Chief of Staff turnover in Gov’s office, Moran on Newark’s troubles, Linden official hit by subpoena, New Jersey one of nine states that did not pass any immigration laws in 2007, Somerset County hires new temporary parks commissioners.
SHEA LEAVES TO HELP GOV. SELL MONETIZATION
“Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday his chief of staff, Tom Shea, will be leaving that job and Treasurer Bradley Abelow will move over to the governor's office to replace Shea.
The move, long expected, will send Shea back to the private sector, where he will serve as a political consultant to the governor as Corzine heads toward a possible re- election bid in 2009.
Shea, 41, will also advise Corzine on communications issues, including efforts to win public support for his so-called "asset monetization" plan to convert state assets, such as the toll roads, into money to pay down debt and fund new programs.
Effective Sept. 1, Abelow will replace Shea as chief of staff in the governor's office. Abelow in turn will be replaced, at least temporarily, by his current chief of staff at treasury, Michellene Davis. The acting treasurer will lead the search for a new chief financial officer…………
The governor's best friend, Shea served as Corzine's aide de camp through the 2006 government shutdown and Corzine's near-fatal highway crash in April………..
The staff changes represent a dramatic shift in the dynamics of the governor's office. Where Shea was a political expert with little appetite for policy, Abelow is a numbers guy who comes to his new job with little experience in government and even less in politics.
Abelow, 49, is a former colleague of Corzine's from their days at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs and has overseen the state's finances since Corzine took office last year.” (Margolin, Star-Ledger)
Abelow, 49, is a former colleague of Corzine's from their days at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs and has overseen the state's finances since Corzine took office last year………
A millionaire who moved to Montclair from New York City to take the Treasury job, Abelow, 49, is paid $141,000. He will collect the same salary in his new role………
The nature of the chief-of-staff job did not put Shea in the public eye. That changed April 12, when the governor was involved in a near-fatal car wreck on the Garden State Parkway. A close personal friend of the governor, Shea was one of the few Corzine associates permitted at his bedside, and he personally managed much of the information about the governor's condition.
DESPERATE TIMES IN NEWARK
“Sheriff Armando Fontoura sounds like a man who is ready to set fire to the Constitution if that's what it takes to stop the murders in Newark.
"I'm on the verge of telling my guys to suspend civil liberties, and start frisking everybody," he says. "I'm at that point. What's wrong with that? I think the public would support it.
"You want to live by the Constitution, but by the same token you have a responsibility to protect these people. I don't know what else to do."
Mark that comment as a measure of how desperate, even frantic, people in this battered city feel these days.
Murder is nothing new in Newark — it happens about twice a week, on average. But not like the killings we saw on Saturday night.
Not when the victims were college kids who somehow managed to dodge every obstacle this city can throw in a child's path, until that night. Not when they were marched into a secluded lot, forced to kneel and shot in the back of the head………..
Make no mistake — these killings have created a galvanizing moment for the city, the kind that offers at least the chance to turn things around.
Fontoura won't get his wish. We have laws, and he and his officers have to obey them whether they want to or not.
But there is a great deal that could be done to make this city safer, if the power behind this trauma can be put to good use.” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
THE LEGACY OF JOHN GREGORIO
“A federal investigation is under way in Linden, where the U.S. Attorney's office has subpoenaed city records on the administration of a federally funded home improvement program.
The subpoena requires the documents be delivered today to a federal grand jury in Newark. It demands all records dating back to January 2002 involving all aspects of the operations at Linden's Neighborhood Preservation Program, which annually allocates money to repair the homes of low- and moderate-income families.
The program's manager, Frank Rose, said he knows of no problems that would generate a federal investigation.
