Lyndhurst suddenly turns blue, four Jersey City judges charged with ticket fixing, Mims Hackett pleads not guilty, Estabook officially announces,12th district candidates go back and forth, Obama rocks Newark.
IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE FOR THE BERGEN GOP
“In a rare shift in party affiliation, the entire membership of the all-Republican governing body in Lyndhurst will switch from Republican to Democrat tomorrow. Nearly 60% of Lyndhurst’s Republican County Committee will become Democrats too.
The party realignment, first reported in PoliticsNJ.com last summer, is far greater in scope than speculated. It represents, perhaps, the most massive shift in Party affiliation of elected and Party officials in a single community in one day. “It’s safe to say something like this certainly doesn’t happen in politics everyday,” said Lyndhurst Mayor Richard DiLascio.
Lyndhurst has long been considered a swing town in general elections over the last twenty years.
A press release announcing the switch notes: “the virtual gutting of the Republican organization here will make the Township a reliable ally for Democratic state Senator Paul Sarlo, and Assemblymen Fred Scalera and Gary Schear, as well as Democrats running county-wide. This year, Sarlo’s Republican opponent is from Lyndhurst. This shift likely cripples any hope he may have had for victory.” This appears to be a highly accurate analysis.
State Senator Paul Sarlo and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero will attend a press conference announcing the switch tomorrow.
Lyndhurst has a population of 19,383.” (Edge, PoliticsNJ.com)
“Four Jersey City Municipal Court judges have been charged with official misconduct for allegedly fixing parking and traffic tickets for themselves, family and friends.
The charges, announced yesterday by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, are an outgrowth of an investigation that began in August with a tip from a court employee. In the weeks that followed, five of the city's 10 municipal judges either abruptly resigned or took a leave from the bench.
Judges are like umpires. They're supposed to call the balls and strikes fairly," Milgram said at a news conference in Trenton. "They basically made up the rules themselves."
Those charged are former Chief Judge Wanda Molina and Judges Pauline Sica, Victor Sison and Irwin Rosen.
In a city where parking is tight and tickets are numerous, the news was greeted with disgust. Residents in line at the court's violations bureau yesterday said they worked hard to pay their fines.
"Little people are always paying," said Elise Hokett, 43, of Jersey City, who said she paid $108 last week for two parking tickets. Yesterday she was back, paying $335 for a nephew's moving violations……..
Molina, as well as Sica and Sison, face charges of second-degree official misconduct for fixing tickets and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The tickets were for at least $200 in all three cases.
Rosen, meanwhile, faces a third-degree charge of official misconduct for fixing his own parking ticket in 2004 and could face five years in prison, Milgram said. Prosecutors said the ticket was less than $200, the threshold needed to sustain a second-degree charge.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
“This is the kind of breakdown that can shake the faith of the average citizen in our system of justice,” Ms. Milgram said. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about 1 ticket, or 5 tickets, or 50. The system only works, and only can work, when judges make impartial decisions based on the facts, and when they do so in open court, subject to transparency to public scrutiny………..
Gerald Krovatin, the lawyer for Ms. Molina, called the charge “misguided.”
“The current charge against Judge Molina reflects a premature and fundamental misunderstanding of the practical, day-to-day operation of the Jersey City Municipal Court,” he said. “We are confident that Judge Molina has done nothing intentionally wrong and nothing criminal.”
Ms. Milgram said that the investigation was far from over and that there was a “widespread culture of wrongdoing” in the court.
As a result, speculation immediately intensified as to the legal fate of a fifth judge, Vincent A. Signorile, a former city councilman, who has resigned, and possibly other judicial employees as well………
The four judges were issued summonses, a step that Ms. Milgram said was routine for accusations of this nature. State officials offered few specifics on the fixed tickets themselves, but Jersey City officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still being conducted, estimated that the fixed tickets added up to about $3,000………..
Parking in Jersey City has become increasingly difficult in recent years while the city has seen considerable growth, and residents say the police have become overzealous in issuing tickets. Now, said Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, a former Municipal Court judge himself, the judicial upheaval promises to “cause the system to slow down.””
“MIMS IS COOL”
“Orange Mayor Mims Hackett pleaded not guilty to corruption charges this morning, becoming the first of 11 public officials snared in an FBI sting last month to do so.
Hackett's arraignment came just a few days after former Assemblyman Alfred Steele became the first of the group to plead guilty. Hackett and Steele served in the Assembly together, but both stepped down after their arrests.
