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Abelow begins up his new position, Lonegan vs. Lonegan, dual office holding ban to be signed today, Brutal September expected

Abelow begins up his new position, Lonegan vs. Lonegan, dual office holding ban to be signed today, Brutal September expected in Washington, Corzine gave Katz’s brother-in-law $15,000, McGreevey writes piece on Larry Craig in weekend Washington Post.


Bradley Abelow will walk through a glass doorway just a few paces down the hall from his old office in the Statehouse today to begin a new job as top adviser to Gov. Corzine.

But the onetime Wall Street executive, who has spent the last 20 months mopping red ink off the Garden State's balance sheets as state treasurer, might as well be landing on another planet.

It is one thing to develop a complex fiscal survival plan from a thicket of state debt reaching into the billions of dollars. It is quite another to be the governor's political point man – crisis manager, negotiator, legislative liaison, tactician and enforcer.

And yet, despite his brief tenure in Trenton in the narrow role of fiscal fixer, Abelow, 49, appears well positioned to drive Corzine's agenda forward as chief of staff. He is being greeted with high praise from the lawmakers he will need to push things Forward………….

Since arriving from the private sector in January 2006, Abelow has survived two contentious budget deals, a debate on property taxes, a state shutdown, and the growing rancor over a Corzine plan to increase revenue from the state's tolls roads as a way to reduce debt.

Abelow chuckles with a bit of exasperation and drops his head into his hands at these memories. He said he learned at least one political lesson from these challenges – that policy and politics are inextricably linked.

"I can't separate the politics from anything else that happens here," Abelow said during an interview last week in the treasurer's office, where tall stacks of documents were piled onto what would soon become his former desk.” (Panataris, Philadelphia Inquirer)




Bryan Lonegan, a prominent immigrant rights advocate, gets the question all the time. Is he related to Steven M. Lonegan, the Republican mayor of Bogota, N.J., who demanded last year that McDonald’s remove a billboard written in Spanish and who then pushed to make English the town’s official language?

The answer prompts chuckling comments like, “You must have great Thanksgiving dinners!” They are indeed brothers, living three blocks apart in Bogota (pronounced Bo-GO-da), where 21 percent of the 7,900 residents are Hispanic.

Steven Lonegan, who is 51 and is known as Steve, is the leader of the New Jersey Republican Party’s most conservative wing. His campaign against the McDonald’s billboard thrust him into the national spotlight of talk television and Internet debate about immigration. Now, he is pushing to use the local police to ferret out illegal immigrants.

Bryan Lonegan, 48, an outspoken lawyer who until recently worked for the Legal Aid Society of New York’s Immigration Law Unit, is known for exposing abuses in detention and deportation. He is now developing an immigrant workers’ legal clinic at Seton Hall University School of Law.

But no, they do not trade views over family dinners. After years of mutual support that defied their political differences, the Lonegan brothers abruptly stopped speaking to each other in February 2005. And no one is more upset about the rift than their 74-year-old mother, Marie.

“It’s breaking my heart,” said Mrs. Lonegan, a widow who lives in neighboring Ridgefield Park, in the house on Main Street where she raised Steve and Bryan with the help of her parents, who were Italian immigrants.

“My family being split by politics — I resent that,” she added, sitting at the kitchen table where her two sons, their wives and their children used to gather. “That’s not what this country’s all about. That’s not what family’s all about. I didn’t raise them to be enemies; I raised them to be brothers.” (Bernstein, New York Times)



“Officials elected after Feb. 1 would not be able to hold more than one elected office in New Jersey under legislation to be signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Corzine. But critics claim the legislation isn't tough enough.

The bill is among four reform measures Corzine expects to sign today in a move Democrats hope will highlight efforts to combat public corruption. Corzine plans to sign the bills in Marlboro in the 12th Legislative District, which will be a key battleground in this fall's legislative elections.

Democrats are looking to retain legislative control in November's vote. They control the Assembly 50-30 and the Senate 22-18.

Holding more than one elected office has long been a New Jersey political tradition, but critics contend it creates conflicts and allows officials to boost taxpayer-funded retirement benefits.

The Legislature approved the ban in June, but it affects only officials elected after Feb. 1. That means the 17 legislators and other local officials who hold more than one elected office can retain their seats until they either give them up or lose re-election.

"Dual office-holding presents a myriad of problems ranging from the inherent conflict of interest it can create to the strain it puts on the financing of the state pension and benefits system," said Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth. "We need to eliminate dual office holding, and we need to do so in a way that does not allow this problem to fester for years to come.”

Beck represents the 12th District and is running for Senate this year against incumbent Democrat Ellen Karcher, who sponsored the ban. Karcher is a Marlboro resident who resigned from that community's township council before joining the Senate in January 2004.

Karcher said she favors an immediate ban and requiring dual officeholders to choose one seat, but noted she sponsored such a bill and it was never considered. She described the law being signed by Corzine as a first step toward getting rid of dual office holding.

"I will continue working to persuade my colleagues that we need a complete, loophole-free ban on the practice, and I hope that those officials who are grandfathered under this bill will be held to the highest standards by their voters," Karcher said. "But I think that even a flawed ban on dual office-holding, which has the full weight of law, is better than no ban at all."” (AP)



“Lawmakers and their aides in both parties generally agree on one point: September is going to be brutal.

Congress is awaiting a progress report from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and American Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker about the effect of President Bush's surge of American troops into Baghdad and other areas.

