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    Byron Baer dies, Menendez rises, sweetheart land deal in Newark, Whitman grilled over 9/11 air quality, legislators duck



Byron Baer dies, Menendez rises, sweetheart land deal in Newark, Whitman grilled over 9/11 air quality, legislators duck some important bills, unclear if Hoboken mayor fulfilled salary promise, Jersey City residents sound off on Mayor Healy.



“Byron Baer was a rarity in New Jersey politics: he served time in jail before he took public office, not after.

"I tell people he was a politician who went to jail first instead of the other way around," said his widow, Judge Linda Pollitt Baer.

Pollitt Baer was referring to the 45-day stint that her husband did in a Mississippi jail in 1961, after being arrested as part of the Freedom Riders. But his civil rights work didn’t end there.

Baer, who died this morning after a long illness, was a pioneering warrior for government transparency during his four decades of service in the Legislature. He passed bills on consumer pricing, toxic waste cleanup and tenant protection. While working on legislation protecting migrant workers, he demonstrated for workers’ rights, getting his arm broken by a south Jersey farmer who tried to hit his head with an iron pipe.” (Pizarro and Friedman,

"The thing about Byron was that he was the ultimate gentleman," said Senate President Richard Codey, D-Essex, who plans to eulogize his friend on Wednesday.

"He believed what he believed in, and he fought for his issues the right way.”………

"We take [the Sunshine Law] for granted, but it changed how government is done in New Jersey," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, who succeeded Baer in the upper chamber and worked for him briefly in the Assembly three decades ago.

"I don't think people realize the struggle that crafting that legislation was. It was groundbreaking." (Levin, Bergen Record)



“The moment that Senator Robert Menendez has craved may have finally arrived.

At 53, he has spent 14 years in Washington, most of it as a member of the House who was largely unknown outside of northern New Jersey or political circles in Washington.

But Mr. Menendez, who was elected to his first full Senate term last fall, has long chafed at the image that emerged of him during those years: that of a hardened and wily politician who mastered the insider’s game on Capitol Hill and in Hudson County, N.J., a brutal political incubator.

Now, several of his close associates say, Mr. Menendez, the junior senator from New Jersey, wants to move beyond that, and the opportunity is here. As the debate over immigration policy has intensified in Washington and the Latino vote has swelled, Mr. Menendez, a Cuban-American who is one of the nation’s highest-ranking Hispanic legislators, finds himself in demand.

He has been courted by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, leading rivals in the Democratic presidential race, who have sought his endorsement as well as his imprimatur on their immigration initiatives. And Senator Chuck Hagel, a maverick Republican from Nebraska who is also considering a presidential bid, teamed up with Mr. Menendez in support of legislation that would help legal immigrants bring their families to the United States.” (Hernandez and Chen, New York Times)



“Soon before he left office in 2002, Newark Deputy Mayor Alfred Faiella redrew the city's redevelopment boundaries, adding acres of land to the list of vacant properties Newark was willing to sell at discount.

The city sold 53 of those tracts in the West Ward two years later to a company half-owned by one of Faiella's close friends, Joanne Harz. Her firm paid $1 a square foot for the parcels, roughly 25 times less than the going rate for vacant Newark land at the time, according to an analysis of property records.

The next year, Harz gave $338,000 to Faiella's ex-wife. In a deposition, Randy Faiella described the money as payment for a land deal but said she could not recall details of the transaction, such as which parcel it involved or when it occurred.

But both she and Harz used the same lawyer to finalize the deal: Al Faiella.

There is no evidence linking any official action by Faiella to his ex-wife's windfall. But Harz's purchase of city land, discovered in a recent review of public records by The Star-Ledger, highlights the longtime mingling of money, power and real estate deals in Newark.” (Shearn, Star-Ledger)



“Ever since she stood on Canal Street just north of Ground Zero on Sept. 13, 2001, and pronounced the air in Lower Manhattan safe to breathe, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman has been caught in the fallout.