"I have no idea what they are looking for," Rose said when reached Monday night at a home he and his wife own on Marco Island, Fla. He said he is vacationing, but was at his Linden home when the subpoena arrived at City Hall on Thursday. Rose added that Mayor Richard Gerbounka is overseeing delivery of the records…………
New Brunswick's water utility director, Shawn Maloney, fatally shot himself in February when notified he was a target of the investigation there. Late last month, New Brunswick's former neighborhood program director, William Walker of Pennsauken, was indicted and arrested on charges he took $112,500 in bribes from contractors looking for business……………….
In Linden, Gerbounka said he does not know the focus of the federal probe or what sparked the investigation. He also said he knows of no public official receiving a "target letter" — a federal notice issued to people who become the focus of an investigation.
"It's an FBI probe, and I'm not privy to the details," the mayor said.
Gerbounka, an independent who took office in January, has been at odds with Rose and the neighborhood program, which employs only one other person — a part-time secretary working out of the program office on North Wood Avenue…………..
Rose was hired in 1999 by Gerbounka's predecessor, Democrat John Gregorio, whose political influence over city government lasted 30 years until his election defeat last year.
Rose earns about $87,000 annually. Under the city ordinance outlining his job, he is required to work 20 hours per week. Gerbounka has been demanding Rose work 35 hours per week, operate out of the program's office and report regularly to city hall. ” (Murray, Star-Ledger)
NEW JERSEY LAGS ON IMMIGRATOIN LEGISLATION
“A day after Gov. Jon Corzine formed a new advisory panel on immigration, a new study found New Jersey is one of just nine states whose legislatures have not passed any immigration-related laws in 2007.
The report released yesterday by the National Conference of State Legislatures found states across the country scrambling to address immigration issues as the illegal immigrant population soars past 12 million nationwide and efforts to reform federal laws languish in Congress.
From January to July 2 of this year, 170 immigration-related bills became law in 41 states, more than double the total from the previous year, the NCSL found………
The largest number of new laws, passed in 26 states, pertained to identification documents and driver's licenses. Most of those added provisions barring illegal immigrants from the roads.
Labor laws were the second-largest category, with the toughest measure passed in Arizona requiring all employers to check job applicants against a federal database to ensure they are legally eligible to work………
In New Jersey, there are several immigration-related bills in the Legislature, including a Republican-sponsored measure that would ban illegal immigrants from the state's colleges and another that would ban the release of illegal immigrants from state prisons except to federal immigration authorities.
Democrats have proposed several measures as well, including a proposal to exempt undocumented high school graduates from paying the out-of-state resident tuition rate at state colleges, an effort aimed at keeping them from becoming dropouts.
But those bills have seen little movement in the Legislature, making New Jersey one of a handful of states to pass no immigration-related bills this year.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
“CRISIS MANAGEMENT” MODE IN SOMERSET COUNTY
“The Somerset County freeholders last night appointed three lawyers and two golf association officials to what could be temporary jobs as county park commissioners.
The replacements follow the resignations of four members of the embattled commission during what Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli described as "a crisis-management situation." There had been two vacancies on the panel, so one seat remains empty.
But with Ciattarelli and other freeholders promoting the idea of abolishing the semiautonomous commission later this month, no one at last night's meeting could say what the newcomers would do or for how long………….
The new appointees will work to "restore confidence" in the commission, Horowitz said. Asked how that would differ from what the previous commissioners did, Horo witz said, "I'm not familiar with my predecessors, I'm not familiar with their actions."
The commission's management and financial practices have been under fire since a critical June 22 report by the Wolff and Samson law firm. The freeholders authorized that work following the 2005 arrest of a park official on kickback charges. Last month, the state At torney General's Office issued an extensive subpoena for park records.” (Tyrell, Star-Ledger)
WALKING WITH SINGH IN SOUTH BRUNSWICK
“There are a lot of rolled eyes out there in the 14th District when it comes to Republican leadership under George W. Bush, but whether that disgust will translate into significant votes for Democrats seeking state office is doubtful in this valley of political muzzle flashes coming from all sides and on all issues.
