Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Ocean County Republicans prepare to field congressional candidate, Clean Elections program is evaluated, legislators save the best for lame duck.

 

OCEAN COUNTY WANTS SOME REPRESENTATION

At some point in the future, Ocean and Burlington county Republicans could still come together and endorse Lockheed Martin Vice President Christopher Myers as their candidate for Congress in the 3rd District.

But that won’t happen tonight, party insiders say.

Instead, when Ocean County Republicans gather at the Holiday Inn in Toms River at 6 p.m., they’ll nominate one of their own to replace Rep. Jim Saxton, who’s retiring due to health reasons.

Burlington County Republicans have pushed hard to promote Myers’ candidacy. In recent days, Myers, a 42-year-old deputy mayor from Medford, picked up the backing of Burlington County boss Glenn R. Paulsen.

On Friday, two Burlington candidates, David Norcross and Freeholder Aubrey Fenton, bowed out of the race and threw their support to Myers.

And Myers met last week with Saxton, his longtime friend, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the race.

But Ocean County Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, 56, flat-out guarantees that the Myers bandwagon will run out of gas, at least temporarily, tonight.

“I’ll bet whatever you want that Chris Myers does not win the Ocean County nomination,” Kelly said. “I would be shocked. It’s not going to happen.”(Guenther, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071210/NEWS/712100319

 

TURNOUT DROPPED IN 37 — WERE VOTERS NOT IMPRESSED BY CLARA NIBOT’S UNIQUE BRAND OF OPPOSITION RESEARCH?

It was an ambitious experiment: Provide taxpayer dollars to candidates in three legislative races to show they can run on a level playing field with no money at all from special interests.

It cost taxpayers just under $5 million: $4 million to finance the campaigns of 16 candidates and another $925,000 to publicize and administer the program.

Now that it’s over, views are sharply divided on whether New Jersey’s experiment with “clean elections” was worth it.

“It was a good investment,” said Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. “We learned enough to know we’re on the right track to making this work.”

Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Center for Competitive Politics in Arlington, Va., said all it did was “waste taxpayer money” while restricting citizens’ ability to contribute as much as they want to the candidates they support…….

Two of the districts were considered “safe” for one party: the staunchly Republican 24th in Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon counties and the solidly Democratic 37th in Bergen County. As expected, the dominant party easily won the Senate seat and two Assembly seats in each district.

But there was one key difference: In the 24th, where all six major-party candidates qualified for public money, voter turnout was up; in the 37th, where the Republicans failed to raise enough small donations to qualify, turnout dropped…….

Gregg Edwards, president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, said that shows a flaw in the clean elections program. Capping spending by the candidates, he said, “encourages independent expenditures, and independent expenditures make a campaign less transparent. We don’t know where the money’s coming from.”

Greenstein used her rescue money to make that point — calling the group attacking her “shadowy” — and she won re-election by a comfortable margin.

“When it came to me, clean elections worked,” Greenstein said.

The supposed beneficiaries of Common Sense America’s advertising, Republicans Tom Goodwin and Adam Bushman, were not happy to have it. (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-9/119726504330340.xml&coll=1

The sponsor and head cheerleader for New Jersey’s Clean Elections program, which uses public money to fund legislative campaigns, wants to see it continued, improved and expanded in the 2009 elections.

As speaker of the Assembly, Joe Roberts, D-Bellmawr, is in a good position to get these things accomplished. He promises to push for action early in the next session of the Legislature.

The Clean Elections experiment in three legislative districts this year was “a substantial success” and showed that the program deserves to survive and grow, Roberts said in an interview.

Clean Elections’ aim is to take special-interest money out of the electoral process by providing funds to candidates who agree to limit their spending and can demonstrate a base of public support by raising $400 to $800 in $10 contributions. Similar programs in Maine and Arizona have created a more level playing field and enabled a wider range of citizens to run for office, particularly women, minorities and persons of modest means.

Roberts said the improvements made to Clean Elections since the first pilot program in 2005, which flopped, led to better results this time.

“Lowering the financial threshold for participation, and making it easier for Democrats, Republicans and third-party candidates to qualify, was a big step forward,” he said. “We had 16 of 20 eligible candidates participate. It validated the faith I’ve had in the program from the very beginning.” (Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1197263629245000.xml&coll=5

 

OUTGOING LEGISLATORS ENJOY LAME DUCK FUN

Abolition of the death penalty, a new school funding formula and paid family leave are all on the Legislature’s agenda, which can only mean one thing: It’s lame-duck time.

