New Jersey has one privately owned toll road, legislators mull gas tax for bridge repair, face off over bridge repair funds in Washington, Lobiondo still with Bush on Iraq, corrupt government employees’ pensions slashed, politician son evicts politician father’s business.
NEW JERSEY’S ONLY PRIVATELY OWNED TOLL ROAD
“Built during the Depression, the Margate Bridge and Causeway spans lush wetlands and salty streams, and on a clear day offers a glorious gaze at the Atlantic City skyline.
Tourists cross it on their way to beaches or to visit its famous neighbor — Lucy the Elephant.
But there’s something else about this two-mile stretch along the shore: It is the only privately run toll road in New Jersey.
At a time when Gov. Jon Corzine is figuring out ways to cash in on state assets such as the New Jersey Turnpike, Roger Hansen, the route’s owner, believes the governor should let private firms run New Jersey’s toll roads.
“I personally think private industry can do a better job than government,” said Hansen, a longtime Atlantic County developer. “We have a tremendous amount of patronage in all the toll roads in New Jersey. I know you could run it much more efficiently if you run it as a for-profit entity, and I think it could be just as safe.”
The toll road is a throwback to an era when entrepreneurs, not governments, routinely ran roads, bridges and railroads.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
NEW JERSEY DOES HAVE THE LOWEST GAS PRICES, AFTER ALL
“Following the devastating collapse of a Minnesota bridge deemed “structurally deficient,” state officials have focused on New Jersey’s aging spans an estimated $7 billion problem.
But as a state with staggering debt, fixing hundreds of deficient bridges could prove a monumental task and legislators are wary of pushing forward a possible, but unpopular solution: Raising another tax.
“Raising the gasoline tax is not something that people are interested in at this point,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3, of Paulsboro. “It doesn’t hurt for us to be last in some category, this is one I want to remain last in.”
New Jersey’s gas tax was last raised in 1988. It remains at 14.5 cents a gallon, the second-lowest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
The tax helps fund transportation projects through the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. A penny increase would bring in an estimated $53 million annually, which may expedite some repairs.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
HIGH NOON IN WASHINGTON
“A political showdown is looming over a powerful Democratic congressman’s proposal to increase the federal gas tax to fix problems with 6,175 bridges that carry U.S. interstate highways.
Fifty-seven of New Jersey’s 993 interstate bridges are “structurally deficient,” the state transportation agency said Friday. Gov. Corzine has ordered all 6,434 bridges in New Jersey inspected in the wake of the I-35W span’s collapse in Minnesota.
Minnesota Democratic Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House transportation committee, may propose raising the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax as an option to create a special bridge-repair fund. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California supports the idea.
But President Bush and the top Republican on the transportation panel, John Mica of Florida, reject raising the gas tax, which would increase pump prices…………..
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., ripped Bush on Friday for lecturing Congress on its spending habits, adding that he won’t rule out a gas-tax increase to fix New Jersey’s interstate bridges.
Pascrell served on the House transportation committee for 10 years. This year, he gave up that seat to join the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which means he’ll have a say in future gas tax legislation.
Bush “has done nothing about the increasing gas prices (yet) he’s telling us to prioritize? It is a joke,” Pascrell said. “If you say you want the bridges to be repaired, if you want the roads to be repaired, you have to pay for it. (Money’s) not going to fall out of the sky.”
The only New Jersey member on the House transportation panel, Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., couldn’t be reached. Congress is off this month.
Republicans and Democrats proposed increasing the tax in 2005, when Congress passed a transportation bill. Bush’s veto threat scuttled the efforts.” (Chebium, Gannett)
“Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo sides with President Bush on Iraq, but his support may not last forever.
The South Jersey Republican, who considers Iraq his top priority, has voted against a raft of recent Democratic bills aimed at withdrawing American soldiers from that country.
Pulling out now would allow Iran and Syria to create havoc in Iraq and attack staunch U.S. ally Israel, LoBiondo said, criticizing Democrats for pushing troop withdrawal to score political points. But he also hinted he might flip if Iraqi leaders don’t do more to handle their own affairs.
“I am more troubled than before about what the Iraqi government has not accomplished. And the reality is we can’t do this on our own. And if they don’t get some of what they promised to get done — quickly — that’s a changing factor for me, that’s a very influencing factor for me,” he said.
