Today’s News from PoliticsNJ.com

 

Republicans strategize around monetization, LoBiondo in Democrats’ sights, Jay Lassiter’s press pass, Van Drew vs. Asselta, Leonard Lance’s tough job, Princeton professor pushes for paper trail, first Hispanic Hackensack mayor sworn in.

THE GREAT REPUBLICAN HOPE

“A dozen Republican political operatives gathered in Trenton last week to craft their legislative election-year strategy. They left the five-hour meeting at party headquarters, across the street from the Statehouse, with a newfound swagger.

After years in the wilderness, the Republicans believe they have found their route back to power: the New Jersey Turnpike. They are convinced the public's revulsion to the idea of selling the toll road will cost Democrats dearly in November.

Never mind that Gov. Jon Corzine insists he won't actually sell it. His pledge to "monetize" the Turnpike and other state assets sounds close enough to "sell" that Republicans believe it could stir up a voter revolt like the one that purged Democrats from power 16 years ago after Gov. Jim Florio's tax increases.

"There's a clear opportunity," state Republican Party chairman Tom Wilson said. He confirmed the strategy meeting, the optimism it generated and the single-mindedness with which Republicans plan to attack Corzine's asset-monetization plan.

"This is a bad idea, a Ponzi scheme. (The Democrats) know it, and the people know it. We plan to ride this pony around the track as often as possible," Wilson said.

The Republican strategy laid out in the meeting calls for husbanding scarce financial resources in a few key districts, mainly in southern New Jersey, where the party has to defend its turf, while using the Turnpike issue as a rallying cry to win support statewide. The party's polling shows resolute opposition to "asset monetization" no matter how it is described, and the poll results are being used to help shape its campaign message.” (Howlett and Margolin, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1183350721260920.xml&coll=1

In the competitive 1st District legislative race — where Democrat Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew is challenging Republican state Sen. Nicholas Asselta — the leasing of toll roads could become the signature issue of the campaign. A large percentage of the district's voters live near the southern end of the Garden State Parkway, making the potential for toll hikes an issue that could rile voters enough to swing loyalties from one candidate to another.

So when Corzine stepped up his defense of his “asset monetization” plan this week and sought to give Democrats cover by vowing not to sell state toll roads to a private or foreign company, Van Drew and his running mates sought political cover of their own. They signed a pledge promising never to vote “to sell or lease New Jersey's toll roads to any private of foreign entity.”

The pledge, which Van Drew had notarized, also states, “the people of New Jersey must remain the rightful owners of the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_three/story/7488767p-7384189c.html

 

LOBIONDO ON DEMOCRAT HIT LIST

“Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, listed by Democrats among three top-tier targets for defeat in 2008, is fighting back.

"In this off-year, I'm a little more mindful of what's coming at me, and I'm probably more aggressive than I have been in off years. That holds true from a schedule standpoint, and that holds true from a fund-raising standpoint," said LoBiondo, who expects to have more than $1.3 million in his campaign fund when the second quarter ends.

In January, LoBiondo opened a copy of National Journal to discover that U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, a fresh-faced Maryland lawmaker elected to the helm of the House Democratic campaign, has the seven-term congressman from Ventnor in his sights. LoBiondo took Van Hollen's warning at face value………….

It's not yet clear whether the race in New Jersey's Second Congressional District will be competitive in 2008.

Focusing on Trenton, New Jersey Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat from Cape May County, has launched a campaign against New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-Vineland.

Democrats in Washington have long considered Van Drew a likely candidate for the U.S. House. But Van Drew, who did not respond to calls for this story, must concentrate on his New Jersey race until Nov. 6.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1183349478221070.xml&coll=8

 

A “MELLOWED OUT” JAY LASSITER IS STRIPPED OF HIS PRESS PASS

“Jay Lassiter used to write Internet posts flecked with profanity that lacerated New Jersey lawmakers. He described the actions of one legislator as “nincompoopery” and called another “a bully.” Last fall, he accused Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark of “pimping” for Joseph I. Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the State House, which Mr. Lassiter now covers as a blogger. “I don’t find myself launching firebomb campaigns anymore,” Mr. Lassiter admitted in a recent interview. “This whole exercise has kind of mellowed me out. These people in here, they seem like they’re doing their best.”………….

