Today’s News from

Stack gets personal loans, architectural firm gets returns for political contributions, Casha and Webber compete to be more conservative, LoBiondo’s Coast Guard failure, State Government will create new agency to fight obesity.


“Union City Mayor Brian Stack, an Assemblyman running for state Senate, raised more than $200,000 for his campaign this month through a series of personal loans taken out on his behalf by supporters, including the city school superintendent….
Backers of Stack's opponent in the June 9 Democratic primary race, West New York Mayor Silverio "Sal" Vega, called Stack's fundraising technique "highly unusual" and questioned whether it is permitted under state campaign finance laws…
"It's nothing illegal," said Caliente, who said he cleared the arrangement with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission be fore accepting the loans. "It's just something that people really rallied around Brian and wanted to help him." Caliente said about $210,000 was raised through the personal loans.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)


“A Hasbrouck Heights architectural firm (DMR Architects) that is a big contributor to the Democratic Party has emerged as a favorite contractor for Bergen County government, landing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars…
Since 2000, DMR Architects and its executives have given at least $120,000 in campaign contributions to candidates and political committees, including $42,750 to the Bergen Democratic Organization from 2002 to 2004.
Since then, the 16-year-old firm has received a steady stream of large public contracts.” (Fallon, Bergen Record).


The candidates (Larry Casha and Jay Webber) say they are fiscal conservatives and list tax relief high among their priorities. They want to amend the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, which limits development in some ecologically sensitive areas, and say the state has a role to play in curbing illegal immigration. So what separates them?…

Casha says his political résumé is longer than Webber's and that he has experience running his own law firm. Webber, also an attorney, portrays himself as a candidate of conservative ideas and charges that Casha's actions as councilman show him to be more liberal than he claims.” (KOLOFF, Daily Record)


U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo in February 2001 took up a post that had little grip on the public imagination: Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Senior Republicans put LoBiondo in the job to push for added Coast Guard funding…

Six years and more than $4 billion later, the Coast Guard's attempt to replace and refurbish its fleet has become perhaps the leading cause of embarrassment for lawmakers in both parties and for the Coast Guard itself…

The list of Deepwater embarrassments starts with a sharp increase in costs. What was supposed to be a $17 billion project now is estimated to cost $24 billion over 25 years.

Lawmakers now say the taxpayers are getting little or no return on their money.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)


Three out of four New Jersey government retirees stay in the Garden State after they leave public service, according to a review of current pension data by Gannett New Jersey…
The upper echelon of retirees in New Jersey's public pension system rival the top salaries paid to workers in government and even the private sector. The top 100 retirees, for example, will be paid $11.2 million this year, or about $111,600 per member of this exclusive group.” (D’Ambrosio, Gannett).


“Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio says he fully supports Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop's call for the City Council to investigate overtime abuses in the Jersey City police and fire departments that followed shortly after 9/11…
DeFazio said administrative discipline of workers "who took advantage of the situation" should be pursued.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)


A few of the cases grabbed big headlines: a $12.5 million settlement for four brothers whose adoptive parents starved them for years and a $7.5 million award in the death of a 7-year-old Newark boy that led to an overhaul of the state's child welfare system. Despite typically mundane subject matter — "slip-and-fall" injury suits, job harassment, automobile accidents or failure to pay taxes — the settlements and judgments in cases handled by the Division of Law add up to a sizable bottom line for taxpayers…

The division staff of attorneys — down to 530 after 110 positions were eliminated because of budget cuts — won the state about $161.2 million, a 60 percent increase compared with the amount recovered in 2005, when the division secured $98.9 million.
Its losses nearly tripled, to $69.5 million, compared with 2005. That year, according to the records, the state paid out $26.2 million on tort claims, employment claims, NJ Transit lawsuits and tax litigation.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger).