LoBiondo said he’s waiting for a September report from Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, on the situation there before deciding how to proceed. In July, the Bush administration released two separate reports that showed Iraqis aren’t doing a good job of meeting 18 political and economic goals.” (Chebium, Gannett)
HE SHOULD MEET LOBIONDO
“MILLVILLE — Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Donnally will begin his first tour in Iraq on Sept. 8, to fight in a war he doesn’t believe in and thinks is unnecessarily taking lives.
The war in Iraq “needs to end,” said Donnally, 19.
“It seems like nothing is getting done,” he said. “We need to get people out.”
His feelings are not political — he says he doesn’t even know the difference between a Republican and Democrat. But Donnally, who joined the Marine Corps in June 2006 and said the events of Sept. 11 were one of his main reasons for choosing a military career, knows he ultimately is a part of something bigger than the current situation in Iraq.
It was his respect and appreciation for the veterans who served before him that made him want to serve, Donnally said. They’re on his mind as he prepares for his tour……………
He hopes people keep supporting the troops, and don’t blame them for what’s happening.
“That kind of non-moral support will break someone down,” he said. “Blame the person making us do it instead.”” (Landau, Daily Journal)
“I’m all for due process. An arrest is not a conviction. But an indictment is a serious thing and Democrats in the Legislature need to recognize that.
State Sens. Sharpe James, D-Essex, and Wayne Bryant, D-Camden, have been indicted. Neither senator is running for reelection. Two Republicans in the Assembly, Bill Baroni and Jenifer Beck, want to pass legislation that suspends, without pay, any indicted elected official. Baroni and Beck are also running for the Senate in November.
Democratic State Senate President Richard Codey calls their proposal grandstanding. He told The Associated Press, “When they’re done denying people due process under the law, I’d like them to show me one ethics bill they have had passed into law.”
Codey misses the point. Yes, Baroni and Beck are making political hay out of the Democrats’ misfortune. But Democrats have been dropping something other than hay into their own stalls and now they are knee-deep in it. What’s more offensive? Hay or muck?” (Doblin, Bergen Record)
BLOOD IS THICKER THAN… NEVERMIND
“MANALAPAN — The father of a Democratic candidate for the Township Committee is accusing his son of hurting the family business, then evicting the patriarch — a claim the candidate says is aimed at smearing his political campaign.
The attorney representing the wholesale business, Heirloom 73 Jewelry, on Wednesday said former mayor Drew Shapiro fell short of his financial responsibility to the company as its vice president when he started competing jewelry businesses and began taking Heirloom’s clients and suppliers.
The 30-year-old business is owned by Drew Shapiro’s father, Murry Shapiro of Jackson, said the attorney, Stuart Moskovitz, also a former Manalapan mayor.
Moskovitz said Drew Shapiro, as head of Three Girls Realty, which rents Heirloom its office space, began eviction proceedings against Heirloom once the company became unable to pay the bills — a financial crisis Moskovitz said Drew Shapiro created.
“You have somebody who’s vying to represent the taxpayers of Manalapan, including (the senior development) Covered Bridge, who has no qualms about evicting his 78-year-old father,” Moskovitz said. “Part of what we will be doing on this case is taking action in connection with the fact that as vice president of this company, he (Drew Shapiro) had a fiduciary duty to the company and acted in violation of that duty.”” (Boyd, Asbury Park Press)
SLASHING CONVICTS’ PENSIONS
“The old adage that crime doesn’t pay is certainly true for any politician expecting to collect a full pension after a public service career tainted by corruption.
The board that oversees retirement benefits of public employees has slashed the benefits of several veteran public servants who tried to collect their pensions after being convicted of public corruption.
A law that went into effect in April makes it impossible for a government employee to collect any pension benefits after a corruption conviction or guilty plea.
“This is the cornerstone of the Legislature’s anti-corruption legislation, which aims to make clear to prospective wrongdoers that there will be serious penalties for public corruption,” said Sen. John H. Adler, D-Camden, who co-sponsored the measure. “The goal is to punish the wrongdoers and to deter others from committing corrupt acts that cost taxpayers so much money.”
Just how much money is at stake for government workers convicted of corruption?
The Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) board last month stripped former state Senate President John Lynch of the entire pension he amassed during 19 years in the Legislature: $19,180 a year. The 68-year-old one-time Middlesex County powerbroker will be eligible for $267 a month after he gets out of prison in about three years, not the $1,865 monthly stipend he would have gotten had he not pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges last year.” (AP)
CORZINE LUCKY IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
“Gov. Corzine knows he’s lucky. Not only is he still alive, but — unlike many — the multimillionaire can afford to pay what’s needed to heal from injuries suffered in an April car crash that left him with 15 broken bones and in a hospital for 18 days.
