Wilson says he’ll wait and see what’s to come for Ocean and Burlington county primary, Vega makes peace with Stack/Sires/Turner, Arab group threatens to sue Cardinale.
READYING FOR A PRIMARY
Two of the state's most stalwart Republican counties are set to run congressional candidates against each other in a primary for the first time in more than two decades.
Ocean County's Republican organization has endorsed Freeholder Director Jack Kelly in the Third District, while Burlington County's GOP leaders are headed toward choosing Chris Myers, a Lockheed Martin vice president and former Navy lieutenant.
Still, party leaders are hoping to avoid a primary fight in the campaign to replace retiring U.S. Rep. James Saxton (R., N.J.), given the Republican Party's fund-raising disadvantage in New Jersey.
State committee chairman Tom Wilson said that with both county machines sponsoring candidates, "there's really not much you can do at this point.
Wilson said he would give both candidates until late February or March to "see if one candidate seems to be distinguishing himself in a way that serves our larger purpose." Then, he'll help clear the field, if possible.
Both candidates are working on fund-raising. Kelly said he met yesterday with consultants to set up his fund-raising committee, while Myers said he was working with his exploratory committee." (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)
VEGA AND TURNER SHARE MEMORIES AND HOT COCO
It was one of those Hudson County moments. West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega, who ran in a nasty State Senate primary race against Union City Mayor Brian Stack, stood with Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, a Stack ally, to announce a peace agreement of sorts in the 33rd district.
During the primary campaign six months ago, Vega had called Stack “crooked,” compared his hold on Union City to a cult of personality and accused him of bribing county committeemen and women to take their names off the ballot. Stack responded by Vega a “puppet” of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO). But at today’s outdoor press conference on West New York’s Boulevard East, Vega was ready to make nice over hot cocoa — paid for by Turner.
“Too often, in the heat of a primary battle, competing sides say things that were better left unsaid. If I offended anyone, I offer my apologies and assure everyone that I am not going to harbor any ill feelings about the things that were said about me.”
Vega and Turner said that the point of today’s press conference was to announce a spirit of cooperation in the 33rd legislative district, with hopes that it would soon spread to the rest of the county’s party and eliminate the divide between the HCDO and Stack’s Democrats for Hudson County (DFHC).
Stack was not present, but Turner was there on behalf of both him and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, the former Mayor of West New York who has had a cold relationship with Vega, his former commissioner, since he went to Washington to fill the seat left vacant by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez in 2006. Vega said he was not speaking on behalf of the rest of HCDO, but hoped the feeling was mutual.
Vega said that he’s come to accept political reality: that as long as he’s mayor of West New York, he has to learn to work with his district’s legislators. Their interests, he said, are tied to his own.(Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
GOOD LUCK GETTING CARDINALE TO APOLOGIZE
An Arab group threatened legal action against state Sen. Gerald Cardinale on Tuesday if he does not retract and apologize for comments he made about the organization during his reelection campaign.
In a certified letter, the national director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee described several of the senator's campaign statements and ads as "false, malicious and defamatory" and gave Cardinale, R-Demarest, 10 days to issue a public apology.
After that deadline, the letter states, the group would pursue a defamation lawsuit against Cardinale, a 25-year incumbent, who won reelection in November.
"We don't send these letters lightly," said National Director Kareem Shora, adding that "we hope to resolve this as quickly as possible," without legal action.
Cardinale, reached by phone Tuesday, said he would not apologize.
The senator said he had not received a copy of the letter. But he defended his campaign's assertions, namely that high-ranking members of the ADC — specifically, one of its former national spokesmen — had publicly expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah.
"I have no malice towards this organization whatsoever, at all," Cardinale said. "They have taken some positions that are positions that many people would disagree with," he said, speaking of some of its officials. "I don't think there are many Americans who are pro-Hezbollah."(Carmiel, Bergen Record)
PAID FAMILY LEAVE
A pair of old antagonists, labor and business, are waging a battle in Trenton this week as the former works the legislature to pass paid family leave, while the latter hopes lawmakers scrap it completely.