The Bush administration is seeking about $196 billion in additional spending by Sept. 30 to maintain U.S. deployments near the existing levels. But U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat in charge of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has said that he intends to put mandatory Iraq withdrawal language into the latest appropriations bill.

"I think in many ways, the way the Congress is going to be judged and the way the administration is going to be judged is on Iraq. And where we're going to be in Iraq in fall of 2008 is something we don't know the answer to," said U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, who contends that it is too early to evaluate the Democratic Congress.

One measure of partisanship in Washington: Andrews, D-1st Dist., says the Bush administration intends to have Petraeus and Crocker testify on Capitol Hill on Sept. 11. He finds the choice of that date as deliberately provocative.

"That's the only day that the administration offered for Petraeus to testify," Andrews said. "I just think it's totally inappropriate. I think September 11th should be a national day of mourning, and I don't think politics should emerge on that day. But, if that's the only day they're going to make (Gen. Petraeus) available, I think we need to hear what he has to say."” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)



Governor Corzine disappeared into the crowd at the 32nd annual Labor Day Street Fair several times Monday.

Just as quickly, he reappeared amid a milling circle of electioneering signs, shouts and handshakes, stopping to pose for photos with admirers plucked from a crowd estimated at 30,000.

In what's become an annual rite, politicians turned out in droves for the festival……………

Rep. Steve Rothman greeted constituents, passers-by and inquiring journalists as he stood next to a booth that advertised "Meet Your Congressman" and stretched his name in bold letters.

A short time later, Corzine got into a black SUV with his state police escort.

No sooner had they driven off than a fresh group of politicians — including state Sens. Paul Sarlo and Joseph Coniglio — appeared on the hot pavement. With happy smiles, they waded into the throng, meeting and greeting as they went.” (Barry, Bergen Record)



“New Jersey — infamous for rough-and-tumble politics and government corruption — is trying to clean up its act.

After a failed effort in 2005, legislative candidates in three districts will fund their campaigns using taxpayer cash — not money donated by special interest groups. Their money comes from the state budget, not donations.

Supporters hope New Jersey's effort will allow candidates to focus on issues, not fund-raising, and push the corruption-plagued state closer to having a statewide publicly funded campaign program, as Arizona, Connecticut and Maine have done.

"Public financing can strengthen the democratic process by keeping special interest money out," said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden.

This is New Jersey's second effort at public campaign financing for legislators. A 2005 effort sputtered when the program proved too complicated, but this year, 15 of the 20 eligible candidates have qualified. The others still have until Sept. 30.

The program is being tried in the 14th, 24th and 37th districts. Each district elects two Assembly members and a senator………………..

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, who represents the traditionally Republican 24th District in northwestern New Jersey, is participating because her district was chosen for it, but she's not a supporter. She said the program is designed to make Democrats competitive in a Republican district.

"We're the guinea pigs and if we don't participate the Democrats will just get more of our money," she said.

Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, has lauded the program's goal, but decried the cost. The Legislature budgeted about $7 million for the program.

And Gregg M. Edwards, president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, contends the law actually helps incumbents because it makes it impossible for a challenger to outspend a sitting legislator.” (Hester, AP)



“Three of six Bergen County candidates for state Legislature have qualified for grants from Clean Elections, the $7.6 million taxpayer-financed experiment to reduce special interests' influence on New Jersey politics.

So far, the state has given more than $50,000 each to Democrats from the 37th District: Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck and Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson, both of Englewood.

The candidates who have yet to raise the minimum to qualify — $4,000, all from $10 individual donations — say they intend to meet the Sept. 30 deadline for the grants. But some acknowledge that the work is harder than they had expected

"I've met many Republicans who told us from the outset that they don't donate for campaigns at all," said Wojciech J. Siemaszkiewicz of Bergenfield, a Republican candidate for Assembly. "Or they are against using public funds to finance a campaign."………….

"I thought it was a worthwhile experiment to participate in," Weinberg said. "It's refreshing. I get the weirdest reaction from people: 'Can't I give you $25?' or 'Can I give you $5?' And I have to explain why not."

Weinberg said she initially reached out to friends on her home e-mail list and followed up with phone calls. She then approached neighbors around the pool at her Teaneck condominium.” (Young, Bergen Record)



Emily Sonnessa and Jan Moore say they just want the same rights everyone is supposed to have.

The longtime couple said they've been a part of the Ocean Grove community for years. When they decided they wanted a civil union, the two picked the boardwalk pavilion for the ceremony.

Their application was denied by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association's board of trustees, which maintains that its pavilion is a religious structure.

"The dream has turned into a nightmare, and we hope you will reverse your decision and allow us to celebrate our almost 38 years together," Sonnessa, 77, told the association's leadership Monday morning. "Please don't tell us that there is no room for us at the inn."

Sonnessa and Moore are one of two couples who have filed complaints after having their applications for civil union ceremonies at the pavilion denied by the association. Hundreds of supporters of the couples turned out at the organization's meeting Monday morning to protest the denials and confront the organization's leadership.” (Schweiger, Asbury Park Press)



“A renewed effort to remove Fort Monmouth from the Pentagon's gallows is likely to take a new turn as Congress reconvenes today.

Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., said he will lead a call for the House Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on the federal process that called for the closure of the 90-year-old Army post.

