Morning News Digest: October 6, 2011

Morning News Digest: Thursday, October 06, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Norcross surprised businesses don’t take ‘brand ownership’ of public schools

Often envisioned as the shudder-inducing overlord of the South Jersey Democratic Party, self-described humble middle class product George Norcross III climbed out of a helicopter at Rider University this evening to deliver a no-notes speech on education reform.

“I don’t think we have a state that is not inclined to pay for education,” said Norcross, referring to the $20,000-$22,000 taxpayers pay per public school pupil for urban schools. “I don’t think money is the be all problem in this state.”

But taxes to pay for urban schools producing an average graduation rate of 50% contribute to a chilling effect everywhere across New Jersey. 

Not to mention a continuing dangerous environment for urban children.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Dow wants ‘lengthy sentence’ in Newark money laundering case

A former clerk for the Newark WIC Program pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to a charge of first-degree money laundering before Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Brown in Mercer County, according to Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor.

Audrey Walker Bey, 38, Newark, conspired to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federally funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program by means of fraudulent vouchers.

Under the provisions of her plea agreement, the state will recommend that she be sentenced to 10 years in state prison, one-third of which would have to be served without possibility of parole.   (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Dems miss chance to get rid of Christie, as presidential bid would’ve kept him out of Statehouse

For many New Jersey Democrats, a “Chris Christie for President” campaign will remain a dream deferred.

While Republicans across the country were chomping at the bit for a Christie campaign, some Democrats in his home state were quietly keeping their fingers crossed.

As the voice of the state GOP and its hands-on leader, Christie has personally inserted himself in every battle in the state, from the education policy to redistricting. A presidential campaign, Christie himself admitted, would have taken him away from the state and those fights.  (Gibson and Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Television ad promotes Chris Christie’s spending cuts, increased education funding

If you believe what you see on television, Gov. Chris Christie is a ray of sunshine in a dark and dreary world.

A television ad broadcast in recent weeks by a group of Christie supporters paints that image of the governor, while touting his achievements of cutting spending and increasing education funding.

From a group called the Committee for Our Children’s Future, the ad begins with a hazy image of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. as the narrator intones: “Runaway spending, record debt, gridlock government. Washington is backwards.”  (PolitiFact New Jersey)



Officials: N.J. towns to save $267M in pension costs thanks to new law

The Christie administration today touted big savings for local governments because of pension reforms as state employees and a judge tussled over lawsuits challenging new requirements for them to pay more for their benefits.

The controversial public benefits overhaul, signed by Gov. Chris Christie in June, shifts a greater share of the costs onto public workers.

Today, the governor’s office said local governments across the New Jersey will save $267 million in pension costs, according to figures provided by the state’s Treasury Department. Supporters said the move was necessary to help save the cash-strapped pension system for future retirees and to help ease the burden on local governments.  (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)



Property taxes fall $224M on reforms

New Jersey property taxpayers will pay $224 million less for police and fire pensions in the current fiscal year, Gov. Chris Christie’s office announced Wednesday.

The savings comes on top of $43 million less in pension payments for rank-and-file local workers.

Municipalities and counties don’t have to pay as much because pension reform measures enacted in June will lower the long-term liabilities the system faces. Under the reform, workers must pay more toward their pensions and retirees will have their pensions frozen until their respective funds get healthier.  (Method, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



N.J. charter schools receive almost $800K in federal aid

The developers of four new New Jersey charter schools will share almost $800,000 in federal aid for planning and program design, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday.

Overall, the U.S. DOE handed out $4,792,526 to help 23 new charter elementary and high schools open their doors in 11 states.

Bright Horizon Charter School of Penns Grove-Carneys Point in Salem County is receiving $199,099, Friends of Tikun Olam in Highland Park is getting $200,000, Shalom Academy of Englewood-Teaneck $200,000, and Spirit Preparatory of Newark $186,562.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Controversial NJ power line picked for Obama administration pilot project

The federal government yesterday announced a new pilot program to expedite construction of transmission projects, selecting the highly controversial Susquehanna-Roseland proposal, which cuts through the Delaware Water Gap and New Jersey Highlands, as one of seven chosen nationwide.

In a conference call from Washington, D.C., top Obama administration officials called modernizing the nation’s power grid a key to a clean energy economy and creating thousands of jobs, while making the power system more reliable and delivering savings to consumers.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Legislative District  28

Changes resulting from the redrawing of legislative boundaries following the 2010 Census will likely mean little in the upcoming election for District 28, which remains a largely Democratic district.

But even though Democrats are confident of easy re-election, Republicans say voter anger over high property taxes gives them a shot at winning in November.

