a long-awaited plan that would require all New Jersey residents to have health coverage within three years, and officials say it would be financed in part by converting the mammoth Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to a for-profit company.

The proposal, which would make New Jersey only the fourth state in the nation with a universal health care law, could begin enrolling the state’s 1.4 million uninsured residents as early as August, its sponsors in the Legislature say.

“The right time to do this was a long time ago,” said Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), who has been crafting the plan with a health care think tank for 18 months. “I don’t think I have to sell it to the public. They more than understand the significance of health care and fear they will lose theirs if, God forbid, they get sick.”

The plan’s first phase calls for expanding the successful FamilyCare program, which already provides insurance to 200,000 low-income children and working poor parents and is paid for by the state and federal Medicaid programs, said Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Union), who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly with Louis Greenwald (D-Camden).

“This is going to be the time for hard decisions,” Cohen said. “This is the moment.” (Susan K. Livio, Star-Ledger)

 

Obama’s coattails reach Newark

This Ivy League-educated, African-American politician who talks a lot about hope and is seen as a rising Democratic Party star has spent time in the last few months on the campaign trail in places like South Carolina and Ohio.

Barack Obama?

No, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. (Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press)

Saturday, March 15:

Family leave supporters move slowly

The controversial paid family leave legislation suffered another setback Friday, likely delaying a vote on the measure until the spring.

Bill sponsors announced they would put off Monday’s Senate vote on the legislation after technical questions arose from Republicans, who have opposed the measure, on its approval process. The voting session is the last one scheduled before the Legislature breaks to debate the state budget.

In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford, and Nelson Albano, D-1, of Vineland, the bill sponsors, said they would rather “err on the side of caution” than proceed with a vote Monday. (Trish G. Graber, Gloucester County Times)

Mack not back for Mercer Dems

At their standing room only convention in the Masonic Temple on Saturday, Mercer County Democrats selected two full-term candidates for their county freeholder slate in November, and a third to fill the unexpired term of Freeholder Elizabeth Muio.

The winners were incumbent Freeholder Lucy Walter of Ewing and banker John Cimino of Hamilton for the three-year term seats, and Dan Benson of Hamilton for the unexpired term. (Max Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)


Victory even surprises Sabrin

To the astonishment of even his own supporters, Murray Sabrin handily defeated Joe Pennacchio for the Gloucester County Republican Party’s endorsement for U.S. Senate today.

The final tally had Sabrin with 86 votes to Pennacchio’s 58. The voting was open to all registered Republicans in Gloucester County, but committee members’ votes counted twice. In all, 36 non-committee members voted for Sabrin while 24 went for Pennacchio. Twenty-five county committee members voted for Sabrin, versus 17 for Pennacchio. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

More of the same in A.C. mayor’s race

The first signs that a traditional, cut-throat mayoral campaign is upon us were evident Friday with the distribution of attack ads and criminal charges.

A brother of former City Council President Craig Callaway was one of two men charged with breach of peace on Friday after distributing fliers attacking mayoral candidate Domenic Cappella.

 

Police charged Michael Callaway, 53, of Pleasantville, and local resident Robert Williams, 42, with breach of peace after both men were seen leaving the fliers on cars in the City Hall parking lot, Sgt. Monica McMenamin confirmed.

“Cappella is on the tape, he is an undercover agent and records ALL conversations … BEWARE!” one flier reads.

The same flier also vaguely accuses Cappella of stealing documents for the purposes of blackmail. (Michael Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

 

Gloucester Republicans want to save more, spend less

The three Republicans who have announced their candidacy for three Gloucester County freeholder seats in the June primary are campaigning for smaller government and less spending.

The Democrats have not announced their slate of candidates.

Frank N. Stellaccio, a business owner and Army veteran from Washington Township, is running with Phyllis Scapellato of Franklin and Larry Wallace of Woolwich. (Meg Huelsman, Courier-Post)

 

Cumberland freeholder seats free

 

All three Cumberland County freeholders up for re-election this November have announced they will not seek new terms.

Democratic freeholders Jane Christy and Bruce Peterson and Republican Freeholder Jeff Trout stated Friday they will not run again, after multiple terms on the county freeholder board.

All three freeholders had their own reasons for not seeking another term, but all expressed feelings of exasperation. (Matt Dunn, Bridgeton News)

 

Cumberland freeholders save agriculture

County freeholders unanimously opposed the governor’s proposal to eliminate the state Department of Agriculture.

The freeholder board voted Thursday night on a resolution urging Gov. Jon S. Corzine not to eliminate the department, which many local people see as key to promoting farming, shellfish harvests and other agricultural business in the region. (Daniel Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

 

Trump outrageous?

Donald Trump’s grand vision of building a new city and office complex at the site of Meadowlands landfills was met with considerable skepticism on a variety of North Jersey fronts on Friday.

Two state senators, an affordable housing advocate and an office-space expert all raised different concerns about the Trump proposal made to The Record a day earlier. The billionaire real estate mogul is calling for a “substantially larger” number of residences than the 4,180 units proposed by EnCap Golf Holdings for Rutherford, Lyndhurst and a second phase in North Arlington. As much as 2 million square feet of office space also would be included.

“It sounds outrageous,” said state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, who said he will meet next month with the mayors of all three towns.

“I’m prepared to support whatever their decision is, because they know what’s best for their communities,” Sarlo said.

Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck was wary about Trump’s pitch to forgo collecting the balance of a $200 million pot of landfill cleanup loans from the state and at least $600 million worth of long-term tax-sharing deals with the three municipalities. (John Brennan, Bergen Record)

 

The Trial of the Century

Tamika Riley appeared to have access to an “endless” supply of cheap, city-owned property through an “inside track” to former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, a former business associate testified yesterday.

Wendee Bailey, co-owner of Integrity Investments, said she was eager to get a piece of Newark’s development boom in 2000 and 2001, but was frustrated at being shut out of auctions for city-owned properties. (BY Maryann Spoto and Jeff Whelan, Star-Ledger)

McCann hates puppies

A former Camden County politician has been found guilty of animal cruelty for allowing nine newborn puppies to die in the winter cold last year.

Fifteen pups were born to Coco, a Labrador mix, in February 2007. Nine died of exposure. A 10th was stillborn.

Robert McCann, 51, a former Chesilhurst councilman, was convicted on four counts of animal cruelty late Thursday for failing to provide sufficient shelter for the animals. (Sam Wood, Inquirer)

What’s on those e-mails anyway?

In New Jersey, the governor’s e-mails might shed light on whether he inappropriately conferred with a labor leader he once dated.

The same goes for text messages sent by politicians in other states.

While e-mail and text messaging has become a popular way to communicate, governments at all levels are often unwilling to let the public see the e-mails.

Officially, e-mails in all but a handful of states are subject to Freedom of Information requests. But most of these states have rules allowing them to choose which e-mails to turn over.

Open records advocates contend by keeping electronic communications private, states are giving their elected officials an avenue to operate in secret. (Associated Press)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com