Today’s news from

Lautenberg gets ready to run again in an unfamiliar environment, Lance and Whitman say they’ll keep it civil, south Jersey congressmen on Iraq, new school funding formula.


Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg can’t change his age, but he is going to have to change the way voters think about it.

So at 83, he’s snapping pictures with rock stars on his iPhone, touting his low cholesterol, running up escalators in the Capitol and talking about how he recently stood through an entire Bon Jovi concert.

He also has been on a tear since Democrats regained control of Congress this year, scoring victories on issues he knows are popular with New Jersey voters, such as transportation and environmental protection.

The flurry of activity comes as Lautenberg gears up to seek another six-year term in 2008 with two recent polls showing a majority of voters believe he’s too old to serve effectively. Democrats also worry that he’s running in a political environment new to him, one in which opponents will use “trackers” with video cameras everywhere he goes, hoping for an unguarded moment that can be exploited on the Internet to undermine his campaign.

It’s a potential liability for Lautenberg because throughout his career, he’s had a tendency to ramble when speaking. He’s strongest on the attack, but he sometimes lapses into disjointed sentence fragments and non sequiturs.

“That’s been a manner of speaking for me for a long time. I’ve got a lot of things in my head and subjects come rushing in,” he said……….

For Lautenberg, the danger is that his oratorical style, though never a serious hindrance in past campaigns, could be portrayed as evidence he is over the hill.

Publicly, Democrats are solidly behind Lautenberg. But privately they worry, even though they say he’s as sharp as ever.

“If they run a good candidate against him, he goes down,” one Democratic official said. (Jackson, Bergen Record)



Don’t expect a mudslinging Republican primary in the 7th Congressional District — at least between Kate Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, and state Sen. Leonard Lance.

Prior to announcing a bid Wednesday for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mike Ferguson, Kate Whitman picked up the phone to personally give Lance the news.

“I was respectful and she was very respectful,” Lance, of Hunterdon County, said of the phone call.

That act toward the senator, planning his own campaign for the seat, doesn’t come solely from her background deeply rooted in politics but from a long-time relationship between the Todds and the Lances. Lance’s father, Wesley, served as senate president in the 1960s when Gov. Whitman’s father, Webster Todd, was chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party. And Lance served in the Legislature when Whitman was governor. When the senator was a child his family spent time at the Whitman estate.

“Leonard and his brother used to go over there and go swimming,” said former state Sen. Bill Schluter, who remains close to Lance. But, later on, the family ties would not prevent policy disagreements.

During Gov. Whitman’s time in office, Leonard Lance opposed her plan to issue bonds without voter approval to fund the state pension. Afterward Lance, who was next in line for the chairmanship of the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, experienced what some considered repercussions.

“I was not made chairman,” Lance said, “but I don’t in any way blame Gov. Whitman for that.”



WASHINGTON — When Colonel Richard Simcock assumed command of Marines in and around Fallujah at the end of January 2006, his Marines were engaged in gunfights on a daily basis. Ten months later, not just days but weeks go by without any Iraqi police officer or American firing a shot in Fallujah, a Sunni city that has until now seen some of the hardest fighting of the Iraq war………….

President Bush has requested $196 billion for combat operations in Iraq in fiscal 2008, the current budget cycle.

The House has passed a bill that would provide about one-quarter of that, or $50 billion. But the House measure also would require the president to begin troop withdrawals in December and would impose a goal of completing a full U.S. withdrawal by the end of next year. President Bush has threatened a veto, and the Senate GOP has blocked the bill with a filibuster.

U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews voted for the $50 billion proposal, and the troop-withdrawal language. He emphasized his concern about having U.S. personnel in Baghdad trying to referee sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites in the Iraqi capital……..

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo refused to endorse the mandatory withdrawal timeline. He voted against the House bill and cited some of the recent security gains in al Anbar……….

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat from central New Jersey, opposed the Iraq war when it first came up for a vote in October 2002. Holt, D-12th Dist., on Friday said he no longer would vote for any bill that would continue to fund the Iraq war but fail to launch an explicit exit strategy. (Cahir, Express-Times)



Sen. Paul Sarlo once compared it to a “civil war.”

Inside his own legislative district, covering parts of Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties, he has seen both factions. On one side are suburban schools such as Nutley’s, which faces years of stagnant state education aid, and homeowners paying annual property tax hikes to pick up the slack. On the other side, sometimes just across the municipal border, are schools in poor, urban areas such as Garfield and Passaic that receive the bulk of state support and say they need the assistance to pay for a quality education.


