Tolls may rise even without monetization, Abelow ready to become chief of staff, Hudson County voter registration shenanigans, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spread thin in New Jersey, violent crimes spark immigration outrage.
MONETIZATION – CAMPAIGN ISSUE #1
“The state treasurer is preaching patience, but Republicans continue to assail Gov Corzine’s plan to try to solve state fiscal problems by making more money off state properties, likely by increasing highway tolls.
Corzine hasn’t introduced a formal proposal, but Republicans have made the Democratic governor’s plan a focus of their bid to regain legislative control in November’s legislative election. Democrats control the Assembly, 50-30, and the Senate, 22-18.
“I call on the governor to release his plan now,” Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance (R., Hunterdon), said.
Treasurer Bradley Abelow said the administration wasn’t ready.
“This is way too important to have the kind of discussion that we ultimately need to have about this without being certain that what we present is something that is comprehensive and is, in fact, something we can do,” Abelow said.
New Jersey’s debt has doubled since 2000 to $30 billion, and next fiscal year will cost the state about $3 billion, about 10 percent of the state budget. A recent report found New Jersey was the fourth-most-indebted state………………
Even if Corzine’s plans don’t go forward, tolls may have to increase anyway since the state has no way to pay for plans such as widening the New Jersey Turnpike in central New Jersey. That could cost $2 billion. (Hester, AP)
THE GOLDMAN GUYS
“Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s confidence in his new chief of staff won’t be easily shaken, no matter what Bradley Abelow’s son slips into his dad’s briefcase.
Abelow, who once led a Goldman Sachs division in Hong Kong and has been state treasurer, will become Corzine’s chief on Sept. 1, guiding the state’s day-to-day operations and policies.
It was just last year that Abelow’s 7-year-old son and his buddies sneaked a beer bottle into a briefcase, hoping to get his dad in trouble so he would have to spend time at home instead of battling legislators during a bitter budget dispute that closed state government.
Abelow hopes his new role won’t consume his life.
“I don’t feel the need to be the expert in all aspects of what happens,” Abelow said. “I feel the need to know who to get help from and rely on.”………………..
Abelow has been treasurer since January 2006 after leaving Goldman Sachs after 15 years. Among his roles at the investment banking firm was heading an Asian division in Hong Kong. He got to know Corzine at the firm, which Corzine led as chairman from 1994 to 1999.
“I’m sure his intellect and honesty were compelling factors in Gov. Corzine’s decision to make him his new right-hand man,” said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex.
Unlike most chiefs of staff, Abelow, 49, doesn’t have a political background, but he doesn’t see that as a problem.
“I’m experienced enough to know that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to be somebody else,” he said.” (AP)
AH, HUDSON COUNTY
“Perhaps the theory was it takes a cheat to catch one.
Sonia Marte, a $42,000-a-year “community relations specialist” with the Mayor’s Action Bureau in Jersey City, was one of four persons deployed to identify voting irregularities former Mayor Gerald McCann allegedly engaged in on his way to winning a school board seat in April. (Jenny Garcia, the losing school board candidate who brought the court challenge, eventually dropped the case.)
But Marte has a voter registration skeleton in her own closet, The Jersey Journal has learned.
From Sept. 14, 2004, to July 19, 2007, Marte, 27, was registered to vote at 302 Morris Pesin Drive, according to the county’s Office of the Superintendent of Elections. Only one problem: That address is a self-storage facility in Liberty State Park…………..
On July 19, Sonia Marte changed her voter registration at 16 Westervelt Place, according to county records. But a person familiar with residents at this four-story building told the Journal, on condition of anonymity, that Sonia Marte’s cousin lives there, but Sonia Marte does not.
And there might be even more to the story.
Last week, a secretary at the facility readily accepted messages for Sonia Marte, as well as for Desire Marte and Mohamed Ali, two other people also registered to vote at the storage facility.
A person familiar with Sonia Marte who did not want to be named said Desire Marte is her sister. The person also said Sonia Marte’s father is an investor in the storage business.
When asked, the secretary pointed to a two-story building across the lot from her office and said that’s where Ali lives.
Tony Lambiase, the city’s zoning officer, said his office is investigating the possibility of illegal apartments at the facility – a violation punishable by $1,250 a day in fines and the focus of a task force set up by Sonia Marte’s boss – Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
HOW TO TAKE ON A POWER COMPANY
“Gerald McCann’s sleuth has been burning the midnight oil – literally, it would seem.
Former Jersey City employee Arnold Williams says he’s been living without electricity in his home at 88 Prescott St. since he moved into the one-family home he leases five years ago.
Williams, who was hired by McCann to help fend off a court challenge to his school board election victory, says he’s never paid the electric bill due a billing dispute with Public Service Electric & Gas……………..
At the city’s request, PSE&G turned the power back on Tuesday, Williams confirmed.