This is the curious stretch at the end of each two-year legislative session when lawmakers, according to conventional wisdom, suddenly want to tackle the issues that were too controversial when an election was looming.

The “lame duck” label refers to outgoing lawmakers who won’t be returning for the next session, but other lawmakers may also feel more freedom to vote as they please.

“It’s the session that is furthest from any new election, the last one having just occurred and the next one being [less than] two years away, so people feel many things can be done in a lame-duck session,” said John Bennett, who was a Republican legislator for 24 years and the state Senate president in 2002 and 2003. “They’re more likely to deal with controversial issues.”

This year, there’s more attention on the lame-duck session as 29 lawmakers are leaving office on the heels of an election in which candidates spent a record $69 million. (Lu, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMzE5NDEmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

 

SCHOOL FUNDING

Wielding a mighty pair of scissors, Gov. Corzine is preparing to snip the financial link that has tied the state’s poorest schools to its wealthiest.

To his critics, the governor is about to cut a lifeline. But Corzine says he is fixing a flawed and outmoded school funding system – and that schools in low-income areas have nothing to fear.

But Corzine says he is fixing a flawed and outmoded school funding system – and that schools in low-income areas have nothing to fear.

For 17 years, New Jersey has toiled to implement perhaps the nation’s most far-reaching school-financing court edict.

In 1990, the state Supreme Court ordered New Jersey to spend as much per student in the most disadvantaged districts as it spent in the richest tier of schools.

The result has been a financial bonanza in state aid for the Camden district, as well as 30 other mostly urban districts across the Garden State. (McCoy, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071210_Corzine_taking_on_school_aid_formula.html

 

The state school-funding formula recently proposed by the state Department of Education calls for expanding full-day public preschool to all of the poorest 3- and 4-year-olds in the state.

But how those programs will be implemented has owners of private centers wondering if the expansion will give them an opportunity to participate or force them out of business.

“This is a real concern,” said Bill Beyers, of Barbarito and Beyers, which has operated several centers in Atlantic and Cape May counties for 30 years. “There are centers that have gone out of business or are up for sale.” (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_story/story/7521665p-7421832c.html

 

DEATH PENALTY

Once a week, the execution chamber at the New Jersey State Prison is inspected, searched and cleaned.

“It’s on standby,” explained Capt. W. J. Moleins of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Those grim formalities are about all the excitement the chamber might ever see.

The state has not executed anyone since Jan. 22, 1963, when Ralph Hudson died in the electric chair for stabbing his estranged wife.

In effect, the eight men confined to the Capital Sentence Unit are just like any other prisoners sentenced to life. But the state goes to great lengths to ensure that they are treated distinctly.

They live in their own wing, where there are two floors of cells but only enough inmates to occupy part of the first floor. They never interact with inmates in other parts of the prison.

Each time a prisoner leaves his cell, two corrections officers must be there to escort him. When a prisoner leaves to attend a court hearing, there must be five guards, an armored vehicle to transport the prisoner and second vehicle to follow. General population prisoners, however, are typically moved in a van five at a time. (Peters, New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/nyregion/10chamber.html?ref=nyregion

So remorseless was Ambrose A. Harris for raping and shooting a young Pennsylvania woman in the back of the head that he mockingly dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief as the victim’s father sobbed on the witness stand.

In 1996, a Superior Court jury sentenced Mr. Harris to die for that crime, but not before he could kill again. As he awaited the outcome of an appeal, he flattened another death row inmate’s skull by climbing on top of a stool and jumping down on the man’s head over and over until he was sure the job was finished.

For many, there is little question that Mr. Harris, 55, represents the worst that human nature is capable of — an impenitent killer who seemed to revel in the pain he inflicted.

Yet like so many violent criminals, Mr. Harris is the product of a turbulent upbringing. According to court testimony, his mother, recalling once to a social worker how she never wanted children, said that the doctor who delivered Ambrose had to throw water in her face to force her to push during labor……….

As the New Jersey Legislature prepares to decide this week whether to become the first state to repeal the death penalty since the United States Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976, Mr. Harris’s case renews focus on issues of justice and morality in the debate over capital punishment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/nyregion/10death.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin

 

WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GUY?

Two is the limit for the number of liquor licenses grocery stores and other large retailers can hold in New Jersey. But that cap could be eliminated under twin bills in the state Senate and Assembly, which could make it easier in the future for people to pick up beer, wine and other drinks while buying food.