“I have the resources to make sure that I can get the right kind of therapy,” Corzine said. “A lot of people, once they come out of the hospital, they have no serious aftercare that, if they’re uninsured, will allow them to recover in the pattern that I have.”
Corzine has focused on health care reform since entering politics to run for the U.S. Senate in 2000, but said his personal experience with how the nation pays for health care has strengthened his resolve to reform a system that has left 47 million Americans lacking insurance, including 1.4 million New Jerseyans.
“What my experience shows and has taught me is that the need to make sure that we have a system that covers everyone in a serious manner is a crisis in America,” Corzine said. “I have felt that since I got into public life, and I’m only reinforced in that view.”
Corzine spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday while sitting in his state trooper-driven sport-utility vehicle beside a New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza. He had just held a news conference on bridge repairs.” (AP)
WHAT IS A “WELLNESS PROGRAM?”
“For the first time ever, New Jersey’s largest state workers union ratified a contract this year that requires employees and retirees to contribute to their health insurance.
The Corzine administration, however, later agreed to keep free health insurance for any retirees who enroll in a “wellness program” that was supposed to save taxpayers money.
It turns out that “wellness program” doesn’t even exist yet.
The swapping of a health care contribution for a yet-to-be-created wellness program is the latest example of just how difficult it will be for the state to keep both health care and pension costs for government workers in check on behalf of taxpayers, who pay the highest property taxes in the nation.
Mark Perkiss, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, said the state is waiting to receive proposals from vendors before deciding what the wellness program will entail.
“The problem is the state is in a financial crisis,” said Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who is also a labor union official. “We don’t have the money to pay our bills. It’s only going to get worse.”” (Lu, Bergen Record)
“It wasn’t until after he accepted the job as head of the troubled Newark Housing Authority that Keith Kinard had a chance to walk around the agency’s properties.
When he stepped into Pennington Court, a known open-air drug market on South Street in the East Ward, Kinard did a double take.
“There were people laying on the benches and drinking beer. They owned it. You didn’t see the kids out,” said Kinard while standing in the recently painted stairwell at the housing project………………..
A massive police raid of the property and a new police presence has decreased the number of loitering adults. There are plans to build a small recreation building on the site and to eventually install showers in the apartments, a long-time resident gripe.
While it’s far from perfect, Kinard sees the kids out playing as a small but important step in restoring an agency that almost fell to federal control under a cloud of nepotism and financial mismanagement.
In its most recent audit, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the agency improved marks, ranking it as a “standard performer.” The agency has resolved 100 of the 139 items in the memorandum of understanding with the federal government that prevented the takeover but still remains under close watch. Kinard believes once the agency resolves problems with its housing voucher program, the authority will have satisfied the agreement.” (Mays, Star-Ledger)
“HE HAD NO IDEA HOW SCREWED UP THIS DISTRICT WAS”
“TRENTON — Running the city school district is not for the faint of heart.
That’s the lesson Superintendent Rodney Lofton said he learned during his first year as head of the 14,500-student district.
“This is a good place to be, but I wouldn’t tell a neophyte to begin their career here, it’s been a high learning curve,” the first-time superintendent said during an interview in his office.
Last August, the 49-year-old joined the district aware of its budget crunch and public concerns about safety and academic progress. Only five of the district’s 21 schools have been making the adequate yearly progress goals set by the state and required by federal law.
But many surprises were in store for Lofton, including a grading scandal that has plagued the district since April.
“I think that he had no idea how screwed up this district was. He definitely got in over his head,” said Sherrie James-Hawthorne, former PTO president of Robbins Annex school. ” (Colon and Kitchenman, Trenton Times)
THE NEW NJ TRANSIT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“Public transportation has been a part of NJ Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles’ life since he was a child growing up in Nutley in a family that didn’t have a car.
When the Sarles clan was going to visit relatives, they took a bus or maybe two or three.
Those memories still drive Sarles as he works to implement his vision.
Four months into his new job, Sarles is taking a number of steps to improve bus service and their connectivity with trains, traditionally an area where there was little coordination.
He’s also pressing ahead with development of the $7.2 billion Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel, working to solidify funding and political support.