Whitman has been attacked by environmentalists and sued by residents of Lower Manhattan who say they are suffering the effects of pollutants released into the air by the collapse of the World Trade Center. She has been scolded by a federal judge and criticized by the EPA's own inspector general.

Today Whitman will be asked again to account for how the EPA and the Bush Administration handled air quality issues in the days after the 9/11 terror attacks. The former Republican governor of New Jersey is to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose district includes Lower Manhattan and who has been one of Whitman's sharpest critics…………

The congressman repeatedly has pointed to evidence that the White House instructed the EPA to doctor press releases and downplay health perils after 9/11.

For her part, Whitman has defended herself against the criticism in statements, interviews and previous testimony before the Congress, saying her pronouncements about the safety of Lower Manhattan's air in the days after the 9/11 attacks were based on sound scientific data. She declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed for this article. (Orr, Star-Ledger)


“In one last busy voting session before their summer break, state lawmakers on Thursday passed a $33.5 billion budget a week ahead of their deadline, confirmed a new chief justice and attorney general and passed hundreds of bills.

Then they went home, hoping to stay clear of the Statehouse until after the November legislative elections.

But the lawmakers ducked out of Trenton without acting on some of the most complex and controversial pieces of legislation on their agenda: killing the state's death penalty, updating the formula for funding public schools, providing health care to the uninsured and reforming eminent domain.

Such hot-button issues could pose problems for Democrats as they defend majorities in both houses this fall. The solution: wait until the "lame duck" session that follows Election Day and ends in January, when the new Legislature is sworn in.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)


“What happened to Mayor David Roberts' salary?

Last year, the independently wealthy mayor pledged that henceforth he would forgo most of his six-figure salary, and that the money should be used for city projects he holds dear.

He promised to shed 11 months of his annual $124,000 salary for the 2007 fiscal year and save the proceeds in an operational line item in the budget.

Since then, the Mayor's Office has made donations of around $36,000 – the equivalent of a third of his prorated salary – toward civic projects and events, according to accounts provided to The Jersey Journal.

But as for the rest of it? Though Roberts claims the money was spent on particular projects, it's impossible to be certain – the money that would have been his salary wasn't set aside, but rather was left in the general budget…………..

But Councilman Michael Russo, who chairs the City Council's Revenue and Finance Committee, says the salary money wasn't necessarily spent on those projects, as it all came out of the general budget.

"The reality is that he is not paying for them, the taxpayers are," Russo said.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)



“Jersey City residents appear to be split over whether Mayor Jerramiah Healy got justice when a Bradley Beach municipal judge found him guilty last week of resisting arrest and obstructing justice.

Some residents said Healy got a raw deal.

"That's another country down there on the Jersey Shore," said Eddie Bauch, a Sussex Street resident. "They hear Hudson County, then that's it, you're guilty."

Others believe there was more to the story.

"If the mayor was trying to help, then maybe it was wrong to arrest him," said Ravi Kumar, of Morris Street. "But there must have been something for them to arrest him."

Freddie Herrera of Broadway in Jersey City said that Healy had gotten off lightly.

"If it was anybody else it would have been handled a lot differently," Herrera said.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)



“New Jersey is poised to take on global warming with a plan that imposes some of the nation's strictest limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Under legislation overwhelmingly approved last week by the Assembly and Senate, the state would cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent of last year's levels by 2050. The bill would set into law the recommendations Gov. Corzine made in February via executive order and now awaits his signature.

The plan puts New Jersey at the forefront of a growing number of states imposing their own global-warming crackdowns while citing an absence of federal leadership. New Jersey would be the first state to require the 80 percent reduction by 2050.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“Almost a decade after New Jersey stumbled badly in its first attempt to lure private companies to run the state's motor vehicle inspection program, the latest version of the $400 million deal drew interest from at least five potential bidders yesterday.

"At first glance, it looks attractive," Lothar Geilen, president of SysTech International, an inspection firm based in Utah that coordinates inspection programs for Rhode Island, Missouri and other communities said, as he started a tour of the Flemington state inspection station yesterday afternoon. "I'm convinced there will be more bids."