But last week he hit his first rough patch when the state police stripped him of an identification badge he had been issued in April, citing “security issues.”

Officials said there was nothing in Mr. Lassiter’s background that prompted the reversal. Rather, they said that they had decided to limit the number of badges issued to Capitol visitors and that his had been approved by mistake. “Some time ago there were questions as to whether too many people had gotten access to State House ID’s,” said Sgt. Stephen Jones, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.

Mr. Lassiter — who has never applied for press credentials from the New Jersey Press Association — said he was told by the police that he did not qualify for an identification card because Blue Jersey did not have an office here. He can enter the State House to conduct his reporting, he said, but instead of circumventing security and metal detectors with an official ID, he must be issued a visitor’s badge.” (Miller, New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/nyregion/02blog.html?ref=nyregion

“WE’RE GOOD, THEY’RE EVIL”

“As tourists from Philadelphia and its suburbs relax on the warm sands of the Jersey Shore this summer, they probably will not notice the struggle for the hearts and minds of the locals in Cape May and Cumberland Counties.

But if they glance past the saltwater taffy, they may see signs of a peculiar race for the Legislature………

"It's good versus evil," said state Sen. Nick Asselta, the Republican incumbent. "We're good, they're evil."

It's about getting more energy in the state Senate, a legislator who is an "independent maverick," said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, who wants to defy history by being the first Democratic senator from this district.

Although the election is expected to have a low turnout, a record-breaking $5 million could be spent on ads, consultants and field operations. The seat is an important one for both parties: Democrats want to win to continue their conquest of South Jersey; Republicans need it to hold back the Democratic tide.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070702_Politics_heats_up_down_the_Shore.html

 

TOM KEAN, JR. IS WAITING IN THE WINGS

“Leonard Lance's first conscious memory is of the New Jersey Senate chamber, a balconied room as rich in state history as it is in his own family's story.

He was there – at 3½ – with his father, former state Sen. Wesley Lance, his mother, Anne, and his twin brother, James, at an annual reorganization meeting.

He stands there today, more than 50 years later, as his father did and as his great uncle H. Kiefer Lance did, representing Hunterdon County, where the family has lived for three centuries.

But these times are different.

While his father served in the majority party, Lance is the Senate minority leader. He presides over a GOP Senate caucus caught in a swirl of strong currents as a dominant Democratic Party pushes into new areas and a weak Republican Party looks for a comeback.

With the 120-member Legislature wrapping up the state budget last month, the political season is under way. And with every legislative seat up for grabs, Lance becomes one of the state's most important political figures as Republicans try to gain a share of power in Trenton……………….

As the Democrats' power has grown, so have the conservative voices in Lance's own party, which argue that the GOP must run hard to the right to give voters an alternative. That's a tough fit for Lance, who is a fiscal conservative but a moderate on social issues and a favorite of environmentalists……………

Lance's critics say he is too gracious and polite to beat up the Democrats.

They point to state Sen. Thomas H. Kean Jr. as a likely replacement because Kean harangued his way through last year's U.S. Senate race against Democratic winner Robert Menendez. Kean declined to comment on whether he wants to unseat Lance. Instead, he said Lance is "one of the most principled individuals in Trenton.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070702_Key_N_J__GOP_leader_shuns_divisiveness.html

 

RUSH HOLT LISTENED

“Paperless, electronic voting is fast going out of style, and one reason might be the bombshell lobbed by Princeton University professor Edward Felten.

Just months before the 2006 November midterm elections, Felten and two graduate students released a report and demonstration video on how easily they managed to tamper with a commonly used electronic voting machine. He said one of his graduate students picked the lock in 10 seconds and installed malicious software in less than a minute……..

Nearly a year later, a growing number of states, including New Jersey, are taking a security step suggested by Felten and other experts: states are requiring a paper record of every vote cast – whether it's a paper receipt spit out by a push-button electronic machine, or an optical scan machine that uses paper ballots in the first place.

