Morning News Digest: Friday, August 12, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Web of funding and influence shrouds Essex County jail bid
A U.S. senator and a state senator from Newark are both questioning the integrity of Essex County’s public bidding process after only one entity applied for a multimillion-dollar immigration-detainee contract.
Complicating matters, the vice president of the operating firm poised for the contract is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest confidantes. The firm and its non-profit arm have benefited from nearly $500 million in state and county contracts over the years, and have recently come under intense scrutiny – not only by lawmakers – but also by the state comptroller. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Christie on Perry: a laudable record on tort reform
On the day a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry told CBS News that Perry will announce Saturday that he intends to run for president, Gov. Chris Christie was at the Jersey Shore telling scantily clad admirers that he loves it here too much to run for president.
But what does Christie think of Perry, whom political observers describe as a human hand grenade in the middle of the current GOP Primary field? (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie turns toll hike flap into Cuomo time
Gov. Chris Christie turned the toll hike flap into an opportunity to highlight his close working relationship with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Just got off the phone with him,” he told reporters here, trying to blunt the perception creeping into this latest polling numbers that show slippage among independent supporters.
To his critics, Christie is a Fox News icon better suited for the hay bales west of the Mississippi than the urban spill zone of New Jersey. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie ‘unlikely’ to back NJ-NY toll hike
Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he’s unlikely to support a proposal to sharply increase tolls on bridges and tunnels between New Jersey and New York, but he didn’t rule out smaller toll increases to pay for infrastructure improvements.
The proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would increase tolls by $4 for E-ZPass customers and $7 for cash-payers as soon as September at the Outerbridge Crossing, Bayonne, Goethals and George Washington bridges and at the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. An additional $2 increase would happen in 2014. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)
Christie sees job rating improve
Gov. Chris Christie’s overall job rating is on the rise but a new poll also shows the Republican governor is getting lower grades from New Jersey residents on property taxes.
Christie has a 50 percent approval rating from registered voters for the first time in polling by Monmouth University/NJ Press Media. It’s also the first time he’s hit that benchmark in any nonpartisan poll since early April.
The lift for Christie occurred despite controversy over his line-item vetoes in the state budget six weeks ago, with some rollbacks affecting social services. (Jordan, Gannett)
Back on the boards, Gov talks tolls, 2012
At the Manasquan Inlet Beach and on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, crowds of people gathered Thursday afternoon eagerly awaiting the arrival of Gov. Chris Christie.
“I am so happy that he is doing much to protect our waters,” said Pat Bennekamper, a retiree and Brick resident, citing recent water quality legislation signed by Christie. “No one else has stepped up to the plate and done anything about it through the years.”
Bob Bennekamper, Pat’s husband, also retired, added: “Every issue that has come up he has not just given snap answers to. He has investigated everything before deciding what to do. And that’s a plus.” (Sastrowardoyo, Gannett)
Christie’s energy plan a step backward, opponents say
Critics say Gov. Chris Christie’s 2011 Energy Master Plan will have the opposite effect than what is intended.
“This is not an accomplishment, it is a set back,” said the Sierra Club’s Christine Guhl, adding that the plan actually calls for reducing the state’s renewable-energy goal from 30 percent, as established in 2008, to 22.5 percent.
More than 100 residents, environmentalists and business leaders attended the last of three public hearings on the plan Thursday at Richard Stockton College. (Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)
At beach, no free pass for Christie
Gov. Christie knows there are perks to being New Jersey’s chief executive, but getting on the beach for free during the summer isn’t one of them.
Beach badge seller Trish Heisler tapped the governor for $8 for a daily pass before he set foot on Manasquan’s sand Thursday.
Christie had just finished a news conference promoting the Jersey Shore and was headed for a little glad-handing on the sand when he was stopped by Heisler, who asked the governor whether she should charge him or let him on for free. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)
In Cherry Hill, Menendez presents eco incentives plan
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez visited one of New Jersey’s poster communities for suburban sprawl Thursday to unveil a bill that would create nationwide certification programs to recognize and support environmental friendliness.
The Hudson County Democrat, speaking in Cherry Hill, said he would introduce the Sustainable States Act when lawmakers return for their next session after Labor Day.