With more than 2.7 million cars inspected each year, New Jersey's safety and emissions program is among the largest and most complex in the nation.

It also is among the most lucrative.

Parsons, the sole bidder when the job was first turned over to private managers in 1998, has been paid more than $500 million so far and continues to earn about $65 million a year for managing the program.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)



“The judgment that a Bloomingdale woman obtained two years ago against the man who sexually assaulted her daughter is technically worth $5 million.

But Richard Russell Smith is a penniless state prisoner serving a six-year term.

Smith is what attorneys call "judgment-proof" — a person with no assets, savings or insurance. Collecting even a fraction of the award in such cases, while not completely fruitless, ends up being a lengthy and arduous process for many.

"It's not worth it to hire a lawyer for an hourly rate to go after a defendant who may not even have anything," said attorney Robert Hille.

Thousands of judgments remain uncollected in New Jersey, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which does not keep records on how much those judgments are worth. But crime victims, their loved ones and others continue to pursue what they believe is their just due.” (Markos, Bergen Record)



“When he turned 5, Robert A. Bianchi celebrated by having his dad, then a homicide prosecutor, take him for a ride in the Essex County Prosecutor's car.

He sipped Mountain Dew and called his mom on the car phone — pretty cool for 1968. The perfect birthday, he thought.

"Daddy, how can I get one of these cars?" he asked.

The answer: Become the prosecutor.

The story, which Bianchi thinks his dad embellished a bit, became something of a family joke. But now it sounds like prophecy, as Bianchi was sworn in Friday as Morris County's top law enforcer.” (McHugh, Star-Ledger)



“Alcohol has not been sold in this quaint Burlington County community for almost a century, but that may soon change.

Officials here are considering whether Moorestown should become the latest southern Jersey town to issue liquor licenses to raise revenue…………

For now, the town is only interested in issuing consumption licenses, which allow restaurants and bars — but not stores — to sell alcohol.

Jacob Der Hagopian, chairman of Moorestown's Economic Development Advisory Committee, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the town may set an opening bid at $1 million, hoping to attract a high-end restaurant chain.” (AP)



“A township councilman seeking to run for mayor as an independent alleges that the Ocean County clerk is handling a challenge to his candidacy with bias.

Carmine C. Inteso Jr. filed to run for mayor as part of the "People Before Politics" slate, which also includes three candidates for council. Both the mayoral and joint council petitions to appear on the November general election ballot were challenged by a resident who questioned the validity of signatures collected.

Inteso claims County Clerk Carl Block, whose office oversees election matters, has improperly argued against his candidacy while remanding the matter to Superior Court for a decision. A judge will decide later this week whether several signatures on both petitions are valid even though the signers voted in the most recent primary election.” (Pais, Asbury Park Press)



“Monmouth County Sheriff Joseph W. Oxley, who surprised Republican Party leaders in March when he announced he would not seek election to a fifth term in November, has his sights on the soon-vacant job of county administrator, according to sources.

Oxley is one of at least 15 applicants for the position now held by Louis Paparozzi, who is retiring Aug. 1, ending his five years as the county government's chief executive overseeing 3,800 employees and a $470 million budget. Paparozzi makes $170,000 annually.

County freeholders — including Director William C. Barham, who served with Oxley on a county GOP panel to pick candidates for the November elections — have been interviewing candidates for about a month, according to public notices of closed session meetings.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)



“Bruce Springsteen may be the Boss, but Pinelands Regional Junior High School students have their heart set on Bon Jovi.

New Jersey has a state bug (the honeybee), a state dance (the square dance), even a state dinosaur (Hadrosaurus foulkii). But no state song. At least, not yet.

"The kids went to the Statehouse, and when they were taken on a tour where they heard about different state symbols, they realized there was no state song," said 49-year-old Jane Hall of Stafford.

