Today’s news from

Singh used clerk as a driver, SCI report details lobbyists’ roles in colleges, Moran on Karcher v. Beck, Booker and James embrace at Prudential Center opening, SEC investigates Commerce Bancorp.


“A clerk in her office drove former state ratepayer advocate Seema Singh to events such as gala receptions on New York's Upper East Side, Asian cultural celebrations and an event with India's prime minister in Washington, according to a review of travel vouchers from 2003 through 2005.

Singh, now a Democratic candidate for state Senate, said the employee accompanied her to events to help with presentations and that they traveled in one car to save money. In instances that did not directly involve the ratepayer advocate's office, such as an Indian film festival at Lincoln Center and an India Day parade in Jersey City, Singh said she was attending as a representative of then-Gov. James E. McGreevey.

"When I went on these trips they were all on official work," Singh said.

As ratepayer advocate, Singh had a state vehicle and was chided in a 2006 review by the state auditor for using a clerk as a "chauffeur."

"We recommend that the division hire employees under titles appropriate for the duties to be performed," the audit said…………

Singh defended the arrangement at the time of the audit, writing that the clerk was not a chauffeur but accompanied her in order to "drastically reduce the amount of travel expenses." He also helped set up presentations and hand out materials, Singh said.

She reiterated that statement in a phone interview Thursday. Singh added that for trips such as those into New York, Corro helped cut expenses by picking her up and dropping her off, saving the cost of parking.

Reimbursements for Corro, according to documents obtained by Gannett, show that he received about $3,492 for miles, tolls and parking over 18 months, and they indicate that Singh had a state worker sometimes go out of his way to meet her at home and transport her to and from events. Several of the events were held on weekends.” (Tamari, Gannett)



“Lobbyists hired by New Jersey's colleges and universities do more than just advise academics on how to navigate government bureaucracy and secure state and federal grants, a report by the State Commission of Investigation released Thursday shows.

They also advise them which reporters at The Record to stonewall, which Bergen County legislators hold grudges "for a long, long time," and how to attend a fund-raiser at the racetrack when the bursar's office won't cut the check.

The SCI used subpoenas to get a rare look at the interactions between public universities and the lobbyists they paid nearly $11 million between 2001 and 2006. It did not say any laws were broken, but did call for tougher restrictions, including a bar on political activity and fund raising by university lobbyists……..



“For those romantic souls who hoped that women candidates would bring a more civilized tone to New Jersey politics, the news is not good.

One of the hottest races this year is between two women in Monmouth County — Sen. Ellen Karcher, a Democrat, and Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, a Republican who is trying to unseat her.

It's the Republican Party's best shot at picking up a Senate seat. So Democrats are throwing globs of money into it and should wind up with a spending advantage of about 3-1. Karcher has bought net work TV time and has hired the top consultants in the field.

Beck, who was awarded a track scholarship at Boston College in her day, is trying to make up for that by lacing up her jogging shoes most nights and knocking on doors. She's up to about 10,000 homes by now, she says. "I don't want to be corny," she says.

"But I really do love it."

Both these women are known in Trenton as decent people. Spend time with either of them, and you come away confident that they have the public interest at heart.

And that brings us to the big irony in this race — each woman is accusing the other of being the perfect sleazeball. ” (Moran, Star-Ledger)



“The man most responsible for making Newark's Prudential Center arena a reality sat in the third row of yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sharpe James, the city's former mayor who has been indicted on federal corruption charges, wasn't given a speaking role, didn't get to hold the giant scissors — and when Gov. Jon Corzine and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek publicly thanked dignitaries at the event by name, neither mentioned James.

But when James' political rival, Mayor Cory Booker, stepped to the microphone, he immediately singled out James, saying it was the former mayor's swagger, determination and "strength of a southside bulldog" that made the project possible.

"If it wasn't for my predecessor, Mayor Sharpe James, Sen. Sharpe James, we would not be here today," said Booker, who was critical of the arena during his campaign for mayor last year.

James arrived alone, wearing a black suit and red Devils tie. Appearing in good spirits and visibly thinner, he joked that he wanted to apply for a job as the backup goalie for the Devils.

"I can still skate and jump around and do tricks on the ice," James said before entering the building. After the ribbon was cut, James and Booker shook hands, then embraced in a full bear hug.