The city took Williams to court to find out whether Williams or the owner should pay the electric bill. The home’s owner, by the way, is also in dispute, as the house is in probate.
According to Donnelly, Williams has refused to show city officials the lease, which would stipulate which party is supposed to pay for utilities………….
McCann and Williams both attributed political motives to the city’s actions.
“This didn’t start until we successfully forced a dismissal in the courts of the school board case with Gerry McCann,” Williams said.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in New Jersey have said they prioritize their caseload, targeting illegal immigrants involved in organized crime — dismantling gangs, uncovering narcotics operations and targeting human smugglers.
“We don’t have the luxury to wait around for the phone to ring for some police department to call us and say ‘Hey, we’ve got a guy here who’s a landscaper you guys might be interested in,'” Thomas Manifase, deputy special agent in charge of Newark’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, said in a May interview.
The 300 ICE agents in New Jersey — 42 of whom police the area south of Trenton — are already spread thin, Manifase has said.” (Graber, Express-Times)
LEGISLATORS CHIME IN
“The New Jersey Attorney General’s office is currently working on establishing guidelines for local police on immigration-related issues.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine said last week that any protocol would be carefully and thoughtfully developed. But legislators — outraged by the violent Newark crimes — are not waiting to give their thoughts on the actions they believe are necessary.
But legislators — outraged by the violent Newark crimes — are not waiting to give their thoughts on the actions they believe are necessary.
Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-Cumberland, outlined a plan last week to deputize local police to enforce federal immigration laws. His plan would also deny public benefits to illegal immigrants.
Assemblyman Mike Doherty suggested a similar idea. One of the most conservative legislators in the state, he said state officials should not be shocked or outraged by the Newark situation.
“These people and officials in Essex County are looking the other way,” said Doherty, Warren/Hunterdon counties. “They should be rounded up and sent back to their country of origin with a bill for housing these folks.”” (Graber, Express-Times)
Amy Gottlieb, director of the Newark-based immigrant rights program of the American Friends Service Committee, said the backlash from the Newark shootings is misdirected.
“We’re at a moment of great tension,” she said. “Unfortunately people who want to scapegoat the immigrant community have used this incident as a way to promote their message.”
Gottlieb said the focus should be on violence, excessive crime and easy access to guns, rather than illegal immigrants. She said Gov. Jon Corzine’s recently formed Blue Ribbon Panel to study how to best integrate immigrants in New Jersey, rather than ostracize them, is a step in the right direction.
But recognizing the lack of federal legislation on immigration reform, she said she also supports guidance for local police.
“We have to be looking at immigration policy at a federal level,” Gottlieb said. “But it’s also important (for New Jersey) so that there’s not this sort of ad-hoc inconsistent response to immigration in the state.”
CUTTING PERKS TO COUNTY WORKERS
“A Republican candidate for Burlington County freeholder has announced a plan to cut county property taxes by $25 million during the next three years, if he is elected in November.
Distancing himself from incumbent Republican freeholders, Joe Donnelly, a Cinnaminson committeeman and former mayor, said Tuesday he would reduce the county work force, its fleet of cars and cell phone usage.
He also proposed using the $1.5 million in annual revenue from the sale of electricity at the county’s new gas to energy plant to help defray property taxes.
“The current freeholder board has done well to keep Burlington County’s per capita spending lower than any other county in the state, but the fact of the matter is we must do better,” Donnelly said in a press statement.
His opponent, Democratic candidate Tom Bader of Moorestown, said he is glad to see a Republican agrees with him that county government is bloated, inefficient, spends too much money and that Donnelly supports some of his proposals. It was Bader who first proposed reducing the county vehicle fleet last month.
“However, Donnelly himself is the product of the GOP machine in the county and the notion that he can arrive in Mount Holly and change the face of leadership is a stretch,” Bader said.
He also criticized Donnelly for raising taxes in Cinnaminson though Donnelly said those increases were minimal at less than 4.5 percent.” (Comegno, Courier-Post)
ABORTION CLINICS LEFT UNINSPECTED
“Only one of six state-licensed abortion clinics has been inspected in the last two years, despite a law requiring them to be inspected every other year, according to a published report.
A report by the Press of Atlantic City shows that complaints brought inspectors to two of the clinics — the Alternatives clinic in Atlantic City and Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood — and that they were promptly closed because of health violations that posed “immediate and serious risk of harm to patients.”
Alternatives had not been inspected in six years and Metropolitan had not been inspected in five, according to the newspaper.
Inspections remain overdue at three other abortion centers. One, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey in Shrewsbury, has not been inspected in more than seven years.
State Department of Health spokesman Tom Slater could not confirm that just these clinics provide abortions and said the department does not keep tabs on abortion providers in state.” (AP)
“I AM RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I’M COMFORTABLE THERE.”
“As president of The College of New Jersey, R. Barbara Gitenstein commands plenty of perks aside from her $266,537 base salary.
