Poll shows that monetization is unpopular, Sires aides say he had nothing to do with North Bergen investigation, New Jersey’s fiscal nightmare, number of poor children in New Jersey has increased.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, DO WE HAVE A CAMPAIGN ISSUE?
“New Jersey residents overwhelmingly oppose the leasing of state assets, such as the lottery or the New Jersey Turnpike, to fix the state’s fiscal problems.
That is, unless the alternative is a tax hike. Then they overwhelmingly support the leasing of assets, the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll shows.
Nonetheless, residents are skeptical the money will be put to good use and fearful that if highways are leased, tolls will increase, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“As a general concept, asset monetization, to use the governor’s parlance, just doesn’t sit well with New Jerseyans,” Murray said………………
The Monmouth University/Gannett poll showed that 55 percent of residents opposed the idea Corzine has dubbed “asset monetization” without explaining the details. Nearly 60 percent opposed the leasing of the Turnpike or Garden State Parkway, and about the same number opposed allowing private developers to build on top of train stations………..
Respondents to the poll were asked to choose between leasing assets or raising taxes, the results were overwhelming: 62 percent would rather lease the assets.
Yet when asked whether the state should lease assets or make significant budget cuts, including cuts in education, then residents were split — about 4 in 10 favored both.” (Method, Asbury Park Press)
SIRES NOT INVOLVED IN NORTH BERGEN PROBE
“These days it is hard to tell a legitimate action by elected officials from retaliation. During the early campaigns of the Hudson County Democratic Party’s civil war, there was the gnashing of teeth and threats, particularly from North Bergen, that U.S., Rep. Albio Sires was a one-term congressman for going against the county organization in the primary.
Following the primary, North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and other leaders of the Hudson County Democratic Organization spent the better part of the summer engineering the removal of a Union City representative on the county Schools of Technology Board of Trustees, a slap at the anti-HCDO forces.
Soon after, it was learned that the state Attorney General’s Office was investigating the North Bergen Public Works Department. Township and county sources said the probe was to determine if there was anyone with no-show jobs.
The day after the investigation headlines in The Jersey Journal, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, announces that he is pulling $500,000 from a spending bill that was earmarked toward construction of a garage in North Bergen that was to include a repair shop for the town’s Department of Public Works vehicles…………..
Sires was caught by surprise by Rothman’s action but supported his colleague’s decision.
“I agree with pulling it until this thing gets resolved,” he told the Journal.
Sires knows that no matter what he said, he probably could not convince anyone that he did not talk Rothman into taking the action as retaliation against Sacco. In fact, the congressman from West New York probably would not have pulled the money on his own.
“It would only hurt the township residents and they would resent it,” said one of Sires’ closest advisors.” (Torres, Jersey Journal)
“In 1994, New Jersey decided to stop setting aside money in a fund to pay for health care for its retired public workers. The savings paved the way for a big tax cut.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of public workers were being told that as long as they worked 25 years, the system would provide virtually free health care for them when they retired, often when they were as young as 55.
No one added up the cost — until now.
It turns out that New Jersey will need about $58 billion, in today’s dollars, to provide all the care it has promised its current and future retirees. That’s nearly twice the state budget and nearly twice the amount of its outstanding debt………..
Many other states have been promising retiree health care without keeping track of the cost. They, too, are tallying what they owe, to comply with a new accounting rule that applies to all state and local governments. The numbers tend to be big, but so far, New Jersey’s obligation, which the state planned to announce tomorrow, appears to be the biggest.
“This is a very pressing situation that can’t go on much longer without being repaired,” said Clifford A. Goldman, New Jersey’s treasurer from 1976 to 1982. ………….
The portion of the $58 billion that they need to come up with each year will rise sharply because of soaring health costs and a burgeoning population of retirees, according to the New Jersey Treasury. The state will spend about $1.1 billion on this year’s care, and the figure is expected to double in five years.
Meanwhile, the state’s revenues are largely static…………..
Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s administration has been making bigger pension contributions than the previous four administrations put together, and the fund has enjoyed strong market returns over the last year, but the payments are still only about half of what is needed.” (Walsh, New York Times)
WE COULD DO BETTER
“The number of poor children in New Jersey increased at a higher pace than in the country as a whole over the first five years of the century, according to a new survey designed to measure child well-being.
The increase in children living in poverty caused New Jersey to slide from its high of third place among the states in 2004 to ninth in this year’s Kids Count Data Book, an annual survey released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore. The report ranks the states according to 10 indica tors of child well-being, including birth weight and level of education.
“That is astonishing for a state that is among the wealthiest in the nation,” Maia Davis of the Association for Children of New Jersey said in a statement. New Jersey’s median income is $75,000, compared with $53,000 nationally.
Overall, the picture for New Jersey’s children was still bright. The state made significant gains, including 25 percent declines in births to teens and in high school dropouts. Infant mortality and child death rates also were down………..
For the most part, poor families in New Jersey are clustered in the cities and some communities in the rural southern counties, said Cecelia Zalkind, executive director of the association, a children’s advocacy group.” (O’Crowley, Star-Ledger)
“The highest-ranked state for children overall was Minnesota. The lowest was Mississippi.
New Jersey ranked in the nation’s top 10 for having the best outcomes in seven of those categories, including poverty.” (Giordano, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Other worrisome statistics from the report include the number of children living in single-parent families in New Jersey, which grew from 25 percent to 28 percent. The number of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment also rose. So too did the teen death rate.
The state’s lowest ranking, 30th in the nation, came in the category of low-birthweight babies. Nationwide, 8.1 percent of babies are low-birthweight; statewide, the figure is slightly more than the national average, at 8.3 percent.” (Lu and Carroll, Bergen Record)
TAKING A GAMBLE
“A state famous for gambling is doing some gambling of its own.
But New Jersey officials aren’t relying on the blackjack tables in Atlantic City to win big. Rather, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has begun a new program to trade debt owed to it by technology firms for company stock.
The move could prove risky if a company doesn’t thrive and its stock sinks, but it also could prove lucrative should the firm see its stock soar………..
On June 7, it took $250,000 in stock from Archive Systems Inc., a Fairfield document processing company that received a $1 million loan from the EDA to help expand its digital document management system……….
Should a company fail, Coviello said the EDA won’t get its money back, but she said the agency won’t enter into agreements with companies unless they’ve successfully done business with the agency before.” (Hester, AP)
“The New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday defined which kinds of on-the-job accidents are serious enough to qualify for disability benefits, saying it wanted to end more than 45 years of confusion caused by state judges.
The justices allowed workers to receive permanent disability benefits for injuries caused by on-the-job accidents, except in the cases where the disability stems from a pre-existing condition, such as heart disease…………..
In a 5-0 ruling, made in the case of a corrections officer injured by an inmate, the Supreme Court said decisions made by a series of courts, including itself, had created a “body of law with no rational core.”
A traumatic event on the job — the kind that qualifies a state worker for the more-generous benefits than those in traditional disability cases — is “essentially the same as what we historically understood an accident to be,” wrote Justice Virginia Long.
The court said the on-the-job accident must occur during regular work duties and leave a person totally disabled in order to qualify for permanent benefits.
“A policeman can be shot while pursuing a suspect; a librarian can be hit by a falling bookshelf while re-shelving books; a social worker can catch her hand in the car door while transporting a child to court,” the decision said.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
ENJOY THE QUIET WHILE IT LASTS
“The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have blocked the Federal Aviation Administration from changing the flight patterns around major airports in New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The House rejected the proposal, 65-360, and effectively gave a green light to the FAA to increase flight noise for homeowners in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The House amendment, offered to the appropriations bill for the U.S. Transportation Department, would have prohibited the Bush administration from spending any money next year to implement its proposed changes the air traffic patterns at four major airports: Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and Philadelphia.