The powerful committee is responsible for oversight of the nation's military and its budget. It has the power to compel witnesses — both civilian and military — to explain why the cost of the Pentagon's 2005 military base consolidation effort has risen by $10 billion in two years.

Fort Monmouth, which employs more than 5,000 people, supports another 22,000 jobs and generates roughly $3.3 billion for the state's economy, was slated for closure under the federal 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions that affected military installations nationwide. The bulk of the fort's research and development mission is to be transferred to Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground by 2011.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)



“State Education Commissioner Lucille Davy told the state Board of Education she has no plans to reappoint Paterson Superintendent Michael Glascoe next year, but added her decision could change if quick progress is made.

According to an e-mail sent to state board members on Friday, Davy also said she would decide on Jersey City superintendent Charles Epps' future "in concert" with that city's local school board, one of the first steps in the state ceding control of the district.

With Newark superintendent Marion Bolden expected to step down in 2008, Davy's latest announcement on Paterson and Jersey City portends possible leadership changes in each of the state's three largest districts, which are now all under state control.

Glascoe's uncertain fate was no secret even to his supporters in recent weeks, especially after Davy this summer appointed a fiscal monitor to the Paterson schools and then last month issued a critical monitoring report that did not recommend any return of local control as yet.” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)



“Bergen County voters will be asked in November to double the amount of open-space taxes that they pay. But how much do they really pay now?

Printed tax bills sent by the county to every Bergen town say the open-space tax rate is uniform — giving the impression that all residents are being taxed one penny for every $100 of assessed value.

That's not so.

The county isn't using assessed value to determine the open-space tax levy.

Officials are using a special, sometimes higher, property valuation — called "equalized value" — to calculate open-space tax bills. But they aren't telling residents.

So while the tax bill for every town says the open-space tax rate is a penny, it often can be more.

"That tax has grown, but to the taxpayer it has not," said Barbara Colonna, a Haworth resident who has protested what she calls a misleading practice.

The county will ask voters in November to raise the open-space tax to 2 cents. ” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)



“Former Township Councilman Frederick J. Underwood Sr. announced Monday that he was withdrawing from this year's council race in the wake of a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Underwood, a 67-year-old Democrat, said he made the decision not to continue with his campaign last week. He said he will be undergoing surgery in the middle of this month and, after talking with several people, decided he would not have the energy he needs to devote to the race.

"I regret that I cannot continue to fight on behalf of the residents of Brick until I fully recover," Underwood said in a statement released Monday.

The former councilman was first elected to the town's governing body in 1999 and served two terms. He did not seek re-election in the 2005 council elections.” (Schweiger, Asbury Park Press)


“PEQUANNOCK — A single-engine airplane lost power Monday morning at 10:56 a.m. and its pilot, Deputy Mayor Nicholas Kapotes, was forced to make an emergency landing in the parking lot of 210 West Parkway in Pompton Plains.

Kapotes, 47, sustained no injuries and was found walking around near the plane, a 1942 Aeronca L3. Kapotes told police that as he was coming down to make his emergency landing, the right wing of the plane hit a small tree, which thrust it clockwise. It hit the ground on its landing gear and belly. There was some damage to the frame, wing, and landing gear.” (Farago, Daily Record)



“Gov. Jon Corzine gave $15,000 this year to the brother-in-law of his former girlfriend, Carla Katz, a gift that appears to contradict the governor's claims that he ended all financial entanglements with the union leader and her family before taking office.

Rocco Riccio, who is married to Katz's sister, received the money after the governor forced him in January to quit a Turnpike Authority job. At the time, reporters had been pressing Corzine's office for answers about Riccio's work record and how he got hired.

In an interview Thursday, Cor zine acknowledged that he gave Riccio $10,000 in the spring and that his personal business manager, acting on his behalf, paid Ric cio another $5,000 this summer. Corzine also said he and his aides told Riccio they would try to find him a private-sector job.

The governor, a multimillionaire, said he was acting out of a "sense of human responsibility" to a friend who had lost his job and was teetering on bankruptcy. He said he did not believe that helping Riccio reflected an ongoing commitment to Katz or her family.

"I did not think of this as a tie to Carla — period," Corzine said. "The guy is on the edge of losing his house. I know it. And I feel like he helped me. And I have the ability to help him."…………………

The disclosure is likely to stir a new round of questions about how the Democratic governor's love life and fortune have influenced his actions, and about the romantic rela tionship with Katz that has haunted him as much as any legislative issue or political stance dur ing his short tenure.

Katz declined a request for an interview and e-mailed a two-line reply to a list of questions on Fri day. "I had nothing at all to do with any financial relationship between Jon Corzine and Rocco Riccio," it said. "The first time I am learning these details is now from The Star Ledger."………………….

Corzine's generosity has led to other political headaches. In February 2006, he dispatched his former driver to deliver $5,000 in cash to the Union County Jail in Elizabeth to bail out lobbyist Karen Golding after she was arrested for stalking and breaking into the car of the state Democratic chairman. Corzine later apologized for his "mistake" but said: "My instincts are to help people who are in distress. … I think I was reacting like a human being would react."……………….

Riccio is a registered Republican who volunteered on the campaigns of some of the state's top GOP officials, including former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco. But he agreed to help Katz's new boyfriend, quietly becoming the leader of a small group that Corzine's staff called "Republicans for Corzine."………………….

With degrees in accounting and management, Riccio had worked for the state since 1994, both in the Human Services and Treasury departments. Riccio said he believed his ties to Corzine had helped him once before, when he was promoted in 2003 while working in the Treasury Department's division of revenue. The post paid about $73,000 a year.