James' appearance was not the only bit of political melodrama that unfolded at yesterday's ceremony, held in the Lafayette Street atrium.

Corzine, who originally did not plan to attend, did an about-face and sat stiffly next to Booker dur ing the festivities.

Booker and Corzine went out of their way to praise each other. Cor zine used the word "partner" to describe the relationship between the state and Newark at least three times in his brief remarks.

"I joke all the time to my staff that he is the Batman to my Robin, the Crockett to my Tubbs, the Starsky to my Hutch, and sometimes the Lenny to my Squiggy," Booker said of Corzine. ” (Wang, Star-Ledger)

Mr. James served as mayor from 1985 to 2006, a stretch marked by lean economic times for this long-suffering city. It was a period during which Mr. James was Newark’s loudest cheerleader.

For years, he said that a linchpin for economic development here would be the construction of a professional sports arena. It was a wildly unpopular idea among most state officials, particularly after the New Jersey Nets decided to take their basketball team to Brooklyn, leaving the Devils hockey team as the only professional sports organization that would use the facility.

any said the arena, which cost about $375 million to build, was too expensive; others questioned why a sport whose players and fans are overwhelmingly white would come to a city that is predominantly black and Hispanic. Still others insisted that Newark had too much crime for spectators to venture into for evening sporting events.

Still, Mr. James championed the project and pushed it along with an audacious bit of fiscal sleight-of-hand in 2004, when he said that the city would help pay for the arena with $210 million it had earned from leasing the land for Newark Liberty International Airport to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Yet on a chilly, rainy morning, when Mr. James’s quest ended at the ribbon-cutting for the Prudential Center, he seemed hardly able to enjoy it………

It was not until Mr. Booker spoke, about a half-hour into the program, that the former mayor was mentioned. Mr. Booker, who all through his campaign had spurned the notion that a city awash in red ink should finance a costly arena, complimented his predecessor for having the swagger and tenacity of a “South Side bulldog” in seeing the project through.

With that, Mr. James rose to uneven applause and tipped his Devils cap toward Mr. Booker. ………..

As the former mayor left the ceremony, Cassandra Dock, a Newark resident who was walking by, burst into applause.

“Go, Sharpe,” she said. “This is your building.”



“Republican Senate challenger Clara Nibot assailed Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, on Thursday for seven contributions he made in 2005 and 2006 to the political action committee of eight-time presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.

Nibot pointed to allegations of anti-Semitism against LaRouche and called on her opponent, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, to distance herself from her running mate's actions.

"He's giving to an individual whose anti-Semitism is more than clear," Nibot said. "He shouldn't be representing the 37th District."

Johnson said he gave the money, which totaled $1,850 between August 2005 and November 2006, to the organization to help it expose corruption in President Bush's administration.

He said he has heard the accusations but has never seen anything to convince him that LaRouche is prejudiced. He also said the young person who first approached him in 2005 on behalf of the group was Jewish.

"They had a mission at the time to expose the culprits in the Bush administration," Johnson said. He said he stopped giving money last year because he felt that the mission had been accomplished……..

Weinberg kept her comments brief Thursday.

"Gordon Johnson is my running mate," she said. "I have a lot of respect for him, but I don't always agree with everything he does."

LaRouche has a network of youths called the LaRouche Youth Movement, whose members can sometimes be seen soliciting donations on the street and disrupting political debates.

Johnson said he was "impressed" with LaRouche's grass-roots effort and the way he had managed to inspire youths. He acknowledged LaRouche's controversial persona but said that did not necessarily mean his positions are without merit.

"I find LaRouche to be kind of an extremist, kind of an outsider, so to speak," Johnson said. "Just because he's different doesn't mean he doesn't have some good ideas."” (Ax, Bergen Record)



“Commerce Bancorp Inc. announced the bank is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, moments after reporting profits plunged in the third quarter due to changes in investments and bad loans to residential developers.

In a conference call with investors Thursday, only three weeks after Commerce announced it would be acquired by Toronto-based TD Bank Financial Group, Commerce CEO Bob Falese said the probe focuses on real estate dealings between Commerce insiders and their relatives, as did an earlier investigation by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal bank regulator.

"Commerce is cooperating fully with the SEC," he said.