But senior lawmakers in both parties defended the FAA and its right to change flight patterns in ways that would account for increased air traffic.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
SCORE ONE FOR THE LITTLE GUY
“In another loss for the forces using eminent domain to reshape communities, an appellate panel yesterday rejected an appeal by Lodi officials to force two private trailer parks to move so they could be replaced with upscale housing and shops.
The ruling effectively ends a bitter four-year battle between low- and fixed-income mobile home residents and municipal officials. It backs a 2005 Superior Court ruling that found the borough built too weak a case in declaring the properties blighted.
Yesterday’s decision follows a similar ruling issued last month by the state Supreme Court. And it is a victory for Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen, who entered the case on behalf of residents as part of a pledge to fight cases he deemed to be abuses of local power……………….
The borough’s redevelopment plan called for a gated senior hous ing community with 250 units and 112,000 square feet of retail space. The project was estimated to bring in $3 million in annual tax revenue, instead of about $250,000 that the borough now collects from the trailer parks.” (Ben-Ali, Star-Ledger)
NO JAIL FOR I.T. OFFICIAL
“A deputy director of the state Office of Information Technology yesterday was admitted to a program that will allow him to avoid prison for lying on a $422,500 home mortgage application, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Raymond J. Hayling II, 32, of Englewood will be allowed into a pretrial intervention program. He also was ordered to forfeit his state job, which included serving as the interoperability communications officer with the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and a special investigator with the Attorney General’s Office.
Hayling was suspended without pay from his $107,382-a-year job and barred from state computers after being served with a complaint May 23 accusing him of forgery and falsifying or tampering with records.
The state dropped those counts yesterday and entered a single charge of forgery for submitting phony documents in his personal home loan application that claimed income from a rental property, the state said.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
FORMER CFO OF HUD COMING TO PRINCTON
“A former senior official with the federal government and the state of New Jersey has been chosen as director of the Policy Research Institute for the Region at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Richard Keevey, who begins his new job Aug. 1, had served as director of the National Academy of Public Administration’s Performance Consortium and Human Resources Management Consortium, and director of state operations since 2004.
In his new post, Keevey will be heading the institute, which uses university and community resources to solve public policy changes facing New Jersey, New York and southeastern Pennsylvania.” (Trenton Times)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“Fort employees working on what will become a report to Congress detailing how best to close the installation are being asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
The agreement first surfaced Tuesday, two days after an Asbury Park Press story based on a draft of the report showed that it called for a complete duplication of its communications and electronics command’s critical technology and infrastructure or the global war on terrorism could be compromised……………
The agreement encourages the employees to report “unauthorized disclosure” of information, and states that any violation of this agreement may result in the employee “being the subject of a disciplinary action of appropriate severity.”
There are no identifying marks on the agreement, and no indication of with whom it should be filed. There are also no statutes or military regulations cited………..
Some employees are not happy about the agreement. John Poitras, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1904, said he does not want his members signing it.
“I don’t like it, and I don’t agree to it,” Poitras said, adding that he felt the agreement is a “negotiable item under our contract.”…………..
Also on Tuesday, six members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation sent a copy of the draft report to David M. Walker, the U.S. Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office. The GAO has committed to investigating the process behind the decision to close Fort Monmouth……….
In a letter accompanying the draft, the legislators say it is “further evidence that the Army will not be able to make the case that moving C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) functions from Fort Monmouth can be accomplished without disruption of the Global War on Terror.”” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
“Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., offered a bill amendment Monday night to strip a federal regulatory board of its authority to approve waste transfer stations along rail lines. One such station has been proposed for Freehold Township.
Smith withdrew the amendment, citing procedural rules, but said he was pleased with the support expressed by committee chairmen.
