Morning News Digest: April 16, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of April 9th
Okay, so Newark Mayor Cory Booker made it easy this week, as he charged into a burning building and rescued a woman on the second floor.
But while the affably heroic mayor was this week’s most obvious winner, there were plenty of others who ended up on the wrong side of this week’s installment… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Cory Booker – the newest internet hero
Cory Booker’s story of rescuing a woman from her burning home in Newark has gone viral – with the Twittersphere “honoring” the Newark mayor with a hashtag of his own called “#CoryBookerStories.”
Booker, the Twitter-savvy mayor and well-known Democrat, has over 1.1 million followers already, and the latest incident will likely cause his Twitter base to spike even more. (Smith, PolitickerNJ)
Menendez raises $1.7 million – maintains $9.5 million on hand
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez raised $1.7 million in the first quarter of this year and maintains a war chest of $9.49 million with seven months to go.
Menendez is seeking his second full term in office and is facing several Republicans, including frontrunner Joe Kyrillos. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Town halls become hallmark of Christie’s tenure
Like a performer waiting to take the stage, Chris Christie stands quietly alone behind the curtains and takes a moment to himself, and a few deep breaths.
Cue the video. (A highlights reel of tough-talking Christie sound bites plays over Chariots-of-Fire-esque inspirational music.)
Cue the announcer. (Advance staffer Jim Gilroy, who hung the banners and checked the mics, turns one on and channels his inner-professional wrestling announcer voice: “Ladies and gentlemen, the governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie!”)
The applause starts, and the show begins. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
Taxpayers’ tab for Israel trip: $39,871
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s trip to the Middle East this month cost taxpayers $39,871 for security, according to his office.
The office released costs to The Associated Press for state troopers to be in Israel and Jordan with Christie, his family and 13 delegates he invited.
Other portions of the trip were funded by two privately funded groups, and the governor’s office declined to provide some of those costs. The groups are not required to disclose such figures. (Associated Press)
Even if Gov. Christie does consider VP post, he’s no sure thing
As Gov. Chris Christie soared above Israel’s narrow borders in a helicopter a few weeks ago, voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., were delivering Mitt Romney a victory that all but cemented his status as the GOP presidential nominee.
The win also opened the door to pent-up speculation about whether Christie — an early and energetic supporter — would make or break a Romney ticket. (Portnoy and Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey likes both red and blue
More than half of New Jerseyans approve of the job that Republican Gov. Christie is doing.
More than half of New Jerseyans approve of the job that President Obama is doing.
And that’s entirely unusual.
Of the 29 states with Republican governors, New Jersey is the only one where the president’s approval ratings exceed 50 percent, according to Gallup’s state-by-state statistics from 2011. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. delegation split by party on ‘Buffett Rule’
In a state where residents make higher than the national median income, New Jersey lawmakers split over whether millionaires should be required to pay higher taxes.
At issue is a concept being pushed by President Barack Obama and the Democrats called the “Buffett Rule.” Named for billionaire Warren Buffett, who said that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does, the rule would require those making more than $1 million a year to be taxed at a rate of at least 30 percent. (Herman, Gannett)
Donations say a lot about primary rivals Rothman, Pascrell
Fund-raising reports that Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Steve Rothman will file today provide a window into the paths they took in their political careers.
Pascrell, who served as mayor of Paterson and a state legislator before he won a seat in Congress in 1996, tapped a network that included Passaic County businesses, labor unions, political-action committees and Trenton and Washington lobbyists. (Jackson, The Record)
Adler’s widow out-raising Jon Runyan for his U.S. House seat
Shelley Adler, widow of former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Adler, has raised $310,000 so far in her bid to unseat the man who bested her husband in 2010, Republican Jon Runyan, in South Jersey’s Third Congressional District.
That’s more than the former Philadelphia Eagles football tackle raised in the last quarter or in any single quarter of his fledgling political career. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
An aggressive Lautenberg getting second look from skeptics
Sen. Frank Lautenberg would face tougher opposition than ever before if he were to seek reelection in 2014 when he’s 90 years old, both from energized Republicans and ambitious Democrats who have grown old waiting for him to retire.
But the Democratic senior senator’s emergence as one of Republican Governor Christie’s most aggressive critics has led some Democrats who were ready to bid him farewell to take a second look. (Jackson, The Record)
Law firms with links to Gov. Christie prosper
Gov. Chris Christie took office promising to shake up the political establishment, declaring “change has arrived.”
For many well-connected law firms, it is change they can live with.
