Booker faces Newark violence, Q&A about Corzine e-mail scandal, former Stafford mayor has an outburst and is charged with assaulting police officers, Smith and Saxton grilled over Iraq, Milgram weighs in on eminent domain.
“As a weekend of bloodshed gave way to a day of mourning, the sleep deprivation and public battering were beginning to take a toll on Mayor Cory A. Booker, his face a curtain of sadness and fatigue. A group of protesters on the steps of City Hall were calling for his resignation, while a large huddle of reporters down the street waited with unanswerable questions about Saturday night’s fatal shooting of three college students in a West Ward schoolyard.
Moments before Mr. Booker was to step in front of the cameras, a mayoral aide noticed two middle-aged women and a man sitting silently among the crowd — relatives of Dashon Harvey, 20, one of the shooting victims. Officials quickly ushered them to a back room to meet Mr. Booker, who offered his condolences and promised that the police would stop at nothing to find the killers.
Then the mayor asked if there was anything he could do; during a pause, Mr. Booker seemed to be readying himself for a scolding.
“I just want to say that I don’t blame you for what happened,” said James Harvey, the young man’s father, his eyes teary. “I blame the parents in this city for not raising their children right.”………………..
Thirteen months after galloping into City Hall on a promise to change the political climate and vanquish Newark’s reputation for violence, Mr. Booker finds himself at the nadir of his tenure, battling a homicide rate that refuses to yield and a growing tide of public hostility.” (Jacobs, New York Times)
Yesterday, a small but determined faction of political foes even called for his resignation during a protest on the steps of City Hall.
"The mayor has to stop campaigning," said Lou Jones, a member of the Ivy Hill neighborhood association where the shootings took place. "The campaign is over. You need the community involved in the process."
At a separate news conference at police communication headquarters, Booker declined to respond to calls for him to step down. "I have nothing to say to those small groups trying to use this for politics," he said.” (Wang and Mays, Star-Ledger)
“There are 300 kids enrolled in the summer enrichment program at the Mount Vernon School in Newark, where the littlest children read fairytales and do projects with bubbles, the oldest kids learn about different sciences and the middle grades concentrate on improving the environment and their community.
But only 210 showed up for school yesterday, an attendance drop attributed to the triple murder behind the school over the weekend.” (Di Onno, Star-Ledger)
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE E-MAIL SCANDAL
“It's now up to a Superior Court judge to decide whether the public gets to see e-mails between Gov. Corzine and a state union leader he once dated.
The judge will review the e-mails and sort through the arguments. Can the governor keep them secret under privileges given his office? Can his ex-girlfriend, Carla Katz, keep them private because they involve personal matters and confidential contract talks? Or must they be made public because they discuss state business, as the state Republican Party chairman suggests?
"This is a very unique situation," Superior Court Judge Paul Innes said, noting the relationship between Corzine and Katz and their roles as governor and union leader.
Here are questions and answers about the scandal….”(Hester, AP)
“Wesley K. Bell, a former Stafford mayor, was hauled out of court in handcuffs Monday morning after repeatedly interrupting and verbally confronting a Superior Court judge during a hearing about four dilapidated boats he refuses to move from a lagoon.
Bell's outburst in court was the latest chapter in the continuing saga, which has carried on for 2 1/2 years between the former mayor and state environmental authorities.
State officials view the collection of boats moored in a lagoon in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford as an environmental and public health hazard………….
Despite warnings from bailiffs during the hearing to remain calm, Bell — who represented himself before Superior Court Judge John A. Peterson — continued to shout and point at Peterson. At one point, after officers stationed themselves around Bell's table in court, the former mayor attempted to approach the judge in a spitting fervor, only to be physically halted by the officers…………..
While attempting to calm Bell, two sheriff's officers became involved in a brief struggle with him, at which time a state trooper seated in the courtroom entered the fray and helped place the 69-year-old Bell in handcuffs.
Bell is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct. He was released on his own recognizance Monday afternoon pending a future date in county court.” (Pais, Asbury Park Press)
SMITH AND SAXTON TAKE HEAT OVER WAR
“This year's congressional summer recess may be unseasonably warm for Reps. Chris Smith and Jim Saxton as anti-war groups continue to put the heat on lawmakers who back the war.
Smith, R-Hamilton, is among 31 House members and 10 senators targeted by an anti-war campaign called "Iraq Summer."
That movement has picked up steam in recent weeks and organizers have scheduled a rally outside Smith's office in Hamilton today at 10 a.m to "welcome" him back to the state for the August recess.