Smith on Tuesday said the reaction from the committee leaders “bodes well for our efforts to fix this loophole which threatens residents in Freehold in my district and throughout the country.”” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
GIVING THE SCHOOLS BACK
“The state’s top education official plans to recommend that some local control be returned to Jersey City schools, and to a much lesser extent Newark schools, in a decision which may mark the beginning of the end of the state’s more than decade-long takeovers of the districts.
The state Department of Education yesterday released evaluations indicating the two districts were ready to assume some control.
The reports, issued by Education Commissioner Lucille Davy to the state Board of Education, recommended that Jersey City be permitted to elect or appoint its own school board in the next year and regain control of its fiscal operations.
Newark would gain control over facilities and other daily operations, though fiscal operations and personnel would stay in the hands of a state-appointed superintendent……….
Newark and Jersey City were reviewed under the state’s new monitoring system known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC. The legislation was passed in 2005 and viewed as a solution to criticism that the state jumped in to take over districts without an exit strategy.
Under QSAC, a district must pass a detailed checklist of about 350 items in five areas: governance, fiscal management, personnel, instruction and operations. Earlier this year teams of educators were sent into the nine school districts to evaluate their performance.” (Addison and Mooney, Star-Ledger)
“The New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded $21,535,237 in grants to more than 800 organizations, programs and projects across the state Tuesday at its annual meeting in Trenton.
Boosted by a larger appropriation from the New Jersey Legislature for fiscal year 2008, the council increased its funding by $2.8 million over fiscal year 2007.” (Baxter, Courier-Post)
TEACHING TO THE TEST
“For Bruce Rothenberg, principal of Parsons Elementary School in North Brunswick, the tradeoffs of the federal No Child Left Behind Act couldn’t be clearer.
This year, reading and math test scores rose at his school, but students who needed extra help in those subjects had to give up time in other classes. That meant things like social studies and science suddenly weren’t quite as important.
“They certainly have less priority, no question about it,” he said. “All the energy is focused on math and reading.”
A sweeping new national study of the federal legislation — perhaps the toughest education bill ever — has found that many districts with low-performing schools radically shifted their emphasis to the basics of reading, writing and math at the expense of other subjects.
The wisdom of teaching to the test is being hotly debated in the education community. Some point out that reading, writing and math are essential skills; others say the gains don’t justify the sacrifices.
But the study, released today by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, provides clear evidence schools are literally changing schedules to avoid the law’s most severe penalties.” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)
A GALLON JUG OF URINE
“Charges against an animal rights activist accused of tampering with a bear trap, resisting ar rest and threatening a neighbor were sent yesterday to a higher court — from Vernon Municipal Court to Superior Court in Newton.
Albert Kazemian, 50, of the Lake Wanda section of Highland Lakes in Vernon, was arrested July 17 at 12:10 a.m., when he was allegedly caught pouring human urine from a gallon jug near a bear trap that had been set up on his neighbor’s property on Woodside Drive, authorities said.
Kazemian did not enter any formal plea. Instead, the batch of charges against him were transferred by municipal court Judge C. William Bowkley.
Charges against Kazemian include a third-degree charge of threatening another neighbor and her children. Kazemian allegedly told Melissa Mead on July 11, “You need to watch your babies, because what goes around comes around.” A indictable offense carries a penalty of three to five years in jail and a $15,000 fine.” (Lockwood, Star-Ledger)
GOT TO GET A JOB ON A PARKS COMMISSION
“The Morris County Park Commission maintains 42 homes or apartments at 20 of its facilities for use by county employees, nonprofit agencies and “life right tenants,” charging below-market rents, or in the case of golf course superintendents, no rent.
The housing units are generally rented for an average of $500 or $600 per month to park police, maintenance foremen and engineering supervisors, horticultural managers, farm specialists, site managers, and historic site specialists, and includes some park managers.
The rental policy has been in place for nearly 20 years, when the park commission felt it was necessary to have employees live at some facilities to provide higher levels of security and maintenance.
“The policy was started to protect our investment in public parks,” said park commission deputy director William Hugaboom. “No one profits. These are modest homes. We are trying to do it the right way.”