Corzine denied any role in Ric cio's promotion. At the time, he said, he was leading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and had no time or energy to spend on minor state political matters. "Absolutely not," he said.

Riccio's fortunes suddenly changed last fall. He became the target of rumors that he had been improperly accessing taxpayer records — to find information about political enemies –while working as an analyst in the Human Services Department. The allegations sparked an internal audit and inquiries from the Star-Ledger.” (Margolin and Marin, Star-Ledger)


“My gut wrenched when I read of Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom arrest. I remembered my own late-night encounter with the law at a Garden State Parkway rest stop following a political dinner in north Jersey.

I pulled into the rest stop, parked my car, flashed my headlights, which was "the signal," and waited. Glancing in my rearview mirror, I saw a state trooper approaching. I desperately tried to convince the trooper of my innocence, showing him my former prosecutor's badge, a gift from the office when I left. The trooper radioed his office and returned. "I never want to see you here again," he said. I survived for another day.

I was in my late 20s. It would be another 25 years before my parallel lives collided and I was coerced out of the "closet."

Why do grown men in their 20s, or their 60s, do such things? I can answer only for me…………….

How do you live with this shame? How do you accommodate your own disappointments, your own revulsion with whom you have become? You do it by splitting in two. You rescue part of yourself, the half that stands for tradition, values and America, the part that looks like the family you came from, and you walk away from the other half the way you would abandon something spoiled, something disgusting. This is a false amputation, because the other half doesn't stop existing. When I decided to closet my desire, I also denied the possibility of life as a healthy, integrated gay.

But being in the closet uniquely assisted me in politics. From my first run for the state legislature until my election as governor, all too often I was not leading but following my best guess at public opinion. Politics was for me a way to secure the crowd's approbation while maintaining a busyness that obfuscated the desires of my heart. Despite being a moderately liberal governor, my stance on marriage was: "between a man and a woman." The position, in my mind, created a tension with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community that affirmed my bona fides as a "straight." Only after the crisis that resulted in my resignation, when public opinion no longer mattered, did I realize the importance and legitimacy of same-sex marriage.

Ultimately, like Sen. Craig, I resigned for the perceived good of my family, state and political party. And in so doing, I at long last accepted a fundamental truth, namely, that I am a gay American. In my soul, I found peace. In my heart, I found love. In my psyche, I disassembled the twisted separate strands of my life to create a healthy integrated person. And with my God, I found purpose.” (McGreevey, Washington Post)


“The nation's first openly gay governor is headed back to school Tuesday – as a seminary student. Jim McGreevey will begin full-time studies at General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Manhattan, seminary spokesman Bruce Parker confirmed.

McGreevey switched his religious affiliation from Roman Catholic to Episcopalian earlier this year and expressed interest in pursuing a call to ministry………..

Religion has become an issue in the divorce. Matos McGreevey has demanded that their daughter not be allowed to receive communion in the Episcopal Church because she is being raised a Roman Catholic.

Growing up in Middlesex County, McGreevey served as an altar boy and attended Catholic schools. While in office, he continued to practice the religion, but differed from church teachings in several areas, including his support of abortion rights.” (Delli Santi, AP)



“With voters grumbling over higher property taxes, political corruption and the prospect of higher tolls, Republicans believe they have a fighting chance in this fall's legislative elections to break the Democrats' lock on state government.

"I predict gains in both houses, and I think we have an excellent chance of capturing the Senate," Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) said. Don't bet on it, say the experts.

Don't bet on it, say the experts.

"There's no big demand for a change. Things may not be great, but they are okay as far as most people are concerned right now," said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute.

The best hope for the Republicans lies in the Senate, where a switch of two seats would give them a power-sharing tie; capturing three seats would give them the majority. In the Assembly, the 20-seat Democratic margin seems unassailable.

David Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University, said the chance of a Republican takeover is "very slim."……………

Republicans would have to nab 11 seats to take control of the Assembly. Not since backlash over tax hikes handed the GOP 21 seats in 1991 has there been such a large shift. Since then, Democrats have gained Assembly seats in every election, winning back the majority in 2001.

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said Republicans have "quite a few hurdles to overcome," including the fact the state has been trending Democratic and voters generally are down on Republicans due to the sagging fortunes of President Bush.

"We clearly expect to pick up seats. If everything goes right, I think we could have 25," he said. Still, he insisted he takes no campaign for granted. "As far as I'm concerned, we're an underdog in every district."” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)



“The clearest sign of change in the governor's office is the new schedule for daily senior staff meetings: 8:30 a.m., sharp. Agendas will be e-mailed in advance.

The edict from Gov. Jon Corzine's new chief of staff, Bradley Abelow, is in sharp contrast to the organized chaos in which his predecessor, Tom Shea, thrived. Abelow, a former colleague of Corzine's at Goldman Sachs, readily acknowledged his button-down managerial style in an interview last week.

"I suspect I will be more attentive to certain matters of detail, particularly as it relates to the mechanics of the front office," he said. But, he cautioned, the differences are matters of style, not substance.