TCNJ kicks an extra 20 percent — currently $53,307 annually — into an interest-bearing deferred compensation fund, now payable to Gitenstein at the end of each year on the job.
Her contract also allows the board of trustees to grant up to an additional 10 percent — or $26,653 — in one-time bonuses for “special accomplishments.”
She gets a full-size or comparable leased vehicle replaced with a new one every three years, which the college pays for in full, including insurance, fuel and maintenance costs.
The public college also makes annual contributions for Gitenstein’s retirement plan equal to 8 percent of her base salary — or $21,323.
Free housing in a million-dollar house is another benefit.
The Ewing-based college, which requires its president to live in the TCNJ-owned presidential house in Hopewell Township, also pays for her utilities, cable TV and home phone service and takes care of all maintenance and housekeeping.
While Gitenstein’s compensation package might raise eyebrows, her salary falls almost squarely in the middle of the $240,000 to $285,000 range of salaries for New Jersey’s nine four-year, nonresearch public college presidents. Nor are her perks unusual for a New Jersey public college president.”…………
Gitenstein makes no apologies for her compensation, and the chairwoman of TCNJ’s board of trustees said through a college spokesman that the president’s pay is well deserved.
“I am right in the middle. And you know what? I’m comfortable there,” Gitenstein said, suggesting that TCNJ gets good value for what it spends for her leadership. (Stern, Trenton Times)
NEW JERSEYAN TAKES HELM OF VFW
“George Lisicki was fresh from combat in Vietnam when he walked into Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2314 in Carteret for the first time in 1971. The World War II veterans crowded around the bar greeted him with cold stares.
“It was their post and I was the outsider,” Lisicki said. “I didn’t go back for awhile.”…………….
On Thursday, Lisicki, 59, will be sworn in as the VFW’s national commander at its convention in Kansas City, marking only the third time in the organization’s 108-year history that it will be led by a veteran from New Jersey. He will serve a one-year term.
Lisicki takes over the VFW as its ranks continue to shrink with the deaths of about 1,000 World War II veterans every day. The 1.7 million member organization is scrambling to shore up its ranks with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Membership in the VFW is restricted to people who have served in combat zones — only half of America’s 24 million veterans are eligible.
“To grow the organization, he’s got a big job on his hands,” said Bob Wallace, who served as national commander from 1991 to 1992, the last New Jerseyan to hold the job. “We’re competing with everything else for veterans’ time,” said the former Jefferson resident.” (Woolley, Star-Ledger)
HOW WOULD GANDHI HAVE FARED IN TRENTON?
“Sixty years after India gained its independence from Great Britain, a 91-year-old freedom fighter still remembers the dedication and inspiration of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi.
Manongna Gandhi lives with her son and his family in a subdivision neighborhood here off Cooper Road. Wearing a regal green sari across her shoulders, her white hair pulled from her face, Gandhi was a picture of elegance Sunday afternoon. It was a stark contrast to the decades she spent with only two sets of clothes, working as a freedom fighter in a town in India……………
She described Mahatma Gandhi as an admirable man whose selflessness inspired a nation to break from the ruling British empire through ahimsa, meaning nonviolence. She described her dedication to the ashram, an Indian word describing a hermitage defined by the mission and goals of a community.
“He was a very caring man,” Gupta translated. Each day, she said she would awake at 4:30 a.m. to cook breakfast, handspin thread and clean at the headquarters in Sevagram, India, where about 300 people from across the country gathered to work with Mahatma Gandhi and his quest for freedom.” (Huelsman, Courier-Post)
SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITHOUT SCHOOLS
“There are 23 school districts in New Jersey that do not operate schools, including:
Allenhurst, Interlaken, Lake Como and Sea Bright in Monmouth County
Mantoloking in Ocean County
For as long as anyone can remember, children in the tiny seaside borough of Mantoloking have packed up their books each morning and headed to school in nearby Point Pleasant Beach.
With the number of local children hovering at five or six, the borough is not about to build its own school. Instead, it pays per-pupil tuition to Point Pleasant Beach and maintains a school board of three volunteer members and a part-time business administrator to oversee the arrangement.
“We have a wonderful deal going here,” said borough resident Fred May, whose 15-year-old son Freddy is a high school sophomore.
That deal might soon change. Tucked into tax-reform legislation Gov. Corzine signed earlier this year is language that could eliminate the 23 school districts in New Jersey that do not operate schools.
Residents and officials in Mantoloking are lambasting the law, predicting it will raise their property taxes rather than lower them.” (Reiss, Asbury Park Press)
DOWN THE SHORE
“Far from crying poverty, public libraries in some well-to-do Jersey Shore towns may be getting too much of a good thing.
The booming Shore real-estate market combined with a 120-year-old state law that allocates a fixed percentage of local taxes to libraries has created a surplus that has reached in the millions in some cases……………
Now, town officials want legislators to modify the law so they can transfer some of the surplus to addressing other municipal expenses. The New Jersey State League of Municipalities plans to continue pushing for a change.” (AP)
“The borough’s former public works chief was sentenced Friday to probation and manual labor for stealing more than $3,900 from the town.