A Star-Ledger analysis of private firms contracted by the state for legal work from 2008 through 2011 found many with close ties to Christie and his allies have prospered since his election, while those often used by his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine, have lost ground. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Spring’s no break for Tuesday’s school vote holdouts
The sudden move this winter by a vast majority of New Jersey school districts to November elections has drawn much of the public’s attention, but don’t tell that to a handful of districts still heading to the polls this Tuesday.
The sudden move this winter by a vast majority of New Jersey school districts to November elections has drawn much of the public’s attention, but don’t tell that to a handful of districts still heading to the polls this Tuesday. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Controversy surrounding South Jersey legislator’s traffic stop leads to internal poli
If there was a soap opera about Trenton, one episode may go something like this:
A State Police trooper pulls over a South Jersey assemblyman one day in February. The lawmaker tries to get out of the ticket, and later complains the trooper targeted him as payback because the Legislature voted to make public employees pay more for health and pension benefits.
The trooper says that after he refused to throw out the lawmaker’s ticket, his own union leaders pressured him to make it disappear as a favor to a “personal friend.” (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Port Authority reforms leave critics skeptical
At the end of the Port Authority’s March meeting, after passing reforms about how public information is shared and trimming nonunion worker compensation and benefits, vice chairman Scott Rechler proclaimed “the days of doing business as usual at the Port Authority are over.”
How far future reforms need to go at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is likely to be the topic of a bistate legislative hearing scheduled for April 20 in Staten Island. But some activists and watchdog groups who have dealt with the agency said the days of business as usual aren’t over at an authority with a reputation of not being very open with the public. (Higgs, Gannett)
State expected to unveil revises to strategic investment plan in coming week
The Christie administration is expected this week to unveil changes to its draft strategic investment plan, its blueprint for spurring economic growth in New Jersey and for preserving open space.
The Christie administration is expected this week to unveil changes to its draft strategic investment plan, its blueprint for spurring economic growth in New Jersey and for preserving open space. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Rutgers-Camden faculty take anti-merger stance to lawmakers
A group of 200 faculty members from Rutgers University’s Camden campus has joined the fray in the battle over the state’s plan to merge their school with Rowan University.
The coalition, the Committee to Save Rutgers-Camden, sent letters this week to every state lawmaker, urging them to take a greater role in challenging the plan. The letter calls on legislators to “demand answers” on issues like the unknown cost of the plan, an alleged lack of transparency and the lack of a forum for opponents of the merger. (Burd, NJBIZ)
NJ towns seeking greater share of energy taxes
A group representing New Jersey’s municipalities is renewing its push for a greater share of the money cities and towns are entitled to in exchange for having energy and utility lines and plants in their communities.
The League of Municipalities is hosting an event Tuesday to press the state to return more of the energy taxes it collects from utilities. The money is intended as property tax relief — a sort of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. (Associated Press)
Medicaid on schedule to bring managed care to behavioral services
New Jersey’s ongoing Medicaid reform — which seeks to save money while improving quality of care — will reach its next critical deadline July 1, 2013. That’s when more than 60,000 adults with psychiatric illnesses, addictions, and other behavioral health problems will be enrolled in a managed care program.
Like virtually all Medicaid decisions, this one is both financial and medical. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Rental rules in N.J. raise concerns
One woman said she was charged when she had her boyfriend over for Thanksgiving dinner. A 57-year-old man said he got into trouble for visiting his sister.
In the crowd waiting for Woodbury Municipal Court to open on a recent Wednesday were these two and others who had run afoul of the town’s requirement that anyone living at a rental property register with authorities. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
A.C. ad campaign will f
ocus on tourism
Guess what’s missing from $20 million worth of the “Do AC” television commercials, radio spots and billboards aimed at rebranding Atlantic City?
There’s no gambling in the ads. That’s by design, to depict the city primarily as a tourist destination, but where you also can find casinos, say officials of the Atlantic City Alliance, the casino-funded entity that’s in charge of marketing the new state-run tourism district. (Jordan, Gannett)
Newark, Devils walked away from fee deals
In blunt language and no uncertain terms, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has squarely laid the blame on the New Jersey Devils for the city’s loss of millions of dollars in a rent and parking fee dispute at the city’s downtown arena, the Prudential Center.
But beginning in 2006, city officials had several chances to sign agreements that may have resulted in a better deal than an arbitration panel provided earlier this month, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The city didn’t agree to deals that offered millions in additional revenue or concessions to solve the dispute, according to the documents and people familiar with the negotiations. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
Building platform for Meadowlands businesses, tourism
State officials are taking steps to turn Meadowlands business districts into major retail hubs as the region prepares to host several high-profile sports and entertainment events in the next two years.