"Tom and I are both committed to what the governor needs and does," Abelow said. "A lot of what each of us has done — and will do — is dictated by the governor."………

Abelow's move comes at a crucial point in Corzine's first term. Many of the front office staff who came to the Statehouse from the Corzine campaign 18 months ago are moving on. At the same time, the governor is about to embark on his "asset monetization" initiative, which he has compared in its complexity to taking Goldman Sachs public.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)



“Passaic County Superintendent of Elections Laura Freytes harassed workers in her office, pressuring them to spy on each other and making racially prejudiced remarks, says a lawsuit filed Friday.

One plaintiff, Orlando Yepes, is a senior investigator with the elections superintendent's office, hired in 2002. The other plaintiff, Hilda Perez, is a former secretary who worked for Freytes from July to September of 2006.

Yepes says the harassment started when Freytes took office in 2005, and that some of it had to do with his unionization of the office a year earlier under Communications Workers of America Local 1032.

Yepes asserts he was also harassed for socializing with other investigators whose political affiliations were contrary to Freytes'…………….

In one instance, Freytes went to Yepes' father-in-law – Paterson Councilman Juan Torres – and falsely accused Yepes of having had several extramarital affairs, according to the suit.

Freytes also tried to advance an agenda of racial discrimination, the suit claims.

"[Freytes] made it publicly known throughout her office that she intended to transform the office to one in which all of her employees were of Puerto Rican extraction, to the exclusion of all others," the suit states. "Toward that end, [Freytes] increased her harassment, threats and insults to plaintiff, among others, because he was of Colombian extraction."” (Petrick, Bergen Record)



“The New Jersey Democratic State Committee yesterday joined a long list of Democrats who have announced plans to return or give away political contributions from a New York businessman whose fugitive status caused a national campaign finance scandal this week.

Richard McGrath, party spokesman, said Democrats will donate $49,000 to charity to try to erase the stigma of four checks they received from Norman Hsu since October of 2005.

"We're going to give all of Mr. Hsu's donations to charity," he said. "We have not decided which ones, but there's no shortage of causes. We were in the dark about his background just like everyone else."

Hsu's political cash became radioactive after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced she was returning $23,000 she received from him. According to the Los Angeles Times, Hsu became a fugitive after pleading no contest and agreeing in 1991 to serve up to three years for defrauding investors. The newspaper also said he has raised more than $1 million nationally for Democrats.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)



“Democrats will spend the next two months working to convince voters they should remain in charge of the state Legislature. Republicans will try to convince voters otherwise.

Labor Day often kicks campaign season into high-gear, so here's a primer for the New Jersey campaign season ahead:

Q: Why is this election important?

A: All 120 legislative seats are up on Nov. 6. Democrats control the Assembly 50-30 and the Senate 22-18. That's the most seats held by Democrats since 1979. Republicans haven't controlled a house since 2001…………….

Q: What are the big issues?

A: Property taxes, government corruption and Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plan to make more money off state properties to try to solve fiscal woes, likely by increasing highway tolls.” (Hester, AP)



“Robert Ortiz's claim of being a "top-tier" fund-raiser doesn't mean he paid top dollar for the title.

In his successful campaign for chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization last month, Ortiz's Web site touted his inner-sanctum membership in the state GOP's "Chairman's Circle," an exclusive stable of donors and fund-raisers he has "cultivated … to infuse some much-needed capital into the BCRO."

In other words, the guy has connections to cash. But Ortiz's bio — as most political bios often do — omitted a few less-than-glamorous details about his fund-raising record.

For starters, there is the entry fee to this exclusive club. It cost a mere $1,000 contribution to the state GOP to join, which is chump change in New Jersey politics. That amount barely gets you in the door to most party fund-raisers. And that's just for the privilege of a cold-cuts buffet, not a sit-down dinner. It also neglected to mention that Ortiz didn't have to pay his way into the circle. He's one of its founding fathers.

The group was the brainchild of Ortiz, state party Chairman Tom Wilson and Henry Kane, a Somerset County insurance company owner. It was created several years ago as a way to nurture a next generation of ambitious Republicans — in other words, a Young Republican Group, not the deep-pocketed Daddy Warbucks of Republican Party lore.

Ortiz said in an interview that his "top-tier" moniker is also based on his work collecting about $140,000 for Rudy Giuliani's presidential run as well as fund raising for Doug Forrester's gubernatorial campaign and Tom Kean Jr.'s U.S. Senate bid. He also explained that the founders of the Chairman's Circle hope it will help develop new generous donors with a national reach.

"Maybe there is the next Larry Bathgate or Lewis Eisenberg out there," he said.” (Stile, Bergen Record)



“New York City's plan to charge motorists $8 a day to drive into most of Manhattan could force New Jersey to spend millions of dollars to upgrade the state's mass transit system, transportation officials and advocates say.

"All the riders would be challenged immediately," said Kris Kolluri, the state's transportation commissioner, who declined to put a dollar amount on the effects of what's been called "congestion pricing."

And whatever that price is, it may go higher if New Jersey approves a plan pushed by environmentalists that would raise rush-hour rates on the state's toll roads, they say.

Congestion pricing is designed to reduce traffic and toxic emissions by encouraging commuters and recreational travelers to choose mass transit.” (Davis, Bergen Record)



“As the sun sets earlier, schools prepare to open and the anxiety level increases, people can reflect on beach days, a lunar eclipse, and other memories of the lazy, hazy days of summer.

For some elected officials, there is never a change of season or even of temperature. It is hot all year and the smoldering never ceases in North Bergen and Union City.