“It is hardly a matter of debate that New Jersey has a higher cost of living than many other states — a point advocates of raising the state's minimum wage above the federal level noted several years ago. Now, less than a year after New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $7.15 per hour — it increased to $6.15 in 2005 — it will fall short of the federal standard and again face the issue of raising its own wage to reflect the state's economic climate…

The (New Jersey Business and Industry Association) noted that New Jersey's business costs are more than 20 percent higher than the national average and that employers' ability to deal with the rapidly growing cost of health care here also must be reviewed. New Jersey employers pay an average of $8,776 per worker, 17 percent more than the national average, the association said.” ” (Rao, Press of Atlantic City).


“New Jersey's health department is escalating the battle against the bulge by starting an Office of Nutrition and Fitness to better coordinate programs aimed at preventing obesity…

The Garden State has the highest percentage of overweight and obese children under age 5, at 17.7 percent, according to a 2004 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

(Fred M. Jacobs, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services) said the new agency will begin operations within weeks.” (Johnson, AP).


“NJ Transit, which is raising fares almost 10 percent on Friday, spends almost $400,000 in salaries alone on publishing, including a newsletter for employees that brims with enthusiasm for the state's bus and rail system and its workers…

The newsletter, "En Route" is published six times a year by the transit agency's Communication Services Division.
Director Janet Clark earns $87,163; manager and editor Ken Miller is paid $86,283. Writer and editor Peter Busichio earns $68,474 and writers Sujata Parida and Diane Gomez earn $49,966 and $43,137, respectively.” (Baldwin, Gannett).


“Even with summer fast approaching, lots of Hudson County voters are thinking about schools, according to a recent Jersey Journal/New Jersey City University poll.

When asked what issues are most important to them in the upcoming New Jersey primary elections, 37 percent of Hispanics responded that education was more important to them than property taxes, crime, health care, car insurance, political corruption, or road conditions and traffic…

‘I think we speak louder to that issue because we feel it the most,
said Jersey City City Council President Mariano Vega. ‘You have to think about what the drop-out rate is among Hispanics, and it's very high.’” (Judd, Jersey Journal).


North Hudson has been torn asunder by a civil war among Democrats, but that didn't stop both sides from marching in last night's Memorial Day Parade through West New York…
Vega, flanked by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Councilman Bill Gaughan, was greeted with chants of "Ve-ga! Ve-ga!" as he reached 60th and Bergenline.

But the chants faded as just a few strides behind Vega marched his opponent in next week's state Senate primary, Union City Mayor and Assemblyman Brian Stack. A distinct murmuring shot through the crowd as Vega's supporters recognized Stack, who cheerfully waved to those along the parade route.” (Baldwin, Jersey Journal).


“Depending on whether a judge today allows someone to challenge him, Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale could be the only choice voters have for the top law enforcement position in the county.

But the presence or absence of an opponent makes little difference to Speziale's campaign. He has an ample war chest, having raised about $812,000 since the last election, of which about $665,000 has already been spent…

"Whether there's a candidate or not, here's the deal: I still answer to the public," Speziale said Friday. "I'm not going to take it for granted that this is an entitlement. Three years are over in two seconds, and people, if you don't do a good job, will vote you out of office.” (Kindergan, Herald News).



“With a little more than a month to go in the fiscal year, the Bayonne City Council is poised to adopt a municipal budget at 5:30 p.m. today in the Dorothy E. Harrington council chambers at City Hall, 630 Avenue C. But the budget will still be short by $23 million and there's no guarantee the city will end the year in the black…
Here's the dilemma: Contracts between the BLRA and two firms – Bayonne Bay Developers LLC (linked with the Atlantic Group) and Bayonne Residential LP (aligned with Trammel Crow Residential) – call for those entities to come across with about $15.7 million and about $7.1 million, respectively, after real estate closings on the first phase of the so-called "Bayonne Bay" district at the Peninsula, according to BLRA special counsel Joseph Baumann Jr.

Those closings are scheduled to happen before June 30, Baumann said – which is the end of the city's fiscal year.” ” (Leir, Jersey Journal).


“For the fourth consecutive year, the Township Committee has adopted a budget that calls for no increase in the municipal tax rate..