"They will be discussing it in caucus on Thursday," said Joe Donnelly, spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, referring to HB 3812, which would extend state liability insurance to employees for up to ten weeks, enabling workers to care for themselves, a newborn or a sick relative. Funding would come from the workers contributing on average a dollar a week from their salaries.
The Senate version of the bill made it through the labor and appropriations committees, but Senate President Richard Codey said the Senate as a whole wouldn’t take action on it until he sees movement on the Assembly side.
That means it’s Speaker Joseph Roberts’ decision.
"They’re trying to get something moving by the end of the lame duck session," Donnelly said of the Assembly. "The Speaker has concerns, and is interested in moving the length of time from ten weeks to six weeks."(Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
Gov. Jon Corzine repeated his commitment yesterday to establishing paid family leave for workers in New Jersey, saying he would agree to a compromise that would cut the leave time from the proposed 10 weeks to six.
Corzine made his comments during a speech before a 300-person gathering in Woodbridge of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, a group that opposes the leave proposal now being hashed out in Trenton
That means it’s Speaker Joseph Roberts’ decision.
"They’re trying to get something moving by the end of the lame duck session," Donnelly said of the Assembly. "The Speaker has concerns, and is interested in moving the length of time from ten weeks to six weeks."(Margolin, Star-Ledger)
A high-profile proposal to guarantee workers paid family leave would have to be scaled back to garner legislative approval, Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. said Tuesday.
Roberts, D-Camden, said the proposal will not be supported if it still guarantees 10 weeks of leave time and does not do more to protect small businesses or ensure workers won't abuse the program.
"As the bill looks now, it's not going to advance," Roberts said to members of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. "We continue to work on some of the details — the fine print, the number of weeks, the degree to which it's a legitimate program, not one that has opportunities for fraud." (Volpe, Gannett)
REPUBLICANS LIKELY THINK IT’S EXTRAODINARLY UNFAIR
The state Department of Community Affairs handed out $16.3 million in special aid for property tax relief to 29 municipalities yesterday, with all but $1.07 million going to towns in Democratic-controlled legislative districts.
Bayonne, the city where DCA Commissioner Joseph V. Doria was mayor until early last month, received the second largest amount, $1.3 million.
Ewing in Mercer County received the largest amount, $2 million; Kearny $1.3 million; Orange and Perth Amboy each received $1 million; Weehawken picked up $900,000; Plainfield, $800,000; Hillside, $700,000; South Amboy, $650,000, and East Orange, $500,000.
Chris Donnelly, a DCA spokesman, said, "Politics does not play a role in these decisions." He said 34 cities and towns applied for the so-called extraordinary aid and only five were turned away. Four of the five — Elizabeth, Edison, Edgewater and Vineland — are also in Democratic-controlled legislative districts. The other one refused is Manchester in Ocean County.
The towns in Republican-controlled districts that received aid are Union Beach, $325,000; Keansburg, $300,000; Lake Como, $300,000, and Old Bridge, $150,000.
Extraordinary aid is awarded to municipalities that need additional financial aid because of unexpected circumstances, such as the loss of a major property tax payer. The aid must go toward property tax relief and cannot be used for anything else, such as pay hikes or benefits, public works projects or vehicle purchases. If a town has a surplus or is not facing a property tax hike, it does not qualify. (Hester, AP)
NOTHING TO JOKE ABOUT
Seven state troopers were suspended with pay yesterday as prosecutors investigated a 25-year-old woman's allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a group of men, including at least one trooper, authorities said.
The woman, who has been identified as a college student, said she was assaulted early Friday morning at a residence in Ewing, Mercer County.
"There have been no charges filed," said Angelo Onofri, the first assistant prosecutor for Mercer County. "The investigation is still in its preliminary stages."
The woman was treated Friday morning at a local hospital, and a report was later filed with law enforcement officials, Onofri said.
"It is alleged that one or more of the individuals involved may have been state troopers," Onofri said. (Wood, Philadelphia Inquirer)
NOBODY’S PERFECT, BUT NOT EVERYBODY TAKES BRIBES
PLEASANTVILLE – It wasn't quite what James Pressley expected.