Smith and Saxton, R-Mount Holly, both voted with their party last month against a bill that would require President Bush to reduce troop levels in Iraq within 120 days of the bill's passage.
They also held the party line by voting for a bill in May that provided funding for the troops without a deadline but with bench marks instead.
Last week, both Saxton and Smith voted against a bill aimed at giving U.S. troops guaranteed time at home between deployments to Iraq.
Smith acknowledged the troubles in Iraq but expressed optimism that things are turning around there.
"I think things are not happening as fast as we would like. The sooner our troops are out of there the better," said Smith.
Despite their continued support for the war, both Smith and Saxton are known as congressmen who will break from the White House and the Republican caucus if necessary.” (Egan, Trenton Times)
MILGRAM WEIGHS IN ON EMINENT DOMAIN
“New Jersey's top law enforcement official wants tighter controls over local governments' ability to seize private property for redevelopment, saying current eminent domain laws are ripe for corruption.
In an hour-long interview with Associated Press reporters and editors, Attorney General Anne Milgram said she supports efforts by Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen to rein in abuses of what he calls overbroad land-seizure laws.
"Eminent domain/redevelopment has the potential for a great amount of abuse in the public-integrity area," said Milgram.
Milgram called on the Legislature to close loopholes that allow private property to be taken from residents for public projects like schools or to spur economic redevelopment.
She said the need for more oversight is obvious after two reports by Chen criticizing eminent domain.” (Delli Santi, AP)
DORIA MAY SOON BE IN CORZINE’S CABINET
“The New Jersey State Police has initiated a background check on Bayonne Mayor and state Sen. Joseph V. Doria Jr. to begin the process of clearing the way for Doria's possible appointment as a state Cabinet officer, a Hudson County political source said yesterday.
Doria couldn't be reached yesterday, but the source said that a State Police representative met last week with city Police Director Mark Smith as a "sort of courtesy call" to let law enforcement officials know that they'll be looking for any potentially damaging information that could disqualify Doria from consideration.
"At a minimum, (Doria's) short-listed," the source said. "It's 90 percent likely (Doria's) gone (from Bayonne)" and to what job "is pretty much (Doria's) call."
Given his druthers, the source said, Doria would probably choose to be commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. It's in the DCA – as chairman of the state Local Finance Board – that Doria could do more to help Bayonne with its budget deficit, state aid, state grants and state development assistance.
"It's arguably the most powerful Cabinet position – a good DCA commissioner can make a governor and, in a tight election, a bad one can break a governor," the source said.” (Leir, Jersey Journal)
STILL A MYSTERY
“State Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, remained hospitalized in "good" condition at Jersey City Medical Center yesterday, recovering from surgery to his right shoulder, but a move to a rehab facility is imminent, officials said yesterday.
"The next move will be for rehab," said Ed Florio, Kenny's law partner, who is acting as a spokesman for the family. "It could be any day now."…………….
Kenny was hospitalized on July 18 following an incident in Hoboken that left him with multiple fractures to his pelvis, a dislocated right shoulder, a fractured nose and right fibula, and several bruises. Once Kenny recovers from his shoulder surgery, he is due to undergo surgery on his knee, Florio said.
Kenny has told Hoboken police he slipped and fell either on a manhole cover on a pothole, but doctors have said the injuries are more consistent with having been struck by a car.
Hoboken police have said they are investigating both possibilities, but as of last week hadn't come up with definitive evidence proving or disproving either theory.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
IMMIGRATION PROBLEMS TO BE COMPLETELY SOLVED IN 15 MONTHS
“It was the perfect setting for an immigration related press conference: an old train terminal in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, within view of the Statue of Liberty, where countless immigrants poured off ferries from nearby Ellis Island to board trains for points West.
It was here that Gov. Jon Corzine signed an executive order creating a new blue ribbon panel on immigration during a well-choreographed, well-attended event. But there was a less jubilant undertone as well — it was clear that the Governor did not want the tension that characterized the recent Morristown anti-immigration rally to replicate across the state.
The panel will have 27 members – two state legislators chosen from the black and Hispanic caucus, seven commissioners from state agencies, and 18 members appointed by the Governor. It will be led by Public Advocate Ron Chen for a period of 15 months, with a mission to recommend how to integrate the state’s immigrant population – both legal and illegal – in matters ranging from civil rights, naturalization, healthcare, employment, job training, housing, education and language……………..
Reached for comment, Cresitello said that the idea of waiting 15 months to hear recommendations sounded absurd. If the state and federal governments enforced the existing laws, he said, there would be no need for an advisory panel.