Gov. Jon S. Corzine has waded into the dispute with a new school funding plan that he said aims to steer money to all needy students and communities, regardless of whether they were part of the Abbott v. Burke state Supreme Court cases that for roughly a decade have mandated significantly enhanced state aid for 31 of the state’s 616 school districts. Those 31 districts include Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton.

Lawmakers representing suburban areas have long called for a c
hange, but those briefed on Corzine’s proposal late last week aren’t sure yet if he has found a solution, or just slapped new packaging on the same fractious system.

“Right now I think all that we can say is that we don’t have enough details,” said Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, who represents a heavily suburban area. “I am reserving judgment until I know definitely what it will do for property taxes and how it will play out in my local communities.”

While officials in recent days explained the principles behind Corzine’s plan — state aid will be allocated based largely on a community’s relative wealth and its concentration of needy students — they did not have exact figures to show how the proposal will affect each district. The final numbers, expected within two weeks, will show which schools will share in a $400 million to $500 million aid increase. (Tamari, Gannett)


In one of her first moves since returning from the Legislature’s five-month recess, Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow introduced a measure to help cement local laws that restrict where sex offenders can live.

The proposal comes after a string of Superior Court decisions reversing local laws in the state since they trumped the state’s Megan’s Law. It was prompted by concerns in Washington Borough.

Officials there had joined a growing number of municipal leaders across the state questioning whether residency restriction ordinances barring sex offenders from living a certain distance from day care facilities, schools or playgrounds would be enforceable after the court decisions.

“What my bill does is gives municipalities the ability to zone,” said Karrow, R-Hunterdon.

In the decisions to overturn local laws — in Galloway, Cherry Hill and Lower townships — the courts found the residency restriction ordinances to be unconstitutional since they violate offenders’ rights to live where they choose.

Karrow believes that since her bill would only allow zoning, a residency restriction of 1,000 feet from day care facilities, schools or playgrounds, it would hold up to a court challenge. (Graber, Express-Times)



State officials said the Hoboken Police Department’s SWAT team was “freelancing” during its trips to Louisiana.

By going to the Big Easy without the state’s approval, the SWAT team may have unnecessarily cost city taxpayers and exposed Hoboken to potential litigation, officials said.

While a task force of 250 officers under the command of the New Jersey State Police – which included Hudson County’s rapid deployment unit drawn from six municipalities – went to Kenner and were sworn in by the Louisiana State Police to help after Hurricane Katrina, officials said, Hoboken’s SWAT team went down without any red tape – or the approval of the state or the county.

“They were freelancing,” said State Police spokesman Capt. Al Della Fave. “They had nothing to do with our deployment.”

The trips – one to bring supplies to flooded Kenner, La., and then a return trip Hoboken police officials said was to provide security during Mardi Gras – were central to allegations in a federal lawsuit filed last month by five officers that alleged SWAT commander Lt. Angelo Andriani is an “unabashed white supremecist.” It was during one of the trips that Andriani posed for pictures wearing a mock Ku Klux Klan hood – a white napkin with two eyeholes – and a grey cap sporting the Confederate flag. (Hack, Jersey Journal)

A picture of the wife of a prominent New Orleans area developer holding a handgun while posing with Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno and other Hoboken cops is the latest photograph from the Hoboken SWAT team’s trip to Louisiana.

The picture was apparently taken inside the home of real estate developer Henry Shane during a thank you dinner for the Hoboken cops who brought supplies to Kenner in 2005. Shane’s mansion is in the exclusive Oakland Plantation Estates – the same gated community where author Anne Rice and former Saints player Willie Roaf once lived.

The picture, released by a source who wished to remain anonymous, was among a new group released since five Hoboken cops alleged that Lt. Angelo Andriani, the commander of the since-disbanded SWAT team, is an “unabashed white supremacist” who ordered officers to work at his home and LaBruno’s while on duty.

The source says Andriani handed the gun to Shane’s wife, Patricia.



In the past 16 months, the Governor’s Office has appointed four people to the board of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development projects statewide.

Yet it still has not made the most important board appointment of all: the chair.

All 17 spots on the board are filled, but the state has yet to promote a member to officially replace Vincent J. Giblin, the powerful labor leader who resigned from the position in July 2006. Gov. Jon S. Corzine notified the Legislature in March 2006 that he would replace Giblin with Edward H. Gant, a board member as well as a rival union leader.