The Board of Education president resigned his seat Tuesday night, a day after pleading guilty to taking $40,800 in exchange for backing companies for contracts with the district. But the public, which earlier had come out loudly against him, let Pressley know they were pulling for him.
"Don't give up," one resident said, as she clasped Pressley's hand after he left the meeting. "We all make mistakes. Nobody's perfect."
"I was definitely shocked that they were very supportive of me," Pressley said. "I think the people that were in attendance realized I got caught up in something that was unfortunate."
Pressley, 23, has served on the board since 2004, when he was 19. On Tuesday night, he started his last meeting by turning over his presidential duties to Vice President Julio Sanchez Jr. After abstaining from the first vote, which approved the last meeting's minutes, Pressley left his seat on the dais and stood at the microphone where the members of the public make comments to the board.
"I think it is necessary to leave the board immediately," he said. "I must admit, I betrayed the public's trust. Unfortunately, last year, some things came about that I just did not have the courage or the tools to stand up against." (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
HUDSON COUNTY POWER LIST
On Saturday, the Insider's Hudson County political power list named our No. 1 – Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is also chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. If you missed, or skipped, that lengthy column – I don't blame you.
So let me repeat verbatim some important points about lists: Understand that rankings, no matter what people tell you, are to a point subjective and the order in which
these people are placed has much to do with fortune, design, and just the natural order of things…………
2. BRIAN P. STACK: The mayor of Union City and assemblyman also is senator-elect for the 33rd Legislative District. He is the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the county Democratic Party.
More than a year ago, Stack might have been listed in the bottom half of a top-10 list, but then someone made the mistake of kicking sand in his face and the party has not been the same since. Ready for a long war of attrition, as a state legislator, Stack is not averse to making allegiances with South Jersey power brokers, a relationship that for some Hudson politicians is blasphemy. ……..
3. NICHOLAS SACCO: Mayor of North Bergen, Sacco has been the 31st District state senator since 1994. He has been a township commissioner since 1985. Sacco is also an assistant superintendent of schools for North Bergen. We are talking about a major entrenched political strongman.
When the late Union City Mayor Bruce Walter once said, "fences make for good neighbors," he was talking about North Bergen in the same manner that South Vietnam talked about North Vietnam. Walter and others before him did not bother their neighbor – a sort of don't play with the piranha mentality.
Like Stack, Sacco has a well-organized, slightly smaller local party machine that provides the administration with lop-sided victories. The difference between the two is that Sacco is aligned with the bigger, more influential HCDO………
4. RICHARD TURNER: The mayor of Weehawken wears many hats. He is state chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, of West New York, and a close DFHC comrade of Stack. He has total control of the small waterfront township of Weehawken……..
5. TOM DeGISE: The county executive is ranked fairly high here, considering he serves at the pleasure of all the mayors. This tells you something about how weak are the majority of the mayors in Hudson as a result of local upheavals and the dominance of just a few local chief executives………..
6. ALBIO SIRES: He is a freshman congressman in the 13th District and one of the main honchos of the DFHC, along with Stack and TurneE ……
7. SANDRA BOLDEN CUNNINGHAM: The widow of Jersey City Mayor Glen D. Cunningham is the 31st District state senator. There should be an asterisk here and point out that this ranking is shared by political operatives Joe Cardwell and Bobby Jackson, who have acted as Cunningham's advisors……….
8. STEVEN FULOP: The ranking of the Jersey City councilman this high is sure to raise a few eyebrows, but this is the fun of lists. Presently, Fulop is Healy's biggest problem. There is no hiding the obvious, Fulop wants to be mayor and he is tirelessly working toward that goal……….
9. RUBEN RAMOS: This past year's tumultuous politics has left Hoboken in a need of a psychiatrist. Ramos should apply. The councilman is one of the more respected local politicians, and his stature grew when he joined the Stack 33rd District team and won an Assembly seat in Trenton. As one colleague described him, "Ramos is widely considered the cornerstone of citywide electoral victories in the Mile Square and commands respect from Hoboken's perennially fractious groups."………..