“I don’t want to wait 15 months for some blue ribbon panel to come back and tell us what needs to be done today,” said Cresitello. “What needs to be done today is to enforce those few laws.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“About one in five of the state's 8.7 million residents was born in other countries, according to U.S. Census figures. The state is also home to an estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants.
Unlike many states, New Jersey's Legislature and governor's office have taken little action on immigration matters in recent years.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
“"Too often people are marginalized because we look at them as outsiders," Corzine said, speaking at the restored former Jersey Central Railroad Station in Liberty State Park yesterday afternoon – where millions of immigrants boarded trains at the terminal after entering the United States at Ellis Island in the first half of the 20th century.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)
SEAN KEAN TAKES ON GUN TRAFFICKING
“Republican Assemblyman Sean T. Kean Monday said he will introduce legislation to toughen gun-trafficking laws and also seek $100,000 to fund camera surveillance equipment for Asbury Park.
Both measures will not be introduced until the Legislature reconvenes in November. Kean is running for the state Senate seat in the November general election being vacated by Sen. Joseph A. Palaia, R-Monmouth, and will face Democratic former Assemblyman John Villapiano.
Kean made his announcement standing with a cadre of local, county and state law enforcement authorities outside the West Side Community Center on DeWitt Avenue — a site where two young men were killed in November 2005 and March 2006.
"This increases penalties for individuals breaking the law," Kean said of his proposal for stiffer penalties for selling illegal guns. "We want to create a deterrent."” (Shields, Asbury Park Press)
“IT’S LIKE GIVING GUM DROPS TO A TERMINALLY ILL PATIENT”
“Seeking a fresh start for New Jersey's effort to rebuild hundreds of decrepit public schools in the state's poorest communities, Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday signed legislation that formally abolishes the scandal-plagued Schools Construction Corp.
The corporation was set up five years ago to jump-start an $8.6 billion court-ordered school building program, but collapsed amid widespread waste and mismanagement.
The bill Corzine signed will replace the corporation with a new state agency, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, with expanded powers to control costs and reserve land for schools.
"The reorganization of the SCC is testimony to the commitment of this administration to implement reforms that put an end to the waste and mismanagement of the past," Corzine said. "We now have a more streamlined entity with the proper controls in place. This will ensure more efficient delivery of quality schools which are greatly needed across the state."
Critics, however, contend the changes are too superficial to remedy the deep-seated problems that derailed the ambitious school building program two years ago.
"It's like giving gum drops to a terminally ill patient," said Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R-Burlington), a sponsor of the legislation in 2000 to finance the school building program. "I don't think this (new) legislation guarantees we don't have a repeat of the fool's folly we just had.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
INMATE SORORITY PARTY
“A former high-ranking state prison official who was fired for using inmates to set up a sorority party has filed a lawsuit claiming then-Commissioner Devon Brown used the incident to get back at her for rebuffing his sexual advances.
Former Assistant Corrections Commissioner Carrie Johnson was cited in 2005 by the State Ethics Commission for approving her own use of inmates. The commission recommended she be fined as punishment. Brown decided instead to fire Johnson after 30 years of service.
Johnson contends the decision was the culmination of a "relentless attack" on her "because she was a woman and because she avoided Devon Brown's inappropriate sexual advances," according to a civil lawsuit filed June 28 in state Superior Court in Trenton. It does not detail the alleged unwanted advances.
The lawsuit also contends that the termination of Johnson, a 59-year-old African-American, was excessive and discriminatory, particularly "in light of past practices in which younger, male Caucasians" remained employed despite having "committed far more serious" infractions. ” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
“PASSAIC — Mayor Samuel Rivera said Monday the city business administrator had Rivera's interest in mind when he put a resolution on the City Council agenda allowing elected officials to receive city-paid health coverage in retirement after 15 years of service instead of the 25 required of the city's more than 600 employees.
"He saw that maybe I wouldn't have enough to make it 25," said Rivera, 60, who has 18 years of service with the city, according to the state's Division of Pensions and Benefits. "He was just trying to help me out if I decided to leave."………….
The resolution was approved by the City Council in May; however, Council President Gary Schaer, responding to inquiries by the Herald News last week, wrote an apology for the resolution in an e-mail statement Friday. He promised to put forth a resolution to rescind it at the council meeting tonight at 7 o'clock.
This latest issue comes in the wake of the council's approval in January of a $72.8 million budget with a 9 percent tax increase.
At the time, council members blamed the rising costs of employee salaries and benefits for the tax increase…………….
Less than three weeks before the council approved the resolution, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, trying to curb rising property taxes, signed reform legislation that removed elected and appointed public officials from the state pension system and established a 401(k)-style defined contribution program for all newly elected and appointed officials, among other stipulations.
