Legislators weigh in on whether to change the way New Jersey appoints interim Senators, New Jersey Clinton fundraiser weighs in on foreign policy spat with Obama, Warren County Freeholder Director Everett Chamberlain has a heart attack, firms that donated to Democrats find warm welcome in Evesham, Philipsburg Mayor had community service youth work on his own property, judge considers dropping Tom Wilson’s lawsuit against Corzine.
DEMOCRATS MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER INSURANCE POLICY ON THEIR U.S. SENATORS
Imagine this: it’s 2010, and Chris Christie has just been inaugurated as New Jersey’s new Republican Governor after defeating Jon Corzine in his reelection bid. Meanwhile in Washington, the United States Senate remains in Democrats’ tenuous grasp, with a one-seat majority.
Suddenly, one of New Jersey’s two Democratic Senators falls ill and steps down — control of the Senate hangs in the balance. Should Governor Christie be required to appoint a Democrat as the Senator’s interim replacement, or should he be able to appoint anyone he wants, regardless of party affiliation?
Currently, state law would allow the Governor to appoint a Senator of his or her choice.
While few people want to speculate on a Senator’s illness or death, it’s a question that New Jersey Democrats may want to look into if they’re going to re-elect 83 1/2-year-old Frank Lautenberg — who, according to an actuarial timetable from the Social Security Administration, can be expected to live just 5.29 years after he turns 85 during the first month of his next term.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“THE WORLD IS NOT IN THE MOOD FOR THAT”
“The Hillary Clinton camp says Clinton’s quick, detail-oriented response during a CNN debate last week shows she’s ready to lead in a crisis.
"It’s experience here," said John Graham, one of the chief fund-raisers for the Clinton for President Campaign in New Jersey, which will welcome their candidate to two private events on Monday – one in Jersey City and one in Cresskill, in which they hope to raise around $200,000.
Graham said the face-off between Clinton and Obama on foreign policy hinges on a key distinction, which Clinton nailed and Obama did not. To the question of whether he or she would negotiate with sworn enemies of the United States "without preconditions," Obama said he would, while Clinton said nay.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
GET WELL SOON
“Warren County Freeholder Director Everett Chamberlain suffered a major heart attack Saturday and underwent emergency angioplasty surgery at Morristown Memorial Hospital, a family member said.
Everett Chamberlain, 60, was in stable condition and alert Sunday, his son Chad Chamberlain said………..
Chad Chamberlain said his father's doctors do not yet know the extent of the damage caused by the heart attack. He said his father will probably have to slow his schedule in order to make a full recovery………..
Warren County and PCFA Attorney Joseph Bell said he was shocked to hear of Everett Chamberlain's health troubles but hopes he makes a speedy, full recovery. Bell said he doesn't expect Everett Chamberlain to be held down for long.
"Knowing Everett, he'll return as quickly as possible," Bell said.
But Bell said Everett Chamberlain can take his time with the recovery. He said he was not aware of any state statutes that say how long a freeholder can be absent from meetings.” (Buck, Express-Times)
PAY TO PLAY?
“Evesham increased the number of engineering firms it hires from two to five this month.
The expansion paved the way for contracts to three engineering firms that donated a combined $13,000 to the new mayor and council.
Another firm that's historically been a significant contributor to Democratic candidates statewide was awarded a fourth engineering contract.
The new Democrat-majority council said the increase allowed the township to hire a firm for each engineering problem it faces.
But some wonder if the jobs are rewards for contributions given to elected officials who promised transparent governing in their campaign against longtime Mayor Gus Tamburro…………….
The firms went through a bidding process, though council didn't create the three new jobs until the process was over. The contracts do not stipulate an annual amount the township will pay the firms, but it does establish the companies' hourly rates. Last year, the township spent about $700,000 on engineering, officials said.
Council members who received the donations say that had nothing to do with their decisions.” (Laughlin, Courier-Post)
NOT EXACTLY COMMUNITY SERVICE
“PHILLIPSBURG | Town Mayor Harry Wyant said he didn't think he was doing anything inappropriate by picking up debris from his property while supervising youthful offenders in a community service program.
State authorities had questioned him about whether the juveniles were performing work on his properties, he said.
Wyant said he stopped at two of his properties to pick up rubbish, like previously cut tree limbs, while on community service duty.