The inquiry won't derail the $8.5 billion deal to buy Commerce, said TD spokesman Neil Parmenter, who said the Canadian company was aware of the SEC action.

The bank's directors agreed to the sale three months after squeezing out Vernon W. Hill II, the CEO and chairman who founded Commerce in 1973.

Bank spokesman David Flaherty did not respond to a request for comment on whether Hill's wife Shirley also would stop working for Commerce. Mrs. Hill received more than $50 million in the past decade for design services.

In the conference call, Falese said the bank would not comment on the investigation. Management also wouldn't discuss the TD deal or the bank's plan to sell its insurance division to its CEO, George Norcross III, a controversial and influential figure in New Jersey's Democratic Party.” (Smith, Courier-Post)



“Neither of Hudson County's two public colleges was a focus of a scathing state report about the operations of public colleges released yesterday. But the county did not go unmentioned.

The State Commission of Investigation report blisters the administration of former Gov. James McGreevey for what it claims were attempts to pull plenty of strings and install Bayonne's Joseph V. Doria Jr. as president of Ramapo College in Bergen County.

Last month, Gov. Jon Corzine tapped Doria, Bayonne's former mayor and state senator and a former Assembly speaker, to head the state's Department of Community Affairs.

According to the report by the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation, by November 2004 an 18-member presidential search committee at the college had narrowed the list of candidates to 80 and was conducting interviews to establish a field of five or six finalists.

Doria, who spent nearly three decades at St. Peter's College in Jersey City as an administrator and adjunct professor, had never applied for the job.

But after McGreevey officials reconstituted the board – by declining to reappoint certain individuals – the stage was set for a Doria candidacy.

Gail Brady, chair of the Ramapo board, told the Commission she was contacted by the Governor's Office and told the presidential committee was "illegally constituted," since the search panel's chair term had expired, the report states.

With that individual replaced, a decision was made to invite Doria for an interview, the report states.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)



Anne Milgram is going to be busy in the first district. Just before state Senator Nicholas Asselta and his Assembly running mates were scheduled to hold a press conference asking the Attorney General to investigate Democratic wheeling of campaign funds in the first district in 2005, Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Wilfredo Caraballo called on Milgram to investigate whether first district Republicans transferred money between their own campaign accounts to circumvent contribution limits.

The Republicans seized on a Tuesday investigative report from the Press of Atlantic City that showed the Camden County Democratic Committee circumventing campaign contribution caps two years ago by donating $400,000 to the Cape May Democratic Organization, which then went directly to an ad blitz in the Philadelphia television market on behalf of the Assembly campaigns of Jeff Van Drew and Nelson Albano.

The Camden County Democrats’ donation would have been limited to $32,800 had they given directly to the candidates.

State Sen. Nicholas Asselta and his Assembly running mates Norris Clark and Michael Donohue said 2005 donations were illegal because language in the state’s Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act states that “persons making contributions to the county committee of a political party have a right to expect their money will be used, for the most part, to support candidates for elected office who will most directly represent the interest of that county.”

Camden County, the Republicans argue, does not represent the interests of Cape May.

“We’re calling for a legitimate investigation here, because the first district voters are being influenced, or are trying to be influenced, by a tremendous amount of money from an outside sources,” said Asselta.

But the Democrats managed to strike first, with Caraballo issuing a press release that called the Republicans’ complaint the “height of hypocrisy.”

All three Republicans, had breceived maximum contributions of $8,200 each by the New Jersey Builders Association PAC to their individual campaign funds, which the two Assembly candidates then pooled in a joint campaign fund. This, the Democrats argue, would allow Asselta to draw more from the joint campaign fund than the amount of the maximum contribution………

Asselta scoffed at the accusation that there was anything wrong with pooling campaign contributions. Instead of donating $8,200 to each of the candidates, Asselta argued, the PAC could have just as easily donated $24,600 to their joint account.

Moreover, Asselta said, the amount of money in question paled in comparison to the $400,000 donated by Camden County Democrats in 2005.

“Once again they’re trying to change the issue from what The Atlantic City Press has discovered,” said Asselta. “Why would you waste the Attorney General’s time looking at something like that, when at least the way I interpret it is it’s the proper way of doing things?”” (Friedman,

Van Drew, a candidate for Senate, said he welcomes an attorney general review but hopes she would also look at past campaign contributions to Republicans in the 1st Legislative District. He repeated his assertion that the contributions were legal and said he and his running mates – Assemblyman Nelson Albano and Assembly candidate Matthew Milam – did nothing wrong.