10. ANTHONY CHIAPPONE: You can almost hear the howl from Bayonne. The simple fact is that Chiappone, the Peninsula City councilman, has won an important Assembly seat and returns to the Legislature after a one-term hiatus, obviously helped by his association with Cunningham and the HCDO. (Torres, Jersey Journal)
Richie Vuola is sitting silently in a chair in his den.
Around him, a team of FBI and IRS agents are searching his house on Union Hill Road in the Morganville section of Marlboro.
It is Aug. 19, 2003.
Vuola, 72, is chairman of the Marlboro Municipal Utilities Authority and a fixture in township politics. Federal agents are here this hot, late-summer day because they have discovered Vuola has accumulated enormous wealth. That doesn't figure for a guy whose only income is Social Security and the proceeds of a small pigeon-feed business.
The agents also want to ask Vuola about a $150,000 campaign donation he offered to Marlboro Councilwoman Ellen Karcher for her state Senate campaign. (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
MONMOUTH BEACH — History sometimes repeats itself, with a twist.
As Republican Commissioner Kimberly Guadagno stepped down from the local governing body Tuesday night, she noted that the first Monmouth County sheriff — more than 300 years ago — purchased the land that is now Monmouth Beach.
"And, of course, a Monmouth Beach resident will now be the first female sheriff of Monmouth County," she told a packed crowd at borough hall.
Guadagno, a former assistant U.S. attorney for New Jersey and a former assistant state attorney general, defeated Belmar Police Chief Jack Hill Jr., the Democratic challenger, in a close race for sheriff this fall.
State law requires her to vacate her commission seat before she is sworn into office on Jan. 3.
Guadagno, who teaches at Rutgers School of Law, said the borough is better off today than it was when she first joined the three-member commission in May 2005.
"In that time, we have stemmed the tide of oversized houses on tiny lots (and) built a baseball field at Raccoon Island," she said.(Rizzo, Asbury Park Press)
LYNDHURST — The Township Council voted unanimously to terminate its agreement with the developers of the EnCap housing and golf project Tuesday night, saying the developers didn't made good on a promise to build playing fields and a new recreation center.
The 5-0 vote cast further doubt on a controversial proposal that has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Donald Trump, who paid $5 million last month to put his name on the project, will have to renegotiate the deal with Lyndhurst if the EnCap plan is to be salvaged, township officials said.
"All agreements are off," Lyndhurst Mayor Richard DiLascio said Tuesday night. "There is just no deal."
A spokesman for Trump could not be reached Tuesday night. Representatives of the developer, EnCap Golf Holdings, a division of North Carolina-based Cherokee Investment Partners, also could not be reached……….
DiLascio unseated Mayor James Guida in 2005, accusing Guida and his administration of being "driven by developers."
DiLascio negotiated a new deal with EnCap this year that included a promise from the developers to build a recreation center and playing fields. EnCap's failure to deliver on that promise had rendered the agreement "null and void," DiLascio said.
"Before Donald Trump comes to Lyndhurst with his pencil and begins redesigning the EnCap project, he must take out his pen and sign a check to finish the Lyndhurst recreation facility and fields as agreed to by EnCap," DiLascio said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "I believe the failure to perform under current terms makes the entire original agreement null and void. As far as Lyndhurst is concerned, we will no longer be bound."(Gavin and Lamb, Bergen Record)
THAT WHOLE PARKS COMMISSION THING? NEVERMIND.
On a night when the scandal-plagued county park commission was supposed to take center stage, the Somerset County freeholders shifted the spotlight to their two major recreation "partnerships," an estate and a baseball stadium.
County Administrator Richard Williams announced a new contract with the Somerset Patriots baseball team, the tenant of Somerset's ballpark in Bridgewater, at last night's freeholder agenda session.
Under the deal, the county would give up its share of stadium revenue, Williams said. In return, he said, Patriots owner Steven Kalafer would guarantee the lease payments the county relies upon to pay off stadium debt. Those payments amount to about $1.6 million a year.