"In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done it," Wyant said.
Wyant said he is not facing any charges and authorities have not told him he has done anything wrong. He said he had no negative intentions.
"I didn't really think I was doing anything wrong," he said.
A photograph given to The Express-Times shows Wyant, at least one juvenile in the community service program and a town truck at 110 Chambers St. Wyant owned the property at the time but has since sold it, according to Warren County property records.” (Eilenberger, Express-Times)
JUDGE CONSIDERS DISMISSING LAWSUIT
“A judge in Trenton this week will consider whether to dismiss a Republican lawsuit seeking to make public e-mails exchanged between Gov. Corzine and a state worker union leader who once dated Corzine.
State Superior Court Judge Paul Innes has scheduled a Friday hearing to consider Corzine's motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Tom Wilson — the New Jersey Republican Party chairman who wants to see whether the relationship between Corzine and Carla Katz tainted recent state worker contract talks………….
If the lawsuit is dismissed, the case is over unless Wilson wins an appeal.
If it's not dismissed, Innes has said he will schedule the dispute for trial.
Wilson and several media outlets, including The Associated Press, have asked Corzine's administration for copies of e-mails discussing public business between Corzine and Katz, but those requests were denied.
Corzine's administration contends the e-mails — sent through both public and private e-mail accounts — can remain private under open public records laws and executive privileges.” (AP)
IT CAN’T BE THAT DIFFERENT FROM HIS REAL JOB
“HARRISON TWP. Gov. Jon S. Corzine was appointed to a new position Sunday, a temporary post one that required him to be equipped with a surgical mask and two shovels.
During his afternoon visit to the Gloucester County 4-H Fair, Corzine found himself named track official and safety coordinator for the Sue Wee! Pig Races. One of Corzine's responsibilities would be to handle any of the hogs' accidents' during their run.
Those gathered at the race laughed and cheered as the governor shed his jacket and stepped into the pen, and fairgoers seemed genuinely pleased to see Corzine taking part in the closing day of the festivities.” (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)
THE HISTORY OF OPERATION BID RIG
“In September 1999, Duke Steffer places a call to the "old man" — Phil Konvitz.
Steffer says he is getting back in the demolition business and is looking for work in Asbury Park. He knows Konvitz has political connections in the city.
"Maybe something on the beachfront," Steffer suggests, where a long-stalled redevelopment is sputtering to life again.
Konvitz knows Steffer from way back in the '60s, when Steffer ran a trucking and demolition business around the Jersey Shore.
He tells Steffer to come by his trailer. He says he'll see what he can do.
It's a brief call, but monumental.
It marks the first of nearly 1,900 conversations Duke Steffer will secretly record on behalf of the FBI over the next six years.
And it formally kicks off Operation Bid Rig, the biggest federal probe of public corruption in Monmouth County history. "We were in," FBI Agent Bill Waldie recalls of that phone call. "Now it was just a matter of time."” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
When he died on Sept. 7, 2005, at age 95, Philip Konvitz's obituary in the Asbury Park Press included this remark: "He always wore a jacket and tie."
"He certainly was a gentleman," FBI agent Bill Waldie recalls……………
Before the search, Waldie and other agents had listened to Konvitz's telephone and office conversations on wiretaps for more than a year.
Those conversations reveal another side to Konvitz.
"He wielded a lot of power. He made all the decisions in Asbury Park," Waldie says. "He could make or break people."
NEWARK NEEDLE EXCHANGE
“Faced with the highest rate of HIV infection in New Jersey, Newark has an ambitious proposal for one of the first needle exchange programs in the state.
During the first year, the city wants to reach as many as 300 intravenous drug users through fixed and mobile sites, according to an application filed with the state Department of Health and Senior Services……………….
But city officials said they were surprised to learn recently that the state has no intention of funding the $1.2 million program. Without state funds, the cash-strapped city will have to scale back its effort or find the money elsewhere……….
When Gov. Corzine signed the controversial Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act into legislation in December, the bill did not appropriate money for a needle exchange program. It only appropriated $10 million for drug treatment centers, which offer services to intravenous drug users in conjunction with syringe exchange sites. But the money cannot be used for syringe exchange.” (Durando, Star-Ledger)
NO PROPERTY TAX REBATE FAIRY
“With all of the fanfare about the property tax rebates passed by the Legislature this year, one small element might have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Checks won't automatically appear in your mailbox.