Hall, a special-needs teacher at the Nugentown Road school, along with fellow civics teachers Regina Balsys and Sue Gethard, have been sending letters to various newspapers to drum up support for Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home" as the proposed state anthem.” (Sastrowardoyo, Asbury Park Press)



“The Oceanport Democratic Club unanimously elected Ed Miller as president of the club, which was founded in the 1950s.” (Williams, Asbury Park Press)





“Republican lawmakers yesterday urged Gov. Jon Corzine to use his line-item veto power to trim budget language they say enables him to auction off the New Jersey Turnpike and other state assets.

“This clause gives the administration carte blanche to negotiate a deal to sell off state assets and then, after Election Day, when the deal is a fait accompli, send the proposal to the Legislature to be rubber-stamped," said Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) during a Statehouse news conference. "This flies in the face of the promises of an open and transparent budget process.”

At his own press conference later, State Treasurer Bradley Abelow insisted that nobody in the administration tried to hide the language from lawmakers or the public. He flatly dismissed the idea that the provision let the administration move forward on any Turnpike deal without legislative approval.

"I was surprised by what I heard last night and what the Republicans are saying today. I'm speechless," Abelow said, noting he appeared "three or four times" before Republican lawmakers and they failed to mention it.” (Donohue and Howlett, Star-Ledger)

"Where is the line item and resolution showing that it's not unlimited?" said Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, R-Warren/Hunterdon counties.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

“The first time I saw this budget document was around noon on Thursday, which, to me, is a disgrace,” said state Sen. James “Sonny” Mc-Cullough, R-Atlantic. “They pushed more than 300 bills (during Thursday's legislative session). I bet a lot of senators didn't have a clue as to what they voted for.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)

“With Republicans alleging that budget language gives Gov. Corzine unlimited authority to spend money in getting ready to sell and lease state assets such as toll roads, the state treasurer yesterday said that toll increases were coming to New Jersey.

Bradley Abelow did not elaborate, but said tolls would increase regardless of how Corzine proposes making more money off assets such as the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike.” (Hester, AP)


The BlackBerry in Mayor Cory Booker's jacket pocket signals him every time the gunfire in Newark claims another victim. It happens almost every day……………

“For Booker, it has been a sobering first year as mayor. When he swore his oath last summer he was the whiz kid, the fast-talking Rhodes scholar with a million strategies to make the city safe. He pinned everything on that.

Now he is staring into this abyss, and it's leaving a mark on him. He is an angrier man now. And the focus of that anger is a public policy that he believes is ruining his city and threatening his hopes to change it.

The problem, he says, is New Jersey's tough tactics in the drug war. We are heavy on jail time and unforgiving even when prisoners finish their terms. At a time when even states like Texas are changing course, we are sticking with our failed strategy……….

"I'm going to battle on this," the mayor says. "We're going to start doing it the gentlemanly way. And then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd.”………..

"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark." (Moran, Star-Ledger)



The Republican candidate in the 15th District Senate race is calling on the governor not to sign a proposed bill to ban dual officeholding because it doesn't go far enough in eliminating "the obvious conflict of interest" for legislators looking to "expand their power."

The bill would make it illegal to be elected to more than one office beginning in February……………..

Bob Martin, who is challenging Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence, said in a new release that the governor should send the bill back and demand that it take effect immediately with no grandfather clause.

"If the governor is serious about stopping corruption in this state, he should refuse to sign any bill that doesn't end dual officeholding immediately," Martin stated. "Someone needs to do the right thing and stop these legislators from continuing to pad their pensions with taxpayer money from multiple jobs."” (Loayza, Trenton Times)



“Two weeks after voting in the Assembly to ban dual office-holding, Mayor Paul Moriarty won't say one way or another if he plans to seek a second term as mayor.

But at least two Democrats one of them a high-ranking official said they are considering a candidacy in 2008.

Frank Scarpato, president of the all-Democratic council, said he is "interested" in running for mayor and has discussed it with close friends. He won't dismiss the possibility of challenging fellow Democrat Moriarty.

"I'm not ruling anything out," said Scarpato. "If I want it, I want it, and I'm going for the win. I'll give it some careful thought and make a decision when the time is right."

Another possible candidate in 2008 is Rose Ann Lafferty, zoning board secretary and former zoning officer………….