The state had argued for a stiffer punishment for Jeffrey LaPooh, 43 of Millstone, but Superior Court Judge Samuel Ahto decided otherwise……………
LaPooh had pleaded guilty in July to stealing $3,926 in public funds from November 2005 to April 2006.” (Yoo, Bergen Record)
“Borough officials are predicting cuts in services and hefty property tax increases because of the loss of the town’s largest taxpayer and what they say is the failure of the state to follow through on a promise.
The dire predictions come after this month’s announcement of extraordinary aid. The borough was awarded only $350,000 of the $2 million it requested.
The borough is still reeling from the sting of losing the $1.9 million a year that the former owner of the Empire Tract paid annually in property taxes – about 20 percent of the borough’s tax revenue.
“That wasn’t fabricated money,” Mayor Will Roseman said. “That was money that we got every year. The state is wrong. I’m upset with Governor Corzine.”” (Gavin, Bergen Record)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
CLEAN ELECTIONS A “SUCCESS”
“Fifteen of the 20 candidates in an experimental clean elections program have raised enough $10 contributions to collect public funds, making it a “success” that will be continued in future years, supporters in both parties said yesterday.
Officially, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) still must certify that those 15 candidates got $10 contributions from 400 registered voters living in their districts. But sponsors of the program said that is just a formality.
“We’re confident that all 15 candidates that have filed with at least 400 contributions will be certified by ELEC,” said Alescia Teel, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden), who has championed the clean elections program as a way of ridding politics of special interest money.
The legislation establishing the pilot program said it would be considered a “success” — and continued in future years — if at least nine candidates raised enough small contributions to qualify for public funding.”………………
But Gregg Edwards, president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, called the law’s test of whether the program is a success “totally inadequate.”
“It’s the lowest bar you could set for the program,” Edwards said. “All it says is there are 15 candidates who are willing to spend taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns, and that should be a surprise to no one.”
When a similar program was tried in the 2005 Assembly elections, only two of the 10 eligible candidates raised enough small contributions to qualify for public funding. Roberts said the program was revamped this year to remove “bureaucratic red tape.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
BOOKER “FORGES STRENGTH”
“The city’s young mayor went to bed around midnight that Saturday after a jam-packed day: At an elementary school reunion, he had danced as Melba Moore crooned for her old classmates. He had stopped in at a basketball tournament for teens living in public housing, a job fair, an antiviolence rally, even a couple of neighborhood block parties.
But a few hours after Cory A. Booker dozed off, his BlackBerry started beeping.
The news shook him. Four young people shot. Three dead.
It angered him. On a school playground. Gunshots to the head.
And it renewed a sense of purpose for the Rhodes scholar and Yale Law graduate who has led struggling Newark for just over a year.
“In times of crisis,” he says, “you can either have breakdowns or break apart, or you can forge strength.”
Crime, drugs, gangs and violence have become entrenched in Newark’s fabric, which Booker has vowed to change. But the latest murders, the execution-style shooting of three college students, has thrust him into a harsher spotlight, unlike one that usually presents him as the harbinger of a brighter future for the downtrodden city.
When Booker bounded into City Hall 13 months ago, he implored Newark residents to hold him accountable, and promised crime would be his top priority. The overall crime rate has declined, but the number of killings, 61, is almost as many as during the same period last year. The city’s homicide rate has increased 50 percent in the last decade to a total of 106 last year. ”(Frankston Lorin, AP)
“WHEN YOU HAVE GOOD NEWS YOU NEED TO LET PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT.”
“As Republican candidates for the state Legislature try to whip up voter discontent over Gov. Jon Corzine’s plan to grab cash from toll roads and other state assets, Democrats are countering with New Jersey’s time-honored campaign weapon: the property tax rebate check.
With polls showing strong support for fatter rebate checks approved earlier this year, Democrats defending their majorities in both the Assembly and Senate are tak ing every opportunity to remind voters where they should direct their gratitude.
In nine legislative districts, Democratic lawmakers have held more than a dozen “workshops” to help voters fill out rebate applica tions and answer questions. The Democratic State Committee has created a Web site (www.njdems.org/proptax.php) where voters can calculate the size of their checks.
Rebates will also be the key issue in campaign literature mailed to hundreds of thousands of houses this fall. Mailers showing images of rebate checks have already gone out in 11 districts, including three key battlegrounds.
Some candidates — including Senate hopefuls Gina Genovese, challenging incumbent Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), and Teresa Ruiz, seeking to succeed the retiring Sharpe James (D-Essex) — are pictured in mailers stating: “I can help you receive this year’s higher Property Tax Rebate check.” Voters are invited to contact them or call a re bate “hotline.”