If she can’t rely on the prevailing notion that Bush has represented one special interest spasm after another at the national level, District 14 state Senate candidate Seema Singh, an attorney and former state ratepayer advocate, at least wants to keep at the forefront of her campaign her own record as someone who has bucked powerful interests to help regular citizens.
A veteran of the fight to maintain fair and just rates for Jersey’s utility consumers, she’s walking the campaign trail now out here in her hometown of South Brunswick, and when the door swings open, a female voter behind the screen appears hesitant to embrace Singh’s candidacy specifically and New Jersey Democrats in general. She’s poised in the space between doorframe and porch, hauling at the collar of a dog and standing it up on its hind legs.
"I can tell you I’m definitely voting for a Democrat for president," the woman finally blurts out.
"We hope you’ll vote Democratic for state office as well," says Singh, 46, a single mother who was nudged into these roiling political waters by her 14-year old daughter.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
ROAD TO THE SHELDON WHITEHOUSE
“In district seven, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost two to one, Democratic state Senate candidate Rich Dennison keeps coming back to a a single theme when attacking incumbent Diane Allen: she’s a Republican.
Dennison even kicked off his campaign by trying to get Allen to sign a pledge declaring her independence from Bush, and last week made a tempting offer to reporters at a press conference, saying he’d give a million dollars to anyone who could find the word “Republican” on an Allen campaign flyer that he help up.
Dennison’s strategy is vaguely reminiscent of a recent U.S. Senate race in another densely populated blue state: Rhode Island, where in 2006 Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse beat independent-minded incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee in an election widely viewed as a referendum on President Bush and the Republican Party. Despite breaking from his party on many issues, the reason most often cited for Chafee’s loss was the “R” next to his name.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“I’M GOING TO CONTACT MY LAWYER”
“A former Atlantic City Public Works employee’s indictment Tuesday was a surprise to him. David Thomas — who is a member of Pleasantville’s Board of Education — said he didn’t even know he had a case being presented to a grand jury. So he was shocked to learn he had been indicted on one charge of official misconduct.
He allegedly ordered an Atlantic City Public Works co-worker to pick up debris at the Pleasantville home of David Callaway, who was then head of the department. The worker was on Atlantic City time when he was ordered to the Pleasantville address.
“I knew they were doing an investigation, but that was it,” Thomas said Tuesday. “I have no comment. I’m going to contact my lawyer.”………
On March 29, Pleasantville Police Capt. Frank Balles was test-driving a sport utility vehicle the city was considering purchasing when he drove by Callaway’s East Thompson Avenue home and saw the Atlantic City truck there. He pulled over the driver, Robert L. Murray Jr., who eventually was sent on his way.
Murray wrote in a memo that Thomas had summoned him to the residence. When Murray arrived, Callaway told him to fill the city truck with wood and other materials from the Pleasantville site and dump it in the Atlantic City yard, according to the memo.
Thomas is married to Callaway’s niece.
Atlantic City later suspended Thomas. Callaway was allowed to go on paid vacation before he was eventually fired. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
AN ODD CHOICE
“He's a former part owner of one of Jersey City's most polluted chromium waste sites. Now he's about to be hired by the city to help deal with environmental cleanup issues.
The City Council is scheduled to vote today to award a contract to the law firm of former Gov. Jim Florio "to represent and advise the city of Jersey City in various environmental matters."
Florio's law firm – Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader of Rochelle Park – will be paid to handle issues "as they come up," including litigation concerning the Honeywell chromium site on Route 440 and the PJP landfill cleanup, city officials said.
As the chairman and chief executive officer of the Morristown-based Xspand, Florio, was part owner of a chromium-tainted 16-ace site along Garfield Avenue in Jersey City.
Florio's company partnered with former state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Christopher Daggett to purchase the site from the city for $1.1 million in 2004, even though it was appraised at $2.9 million, according to news reports.
But early last year, Florio sold Xspand, which clears him of any monetary interest he had in the property, city officials said.