I absolutely look forward to a review," Van Drew said. "I welcome and encourage it."

The Attorney General's Office did not return a call seeking comment.

The Press reported that in early November 2005 the Camden County Democrats sent two loans totaling $400,000 to the Cape May County Democrats. The money was immediately spent on advertising for the Van Drew and Albano campaign. State law limits loans from county committees to candidates who do not represent them. Loans made directly to the candidates would have been capped at $32,800.

This year, the Cape May Committee passed two $37,000 contributions from the New Jersey State Laborers PAC and the New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters directly to the Van Drew ticket. Those contributions accounted for almost all of the county committee's financial activities in the past six months, except for bill payments. The unions also donated directly to the candidates. The total donations exceeded state contribution limits by $35,000.

Republican State Committee Attorney Mark Sheridan said in a letter to Milgram that state law provides a maximum penalty of forfeiture of office if evidence shows an illegal contribution exceeding $50,000 had "significant impact" on the outcome of an election.

Asselta claimed the Camden County loan went to a final week ad blitz that "hijacked" the 2005 campaign and cost former Republican state Assemblyman Jack Gibson re-election.

"We think it's imperative that the attorney general maintain the integrity of the New Jersey campaign finance laws," Asselta said.

"The standard shouldn't be what we can get away with," Donohue added. "The standard is what the law says."



“National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole says he isn’t especially worried about New Jersey in 2008, even though Republican Congressmen will likely be playing defense in at least three districts and his party is not poised to gain a single seat.

Instead, Cole said, problems with the state legislature will eventually take a toll on the Democratic Party’s popularity, translating into future vulnerabilities.

We’ll wait and see as to who’s vulnerable and who’s not,” said Cole, during a conference call with reporters. “Honestly, over time the kind of mess in New Jersey state politics will probably give the Republicans an opening, just like when Gov. Whitman came out of the cold.”

Cole’s Democratic counterparts are openly targeting three Republican incumbents: Mike Ferguson, Jim Saxton and Frank LoBiondo. Strong contenders have already announced that they plan to run against Ferguson and Saxton, while there’s been speculation that Assemblyman/state Senate candidate Jeff Van Drew may mount a tough challenge to LoBiondo.

Cole, however, had more to say about Van Drew than about Linda Stender or John Adler, who are definitely running.

“(Van Drew) is in a legislative race now as I understand it, but he’s kind of what you want if you’re running in New Jersey,” said Cole. “He’s got a record, and if he gets in a race with LoBiondo I suspect it will be pretty intense.”

But, Cole said, LoBiondo has shown independence from the Bush Administration on key issues to the district and has support from labor.” (Friedman,



ATLANTIC CITY – If some city Democrats get their way, the resort could pick its next mayor in a special election held over Christmas week.

How's that for a Christmas gift?

"If you are selecting a nominee for the council … you have filled a vacancy in a body of servants where that person's influence is distributed among … equals," attorney and City Councilman Bruce Ward said. "I think the argument can be made that for the mayor, this is one individual who will become a chief executive, and so special elections are warranted."

The way Ward and others see it is like this:

Mayor Bob Levy resigned Oct. 10 and the city Democratic Committee met Oct. 17 and selected three potential replacements. But if council refuses to approve any of the three by its Nov. 9 deadline, Ward and others say it would automatically trigger a state law that requires mayors be replaced with special elections.

Those would be held 45 to 50 days after the deadline, or sometime between Dec. 24 and 29.

To prepare for special elections, city Democrats and Republicans would have until Nov. 26 to submit their candidates. The same deadline would apply to anyone wishing to run independently.

However, those people would only need to file petitions with enough signatures to equal 0.5 percent of the local turnout for the last state Assembly race.

Next month's elections will decide that number. But for comparison, the last elections in November 2005 saw 7,912 resort residents cast their ballots, meaning the magic number to run for mayor would be just 40 signatures.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)



ATLANTIC CITY – It was experience versus change at a candidates' forum in a Chelsea basement Thursday night.