Essex County municipalities in District 28 feel “the brunt of the property tax burden,” said Al Barlas, chairman of the Essex GOP committee. Seeking relief, residents are supporting some of the more conservative reforms advocated by Gov. Chris Christie and Republicans, he added.  (Roman, NJ Spotlight)



Legislative District 29

The 29th legislative district remains a Democratic stronghold despite this year’s redrawing of district lines, but Republicans are still hoping for an upset in November.

In office since winning her Senate seat in 2007, Democrat incumbent Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz of Newark is vying to keep her seat against two other Newark residents: Republican Aracelys Sanabria Tejada and Independent Laurie J. Taylor.

On the Assembly side, Democratic incumbents Alberto Coutinho and L. Grace Spencer, both of Newark, are seeking re-election against Republicans Elaine Guarino, also of Newark, and Lisa T. Kistner, of Belleville.  (Roman, NJ Spotlight)



Atlantic County non-profits receive $524,000 donation toward child well-being

Through the Pascale Sykes Foundation’s South Jersey Initiative, more than $524,000 was donated at the Atlantic County Women’s Center here Wednesday to a group of nonprofit organizations in Atlantic County to financially support the improvement of child well-being.

The funding will specifically finance the Father’s Care Network and the Western Atlantic Parent Family Support Center.

“It’s not a quick fix,” Fran Sykes, president of the foundation, said of its mission. The foundation’s mission revolves around the importance of two adults being present at home when raising children.  (Dineen, Press of Atlantic City)



State simplifies permit process for cogeneration facilities

In an effort to promote development of more efficient ways of producing electricity, the Christie administration is streamlining its permitting process to expedite small projects involving facilities that generate power and heat simultaneously.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday announced it will establish a general permit to make it easier for small- and medium-sized manufacturers, hospitals, and other institutions to build so-called combined heat and power (CHP) projects.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Avoiding closure, creditors approve sale of Hoboken University Medical Center

After weeks of tense negotiations, Hoboken University Medical Center and a committee of creditors reached a last-minute agreement that will ensure the state’s oldest hospital remains open, according to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

The agreement will also pave the way for the sale of the hospital to the ownership group of the Bayonne Medical Center. The group wants to convert the Hoboken hospital into a for-profit facility, a growing trend in Hudson County.

While the settlement agreement still must be approved by a bankruptcy judge in Newark, Zimmer hailed it as a victory for the city’s taxpayers and the 1,200 employees at the hospital who will still have a job.  (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



New Jersey judge nominated for appeals court

President Barack Obama today nominated a New Jersey judge to serve on a federal appellate court.

If confirmed by the Senate, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz would serve on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Philadelphia and hears cases from federal district courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Judge Shwartz has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions. She will be a thoughtful and distinguished addition to the 3rd circuit,” Obama said in a statement.  (Chebium, Gannett)



Ex-Gov. Donald DiFrancesco pays back $4,650 for campaign violations, 9 years later

It’s nine years after the fact and seven years since the state launched an investigation, but former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco has shelled out $4,650 in fines for campaign finance violations and returned almost $10,000 in illegal contributions from two heavyweight donors.

DiFrancesco settled with the state in August but details were released Wednesday. The former Republican governor was fined for failing to file complete campaign finance disclosures for his primary campaign account for state Senate. In February and March of this year, he filed the updated reports — one of which was 2,995 days late.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Christie’s exit sends donors Romney’s way

A day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he wouldn’t run for president, several top Republican fund-raisers came off the sidelines and pledged their support for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Among Mr. Romney’s new backers are former Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, a Republican lobbyist who raised $1 million for former President George W. Bush, and two top fund-raisers for the now-defunct presidential campaign of Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor.  (Mullins and Eder, The Wall Street Journal)



SEIU launches campaign to unionize thousands of workers at Newark, 2 NYC airports

One way airlines have cut costs in the post-9/11 era has been to lay off baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, SkyCaps and other service employees, then contract for those services with companies that pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits.

In an effort to boost compensation for ground support workers, while at the same time expand their own membership, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union is launching a campaign to unionize thousands of workers at Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.  (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)



Medical marijuana centers seek to set up two Burlington County sites

Burlington County could turn into the supply center for medical marijuana in South Jersey.

The only two nonprofits licensed by the state to operate treatment centers below Trenton have their sights set on Maple Shade and Westampton, with outlets near Exits 4 and 5 of the New Jersey Turnpike.

A zoning hearing next Wednesday in Maple Shade will consider the application of Compassionate Sciences of Sea Cliff, N.Y., to operate a dispensary at 2860 Route 73 North, site of an Office Furniture Outlet store.  (Mucha, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



NAACP disputes review praising N.J. state police

According to a report Wednesday from the state attorney general, the state police is a model agency now that it has emerged from the shadow of a racial-profiling scandal.

But the NAACP has raised questions about the agency’s recruiting efforts among African Americans.