The "responsible party" for remediating the site is PPG Industries of Pittsburgh, Pa., not Florio, who played no role in polluting it.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
ALMOST $3 BILLION FOR BRIDGES
“Citing "decades of neglect," county officials on Tuesday urged the state to provide nearly $2.7 billion over 10 years to repair or replace more than 4,000 deteriorating county-owned bridges.
The New Jersey Association of Counties said the state's 21 counties face a $257 million annual deficit for repairs of bridges deemed "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete." Of the 7,040 county-owned bridges, 878 major bridges need to be repaired or replaced, and 3,286 minor bridges need the same, the group said.
NJAC President Louis Magazzu said counties receive roughly $80 million from the state annually, but with most funds going to road resurfacing, only about $10 million is left over for repairs…………
NJAC President Louis Magazzu said counties receive roughly $80 million from the state annually, but with most funds going to road resurfacing, only about $10 million is left over for repairs.” (Rispoli, Gannett)
“A national study of beach closures released yesterday found the vast majority of New Jersey's ocean beaches were never forced to close for pollution last year.
But while the report was good news for thousands of day-trippers, it revealed a few stubborn hot spots in the back bays that failed pollution tests at a much higher rate than the previous year.
That pushed up the number of beach closings in 2006 by 70 percent — to 134 days from 79 days the year before. The bad news fell hardest on Ocean County, where some municipal beaches failed weekly tests at an alarming rate. One, Beachwood Beach West, failed 60 percent of the time.
The culprit, according to environmentalists, is runoff pollution washed into the back bays and rivers by rainstorms. The 10 worst offenders were all in Monmouth and Ocean counties, where environmentalists have long complained that increased population and development is increasing runoff.” (Spoto, Star-Ledger)
“HAMILTON — Nearly two dozen anti-war protesters held a rally here yesterday hoping to greet Rep. Chris Smith at his office and make their opinions on the war heard.
The rally, which was held outside Smith's Hamilton office in the 90-degree weather, was part of a multimillion dollar national campaign called "Iraq Summer."
Protesters held signs saying "Support the troops … End the war" and pasted a picture of Smith on a makeshift giant milk carton with the word "Missing" emblazoned above Smith's portrait. The reference to ubiquitous missing posters on milk cartons was meant to suggest that Smith has been absent when it comes to addressing the concern for bringing home the troops and ending the Iraq conflict.
Organizers hoped to catch Smith on his return from Washington for the summer recess, but he didn't show up…………….
Several people at the rally said they were surprised that Smith, who has been a champion of human rights and veterans' benefits, continues to support the war.
Reached by phone, Smith said he favors an Iraq pullout without specifying a timeline.
"My position couldn't be clearer," Smith said. "The sooner our men and women are out of both Afghanistan and Iraq, the better."
Smith has repeatedly said he is not in favor of announced timelines for leaving Iraq, but rather a closely guarded and secret exit strategy……………
Smith again characterized the anti-war effort here as "an orchestrated effort with a great deal of money behind it."…………
David Rebovich, a professor of political science at Rider University, chalked Smith's moves up to politics.
He said that Smith may have made a "reasonable political calculation" that he doesn't need to engage in these conversations now, given that he won easily in his last election, unlike Ferguson, who nearly lost.” (Egan, Trenton Times)
HOW ABOUT A PICNIC BASKET PROTECTION LAW?
“The bear hunt is either a barbaric practice that doesn't do much to keep bears away from people or a necessary step to keep down the bruins' numbers and protect New Jerseyans.
That's what opponents and supporters of a black bear hunt in New Jersey will likely argue tonight at a public hearing in Trenton. The event is designed to discuss two proposals on how to deal with the state's black bear population.
State Environmental Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson has sought more time to try non-lethal bear control methods, such as encouraging the use of bear-proof trash containers. However, the state's Fish and Game Council calls for hunts next year and in 2009, if bear-human encounters aren't down by a third in each of the next two years.
Neither proposal, though, specifically calls for a 2007 hunt.