You have to apply.
An estimated 200,000 people failed to apply for a tax rebate last year, leaving $50 million unclaimed, according to estimates by Democratic legislative staff members.” (Graber, Express-Times)
THINK YOUR TRIP TO THE DMV IS FRUSTRATING?
“For Mirella Cresitello, a longtime driver, the road to renewing her license has been long, winding and full of potholes.
First there were three trips to Motor Vehicle Commission offices, where she was told she didn't have enough ID. Then two unsuccessful trips to City Hall in Newark to dig up a birth certificate. A trip to federal immigration offices in Newark. Seven trips to the post office to mail applications for documents. And one visit each to the offices of her state senator and her congressman, from whom she sought help.
Still, the 57-year-old Cranford woman does not have a license.
Born in Italy and brought by her parents to the United States at age 3, she is among a small segment of people for whom the license renewal process has become a mind-bending bureaucratic nightmare under stricter documentation rules put in place four years ago.
Many of those affected had their birth certificates or naturalization papers lost in the shuffle of their family's immigration. Others were born in the U.S., but at times or places where record-keeping was spotty.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
IN WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP
“WASHINGTON | Borough Councilman Dave Higgins is no yes man.
In fact, he's the council's no man.
Since the former councilman returned to the governing body in January, he's voted against 29 proposals, almost triple the amount of any other council member.
He started the year by voting against six appointments at council's reorganization meeting. He's continued his stand against most of council's major issues this year: Its budget, a new $3 million public works garage and allowing cluster zoning on the controversial Washington Venture property.
"I'm voting the way I vote because that's the way I believe," said Higgins, who also served on council from 1995 to 2000.” (Olanoff, Express-Times)
“The food service department of the Pleasantville School District lost almost $700,000 in a year, according to an audit released this week.
The new district fiscal monitor, John Deserable, announced the deficit at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
The audit describes questionable accounting practices but stops short of fully explaining how the district racked up the six-figure deficit.” (Hardie, Asbury Park Press)
IN RED BANK
“On a recent Thursday night, David Tarver sang a sweet soulful swan song to the borough he has lived in for 30 years, loved and helped improve.
Performing in Riverside Gardens Park, with the sun setting over the Navesink River as a backdrop, Tarver, backed by a six-piece band and three backup singers belted out songs in a tenor voice and toward the end, said goodbye, first in words, then in song.
"I came to New Jersey 31 years ago, and next month, I'm going home to Michigan," he said. "When I arrived in 1976, Stevie Wonder put out a new record, "Songs in the Key of Life.'”…………
Red Bank is losing its Renaissance man. Tarver, who started and sold a successful telecommunications business, formed a nonprofit organization to rally support for school children and families, and who served on the borough Board of Education, will return to his home state of Michigan next month.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
DID THEY JUST HOPE NOBODY WOULD NOTICE?
“State Republicans may be liningup to vilify Gov. Jon Corzine's "asset monetization" plan, which calls for selling the New Jersey Turnpike to a public corporation, but there was a time not long ago when they backed the notion of tapping into state assets to reduce the state budget deficit.
An obscure state law passed when Republicans controlled the State Legislature in 1999 includes passages that could have been lifted from the script Corzine is using today to promote "asset monetization."
"In this era of limited sources of state and local revenues … the need exists to maximize the value of their assets," the preamble to the 1999 Structured Financing Act states. "One possible way of maxi mizing such value is to utilize new and innovative financing structures which take advantage of the existing assets."
The bill defines structured fi nance agreements as arrangements in which the state gets money in re turn for "all or a portion of its interest in state assets," although it prohibits the outright sale of any state asset to a private investor.
And it defines as "assets" the same things Corzine has said he is considering monetizing, such as land, buildings, highways, development rights and air rights.
The Republican-controlled Senate approved that bill unanimously, and it passed the Assembly 67-8, again with unanimous support among Republicans………………..
Republicans like Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington), a vocal critic of the Corzine plan who voted for the 1999 bill, say there is no comparison between the earlier bill and Corzine's expansive plans.