In addressing these projects, Sarles will build on the efforts of his predecessor, George Warrington, described as persuasive and forceful by associates. Warrington emphasized the need for the Hudson tunnel and made it his goal to establish a stable source of funding for mass transit in New Jersey. He also was a critic of building the light rail line between Trenton and Camden. ” (Lavitt, Trenton Times)
“When Pinky Kravitz first went on the air, “American Bandstand’ was still more than a month from its debut in Philadelphia.
The future Beatles were just meeting each other as young Liverpudlians. Atlantic City was a resort with its best days behind it. Legalized gambling would be 21 years away from coming to the city.
Through the downs and ups of Atlantic City, the one constant was always Pinky Kravitz on the radio.
On Aug. 2, Pinky celebrated his half-century mark as a talk show host with a special broadcast from the ballroom at the Atlantic City Hilton, his latest radio home. Pinky, who turned 80 last month, has become synonymous with Atlantic City. He’s interviewed local, state and national politicos, attracted top entertainers and spoke out on issues affecting his beloved hometown.” (Sokolic, Courier-Post)
“Securing additional federal funds for a proposed aviation research park in Pomona is the top local priority for Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
LoBiondo, R-2, recently told Gannett News Service that the park, which is in the planning stages and doesn’t yet have an opening date, would help generate high-paying and high-tech jobs throughout South Jersey.
LoBiondo said getting more funds for the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing and the U.S. Coast Guard station, both located in the 5,000-acre Federal Aviation Administration’s technology campus in Atlantic County, are among his other leading priorities.
Before adjourning for the August congressional recess, the House approved $450,000 for the proposed research park, which would be on 55 acres the FAA controls.” (Chebium, Gannett)
“Terrance D. Weldon, the former mayor of Ocean Township who pleaded guilty nearly five years ago to accepting illegal cash payments from land developers, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 27, according to U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie.
Weldon, 58, was the first public official to be snared in the FBI’s Operation Bid Rig undercover investigation, which ultimately led to the convictions or guilty pleas of more than 20 public officials in Monmouth County.
n October 2002, Weldon pleaded guilty to accepting $64,000 from three developers in return for his help in gaining zoning approvals in the township.
But his sentencing has been routinely postponed due to what Christie described last week as Weldon’s “serious heart problems.” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
IN SEASIDE PARK
“Borough Council President Douglas W. Fairfield has announced he will resign later this month. “He will be resigning effective at the end of the month,” said Mayor Robert W. Matthies Jr.
“Doug Fairfield has battled leukemia, and I think many people admire him for his courage in that battle.”” (Michels, Asbury Park Press)
“A Hackettstown area attorney challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Highlands Act is being honored for his leadership and courtroom record.
The New Jersey Law Journal’s annual “40 Under 40” program recognizes 40 New Jersey lawyers younger than 40 years old and among this year’s honorees is John J. Abromitis.” (Quigley, Express-Times)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
ANOTHER DAY OLDER AND DEEPER IN DEBT
“Any way you count it, New Jersey is deep in debt.
The state owes nearly $30 billion to its creditors and just paying the cost to cover that debt is eating up more than $2.5 billion a year.
That means less and less money each year for aid to public schools, hospitals, towns. And – directly or indirectly – it means higher taxes.
The situation is so bad that Governor Corzine is preparing to sell off state properties – everything from the lottery to the New Jersey Turnpike – to raise money.
“We are the guys who got stuck at the end of the game of musical chairs. We’re trying to find a way to dig out of the hole we’re in,” state Treasurer Bradley Abelow said.
Here’s a look at how the state got this far in debt, what it means and what some say New Jersey should do to steady its financial future:” (McAlpin, Bergen Record)
IT’S A NASTY ONE
“Political observers were expecting a lively campaign in this year’s 8th District legislative race. So far, they haven’t been disappointed.
The race for a seat in the state Senate and two seats in the state Assembly has had a nasty tone ever since veteran incumbent Assemblyman Fran Bodine of Moorestown was dumped by the Republican Party for a bid to seek re-election and he switched parties to run for the Senate as a Democrat.
In the months that followed, the candidates have largely ignored issues such as tax relief in favor of talking about what they perceive to be the flaws of their respective opponents.
For example, the Republican slate has attacked Democratic Assembly candidate Tracy Riley because her husband, prominent defense attorney Michael Riley, is representing one of the men charged by the federal government earlier this year with planning to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
And when Michael Riley and other lawyers who represent the six defendants recently asked for a delay of the court schedule to allow them more time to prepare a defense, Republican Assembly candidate Dawn Marie Addiego questioned his motives…………..
et it was Tracey Riley’s own campaign that opened the door to family affairs in a news conference late last month.