Menendez said he chose Cherry Hill for his announcement because the city has made strides with environmental stewardship. (Hicks, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State Senate debate between Sen. Jim Whelan, Assemblyman Vince Polistina set for Atlantic City
A debate between the candidates for the state Senate seat representing Atlantic County is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Dante Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Atlantic City.
Incumbent Democratic state Sen. Jim Whelan and state Assemblyman Vince Polistina have agreed to take part in the debate sponsored by the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey’s Hughes Center for Public Policy and The Press of Atlantic City. Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who is running as an independent candidate, has declined to take part. (Bogdan, Press of Atlantic City)
Newark school board votes to fight state control of schools
It took an extra week, but Newark’s school board last night finally met and voted unanimously to formally contest the state’s ongoing control of its schools.
Yet almost at the same time, New Jersey’s acting education commissioner, Chris Cerf, extended an olive branch and said in an interview that he would be willing to sit with the board to discuss the ongoing tensions and the ultimate possibility of what he called an “orderly transition.”
Bottom line: stay tuned. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli has job lobbying government for owners of Bayonne Medical Center, who are in deal to buy Hoboken University Medical Center
Former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli is a government lobbyist for the Bayonne Medical Center, whose for-profit owners are close to sealing a deal to buy Hoboken University Medical Center.
Torricelli’s Lambertville-based firm, Rosemont Associates, represents Bayonne Medical Center and its affiliated companies as a governmental affairs consultant on legislative and regulatory matters, said Sean Jackson, a spokesman for Rosemont Associates. (Hack, The Jersey Journal)
Cami Anderson: Little time for politics
On the day the Newark school board voted formally to contest the state’s ongoing control of the district, the newly appointed superintendent who epitomizes that control had a busy schedule.
“It’s actually a pretty typical day,” Cami Anderson said yesterday afternoon, her schedule printed out in color-coded blocks before her.
Starting with a private breakfast with a community leader, Anderson’s day included interviewing finalists for two principal jobs, meetings with two assistant superintendents and her “instructional cabinet,” lunch with a board member, and a another meeting with an internal task force charged with a smooth opening of schools in three weeks. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Schools prepare for bigger role in fighting bullying problem
The number of reported bullying incidents in New Jersey schools is expected to increase this year as officials deal with the problem more aggressively.
A state law that takes effect Sept. 1 strengthens and expands the role and responsibilities of schools in dealing with bullying behavior. Attorneys and experts leading a workshop for school officials Thursday at Richard Stockton College said they expect increased vigilance to lead to more reported cases.
“There may be people worried about being held liable if they don’t report something,” said Ray DiNovi, a school anti-bullying specialist with Rowan University and the Educational Information and Resource Center. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
Developer pitches state agency on tidal power
When owners of solar systems generate electricity, they earn credits subsidized by ratepayers. The same will be true if, and when, offshore wind farms start generating power about 20 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Now developers of tidal power want a piece of the action.
A developer pushing tidal power as a viable energy source in New Jersey, yesterday called on the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt a pilot program to develop 10 megawatts of tidal capacity from currents off the Jersey coast. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
GWB repair cited in toll hike plan
The cables holding up the 80-year-old George Washington Bridge need to be replaced, but the $1 billion project may hinge on the fate of a controversial toll hike proposal, Port Authority officials said on Thursday.
“Replacing the suspender ropes on the George Washington Bridge is one of the Port Authority’s key projects,” said a spokesman, Ron Marsico.
The $7-billion-a-year agency has been pressing its case for proposed toll hikes since announcing them last Friday, issuing dozens of statements of support from unions, transportation experts and some business associations. (Boburg, The Record)
Mark your calendar: New Jersey state legislators to attend Cumberland, Cape May counties Chamber of Commerce events
Business organizations in Cape May and Cumberland counties will host their state legislators next week for sessions on topics of business and local interest.
The representatives for Cape May County — State Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam — will participate in the county Chamber of Commerce’s 24th Annual Legislative Reporting Day on Thursday at the Wildwood Golf and Country Club. (Post, Press of Atlantic City)
Three South Jersey schools apply for teacher evaluation pilot program
Three South Jersey school districts could take part in a state-wide pilot program aimed at developing a new teacher evaluation system.