The $2.9 million budget calls for a tax rate of 18.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $174,700 would pay $327 in municipal property taxes…

“It's not a stroke of luck, it's work that makes it happen,” (Deputy Mayor Mike Moscatiello) said. “I think it's a big accomplishment.” (Hayes, Burlington County Times).


“U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo will be awarded the 2007 Hesed Humanitarian Award on May 29 by two prominent local Jewish groups." (Bridgeton News)


“Towns in Salem County and the rest of the Third Legislative District have requested additional state funding for projects be included in the New Jersey Fiscal Year 2008 Budget.” (Today’s Sunbeam).


Longtime Vineland court director bids farewell

“Call Dolores Middleton the calm behind the storm. For 15 years, she's overseen one of the busiest municipal courts in the judicial district covering Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. On Thursday, Middleton will retire as Vineland Municipal Court director…

"I'm just about as sad as you can be," Middleton, 64, said during an interview in her office last week. "It's time."” (ZATZARINY, Daily Journal).



“A crowd of several hundred people gave Gov. Corzine a standing ovation in Burlington County yesterday as he made his way to the podium on crutches for his first public speaking appearance since a traffic accident nearly killed him six weeks ago…..

"I've been known to have a crash or two," he said to laughter and applause at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Arneytown.” (Flores, AP)

"We can have political debates, but the fact is, those men and women who put on the uniform and go in to battle deserve our support,'' said Corzine, a former Marine reservist.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)


“When President Bush travels to New Jersey this week to raise money for the state's Republican Party, he'll be entering a political disaster zone….For Republicans, Bush's fundraiser Wednesday afternoon at the New Jersey Exposition Center in Edison shows the party isn't ready to raise the white flag in this blue state. It is the first time the president has traveled to the state solely to help the party raise money, according to Tom Wilson, chairman of the Republican State Committee….. "

There are still a great number of people in New Jersey, Republicans particularly, who are enthusiastic and support the president," he said.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)|


“Friends call New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto a principled man and devoted father who doggedly defends his family.

But a recent state ethics complaint – only the second in the recent history of the state high court – paints a picture of Rivera-Soto as a pompous justice waving his powerful business card to help his teenage son in a dispute with a high school football teammate.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)


“For the first time in recent history, state lawmakers will be required to attach their names to eleventh-hour budget appropriations — ending the anonymous system that last year added more than $300 million in spending…..

Lawmakers hope the changes will make the budget process more transparent, prompted in part by a federal probe into pork-barrel spending, also known as "Christmas tree" grants.” (Lu, Herald News)


“New Jerseyans tend to pay the nation's cheapest gas prices thanks largely to low gas taxes, but Gov. Jon S. Corzine is warning that the tax may have to go up someday to help pay for mass transit and highway needs…. Corzine emphasized he's not proposing any increase now. But he said an increase will need to be considered as the state looks to meet mass transit and highway improvements amid mounting state debt.”

"It's certainly something we have to take into consideration in regard to our transportation capital needs and financial needs for mass transit in particular, so we'll review that," Corzine said.” (Hester, AP)


“A controversial bill to dedicate 1 cent of the state's 7-cents-per-dollar sales tax to property tax relief gained considerable momentum on Friday with the endorsement of Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex….Corzine has been cool to the idea. "

The governor's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget contains a record amount of funding for property tax relief," said Tom Vincz, a spokesman for state Treasurer Bradley Abelow. "The governor is committed to sustaining this relief.” (Lu, Herald News)

“Putting the Legislature in position to buck Gov. Jon S. Corzine, Senate President Richard J. Codey Friday backed a plan to let voters decide whether to amend the state Constitution to permanently dedicate the remaining half of last year's sales tax increase to property tax relief.” (Rispoli, Gannett).


“Using the Atlantic Ocean as their backdrop, two members of the state's congressional delegation Friday discussed proposed legislation that would require faster ocean water pollution tests and shorten the time those results must be made public….Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., are the primary sponsors of the Beach Protection Act, a bill that would reauthorize and, they said, improve the Beaches Environmental and Coastal Health Act of 2000.