About two weeks ago Moriarty signed onto a bill in support of banning dual office-holding. Because he was elected to his positions before Feb. 1, he would not be precluded from serving again as both assemblyman and mayor.

"I don't expect to be mayor forever," Moriarty said after he signed the bill. "I feel that people should not serve forever." (Beym, Gloucester County Times)



“An alarmed U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said he would support two key motions to bring an immigration bill to a final vote.

But Menendez wasn't sure he would endorse the overall bill once all the GOP amendments and other legislative hurdles were cleared.

"There's one poison pill after the other, largely on the Republican side," Menendez claimed at a news conference Friday.

In particular, Menendez said he would oppose a plan by U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman to authorize state and local police officers to arrest people on federal immigration charges.

The Senate on May 24 defeated the Minnesota Republican's proposal, 49-48. But Coleman may get another bite at the apple under a deal that will allow at least 10 more GOP amendments and nine Democratic proposals, if not more, to the Senate immigration bill when debate resumes this week.

Menendez, D-N.J., also said he would resist an amendment by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who would compel both spouses in any family to return to their country of origin before completing their application for legal residency under the Senate bill's new Z visa.

"That's a killer amendment," declared Menendez.” (Cahir, Express-Times)


“New Jersey lawmakers didn't need to stop time this year to pass a state budget.

In fact, they now have a lot of time on their hands.

In years past, legislators have stopped the Statehouse clocks at 11:59 p.m. on June 30 so they could continue haggling and not miss — officially, at least — the July 1 deadline for approving the state budget.

But this year, state lawmakers won't be cooped up in their chambers arguing with the governor, and each other, over things like sales tax increases and property tax relief.” (Hester, AP)



“After suffering more than five years of health problems related to his volunteer work at Ground Zero, Maywood resident Bill Maher felt he had nothing to lose joining documentarian Michael Moore on a sneak trip to Cuba for medical treatment, captured on film in the new movie "Sicko."

Maher knew he was taking a risk journeying to the communist country with the controversial director, but he didn't think he was breaking any laws. He was surprised to learn on Thursday, however, that he faces criminal charges for violating travel restrictions.

He and two other 9/11 responders featured in the picture are under investigation by the Treasury Department, which is building a case against Moore.

"We were traveling for journalistic purposes," said Maher, 54. "I never even thought about any kind of legal restrictions."

He believes the government is pursuing the case for political reasons, persecuting Moore because of his leftist views.” (Rose, Star-Ledger)



“Kean University planned to open the first full-scale American college campus in China this fall. Instead, officials are learning a lesson about communist red tape.

The realization comes as the American college "gold rush" into China slams into a suddenly reluc tant bureaucracy. Kean officials recently found out it may now take three to five years to gain final approval from China's ministry of education rather than a matter of months as they had once hoped.

"This has never been done by an American university before, and they don't have experience with how our system works," Kean President Dawood Farahi said. "It's a complex process." (Alaya, Star-Ledger)



“The town treasurer accused of stealing money from two other townships where she worked accepted a plea deal Friday that bars her from holding any public jobs in the state of New Jersey.

Catherine Gangaware agreed to a deal Friday in Warren County Superior Court that includes 364 days in the county jail and five years' probation.

Under the deal, she admitted to stealing about $12,000 total from Bethlehem Township in Hunterdon County and Washington Township in Warren County.” (Satullo, Express-Times)



“Mayor Glen D. Gilmore has always prided himself on championing the rights of union members and their families, and the two-term mayor has always enjoyed strong support in return.

But lately, union members under the township's own roof have begun to express some displeasure with the mayor and his administration……………

"Morale is very low," said Communications Workers of America Local 1042 President Mitch Kirkuff, a public works inspector with the township. "We have made several attempts to deal with the administration, but unfortunately over the years we have not been able to get through to members of the mayor's staff."” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



“The fight between a pair of town council members and school administration turned ugly Friday when council President David DeGerolamo accused Superintendent Gordon Pethick of lying to council.