Riley and Democratic running mate Chris Fifis suggested Rudder should bear some responsibility for the actions of his father, Walter, the former superintendent of the county vocational-technical school.” (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)
ASSELTA HOPES FOR A MACACA MOMENT
“After 17 years in politics, state Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew is used to opponents filming snippets of him or taking his picture at public events. Unflattering videos or photos often end up on the Internet or in negative campaign literature.
What Van Drew isn’t used to is someone trailing him when he appears at public events and filming his every word and gesture for hours on end………..
The Republican senator said the goal is not to mine for campaign fodder, but to ensure Van Drew stays consistent in his public statements.
With three months to go before the November election, the tracker is a sign the race is heating up. In the larger picture, it also means candidates who know they’re being recorded will be less likely to stray off message and speak from the heart, fearing the consequences if they do, a political expert said.
“It conflicts with the public’s express desire to have candidates act like human beings and not robots,” said John Weingart, associate director of the nonpartisan Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “If any one of us thought every word we said was going to be recorded and could end up in a TV ad, it would restrict what we say.”……..
Asselta, of Vineland, said his opponent shouldn’t complain about Luna’s presence.
“I don’t know why anyone would fear that type of recordkeeping, understanding that it’s all public information any time during a public event,” Asselta said, adding his campaign tapes his appearances as well.
In a brief telephone interview Friday, Luna declined to say how much he’s being paid for his services.
Luna, 24, said Van Drew is blowing the issue out of proportion, adding he’s only taped the assemblyman and his running mates at three events.
“It’s being put out as if I followed this guy home,” Luna said. “That’s not what I was hired for.”” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)
“BUBBLE GUM AND BASEBALL CARDS”
“If he had a top 10 list of “Bad Ways to Spend Your Town’s Money,” here’s what might be the No. 1 pick for Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge: Thom Ammirato.
Ammirato is a GOP strategist who has done work on behalf of Sarlo’s Republican opponent for Senate. But Ammirato is also the hired public relations consultant for the borough of North Arlington — with a six-month, $24,000 contract poised to be renewed for another half year.
North Arlington officials, who are facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit this year, have criticized Sarlo for not securing enough state aid to help plug that gap. But Sarlo, in turn, is questioning how the borough spends its money. In his opinion, hiring Ammirato is about as good a use of public cash as bubble gum and baseball cards.
“It’s hard for us to overlook the fact that they have a political consultant on the payroll,” Sarlo said of North Arlington officials.
“When [Councilman] Al Granell comes and complains that he doesn’t feel the state’s helped them,” Sarlo said, “just turn around and look in the mirror.”………….
North Arlington was awarded $500,000 in so-called extraordinary aid from the state last week — the maximum amount given this year, but far short of what officials had anticipated.
The borough did not provide a copy of Ammirato’s contract, but officials said he was hired in March to be the spokesman for the borough’s opposition to the EnCap redevelopment project, which called for the condemnation of private businesses.
The borough needed to level the public-relations playing field, said Granell, a Democrat.
“Every day there was a commercial on TV, on the local cable channel, all the local papers,” Granell said of the self-promotion by Cherokee, the company building EnCap. “It’s a small price to pay to be on a level playing field with a giant like Cherokee.” (Stile, Bergen Record)
APPARENTLY BOOKER HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
“From the early morning to the late afternoon, Newark was a city of mourning on Saturday, as people gathered at three separate funerals for three young friends executed in a schoolyard a week before.
The eulogies came in waves of emotion from relatives, officials and complete strangers, filling three Baptist churches here and spilling out onto the sidewalks. The funerals — the first around 9 a.m., the second at 11 a.m. and the third at noon — provided a kind of rolling stage for the city’s grief, not only for the three victims but also for all the young men and women killed in street violence here in recent years.
“Get this evil out of my city,” Mayor Cory A. Booker told nearly 1,000 mourners at the funeral for the youngest of the three victims, Terrance Aeriel, 18.
Mr. Booker stood at a lectern inside New Hope Baptist Church, waving his arms and not so much speaking as preaching, his words a mix of anger, praise and a personal appeal for forgiveness.