Federal prosecutors and Steele's attorney have declined to say whether Steele, a Baptist minister, is cooperating with federal authorities. Hackett's attorney, John Azzarello, said he is not concerned.
"We are anxiously awaiting receipt of the evidence in this case. And we anxiously await Mayor Hackett's trial date so that all of the facts can come out," Azzarello said. "Mayor Hackett is confident that once a jury of his peers hears all of the evidence, he will be vindicated."
U.S. District Judge Jose Linares in Newark tentatively scheduled the trial for Dec. 17. Hackett, the only one of the officials to be indicted so far, declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.
A federal grand jury indicted Hackett earlier this month on charges of attempted extortion and bribery. He allegedly accepted a $5,000 bribe from an insurance brokerage firm seeking city contracts in Orange. He also agreed to ac cept another $25,000 once the city approved the contracts, according to the indictment. ” (Whelan, Star-Ledger)
ESTABROOK FILES, WILL NOW HAVE TO TAKE POSITIONS ON IMPORTANT ISSUES
“It’s official. Anne Evans Estabrook is running for U.S. Senate.
Although she has not yet issued a formal announcement, Estabrook put out a press release today saying that she has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, transforming her exploratory committee into a senatorial campaign. That makes her the first Republican to officially announce against Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg in 2008.
Other potential Republican candidates include state Sen. Joe Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
“Anne Evans Estabrook’s announcement that she’s running for U.S. Senate may not come as a surprise to anybody who follows New Jersey politics, but its timing irritated one of her potential Republican primary opponents.
“I would have hoped that Anne would have put the interest of our party and the people of New Jersey ahead of her own political interests, and waited until after this election cycle,” said Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio, who set up a U.S. Senate exploratory committee in September and is running for a state Senate seat.
Pennacchio said that Estabrook should have waited at last a few weeks to “pull the trigger” – that her focus should not be on her Senate campaign, but on helping candidates enmeshed in legislative, county and municipal races.
“Our entire focus should be on an election that is two weeks from now, not eight months down the road. I would hope that Anne has not given up on our Republican candidates and our chance at victory this November 6th by looking beyond,” said Pennacchio.
But in announcing her candidacy two weeks before the local elections, Estabrook was able to use the fact that she does not hold an elected office to her advantage. The two other Republicans who have expressed interest in running — Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick – both have to run state legislative campaigns, albeit in safe districts. It wouldn’t be politically feasible for either of them to announce their intentions before November 7th.
Estabrook, on the other hand, managed to get ahead of the pack before the legislative elections can shake up the power structure in Trenton – and possibly some of her support. For someone who’s running as the establishment Republican candidate, that may be important………..
Estabrook campaign spokesman Tom Blakely, said that there was one simple reason for the riming of Estabrook’s announcement: she’s ready. Any speculation about timing of the announcement, he said, was over-analysis.
“She’s ready to move forward, and that’s it,” said Blakely. “She’s not one to play games on this…She doesn’t see any reason to beat around the bush.”
The press release Estabrook issued to announce her candidacy did not address her potential primary opponents, narrowing its criticism to Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg as being partially responsible for the state’s “affordability crisis,” which she said was brought about by hard taxes.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
NIBOT ECHOES FERRIERO
A point of clarification for voters in the 37th Legislative District: Clara Nibot of Bergenfield is the Republican candidate for state Senate this year.
I thought it important to mention, since some voters in the central Bergen district might be under the impression that Nibot is being coached and groomed by the Bergen County Democratic Organization.
Over the last two weeks, Nibot has sounded a lot like Bergen County Democratic boss Joseph Ferriero. It's easy to see why. Both share common enemies: Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck and her Assembly running mates, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson, both from Englewood.
Both would like to end the trio's career, but for different reasons. Nibot simply wants to replace Weinberg in the Senate. Ferriero, for his part, is a little weary of Weinberg nipping at his heels. She appears determined to dismantle the powerful political machine Ferriero has built on campaign cash and patronage. Ferriero is fighting back, vowing to prove that Weinberg the reformer is a power-hungry hypocrite in disguise.
This clash — which burst into public view earlier this month as both camps questioned each other's ethics — has yielded a bounty of campaign mud for "Clean Elections" candidate Nibot……..
Perhaps the most interesting Nibot charge was her Oct. 11 release accusing Weinberg of improperly using public "Clean Elections" campaign funds to research politically connected contracts held by Ferriero and others.
The charge is a flimsy one — a state election law enforcement official found nothing troubling about it. And Weinberg paid for the research before qualifying for public campaign funds.