The need to keep experience in next month's election as the city undergoes billions of dollars in development while handling a long overdue tax revaluation was represented by current City Councilmen Tim Mancuso, Dennis Mason and George Tibbitt.

Their challengers Ytit Chauhan, Steve Layman, Ernest Coursey and Michael Toland stressed the need for change, addressing the same issues while citing last year's council corruption scandal and other ongoing embarrassments.

Tibbitt stressed his city roots and said council needs to continue the projects it started. He said he is worried about Bader Field. "The last thing I want to see is our crown jewel get stolen," he said.

Coursey cited his 11½ years on City Council before taking a top position with former Mayor Lorenzo Langford's administration and said his experience counts. "Coursey cares," Coursey said. "Coursey wants to give dedicated services to the city."

Toland said he had served in government for 31 years and his candidacy is "to give people the choice to do right" instead of having the election determined in the low-turnout primaries. Next year's long-overdue revaluation means "Armageddon is next August when the tax bills hit," he said. He said he was needed to make tough budgetary decisions.” (Harper, Pres of Atlantic City)



“Middlesex County Democratic Organization officials are reviewing a $28,500 donation from a Los Angeles law firm after two partners in the firm pleaded guilty to federal racketeering and conspiracy charges.

The county organization received the donation in 2004 from Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman. The firm, which also has offices in New York and specializes in class-action litigation, is a major contributor to the Democratic Party nationwide.

County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo said party officials were examining the donation. The funds were spread to local candi dates from the county organization.

"It went to a lot of people," Spicuzzo said. "I don't know how we could decide to turn it back or anything."

The year before the donation to the county organization, the law firm contributed $12,500 to the state Democratic organization and $1,000 to Assemblyman Joseph Egan, a Democrat from New Brunswick.

Richard McGrath, a spokesman for the state party, said there are no plans to return the money from Milberg Weiss.

"While we don't condone illegal behavior, those contributions were made four election cycles ago," McGrath said. "It's a distant memory, off the books for a long time." ” (Walsh, Star-Ledger)



“An explanation of the $450 million state bond question on whether to fund stem cell research will remain as worded on the Election Day ballot, according to an appellate decision scheduled to be released today.

A lawyer for the Legal Center for Defense of Life, which argued the ballot wording was incomplete, said Thursday that the group is considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"We're disappointed," said Bertram Goltz, the group's lawyer. "That's all I can say."

At issue is whether the state should borrow $450 million to finance grants for stem cell research. Advocates say it holds potential for treating a number of medical conditions, including Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries. Opponents say such research is immoral, charging that it could lead to human cloning.

Goltz argued the interpretive statement approved by the Legislature for the Nov. 6 ballot fails to inform voters that cells would be harvested from human embryos. The group had 15 other objections to language used in the explanation. ” (Fallon, Bergen Record)



“The Democratic candidates for the state's 11th Legislative District are lying when they say they will not support any plan to sell off state roads such as the Garden State Parkway, their Republican challengers said Wednesday.

Expanding on a flier that hit district homes over last weekend, a spokesman for the Republican candidates — Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Monmouth, Mary Pat Angelini and David Rible — said in an e-mailed statement that they "have no reason to believe their opponents would go against the governor and their party bosses and oppose the sale of state assets."”

"We believe our opponents, if given a chance, will bow to the governor's will and support the "sale' of the Parkway even though it represents selling out the interests of the taxpayers," the three candidates said in a separate e-mail statement.

Paid for by the state Republican Party, the double-sided, full-color flier features the headline that a vote for the Democratic candidates — John Villapiano, who is running against Kean for the Senate, and Assembly candidates John Napolitani and John Pirnat — "is a vote to sell the Parkway and raise tolls."

The flier also notes that "Dave Rible and Mary Pat Angelini have never voted to raise a tax" without mentioning that the two have never held elective office. (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)

“Entrenched behind their party lines, the six candidates in the 30th District state Legislature races present two sides to each issue, yet often they are of the same coin.

Each criticizes the other for running for dual offices, but both are doing it. They have different strategies for lowering property taxes while agreeing unanimously that it needs to happen. The equine industry needs to be saved, political corruption needs to end.

Asked where he disagreed with his Democratic opponent Jeff Williamson, Assemblyman Joseph Malone III paused, then said, "If I had any idea what he was talking about, I could disagree."

As it turns out, they are mostly talking about the same things.