In the days before the killings, Mr. Booker had been criticized by many who said he was disconnected from residents of his adopted city, and a video had surfaced in which Mr. Booker described a colorful Newark activist using words that, while intended as affectionate, angered the activist’s family and even the mayor’s supporters.
“I want to repent to this church,” Mr. Booker said at Mr. Aeriel’s funeral. “In the days leading into Saturday, I was saying things that hurt this city. But I broke down. I was broken down, but in the pit of my despair I heard the Lord speak.” (Fernandez and Jacobs, New York Times)
DESIS MAKE POLITICAL INROADS IN NEW JERSEY
“A knot of about 50 people stood outside the Ocean County Administrative Building Friday afternoon singing a solemn tune as a tricolored flag was raised above their heads.
The flag’s colors were orange, white and green and the song was “Jana Gana Mana,” the Indian national anthem. It was the 10th year the Indian community had marked their homeland’s independence day in Ocean County, and its largest gathering to date.
As India and Pakistan celebrate 60 years of independence from British rule this week, members of New Jersey’s South Asian community approach the occasion with a new pride — their growing numbers, both on the streets and in positions of influence………….
About 2 percent of New Jersey’s 8.4 million residents are of Asian Indian descent, up from 1 percent in 1990, the highest percentage for any state, according to Satish V. Poondi, spokesman for the state’s Indian Business Association…………
The first major wave of South Asian immigration happened after President Lyndon B. Johnson eliminated immigration quotas in 1965. Indians and Pakistanis like Malik, Haque and Chandra started to arrive in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Desis were then low on the political scale, said Kiran Desai, treasurer of the state Democratic Party.
Since then, desis have made inroads into local New Jersey politics. Among them are Upendra Chivukula, who is serving his third term in the New Jersey Assembly, representing the 17th District, and is the first person of South Asian descent ever elected to the Assembly. Another is Seema Singh, the state’s ratepayer advocate, who is running for the state Senate from Middlesex County.
“We’re becoming more prominent, slowly but surely,” said Abhishek Desai, 25, Kiran Desai’s son. “But it’s a long uphill battle.”” (Mathur, Asbury Park Press)
MAYOR OF THE BIG HOUSE
“A state Superior Court judge has ordered a former Stafford mayor arrested, hoping to force the man to get rid of the last of four decrepit boats from a residential lagoon.
Wesley Bell remained in the Ocean County jail on Saturday, according to a jail official.
The day before, Bell found himself going to jail for the second time in five days, with Judge John A. Peterson telling the 69-year-old former mayor that he would stay in jail until he produced a signed agreement with a contractor to raise and demolish the MaBell, a 60-foot, wooden-hulled former lobster boat.
As Bell was taken to the jail in handcuffs, he promised that he’d replace the MaBell with another boat and that area residents would have to “live with it.”
“I’ll buy a steel boat, whatever size it is, and park it in the same place,” Bell said.
During the Friday hearing, Peterson made multiple speakerphone calls to tow services, demolition contractors and marinas, trying to find someone to get rid of the boat.
Bell finally agreed to allow the boat’s destruction. But when Bell balked at a $7,500 charge for a demolition crew to get rid of the boat, as it had two of his other boats, Peterson sent him to jail.
“He left the judge with no other option. It was just defiance,” James Hill, the deputy state attorney general prosecuting the case, told the Asbury Park Press for Saturday newspapers.” (AP)
FORT DIX TRIAL POSTPONED
“A federal judge agreed yesterday to postpone the trial of five men accused of plotting an attack against Fort Dix, but was reluctant to grant a defense request to delay the case until next spring.
After a 30-minute status conference with the defendants and their attorneys in Camden, U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler pushed the trial opening from Oct. 9 to Nov. 5. He signaled he might reconsider the schedule, but said he hoped he didn’t have to.
“I’m still very confident that we will we get the trial done this year,” Kugler said.
In a motion filed last week, defense attorneys argued they needed at least four months just to translate and review 200 hours of se cretly recorded conversations between the suspects and two FBI informants. Slightly more than half of the conversations occurred in Albanian, Arabic or Turkish. The defense asked for a May trial date. ” (Martin, Star-Ledger)
“THE OFF-RAMP TO ADULTERY”
“Adulterers, beware: Your cheatin’ heart might be exposed by E-ZPass.
E-ZPass and other electronic toll collection systems are emerging as a powerful means of proving infidelity.
That’s because when your spouse doesn’t know where you’ve been, E-ZPass does.