"This is totally different than anything we're talking about now," said Allen, who has called Corzine's proposal "the biggest fiscal gimmick" in state history. "This bill had nothing to do with selling money-producing assets."…………
But Democrats say the many similarities between the two strategies make the current Republican criticisms ring hollow.
"Back then it (monetization) was brilliant," said Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), chairman of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, the panel assigned oversight responsibility for transactions under the 1999 law.
But Rider University Political Science professor David Rebovich said, "Certainly, the Democrats can say, 'Hey, you Republicans when in control seemed to recognize the need for fiscal flexibility."
"I do think," Rebovich added, "this has the potential of taking away the issue the Republicans thought would help them enormously in the fall campaign."” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
“AT AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM, IT’S AN APPEARANCE PROBLEM”
”State Assemblyman Louis Greenwald and his colleagues in South Jersey's Sixth District issued a news release in 2003 trumpeting $600,000 in state funding for five local projects.
Not only would the projects "spur and attract economic development," Greenwald, the influential chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said at the time, "but the state grants will help lower the cost for property taxpayers."
Two of the five, it turns out, also helped the Camden County Democrat's employer: the engineering firm of Remington & Vernick, where Greenwald has been on the payroll as corporate counsel since 2001.
The politically connected Haddonfield firm, which performs engineering services for dozens of towns across the state, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects funded by those and other grants Greenwald has helped bring home from Trenton over the last five years.
In an interview, Greenwald said that in his 12 years as a legislator and six-plus years at the well-established firm, he had "never come close to a conflict of interest" and had bent over backward to avoid even ethical "gray areas."
He said that he had never lobbied a single town to hire his firm, and that as a salaried employee – not an owner – he got no direct benefit from the grant-funded work……………
But some watchdog groups say the fact that Greenwald's employer is benefiting from funds he helped secure creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict and is, thus, troubling.
"At an absolute minimum, it's an appearance problem," said Mary Boyle, communications director for Common Cause, a nonpartisan good-government group based in Washington. "Maybe it's all on the up-and-up, but . . . any reasonable person hearing this scenario would ask questions."
” (Moroz and Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“When Assemblyman Bill Baroni ran for re-election in 2005, he raised close to half a million dollars, with three-quarters of that coming from special interests such as unions, corporations and political action committees.
This year, running for an open state Senate seat, Baroni has raised more than half a million dollars. But he's done it in a radically different way.
Most of his money comes from taxpayers — and none from the special interests who wield lots of influence in Trenton.
Baroni (R-Mercer) is one of 20 candidates for the state Legislature who signed up for a "clean elections" experiment designed to show politicians that they can and should answer to just one interest: New Jersey residents.
Supporters of the clean elections program believe it can accomplish great things in future races if expanded statewide…………
David Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University, isn't so sure.
"We're still going to see continued influence of organized interests," Rebovich predicted. "If they can't do it through contributions, they'll do it through endorsements and get-out-the-vote efforts."” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
POLITICAL HOT POTATO
“The movement against Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plan to make more money off New Jersey-owned properties such as toll roads — possibly by increasing highway tolls — is taking off. And the resistance isn't limited to Republicans.
"We are going to have an old fashioned rally to show the broad level of opposition to selling or leasing our toll roads, increasing our tolls or borrowing on our roads," said Democratic Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew. "You do not sell your home to pay off your credit card debt."
Republicans have relentlessly attacked Corzine's intentions, but Democrats have begun distancing themselves from Corzine with polls showing voters worried about the governor's plan.
"As I have been going door to door and standing in front of stores, I have heard that people do not want their roads sold and they do not want their tolls to go up," said Democratic Assembly candidate Matt Milam. "We are going to do whatever we can to make sure this doesn't happen.”” (Hester, AP)
THE OBVIOUS PANEL
“An independent panel said in a report yesterday that Gov. Corzine's state police drivers should not far exceed the speed of traffic or use police emergency lights unless there is a specific roadway threat.
The panel was not charged with analyzing the actions of Corzine's driver on April 12, when he was driving 91 m.p.h. and using his police emergency lights moments before crashing on the Garden State Parkway and severely injuring the governor.
At a news conference yesterday, state Attorney General Anne Milgram said repeatedly that the panel's report was designed to improve the Executive Protection Unit, not to critique it.
She said that all 18 of the panel's recommendations, which include training, staffing, and what kind of cars are driven, would be adopted…………..