But it was interesting for another reason. Democratic party sources had been urging an exploration of the issue just weeks earlier. Suddenly, it showed up as fodder for the Republicans." (Stile, Bergen Record)
UNCEASING BACK-AND-FORTH IN THE 12TH DISTRICT
“Assemblyman Michael Panter's campaign today said Declan O'Scanlon is not in a position to render a serious judgement about the record of the two-term Monmouth County Democrat.
O'Scanlon, a Republican councilman from Little Silver who is challenging Panter, issued another war whoop over the weekend about Panter's inability to implement real ethics reform because of the assemblyman's close ties to Speaker Joe Roberts.
"It's absolutely preposterous," responded Dan Reilly, Panter's campaign manager.
Then Reilly went after what he describes as O'Scanlon's eight no-bid contracts as a private consultant to local Republican-dominated governing bodies that are seeking help with citing cellular telephone towers on public lands.
O'Scanlon says he's the only businessman in the area with the finesse and know-how to navigate between the telecommunications industry and municipalities and actually save taxpayers' money.
Nonsense, says Reilly, who charged O'Scanlon with taking advantage of his personal relationship with the mayor of Fair Haven to land a juicy $45,000 consulting contract.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
HE HAS ARRIVED
“Boom. He’s here.
That was the way Barack Obama’s New Jersey State Director, Mark Alexander, described tonight’s low-dollar Obama fundraiser at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. About 1,300 people turned out for the event, where students paid $15 for admission, while everyone else paid $25.
“We are here to plant the flag to say ‘we have arrived’,” said Alexander. “It’s our way of saying ‘Boom. We’re here.’”
Tonight was the beginning of a push by Obama’s campaign to make headway here in New Jersey, where polls have him trailing Hillary Clinton by 30 points. The idea, his staffers say, is to introduce their candidate to the public – because once they see him, how could they resist? And then, once he’s made impressive showing in the earlier primary states, the public will know him and New Jersey will be ripe for the taking come February…………
After a short introduction by Mayor Cory Booker in which he defended Obama’s experience level, Obama emerged to give folksy 40 minute stump speech, starting with “How’s it going Newark? It is good to be back in New Jersey.”
But the New Jersey references ended there, and Obama’s speech went on to range from Iraq, to health care reform, to genocide in Darfur. Much breath was spent condemning the Bush administration. And although he didn’t mention Hillary Clinton by name once, he did make clear the differences between himself and the Senator from New York – most of all, his early and constant opposition to the Iraq war.
When friends warned him not to speak out against the Iraq war when both the idea of the war and the president were popular – and when he was campaigning for a Senate seat in Illinois — Obama said that he went anyway.
“I told them that I don’t want to start my career as a U.S. Senator biting my tongue, so I went to that rally,” said Obama.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)
YOU KNOW YOUR CAMPAIGN ISN’T GOING WELL WHEN YOUR BUSH ATTACK FALLS FLAT
“The 14th district State Senate candidates are girding for battle at Steinert High School tonight, and once again GOP Assemblyman Bill Baroni is heading into a Fair and Clean Elections debate with the Georg W. Bush factor fairly smothered.
In a press release today, Democrat Seema Singh demanded to know why Baroni failed to denounce the President’s veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
But Baroni wrote to Bush before the veto seeking support for the legislation. A copy of his letter had been forwarded to PoliticsNJ.com, and the Baroni campaign today provided proof of delivery that his letter to Bush had been received by the White House on September 26.
"As a Republican state legislator, I am in the 'trenches' and I see what a great job FamilyCare does every day in our state to provide coverage to these kids," Baroni wrote Bush. "I also see too many children who still lack access to basic health coverage. Not renewing this program would be irresponsible and would put over one hundred thousand children in this state at risk."” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
“IF THAT ISN’T A DOUBLE STANDARD, THEN WHAT IS?”
“The hiring of undocumented day laborers by Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan two weeks ago has come as a blow to those who prefer a hard line on illegal immigrants — and as a boost to those who want more flexible immigration laws.
Activists and political officials who favor strict immigration laws say they're bewildered over the revelation that Lonegan, one of New Jersey's most vocal proponents for tough immigration enforcement, hired two illegal immigrants to assemble political signs for his taxpayer advocacy group.
Lonegan maintains that he asked the laborers if they had identification, and they assured him they did, though he did not ask to see it before hiring them. The laborers contend that Lonegan never asked for their ID.
And in a recent interview, Lonegan conceded that he could not vouch for the legal status of workers hired by his subcontractors during the years when he was a home builder. He said that since he did not directly hire the workers, he bore no responsibility for confirming their legal status.