The latter act expires this year…..the bill, as proposed, would provide for a number of things designed to reduce both the time taken to test ocean water for pollutants and the time in which the results of those tests must be made public….The bill also would double the amount of money available through grants to beach states for testing, dissemination of information and discovering the sources of pollution from the current $30 million to $60 million.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press).


The co-founder of the Cuban Day Parade, which normally marches from North Bergen down to Union City, pledged yesterday to take West New Mayor Sal Vega to court for his decision to ban the parade in his town.

Emilio Del Valle held a press conference at 48th Street and Bergenline Avenue, the city line between Union City and West New York.

Vega has denied the group its permit for the parade, arguing that the parade does not take into account the suffering of Cubans under dictator Fidel Castro. He also pointed out that the parade's organizers make a profit from the parade. (Luna, Jersey Journal)


Mayor Glen D. Gilmore broke his silence about his much-publicized dispute with Benecard, the township's former prescription benefits management firm, saying that while he welcomes the firm's return, the entire indus try is in need of "serious reform."

Benecard, which was banished from the township in 2002, was again awarded the contract to manage the township's prescrip tion plan and will begin July 1….

The dispute began in 2002 at the height of Forrester's campaign against incumbent Robert Torri celli. Gilmore joined Torricelli in accusing Forrester and Benecard of unethical business dealings and ordered the firm replaced. Gilmore also agreed to join a lawsuit against the company alleging Benecard was pocketing rebates from drug manufacturers that were rightly due to the township.

Last year, the two sides agreed to settle the suit, with Benecard agreeing to make about $50,000 in charitable donations in the township's name and forking over $25,000 in legal fees. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)


“Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's chief of staff, Carl Czaplicki, went before the city's Historic Commission in November and pleaded for approval of his plans to renovate and expand his Second Street home.

Among other things, he said the changes were urgent and necessary because his wife was pregnant and he wanted to begin construction as soon as possible in order to prepare the home for raising a family….

Well, just this month, Czaplicki sold the house for $785,000, thanks in part to the Planning Board's favorable decision. So what about all those dreams of moving his family back into the house?” (Renshaw, Jersey Journal)


District 24

“The big presidential election is more than a year away, with no governor's race or Senate or congressional battles this spring.
That puts local state, county and municipal elections front and center this year in Morris County, where there are contested races for mayor and town councils or committees in 14 towns — mostly on the Republican side — on June 5…….

The most heated campaign may be the Republican 24th District state Senate battle between Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-Morris) and Sussex County Freeholder Steve Oroho, in a three-county district that includes five Morris County towns — the Chesters, Mount Olive, Netcong and Washington Township.” (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

“Since both candidates profess conservative stances on key issues, voters in the 24th District will decide on June 5 in the Republican primary whether Assemblyman Guy Gregg's experience as a state legislator or Steve Oroho's service as a local councilman and Sussex County freeholder would be put to better use in the state Senate….
Gregg, 57, said state officials have to work to regain the trust of residents. In his legislative career, he said, he has placed the interests of the residents first. He calls for smaller government and the protection of individual rights.

"We need to empower people, not government," Gregg said.
Oroho, 48, said that this is a race about "the character and style of the candidates." He called for reining in state spending and using the savings for property tax relief.” (Daigle, Daily Record)

The discussion degenerates quickly on blogs, online community forums and the like. That happens more frequently during election time. The label of anonymity encourages some people to "say" things online that they would never say in public.
Such an online posting related to the District 24 Assembly primary campaign is now in the courtroom.
The May 3 posting by "DudeRules" on the community forum involved Assemblywoman Alison McHose…..
The posting in question referred to an incident several years ago in which McHose's young son was found unconscious in a swimming pool. The boy survived.
DudeRules wrote that "I live by the words, 'The sins of the father fall on the son.' His daughter almost lost her son in a pool accident. His kids or theirs may not be so lucky next time." (Snowflack, Daily Record)…

“Oroho, a Sussex County Freeholder, is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by his Franklin neighbor, and veteran Republican, Sen. Robert Littell…. Oroho took a swipe at Gregg for not having done more to clean up the state financial problems.”