Few asked about the housing policy until recently, when the Somerset County freeholders received a report that questioned the fiscal management of that county’s park commission, including the renting of homes at low rates — some lower than $500 a month — to top park management, including the park director.” (Daigle, Daily Record)
NO DOUBT MANY PUBLIC OFFICIALS SHARE THE SENTIMENT: STOP SNITCHING
“CAMDEN — Despite objections from the police, a city and school district-sponsored “Peace On The Streets” rally Thursday night will feature a hip-hop artist whose lyrics appear to promote violence and silencing snitches.
The mayor’s office said it has been assured that the artist, Swizz Beatz, no longer raps about hard-core violence and will bring a positive message to teens expected to attend.”
But Swizz Beatz’s current single, “It’s Me Snitches,” includes two lines that say: “Freeze, you know who it is / It’s me, snitches!” and “I ain’t gonna shoot ya / I could just choke ya.”
Such sentiments have the police concerned.
“We call for this artist to retract the position he advocates in his music and if he does not, we retract our sponsorship of this event,” Camden police said in a statement. “While the Camden Police Department fully supports community efforts to stop the violence in our community, we believe that such efforts must be appropriately framed and done with responsibility.”
Officers cite the street code against snitching, or talking to police about witnessed crimes, as an obstacle in solving crimes…………
“He’s actually sharing a lot of positiveness,” said the Rev. Tony Evans, the mayor’s spokesman. “A lot of artists, even though they have material that might not be appropriate for all ages, they do want to position themselves as having a positive impact on communities.”” (Katz, Courier-Post)
“TRENTON — An environmental coalition distributed leaflets in the downtown area yesterday asking residents and workers to call the mayor and demand that the Trenton Water Works stop using chlorine gas to treat its water.
About 10 volunteers handed out hundreds of leaflets which warned, “Trenton Water Works Could be Dangerous to Your Health.” According to the leaflet, the city water plant is one of 12 in the state still using chlorine gas. In the event of an accident or terrorist attack on the facility, it claims the gas could be released and harm people.
The message upset city officials who found it misleading and incomplete.
City spokesman Kent Ashworth said the city received three or four calls from residents who received leaflets, including a woman who called the mayor and said the plant’s water is not healthy and is making people sick.
“It is unfortunate they are trying to push a panic button when the (city) is in full compliance with state and federal regulations,” said Ashworth.
” (Loayza, Trenton Times)
HIGH NOON IN MORRISTOWN
“Three high-noon rallies scheduled at different places in town on Saturday could attract more than 1,000 people with divergent views on handling illegal immigration.
Robb Pearson, founder of the ProAmerica Society, is holding a rally behind town hall on South Street to urge enforcement of immigration laws. He said members of organizations from other states are spreading the word, and he expects a minimum of 200 people, but as many as 1,000. Indications are that the event will be “very well attended,” he said………..
Another event at which immigrants’ plight is to be highlighted is being organized by the town immigration resource center, Wind of the Spirit. Its organizer said she doesn’t expect a huge turnout at the prayer vigil at St. Margaret’s Church on Sussex Avenue, but hopes attendees will get a positive message.” (Hassan, Daily Record)
“A top official for a grant-writing firm hired by the borough last month was convicted of Medicaid fraud four years ago, and the firm’s director of operations was convicted in 2000 of stealing funds from clients for his personal use.
Strategic Enterprise Solutions LLC was awarded a one-year contract by the Borough Council in June. The resolution authorizing the hire was approved in a 3-3 vote, with Mayor Nancy Merse breaking the tie.
Paul Steffens, Strategic’s director of grants management, was convicted in February 2003 of defrauding Medicaid of about $130,000 while he was executive director of Hudson Behavioral Treatment Center in Jersey City in the mid-1990s, court papers show. He pleaded guilty and received three years’ probation………..