The New Jersey School Board Association (NJSBA) announced Wednesday that the West Deptford, Swedesboro Woolwich and Woodstown-Pilesgrove are among the 31 districts that have applied to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Teacher Evaluation Pilot Program.
The program will advance the recommendations released by Gov. Chris Christie’s Task Force on Educator Effectiveness this March. (Bittner, Gloucester County Times)
Verizon goes to court over workers’ strike in N.J., other states
Striking Verizon landline workers have harassed and even fired a BB gun at those still on the job, blocked trucks from getting to Verizon facilities and kept work from being completed, the telecommunications company said as it pursued legal action in five states to limit picketing and stop what it claims is demonstrating gone too far.
The company filed papers Wednesday in New York and got a court order Monday in Pennsylvania. The company got a similar order Wednesday in Delaware and has legal action going in New Jersey and Massachusetts, spokesman Richard Young said. (The Associated Press)
Latest from State Street Wire
$11.5M in federal funding for shelter, AIDS services in Camden, Union
Camden, Union County and Union Township will receive more than $11.5 million in federal funding for various social service programs and to expand affordable housing opportunities, N.J. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez said today.
The money will go toward emergency homeless shelters, housing assistance and support services for individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, and providing more opportunities for low- and moderate-income families to get affordable housing. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Schools superintendents reject charter school’s legal arguments
The superintendents of the three school districts sued by a proposed charter school said in a joint statement today they will not let the lawsuit silence them as they and the boards of education continue to speak out on the issue.
Judith Wilson of Princeton Regional Schools, Victoria Kniewel of West Windsor-Plainsboro South, and Gary McCartney of South Brunswick issued their statement this morning after the districts were sued Wednesday by the founders of the Princeton International Academy Charter School, which said it hopes to open in September of 2012. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
DiVincenzo’s son working part time at 1868
Joseph G. DiVincenzo, son of powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Jr., is working part time at 1868 Public Affairs, LLC, he told PolitickerNJ.com.
“I am an associate for 1868,” DiVIncenzo said. “Part time only. I just focus on business development. No lobbying or anything like that.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Jersey Shore comes to Trenton
It has been said that life imitates art. Such was the case a few months ago, when Governor Christie and State President Steve Sweeney differed over the FY 2012 State Budget.
Unfortunately, the art being imitated was a political version of an episode of the MTV show Jersey Shore. That is, if you can call that particular show “art.” If you recall, many of our politicians have protested the show since it first aired, claiming that it misrepresented our great state and behavior of its people. Ironically, over the 4th of July weekend, two of our highest ranking public officials belied those protests. (LaRossa, PolitickerNJ)
Degrees of support of Hudson River toll hikes
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s proposed toll increases — $4 this year, another $2 in 2014, plus an extra $3 for cash-paying drivers at the Hudson River bridges and tunnels — got a chilly reception, though not universal condemnation.
Gov. Chris Christie said he asked port officials if they were kidding when they told him the size of the increase. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the plan a nonstarter. (Symons, Gannett)
Chris Christie’s Port Authority power play
Neither Gov. Cuomo nor New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has come off well in their “shocked” squawking over the Port Authority’s bid for huge fare and toll hikes. But Christie gave away what’s really at stake: Which governor will hold the upper hand at the PA?
Start with Christie’s claim that overspending at the World Trade Center site is behind the PA’s ballooning debt, which prompted it to seek the hikes. (Cuozzo, NY Post)
Christie poll numbers up, Legislature’s remains flat and down
Gov. Christie’s job rating has improved. He has a 48 percent approval to 42 percent disapproval among all residents. Among registered voters, it is 50 percent approve to 41 percent disapprove, according to the Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll released today. Since the last poll, among voters Christie’s job approval rating has gone up by four points and his disapproval rank has gone down by eight points. (Ingle, Gannett)
In Paterson, 20 years and counting
In recent days, the Herald News revisited the oft-told tale of Paterson schools under state supervision, a tale some 20 years old. A tale that never gets better with the telling.
By any standard, it is a tale that carries the grimness of Chekhov. Especially if you are a parent of a Paterson public school student, if you expect a decent and adequate education as guaranteed your child under this state’s guiding document. (Lowry, The Record)