That proposal has independent liquor store workers such as Dilip Patel afraid that it could put them out of a job. Patel has been the manager of Gem Liquors on Atlantic Avenue for 11 years. He said 60 percent of his business comes from selling beer and wine, and that if more supermarkets start carrying alcoholic beverages, it could put his store in jeopardy.

“If the beer goes (away) from the liquor store, we have nothing to sell,” Patel said. “Supermarkets have a lot of things to sell. Why are they interfering with our business?”

Representatives for the supermarkets, on the other hand, say that expanding the number of grocery stores that can sell liquor would be an additional service to grocery shoppers.

“We think people are busy and they want to make one stop,” said Gail Street, director of communications for Acme Markets. Based in Malvern, Pa., Acme has 57 stores throughout New Jersey and sells liquor in Cape May Court House and North Cape May.(Lee, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_three/story/7521642p-7421828c.html

 

 

POLICE SHOOTINGS

When a police officer fires a gun in the line of duty in New Jersey, the target is usually African-American or Hispanic. Half the time, the officer’s shot misses altogether. About a quarter of the time, the officer is firing at a vehicle being driven toward police.

This portrait emerges from a Star-Ledger analysis of every occasion in which a state or local police officer fired a gun at a person during the past year. The inquiry was based on data supplied by the state Attorney General’s Office, which now routinely investigates all law enforcement shootings — whether the officer hits the person or not.

The analysis found more than three-fourths of the 47 people shot at this year by state and local police were minorities. Virtually all of the cases remain under review to determine whether the use of lethal force was justified.

In most of those cases, the police officer was white and the shooting occurred in New Jersey’s urban neighborhoods, with nearly a quarter taking place in Newark alone, the newspaper found. Seven of those shot were unarmed, including one man who was fatally shot and two who were injured.

In a majority of shootings, according to the Attorney General’s documents, the officer was either returning fire from an assailant or shooting at an armed person threatening to pull the trigger, an analysis of preliminary police accounts found. In nearly a quarter of the cases, police were firing at vehicles being driven at them. (Hepp, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-12/119726592530340.xml&coll=1

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ACTIVIST AND A GADFLY

Tracking how government spends the taxpayers’ money is a methodical pursuit for Ellen DeLosh.

She sits at her kitchen table armed with pen and meeting agendas, and carefully flips through the newspaper in search of public notices posted by the county government.

“You get a lot of information in the legal ads,” DeLosh said.

Over the years, the Clifton resident has become a regular fixture who lobs pointed questions about the Passaic County budget, bond ordinances, employee health benefits, overtime and other fiscal expenditures at members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Every municipality has people like DeLosh: those who faithfully devote many hours to eyeing the minutia of local governmental operations to ensure that there are no discrepancies between what bureaucrats say they will do and what actually happens.

They religiously attend freeholder, borough council, city council, school board, and zoning and planning board meetings.

They sacrifice quality family time to pore over countless documents obtained through the Open Public Records Act.

They hold government officials accountable when there is a suspicion of wrongdoing, ethical lapses, malfeasance or just plain incompetence.

“I do it for the other taxpayers,” said DeLosh, who started attending the freeholder meetings in 1998.(Superville, Herald News)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMzIwNDgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

DON’T FORGET C. MONTGOMERY BURNS

A group of high-profile state residents including a former governor, a former Salem County freeholder and an NFL quarterback have joined an Exelon-backed coalition to promote nuclear energy.

Former Gov. Brendan T. Byrne, former county freeholder Thomas Pankok and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski are among the 15 new members to the New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition (NJACRE), the group recently announced.

“These are individuals that are highly respected and have had a distinguished career,” said Edward H. Salmon, coalition chairman and former president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “We really look to them for direction and advice.”

The new members also include former state and local elected officials, former state cabinet members and former New Jersey Board of Public Utilities members.

Their primary goal is to educate the public about the need to relicense Exelon Corp.’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Ocean County, the nation’s oldest nuclear facility, for another 20 years. The license is set to expire in 2009.

The coalition’s overall mission is to promote nuclear energy as part of the solution to meet future energy demands, expected to increase by 40 percent by 2030, while at the same time New Jersey is aiming to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think it’s a very difficult problem,” said Francis Witt, a coalition member, who also served as chairman of the Gloucester County Democratic Party and mayor of National Park from 1972 to 1988. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/sunbeam/index.ssf?/base/news-3/119726520669990.xml&coll=9

 

IN VINELAND

The Vineland Music Festival is Mayor Perry Barse’s baby. B

ut the huge concert could end up in another mayor’s lap.