"Traveling faster than the posted speed limit or flow of traffic is not a privilege of either holding a government office or membership in a law enforcement agency," the report said. "Nor is it justified by a heavily-booked schedule."
Corzine told investigators that he did not order his driver to speed, though he was running late for a meeting at the governor's mansion, and that he did not think they were traveling at 91 m.p.h. "because traffic did not seem to allow it."
The eight-member panel, chaired by former Gov. Christie Whitman and former Attorney General John Degnan, did leave some discretion for drivers.
"We did not want to stipulate that a driver for the governor could never exceed the speed limit," Degnan said. "If we did, he might be the only one on the road doing so."” (Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer)
SMITH TAKES ABUSE
“Prior to the June primary, Sandra Bolden Cunningham, widow of Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham, announced that she had reconciled with a number of individuals and organizations to win the Democratic Party nomination for the state Senate in the 31st District.
Among those with whom she reached an accord are members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization and former Jersey City Council President L. Harvey Smith, who was one of her successful running mates for the Assembly in the primary.
If this is reconciliation, then it may be better to be at war.
All this love has left Smith pummeled and slurred in print by the very individuals who enjoyed the political benefits of announcing the Cunningham/Smith alliance. Most, if not all, of the vituperative commentary is from a publication under the control of Cunningham operatives Bobby Jackson and Joe Cardwell.
Those reading this and who may not be familiar with the names should understand that all the parties discussed are key individuals with influence in Jersey City's black community. Before reconciliation, Smith was called "Uncle Harvey" in print by Cunningham associates. Now he is taking hits because his actions – speaking engagements and personal phone calls – indicate that Smith expects to end his time in Trenton with a run for the mayor's office in 2009.” (Torres, Jersey Journal)
KENNY STILL DOESN’T REMEMBER
“State Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, was recovering last night following surgery Thursday on his dislocated right shoulder, said Ed Florio, his law partner.
The surgery was performed shortly after 5 p.m. and lasted "a couple of hours," said John McKeegan, a spokesman for the Jersey City Medical Center, where Kenny has been a patient since his accident last week…………..
A source has told The Jersey Journal that Kenny has spoken to Hoboken police detectives. However, Kenny was not able to recollect the events that sent him to the hospital, the source said.” (Fink, Jersey Journal)
LIKE A CANCER
”The continuing federal corruption investigation into New Brunswick's neighborhood preservation program led to another arrest yesterday, with the indictment of its former director.
William Walker, 34, was arrested at his Pennsauken home by FBI agents on charges of extortion, bribery and conspiracy in connection with $112,500 in bribes he allegedly took from contractors looking for business.
At the same time, a former clerk in the city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development pleaded guilty yesterday to taking more than $3,000 in payoffs from those same contractors to fast-track payments to them.
The clerk, Linda Carol Roach, 55, of North Brunswick, who had served as the department's office manager, appeared before U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas in Newark to plead guilty to a one-count information charging her with taking corrupt payments.
"I'm guilty of accepting the money," she told the judge.” (Sherman, Star-Ledger)
NEW JERSEY’S FIRST COMPTROLLER
“Gov. Jon Corzine has decided to tap Matthew Boxer, a senior attorney in the governor's office, as New Jersey's first state comptroller, according to three people familiar with the decision.
Boxer, a 36-year-old who is not registered in either political party, could be nominated as early as this week and would hold the comptroller's post for six years, if confirmed by the state Senate.
Neither Boxer nor Corzine's staff would comment on the planned nomination. Those familiar with the governor's decision asked not be identified because the nomination has not been announced.
"The governor is enormously supportive of Matt Boxer's work — in any capacity," Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said. "But we have no announcement to make at this time." ” (Margolin, Star-Ledger)
“Assemblyman Jim Whelan — a candidate for state Senate — is questioning why Atlantic City officials and Democrats were left out of a delegation that day-tripped to Connecticut earlier this month to meet with executives from Mohegan Sun.
“While I certainly applaud efforts for economic development, I feel an oversight has been made in that this delegation was not bipartisan, nor did it include any representatives of Atlantic City,” Whelan wrote in a letter released Friday to the media.