North Bergen Mayor and 32nd District Sen. Nick Sacco helped carry the Hudson County Democratic Organization banner to smite Union City Mayor and 33rd District Assemblyman Brian P. Stack and his allies, Democrats for Hudson County. The June primary ended with Stack winning the Democratic nomination for Senate in the 33rd and Sacco returning for a re-election bid.

Stack came away with more influence and Sacco and the HCDO believe they prevented a county takeover.

Change seems inevitable. To further delay any power shift, it is imperative for the HCDO to maintain control of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders in next year's elections.

Democrats for Hudson County want to hold West New York, Union City and Hoboken. Stack is expected to help a candidate (Jersey City Detective Sean Connors?) seeking the District 4 seat held by Jersey City's Eliu Rivera. This area includes parts of the Heights, Journal Square and Downtown. ” (Torres, Jersey Journal)



“Even before Labor Day unofficially kicks off election season, local officials around the state have ramped up opposition to Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plans for state toll roads.

Four freeholder boards and 38 towns have passed resolutions opposing asset monetization, calling the idea a "one-shot gimmick."

"In principle, we oppose this," Warren County Deputy Freeholder Director John DiMaio said. "If we were to sell or lease the toll roads, it's a one-time infusion of money. We're going to give up assets over the long haul."

Warren County freeholders passed a resolution opposing the idea along with Ocean, Monmouth and Bergen counties. Glen Gardner Borough, which has about 2,000 residents, is one of at least 38 towns and 10 veterans and other organizations that also oppose the governor's vision, according to Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.

The Republican State Committee is touting Corzine's idea of making money off the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Expressway — asset monetization — as a central issue in November's elections.” (Graber, Express-Times)



“Tensions that have been simmering all year over domestic and military policy could start to reach a boiling point when Congress returns from a monthlong recess this week.

Disputes over the war in Iraq and the federal budget will affect a broad range of North Jerseyans, from members of the military and their families, to recipients of subsidized health insurance and motorists driving over aging bridges.

There's even a chance the whole government could shut down later this year because President Bush, a Republican, has threatened to veto nearly all the spending bills produced so far by the Democratic-run Congress.

"If you're looking for a big, dramatic confrontation, I think one is shaping up," said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker…………….

A leading Republican voice on military issues, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., recently urged Bush to set his own troop withdrawal timetable. Warner has said he might support a legislative deadline if Bush does not set one.

"The announcement by Senator Warner shows that the President's fragile support is crumbling and that a domino effect to change the course in Iraq is finally grabbing the attention and conscience of our Republican leaders," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said last month……………..

Bush has said the bills spend too much and move too far toward universal government-subsidized health coverage.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, agrees. New Jersey has one of the nation's most generous programs, providing $125-a-month coverage for children in families making up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or $72,275 a year for a family of four.

"The average New Jerseyan would not say that's the definition of a poor person," he said. "Likewise, you can't have a system where you provide government health care, with SCHIP and other health-care programs, to almost two-thirds of the American public."” (Jackson, Bergen Record)



“Nearly every document in the federal government's case against six men accused of plotting an attack on Fort Dix — the original charges in May, their indictment in June, even a recent order directing that their public defenders be paid — can be viewed over the Internet.

Because of the high-profile nature of the case, U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler plans to give it special treatment, posting prosecution and defense exhibits online as soon as they are introduced into evidence.

But even routine matters — contract disputes, fraud cases, bankruptcies — filed in most federal courts end up online. Anyone who signs up for access can read opinions for free and view other documents for a modest fee.

While the federal courts continue to expand their online offerings, however, state court systems are dragging their feet. One reason is the cost of converting millions of pieces of paper into electronic forms. Another is the fear court records contain personal details that, when laid out on the Web for anyone to see, could be used to steal someone's identity or invade their privacy.

Dozens of state court systems, including New Jersey's, have formed committees to study this question: Just how public should public court records be?

"On the one hand you want to have open government, and on the other hand you have abuses of these public records," said Grayson Barber, a Princeton lawyer and privacy advocate who serves on the New Jersey committee.

Online access to court records is "incredibly important because it truly democratizes the information," argues Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)



“New Jersey's digital courthouse is a work in progress.

Through the Internet, you can pay a traffic ticket or watch a state Supreme Court argument. But you can't look up criminal records or divorce cases. You can read all appeals court decisions but very few trial judges' rulings.

State court officials, judges and lawyers are working on a series of projects and studies to find ways to keep the courts current in the digital age while safeguarding personal information that could be abused.

A 20-person Supreme Court committee formed last year is considering what court records will be available to the public, how to provide electronic access and at what cost, and how to prevent blemishes removed from people's records — dismissed charges, expunged convictions, expired court orders — from haunting them forever in cyberspace.

For the past 18 months, Justice Barry Albin has overseen the committee's meetings which have been held in secret. A report is expected to be submitted to the high court later this fall and made public.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)



Anthony Campbell ought to feel relieved. The Rider University dean of students was cleared last week of criminal charges in the drinking death of a freshman, and Campbell's lawyer expects to get all traces of the baseless indictment wiped from the record books.

But the Internet has a longer memory — one that's virtually impossible to erase.

"Now, people start with a Google search, then do a formal criminal background search. The former will produce results that the latter won't. And I don't see any way to prevent that," laments Rocco Cipparone Jr., Campbell's attorney.

The Net has enhanced free speech and self-expression for millions. But it's proving a curse for others whose reputations become snarled in a Web of old news stories, nasty blog posts and indiscreet Facebook profiles that never fade away.