Current county revenue amounts to about $250,000 to $350,000 a year over debt costs, and by contract goes into a stadium maintenance fund, not tax relief, according to Somerset Finance Director Brian Newman.
"There's about $1.4 million that's structured in over the course of the new deal for minor maintenance," while the Patriots will take over major repairs, Newman said. (Tyrell, Star-Ledger)
IN ATLANTIC CITY
"I just have to work with people that I feel I can work with and trust," Marsh said, explaining why he fired former directors Timothy Mooney, Kim Baldwin, Gwendolyn Lewis and city spokesman Nicholas Morici.
He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Mayor Scott Evans has nominated Mooney to serve as the director of the city's Neighborhood Services department. Others potential directors include Ronald Cash for Health and Human Services and Benay George for Human Resources, both of whom Marsh appointed in his term.
In the city's government, a mayor nominates department directors whom council then votes to confirm to the position that typically pays $75,750. Evans said he will attend tonight's 5 p.m. council meeting. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
Gov. Jon Corzine's long-awaited plan for handing out more than $8 billion in state school aid will include a boost of at least 2 percent for every community, according to people briefed on the new plan.
Two weeks after revealing the framework for his new funding program, Corzine today is scheduled to offer a district-by-district breakdown of where the money will flow under his retooled system.
Corzine has said publicly that up to two-thirds of the state's 618 school districts will see a marked increase in aid under his plan. At the urging of lawmakers, he also has agreed to add a 2 percent sweetener for the 200 or so communities that would otherwise lose funds under the new formula, according to lawmakers and lobbyists briefed by administration officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not yet public.
Corzine will publicly unveil them this afternoon at an elementary school in Burlington Township. Before and after that, he'll be personally briefing legislators, representatives of school districts and other interested parties at the governor's mansion in Princeton.
For lawmakers hoping to vote on the new school funding plan before Jan. 8, when the current legislative session ends, today's presentation can be boiled down to four words: "Show me the money." (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
SHOULD HOBOKEN CONTINUE TO GET STATE AID?
In the early 1970s, Hoboken was so broken down that some residents feared for their lives. Crime and arson were rampant, and those who could afford to fled to neighboring towns like Secaucus.
But gleaming restaurants and luxury condominiums now beckon affluent newcomers to Hoboken, like Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who keeps an apartment there. And the city’s public school system, which once educated Frank Sinatra, is going through a renaissance, with enrollment growing to 1,874 students this fall, after
years of decline.
Hoboken’s rags-to-riches transformation is often cited by critics of New Jersey’s so-called Abbott system, in which 31 historically poor urban school districts receive the bulk of state school financing, to illustrate its shortcomings. Cities like Hoboken, these critics say, are no longer impoverished enough to merit special treatment. (Hu, New York Times)
NEXT STOP FOR VINELAND: SECESSION
VINELAND — At the urging of many in the audience Tuesday night, City Council took a stand in the debate over gay marriage in New Jersey.
The five-member council voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution reinforcing the traditional definition of marriage as "a union between a man and a woman."
The resolution is a symbolic statement in the debate over same-sex marriage, which the state Legislature is expected to take up in January.
"I don't think it's an anti-gay issue," said Frank Ippolito, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel of Vineland, before the vote. "We're right-thinking people and we understand what is right and what is wrong, and we certainly don't need somebody to redefine what is right and wrong for us. Common sense demands a vote in favor of this proposal."
His comments drew loud applause from the audience of roughly 100 people.
Council President John Barretta cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I do feel it is somewhat discriminatory and it also carries very little weight," Barretta said.(Zatzariny, Daily Journal)
ATLANTIC CITY MAYORS HAVE DONE WORSE THINGS
ATLANTIC CITY – The resort's newest mayor has apparently had repeated problems paying his own taxes on time.
Newly appointed Mayor Scott Evans was delinquent on property taxes he owed for his vacant waterfront property at 1402 W. Riverside Drive in the Venice Park neighborhood, according to a list released by the city and published in The Press of Atlantic City on Friday.