The Democratic-dominated Legislature approved rebate checks ranging as high as $2,000. About 1.2 million have already been sent to tenants and elderly and disabled homeowners; another 1.5 million to nonsenior homeowners will go out this fall. Last year’s maxi mum check was $1,200 for the elderly and disabled, and $350 for nonseniors.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) said Democrats need to remind voters the Legislature approved an “unprecedented” $2.2 billion in rebates this year.
“It’s just a basic rule of politics,” said Roberts. “When you have good news you need to let people know about it.” ” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
NEWARK MURDERS FACTOR INTO PRESIDENTIAL RACE
“It frustrates me that if someone comes here illegally,” Mr. Giuliani says as the music swells, “if they commit a crime, we don’t throw them out of the country”
Among the motivations for the 60-second spot, part of Mr. Giuliani’s presidential campaign, was the revelation that a suspect in the Newark shootings, Jose Lachira Carranza, is an illegal immigrant from Peru who could have been detained by federal immigration authorities after he was arrested three times on criminal charges.
A national chorus reacted with horror to the Aug. 4 killings at a playground here, and Mr. Giuliani’s advertisement speaks for a prominent subset: those who have cited the shooting deaths to bolster their argument that the criminal justice system treats illegal immigrants too leniently…………..
The mayor of Newark, Cory A. Booker, has tried to keep the public discussion focused on his main goal: reducing the crime rate. Mr. Booker said he was frustrated that Mr. Carranza had been freed, but, responding to the debate surrounding the suspect’s illegal status, has come out firmly against involving city police in immigration matters.
He said such a role would hurt relationships with what he called “the most marginalized and vulnerable people within our community.”” (Fahim, New York Times)
NEWARK FALLOUT HITS TRENTON
“The arrest of an illegal immigrant in the point-blank shootings of three college students has fueled proposals to ensure that criminals who are in the country illegally are not walking the streets.
“If we had taken a tougher stance on criminals who are here illegally earlier, the Newark tragedy and other crimes might have been thwarted,” said state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic.
Sarlo is among a group of legislators proposing a statewide policy to require law enforcement agencies to contact federal immigration officials when anyone found to be in the country illegally enters the criminal justice system.
The uproar comes after the tragic Aug. 4 triple-murder in which three friends hanging out in a schoolyard were marched down an alley, forced to kneel against a wall and shot in the head.
Jose Carranza, a key suspect, was in the country illegally from Peru. He had previously been indicted on separate charges of aggravated assault and sexual assault of a child. Carranza was out on bail at the time of the murders.” (Graber, Bridgeton News)
IT ALWAYS WORKED SO WELL FOR NEWARK
“Ever since the first black mayor was elected in Newark in 1970, there has been an unwritten practice to maintain a racial balance in the police department’s leadership.
If the police chief was white, the police director was a member of a minority group. Or vice versa.
Mayor Cory Booker deviated from that practice last week when he appointed a white man, An thony Campos, as police chief. Police Directory Garry McCarthy, whom Booker hired last year, is also white.
Some black leaders in the city were upset that Booker passed over another qualified candidate, Niles Wilson, a black man who many assumed would get the appointment in a majority African- American city where race matters and blacks still have an uneasy re lationship with police.
“For a lack of a better term I don’t think he gets it,” The Rev. Jethro James said of Booker. “These are issues African-Americans are looking for him to be out front on.”
Joseph Marbach, acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for Seton Hall University, said Booker’s appointment signifies a new era in Newark.
“It shows a sense of independence in breaking from the past but there is still a certain amount of symbolism taken into key appointments,” said Marbach.” (Mays and Schuppe, Star-Ledger)
“Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio fired off a public request to Sen. Frank Lautenberg last week, challenging him to state his position on the military draft. Not quite the expected subject matter or target for someone running for the New Jersey Senate.
The Montville Republican, however, is walking a dual political road.
Pennacchio hopes to win a seat being vacated by incumbent Republican state Sen. Robert Martin (R-Morris), with his only obstacle a pending challenge by rookie Democratic candidate Wasim Khan. But he also has his eyes on a bigger prize: Lautenberg in 2008.
Pennacchio is now working political back rooms statewide to see if he has support and could raise enough funds to win his party’s nomination to battle Lautenberg for the U.S. Senate.
“I’m making the rounds of the state to assess my chances,” Pennacchio said last week. “Many leaders have told me I would make a credible candidate. But there’s a lot involved in making such a decision.”
The 51-year-old conservative, who walked out on Gov. Jon Corzine’s State of the State address in January, noted it’s a bit tricky to be running for a first shot at state Senate while looking at the possibility of seeking even higher office.” (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)
COMING SOON TO OCEAN GROVE: A MEDIA CIRCUS
“OCEAN GROVE — The eyes of the nation could soon be on this sleepy little seashore enclave over an issue that some say pits civil rights against religious freedom.