Barse seeks re-election to a third term in the May election. Robert Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant, and Nick Girone, a former city school board member, have announced plans to challenge him. Whoever wins takes office July 1……

In separate interviews Friday, Romano and Girone said they had mixed feelings about the festival arrangements. “

Whoever is the people’s choice for mayor in 2008 is going to have to live with the decision of this administration” to bring the festival to Vineland, said Romano, son of the late Joseph E. Romano, a former Vineland mayor.

Romano said he’s concerned the Barse administration didn’t consult local residents before announcing plans for the festival Nov. 27 during a City Hall press conference with event co-promoter Festival Republic of London.

“I think the people’s voice should have been heard along with the promoter’s voice,” Romano said. “It’s like putting the cart before the horse.” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)

http://www.thedailyjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071210/NEWS01/712100348/1002

 

IN HARRISON TOWNSHIP

HARRISON TWP. Township committee members remain at odds with outgoing Mayor Mike Koestler, who wants to adopt a strict ban on the political practice known as pay-to-play.

In a 4-to-1 vote, the all-Republican committee rebuked another attempt by Koestler to push through two ordinances that take aim at the much-criticized practice by which professional firms donate campaign funds in return for municipal contracts.

Those who opposed the ordinances said they want to ensure that candidates trying to run a political campaign aren’t put at a disadvantage.

“I
think it’s such a significant move that we need the opportunity to look at the alternatives that are available to us to ensure that the same thing is happening, yet at the same time, protect the opportunity for the entire public to participate in government,” Committeeman Rich Thomas said. (Brown, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/local/index.ssf?/base/news-8/119726529969300.xml&coll=8

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND

JACK KELLY’S TIME TO SHINE

Sources close to Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore say based on the results of their interviews with U.S. Congressional prospects on Saturday, a screening committee plans to recommend the name of Freeholder Director John “Jack” Kelly to the Republican County Committee.

Kelly’s name will be entered as the committee’s choice to represent Ocean County in the Republican Party primary for the 3rd Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton is retiring.

If the full committee accepts the recommendation at its convention on Monday evening, that would set up an inter-county GOP showdown between Kelly of Ocean County and defense industry boss Chris Myers of Medford Township in Burlington County.

Myers participated in the screening process on Saturday in Ocean, as did Ocean County residents, Freeholder Joe Vicari, Army Reserve Lieutenant Mario Boemio, andLavallette Mayor Walter G. LaCicero. Toms River Councilman Maurice Hill did not make it, and was scheduled to go before the screening committee on Monday, the same day of the convention.

But sources say Hill’s same-day interview is unlikely to sway the committee from its choice of Kelly, who was sworn in to his fifth three-year freeholder term in January 2005, and is a former 11-year mayor of his hometown of Eagleswood Township. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

http://politickernj.com/kelly-likely-be-ocean-gop-congressional-candidate-14560

CORZINE HITS IT OFF WITH IOWANS.. NOW IF ONLY HE COULD DO THE SAME WITH NEW JERSEYANS

Governor Corzine made a good impression on at least one Iowa voter last week because unlike most of the politicians crisscrossing his state these days, the New Jersey governor isn’t running for anything.

Corzine looked people in the eyes and delivered just the personal and down-to-earth type of message that Iowans like while he stumped for Hillary Clinton on a snowy Thursday just a few weeks before Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses.

“That’s what people need,” said Adam Swihart of Corzine’s campaigning in Newton. “He was very personal.”

But back home, the governor is communicating in a different way, with his curious statements about a second term and weariness over public battles with the New Jersey Legislature.

There are many who believe Corzine may be eyeing Clinton as his lifeline out of the depths of State Street politics, where the governor has found it hard to do all of the things he talked about two years ago while campaigning for the job.

At the very least, Corzine was doing his good deed for Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York who Corzine served with on Capitol Hill before he left Washington for the State House in Trenton.

The trip also gave Corzine, a native of neighboring Illinois, a chance to connect with voters about troublesome issues that don’t involve toll roads, private e-mails or school funding formulas.(Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMzE4MTAmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

NAACP NOT HAPPY WITH CORZINE

The state NAACP yesterday delivered stinging criticism of Gov. Jon Corzine on several key issues in the black community, demanding prompt action from the governor to fix the alleged shortcomings.

Critiquing Corzine’s response on issues like education, housing and the environment, the report card assailed the Democrat for not fully implementing Abbott reforms in the state’s urban regions, not adequately improving health care access for low-income families, and not sufficiently diversifying key administrative personnel, especially in law enforcement.