“Both sides work better if they have access to the wisdom and knowledge of the other side," he said. "I've tried to inject the good ideas of one side into the other side."” (Newmarker, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070702_Showing_the_gaps_in_the_armor_of_electronic_systems.html

 

HACKENSACK’S ROTATING MAYORS

“Hackensack continued its series of firsts on Sunday by appointing a Hispanic mayor, Jorge Meneses.

"Can you see me now?" said Meneses as he took the oath of office before more than 200 supporters at City Hall. There were 40 more people watching on closed-circuit television two floors below…………….

Members of the City Council have been rotating the mayoralty since running mate Joe DeFalco's fatal heart attack on election day 2005. Traditionally, in Hackensack a mayor is appointed after the council is elected. But DeFalco's sudden death left the New Visions for Hackensack ticket in disarray.

Councilman Marlin Townes served until June 2006, becoming the city's first black mayor. He was followed by Karen Sasso, who became the city's first woman mayor. She handed over the reins to Meneses on Sunday. Councilman Charles McAuliffe, who was appointed to his council seat, is the only member who will not take his turn as mayor………

The council's rotating mayoralty system is unprecedented and has critics and proponents.” (Sposito, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0NSZmZ2JlbDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NzE2MjE5MSZ5cmlyeTdmNzE3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTM=

 

MORRIS COUNTY RESIDENTS SOUND OFF ON IMMIGRATION

The failure of the latest immigration bill to move through the U.S. Senate was disappointing and frustrating for some Morris County people, but others interviewed on Sunday said we are better off because the bill would have granted illegals citizenship rights too easily.

"It should have gone forward. I think they should definitely find a way to revise the bill so it is acceptable. As long as it addresses the undocumented and gives some kind of path to legalization, it's progress," said Anthony Owens, 47, of Princeton, as he watched over his video game stand at Sunday's Dover flea market………….

But some, like Ted Gibson, 59, of Hopatcong, felt the latest immigration bill was too lenient toward illegals.

"I just didn't like that they were going to make these people legal citizens. If I were to go to Mexico without papers, what do you think they would do to me?" he said. "They should go back and come back legally.” (Lee, Daily Record)

http://www.dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/COMMUNITIES/707020335/1203/NEWS01

 

CHEERS FOR NEW HOBOKEN COUNCILMEN AND WOMEN

“HOBOKEN – The first day of the new fiscal year began with three new City Council members – and a new council president and vice president.

The loudest cheers from the crowd of about 150 at yesterday's swearing-in ceremony at City Hall were reserved for the new members – Second Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth Mason, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer and Fifth Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham.

But applause also rang out as City Clerk Jimmy Farina swore in re-elected First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo and Sixth Ward Councilman Angelo "Nino" Giacchi.

The new council then voted unanimously to appoint Castellano as its new president for a one-year term, replacing Second Ward Councilman Richard Del Boccio, who did not seek re-election. Giacchi was appointed vice president, replacing Councilwoman-at-large Terry LaBruno.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1183356533108380.xml&coll=3

 

MONMOUTH COUNTY REPUBLICANS’ “POISON PILL”

“Republicans have inserted a so-called "poison pill" in their surprise Monmouth County ethics reform proposal, which would kill the entire resolution — including pay-to-play restrictions — if any part of it were ruled unenforceable by a court or administrative agency.

On Thursday, a Board of Freeholders subcommittee withdrew its pay-to-play proposals when Republicans suddenly threw their support to the new proposal they said has wider reforms. No action on the changes was taken. The next board meeting is July 12.

But the new document has a "No Severability" section, stating: "If any provision of this resolution shall be held invalid by a court of law . . . any such invalidity shall render this entire resolution null and void."……………

Monmouth County Democratic Party Chairman Victor Scudiery said, "(Adam) Puharic and the Monmouth County Republicans are now doing what they have always done: attempting to sabotage any reform efforts with a sham substitute resolution so that they can perpetuate their Club Monmouth.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/NEWS01/707020343/1004

 

BERGEN BACKLOG

“Retirements have created seven openings on the Superior Court bench in Bergen County the past year and a half, but no new judges have been appointed to fill those vacancies since early 2006.

Of the 37 judgeship positions created to handle tens of thousands of cases every year, nine are open, with an additional retirement coming in October

Meanwhile, politicians and lawmakers remain divided over the candidates.