The company’s director of operations, David B. Biunno, is a former lawyer and former New Jersey deputy attorney general who served three years in state prison for stealing money from various clients. He was disbarred in 1999.” (Firschein, Bergen Record)
“A new monitoring system developed by the state Department of Education has found the city school district is in dire need of improvement and may require an intervention by agency officials to bring it up to par.
The findings were announced yesterday by DOE Commissioner Lucille E. Davy and come at a time when district officials are grappling with the aftermath of a grading scandal that affected 126 students.
A state review of the district found that Trenton teachers lack appropriate curriculum guides and that technology is not being effectively implemented in the curriculum, among other deficiencies.
Trenton officials have 45 days to come up with an improvement plan to address the problems ex posed by the agency, Davy said.” (Colon, Trenton Times)
“John Hollingshead took a final ride through Millville on Tuesday as a vintage fire truck carried his flag-draped casket on a slow, winding route through the city he helped shape during years of public service.
The procession made one stop shortly after leaving Christy Funeral Home for a brief ceremony at the Millville Fire Department, where a bell was sounded 15 times for each year Hollingshead served as a voluntary firefighter.
Some smiled at the mention that the procession caused more fanfare than Hollingshead did during his decades of quiet, effective public service on the Millville City Commission where he habitually shunned the limelight.” (Jackson, Daily Journal)
BUT WOULD THEY HAVE SIGNED OFF ON TWO BOYS KISSING?
“Whoever signed off on this year’s Phillipsburg High School yearbook must have gone bananas, according to a town councilman and former school board member.
The picture of the 2006-07 school board members and administrators shows the familiar faces, but places their heads on the bodies of monkeys.
Councilman Jim Shelly wants school officials to investigate how something he sees as an obvious jab made its way into an otherwise professional yearbook.
“It’s totally disrespectful and inappropriate,” Shelly said.
Shelly served on the board for nine years and said he’s never seen anything like it. He brought the book to Monday night’s school board meeting.
Spread across pages 96 and 97 is a tree with the monkeys perched on its limbs and the board members’ faces superimposed. Superintendent Gordon Pethick’s face is attached to the body of a gray Superman-like squirrel.” (Eilenberger, Express-Times)
“The borough has said no to a $500,000 gift. Council in a 5-to-1 vote rejected a proposal by Charles Slack to donate that sum if the McCowan Memorial Library would be renamed.
Slack had offered the board of trustees the donation to memorialize his spouse by changing the library’s name to the Barbara Slack Memorial Library. There has been significant opposition to the idea because the library is already named for a five-term mayor whose estate funded its construction.” (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)
IN WEST WINDSOR
“The fallout from Monday night’s heated council meeting continued yesterday with a council member denouncing what she called “one man’s obsession with ousting (township attorney) Mike Herbert from his role.
Councilwoman Heidi Kleinman yesterday issued a strongly worded statement criticizing Councilman Charles Morgan’s distribution of a 14-page “memorandum” outlining his objections to signing the professional services agreement with attorney Michael Herbert Sr.
Calling it a “denunciation” of Herbert’s reputation, Kleinman stated, “If there are facts within the 14 pages of character assassination, (they are) obscured by personal opinion, innuendo and distortion of the historical record. It lacks the acknowledgment of Charlie’s support of Mike Herbert’s work product over the years.” (Persico, Trenton Times)
IN CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE
“CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Part of a funding fight between freeholders and the county Prosecutor’s Office will reach the state Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will review the county’s petition of the Prosecutor’s Office so-called Bigley action, in which a judge awarded $65,000 in pay raises to 18 employees last year, officials said Tuesday.
A Bigley action, which is similar to a lawsuit, gives prosecutors’ offices a way to appeal funding they receive from freeholders in annual budgets. Prosecutors’ offices are the only county-funded agency that can make such an appeal.
Since last year, freeholders and Prosecutor Robert Taylor have reached a series of compromises following Taylor’s concerns that his office needed more money to fight crime, increase staffing and give raises to employees.”