The hearing is designed to let the Department of Environmental Protection gather public opinion before a final decision is made.” (Santana, Daily Journal)
SLIPPED HIS MIND
“MORRISTOWN — Town clerk Matthew Stechauner took the blame Tuesday for the legal ad snafu that will delay pay raises for the mayor and some town workers and probably prevent a November referendum on the raises, too.
Organizers of a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot had suspected a town hall ploy to effectively undo their campaign.
But Stechauner said the oversight was a simple error and nothing more.
"Essentially, I had made a mistake," Stechauner said in a phone interview. "There is no back story to it. I was busy and it totally slipped my mind. That was the beginning, middle, and end of it."
On Monday, Mayor Donald Cresitello also said his administration had nothing to do with the slip-up and that it was "the clerk's fault."
Cresitello was to receive a $12,000 raise under terms of the salary ordinance.” (Hassan, Daily Record)
PAY TO PLAY
“EVESHAM – Township councilmen introduced a strong pay-to-play ordinance at a work session Tuesday.
"I think we can be the symbol for Burlington County when it comes to reform on this issue," said Deputy Mayor Mike Schmidt.
If council approves the measure, Evesham would be the first municipality in Burlington County to adopt such an ordinance.
The ordinance, virtually identical to ones passed in Cherry Hill and Collingswood, limits political contributions by people and companies looking to do business with Evesham.” (Laughlin, Courier-Post)
IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY
“The Middlesex County Republican Organization introduced yesterday its slate of candidates for the five countywide offices on the November ballot–sheriff, surrogate and three freeholder seats.
The three freeholder candidates are Daniel Kerwin of Old Bridge, John Rucki of Sayreville and Geoffrey Champion of South Plainfield, who is making his second run for the office. Lynda Woods Cleary of South Brunswick is the candidate for surrogate and Robert Oras of Edison is seeking the sheriff's office.
They admit they have an uphill battle to defeat the incumbent Democrats, but they believe by taking their message door to door they have a fighting chance.
"We have a tremendous group this year," Champion said. "It's just getting our message out. We also trust the voters in Middlesex County."………..
Republicans haven't held an elected county office since 1996 and last held a majority on the freeholder board in 1993.
The Democrats control the entire seven-member freeholder board and hold the sheriff, surro gateand county clerk offices. There is more than a 2-to-1 margin of Democratic registered voters to Republicans.” (Epstein, Star-Ledger)
“The City Commission returns to full strength this morning when Molly Hollingshead takes the oath of office, filling the seat of her late husband for the next three months.
The City Commission voted 3-1 Tuesday night to appoint Hollingshead. To retain the seat, she must stand for election Nov. 6 in what's likely to be a hotly contested race.
City Commissioner John Hollingshead died Friday, July 20 at home after a short battle with cancer. The 61-year-old was serving his fourth term on the commission.
I'm a little disappointed it wasn't 100 percent but nothing is ever 100 percent," Hollingshead said after the vote. "I just want to do a good job. That's what John would want me to do — and run a hard campaign in November."……….
City Commissioner Tim Shannon voted no. "The person was not the reason," he said after the vote.
Shannon said he would have preferred to appoint the person who finished sixth in the May 10, 2005 commission election or to leave the seat open until the November election.” (Smith, Daily Journal)
READY FOR BATTLE
“The way Jerry Hurwitz sees it, it doesn't take an Einstein to understand the significance of the hallowed ground on which a pivotal Revolutionary War Battle of Princeton was fought 230 years ago.
Part of the battle on Jan. 3, 1777, was waged on 22 acres of gently sloping farmland now owned by the Institute for Advanced Study. The institute — an independent, private research institution that counted physicist Albert Einstein among its faculty — is adjacent to the 85-acre Princeton Battlefield State Park.
But that section of the battlefield was never incorporated into the state park, and the institute is now reviving a plan to build housing for 15 families on eight of the 22 acres. That has Hurwitz, president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, and the society's activists ready for battle.