Although Bergen County remains one of New Jersey's better-performing jurisdictions in terms of backlog, some fear it won't be long before major delays occur.

"That's a lot of judges to be short," said Fair Lawn attorney Bill Bochet, who leads the Bergen County Bar Association's civil practice committee. "This will slow down the disposition of cases."” (Markos, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxNjIyMDMmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

A TOOTHLESS DEP

“The state Department of Environmental Protection wields little power to punish those responsible for contamination at Paramus' West Brook Middle School or for the coverup that followed its discovery, according to critics of the agency.

The DEP has not yet determined the origin of the pesticides at West Brook. And even if it reaches a conclusion on how the soil became tainted or who bears responsibility, critics say it does not have the legal power to levy any substantial punishment………..

Since news of the contamination became public in May, the DEP has maintained that the school district was not required to notify it when toxic soil was discovered. It also did not require contractors hired by the school district to obtain state permits when they started performing construction at West Brook…………

Environmentalists contend that the agency's powers have diminished substantially in recent years and describe the problem as multifaceted and widespread — not just a West Brook issue, but one that affects the entire state. They say the DEP has no teeth in many contamination scenarios, and that a lack of stricter regulations contributes to contaminated sites going undetected.” (Gartland, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxNjIyMjgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

SOUTH JERSEY FARMERS HURTING

“Many farmers in predominantly agricultural South Jersey — the region that puts "garden" in the Garden State — aren't having a rosy financial year.

On top of it, most of the farmers here don't qualify for federal farm subsidies, which Congress awards primarily to growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and other commodity crops in the Midwest and South.

Out-of-state competition is strong and prices for a major vegetable grown here — lettuce — are soft, said Peter Bylone Sr., manager of the Vineland Produce Auction. It is one of the nation's largest fruit and vegetable trading houses that connect local growers with commercial buyers from as far as Florida, Chicago and Canada and did $60 million in business last year.” (Chebium, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/NEWS/707020337

 

A PLEA FOR HELP

“As Congress begins work to renew the federal farm bill, New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles Kuperus is adding the state's voice to the debate.

He's working with his counterparts from other Northeastern states to ensure Congress provides more help to states like New Jersey, where agriculture isn't the biggest economic contributor…….

Additionally, the state spends $1 million to market "Jersey Fresh" produce and "Jersey Seafood."

Kuperus discussed the state's agriculture industry and his lobbying efforts in a recent interview.” (Chebium, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/NEWS/707020339

 

IN WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

“With his family at his side, David Boyne became just the second council president in this township's history, and possibly its last, at yesterday's annual reorganization meeting at Robbinsville High School.

The next time a council president is chosen, there is a chance the town may be called Robbin sville, as a name change is under consideration.” (Egan, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/1183349298201800.xml&coll=5

 

IN RIVERSIDE

The Township Committee in this Burlington County community has formalized a previous agreement not to enforce a controversial immigration ordinance pending the outcome of ongoing legal battles over the measure.

The committee authorized Solicitor George Sapanaro to enter into a consent order not to enforce its Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which made it illegal to rent to or hire immigrants in the country unlawfully.” (DeCastro, Gannett)

http://www.thedailyjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/NEWS01/707020317/1002/NEWS01

 

IN HADDON HEIGHTS

“Imagine a town where almost all of the homes have "for sale" signs in their front yards, where the mayor and Borough Council are being recalled, and where petitions from angry residents are reaching the highest levels of state government.

In Haddon Heights, a leafy South Jersey town of 7,500, residents say that's the future.

As New Jersey simmers with highest-in-America property taxes, Haddon Heights has exploded into full-blown tax rage, with bills landing in mailboxes in the last few weeks that show annual property-tax increases of $2,000, $5,000, even $11,000.

"In 30 years, I have never seen our town so upset," said Sue McDermott, who got a bill showing a $2,000 increase at the house she shares with her husband on Fourth Avenue.” (Dangremond, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070701_Tax_hike_enrages_Haddon_Heights.html

 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND

 

MOST EXPENSIVE PRIMARY SEASON EVER

“Fueled by a nasty brawl among Hudson County Democrats and the scramble for a slew of open seats, primary election spending by candidates for the state Legislature soared to a record $25 million this spring, campaign finance reports revealed yesterday.