“There is a tremendous amount of disappointment within the African-American community,” state NAACP President James E. Harris said. “We’ve gotten so little tangible stuff for the past two years. The governor’s only there for four. We want to see results.”

The civil rights group released the first-ever report card yesterday following repeated attempts to speak directly with the governor, Harris said.

Lilo Spainton, a spokeswoman for Corzine said yesterday the governor had not seen the report but said he is open to a meeting.

“He shares the majority of the goals that the NAACP stands for and he hopes to meet with the leaders soon and find a way that they can reach these common goals,” Spainton said. (Min Kim, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-9/1197178826259180.xml&coll=1

 

APPARENTLY THERE ARE OTHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES BESIDES CLINTON AND OBAMA

As Obama resists the Tom Cruise temptation to leap out of Oprah’s stuffed chair in excitement over Iowa poll numbers that show him with a slight lead, and establishment darling Clinton searches for a way to generate vitality beyond the marble pillars of officialdom, former Sen. John Edwards remains a statistically relevant presence, at least in Iowa.

“Edwards is not done,” insisted Peter Woolley, executive director of Fairleigh Dickinson’s PublicMind poll. “The fat lady hasn’t sung. He’s still running third. If one month before the Iowa caucus, it’s as close as it is, you’re doing very well. But the bad sign about Edwards is his level of support has been pretty static. He’s not moving the needle.”

In the Northeast, Edwards’ presidential campaign ravenously pursues good news, and finds little. The fact that the one-term senator and former vice-presidential nominee emerged the winner at an informal caucus in Roselle Park on Friday belies the fact that Clinton’s supporters bolstered Edwards rather than get seared by the victory chants of their prime tormentor, Team Obama, which placed second.

Local polls show the North Carolina millionaire lawyer hardly on the radar in New Jersey: at 7% behind 22% for Obama and 52% for Clinton in an October Strategic vision poll.(Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

http://politickernj.com/coming-roselle-park-victory-edwards-alive-static-essential-iowa-14566

 

OBAMA RALLY

With an eye on the presidential polls in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina where their candidate is competitive, Obama supporters rallied at the Masonic Temple in Newark on Saturday in pre
paration for the February 5th primary in New Jersey – where Obama is not competitive.

At least not today. Not right now.

That could change depending on what happens in the earlier primaries, and for a presidential candidacy built on change, a subject Obama’s supporters figure they know well, they like the odds.

“This is going to come down to what kind of organization we have in key states around the country,” Mayor Cory Booker told a crowd of 150. “New Jersey is probably one of the bellwether states in terms of where this primary is going to go.”

New Jersey constitutes a portion of the base of Obama’s chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Trailing in double digits here, it’s a long shot to picture Obama winning, but “We have to deliver New Jersey,” said an unflappable Booker, exhorting people to sign up to participate in GOTV efforts, which they did after his speech. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

http://politickernj.com/obama-supporters-gear-what-they-hope-will-be-crucial-jersey-ground-game-14561

 

EVEN DENNIS KUCINICH BEAT CLINTON

Roselle Park felt a little bit like Des Moines last night, when about 200 Democrats gathered at an Italian restaurant for the New Jersey Democratic Caucus, where the results didn’t mean much but Democratic passion was on full display.

But if the results actually held water, then the world of New Jersey politics is topsy-turvy, because Hillary Clinton – who continues to lead state polls by 30% margins — was eliminated in the first round of caucusing, coming in short of the 15% threshold with 27 members – 6 less than Dennis Kucinich’s 33.

And ultimately John Edwards, who barely makes a dent in New Jersey polls, prevailed with 76 supporters to Barack Obama’s 68 and Kucinich’s 34.

The event was conceived and organized by Jeff Gardner, co-chair of New Jersey for Democracy, and John Bartlett, Chairman of the Executive Committee of New Jersey’s Democratic Future. Gardner had seen the Iowa caucuses four years ago, and thought it would be fun to imitate. The two organizers invited every candidate – except one.

“We didn’t invite Mike Gravel because we didn’t know how to find him,” said Gardner Alaska. Only one other candidate, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, did not send a surrogate.

But while Dennis Kucinich isn’t likely to come in third place on election day, Bartlett thought that the caucus results had some significance.

“The folks in this room are not the people who max out campaign contributions, but they’re maxing out in shoe leather,” he said. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

http://politickernj.com/edwards-wins-new-jersey-straw-poll-14559

 

LIKE SHARKS CIRCLING THE CHUM

Gov. Jon Corzine’s plan to raise highway tolls so he can slice the state’s debt by $16 billion is expected to unleash a huge free-for-all by Trenton lobbyists and special interests.