“Guy Gregg has been in Trenton for 20 years, including seven as a lobbyist and 13 in the Assembly,” Oroho said. “Over that time, no one could say the state was in good shape.” (Garber, Hunterdon Review)

District 26

There's a heated Republican battle for the Assembly going on in the 26th District in Morris and Passaic counties, but judging by the campaign so far, some voters may be surprised to learn there are three candidates……….

As the duo vie for the favor of the district's 42,640 GOP voters, the top contender on the ballot has been left out of the fray. Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris) is on the ballot with Casha and Webber, but they have endorsed him and in effect told voters — choose DeCroce and me.” (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

District 16

“Republicans normally play a pat hand in the 16th Legislative District, but this year a retirement, a gaffe and an outsider have all shuffled the deck.

The June primary offers three candidates for two Republican Assembly nominations: incumbent Peter Biondi, Somerset County Freeholder Denise Coyle and retired businessman Stan Serafin………………..

Biondi, a former Hillsborough mayor and Somerset freeholder, is the Assembly's second-ranking Republican and is seeking his sixth two-year term.

But early this month, he was forced to make an on-air apology on a radio talk show after two racist jokes were sent from his computer. Biondi's apologies continued at a meeting with African-American clergy.

"It was my computer, so I take responsibility," Biondi said, but added he was unfamiliar with the jokes and does not recall receiving them or passing them along.” (Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)

District 18

The 18th District is the scene of the only Republican battle in Middlesex County's primary elections this year as an East Brunswick attorney competes against a self-employed contractor from Helmetta for the GOP nod in the Senate race.

Republicans have a choice between the conservative candidate, Andrew Tidd, and Dan Brown, whose political philosophy leans more toward the center. For the past two years, Tidd has run unsuccessfully as a GOP freeholder candidate. He said he decided to throw his hat in again because none of the party officials questioned Brown at the screening committee.” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)

District 22

Bill Campbell doesn't believe state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, or any other incumbent for that matter, should sail to victory without a fight….

Despite overwhelming odds and a huge disparity in campaign resources, Campbell is challenging Scutari in the June 5 Democratic primary for the Senate seat from the 22nd Legislative District, which includes 11 municipalities in Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties. (Friedman, Star-Ledger)

District 40

“The 40th Legislative District is a largely suburban, Republican-dominated district, stretching across Bergen and Passaic counties and taking in the two Essex County towns of Cedar Grove and Verona.

With longtime state Sen. Henry McNamara retiring, his seat has drawn interest from three Republican candidates: Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole (R-Essex), former gubernatorial candidate Todd Caliguire of Ridgewood, and attorney Victor K. Rabbat of Wayne….

O'Toole has the backing of the Essex Republican Party Organization, while Caliguire is running under the Conservative Republican Reformers ticket and Rabbat is running solo, under the banner "Republican Strength, Republican Honor and Republican Unity." (Moore, Star-Ledger)


“Edison politics is often synonymous with high drama and this year's Democratic primary could be a showstopper with 12 candi dates running on three separate tickets for four council nominations….

The incumbents are competing against a slate of political newcom ers backed by Choi and another ticket headed by Williams Stephens, a one-time council president, who brings a lot of name recognition to the race…..

If Choi's slate wins, the mayor could take control of the Democratic organization and assure him self the party's nomination if he seeks re-election in two years, but a loss would leave him with a conten tious council relationship during the last two years of his term, Re bovich said.

"The stakes are extraordinarily high," Rebovich said. "This is an opportunity for the old guard to grab power back and check him." (Walsh, Star-Ledger)


“In Warren County, where Democrats are outnumbered 2-to-1 and haven't won a countywide general election in a decade, the most competitive annual races are usually five months earlier in the primary election.