"This is the largest increase that we've ever had in terms of primary spending, and it is by far the most expensive primary," said Frederick Herrmann, executive director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Democrats in the 33rd Legislative District alone spent nearly $2 million, a large sum even for a general election campaign. The biggest individual spender statewide was also in that district — Assemblyman Brian Stack (D-Hudson), who sank nearly $1.3 million into a campaign that crushed Assemblyman Silverio "Sal" Vega (D-Hudson) for his party's state Senate nomination.

Stack received a last-minute $73,000 infusion from organizations tied to Camden County Democrats, stirring speculation that South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross already is trying to line up allies for post-election skirmishes over the leadership of the next Legislature…………….

Senate President Richard Codey, who has led the Senate's Democrats for a decade, said he plans to keep his post and does not expect a challenge. As for Stack's South Jersey support, Codey said, "Brian isn't going to be bought by anybody. I'm fine with Brian Stack. Who he takes money from is his business.” (Donohue and Margolin, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1183177545191800.xml&coll=1

 

NOBODY SAID IT WOULD BE EASY

“The week was already off to a bad start by the time Mayor Cory Booker arrived for a fundraiser this spring to celebrate the anniversary of his election as Newark's 38th mayor.

Three people had been killed that week, putting the city on pace to match last year's murder rate. Typically energetic and peppy, the mayor instead seemed sluggish and drained that night in May.

"I'm worn," he admitted, leaning on the podium in a room at the Robert Treat Hotel. "Everything is hard. I've been losing my temper more."

It was a rare moment of candor coming from a mayor who was inaugurated exactly a year ago, armed with fresh initiatives, promises to make streets safer and a bold objective to make Newark the national model for urban transformation. One year later, there are modest improvements in the city, but few concrete examples of the changes he promised to bring, say supporters and critics………..

Yet at the end of one year, the mayor says he relishes the job, calling his freshman year the most challenging of his life. Sitting in the mayor's seat was sometimes harder than he expected.” (Wang and Mays, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/118326513413550.xml&coll=1

 

BIG MONEY IN EDISON

The three rival Democratic slates in last month's Edison council primary spent nearly $500,000 to win four spots on the ballot in the general election for council seats that pay $6,000 a year.

The post-election campaign finance reports made available last week show that the four incumbents, who lost to a ticket of political newcomers backed by Mayor Jun Choi, had the biggest tab at $225,525. Choi's candidates, who face a challenge against four Republicans in the fall, spent $188,341, though Choi said the final expenditures for the primary will likely be close to $235,000. The third slate spent about $72,000 on their bid.

"Those are unheard-of amounts for a suburban New Jersey town," said David Rebovich, a political analyst and professor at Rider University. "You wonder if the good citizens of Edison will cringe when they see it."………..

"It shows you it's not about money," Choi said. "It's about the credibility of the candidates, a winning message and focusing on what the residents really want."” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/middlesex/index.ssf?/base/news-2/118326398513550.xml&coll=1

 

GOOD LUCK SELLING THIS ONE

“Gov. Jon S. Corzine is still honing his plan to make money off toll roads such as the New Jersey Turnpike, but both Republicans and Democrats running for legislative seats that represent Burlington County tried to send him the same message last week: Don't bother.

“My position on the sale of our state assets has not wavered,” said state Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, in a prepared statement. “I have been against the toll-road sale from the beginning.”

State Assemblyman Fran Bodine, D-8th of Moorestown, his party's Senate candidate, said any toll-road change “is an absolute nonstarter.”…………….

The governor doesn't have a complete plan yet, but he said he's trying to come up with something that ensures state ownership of the assets, maintains a sound maintenance standard and also carries a predictable toll schedule. The formula wouldn't be an outright sale or a lease to a foreign corporation, he said last week, and he chastised legislative candidates for making political statements that bash a plan that doesn't yet exist.” (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-07012007-1371615.html

 

IF NOT RACE, THEN MONEY

“In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's new limits on using race to attain diversity in classrooms, a less controversial option is gaining attention: a student's socioeconomic background…………

While the idea is not universally supported, officials and experts said it could prove the winning constitutional ingredient for other districts — including New Jersey's Montclair and Englewood — that have openly sought to integrate their schools by race but may now be challenged by the court's latest ruling.