For fees ranging from $30 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, services such as ReputationDefender, DefendMyName, Naymz and International Reputation Management attempt damage control. They coax Web sites to yank contentious postings, or try to rig search results on Google and Yahoo so disputed links appear less prominently.

Even so, news stories and government records are practically etched in cyber-stone. There is no magic digital eraser, experts say. ” (Coughlin, Star-Ledger)



States and municipalities showed little interest in enforcing federal immigration laws, though Congress gave them limited authority to do so 11 years ago.

Not anymore.

Mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs and state law enforcement agencies across the United States are clamoring for the Bush administration to train some of their officers in immigration law and procedures…………………

One of those pending requests is from Morristown.

Mayor Donald Cresitello, who applied in March, wants six officers to undergo training — a move for which he's caught heat from immigrants, New Jersey's top federal prosecutor and Gov. Jon Corzine.

"I am trying to send a signal that Morristown is not a sanctuary town. We are not welcoming illegal immigrants crossing the border. We do welcome legal immigrants," Cresitello said.

"I don't really care what the critics say. I care about the 90 percent of the residents who support my policies. The critics are the ones who want no borders. I believe in borders."

Cresitello noted that at least one of the suspects in this summer's execution-style killings of three young people in Newark is an undocumented immigrant. Jose Lachira Carranza, a Peruvian native, was out on bail on assault and child rape charges when authorities say he killed three Delaware State University students and wounded a fourth.”(Chebium, Gannett)



“Two New Jersey mayors have staked out radically different positions on immigration, reflecting New Jersey's deepening debate on the issue following news that an illegal immigrant was the ringleader in the Aug. 4 triple slaying in Newark.

Hightstown's Bob Patten says everyone — including illegal immigrants — is welcome in his Central Jersey borough, and it's not the job of local police to enforce federal immigration statutes.

Morristown's Donald Cresitello, who says illegal immigrants have no place in his community, is the only municipal official in New Jersey to seek federal training for local officers so they could enforce immigration law.

Patten said Thursday the borough's inclusive attitude has helped promote harmony in the community of 5,300, where most of the 1,500 immigrants are from Ecuador. Additionally, he said, such a view is required under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth and 14th Amendments, which say "persons" and "people" — not just U.S. citizens — are entitled to equal protection under the law.

Hightstown would no longer be a "sanctuary" for all, regardless of legal status, if local police start enforcing immigration law, Patten said.

"We need to develop a sense of trust among all of our residents that the police are here to protect everybody," Patten said. "We celebrate the diversity. We are not interested whether they are documented or undocumented."……………

Even if an illegal immigrant commits a violent crime in Hightstown, "my sentiment would not change," Patten said. "I just look at people as people. There are people born and raised here who commit crimes."…………..

Cresitello, who said Morristown isn't a "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants, asked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service in March to train six of the town's police officers to enforce federal immigration statutes, for which he's caught flak from immigrant groups, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and Gov. Jon Corzine……………

Cresitello said he supports the failed U.S. Senate proposal to legalize undocumented immigrants, but doesn't want Congress to allow them to become citizens. He said he has to step in because Congress hasn't reformed immigration laws.

Morristown doesn't want to pass pro-immigrant laws as New Haven, Conn., has, or anti-immigrant laws, like Hazelton, Pa., has, Cresitello said. Local governments have no business regulating immigration, a federal matter, he said.

"Nobody's cracking down," he said. "You can twist and turn this any way you want. But the fact is 12 million people have crossed the borders.”” (Chebium, Gannett)



”New Jersey officials for the first time have decided to dip into the state's $82 billion public employee pension funds for cash to invest in companies doing business in the Garden State, the state Treasury Department announced yesterday.

The New Jersey Directed Investment Fund, bankrolled with $100 million in pension funds, will work with Lehman Brothers to identify investments, including potential placements with companies headquartered in New Jersey or firms considering moving operations into this state.

"Investing New Jersey's money in New Jersey companies is a sound business decision that will help to encourage job creation and is consistent with Governor (Jon) Corzine's economic growth strategy," said Gary Rose, chief of the administration's State Office of Economic Growth.

A public employee's union official who has been critical of the state's handling of the retirement accounts in the past was less enthusiastic.

"We believe this is the scam of the century," said Rae Roeder, president of Local 1033 of the Communications Workers of America, the state's largest public employees' union. "Now they're supposed to steal our pension money and use it for 20,000 other things so it won't be there when we retire." ” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)



“As campaign season revs into gear this weekend, the focus for local Republicans and Democrats is expected to be on the council races in Edison, Milltown, Old Bridge, South Plainfield and South River since party control is at stake in the November election.

Thirteen towns also are slated to elect new mayors, including the largest town in the county, Woodbridge. Incumbent John McCormac is vying against Republican John Vrtaric, the local GOP chairman.

In most of the races for mayor, the incumbents are part of the powerful Democratic organization, which traditionally outnumbers and outspends the GOP in Middlesex County.

But there are a few exceptions. In Milltown and Sayreville, popular Republican mayors are facing challenges from veteran councilmen, and in Helmetta, independents control borough hall.” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)



“At this point in the campaign, Republicans running for countywide office in Gloucester County are getting their message out one voter at a time.

The Republican hopefuls have all indicated they go out regularly to knock on doors and talk to would-be voters.