“E-ZPass is an E-ZPass to go directly to divorce court, because it’s an easy way to show you took the off-ramp to adultery,” said Jacalyn Barnett, a New York divorce lawyer who has used E-ZPass records a few times.
Generally mounted inside a vehicle’s windshield behind the rearview mirror, E-ZPass devices communicate with antennas at toll plazas, automatically deducting money from the motorist’s prepaid account.
The Illinois Tollway, which hands over toll records, received more than 30 such subpoenas the first half of this year, with about half coming from civil cases, including divorces, according to Joelle McGinnis, an agency spokeswoman.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it turns down about 30 subpoenas in civil cases every year, about half of them divorces.” (Newmarker, AP)
IN ATLANTIC CITY
“ATLANTIC CITY — U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez visited here Friday afternoon to warn that 250,000 New Jersey children risk losing health coverage if the federal government does not move quickly to renew funding.
Menendez, joined by state Senate candidate Assemblyman Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, at the AtlantiCare HealthPlex on Atlantic Avenue, said he wanted to “sound the alarm” about the consequences of failing to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“We have choices to make. There are values to be kept,” Menendez said, adding that the cost to fund the program for five years equals the cost to fund the war in Iraq for three months.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)
HIGHLANDS ACT RULED CONSTITUTIONAL
“The state’s controversial law restricting development across a large swath of North Jersey doesn’t trample property owners’ constitutional rights, an appellate court ruled yesterday.
The 35-page ruling marked the first time an appeals panel has weighed in on the validity of the 2004 law, which was established to protect the water supply for 4 million people. The law curbs development on some 800,000 acres across Morris, Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties.” (McHugh, Star-Ledger)
“Printers designed to safeguard electronic voting need more tweaks before they can be trusted, state Attorney General Anne Milgram said yesterday.
Vendors of three printers must correct shortcomings identified by researchers, then submit the devices for re-testing before they can be used statewide, Milgram said.
The vendors expressed confidence they can do so in time to meet the Legislature’s January deadline for retrofitting electronic voting machines with printers. Printers are meant to allow voters to verify their electronic ballots, and to create a paper trail that officials can re-count in a pinch.
Last week, a judge told the state to ready plans to replace some 10,000 electronic voting machines — in case the printer deadline cannot be met.
Milgram based her decision on recommendations from the New Jersey Voting Machine Examination Committee, which held hearings last month, and on a report from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. NJIT researchers pinpointed 33 flaws in two printers from Sequoia Voting Systems and another from Avante International Technology Inc.” (Coughlin, Star-Ledger)
NICE, BUT MAYBE NOT FOR LONG
“How low can New Jersey go?
When it comes to gas prices, how about lowest in the nation?
Down six pennies from this time last week, New Jersey’s average for a gallon of regular gas is America’s cheapest, at $2.68 — 14 cents less than nationally…………..
The national average for regular, at $2.82, is the least expensive nationwide average in four months, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
New Jersey’s prices are lower because of the state’s relatively low 14.5-cent gasoline tax, said David Weinstein of AAA Mid-Atlantic.” (Trently, Star-Ledger)
“When it comes to using money from the Statewide Transportation and Local Bridge Bond Act of 1999, four of the state’s 21 counties are the kings.
Ocean, Cape May, Hudson and Somerset counties have used 100 percent of the money, with Monmouth, Union and Hunterdon counties spending 90 percent or more of the cash to replace sagging bridges. Some other counties have barely spent 20 percent of their funds, according to a May 2007 Department of Transportation status report.
That percentage includes bridge bond funds spent by the county or allocated by contract for construction or professional services, said Erin Phalon, DOT spokeswoman.
In 1999, voters approved a $500 million bond issue that allocated $250 million for local bridge projects.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
“Have some clothing to donate? You may want to do some research before tossing a bag in the nearest donation bin.
Clothing-donation bins have popped up all over southern New Jersey in recent years, primarily in gas stations and supermarket parking lots. They benefit various charities. Some, such as Amvets-NJ, D.A.R.E NJ and the Salvation Army, are reputable. Others are a bit sketchy on the donation figures, sending most of the clothing straight to for-profit recycling companies.
New Jersey is trying to put a stop to shady practices by some clothing-bin operators. A bill awaiting Gov. Jon S. Corzine‘s signature would require bin sponsors to obtain municipal permits to set up shop, as well as display a phone number and disclose how much money from donations goes to charity.” (Schaffer, Press of Atlantic City)
20 ARMED MEN
“State police responding to a report of a school bus driving down the New Jersey Turnpike with armed men found out the report was correct – sort of.