At a May 8 meeting between the council and school board, council Vice President James Stettner asked the administrators if the state Department of Education ever said the district was top-heavy in administration. Town clerk Michele Broubalow said the meeting minutes show Pethick replied no.

DeGerolamo received a state Office of Administrative Law decision from the DOE showing in 2003 an administrative law judge recommended the district cut central office positions.

"Simply put, Phillipsburg has too many administrators for a district of its size," judge Ken Springer wrote in the ruling.” (Hausmann, Express-Times)



“A photograph of an East Side High School student kissing his boyfriend was blacked out of every copy of the school's yearbook by Newark school officials who decided it was inappropriate.

Andre Jackson said he never thought he would offend anyone when he bought a page in the yearbook and filled it with several photographs, including one of him kissing his boyfriend.

But Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden called the photograph "illicit" and ordered it blacked out of the $85 yearbook before it was distributed to students at a banquet for graduating seniors Thursday. (Addison, Star-Ledger)



“The U.S. Senate and House appropriation committees on Thursday each approved $2 million in funding for Highlands land purchases.

While the entire Congress must approve the funding, environmentalists were hopeful federal funding would come to the Highlands for the second straight year.

"We are optimistic that these funds will leverage state and local funds and achieve real conservation successes throughout the region, demonstrating the potential and need for increased and ultimately full funding next year and beyond," Jim Hall, co-chairman of the Regional Highlands Coalition Board of Directors, said in a statement.” (Express-Times)



“The city council approved a resolution honoring Beverly Jones, the history teacher who blew the whistle on the falsification of students records in the city school district.

"Mrs. Jones has never wavered in her efforts to expose the illegalities that have existed in the Trenton public schools and has championed this cause with an unmatched courage and steadfastness," reads the resolution in part.” (Loayza, Trenton Times)



“The state yesterday awarded more than $54 million to help finance affordable housing projects in 12 cities and towns, including East Orange, Plainfield, and Somerset County's Franklin Township.

The funding will go toward the creation of 723 affordable rental apartments and the preservation of 339 apartments.

"These investments represent housing opportunities that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of people," said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin.” (Hester, Star-Ledger)



“Mayor Glen D. Gilmore is one step closer to seeing his vision of a wireless Hamilton come true. A state-approved bill authorizes local governments to develop contracts with private Internet service providers.

The bill allows governments to provide free or reduced-rate wireless Internet access to all of a municipality's residents. Gilmore wants Hamilton to be one of the first municipalities in New Jersey to offer the Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity” (Lord, Trenton Times)



A judge will decide within a week if Gary S. DeMarzo can continue to serve as a Wildwood City Commissioner while still a member of the city's Police Department.

DeMarzo, 40, received the second-highest number of votes in the May 8 election and was sworn into office May 15, the same day he took an unpaid leave of absence from his job as a patrolman. He joined the department Feb. 10, 1998.” (Gilgillian, Press of Atlantic City)


“SALEM County freeholders have voiced concerns that the county Clerk's Office may have to return $177,600 in grant money that was to be used for record-keeping improvements.

As the board ran through various items on its agenda last week, Freeholder Beth Timberman questioned the apparent decision made by County Clerk Gilda Gill not to participate in the Public Archives and Records Infrastructure Support (PARIS) program.” (Clark, Today’s Sunbeam)



“After spending six weeks in the Middlesex County jail, the son of Assemblyman Joseph Cryan was ordered released yesterday when he promised to enter a drug rehabilitation program.

John Cryan, 25, who was cited for violating the terms of a probationary term by testing positive for drugs, was warned that one more slip-up would cost him up to five years in prison for assaulting a motorist with a baseball bat in Union County in 2002.” (O’Neill, Star-Ledger)



“A South Jersey dog has been crowned the world's ugliest canine, and its owner is delighted with the distinction.

Elwood, a 2-year-old Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix, was crowned Friday night in the appropriately named Petaluma, Calif. "I think he's the cutest thing that ever lived," said Elwood's owner, Karen Quigley, a resident of Sewell.” (AP)

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