Councilman Gerardo Fernandez and Marcellus Jackson said they misread the resolution and thought it applied to every city employee.
"I thought it was good way to get rid of people whose salaries are top heavy and who are 62 years old," Jackson said.” (Mandell, Herald News)
“In an effort to flag potential discriminatory practices, the Division on Civil Rights has ordered 165 New Jersey landlords to file a report describing the ethnic ity of their housing applicants and lease holders, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
The order, which takes the form of an "administrative action," is specific to the owners of multiple- dwelling apartment buildings, which are buildings with 25 or more housing units whose owners have failed to report on occupants' eth nicity, in compliance with New Jersey's multiple dwelling law.
J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, the di rector of the Division on Civil Rights, said the housing rule is in tended to ensure that landlords open their buildings to every eligible person.” (Trenton Times)
IN WARREN COUNTY
“The Warren County freeholder board will release the long-awaited investigative report Thursday into allegations of financial misconduct at the county landfill.
The board plans to hold a special meeting 3 p.m. in the county building to discuss the findings and make copies available to the public. County officials who have reviewed the report declined to comment on the findings………
The board convened the investigatory committee in January after allegations surfaced of an improper transfer of $1 million in landfill assets. The allegations arose in a Jan. 3 letter from the Pollution Control Financing Authority's former attorney, the late James Broscious……………
The Broscious letter alleges two commissioners on the county's landfill board — Laurel Napolitani and Angelo Accetturo — improperly influenced the deposit of $1 million into a bank where a third commissioner, Freeholder Director Everett Chamberlain, serves as director and vice president. All three maintain they did nothing inappropriate and continue to serve on the PCFA board.” (Satullo, Express-Times)
“The same night Morristown's council gave Mayor Donald Cresi tello a 46 percent pay hike, opponents started circulating petitions to let voters decide whether the mayor deserves the raise.
But the petitioners' work may be in vain, due to an apparent procedural error by the town, according to council members and oppo nents of the pay hike.
The council voted 5-2 on July 17 to boost the part-time mayor's salary from $26,000 to $38,000. The measure also gave large raises to certain town employees, created several new jobs and increased council members' salaries by 3.5 percent.
However, the town clerk apparently failed to give advance public notice about the vote, so the measure cannot take effect, according to Council President Anthony Cattano.
"It has to be reintroduced and done all over again," he said. ” (McDermott, Star-Ledger)
THE HISTORY OF OPERATION BID RIG
“By far the most useful and productive contact Duke Steffer made during Operation Bid Rig was Tony Palughi.
"Sometimes you tap into the right person," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren says. "In Bid Rig, Tony Palughi was that guy."
Palughi was the superintendent of the Division of Bridges for Monmouth County during the course of Bid Rig. His salary was $92,114.
But Palughi's unofficial duties as chauffeur and man Friday to Monmouth County Freeholder Director Harry Larrison Jr. are what made him uniquely valuable to the FBI.
"Because he was Harry's guy, people came to Palughi," FBI Special Agent Bill Waldie said. "So we used Palughi to gain introductions to other guys."” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
IN ONE OF THE WASHINGTON TOWNSHIPS
“A lawyer from the Turnersville section of the township has worked relentlessly with a team of residents to collect enough signatures to get pay-to-play reform on the November ballot here………………..
Since first approaching township council in March, 29-year-old Josh Aronovitch has worked with a nonprofit citizens group in Metuchen to draft an ordinance that would create a stricter local law concerning the amount of money contractors would be able to donate to elected officials and their political parties.
Last week, Aronovitch submitted more than 1,700 signatures on petitions to the clerk for certification. That's 25 percent more signatures than the 1,310 needed to have the issue put on the ballot. The clerk has until Aug. 22 to certify the signatures.
"Open and honest government is not just something that we should have, it's something that we deserve," Aronovitch said in a telephone interview Friday. "With taxes as high as they are, anything that can contribute to lower taxes while maintaining integrity should be done."” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)
IN EAST ORANGE
“A judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which four East Orange police officers claimed police department promotions required secret payoffs, but a jury in the case has awarded two of the lawmen back pay for un related issues that surfaced during the trial.
While a so-called "pay to play" accusation was thrown out by Superior Court Judge Rachel David son, the jury, sitting in Newark, said one of the four accusers, Francis DeHerde, is due $592,628 in back pay, and another, Sanford Thigpen, $10,533, according to Eldridge Hawkins, an East Orange at torney who represented the four.
