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Corzine in Iowa without Clinton, Weinberg formally lets Molinelli nomination proceed, Rooney considers retirement, former NH Gov has business skills like Corzine.


OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Gov. Jon Corzine came to Iowa yesterday to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and found himself in, of all places, a diner.

Save for the grain silos marking farms on the highway into town, Corzine could have been in any of a number of ham-and-egg joints along Route 1 in New Jersey. But here he was in a small town 60 miles east of Des Moines, urging mid-morning patrons at the Smokey Row Coffee Shop to come out for Clinton at the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and bring their friends.

Corzine had been looking for ward to a whirlwind day of retail politicking with Clinton — but the candidate decided instead to spent the day in New Hampshire, where the latest polls showed her losing ground.

Making his first-ever political trip to Iowa, Corzine soldiered on in the swirling December snow, escorted by a couple of young aides from Clinton's local staff.

If the governor was disappointed at missing out on the crowds and the national media attention that a visit with Clinton would have generated, he wasn't about to stir up controversy by saying so.

"I saw her Tuesday night in Washington and I knew she wasn't going to be here," he said, and called his day of chats and handshakes "interesting and kind of fun." (Howlett, Star-Ledger)



State Sen. Loretta Weinberg formally withdrew her block on the reappointment of Bergen Prosecutor John Molinelli on Thursday in exchange for a commitment from him to depoliticize the hiring of his next chief of detectives.

Weinberg said she met privately Thursday morning with Molinelli and secured a promise that the person he chooses to fill the vacant post of chief of detectives — the highest-ranking police officer in the county — would not be someone from the "inner circles" of the Democrats' "political clubhouse."

The Teaneck Democrat also requested that the eventual hire not hold any employment outside of his law-enforcement duties in the Prosecutor's Office. The previous chief of detectives, Michael Mordaga, who retired in June, had simultaneously had a side business for 20 years providing security for private companies.

"Those two commitments were given to me," Weinberg said……….

Weinberg said that after the meeting she drafted a letter to Sen. John Adler, D-Camden County, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the body responsible for vetting Molinelli's reappointment, outlining the deal.

"I passed it on to the Judiciary Committee chair so that he would know that he is free to question Mr. Molinelli in public about any of these things," Weinberg said. "That, of course, makes his commitment public." (Carmiel, Bergen Record)


After serving in the Legislature since 1983, Republican Assemblyman John Rooney calls himself the Dean of the Assembly, having been there longer than any other current member.

But a combination of health issues and weariness of the way he says business is done in Trenton today has led Rooney to consider retirement, even after he won a solid victory in last month’s hotly contested election. Rooney, who at 68 is the youngest of the three 39th district legislators, will evaluate his political future after undergoing hip replacement surgery later this month. Depending on how his recovery goes, he may decide to retire early or not to seek another term in 2009.

Reflecting on his legislative record over the last 25 years, Rooney admitted that the current state of Trenton politics had him dispirited. And he had already been dealt a painful blow in 2006, after a well-funded Democrat tossed him out of the Northvale’s mayor’s office – a seat that he had held from 1979-1986, and again from 1991 until his defeat.

“It was a lot different then. It wasn’t all about money,” said Rooney about the Assembly when he started there in 1983. “You did things for the right reasons. Today it’s all about money. It’s about the lobbyists, the pay to play stuff.”(Friedman,



They belong to different parties, but New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Bensonboth succeeded in business, enough to convince the right people that if they could make millions, they could reform state government.

Each came into office on a wave of good feeling forhis business acumen, and before too long each began to hear the criticism thathis business smarts couldn't compensate forlack of political skill. In Benson's case, that lack proved politically fatal.

The Republican loggedone two-year term before being defeated in 2004 by current Gov. John Lynch, and weathering the editorial blows on his way out that he didn't campaign hard enough and maybe didn't want it badly enough. Now in private life again in his adopted state, Benson,53, who grew up in Chatham Township, New Jersey,admits he was out of synch in the world of state politics, but doesn't have any regrets. He never wanted to make a career out of it anyway.