NAACP officials plan to send another letter this week to the Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the state police, questioning why recruitment among blacks has plummeted to the point where the current class had only five black officers out of 123 recruits.  (Henry, The Associated Press)



Report: N.J. State Police made ‘troubling’ amount of errors during traffic stops in 2009

The New Jersey State Police failed a “troubling” number of times to inform suspects of their Miranda rights during motor vehicle stops in early 2009, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Overall, the report said troopers made 248 errors during traffic stops reviewed by the office, more than in any six-month period since State Police signed a consent agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in 1999 to end racial profiling.  (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



SBA announces record lending results in fiscal 2011

The Small Business Administration announced Wednesday that in fiscal year 2011, the agency approved a record number and record amount of lending to small businesses.

The agency reported approving 61,689 loans, totaling $30.5 billion, through its two largest lending programs. The New Jersey district office approved 1,290 loans valued at $678.2 million in 2011, up from 1,198 loans for $445.5 million in 2010.

“I think this speaks volumes about the direction our economy is going,” said Alfred Titone, the SBA’s New Jersey district director. “Despite tough economic conditions, we are seeing increases in lending to minority small-business owners across the board. We’re starting to see some signs of positive growth.”  (Callendo, NJBIZ)



N.J. small businesses for sale, at lower prices

New Jersey small-business owners who are looking to sell their companies are asking a median $250,000, down from $275,000 at the same time last year, according to, an online marketplace. The company said business owners are becoming more realistic about the value of their enterprises in a slow economy.

Nationally, small businesses sold for prices averaging 60 percent of annual revenue during the third quarter of 2011, down almost 11 percent from the same quarter last year.  (Lynn, The Record)



N.J. Teacher of the Year, Burlco’s Jeanne DelColle, “just a ball of energy”

Social studies teacher Jeanne DelColle has climbed pyramids, trekked through jungles, and put in time on archaeological digs.

But as thrilling as her world travels have been, this dedicated educator says there’s nothing quite like the feeling she gets when students tell her she has inspired them to become teachers.

“You’re so proud,” said DelColle, 40, of the Burlington County Institute of Technology’s Westampton campus. “You’re like parent-proud.”  (Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Timoney offers details on plan for police force

While a plan crafted by Camden County officials with the guidance of a former Philadelphia police chief would increase uniformed staffing levels on the streets of Camden by 83 percent, one detail remains unclear: the cost.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, who was hired as a consultant by Camden County in August, gave no indication Wednesday what it would cost to establish a police department with a projected uniform strength of 473 officers.  (Murray, Gannett)



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$792,000 federal grant for N.J. crops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday that New Jersey will receive a $792,245 grant for 20 initiatives to benefit Garden State crops such as fruits, vegetables, horticulture and nurseries.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



SDA approves consulting contract with firms

The Schools Development Authority on Wednesday approved a two-year consulting agreement with 15 firms to conduct environmental site plan and services work when needed.

For each year, the money cannot exceed $1 million.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



$800,000 in grants to battle asthma, diabetes in low-income areas

The state Department of Health and Senior Services has awarded eight community agencies $100,000 each in Community Health Mobilization grants to help reduce asthma and diabetes cases in low-income areas.

DHSS Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said on Wednesday that the grants will go toward increasing awareness and help them better manage the illnesses and adopt positive lifestyle changes.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



SDA approves $500,000 proposal for background checks

The Schools Development Authority board on Wednesday approved a two-year, $500,000 memorandum of agreement with the State Police to continue conducting “moral integrity background” checks on all vendors that do business with the school construction agency.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Southern Jersey prison’s sick leave costs audited

Sick-leave costs at a southern N.J. prison drew the attention of the state Auditor in a recent review of the facility.

The report by the Auditor found insufficient monitoring of sick time at Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont. Of $2.6 million in overtime costs in 2009, $1.3 million was due to sick time, the audit disclosed.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)






Anatomy of a rumor

He meant it.  The answer was “no” all along.  But Gov. Christie made a couple of claims during the Q&A part of his press conference that bear further analysis.  He said that the press was careless in how they reported this and that no one believes he stoked the media hype.  I agree with one part of that but disagree in part with the other.

First, it’s clear that the press still doesn’t understand what “reconsidering” meant to Christie.  He was not reconsidering turning his “no” into a “yes.”  He was reconsidering whether he would turn his “no” into a “maybe.”  (Murray, PolitickerNJ)



Even with hype, Christie win was a long shot

In the end, it all came down to a gut check.

“The deciding factor was that it did not feel right to me in my gut to leave now when the job here is not finished. I could never get by that,” Governor Christie said in Tuesday’s news conference to put an end to the presumably final spasm of Christiemania.