"We're trying to work at the grassroots level," said freeholder candidate Paul Marino of Washington Township. "We need to get to places where we can actually see a group of people and show that we're accessible to them."” (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)



Moshe Cohen. Wendy Wright. George Hayman. Mark Dombrowski. Recognize the names?

If so, you're a hard-core political junkie immersed in Morris County politics.

For the rest of you, Cohen, Wright and Hayman are Democrats running for freeholder this year, and Dombrowski is that party's candidate for sheriff. Their mission is to make sure you know their names by Election Day on Nov. 6 and to convince you to go to the polls and vote for them.

That's a tall order.

They follow a long line of Democrats who have run for countywide office and lost over the past 30 years. Not since Dec. 31, 1976, has a Democrat held elected county office. That's when the one term of Democratic freeholder Douglas Romaine ended. There have since been 30 years of unsuccessful Democratic efforts to win a seat on the county freeholder board, and for sheriff, county clerk and surrogate.

Their names offer a who's who of political obscurity — Rob Simon, Philip VanVort, Rita Cadorin, Barbara Savage, Eugene Rodriguez, Claudia Salomon, Phil Montesano, Judy Antonelli, Bob Hofacker and so many others — who have taken up the Democratic mantle, and not sipped champagne on election night.

Some would say they are masochists, volunteering annually to be run over by Morris County's Republican machine. But as Labor Day approaches, marking the traditional start of the election season, there is no shortage of Democrats lined up to make the annual challenge.

"I'd call it the endangered species response," said Cohen, a Randolph man with a doctorate in finance who is making his first run for elected office. "The idea that only Republicans serve, that a large percentage of the population that is not Republican has no voice in this county, caught my attention. ” (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)



“The township Board of Education's decision to remove from its curriculum a video that featured families headed by same-sex couples was applauded by a group that opposed the video, but others were left disappointed and angry by the decision Thursday night.

The board, in a 7-1 vote, rejected a recommendation from a special review committee of parents and educators that called for keeping the “That's A Family!” video, but moving it from the health curriculum of the district's third-graders to the curriculum of the fourth-graders.

“It's disappointing,” said Stephanie Rutkowski, a parent who served on the committee. “I realize it's a tough issue. Unfortunately, people who were against it will speak louder and will be heard. Those of us who support it will still teach our kids to be good kids.”

Board President Rosemary Bernardi, who cast the lone vote in support of the recommendation, said she hopes the community realizes that even though the video may not be shown in district classrooms, the subject of family diversity remains an integral part of the health curriculum.

“The vehicle, the video, may be removed, but the subject is still there,” she said, noting that it is part of the state Department of Education's core curriculum standards. ” (Camilli, Burlington County Times)



“Mayor Randy Brown has called for an official inquiry into past financial transactions involving the township-owned Indian Spring Country Club, which has a debt of $10.5 million.

Brown said at last month's Township Council meeting he was disgusted by what he has found since launching his own review of the history of Indian Spring. The council supported his request for further, and more formal, investigation.

Brown and his council colleagues did not hold office when the bonds to improve the course and build the clubhouse were approved from February 1995 to April 2001 or when a portion of those bonds were refinanced in September 2002.

“I don't understand how you put $10.5 million on the books with no plan to pay for it,” the mayor said last week. “There's a lack of a plan. There's no cost analysis, no long-term financial planning or revenue projections.”

Brown criticized prior Township Councils for “irresponsible decision-making that's led to our current fiscal condition.” (Camilli, Star-Ledger)


“The chairman of the Burlington County Bridge Commission yesterday announced stricter controls on how the commission seeks and awards contracts to try to prevent a repeat of a scandal involving a consultant who deliberately overbilled the commission for six years without getting caught.

The recommendations were detailed in a report written by Milligan & Co., a Philadelphia-based consulting and accounting firm. The recommendations the commission enacted include:

A monitoring process that requires contractors to report on progress of their jobs.

Keeping all documents related to each contractor in one file to more easily track and monitor performance.

Putting evaluation criteria for all vendor proposals and bids in writing. ??Review of vendor invoices by departments or individuals.” (Mathis, Burlington County Times)



“In the often-ruthless world of local politics, a rare professional courtesy exists between outgoing politicians and their newly elected successors.

Most former mayors, commissioners and council members lay low for about a year before resuming their roles in the public arena. They usually re-emerge as either critics or gadflies, and, in some cases, the return to civic life creates a thorn in the side of newbie office-holders.

That scenario has been playing out recently in this Cumberland County city, where the controversial hiring of a civilian public safety director has lured a few old ghosts back to City Hall.

At City Council meetings earlier this summer, both former Mayor Michael Pirolli and former council President Douglas Van Sant appeared to voice their disapproval of the actions being considered by the freshman officials.

To Van Sant, the decision to reappear in council chambers was a complicated one.

"I knew I was not going to attend anything for a year, or more," he said Friday. "If this (public safety director) thing didn't come up, I don't know if I ever would've showed up."” (Martins, Press of Atlantic City)



“Cashiers at Caesars Atlantic City casino rejected a bid to unionize.

The cashiers Saturday voted 77 to 42 to not join the United Auto Workers, the union said.

"We obviously would have preferred a different result today, but the overall picture is that more and more workers in the gaming industry want to be part of our union," said Elizabeth Bunn, the UAW's secretary treasurer.

Last Saturday, full- and part-time card dealers voted 626-157 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort to unionize.” (AP)

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