As part of the effort, the Department of Community Affairs next week will host two days of workshops focused on bringing in new companies and building “destination businesses” to attract visitors, according to an agency news release. Local officials and business leaders that attend are expected to get access to detailed economic data and meet with experts on downtown revitalization and marketing. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Police consolidation report awaits towns’ response reaction
Speaking to a group of reporters in his downtown offices’ fourth-floor media room last week, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano sat not 20 feet from a framed map of the county ringed by the badges of each of its 19 police departments.
Given the topic — the possible consolidation of those departments into a single countywide force — and its prominent place in the room, the map couldn’t help but draw notice. (Spivey, Gannett)
Space provider aims at Jersey City offices looking to grow
Businesses looking to launch or expand in New Jersey without fully committing to new office locations or obtaining a commercial loan can set up shop remotely through Regus PLC, which will open its newest location in Jersey City on Monday.
“More companies are finding out about this alternative and cost-effective way to run their business, and anyone within our network can link to other clients that use our services,” said Rose Palma, the New Jersey area sales director for Regus. “That gives companies an easy way to do business with each other, since we have a diverse span of industries — like consulting, financial and pharmaceuticals — in our offices.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Pinelands Commission to decide sewer areas
The Pinelands Commission will maintain control over deciding where new sewers get built in the nearly 1 million acre region, under an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Pinelands officials said Friday.
“We would like to get this embodied in the rules” because language in the agreement is stronger than the DEP’s water quality management plan rules, Nancy Wittenberg, the Pinelands Commission executive director, told commissioners. (Moore, Gannett)
Investors plead guilty in NJ tax lien probe
The guilty pleas have trickled out in dribs and drabs: three in August, two in February, and another in March.
Slowly, a federal investigation has mapped a confluence of desperation and profit, inattention and daring in one of New Jersey’s most extensive if low-key real estate markets, the sale of municipal liens for unpaid taxes. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
High court won’t hear bear-hunt challenge
The state Supreme Court this week turned back an attempt by animal rights advocates to halt future bear hunts in New Jersey.
The court decided it would not hear an appeal filed by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and others against the Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the Fish and Game Council. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Opponents’ swats at Christie missing mark
It’s difficult to count how many times Gov. Chris Christie has stomped on the Democratic beehive, but this week his political opponents swarmed and sought to sting back after every step and perceived misstep.
The end result?
Just about what you would expect: Christie is still riding high. Apparently, it will take more than couch potatoes, federal reports and the accompanying hyperventilation of his rivals to knock the governor off his mountaintop. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
New Rutgers president promises sweeping changes, and is confident he will succeed
Ready or not, Rutgers is about to have a president unlike any other to take up residence on the banks of the old Raritan. He’s a neurologist, scientist, business leader, and, of all things, a precision watchmaker who uses 17th century methods for his craft. And — imagine! — Robert Barchi even says he believes the Rutgers football program should be “balanced” to reflect the needs of the university. Words coming from someone who was captain of his college’s football team. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
Both parties befuddled by law on pay-to-play
Bergen County’s pay-to-play law is fostering a new bipartisanship.
State lawmakers from both parties are so confused by the restrictive law that they have pressed county officials for clarification.
Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi of River Vale and Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo of Wood Ridge met earlier this month with the county freeholders’ “pay to play committee” — Democrat David Ganz of Fair Lawn, Republican Rob Hermansen of Mahwah, an aide to Republican Maura DeNicola of Franklin Lakes and the Freeholder Board attorney, Richard Malagiere — to discuss concerns and request a legal opinion about the sweeping law, one of the toughest in New Jersey. (Stile, The Record)
In Cory Booker’s heroic fire rescure, there’s no room for spin
Mayor Cory Booker rushed into a burning home where he heard a woman crying for help, dashed through the flames to rescue her, and then ran outside with the damsel in distress slung over his shoulder.
What will his opponents say now? That the burn on his hand is a fake? That the smoke inhalation was no big. That perhaps the whole thing was staged, like Lee Harvey Oswald’s role in the JFK assassination. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
More crypt-kicking on ARC tunnel
Golly Gee, look what’s back — the train to Macy’s basement controversy. It’s like some Grade C horror flick, the damned thing just won’t stay dead, mainly because political ghouls keep digging it up.
Head ghoul is Sen. Frank Lautenberg, apparently still upset that he was telling constituents that the proposed ARC tunnel Gov. Chris Christie killed went to Penn Station, instead of dead-ending deep under Macy’s, and he got called out for it. (Ingle, Gannett)