"If you pick up somebody off the street, the likelihood is that most of them don't have legal documents, so why would he pick them up?" said Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, another leading voice in New Jersey for tougher immigration enforcement. "I would not pick up one of the day laborers who stand by the Morristown train station. And I wouldn't expect [Lonegan] to look for day laborers, considering the comments he's made about immigration."
Gayle Kesselman, co-chairperson of New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control, said she preferred to give Lonegan the benefit of the doubt. Kesselman met with Lonegan and other Bogota officials in the summer to persuade them to apply for a federal program that deputizes local police to enforce immigration laws.
"I know he's very devoted to this cause" of tougher immigration enforcement, said Kesselman, a Carlstadt resident. "I find it hard to think that he would go out knowingly to hire illegal workers."
Those on the other side of the immigration debate condemned Lonegan in more pointed terms, with many calling the mayor a "hypocrite."
"This couldn't have come at a better time, or from a better person than Steve Lonegan," said Lucilo Santos, president of the Dominican American Council of New Jersey. "This is a man who has devoted so much time and energy to maligning Hispanics and immigrants. He shows that not only is he willing to exploit these people for his political benefit, but also for personal gain."
"If that isn't a double standard, then what is?" asked Santos, who lives in Hackensack.” (Llorente, Bergen Record)
ALTERNATIVE PARTIES CAN RAISE MORE MONEY, BUT THEY PROBABLY WON’T
“Three alternative political parties — the Conservatives, Greens and Libertarians — have won a court order allowing them to raise and distribute campaign contributions on an equal footing with the Democratic and Republican parties.
Without official recognition as political parties in New Jersey, the alternative parties are treated like political action committees and subject to the same contribution limits. For any given election, the most they can accept from an individual is $7,200; the most they can give to any one candidate is $8,200.”
The consent decree signed by state Superior Court Judge Neil Shuster allows the Conservatives, Greens and Libertarians to set up statewide political committees that can accept up to $25,000 per year and make unlimited contributions to their candidates — just like the Democratic and Republican state committees.
Leaders of alternative parties said the court order, which settles a lawsuit they had filed, is a modest step toward official recognition.
"It's just helping to level the playing field," George DeCarlo, chairman of the Green Party of New Jersey, said. "Is it going to get us full political party status in New Jersey? Absolutely not."
Neither Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson nor Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union), the Democratic State Chairman, had any objection to the consent de cree, but both said they worry about new alternative parties being established for nefarious ends.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
“Candidates in the 9th Legislative District are continuing their push to the Statehouse with just over two weeks remaining until Election Day.
For a four-year term in the Senate, longtime Pine Beach Mayor Russell K. Corby, a Democrat, squares off against current Republican Assemblyman Christopher J. Connors for a seat held by Connors' father, Leonard T. Connors Jr., since district lines were redrawn in 1981. The elder Connors chose not to run for re-election this year.
Both are joined on their respective tickets by a pair of candidates seeking two-year terms in the Assembly. Incumbent Brian E. Rumpf is joined on the GOP side by Waretown (Ocean Township) Mayor Daniel Van Pelt, in his first race for state office. Teamed with Corby are William Coulter of Barnegat and Michele F. Rosen of Waretown.
In a longtime Republican stronghold stretching from Berkeley south through portions of Atlantic and Burlington counties, the Democrats have lagged far behind in the area of fundraising. As of Oct. 9, Corby, 64, raised $20,201.93 for his own campaign, while Rosen, 60, and Coulter, 67, pulled in a total of $2,150.
Those totals pale in comparison to the $116,090.52 raised through a joint Republican committee by the Oct. 9 filing deadline. In addition to that total, Van Pelt, 43, has raised $12,949.31 of his own campaign money.
The amount spent campaigning is less disparate, however. The three Republican candidates have spent a total of $10,800.63 on their campaign, while Corby alone has spent $9,969.80. Expenditure amounts for Coulter and Rosen's campaign were not available because they did not raise more than the $3,500 filing threshold required by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Rosen said.” (Pais, Asbury Park Press)
“Three longtime incumbent Republicans in the 10th Legislative District are facing challenges by Democrats and third-party candidates.
Sen. Andrew R. Ciesla, Assemblyman David W. Wolfe and Assemblyman James W. Holzapfel, all R-Ocean, have each represented the district since the early 1990s. And, as is usually the case in GOP-dominated Ocean County, the incumbents hold a significant fund-raising advantage over their opponents.