A federal lawsuit filed last week by the Camp Meeting Association against the state’s Division on Civil Rights, and the underlying issue that spawned the suit, have the potential to thrust Ocean Grove into the national spotlight — whether or not that attention is welcome.
The crux of the issue is whether the Pavilion, a church-owned, open-air wooden structure on the boardwalk along Ocean Avenue, is a religious building or what is referred to as a “public accommodation,” and whether the association’s prohibition on its use for same-sex civil unions is against state law.
The Pavilion is used for religious services and secular events, with unrestricted access for the public.
“I think this is getting a lot of attention,” Joan Caputo, chairwoman of the newly formed group Ocean Grove United, said of the growing debate. OGU was formed to convince the association to change its ruling, she said.
“There are a lot of people who are really very serious about making sure that gay rights are respected,” she said. “In a state like New Jersey, where we have the law on our side, to have this blatant, in-your-face discrimination is shocking.”
Three same-sex couples’ applications made earlier this year to hold their civil-union ceremonies in the Pavilion were turned down, leading two of them to file complaints with the civil rights division. The division opened an investigation and, when mediation between the association and one of the couples failed, the association filed its lawsuit.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
WESLEY K. BELL – THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND
“STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – Former Mayor Wesley K. Bell has had a lot of training for his recent fight with the state to keep four derelict vessels in a Beach Haven West lagoon. The 69-year-old former mayor, newspaper publisher, outdoor advertising entrepreneur, state Senate candidate, gubernatorial candidate and most recently inmate at Ocean County Jail has led quite a controversial life at the New Jersey shore.
In 1999 Bell was issued a U.S. Patent for his invention of both the method and equipment for the underwater salvage of yachts and small ships at depths beyond the reach of divers. An ironic invention on Bell’s part, considering the recent demolition of his boats – several of which were deemed to be sinking by the State Marine Police…………….
On Aug. 9, the day before Bell was jailed, he reminisced about his wilder days some 20 years ago. The last and final boat to be pulled from the lagoon floated yards from where he stood in the setting sun, leaning on the hood of his white pickup truck.
“Wes still thinks he’s 35 sometimes,” said Annmarie Bell of her husband.
But it seems time has not been kind to the ex-mayor. Bell suffered a stroke in 2005 and no longer has the face of the glamorous campaign headshots of the early 1980s. As a result of his stroke, Bell walks with a severe limp and his speech is slurred.” (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)
“TRENTON — In a case of “he said, he said,” a war of written and spoken words between a Trenton resident and a city official who claims the man defamed him could end up in a courtroom by the end of the month.
West Ward resident Zachary Chester registered a complaint against Dennis Gonzalez, the city’s assistant business administrator and acting housing and economic development director, in person at Thursday night’s city council meeting when he mentioned a letter from the official dated Aug. 1 and postmarked Aug. 15.
In it, Gonzalez asks Chester to “cease and desist in making defamatory oral and written statements which express or imply that I have personally and/or in my various capacities as an appointed official in the City of Trenton engaged in unethical and/or criminal conduct.”
Citing Chester’s statements at May, June and July city council meetings as well as a May 15 letter to council President Paul Pintella as slanderous and libelous, Gonzalez’s letter states that Chester “can avoid a lawsuit” by making a public apology and having it printed in half-page ads in local papers.
The deadline set for Chester’s public apology before city council was Thursday; Aug. 31 is the deadline for his printed apology, according to Gonzalez’s letter…………..
The feud began in May when a Times of Trenton staff writer reported that Gonzalez hung up on her when she called for information about the Trenton Town Center project. Chester read the story and complained to the council about what he said was Gonzalez’s “unprofessional behavior” and suggested members look into the official’s other redevelopment projects.
Instead of an apology, what Gonzalez got at Thursday night’s meeting was Chester informing the council of the letter and complaining about what he found to be its threatening nature. His address to the council, whose members did not comment, was met with applause from the audience.” (Persico, Trenton Times)
WHEN THE MIDDLE FINGERS TURNED TO FRIENDLY WAVES
“They have been there on days so cold they lost feeling in their toes and days so hot a breeze felt more like an oven door opening. When they began waving their placards it seemed like every passing motorist gave them the finger. But as they kept at it and the months and years passed, public opinion shifted, the obscenities stopped and motorists started waving and honking horns in support.
This Wednesday, for the 105th consecutive week, the group will gather once again in front of the Teaneck armory to protest the war in Iraq.
They’ve been at it for so long one member, 69-year-old Julius Orkin, of Bergenfield, has had time to fashion a permanent holder in the earth for the American flag he flies at the vigils.
“I’m in my second year of doing this. I’m looking to be here awhile,” Orkin said recently, as he and about two dozen other people held up signs that read: “Support the Troops. Bring Them Home.”
Although milestones in the Iraq war, such as the 3,000th American death or Capitol Hill budget fights, tend to draw large crowds of war protesters for one-time events, several protest groups have been standing on street corners every week for years.