“The bus turned out to be a military transport with about 20 soldiers,” New Jersey Turnpike Authority spokesman Joe Orlando said.” (AP)
THE HISTORY OF OPERATION BID-RIG
“The day after the FBI arrested 11 public officials in Monmouth County, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie was spitting mad.
His anger was directed at a fellow law enforcement official: Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye. C
hristie said Kaye and his investigators “blew” the FBI operation that led to the 11 arrests on Feb. 22, 2005, and forced a premature end to that phase of Operation Bid Rig.” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
MORE OPERATION BID-RIG
“With Tony Palughi on board in late January 2005, the FBI now has another target in its crosshairs: Harry Larrison Jr.
Larrison, who has just retired after a 40-year career as a Monmouth County freeholder, remains a powerful and influential figure in the county.
“Harry is the guy,” FBI Special Agent Bill Waldie recalls. “You want to open a business in Monmouth County and you’re getting red-taped? Talk to Harry. Next day, it’s done.”” (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY
“The Cumberland County Freeholder Board passed a resolution Thursday urging Gov. Jon Corzine to appoint two new superior court judges, and bring one previously assigned at-large judgeship back to Cumberland County.
But their plea may fall on deaf ears.
Because of what it costs to fund judicial positions, the governor’s office has been hesitant to give Cumberland County even one more judge, let alone three, according to State Senator Steve Sweeney.
Sweeney said Friday a bill he sponsored which would create 14 additional Superior Court judgeships, including one in Cumberland County, has been “tied up in committee” since it was first introduced in 2006.” (Dunn, Star-Ledger)
IN MOUNT LAUREL
Elsa Candelario works with immigrant families daily as executive director of the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey in Camden.
She and her staff work to meet their diverse needs, from providing education and employment training to dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues.
“Gov. Jon Corzine last week tapped Candelario’s knowledge and experience with the South Jersey immigrant community by appointing her to a blue-ribbon panel that will examine issues facing this growing population in the state.
The Mount Laurel resident is the only representative from Burlington County on the 27-member panel. The panel has yet to meet, but will have 15 months to complete its work.” (Camilli, Burlington County Times)
NO REPEAT OF MORRISTOWN
“Activists on both sides of the immigration debate squared off Saturday on the street that divides Dumont and Bergenfield, rallying within shouting distance of the day laborers who are at the center of their battle.
Members of the pro-immigrant Residents Against Racism showed up to counter-protest an anti-illegal immigration group, the United Patriots of America, which holds weekly rallies on the Dumont side of Columbia Avenue.
The UPA has targeted the location for more than a year because of a day laborer pick-up spot across the street in Bergenfield.” (Shih, Bergen Record)
SCHOOL OFFICIALS MAKE MORE THAN GOV
“New Jersey is willing to pay its governor $175,000 to lead a state of nearly 9 million people and oversee a budget of $33.5 billion, but one in six New Jersey school districts thinks its leader is worth even more.
Nine Morris County school districts are among more than 100 across the state that paid at least one of its administrators more than $175,000 last year, and 23 districts paid their superintendents at least $200,000 for managing school systems and budgets a fraction of the size of New Jersey’s.” (O’Dea, Daily Record)
“Joseph Baruffi went to high school in Vineland, graduated college in Glassboro and worked in Millville, but the Buena mayor’s heart always has been with the borough.
Baruffi, 51, doesn’t think that will ever change as he celebrates his anniversary of 20 years with the Buena council today.” (Funderbrook, Daily Journal)
IN PROSPECT PARK
“PROSPECT PARK – Thomas F.X. Magura, a lifelong borough resident, school board member and perennial political candidate, is on a new campaign to prohibit elected officials from receiving health benefits.
“Borough employees have to work at least 30 hours a week to get them,” Magura said. “We’re a small town. If you need medical benefits, get a job that provides them. You shouldn’t take them off the taxpayers’ money.”” (Brubaker, Herald News)
“– A borough lawsuit against the local library may test the privacy of patron records and the independence of a library from municipal government. At stake is Bloomingdale’s attempt to cut costs by closing the public library in favor of cheaper services from neighboring Riverdale.
But because the library was created by voters, its dissolution must be by voters, and the matter may have to go to the ballot in the fall.” (Yoo, Bergen Record)