Williamson, who ran for the Assembly and lost in 2005, has repeatedly branded his other opponent Assemblyman Ronald Dancer in the wrong for holding both a state legislative post and a Plumsted mayoral seat. He also claimed that Dancer, Malone and their Republican Senate colleague Robert Singer voted for keeping dual offices this year.

In addition, Singer's opponent Steven Morlino accused the senator of playing favorites with Lakewood, where he is also a committeeman, by wanting the town added to the pool of 31 Abbott school districts that receive more than half of the state education aid.

he Republican incumbents retaliated by calling their challengers hypocrites. They pointed out that Democratic Assembly candidate Sharon Atkinson was also running for the New Hanover committee and that Morlino holds a conflicting position in the Newark public schools system.

"They want to bash and criticize my two running mates but don't have the fortitude to criticize their own," Malone said.” (Patberg, Asbury Park Press)



Both the Republicans and Democrats seeking three-year seats in the state Assembly from the 26th District want to change the way state government does business.

The Democrats, Wayne Marek of Morris Plains and David Modrak of Montville, said Thursday they would be part of the change in state government begun under the administration of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, while the Republicans, incumbent Alex DeCroce of Parsippany and newcomer Jay Webber of Morris Plains, said the only way to change Trenton is to put Republicans in charge.

The four candidates spoke to the Daily Record editorial board on Thursday.

Marek, a former teacher, and Modrak, a research scientist, are first-time candidates. Webber is running for the seat vacated by Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio, who opted to run for the state Senate seat of retiring Sen. Robert Martin.

Modrak and Webber clashed momentarily over Webber's insistence at referring to Modrak's party as the "Democrat" party, mimicking President's Bush's similar reference in the State of the Union address.

State spending and property varieties were at the top of the list.” (Daigle, Daily Record)



“While two-term state Sen. Stephen Sweeney has big plans for his district, the two candidates challenging him in November believe that, after six years, it's time for a change.

Sweeney, who is attempting to secure a leadership spot in the Senate, believes that heightened status will aid his district. The 3rd District includes all of Salem County, and parts of Gloucester and Cumberland counties.

His opponents Republican candidate Mark Cimino, a lawyer from Wenonah; and independent candidate Bill Mead, a Gloucester County employee from West Deptford both believe that the power Sweeney has already obtained should be diluted.

"I think it's time to give someone else a chance," Cimino said in an editorial board meeting with the Sunbeam.

If re-elected, Sweeney, who is also Gloucester County's freeholder director, plans to continue the projects he has begun among them, working for the construction of the Port of Paulsboro and constructing two additional ports in the district.

"I envision over 12 years building three ports," said Sweeney, a West Deptford resident. ” (Graber, Today’s Sunbeam)



“In order for "Who Says You Can't Go Home" to be the official state song, a legislator needs to sponsor the motion as a bill…………

A state senator has joined the chorus of voices asking that Jon Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home" be nominated as the state's official song.

Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, who appeared before about 50 Pinelands Regional Junior High School students Thursday, had previously and independently endorsed the tune, unaware that the pupils had come up with the idea about the same time, he said. "Great minds think alike," Lesniak said.

Fourteen-year-old Amanda Spittle of Little Egg Harbor, an eighth-grader, presented Lesniak with a folder filled with signed petitions collected at the school in favor of the song.

"It would be very cool" if the measure came to be, Spittle said.”

The lawmaker said he would on Thursday night bring the matter straight to the top — not to the office of Gov. Corzine, but to Bon Jovi himself, who was scheduled to christen the Prudential Center in Newark that night with the first in a series of performances. Lesniak said he would give the students' petitions to the rock star at the concert.

For the students, Lesniak's appearance was an unexpected lesson in bipartisanship.

"I like Bruce (Springsteen) better," he said, but vowed to fight for "Who Says You Can't Go Home," noting the state Travel and Tourism office already uses it to promote New Jersey.” (Sastrowardoyo, Asbury Park Pres)



“As school boards gathered this week in Atlantic City for their annual convention, there were the usual professional workshops and vendors hawking everything from curriculum to copiers.

Dominating the gathering, though, was a sense of foreboding over the yet-to-be-revealed new formula for determining state aid to schools.