In fact, that's the problem, in his view. Too many people use politics as a meal ticket, and are full-time gamesmen.

"When you go in and you didn't work your way up the ladder, there are inevitably people – elected officials – who are unhappy because you jumped in line," Benson told "When you have another job, when you've made your own way and you're financially independent, and you didn't grow up in politics, you don't understand the political mentality."(Pizarro,



Democratic State Committee Chairman Joseph Cryan said today that the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton's is hardly in trouble.

"I think she's in a lull right now, which is all part of the ebb and flow of a political campaign," said Cryan, who delivered the opening remarks at a ceremony last spring when Gov. Jon Corzine, Cryan and other New Jersey Democratsofficially endorsed Clinton.

Polls in Iowa with less than a month to
go before the Democratic primary there show establishment candidate Clinton in a statistical tie with Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. In New Hampshire, a Washington Post/ABC Poll places herjust six points ahead of Obama.

No problem, said Cryan.

"Three things with her," said the state committee chairman, "Financial resources, name recognition and experience."(Pizarro,



Former Hoboken Mayor Steve Cappiello was arrested Wednesday night and charged with driving while intoxicated after a car accident, police reports said.

Cappiello, 84, was driving on Fourth Street near Park Avenue at about 8:45 p.m. when he struck a car being driven by an undercover detective for the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, police said.

The detective was waiting at a stop sign when he was hit, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.

Neither the detective nor Cappiello was injured in the accident, though the former mayor later complained of chest pains and was taken to Hoboken University Medical Center.

"I believe there was no significant damage to either vehicle," said Hoboken Police Capt. James Fitzsimmons. (Clark, Jersey Journal)



WASHINGTON TWP.: Mayor Kevin Walsh said he plans to plead not guilty to simple assault charges stemming from an altercation with a woman in his home, according to authorities and court records.

Walsh, 42, was scheduled to appear in municipal court last night, but the case has been transferred to another court, he confirmed last night. The mayor assaulted the woman on Nov. 24 "by grabbing her throat and arms while trying to force her to the floor," according to records.

Walsh blamed his behavior on his diabetes, contending he had a diabetic seizure that day and that's why he was aggressive.

"My blood-sugar level was at 20. It is supposed to be 120," he said, noting his lashing out was uncontrollable. "This is not an assault. This is a medical issue."

Walsh was re-elected last month to his second three-year term. Lawyer counterattacks. (Star-Ledger)


State Sen.-elect James Whelan is exploring options that would put the state in control of development in Atlantic City.

In an interview Thursday with The Press of Atlantic City, Whelan, D-Atlantic, said Atlantic City government – with its string of corruption-related resignations in the mayor's office and City Council – has been too unstable to be left in charge of the city's long-term planning and development.

"The people of Atlantic City deserve better," said Whelan, who served as mayor of Atlantic City from 1990 to 2001.

"It's not about any one individual. It's about stability and oversight. The bottom line is we want development to occur in an orderly way and that hasn't always been the case here."

Whelan discussed his idea with Gov. Jon S. Corzine the day before Thanksgiving and asked the Office of Legislative Services to compile a list of options for allowing more state involvement in Atlantic City government. Whelan spoke with Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans about his plans for an hour Tuesday.

Both Whelan and Evans described the conversation as cordial, but the two clearly have different ideas about how the state can help Atlantic City. (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)


When it comes to the drug war, New Jersey is among the most ferocious fighters in the country, jailing huge numbers of nonviolent offenders on mandatory sentences.

It hasn't worked. Every prosecutor in the state wants to reform the laws so we can divert more addicts into treatment and save the prison cells for violent criminals. So does the attorney general, the governor, and every blue-ribbon panel that's looked at it.

But the state Senate, following the lead of Senate President Richard Codey, is standing squarely in the way of reform. And that's not likely to change, according to several sources in the Senate, Assembly, and senior ranks of the Corzine administration.

"It's as dead as dead can be," said one Democratic senator, who preferred not to be named because he didn't want to step on Codey's toes.