With so much money at stake, interests that could cash in on the plan — from construction firms craving new road jobs to bankers eager for bond deals — are already laying down their bets.

“The stakes are enormously high, and a lot of people have dogs in the fight,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. “You have a multisided dogfight, and it gets pretty bloody.”

Corzine plans to create a “public benefit corporation” that could borrow and repay bonds with future revenues from higher tolls and other state assets, such as building rights over train stations. He plans to use the money to pay down existing state debt and fund capital improvements.

Many groups say they won’t take a clear stand on Corzine’s plan until he reveals its details in his Jan. 8 State of the State message. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-9/1197179951259180.xml&coll=1

 

LEGISLATORS WEIGH DEATH PENALTY VOTE

State Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) has been battling himself as he contemplates whether to support a proposal to abolish the state’s death penalty.

 

“I’ve hung around most of my adult life being a proud supporter of the death penalty, a proud supporter, believing an eye for an eye,” Sweeney said.

 

Politics pervades state legislatures, but some New Jersey lawmakers find themselves struggling with their consciences as they debate the death penalty. The reason: While many have supported capital punishment, they realize New Jersey’s death-penalty law has been toothless.

New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982 and has eight men on death row but hasn’t executed anyone since 1963.

After hearing testimony and studying the issue, Sweeney said, he is ready to support making New Jersey the first state to eliminate the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it 31 years ago.

“It has been an eye-opening experience because the false hope we give families with the death penalty is wrong,” he said. “It’s wrong to give false hope. I think this is the best thing to help families bring closure to horrible, horrible incidents in their life. (Hester, AP)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071209_Legislators_look_inward_on_death-penalty_repeal.html

 

Just what is the pecking order among politicos in Hudson County?

Glad you asked, because I have this power list – doesn’t every political writer. It is just that I can’t recall anyone ever doing one for this county, where (and sorry, Boston, Chicago and Ancient Greece) politics must have been born. And you might as well know about it now because fortunes change among our public servants faster than for contestants on “The Price is Right.”

While both Gov. Jon Corzine and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez are both residents of Hoboken, they do not make this list. Corzine does not influence the daily political machinations of the county and Menendez, while having some influence in local politics, does not have as much as some pundits and pol watchers believe……

Right up front, let’s say that this column will look at only numero uno. The next Insider read will cover the rest of the rankings.

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is at the top of the list. (Torres, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/columns/jjournal/insider/index.ssf?/base/columns-0/119709751611990.xml&coll=3

 

WELL, THEY DID GET ANOTHER FREEHOLDER SEAT

The breakthrough Monmouth County Democrats were hoping for in this year’s county elections did not occur, despite Republicans being hampered by a procession of fo
rmer party officials and associates receiving sentences or going through other court proceedings from the Operation Bid Rig corruption scandal.

But the results — with Republicans winning three of four county offices — likely will have no bearing on the power of longtime county Democratic Party Chairman Victor V. Scudiery.

Scudiery says he will seek another two-year term as chairman at the party convention in June 2008. So far, he has no opposition — which almost has been the rule with the Democrats. Scudiery has been the party boss since 1989, and hasn’t faced a convention challenge since 2000.

Red Bank Councilman Michael DuPont, who is a party county committeeman, said the organization is doing “a good job in a somewhat Republican-leaning county.”

“I would support the chairman if he wants to remain in his role. I think he’s built a foundation that we can take to the next level. The campaigns are headed in the right direction,” DuPont said.

Another influential Democrat, Ocean Township attorney Gerald Zaro, said, “You’re never happy when you lose any of your elections. But on the other hand, it’s clear we have become increasingly competitive.”

Zaro said Scudiery has earned another term. Scudiery could not be reached for comment.

“You have to look at a couple of things with Vic. He has the support where he’s able to usually run unopposed, and nobody can deny the amount of work he puts in for the party. He’s tireless. I think you have to give the coach credit when the team is improving,” he said.(Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/NEWS01/712090426/-1/NEWS10

 

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

A breakthrough in the two-year political standoff to fill 10 Bergen County Superior Court seats appears imminent, but first another plot twist.

Kathleen Donovan, the Bergen County clerk, has emerged as a late-stage candidate for the $141,000-a-year job, according to three sources familiar with the process. Donovan, the popular Republican from Rutherford, was interviewed by Governor Corzine’s counsel’s office in late October, the first step on the long, politically treacherous obstacle course to a nomination.