The Corzine administration is poised to present a formula designed to focus on individual students rather than districts. It is expected to help some middle-in come districts with high numbers of poor or special-needs students, while tightening the purse strings on high-spending districts in both the state's wealthiest and poorest communities.

"It's the fear of the unknown, whether you're on the high end or the low end," said Rowland Bennett, a school board member in South Orange/Maplewood. "There's a sense we can lose out on what we had, but we just don't know."” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)



“In a move hailed as a victory by the Fort Monmouth employees' union, a federal judge in Trenton yesterday refused to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the closure of the 90-year-old Army communications research center.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary L. Cooper allowed the lawsuit to move forward because the Army has yet to issue a required report assuring Congress that closing Fort Monmouth won't disrupt research on critical hardware, including de vices that protect American troops from roadside bombs.” (Woolley, Star-Ledger)



“The suddenly contested race for mayor pits a longtime incumbent against an independent candidate who's a longtime resident.

Incumbent Republican Suzanne Castleman faces independent businessman Anthony R. Trufolo Jr. on Nov. 6 for a four-year term as mayor.

Two other candidates, incumbent Councilman Stuart Van Winkle and newcomer Robert C. Neff Jr., are running uncontested for two three-year council seats.” (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)



“BRIDGETON — Those city employees who received their paychecks on Thursday found something else stuffed in the envelope they surely didn't want to see.

A notice of possible layoffs. "The mayor has requested a 4.3 (percent) increase in the tax rate to fund all present salaries and positions through (fiscal year) 2008," the notice from Business Administrator Arch Liston states.

"City council has requested a proposal for layoffs in lieu of any increases. "If the budget fails to pass as it stands, we are projecting impacts to all departments including layoffs and operating budgets. Personnel should plan accordingly."” (McCullen, Bridgeton News)



“The Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor and Borough Council agree that borough finances and property taxes are important issues.

However, the two tickets differ strongly on the state of those finances and on their assessments of how the current council has addressed the issues.” (Schweiger, Asbury Park Press)



VINELAND — City Council candidate Anthony J. Gioielli's campaign on Thursday attacked his opponent's personal voting record, saying Adam Goldstein has cast only one ballot in the decade he's been registered to vote.

Gioielli and City Council President John Barretta on Thursday evening held a press conference outside the Vineland High School 11-12 building on Chestnut Avenue.

The high school is the polling place for both Gioielli and Goldstein.

Dennis Hill, Goldstein's campaign manager, refuted Gioielli's claims Thursday night and said Goldstein last voted in the 2005 general election.

"It's an outright lie and we're going to prove it" Hill said Thursday. "Mr. Gioielli didn't check his facts out." Hill said Goldstein planned to hold a press conference today to address the questions over his voting record.

Barretta said a review of Goldstein's voting record with the Cumberland County Board of Elections shows the candidate has only voted once in the 16 primary and general elections held over the past 10 years.

Goldstein registered to vote in 1996, Barretta said.

Barretta also said voter records show Goldstein, 41, has never voted in a municipal election or a city school board election.” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)



“Spending priorities, downsizing the municipal work force and a proposal to make Ocean Gate run on wind energy give four candidates seeking first-time seats on the Borough Council plenty to talk about with voters.

"We're looking to keep improving on the current things the council is working on," said candidate Joseph Vivenzio, who's running with an eye toward joining the Republican majority. "The town's organizations are a lot of volunteers, so we have to support them."” (Moore, Asbury Park Press)



Two former running mates, now in opposite camps in their bids for re-election to the township committee, squared off Wednesday night in a debate at the town hall. Democrat Jack Hartford and newly-Republican Nicole Hagner exchanged mild barbs about each other's performance on the committee.

They sat at the table with new running mates — Democrat Deborah Nelson, a family lawyer and mediator, and Republican Robert Gallop, a civil trial attorney.” (Padmanabhan, Daily Record)




“Two Republicans and a Democrat are competing for the two open seats on the North Caldwell Borough Council. Incumbents Joe Alessi and James Campbell are seeking to return to the council and Democrat Matt Rollins is vying for a seat.

Campbell has served two terms on the council and has been a member of the recreation, public safety and public works commit tees, and the planning board. He said development within North Caldwell is one of the top issues facing the town, especially concerns over the development of the Hilltop parcel.” (Moore, Star-Ledger)

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