"There's no doubt it is perfectly legal, and I think you'll see a lot more districts looking at going in this direction," said Richard Kah lenberg, a senior fellow of the Century Fund in Washington, D.C., and one of the strategy's biggest supporters.” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/118326478413550.xml&coll=1

 

HILL OUT AT COMMERCE BANK

“Vernon Hill, the visionary founder and firebrand leader of Commerce Bank who is largely credited with igniting the customer-service revolution in the staid world of banking, was ousted yesterday amid a federal probe of his real-estate dealings with the bank, his family and friends.

Hill's departure after 34 years at the helm of New Jersey's largest bank was announced shortly after Commerce reached agreements with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia to settle questions about Hill's real estate deals.

"Mr. Hill and the board agree that his departure is in the best interest of the company," said Robert Falese, who was tapped by the board to replace Hill as chief executive. "The related-party transactions have become a distraction to our regulators, shareholders, customers and employees.”…………………

He refused to use bulletproof glass at teller windows because he felt it was too impersonal. Instead of erecting velvet ropes, the carpets were designed to form lines. Branches routinely stayed open until 9 p.m.

At the same time, Commerce has been dogged by regulatory and governance problems over its sticky political connections and leasing of land owned by partnerships that include Hill. In 2004, a corruption probe in Philadelphia landed two Commerce Bank executives in jail.

In 2003, Commerce shut down its political action committee, which had donated heavily to political campaigns in return for a generous portion of the banking business of state and local governments. Among the company's top executives is George Norcross, a Democratic power broker who runs Commerce's insurance business.

The latest federal investigation, launched in January, had stalled branch expansion, a key to profit growth.”(Ali, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1183177644191800.xml&coll=1

 

PENNSYLVANIA A HAVEN FOR NEW JERSEY PYROS

”New Jersey state troopers have amassed an awe-inspiring arsenal of fireworks this year: A container stuffed with almost two tons of pyrotechnics whose names include Mortars, Repeaters and Artillery Shells – enough to stage dozens of rocket-fueled Independence Day displays.

But the troopers aren't planning a Fourth of July spectacular. The cache is considered hazardous waste and will be destroyed, Maj. John Hunt of the state police said…………..

For two years, New Jersey politicians have pleaded with Pennsylvania to close a legal loophole that allows Pennsylvania fireworks retailers to sell to out-of-state residents fireworks that are prohibited to Pennsylvanians. This year, New Jersey state police are cracking down on fireworks smugglers, in some cases lurking in store parking lots and following customers in cars bearing New Jersey license plates.

In the last week, dozens of Garden Staters, New Yorkers and others have been snared by undercover patrols and charged with possessing illegal fireworks. Penalties range from a summons to fines of up to $10,000 and 18 months in jail.

New Jersey residents cannot legally possess any fireworks, even sparklers. Pennsylvania residents can have only sparklers and other low-octane novelties. Fireworks – pyrotechnics that lift off the ground – can only be possessed with special permits.

About 60 retailers have opened in Pennsylvania, using the law that allows fireworks sellers to sell to out-of-state residents.” (Wood and Moroz, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070630_Seizures_of_fireworks_skyrocketing_in_N_J_.html

“The New Jersey State Police have increased patrols near Delaware River bridges. As of Sunday, trooper patrols in the past few weeks had led to 40 arrests and the seizure of three and a half tons of fireworks, the state police said. Last year in the same time frame they arrested 48 people and confiscated more than a ton of fireworks………….

New Jersey’s efforts to dissuade Pennsylvania from selling to New Jersey residents has yielded only the warning signs. And to hear Phantom’s customers tell it, New Jersey and other states need to lighten up.

“I think it’s absurd,” said a woman from Somerset, N.J., who did not want to be named for fear of being cited by the authorities. “I don’t know why you can’t do what you want on your own property.

She added: “I pay my taxes. We’re safe when we use them. We always have hoses.” (Jones, New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/nyregion/02fire.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin

 

HOSPITAL FUNDING

“More than four dozen New Jersey hospitals will get extra cash in the state budget that takes effect today to help them provide free care for patients without health insurance, a Star-Ledger review has found.