Donovan declined to comment Friday, other than to say that she is focused on running for reelection for county clerk next year. But she added, “If the opportunity [for a judgeship] was offered to me, I would seriously consider it because it would be an honor to serve the people of New Jersey in that capacity.”

Adding to the intrigue is her sponsor, Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge, a close ally of Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero. Sarlo, who submitted Donovan’s name for consideration, was tight-lipped.

“I always have had respect for Kathe Donovan as a clerk and as a lawyer, but I don’t think it is appropriate for me to comment on any individuals who may or may not become judges,” he said. Corzine administration officials also declined comment.

The strange Donovan-Sarlo-Ferriero alliance actually isn’t all that surprising given the Byzantine politics of Bergen County and the ambitions of the players involved. Donovan has long let it be known of her interest in moving to the Superior Court bench.

And Ferriero has strategic reasons to make sure that Donovan, a potent Republican threat, is not on the ballot next year, especially if former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee for president. (Stile, Bergen Record)

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WILL MOLINELLI HITCH A RIDE TO TRENTON FROM JOE CONIGLIO?

State Sen. Henry McNamara, R-Wyckoff, the last Bergen County senator holding up the reappointment of County Prosecutor John Molinelli, removed his “senatorial courtesy” hold on Thursday night, McNamara confirmed.

McNamara’s sign-off on Molinelli’s reappointment — withheld since June — clears the last procedural hurdle for Molinelli, who may now appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg lifted her six-month-old block Thursday morning after securing a commitment from the prosecutor to de-politicize hiring in his office.

The unwritten rule of senatorial courtesy allows senators to block consideration, without explanation, of a gubernatorial nominee from their home county.(Carmiel, Bergen Record)

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FOR A WHILE, GO-GO ACTED AS MARLBORO’S TOWN HALL

If you want to find out the dirt on a guy, you ask his ex-wife.

At least that’s what FBI special agents Robert Cooke and James DiOrio are hoping when they knock on Barbara Scannapieco’s front door this balmy September day in 2002.

Scannapieco’s ex-husband is Matthew V. Scannapieco, the mayor of Marlboro. After 27 years of marriage, Scannapieco left Barbara a few years earlier to marry a woman half his age who one lawsuit later claimed was a former go-go dancer.

At age 58, Matt Scannapieco is telling friends he has never been happier.

But it isn’t the new wife that interests the FBI. It’s Scannapieco’s friendship with a local developer, Anthony Spalliero.

The unlikely pair — Scannapieco, brawny and athletic, is an accountant and Vietnam vet who is considered something of a square; Spalliero is the gruff, flashy, limo-driven developer who promotes a tough-guy image — have become close friends.

They hang out together at go-go bars owned by Spalliero’s family and spend time together while vacationing.(Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/NEWS/712090419

 

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

As the Legislative session winds down, a state proposal to provide New Jersey workers with paid time off in the event of a crisis is becoming an increasingly tough sell.

But for the bill sponsor, recently named to the second most powerful post in the Legislature, the situation is nothing new.

It was in 2005 when Sen. Stephen Sweeney sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 an hour.

The business community mounted an intense campaign against it, saying it would cause layoffs and send businesses fleeing from the state.

Sweeney maintained that they were wrong, and the measure eventually became law.

Paid family leave advocates say that wasn’t the only proposal business groups have lobbied against.

“Over the years they tried to dismiss as radical Social Security, unemployment insurance, the 8-hour-day, the 5-day week and child labor laws,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective President Jon Shure, part of the alliance that lobbied for an increase in the minimum wage. “Those workplace reforms are now routine a
nd family leave insurance will be too.”

But now, the measure to allow employees up to 10 weeks paid leave to care for a family member, newborn or newly adopted child appears to be on shaky ground. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1197188804262960.xml&coll=8

 

AH, NEW JERSEY – WHERE UNNECESSARY COPS EARN SIX FIGURE SALARIES

Two-thirds of the Bergen County Police Department’s officers will make more than $100,000 this year.

The average base salary on the 93-member force is more than $97,000.

Numbers such as those keep alive the debate about the need for the department in a county that has 68 municipal departments, a Sheriff’s Department, prosecutor’s investigators and some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

But the debate could soon be silenced.

The county’s agenda for next year includes awarding up to $37 million in contracts to settle the county police in a new, state-of-the-art headquarters that would apparently ensure the force’s existence for decades to come.