"The jury obviously saw what (it) saw, respected the truth, and gave verdicts to people who deserved those verdicts," said Hawkins, whose other clients in the "pay for play" case were Officers Fred Kearse and Frank Michetti.
"We disagree with the decision and we will be taking any and all appropriate actions to appeal," Tracy Hackett, an East Orange corporation counsel, said yesterday. ” (Dilworth, Star-Ledger)
“The three Republican candidates for town council are calling on their Democratic opponents to sign a pledge to run clean campaigns.
The pledge, based on one used in Maine, asks the candidates to promise to focus on the issues.
"We think the voters deserve a campaign focused on issues not on personalities," said Bob Bostock, one of the Republicans running for three seats. Republicans Marie Tagliaferri and Falk Engel also endorsed the pledge.
Bostock said he opposes a proposal by his opponents to use public funds to finance campaigns.
"The Democrats have proposed using taxpayer property tax revenues to pay for local campaigns as a way of ensuring clean elections," Bostock said. "We oppose using taxpayer dollars for lawn signs, cocktail parties and political consultants."
Bostock said the same goal could be reached through the pledge.
The Republicans also agreed to disclose all donations, including those of lesser amounts than the $300 they are required to disclose under state election law. ” (Stein, Trenton Times)
IN POINT PLEASANT
“In 2006, Timothy J. Ferrie decided to give up his seat on the Borough Council.
Ferrie, an eight-year incumbent, was stretched thin between his job as a New York Harbor pilot, his new model train shop business and his presidency of the Marine Society of the City of New York. One of the jobs, Ferrie said, had to go.
But as of Sunday, the 50-year-old Ferrie is back on the council and will serve on the borough's governing body through the end of this year.
The council unanimously voted to appoint Ferrie to fill the vacancy.
"I was asked by members of the party to consider it, if I would be interested, and I thought about it and said, "yes'," Ferrie said Monday. "I just got off the council and I have experience. I would be up to speed on the issues. They haven't changed in five months." However, before Ferrie was nominated and elected, Republican council members nominated Susan Rogers and William J. Dikun to fill the vacancy. Both were rejected, 3-2, with the three council Democrats voting no.” (Schweiger, Asbury Park Press)
IN WEST WINDSOR
“West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh is among 27 people appointed to a new panel created yesterday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to study how best to integrate immi grants into New Jersey.
The Governor's Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy will have 15 months from its first meeting to make recommendations on education, citizenship status, civil rights, fair housing, health care, language proficiency and job training. The panel will be chaired by Public Advocate Ron Chen……….
Eighteen of the panel's members — including Hsueh — were named from the public arena.” (Trenton Times)
“Two Hardyston school board members who voted to dismiss a popular elementary school principal are being targeted by parents in a recall drive that could have the pair removed from office.
A parents group is scheduled to meet tomorrow from 9 to 11 a.m. at Wheatsworth Field to discuss de tails of the recall effort. Recall petitions could begin being circulated as early as next week, said Meg Brinster, a parent and one of the organizers of the drive.
"We're very, very optimistic we can do this," she said.
Using a little-used state recall election law, board President Marbeth Boffa and Vice President Alice Bresett would face a recall if 25 percent of the township's registered voters in November — or 1,137 voters — sign separate petitions to hold a special recall election. ” (Moczczynski, Star-Ledger)
IN TOMS RIVER
Living in the state with the highest property taxes in the nation, it should be no surprise to Toms River voters that property taxes have become a main issue in the race
for mayor here.
But candidates aren't just campaigning on how they will reduce property taxes if elected to ead the seventh largest municipality in New Jersey. The mudslinging on how much property axes rose with opponents in office has begun.
Monday, Democratic mayoral candidate Richard P. Strada released information showing that ince his Republican opponent, current Council President Gregory P. McGuckin, took office in 004, the town's municipal purposes tax rose by 44 percent.
"After thorough review of the financials since 2004, it's clear the all-Republican council raised the municipal purposes tax — the only tax they control — by a whopping 44 percent," trada said in a statement. "We've gone from 47 cents in 2003 to 68 cents today, and I
challenge Council President McGuckin to deny that fact to Toms River homeowners and
Strada said in an interview that "it is a priority issue to get some tax relief for the esidents and taxpayers of Toms River Township."
In defense of his record, McGuckin said Monday that the budgets he voted for averaged less han a 5-cent increase per year. He did not support the 2005 budget, he said.
"I have fought extremely hard to cut the Democratic mayor's proposed tax increase and am roud of those efforts," McGuckin said. He said those efforts have resulted in a ero-increase budget proposed by Mayor Paul C. Brush for 2008." (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)