Count this reform as a casualty of the poisonous way we play politics. Senators know that they could be lampooned in 30-second commercials as soft-headed liberals who want to surrender control of our streets to the drug lords. Yes, some opponents are no doubt sincere. But others are just scared.

"It's all about the politics," says Sen. Bernard Kenny, a supporter of reform. "You'd have to spend your whole election campaign trying to explain yourself on this. Most people are going to bow to that reality and just not touch it." (Moran, Star-Ledger)


At one time, Ralph Jeffers recalled, the New Jersey Pearl Harbor Survivors Association had nearly 400 active members. Today, that number is less than 40 and dwindles every year, said Jeffers, the association's president. "

We had . . . three chapters in New Jersey," said Jeffers, 87, a Navy veteran who was aboard the USS Curtiss the morning of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. "We'll be down t
o one."

As the nation remembers the 66th anniversary of the surprise attack on the American Pacific fleet, one of the most momentous events in the nation's history and the one that drew the United States into World War II, the remaining veterans who were there on that sunny Sunday morning are doing what they can to keep its memory alive and pay tribute to those who were killed. It's a task that becomes all the more important, say Jeffers and others, as the number of eyewitnesses grows ever smaller.

Arthur M. Goodstone, a Marine veteran living in Old Bridge, said he was surprised to hear there were that many New Jersey survivors alive.

"I assume there are quite a few who are too ill to show up (at commemorative events)," said Goodstone, 85. (Shweiger, Asbury Park Press)



With a third of New Jersey bridges considered either obsolete or deficient, state legislators yesterday moved to create a bridge safety research program meant to prevent a collapse similar to the one that killed 13 people in Minnesota.

A recent state report on the 6,400 large bridges in New Jersey found 4,200 bridges in good condition, but 1,500 obsolete bridges and about 700 deficient bridges. The report was ordered by Gov. Corzine following the Aug. 1 collapse along I-35W in Minneapolis. Another report estimated the state would have to spend $13.6 billion in the next 10 years to fix its bridges.

Another report estimated the state would have to spend $13.6 billion in the next 10 years to fix its bridges.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski proposed having Rutgers University create a program to study bridge degradation, improved design methods, and new methods for building, testing and repairing state bridges.

His bill would provide $500,000 to start the program and at least $1 million more in coming years to keep it running.

"Preparation now will help prevent catastrophic failures in the future," said Wisniewski (D., Middlesex). (Hester, AP)




Four days before the State Senate is to vote on a bill that would make New Jersey the first state in a generation to abolish the death penalty, the parents of the young girl whose rape and murder led to Megan’s Law urged legislators to oppose the measure.


Capital punishment advocates were hopeful that the entreaty on Thursday by the parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, would help sway some undecided legislators in their favor. The Kankas’ daughter Megan was abducted, raped and strangled 13 years ago by a man who now sits on New Jersey’s death row.

The bill’s approval in the General Assembly, where Democrats have a 50-to-30 majority, is widely seen as certain. But its fate in the Senate, which is more evenly divided, could come down to a handful of votes. The bill will go to the full Senate on Monday, and the Assembly is scheduled to vote later next week.

In a letter dated Thursday and sent to all 120 legislators, Mr. and Mrs. Kanka harshly criticized the findings of the state’s Death Penalty Study Commission, which recommended a year ago that capital punishment be abolished. And they asked legislators not to decide the issue themselves, but instead to allow New Jersey voters to decide in a referendum.

“The inmates currently on death row are the worst of the worst in our society, and to offer them the opportunity of life is a disgrace,” the letter said. “No one on that commission had the right to make any recommendation regarding the life or death of any death row inmate.” (Peters, New York Times)


A committee on racial profiling appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine wants municipal police cruisers outfitted with dashboard cameras and officers to keep detailed records of motor vehicle stops to protect minority drivers on local roads, according to two members of the panel.

The proposals, which could cost tens of millions of dollars, are part of a report to be submitted to the governor today that recommends the State Police be removed from federal oversight after eight years of internal reforms.