Ciesla, for example, has raised $261,368 thus far, according to the latest filings with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. By contrast, his opponent, Democratic Lavallette Borough Councilwoman Britta Forsberg-Wenzel, has raised $28,318, a figure which includes a $19,500 loan from herself to her campaign.
Despite the fiscal disparity, and the fact that the Republican candidates tout their records on issues like property tax reform and the environment, their Democratic challengers say the incumbents are vulnerable largely because of their tenure in the Statehouse.
"Unfortunately, our current representatives are living very much in the status quo," Forsberg-Wenzel said. "They're not at the top of the issues, and in fact, most of the people I talk to don't know their names. That's pretty sad for leaders who have been there for so long."” (Schweiger, Asbury Park Press)
WHY IS MARSH TAKING A SALARY WHEN HE OWES THE CITY $363,000?
“ATLANTIC CITY – Earlier this month former Mayor Lorenzo Langford repaid about $26,000 of the $193,785 he received in a 2002 lawsuit settlement the state Supreme Court later ruled invalid. He turned the money over to a trust account run by attorney Fredric L. Bor, who then passed the money back to the city.
The repayment came following Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Valerie H. Armstrong's Aug. 16 order that he and current acting Mayor William Marsh had to repay any money they had left over from the $850,000 settlement.
Marsh's repayment is on hold while he serves as the resort's chief executive.
Court records indicate that in March 2002, Marsh received $363,785, Langford $193,785 and their lawyers divvied up the remaining $292,430.
It is not clear what became of the remaining $167,000 Langford owes.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
THE SPECTRE OF CRAIG CALLAWAY
“Republicans want Democratic Atlantic County Clerk Ed McGettigan to temporarily give up all his election-related duties to stop what they charge is a "clear conflict of interest" caused by his brother's campaign for Atlantic County executive and alleged connections to a now-jailed politician.
Republicans charge that Ed McGettigan and his brother, Democratic Atlantic County Sheriff James McGettigan, had the support of former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway, who is now serving a federal prison sentence on bribery charges.
In a letter sent Friday to Ed McGettigan, county Republican Committee Chairman Keith Davis wrote that, "The actions of Craig Callaway and his organization in securing absentee ballots through messenger applications and utilizing those ballots to manipulate the free election process in favor of their endorsed candidates is a matter of public record."
"Your close political and financial ties with Craig Callaway create serious questions concerning your ability to act in a fair and even-handed fashion, particularly with respect to issues involving absentee ballots and your brother's candidacy in this election," he wrote.
Republicans have been linking Democratic candidates with Callaway for the past several weeks.
Davis' letter to Ed McGettigan was apparently prompted by last week's selection by Atlantic City Democrats of three people as possible replacements for former Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy. Callaway's sister, recently fired city Human Resources Director Gwendolyn O. Lewis said during the candidate selection process that, "The disgraced, quote-unquote, Craig Callaway and his organization still lives."
Davis charges that the McGettigans accepted Callaway's support and made joint campaign appearances with Callaway in Atlantic City.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)
“YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE”
But anyone hoping for fireworks probably went home disappointed by the tepid exchange.
Bucking tradition, the debate was conducted at the Performing Arts Center instead of the historic courthouse to accommodate the large audience, which consisted largely of partisans.
"It sounds like a lot of people here tonight have made up their minds how they intend to vote," moderator William Skinner said after the crowd cheered each candidate's introduction.
Asselta, the incumbent, said New Jersey has to crack down on "sanctuary cities" that permit illegal immigrants to live and work or even commit crimes without fear of deportation.
"Send those people back and tell them they have to come here legally," he said to cheers from the mixed crowd of partisan Democrats and Republicans.
He noted that several terrorists in the 9-11 attack lived in New Jersey.
"You send the message: you're not welcome here. Then you empower local police," he said.
Van Drew said illegal immigration was a failing of the Bush Administration.
He said he would recommend the appointment of immigration officers in county prosecutor's offices across the state. He said he sponsored a bill requiring residents to register their vehicles within 60 days to discourage illegal immigrants from driving the state's roads illegally with registrations obtained in more lenient states.
"We are a nation of immigrants, but we need to maintain the integrity of our border," he said.
Both Asselta and Van Drew said they were opposed to the state's room tax and would vote for its repeal to protect tourism, particularly in Cape May County.” (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
CANDIDATES RUN AWAY FROM LABELS
“If the world of New Jersey politics was set in a classroom, uttering the words Democrat or Republican could mean a trip to the principal's office for legislative candidates.