The five-member delegation included Whelan’s opponent, State Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough, R-Atlantic, as well as Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey President Herman Saatkamp, Atlantic City Regional Mainland Chamber of Commerce President Joe Kelly and The Press of Atlantic City publisher Keith Dawn. The group traveled to Connecticut for one day and met with executives from Mohegan Sun, one of two Connecticut casinos owned by American Indian tribes. Executives from the casino have expressed interest in Atlantic City.
“We were invited by some business people to represent Atlantic County,” McCullough said. “I talked about my responsibilities as a state official and then we went home. I think (Whelan) ought to be more concerned about VLTs in the Meadowlands. I didn’t know he had such thin skin.”” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)
“The people in charge of improving traffic safety in New Jersey were shaking their heads and wringing their hands in public Friday because too many of us don't perform a simple task that saves lives and prevents injury.
We don't buckle up enough.
Last year, 216 of the unbuckled met their untimely ends on Garden State roads. According to national averages, about 100 would have survived if they were belted, said Pam Fischer, director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
"Why don't people use the obvious tools necessary to save their own lives?" Fischer asked during a Friday press event she organized to publicize the results of last spring's Click It or Ticket blitz.
It's a great question, and it was asked in the right place — the Cheesequake Rest Area of the Garden State Parkway. The parkway was the scene of 29 recent traffic-related fatalities, said state police Capt. Kevin Burke, and 19 of the victims weren't wearing their seat belt…………….
That's a record, it turns out, but even Burke seemed to question whether the campaign was doing much good. He cited a van driver who was given three seat belt tickets within four days near the same parkway location…………..
What Burke, Fischer and the other traffic officers and safety advocates who attended this annual event need is the governor.Jon Corzine was a no-show.” (Chicowski, Bergen Record)
SOMERSET COUNTY RIP OFF
“For years, the Somerset County Park Foundation has hosted its only annual fundraiser — a golf outing — on county courses.
The event has taken in tens of thousands of dollars, but the organization's tax records show expenses often ate up most of the profits.
For example, 2004 tax records show the foundation — which exists to support the Somerset County Park Commission — spent $40,957 for such things as catering, prizes and appearance fees for celebrities at the golf event, and made just $6,163. The previous year, after paying $30,041 in tournament expenses, the foundation was left with $11,530 in profits…………….
The developments were more fallout from a highly critical review of the park commission's management and financial practices, which also cited problems at the foundation. In a June 22 report to the Somerset freeholders, the Wolff & Samson law firm said for a charitable group which held $451,000 in assets at the end of 2005, the foundation has spent very little on charity.” (McCarron and Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)
THIS IS AN IMMIGRANT STATE
”About two-thirds of New Jerseyans would offer a path to citizenship to illegal aliens who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years, according to a poll released Sunday.
Nearly all the rest surveyed, 30 percent, said illegal immigrants should be deported, the Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll found.
About one-third of state residents believe illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans, while nearly 60 percent said they take jobs Americans don't want, according to the poll……………
"Immigration is a mixed bag for New Jerseyans," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It is undeniable that immigrant groups have made significant contributions to the state. But issues around reforming illegal immigration policy raise serious concerns for many residents.
Immigrants have long made New Jersey a gateway, and almost one in five of the state's 8.7 million residents were born in other countries, according to U.S. Census figures.
State residents are almost evenly divided on the impact of immigration into New Jersey: 40 percent said it was good, while 44 percent said it was bad. In keeping with regional differences seen on other questions, residents in southern and central New Jersey had less favorable views of immigration: half felt it was bad for the state." (Gold, AP)
Judy Italiano, 64, of Neptune City, said she believes immigration is "not bad," for New Jersey.
"I think they do the jobs that we don't want to do, and it makes (the state) more culturally diverse," she said. "Everything can't stay the same. The world is constantly changing. You need to accept other people."………….
But Alan Quesnel, 60, of the New Egypt section of Plumsted, believes illegal immigration is a drain on the economy.
"Those folks are not paying taxes," he said. "They're using up resources, sending kids to our school, going to the emergency room. . . . They're just a burden on the rest of society without making a good contribution."
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ALSO BLAMED FOR ALWAYS LEAVING TOILET SEAT UP
“On one side of South Street in Morristown, 250 protesters swarmed the lawn in front of town hall, armed with signs bearing anti-illegal immigration slogans like "We fought our revolution, go back and fight yours," and "Stop the Invasion — Go Home!"