"We are not against the institute building housing; we are just saying, 'Don't build on the field,'" said Hurwitz, a Princeton attorney. "Honor the sacrifice of the soldiers and New Jersey's historical heritage. New Jersey wants to be known as the Crossroads of the Revolution. What are people going to see, housing?"” (Hester, AP)
“As Ewing continues its quest for state aid to stave off a whopping tax hike, township administrators are crying foul over the system the state uses to decide which towns will receive fiscal relief from the $153 million pot of available aid.
They say the process is unregulated and fraught with political patronage that penalizes towns like Ewing that lack the political clout needed to garner big bucks.” (Coryell, Trenton Times)
“TRENTON — The city's schools are facing a crisis equaling the most difficult times Trenton has faced in 17 years, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer told the school board yesterday afternoon. Palmer called on board members to rise to the occasion, saying that adversity brings out the best and worst in people.” (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)
IN OCEAN TOWNSIHP
“Perhaps the only people in Ocean Township not talking about "The Laramie Project" were members of the Board of Education itself, which met Tuesday night for its first weekly meeting since the controversy erupted last week and did not address the issue as of press time………….
"The Laramie Project" is a collection of interviews made in Laramie, Wyo., after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, who was severely beaten and left to die when he was tied to a fence on the city's outskirts in 1998.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)
“STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Neighbors congregated on Steven and Julia drives in the Beach Haven West section of the township Tuesday evening to watch as former Mayor Wes Bell began to remove the remaining sinking boats from a lagoon.
Monday, Judge John Petersen ordered that Bell have the boats removed by Friday or face additional penalties of $2,000 per day and possible jail time.
Bell was ordered in May to have all of his four boats removed by June 15. He has removed one boat, the Optic, since Petersen’s order.
Bell was also charged with assaulting a police officer Monday, after he allegedly pushed an Ocean County sheriff’s officer in the courtroom. There were two Stafford Township police officers near the lagoon Tuesday evening.
“I’m going to have them pulled out by Friday,” Bell said, as he stood near a deteriorating boat named the Striper. A contractor had pulled the boat up on the bank of the lagoon Tuesday evening. ” (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)
“The worst that suspended Deptford Ptl. John Gillespie says he should get is a written reprimand for his actions during a traffic stop on Feb. 2, 2006.
The attorney for Ptl. Timothy Parks, a second officer vindicated in the case, says his client should not face any disciplinary action. They still, however, remain suspended without pay.
They still, however, remain suspended without pay.
"I don't understand it," Gillespie said Tuesday. "We proved our case. They should put it in the past, and let us come back and do our jobs."
By law, the township has 45 days to decide on administrative charges against the three officers involved in this case. For Gillespie, that deadline is quickly approaching. The other two officers should find out by early September.” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
IN CHESTER TOWNSHIP
“It took two months, four letters and one lawsuit, but Chester Township finally has a council member to fill the seat Bill Cogger vacated when he became mayor.
For at least the next five months, that council member will be Edward McCarthy, a 52-year-old stockbroker with Janney, Montgomery and Scott.” (Castro, Star-Ledger)
EDUCATORS SKEPICAL OF NEW OFFICIALS
“Even before the jobs are filled, many in the education community are skeptical about 21 new executive county superintendents to be appointed by the governor.
Developed from the Legislature's special session on property taxes, the executive county superintendents will replace existing county superintendents with a salary boost from $100,000 to $115,000 a year to $120,000, state Department of Education officials said. The executive county superintendents will focus on consolidating, sharing services and cutting unnecessary costs to reduce property taxes.
"Local school officials are concerned about how much of a role politics will play in selecting these people and the role of that person," said New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Mike Yaple. "Will that person be a partner or will they be an enforcer?"
As opposed to the previous method of appointment by the education commissioner, the new executive county superintendents will be appointed by the governor with the recommendation of the commissioner and the consent of the Senate. ” (Graber, Express-Times)