But the methodical Machiavellian also knows deep in his gut that there was a good chance that he was going to lose. The Great Savior of the GOP could easily have returned home a second-place finisher, with his political future in doubt or possibly in ruins. Christie doesn’t do second place.  (Stile, The Record)



Christie’s presidential prospects beyond 2012 are indeed bright

In early 2005, the various major players in the New Jersey Republican Party wanted the then U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie to run for governor.  He declined to run, because he felt he was not yet ready and still had a number of major agenda items to accomplish as U.S. Attorney.

Christie’s decision not to run for governor in 2005 was not the end of the political line for him, but indeed the beginning of the road that would lead to his election as governor in 2009.  During the remainder of his tenure as U.S. Attorney, from 2005 through 2008, Christie continued to compile the record that would distinguish himself not only as the best U.S. Attorney in the history of New Jersey but also the most outstanding U.S. Attorney in the nation over the past three decades.  (Steinberg, PolitickerNJ)



Chris Christie leaves door open a crack

The logic escapes me.

Gov. Chris Christie spent an hour Tuesday talking about his loyalty to his beloved New Jersey. Even if he could waltz into the Oval Office, he said, his unbreakable bond to his people would keep him in Trenton.

“My job here is my passion,” he said. “My commitment to the state is what overrode everything else.”

And then something unexpected happened: He left the door open to running for vice president.

Lord help us. After a long flirtation that will go down as one of the more drawn-out political teases of all time, he’s at it again. Several times he was asked about the vice presidency, and each time he tap danced away from a direct denial.  (Moran, The Star-Ledger)



Christie stays at home

So the Christie watch is finally over.  The governor ultimately decided that the timing was off and that he is too much of a “Jersey guy” to run for president right now.  One can only imagine what Governor Christie had been going through over the past couple of weeks, but he had to decide now.  Every day he waited, the political theater was becoming more and more surreal.  Even though he hadn’t announced that he was running for president, he was beginning to be attacked from all sides as if he were a full blown candidate.  (Adubato, Jr., PolitickerNJ)



Christie’s got time for a White House run

Gov. Christie can get back to devoting more time to New Jersey’s problems, but don’t expect to see him leave the national stage. He is in demand as a speaker and is the best fund-raiser the Republicans have. Look for him in a major role when the GOP convenes in Tampa in August.

Christie said he wasn’t ready for a White House run, but adoring fans and news media in search of a good story wouldn’t let it go. Christie has experienced it both ways. He has gotten into races when the time was wrong and lost and he has timed it better and won.  (Ingle, Gannett)



Gov. Christie rests his case

It was always easy to understand the case for Chris Christie. In an age of inescapable media, politics is the art of communication. Rick Perry tripped over his tongue in one debate, and the gods of polling cast him out. Tim Pawlenty mastered the details of national policy but missed the memo that modern politics is dancing with the stars.

What Chris Christie’s deeply disappointed promoters recognized is that the freshman governor is a great communicator, a rare gift. A short list of great political communicators would include New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Bill Clinton and Chris Christie—all super salesmen of retail politics.  (Henninger, The Wall Street Journal)



Waiting for super candidate

Our nation is in decline, our government in debt, the economy free-falls, hurricanes and earthquakes shake our capital, and our president can only mouth sound and fury about his own reelection.

Then, we got the bad news: The knight on the white horse is not coming. His hoofbeats, once close, have faded. Superman is not on his way.

Apparently, the Man of Steel is otherwise engaged in New Jersey: Chris Christie is not coming to save the day.

First, Sarah Palin let us down. Then Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Rick Perry disappointed us. Now, another dream date, the New Jersey governor has dumped us at the altar. Republicans, waiting for the ideal candidate with cape and powers beyond those of mortal leaders, have been disappointed again.  (Castellanos for POLITICO)



Exit Christie

As I started to write this piece, Republicans and Democrats were aquiver with apprehension about whether New Jersey governor Chris Christie would seek the Republican presidential nomination. I wrote that if he did, he would be seeking to duplicate the feat of perhaps the president he least resembles in all of American history: Woodrow Wilson, who successfully sought the presidency after just one term as New Jersey’s governor. And then, of course, Christie declared he would not be a candidate.  (Black, National Review)



With Christie out of the running, no fear of voting for him

I’m so glad Chris Christie won’t be running for president.

Otherwise, I might well have voted for him – an uncomfortable admission for a congenital Democrat.

I confess: I like the guy. As my dismay with the floundering President Obama deepens, so does my appreciation for the capable, colorful, and, yes, charismatic Christie.

I confess: I like the guy. As my dismay with the floundering President Obama deepens, so does my appreciation for the capable, colorful, and, yes, charismatic Christie.

To a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, Massachusetts boy in 1960, JFK was a superhero.

His opponent seemed old, odd, even sinister. Ah, the wisdom of children.  (Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)


Morning News Digest: October 6, 2011