Weekly, or near weekly, peace vigils in Montclair, Morristown and Plainfield will enter their seventh year next month. Other communities with long-running vigils include Bloomfield, Newton and Somerville” (Woolley, Star-Ledger)
RIDER INDICTMENT IMPACT
“The recent indictment of two Rider University administrators following the alcohol-related death of a student at a fraternity is prompting colleges and universities across the state and country to review their alcohol policies.
But perhaps a bigger worry for schools is the amount of liability they might be asked to bear for students’ dangerous behavior……………..
The two Rider officials, Dean of Students Anthony Campbell, 51, of Lawrence, and director of Greek (fraternity) life, Ada Badgley, 31, of Lawrenceville, were indicted on charges of aggravated hazing after an 18-year-old freshman collapsed at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house on the school’s Lawrenceville campus. The student reportedly had chugged nearly a full bottle of hard liquor at a pledge party. Also indicted in the March incident were three students affiliated with the fraternity. All have pleaded not guilty and a court date has been set for Sept. 10.
While prosecutors have released few details about the case surrounding the death of Gary DeVercelly of Long Beach, Calif., the impact of the case could be far-reaching.
College officials across the country are scrambling to beef up their alcohol policies and plan to discuss responsible behavior with students when schools open in September. Some experts speculate a guilty verdict could signal a sea change in liability risks on campuses, causing insurance premiums to escalate and colleges to distance themselves from Greek organizations, or even attempt to ban them.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)
ABORTION CLINICS LEFT UNINSPECTED
“Health officials inspected only one of the state’s six licensed abortion clinics in the past two years – despite a requirement that they be investigated every other year – before complaints eventually brought inspectors to two of the clinics, a Press investigation has revealed.
Those two clinics were then closed immediately due to health violations that posed “immediate and serious risk of harm to patients.”
The investigations of the Alternatives clinic in Atlantic City and Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood, Bergen County, marked the first time those clinics had been inspected in six and five years, respectively.” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
AN INNOCENT YOUNG LAD
“Carmen Pio Costa has never held elected office. He registered to vote for the first time two years ago. He’s never set foot inside the New Jersey Statehouse.
And yet the 27-year-old is chasing the seat of a powerful Democratic assemblyman.
Pio Costa believes that his political naivete is his greatest asset.
“My lack of experience in the political world is an attribute,” he said. “I feel a lot of people in Trenton are doing the wrong thing.”
Pio Costa is running on the Republican ticket against Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, who easily defeated his well-financed Republican opponent in 2005 by more than 9,000 votes.
Schaer, who is also City Council president in Passaic, raised nearly $250,000 in contributions for the June primary, compared with Pio Costa, who did not report any contributions, according to state records. His campaign manager, Al Barlas, said Friday that Pio Costa recently raised about $10,000 at his first fundraiser.
It will be an uphill battle.” (Mandell, Herald News)
”Frustrated state regulators have issued a fresh round of warnings to EnCap, which has refused repeatedly to provide information about its Meadowlands project.
“EnCap is not aiding its cause by continuing to refuse to fully and timely respond to direct requests for information,” Steven E. Brawer, a lawyer for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, wrote in an Aug. 13 letter to the developer……………
Brawer’s letter, released by the commission Thursday, shows that EnCap continues to confound state regulators more than three months after the Attorney General’s Office declared the developer in default of its agreement to close and cap four landfills in Rutherford and Lyndhurst. New Jersey officials have in the past threatened to take legal action against the developer.
The landfills would become the home of an 800-acre golf resort and luxury housing village.
EnCap is refusing to provide a written list of all lawsuits that have been brought against the Florida-based firm by contractors seeking payment for Meadowlands work.” (Pillets, Herald News)
LAUTENBERG AND MENENDEZ ON ENVIRONMENT
”With Congress out of session, the New Jersey delegation is trying to make headlines back at home. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez issued two joint news releases early in the week, announcing federal funding for airports and opposing a dredging plan.
The grants from the Federal Aviation Administration will provide $580,000 for expansion at Central Jersey Regional Airport in Manville and $55,000 for safety enhancements at Woodbine Municipal Airport.
The senators also rapped the state Department of Environmental Protection for planning to deposit 20 acres of dredge spoils from the Delaware River in Palmyra Cove Nature Park.
“The park, its native animals and plant species deserve better than to be treated like a waste dump,” Lautenberg said.
DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson has said the proposal is better than an original plan to use 50 acres.
THE DE FACTO STATE SONG: “WOKE UP THIS MORNING”
“Red Mascara has a dream.
He has been close to it. Again and again – and again.
Seven times his song “I’m From New Jersey,” written in 1960, has been approved by legislators to become the official New Jersey song, but it has never made it into law, leaving New Jersey the only state without an official ditty.
Now 85, Mascara – a frequent presence at the Statehouse, where he continues lobbying lawmakers and doles out candy to make friends – is worried his 47-year-old dream is slipping away.