With the local Republican name plagued at a national level by an unpopular war and an unpopular president, and the Democrats fighting off poor approval ratings during their control of the Legislature, voters will be hard-pressed to find any mention of either group on campaign mailers or television spots.
"Both parties have a pox on their houses," political analyst Jim McQueeney said Monday.
Dodging a party label, known among politicians as an "unbranded campaign," also makes candidates seem more like the unaffiliated voters they are hoping to get votes from and helps each side's chances of stealing votes from wavering Democratic and Republican voters, McQueeney said.” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
“Two weeks ago, as the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics and chemistry were being announced, Rutgers University researcher Wise Young was stressing out.
There was a hot rumor that some of the scientists whom he and others had been wooing to head and staff the New Jersey Stem Cell Institute in New Brunswick might win a prize.
"I was having a heart attack," Young said. "If they won, they would double their salary request. How could we afford it?"
In the end, the scientists weren't chosen, but Young's emotional few days help illustrate the roller-coaster history of the drive to bring a world-class stem cell research center to the state.
Leaders from government, universities and business, including Gov. Jon Corzine, will gather this afternoon for the center's ceremonial groundbreaking in New Brunswick. It will be called the Christopher Reeve Pavilion after the late "Superman" star, a Princeton native and stem cell advocate paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident.
Though $9.1 million in funding is in place for the center's construction, the salaries for those who will work there are not. That will depend on whether voters approve a $450 million bond issue Nov. 6 designed to fund researchers' salaries over a 10-year period at research facilities in North and South Jersey. ” (MacPherson and Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL?
“There was no agreement Monday in settlement talks over a federal lawsuit brought by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association against the state Division on Civil Rights.
The two sides, joined by an attorney for two lesbian couples who have charged the association with violating the state's Law Against Discrimination, met for about 35 minutes in the chambers of U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano.
Lee Moore, a DCR spokesman, said Pisano told the attorneys that he would rule on the state's motion to dismiss the association's lawsuit but did not say when.
Moore said the state's investigation into the complaints — filed by Ocean Grove residents Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, and Janice Moore and Emily Sonnessa — is ongoing.
It was that investigation that spurred the association, represented by the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, to file the suit in federal court. The association contends that the investigation by the DCR violates its free speech and religious freedom rights.” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
“A bill to establish the Great Falls of Paterson as a national park passed the House of Representatives yesterday in what its sponsor, Rep. William Pascrell Jr., called a "landmark moment" for Paterson and the state.
The 256-122 vote represents one hurdle cleared in a push to better showcase the 77-foot-high landmark along the Passaic River. The national park designation would enable the Falls to receive federal money, which would boost the $10 million set aside by the state for initial construction on a plan unveiled last month.
Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) has esti mated the park, built with state help, would cost $22 million. The bill would designate about 109 acres of the Paterson Great Falls Historic District as a new unit of the National Park Service, which would be charged with operating the park, restoring and preserving historic structures and creating new exhibits.
A companion bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (D- N.J.), has had one hearing so far by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. ” (Heininger, Star-Ledger)
“HAMILTON — As council members await the results of a subpoena filed to obtain township financial information, advocates for transparency in government say it is just this type of clash that has contributed to a crisis of confidence the public is experiencing over its elected officials.
"Access and transparency are the twin pillars of good government," said Seton Hall Law School professor Paula Franzese, who chairs the State Ethics Commission. "Citizens need to be able to participate if we are to have a truly participatory government and that participation depends on access to records and it depends on transparency."
The fight over the township's annual financial statement has played out over the past two months as the Republican-controlled council has been rebuffed repeatedly in its attempts to get access to the document, which outlines the township's fiscal position. An Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request filed by the council was denied by the administration, forcing Council President Dave Kenny to issue a council-approved subpoena to the consulting firm that completed the work for the administration.
To date, the consultant, Bowman and Co., has not turned over the document, citing an opinion issued by Township Attorney Paul Adezio that the document is a draft and so is not public. ” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
“Political appointees running the state's environmental watchdog agency routinely overruled top staffers and approved stripped-down safeguards for the EnCap Golf project in the Meadowlands, a Record investigation shows.
State documents reveal that the staff scientists and leading specialists inside the Department of Environmental Protection were often surprised and frustrated to learn that their bosses had already green-lighted the developer's proposals, sometimes in separate meetings with the developer's attorneys.
Those high-level approvals often flew against longtime policies and standards that DEP staffers had spent their careers upholding.
In a number of cases, the staffers' questions foreshadowed items that now occupy the state's lengthy checklist of failings at the massive project — now teetering on the edge of default, half completed, with $244 million in public financing already spent.