The list of hundreds of people and businesses said Evans was $1,113.26 in arrears. But he wasn't short for very long. A city Tax Collector's Office employee said Evans' taxes were current as of Tuesday afternoon, and the mayor said the taxes were paid before the deadline.
But he wasn't short for very long. A city Tax Collector's Office employee said Evans' taxes were current as of Tuesday afternoon, and the mayor said the taxes were paid before the deadline.
Atlantic County records show Evans has had a history of delinquent payments on the same Venice Park property.
The city filed two separate tax liens on Evans' West Riverside Drive property in 2002 and 2003, for $1,910.76 and $927.80, respectively. Former city Tax Collector Linda G. Steele sold the respective liens on Dec. 20, 2002, and Dec. 24, 2003, to Betty Simon Trustee, LLC, a Northfield firm that apparently buys and sells liens.(Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
CRESITELLO FINALLY GETS HIS RAISE
MORRISTOWN — Mayor Donald Cresitello got a $6,000 yearly raise from the town council Tuesday night, after a 5-2 vote.
The mayor, who presently earns $26,042 per year for his administrative post in town, will have his salary increased to $32,042 under terms of the ordinance, which specifically dealt with his salary.
Council members Michelle Harris-King and Tim Jackson voted against the raise.
Councilman John Cryan backed the raise, saying it's unfair to compare a $6,000 raise with a $26,000 raise. The mayor had sought the higher raise previously, but was rejected.
In fact, Cresitello has unsuccessfully tried on twice to increase his part-time position's salary. In 2006, he attempted to have it doubled to $52,000, but the motion was defeated in a referendum. Then, this past summer, he tried to increase it by $12,000, but the council never voted to authorize it, after a procedural error delayed the vote. (Hassan, Daily Record)
THE BATTLE FOR FORT MONMOUTH
Shutting down Fort Monmouth will cost the Defense Department more than closing any other installation on the Pentagon's 2005 hit list, according to the results of a federal investigation released Tuesday.
The Government Accountability Office released the results of a long-awaited investigation into the skyrocketing costs of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process that recommended closing the 90-year-old Army post.
The GAO found that the overall cost of the Pentagon's nationwide effort to streamline the military and save money has increased $10 billion — from $21 billion to $31 billion — since 2005. It also found that the Defense Department will save less than half, or $15 billion, of the $36 billion it originally estimated.
The report also said it may be impossible for the DOD to meet the 2011 deadline to have all 182 recommendations completed, given the complexity of the consolidations. (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
TRENTON — Mayor Douglas H. Palmer wants the city council to consider amending the city residency ordinance before it pursues a potential legal challenge of the waiver he says he had the right to give to the city police director.
That was the latest volley in the weeks-long debate over whether Joseph Santiago, who does not live in the city, should move here or leave, and whether Palmer had the right under the residency law to give Santiago the exemption.
Palmer said he received calls yesterday morning from attorneys who had been contacted by council members, whom he would not identify, seeking representation on this matter. Palmer contends he was within his rights when he honored Santiago's request for a waiver. But he has said the residency law is not clear and is open to interpretation.
Palmer, speaking about the issue following an unrelated press conference at City Hall yesterday, said he does not want to dictate what the council should do, but "this makes absolutely no sense when they can just amend it." (Loayza, Trenton Times)
IN OCEAN COUNTY
Gov. Corzine has nominated a Jackson man, currently employed as first corporation counsel for the city of Newark, to be a state Superior Court judge in Ocean County.
If his nomination is confirmed by the state Senate, Marquis D. Jones Jr. would be the second black person to sit on the bench in Ocean County. The first, Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels, was appointed to the bench in 1999.
"The bench in Ocean County should reflect the county," said Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Grasso, assignment judge for Ocean County. "The addition of women and minorities is a good thing." (Hopkins, Asbury Park Press)
IN PERTH AMBOY
As a former prosecutor and public defender, Maria Del Valle Koch has stood on both sides of the courtroom.
Next month, she will tackle hearings in Perth Amboy from behind the bench as the city's first woman appointed as a municipal court judge. Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas appointed Del Valle Koch, 49, yesterday to a three-year term that be gins Jan. 1. (Steele, Star-Ledger)