While the state's effort to eradicate racial profiling has focused on the State Police, civil rights groups have long suspected that local police also target motorists based solely on the color of their skin. Corzine last year asked the panel to look at ways to help local agencies prevent racial profiling.

The committee of 21 law enforcement and civil rights experts will suggest that measures taken by the State Police to reduce profiling should also be used by local police. (Hepp, Star-Ledger)



Legislation aimed at putting dollars behind the state's plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas blamed for global warming was endorsed by an Assembly panel Thursday, after concessions were made to environmentalists who at first complained the legislation was too weak.

The measure, which is fast-tracked for approval before the legislative session expires in a month, couples with the Global Warming Response Act passed this summer that sets a goal of reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent of 2006 levels by 2050.

"Now the question becomes: What is the most effective way to achieve reductions?" said Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, D-Somerset, whose proposal would allow for credits taken from energy producers that exceed their reduction goals to be auctioned off by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Those credits could be bought by companies not meeting the goals. Proceeds from the sales would be used to promote cleaner and more efficient energy and things such as forest stewardship aimed to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

"You tax the dirty power and you use that money to get more clean energy,&quo
t; said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey director of the Sierra Club, who was opposed to the bill until Assembly members made last-minute changes. (Volpe, Gannett)



TRENTON — Police union officials yesterday disputed allegations that their organizations are harassing Police Director Joseph Santaigo and orchestrating an attempt to force him to comply with the city's residency ordinance.

Officials of the department's two police unions said they would contact their attorneys because of two days of allegations from Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and Santiago.

The unions' response marked the latest development in a continuing battle over Santiago, who is resisting a city councilman's call to move into Trenton because he says his own officers are behind repeated harassment. Palmer has given him a waiver to live outside the city.

Santiago told The Times he has received unspecified threats at his Morris County home, including phone calls and unstamped letters in his mailbox, and his wife received pornography at her work e-mail in Newark.

He also said he suspects Trenton police officers have followed him and that he doesn't believe his work e-mail is secure. Palmer told city council Tuesday that the unions are to blame for the threats. (Shea, Trenton Times)



TOMS RIVER — Will fewer tourists come to the Jersey Shore if New Jersey shuts its visitor welcome stations at the Delaware Water Gap and the Delaware Memorial Bridge?

Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said the Corzine administration plan to shut them to save $110,000 a year "will have an impact on Ocean County. It will put the industry in jeopardy."

He urged the state Department of Transportation to reconsider the decision because information on all the state's attractions, including the Shore resorts, are distributed to visitors who stop at the welcome stations.

"It's very shortsighted by the Department of Transportation," Vicari insisted.

In Ocean County, he said, tourism is a $3.2 billion industry that creates 65,000 jobs.

While he was at it, Vicari scored a proposal to reduce the drug-free zones around schools from 1,000 feet to 200 feet.(Bennet, Asbury Park Press)


The chairman of a key state Assembly committee says he will hold a hearing next week on a bill to cut the size of county tax boards in all 21 counties, but wants to put off considering deleting health and pension benefits for tax board members until the next legislative session.

Assemblyman Jerry Green (D- Union), who chairs the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee, said it would be better to consider the merit of pension and health benefits for all part-time state and county government boards and agencies rather than focus on just tax commissioners.

"We need to look at the whole issue, come up with a policy for all boards," said Green. "Providing those benefits used to be a way to get people to serve on those boards, but I think times have changed."

Green said it is an issue that should be considered by Gov. Jon Corzine, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) and other legislative leaders.

However, Green is ready to move on the measure to reduce tax boards to pre-2005 levels, which could save an estimated $1 million annually. His committee will hear the issue on Monday and Green has joined as a sponsor of the bill with original Republican sponsors, Assemblyman Michael Doherty (R- Warren) and Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth). (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)


Rutgers president Richard McCormick called yesterday for a rapid re-examination of the finances of a stalled football stadium expansion, suggesting the university's Board of Governors could approve the project as soon as February.

"This project to enlarge the stadium, which is so warranted by the success of Greg Schiano and the program, is still on track," McCormick said. "We remain optimistic that with the support of the Rutgers University community and the people of New Jersey, we will move forward."