During an interview Friday, Bradley Campbell, the former DEP chief who presided over most of the critical EnCap decisions, acknowledged that the developer had infuriated the staff and was "rightly regarded in the agency as double-dealing and duplicitous.''” (Pillets, Bergen Record)
SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUIT COULD HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR MONMOUTH COUNTY SHERIFF RACE
“Lawyers representing all sides in a sexual harassment case against the borough of Belmar are seeking to resolve the matter without a trial.
Pretrial motions had been set to start Monday before Superior Court Judge Louis F. Locascio but never took place as Locascio met in closed chambers with representatives of the borough and former Belmar Patrolwoman Kara Ketcham, who brought the case.
After three hours of discussions, no settlement had been reached, and the attorneys and their clients were told to report back to Locascio's court room at 1:30 p.m. today to continue the talks.
If negotiations fail, pretrial motions in anticipation of a jury trial are expected to resume.
In recent weeks, the case has become the focus of Republican attacks aimed at Belmar Police Chief Jack Hill, who is the Democratic nominee for Monmouth County sheriff and one of several defendants in the case.
A controversial Web site launched by the county's GOP organization almost three weeks ago includes depositions given by Hill in the suit.
Ketcham, Belmar's first female police officer, filed the suit in 2003 after she was terminated — officially — for psychological reasons. She claims she was really fired out of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)
THEY TALK ABOUT IT IN BERGEN
“School funding affects property taxes and education in every municipality in New Jersey and should be debated before Election Day in two weeks, advocates for a statewide coalition of public schools said Monday.
But, they said, no one is talking about the issue on the campaign trail.
"School funding policy and the need for a (new school funding) formula have virtually been ignored going into the seventh year now, and that is just too long," said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents more than 150 school districts.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Monday he hopes to unveil a new formula by the end of the year and have a debate that coincides with work on the state budget, which typically lasts from February through June.
The new formula will determine how districts split $8 billion worth of state aid to help pay for education and offset the need for local property taxes. The formula has not been followed since the 2001-02 state budget, leaving support for wealthy, middle-income and some poor school districts stagnant.” (Tamari, Gannett)
IN THAT FORGOTTEN COUNTY… WHAT'S IT CALLED, SALEM?
“After serving eight years in Pittsgrove Township as a committeeman and mayor, Mayor Pete Voros feels now is the time to set his eyes at a higher level.
Campaigning door-to-door for freeholder around the county has been a horizon-broadening experience for the Democrat as he learns the most important issues on residents' minds.
"I tell them about my experience in Pittsgrove and how that's going to all fit into what the county is already doing," Voros said, adding his time in office has given him valuable experience about how to improve the community.
His main concern, which of course is among the main concerns of constituents, is taxes.
"They say their taxes are too high, but they're not blaming it on the county, they just want to know how we can get it down and the obvious answer is consolidation of services," Voros said. "It's right there in front of our noses."” (Moore, Today’s Sunbeam)
“Superintendents of New Jersey's poorest school districts left a special meeting with Gov. Jon Corzine last week convinced the state's fiscal woes will leave them grappling with little or no increases in state aid in the upcoming state budget.
"It wasn't right out saying, 'Flat funding, live with it,'" said Passaic superintendent Robert Holster. "But those of us who have been in the business for a long time could pick up the signals."
Corzine said his meeting with superintendents of the 31 school districts awarded special funding under the state Supreme Court's Abbott vs. Burke rulings was not a state aid forecast. "It doesn't portend anything at this stage," the governor said yesterday.
Corzine said he "made clear we have severe challenges," but insisted the one-hour meeting convened by state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy at the governor's request was more general in nature.
"We were actually having a dialogue about audits and how we communicate with each other and pretty standard sorts of views about performance of our kids," he said. ” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
IN RED BANK
“Mayor Pasquale "Pat" Menna will give up his borough-sponsored health benefits and wants to change policy so that future mayors will be barred from taking the benefit.
Menna announced Monday that he will seek elimination of health insurance coverage for himself and future mayors.
"I'd been saying I'd give them up," Menna said, adding that he's asked the borough attorney to investigate amending the administrative code to remove health insurance from benefits extended to future mayors.
Health benefits for the mayor and Borough Council have been criticized by several residents who have been lobbying them to give up the coverage for more than a year. Benefits also have been raised as an issue in the campaign for three council seats.
The announcement comes on the heels of a recommendation by the council's finance committee, headed by Councilman Michael DuPont, which recommended that the council keep the health insurance coverage, but that members pay into it at the same price as other part-time borough employees.