“Once you build a Taj Mahal dedicated for a specific purpose in law enforcement, it assures that they will be there,” said former Republican Freeholder Elizabeth Randall.(Fallon, Bergen Record)

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IN TRENTON

In January 2006, Liana and Richard Ramdas’ first child was about to come into the world. The nursery was freshly painted pink, and the Bloomfield couple had settled on a name, Avani Grace.

But Avani Grace would never be born. Liana Ramdas and her husband were driving in Belleville when a motorist high on cocaine and heroin plowed into them, killing the unborn child and destroying the mother’s chance of bearing any more children.

Nicole Leming, 27, was prosecuted for injuring Liana Ramdas, but she was not charged with homicide because New Jersey is one of 14 states without a fetal homicide law — something Ramdas is determined to change.

After Leming, who reached a plea deal, was sentenced last month to four years in prison, Ramdas embarked on a campaign to convince lawmakers that taking away a mother’s unborn child is tantamount to murder.

“She was 36 weeks old,” Ramdas said. “She had hands and legs and hair. She was a little human. But the state doesn’t see any of that — they didn’t consider my daughter a life.” (Kleinknecht, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-9/1197179684259180.xml&coll=1

 

WHY DIDN’T HE JUST DO WHAT A JERSEY CITY JUDGE WOULD DO – FIX IT

WEST WINDSOR — Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton, hopes to turn a first-person lesson in illegal parking at the Princeton Junction Train Station into a bill that either will urge NJ Transit to provide more non-commuter parking or quit telling people to use mass transit.

The lesson came in the form of a $60 ticket from the West Windsor Parking Authority that the Assistant Majority Leader from Princeton Borough received on Sept. 20 when he parked in a permit-only space after he couldn’t find a spot in a daily parking lot.

Now he is drafting a bill that he will introduce in January that will ask that NJ Transit provide more parking for riders who use the rail line only occasionally.

“It was about 4:50 (p.m.) and I was going to catch a 5:10 p.m. train to New York to go to a concert in Central Park,” Gusciora said. “There were at least a dozen cars circling around looking for spaces. A woman in another car pulled up and asked what to do. Right across the way from the daily lot was a permit lot with about 100 or more empty spaces. We both parked there.” (Persico, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/index.ssf?/base/news-3/119709070424860.xml&coll=5

 

IN TOMS RIVER

TOMS RIVERToms River Mayor-elect Thomas F. Kelaher has been studying up on subjects ranging from lawsuits to leaf collection, and acting as a sort of understudy to Mayor Paul C. Brush, since the day after he was declared the victor in a hotly contested mayoral race.

Come Jan. 1, it will be the former Ocean County prosecutor’s turn to lead the government of Toms River, the seventh largest municipality in New Jersey, with a population approaching 100,000 and land stretching across 44 square miles.

To prepare for that day and the four years to follow, Kelaher has been meeting with Brush almost every day, and the two have been preparing for and attending council meetings together and reviewing the municipal budget, while Brush has been prepping Kelaher on issues facing the town. (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/NEWS02/712090433/-1/NEWS10

 

POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION LAW

Since Gov. Jon Corzine signed the landmark postpartum depression law 20 months ago, the state has spent $9 million on the program: half on TV and radio ads and brochures encouraging women to ask for help, and half on training more than 6,000 medical professionals in how to identify the illness.

But health experts and women using the hotline say the law has fallen short: Women are seeking help, but when they do, state and medical professionals often are not prepared to assist them.

Many women found a state hotline staffed by people who were inexperienced at helping those in a mental health crisis. Obstetricians, gynecologists and other doctors often are afraid to get involved, they say, because of their lack of psychiatric knowledge. And there is a shortage of mental health professionals skilled in treating the illness.

“The people who did speak up were greatly disappointed,” said Joyce Venis, a Princeton psychiatric nurse who treats women with perinatal mood disorders and served on the state advisory group that assembled the public awareness campaign. “How could this happen? I believed this was going to be a good program.” (Livio, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1197179616259180.xml&coll=1

 

IN PATERSON

The Diocese of Paterson is investigating whether a parish bulletin item written by a Ringwood pastor made partisan endorsements in last month’s Borough Council election.

The column by Monsignor Patrick G. Panos of St. Catherine of Bologna Church expressed strong opposition to construction of a traffic circle near the church. It was published on the weekend before the election, telling parishioners the issue “will only be decided” by the outcome of the election. Panos noted that loca
l Republicans shared his position.

“We are distressed about the mention of a political party in a parish publication,” Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, said this week. “The Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson makes clear the rule that partisan politics may not enter into statements made on public issues. Now that we have received information on the bulletin article, an investigation is under way.”.(Chadwick, Bergen Record)

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