McCormick's statements, delivered at the Board of Governors' regularly scheduled meeting yesterday, came a day after Gov. Jon Corzine and state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) promised to raise $30 million from private sources to help finance the $100 million project. The university plans to borrow the remaining $70 million.

That commitment resuscitated a project that appeared to be on life support a week ago when Corzine pulled state support for adding 13,000 seats, including 900 premium club seats, and an entertainment club for high-priced ticket-holders. (Futterman, Star-Ledger)



The 300,000 New Jerseyans who drive off-road vehicles, such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, would face harsh penalties for riding them in state parks under a bill pushed forward Thursday by Assembly legislators.

The proposal was endorsed by environmentalists who contend the vehicles are destroying pristine areas of state parks and endangering park staff and visitors.

Gylla MacGregor of the New Jersey Audobon Society said she's witnessed people riding through the Pinelands without regard.

"I've seen ATVs ride right through habitats, pulling up timbers that we put in place and riding right over where the snakes are," she said. (Hester, AP)


The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held the first public hearings yesterday afternoon on plans to increase tolls on its bridges and tunnels and fares on PATH trains.

Only eight people attended the 5 p.m. hearing in Newark; several were representing union or transportation advocacy groups.

The Port Authority last month proposed hiking cash tolls at its Hudson River and Staten Island crossings from $6 to $8. EZ-Pass discounts during peak hours would be eliminated under the proposal. PATH fares would jump from $1.50 to $2.

Port Authority officials said the increases, the first since 2001, are necessary to help pay for a number of critical long-term projects over the next decade, including a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan.

Another hearing will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Hudson County Community College in the Scott Ring Room, 161 Newkirk St. (Newhouse)


A $100,000 payment to a Hunterdon County woman will end a longstanding feud between her and her former fellow school board members — as long they all abide by certain rules.

The most stringent stipulation, made official by an agreement dismissing a federal civil suit Wednesday, requires former Union Township school board member Barri Beck and current school board member James Chiego to stay away from each other. Chiego had accused Beck of trying to run over his daughter with her SUV in 2006.

The other rules make sure Beck and the school board have little or no contact and follow four years of the parties slinging ethics charges and legal actions at each other. The two sides agreed to behave if they pass each other, stating "that no gestures will be made, no photographs or videos will be taken, no horns will be sounded, no words will be spoken."

There also are strict orders against making public comment on the deal, even to reporters.

"Believe me, I'd love to, but we're not supposed to," Beck said when she answered the phone last night. (Ortega, Star-Ledger)


A show cause hearing is set for Dec. 19 in regard to the recount in the Nov. 6 township committee election that left incumbent Democrat Albert Beverly Sr. just five votes behind newcomer Republican Patrick Conahey Sr.

During the hearing, the parties involved in the recount will have to explain why the recount should, or should not, take place, according to officials at the Cumberland County Courthouse.

Superior Court Judge Richard Geiger will preside over the hearing.

David Wald, a spokesman with the state attorney general's office, said Thursday a show cause hearing is not unusual when requests for recounts are made.

He also said he did not know of a deadline for when the recount would need to be completed.

"I do know there was a deadline for seeking the recount," he said. "Practically, the deadline would be when they're due to be sworn into office." (Hamm, Bridgeton News)



Local residents should expect some changes in their municipal government next year when Republicans officially take control of Township Committee.

But even though the reorganization meeting is less than a month away, Republicans aren't waiting to see who they could appoint to local panels.

Township Clerk Joan Anderson sent a notice recently asking any residents who are interested in serving on the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Historical Commission, Municipal Utilities Authority, Industrial Commission, Environmental Commission, Community Education-Recreation Advisory Board and the Veterans Advisory Board to send in their resumes by 4 p.m. Wednesday.



The Township Committee is retooling its ordinance regulating political signs in an effort to control "sight pollution."

The proposed ordinance would allow signs to be posted 45 days prior to an election through seven days after elections, with no more than one identical sign per every 100 feet. It also would permit only one sign per every 10 feet. (Williams, Asbury Park Press)

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