"I think it's about time that he took a stand, and it's interesting that it is right before the election," said Councilman John Curley. "It is a political ploy by Menna."” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
IN ONE OF THE WASHINGTON TOWNSHIPS
“The township's attorney has agreed to meet with an open public records advocate who is challenging the township's closed session policies.
Kevin Decie, of the township attorney's office, said he wants to resolve John Paff's accusations but thinks the township has been abiding by open public records rules.
Paff says Washington Township's motions to enter closed sessions and the minutes generated are too vague to meet the state requirements. He is threatening to sue unless the township changes its policies.
The Somerset County resident is chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. As part of the project, Paff has requested public records from more than 60 municipalities and school boards.
"The township is prepared to discuss your concerns and address any issues regarding its compliance," Decie wrote in a letter Friday to Paff. ” (Olanoff, Express-Times)
WELL, HIS NAME IS VIGILANTE
“PARSIPPANY — An East Orange man was found underneath a tractor at a Route 46 gas station Sunday after a township councilman who had lingered in his car to listen to "Stairway to Heaven" noticed him acting suspiciously and called police.
Council Vice President James Vigilante, who lives nearby, said he contacted police at around 2 a.m. Sunday after noticing a car being driven with its lights off that eventually parked in the gas station's lot. The gas station was closed at the time.
When the four officers arrived, they found Chester Eugene Corbett, 30, lying under a parked tractor, Lt. Jeff Storms said. Inside his vehicle were white utility gloves with adhesive grips and a yellow Dewalt brand reciprocating saw, Storms said. Corbett did not take anything, Storms said.”
IN SOUTH PLAINFIELD
“South Plainfield paid $125,000 to settle a lawsuit brought in 2003 by a former councilwoman who argued she was discriminated against by borough leaders after she applied for a municipal position, according to legal documents made public last week.
Local Republican leaders won a court ruling in 2005 determining the borough had to release the terms of the settlement with Darlene Pinto, but the documents were not provided until Wednesday after GOP officials continued to press their case, said Bob Jones, local GOP chairman.
"Why would they fight so hard and long to keep the settlement from the public?" Jones said in a statement. "The only possible answer is that they were trying to keep their misdeeds hidden until after the upcoming election."
Pinto filed the lawsuit in April 2003 contending she was discriminated against by borough officials and members of the local Democratic party when she applied to become the principal cashier in the tax collector's office. Pinto said borough leaders initially encouraged her to apply, but she was later denied the position because she was a single mother. ” (Adarlo, Star-Ledger)
“Capping municipal spending is the dominant issue in the Montville Township Committee race, but the Democrats and Republicans disagree on how best to do it.
Republican incumbent Art Daughtry and running mate Tim Braden are competing against Democrat Dan Grant, who served on the township committee for 15 years before losing re-election two years ago, and newcomer Michael O'Brien. The election is Nov. 6.
Daughtry and Braden want the township to continue limiting its capital improvements — big-ticket items such as road repairs and new vehicles.
They noted that the township departments requested $3.2 million for capital spending this year, and the township committee knocked that to $1.2 million. That is a trend they would like to see continue. ” (Alloway, Star-Ledger)
IN LONG HILL
“As Long Hill's planning board revisits portions of its master plan, the debate over future development in this community has become a key issue in the township's lone contested election next month.
Democrat Richard Pfluger and Republican Michael Mazzucco are competing to fill a three-year, volunteer term on the township committee. Both candidates say they want to preserve the township's semi-rural character.” (Saha, Star-Ledger)
IN MOUNT OLIVE
“After their last mayor was ousted in a recall and a council member switched parties, Mount Olive Democrats are hoping to re capture the mayor's post and nab three contested council seats in the upcoming election.
In the three-way race for mayor in this mostly Republican town, incumbent David Scapicchio is facing Democrat Richard Escobar and Independent Walter Lata.” (O’Connor, Star-Ledger)
“An upcoming property revaluation and concerns about traffic, taxes and development are among the top issues facing candidates running for the Roseland Borough Council.
Two Republicans and two Democrats are competing for two three- year seats while one Democrat and one Republican are both seeking a one-year council seat.
Diane Christiana, a Republican, is the only incumbent running for a three-year term. She and her runningmate, David Jacobs, are competing against Democrats Frank Butterfield and Glenn Villacari.
Joe Rolli, a Democrat who was appointed to finish out a one-year term, is seeking an additional year on the council against Republican John Duthie. ” (Moore, Star-Ledger)