“Please do it while I’m living,” said Mascara, of Phillipsburg. “Let me experience the pleasure.”
Despite Mascara’s persistence, a state senator has proposed that New Jersey adopt the hit Bon Jovi song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” as its official song. The band’s leader, Jon Bon Jovi, is from Sayreville.
“That song, it brings tears to my eyes,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Union). “The guy’s been all around the world, and he picks New Jersey to hang his hat.”
But while Colorado celebrates “Rocky Mountain High” and Georgia venerates “Georgia on My Mind” and “On, Wisconsin” rings through America’s Dairyland, New Jersey has failed to adopt a song despite bids dating back to 1794, when Gov. Richard Howell wrote a song used by troops heading off to help quell the Whiskey Rebellion.
Mascara’s melody passed the Assembly in 1966, 1968, 1971 and 1980. It passed the Senate in 1982. It passed both houses in 1972 and 1979, but wasn’t signed into law.
“It’s made me feel bad,” Mascara said of his near-misses.” (Hester, AP)
“Assembly candidate Blondell Spellman picked up an endorsement Friday from a group organized to help elect women to public office.
Spellman, an Atlantic County Democrat running on a 2nd District legislative ticket headed by Assemblyman Jim Whelan, was one of seven female candidates endorsed by Women Advocating for Good Government.
Spellman said she hopes the group’s support will lead to more women elected officials in state government.” (Press of Atlantic City)
“TRENTON | The state is studying methods of removing contaminants that make their way into New Jersey’s drinking water, either flushed down the toilet or through human excretion.
Department of Environmental Protection officials said they have found low-level contaminants in drinking water — from flame retardants to antibiotics, cosmetics and detergent ingredients.” (Graber, Express-Times)
IN BERGEN COUNTY
“Come November, Bergen County will ask residents for permission to double the tax they pay to preserve open space. But some towns have been paying double, or close to it, for years.
And most don’t know it.
Since 1998, the county has advertised the tax as 1 cent for every $100 of assessed property value.
But from at least two-thirds of Bergen’s 70 towns, officials have been quietly collecting more than that, sometimes adding the increase to the municipal tax bill.
This year, the county is poised to collect about $3.1 million more in open space money than taxpayers — and even local tax collectors — are being told they’re paying.” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)
JUDICIAL SALARY HIKE
“U.S. District Judge William J. Martini hasn’t gotten a pay raise since the Passaic County native was appointed to the federal bench almost five years ago.
The wait has been even longer for judges with more seniority:
With the exception of a few sporadic cost-of-living adjustments, their base salaries haven’t budged since 1990.
But a 50 percent pay hike?
Nudged by the judiciary, the bar and others, Congress is moving toward granting federal district judges an $82,500 raise, immediately rocketing their annual pay from $165,200 to $247,700.” (Sampson, The Record)
“Union County officials say they felt compelled last year to adopt their controversial policy of requiring citizens to file standardized request forms to see public records.
After all, said County Counsel Robert Barry, the forms were approved last year by the state’s Government Records Council. That agency was created under New Jersey’s 2002 Open Public Records Act to help interpret the law, and its endorsement of using standardized forms prompted many government agencies to adopt them.
But state courts already have ruled that GRC opinions are not binding law. Now, in a lawsuit chal lenging the Union County policy, the GRC also has been accused of overstepping its limited authority.
The outcome of the case before a Superior Court in Elizabeth could impact all New Jersey agencies using standardized forms to deal with requests for public records.
“The statute is clear. It is not required. The OPRA statute only says a request must be in writing,” said Mitchell Pascual, a lawyer for the New Jersey Press Association, during a court hearing Friday.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)
“WALL — The township Democratic Organization has announced that Sherri West will be running in the Nov. 6 election to fill the seat on the Township Committee left vacant by former Mayor John Tobia.
West, a township resident since 1993, previously ran unsuccessfully for the committee in 2001 and 2002.
She is the corresponding secretary for the Democratic Organization of Wall Township, and also is a member of the Old Wall Historical Society and the Ocean Township League of Women Voters.” (Biese, Asbury Park Press)
IN WEST DEPTFORD
“David Shields, the onetime mayor of West Deptford who pioneered the RiverWinds project and serves as a key figure in Gloucester County’s two largest public authorities, has filed for retirement in 2009 when he would be eligible for a $90,000-a-year lifetime state pension.
Shields is paid $165,925 per year as executive director of the Gloucester County Improvement Authority significantly more than the salary of executive directors in Atlantic, Camden and Cumberland county improvement authorities.
Paired with the additional salary that Shields receives as chairman of the Gloucester County Utilities Authority Board of Commissioners, Shields would receive an annual pension of more than $80,000 if he retired on Sept. 1 of this year, according to a calculation based on the state Treasury Department formula.” (Counihan, Gloucester County Times)