Directly across the street, separated by a wall of police officers, another 250 protesters filled the sidewalk in front of Kings Supermarket, shouting into megaphones and chanting angrily in counter-protest.
Sweating in the midday sun, anti-illegal-immigration protesters cheered and clapped as speakers took the stage to launch fiery tirades. Organized by the ProAmerica Society of Mount Olive, some blamed illegal immigrants for car accidents, drug smuggling, murders and job loss. Others said illegal immigrants are diluting the American culture………………
When he took the stage, the mayor, who is seeking to deputize local police officers as federal immigration agents, condemned his opponents for stalling his efforts.
"How dare they, how dare they question my right as mayor of this community to move this program forward?" he asked.
Then, as counter-protesters began chanting loudly, "Shame, shame, shame on you!" in an effort to drown the mayor out, Cresitello retaliated with a warning.
"To the Communists across the street, and the Marxists, we know your motives, and we will not continue to let you go forward with your intent to take over our country," he said.” (Kwoh and Steele, Star-Ledger)
“Ultimately, five people — all affiliated with the counter-protesters, police said — were arrested on Saturday, and dozens more were ticketed for disorderly conduct. Organizer Robb Pearson of Mount Olive, whose ProAmerica Society Web site fueled interest in the event, was pleased by the turnout, estimated at 500…………….
Cresitello has helped stamp Morristown as a flashpoint in the nationwide debate over illegal immigration and the government's perceived tolerance of illegal immigrants, primarily those from Latin America.
Since he was elected in 2005, Cresitello has taken stands against "stacking" — illegally overcrowded housing — and day laborers. But it was his plan to have local police officers deputized to enforce federal immigration laws under the Department of Homeland Security's 287(g) program that has stirred the most controversy.” (Hassan and Lioudis, Daily Record)
DON’T WORRY, THIS WILL ONLY HURT A LITTLE
“Local officials are bracing for the massive payments they will make in 2008 to support their employees' retirement plans.
Statewide, New Jersey's county, local and school officials will pay more than $1 billion into the pension system next year, $640 million for police and fire and $416 million for other public workers, according to figures released by the Treasury Department. The total due last year was $650 million.
In Washington Township, for example, the increase means that taxpayers will support $2.92 million in payments, due April 2008, for the pensions of township, utility authority, police and fire employees, as well as non-teaching workers at the board of education.
That's a $1.194 million increase from 2007.
"It just once again underlines that the pension system is smothering our towns," said Washington Township Mayor Paul Moriarty. "It's only going to become more costly. We just have to work that much harder between today and next year."” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
THE MOST SELF-DEPRECATING STATE
“When it comes to the environment, New Jersey's image is one of a gloomy, chemical, toxic mess — a polluted wasteland where it would be easy for Tony Soprano to dispose of a body.
The reality is that New Jersey is one of the country's most successful states when it comes to environmentally friendly solar energy, second only to super-sunny California in electricity generated from panels installed across the state.
Now the state is at a crossroads as it tries to dramatically increase the amount of solar energy it harnesses while relying less on government rebates that offset the cost of installing expensive commercial and residential solar systems.
So far, government rebates — financed by $6 a year charge to residential ratepayers and a higher charge to businesses — have been the basis for solar's growth in New Jersey. But with a lengthy waiting list for rebates, officials are searching for less expensive ways to expand the state's solar energy initiative.” (Santana, AP)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
“Members of New Jersey's federal legislative delegation fighting to keep Fort Monmouth from closing reacted cautiously to news that the Army has modified one of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions.
The modification, based on the Army's acceptance of information it was given two years ago during the BRAC deliberation process, "is a very good analogy of the same problems we face with Aberdeen," said Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J.”
Pallone is among several members of New Jersey's congressional delegation fighting to keep Fort Monmouth from closing and losing most of its mission to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the Army has decided to divert about 10,000 of the original 18,500 employees destined for Fort Belvoir, Va.'s Engineering Proving Ground to General Services Administration property in nearby Springfield, Va.
The decision to move up to 22,000 employees from the Pentagon and Crystal City, Va., area to Fort Belvoir was made by the BRAC commission.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
GLIIMMERS OF HOPE
“When the cardboard boxes containing test scores for more than 900 students arrived at Marquis de Lafayette School in Elizabeth in late June, no one rushed to open them.