On June 5, one of the most talked about local Republican primary battles in years pits two heirs of sorts against one another for the Warren County clerk seat: Pat Kolb, hand-picked successor to iconic Clerk Terrance D. Lee, and Chad Chamberlain, a pharmacy company operations manager who is the son of county Freeholder Director Everett A. Chamberlain……….

The nomination set off party infighting and charges of nepotism. It was eventually dropped, with both candidates saying they wanted to put the choice in the hands of voters.” (Frassinelli, Star-Ledger)


”In addition to being severely underfunded, the Gloucester County Republican Party faces another challenge this June a fellow Republican.

With only $10,000 in their coffers, endorsed candidates Andy Savicky of Glassboro and Paul Marino of Washington Township must dip into their wallets five months early to challenge renegade candidate Lee Lucas of Gibbstown.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times).


“The 2007 election season soon may be upon us. But here, (Middletown) Township Committee members are still arguing over last year's campaign.

Since he took office in January, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger repeatedly has asked Patrick Short, the lone Democrat on the governing body, to apologize for an old campaign ad with his name on it. The ad states that the committee voted to double its salary, which is not true….

Short did not apologize and responded: "I had nothing to do with that advertisement. I don't know who put that in the newspaper."
Short then held up a campaign ad by Timothy Sodon, the Republican who ran against Short and lost.

"Now, how about this?" Short asked as he held up the ad. (Hergert, Asbury Park Press)


It will be nearly the end of June before the township introduces its 2007 budget, with Mayor Paul Moriarty taking two months longer than last year to present a spending plan.
The administration has been using the time to scrutinize the budget, said Business Administrator Debra Fourre, identifying areas to cut or to increase revenue.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times).


“Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez and Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., joined George to face-off on the immigration issue and the bi-partisan Sentate deal. Sec. Gutierrez said bipartisan immigration bill is the best solution for the immigration issue. "

I would hate, because some people have tweaks and some minor points on the edge,that the whole compromise comes crashing down. We have a historic, one-time — the best shot we will have to fix this system. I hate to lose it because it people have some issues," he said.

Sen. Menendez disagreed, saying "It undermines the very core of family reunification, and in my mind, in the long term, it tears families apart…when did my children, when did my parents, when did my brother and sister not become part of what I've always heard on the floor of the United States Senate about family values? It dramatically cuts at that." (This Week – ABC)


“New Jersey's hospitals expect to spend $1.6 billion this year to treat uninsured residents, while getting only $583 million in state aid. Since 1993, New Jersey hospitals have spent $6 billion treating uninsured residents without reimbursement.”

"That's staggering," said Gary Carter, New Jersey Hospital Association president.

With those numbers in mind, hospital funding looms as the only major sticking point as lawmakers finalize a new state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. and Senate President Richard J. Codey.” (Hester, AP)


“Using humor, attitude and the occasional put-down, some presidential candidates are filling the airwaves with ads to stir activists and create a positive brand for themselves…..

Romney, Dodd and Edwards have shown an ability to react to news events, linking their ads to legislative action in Washington on Iraq or on immigration. Edwards has tied his commercials to his Internet site, calling on viewers to create their own video responses to his anti-war message.

The current reliance on advertising also sends an indisputable message — the 30-second television commercial remains the warhorse of political campaigns.

"All the talk about the Internet and YouTube, the [candidates] who are performing best in the polls are the ones putting their money on old-fashioned television spots," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer at TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group.” (Kuhnhenn, AP)


“Imagine you're walking into the voting booth, or your precinct's equivalent, on Election Day and suddenly your cell phone signals an incoming text message. Your candidate, the message says, has been indicted on some outrageous charge. Do you rethink your voting intentions or ignore the message?”

"I don't think electoral laws have kept up with technology, not by a long shot," said Harish Rao, who headed the Internet operations of the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat Howard Dean.” (Orr, Star-Ledger) Today’s News from