But while hospitals say the extra dollars will ease some of their fiscal pain, it is far from a long-term cure to a problem that helped put some on the brink of bankruptcy.

"None of the hospitals is deliriously pleased nor desperately disappointed," said Michael Murphy, a hospital lobbyist. "That's probably the test of a good political outcome."” (Donohue and Livio, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/118326421913550.xml&coll=1

 

IN ATLANTIC COUNTY

“During his nearly four decades in Atlantic County prosecutor's office, Jeffrey Blitz has seen Atlantic City evolve from a honky-tonk playground into a glitzy casino city. Arriving as a fresh-faced assistant just out of law school, Blitz grew with the office, becoming more adept at prosecuting the kinds of crimes big money can attract.

Now, after 22 years in the top job, he leave's as the state's longest-serving county prosecutor. But as Blitz handed over the reins last week to a new leader, Theodore Housel, one thing galled him: not being able to close the case on last year's murders of four young women.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/118326512613550.xml&coll=1

 

IN WESTHAMPTON

“The candidate who won the Democratic nomination in the June primary to run for a seat on the Township Committee has announced she is pulling out of the race.

Alicia Meyer was the party-endorsed candidate and winner of the June 5 primary. She was to challenge three-term incumbent Republican Harry Adams in November.

In a news release, Meyer said she is dropping out after learning that her position with the state Department of Human Services is completely funded by a federal block grant. That means that, under the federal Hatch Act, she is prohibited from seeking public office.” (Harris, Burlington County Times)

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-07012007-1371617.html

 

IN CLAYTON

“On a day meant to honor a fallen local soldier, three members of a radical religious sect stood outside the church carrying picket signs depicting messages of hate.

Friday's Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church was meant to honor Army Pfc. David J. Bentz III, but it drew picketers from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church………..

Phelps-Roper, her son, Sam, and her brother, Fred Phelps Jr. stood behind the police blockade 500 feet from the church brandishing large signs with messages like "Pray for More Dead Soldiers" and "America is Doomed."

"We're just trying to help people connect the dots from a filthy, disobedient manner of life to their children," said Phelps-Roper, who is the daughter of Westboro Baptist's founder, Fred Phelps………….

Local veterans stood guard around the church, and more than a dozen of them waved flags and shouted the Pledge of Allegiance to drown out the chants and songs of the three behind the barrier.

"We will not allow these protests to come anywhere near the family," said Vietnam veteran Cliff Miller of Williamstown. "We are here to pay respect to a hero, not give these people attention for their hatred.” (Driscoll, Bridgeton News)

http://www.nj.com/news/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1183176736155670.xml&coll=10

 

IN WEST WINDSOR

“A showdown between the mayor and a councilman over the township attorney may be cut off at the pass in time for tomorrow morning's reorganization meeting.

While Councilman Charles Morgan is still seeking to neutralize township attorney Michael J. Herbert, he's attempting to do it with a compromise.

The compromise is coming from Herbert, who said he is willing to "step aside from time to time" if the council wants to bring in outside counsel on specific issues, including the controversial issue of redevelopment.” (Perisco, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1183176686125540.xml&coll=5

 

IN PHILLIPSBURG

“Schools Superintendent Gordon Pethick will spend this coming week pondering his future and analyzing what led to his lame-duck status.

Pethick left Friday for a family vacation to Florida, three days after a midnight vote by the school board not to renew his contract beyond June 2008. The hardest part for Pethick early Tuesday morning, he said, was seeing two administrative positions cut before him.

"It's just a bizarre situation," said Pethick, of Allentown. "The things that have been built and done, seeing them tear that down was actually harder. As much as I wanted to be renewed, after they chopped off part of the district, my nonrenewal is secondary."” (Hausmann, Express-Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/expresstimes/nj/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1183263007276950.xml&coll=2

 

IN WOODBINE

“Councilman Jerry Sanford resigned Friday from Borough Council after moving out of town. “I made attempts to regain my residency here, and it just didn't work out,” he said. “It's regretful I have to submit it. I really enjoyed serving. I enjoyed living in Woodbine.” (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/capemay/story/7488566p-7383927c.html

 

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