The scores were a kind of judgment on the school. After failing to meet the test scores under the federal No Child Left Behind Act six years running, the staff at Lafayette had been forced to spend the year trying to work an academic miracle……………..
Once the contents of those boxes were analyzed, the test numbers would bring a sobering finale to the year. All three schools again would fall short of the law's re quirements, although one came excruciatingly close.
The schools tried to make radical changes in a desperate attempt to get right with a law that requires schools with perennially low test scores in reading and math to "restructure" themselves………
There were glimmers of hope, with some grades showing appreci able progress. But other scores actually worsened — and all re mained well below the minimum bar set by federal lawmakers.” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)
“Pleasantville school board President James Pressley asked vendors seeking to do business with the board to donate to his foundation. His charity is not registered with state or federal agencies.
Pleasantville school board President James Pressley solicited and accepted money this year from a number of businesses seeking contracts from the board. Pressley solicited contributions to the James A. Pressley Scholarship and Community Youth Build Foundation. However, no official record showing that such a charity exists has been found.
U.S. Internal Revenue Service records show the IRS has not granted tax-exempt status to the foundation. The N.J. Consumer Affairs Division's charities section, with which nonprofits are required to register, also has no record of Pressley's foundation, which Pressley said he started in 2005.
The Press of Atlantic City has confirmed that donations to the foundation were sent to the same Pleasantville post office box used by Pressley for campaign contributions in his school board re-election campaign this spring.” (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
YOU’RE PAYING FOR IT
“Five years ago, Union County officials passed over two seasoned employees to make a young, prominent Democrat chief of their weights and measures division — and county taxpayers have been paying for it in legal fees ever since.
In 2005, a Superior Court jury awarded assistant superintendent Maria Todaro of Westfield nearly $400,000 in damages, ruling the county rejected her for the superintendent's post merely because she is a registered Republican in a Democrat-controlled county.
That same year, Union County paid another $150,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by another assistant superintendent, Joseph Freitas of Rahway, who said he lost the promotion because of age bias.
But the legal wrangling continues, as do mounting legal bills on both sides –and it is all being paid from county coffers.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)
“When the state Department of Corrections built a prison for sex offenders in the Avenel section of Woodbridge in 2001, it was billed as a temporary facility to house sexual predators who finished serving sentences but who were deemed too dangerous to be released.
Six years later, the state DOC is still examining potential locations for a permanent facility, but officials announced earlier this year that the Avenel prison for sex offenders would close. Local officials who fought the opening of the temporary facility said they remain cautiously optimistic the prisoners will be relocated.
"The chances are likely that it will happen," said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex). "The state and DOC are debating."
The sex offender prison is part of the Avenel complex for the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center for sex offenders and East Jersey State Prison. The other two DOC facilities would remain.” (Adarlo,Astar-Ledger)
CONGRATULATIONS DREW UNIVERSITY – YOU’RE NOW THE MOST EXPENSIVE IN NEW JERSEY
“Tuition is rising this fall at all of New Jersey's four-year colleges except Princeton University, which actually will lose its ranking as the state's priciest institution thanks, in part, to generous alumni giving.
The state's other colleges and universities will raise tuition between 4.9 and 8.7 percent during the 2007-08 school year, according to a Star-Ledger survey of two dozen public and private institutions.
Undergraduates will pay a range of tuition from $5,550 at Kean University in Union Township to $34,230 at Drew University.
Mandatory student fees, room, board and other costs will add thousands more to final bills.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)
“Hillsborough residents will vote again on whether to change their form of government — the third year in a row the issue has been on the November ballot.
A five-member special commission elected in 2006 to study the township's government voted 3-2 Wednesday night to recommend switching from a township committee to a mayor-council format. A final report on the commission's findings is due Aug. 7.” (Abdou, Star-Ledger)
IN HUDSON COUNTY
“Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio became the first county prosecutor sworn in to a second five-year term in more than 60 years when he took his oath yesterday at a ceremony attended by Attorney General Anne Milgram.
"There is a special gene in the DeFazio gene pool and it is a gene for public service," said state Superior Court Judge and former Hudson County Prosecutor Carmen Messano during the ceremony in the county Administration Building Annex.” (Conte, Jersey Journal)