“We’re considering candidates right now, and we hope to do this as expeditiously as possible,” then-Corzine spokesman Brendan Gilfillan told The Press of Atlantic City in August 2006. “It will be sooner rather than later.”

“Sooner” likely will be sometime in 2008, according to the Governor’s Office. (Rao, Press of Atlantic City)


FORT DIX – For the officer leading New Jersey’s largest National Guard deployment to a war zone since World War II, the goal is simple: Get the job done in Iraq and get everyone home safely.

“Our goal, obviously, is to take every soldier over and to bring every soldier back with us,” said Col. Steven Ferrari. Ferrari, who joined the military in 1981, is the commander of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in Lawrenceville, which is slated to go to Iraq late next summer.

Ferrari, who joined the military in 1981, is the commander of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in Lawrenceville, which is slated to go to Iraq late next summer.

Ferrari spoke last week about the forthcoming deployment, preparing his troops, their mission in Iraq, and what the father of two sons, including one who just joined the National Guard, is thinking about his own first trip to the war zone.

Originally, the New Jersey troops weren’t slated to go to Iraq until 2010, but that timetable was moved up earlier this fall as part of Pentagon efforts to limit how long troops are away from home.

About 2,600 New Jersey troops will be joined by about 500 soldiers from other states, Ferrari said. (Santana, AP)



A three-judge Appellate Court panel will hear oral arguments today as to whether a group of Hoboken activists have the right to sue the city to enforce a “pay-to-play” ordinance voters approved by a 9-to-1 margin three years ago.

The People for Open Government filed the lawsuit in June 2005, claiming a slate headed up by Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, collected more than $1 million in campaign contributions from businesses that have no-bid professional contracts with the city. The lawsuit claims that these actions are in violation of the “Hoboken Public Contracting Reform Ordinance.”

POG members collected enough signatures to get the ordinance on the ballot and voters approved it in 2004. (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)



The city’s economic development officials say Millville is in the best shape it’s ever been. “I’ve never been more proud of this city,” Mayor James Quinn said.

“It’s never looked as good as it does now.”

During a recent Daily Journal South Jersey Focus meeting, the mayor pointed to development on High Street and the Glasstown Arts District as evidence of change. Officials also highlighted progress with affordable housing and local community organizations. (Landau, Daily Journal)


WATERFORD – If the incoming Democratic majority on the township committee has anything to say about it, the three-year inquiry into police misconduct that cost the township more than $600,000 in legal bills and court judgments will end early in the new year.

Three Democrats who will be a majority on the five-member committee in January said last week they are against the probes.

So far, three of seven officers accused of wrongdoing have been exonerated in Superior Court. The final Superior Court appeal is scheduled to be heard next week. Two officers were found guilty in municipal hearings and left the department.

The investigation started in 2004 with allegations of extramarital sex on duty involving officers Michael Armor and Daniel Chiumento and two local women. It eventually touched seven officers, most charged with lying about the incident. A related investigation caused the removal of an officer for tipping off dealers before a raid. (Duhart, Courier-Post)



Jim Castagnoli looked at the world differently after his wife died in 2004 following a long battle with breast cancer.

Castagnoli and his wife, Mimi, were married 18 years. “When you go through the death of a family member, it puts things in perspective,” he said in a recent interview.

As devoted as he was to his job with the state court system, Castagnoli started pondering retirement to pursue other passions. In 2005, his new boss helped convince him to stay on for a few more years.

But Castagnoli, 57, has decided the time has come to leave.

On Dec. 31, he’ll retire as trial court administrator for the state court district covering Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. (Zatzariny, Gannett)


Gov. Corzine has nominated a judge from Point Pleasant for reappointment to the Superior Court bench. Judge Craig L. Wellerson’s nomination has been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his reappointment could be considered by the full Senate as early as today, said Corzine spokesman Jim Gardner.

If Wellerson’s reappointment is confirmed by the full Senate, he will be tenured, Gardner said. (Hopkins, Asbury Park Press)






In an act that became inevitable when a state superior court judge abruptly reversed his decision from earlier in the week, the Burlington County Republican Committee elected Bill Layton as their new party chairman at a special meeting on Saturday.

The unanimous vote proclaimed party unity, but the mood in the room bore an undercurrent of anxiety, which the new chairman attempted to dissipate in his acceptance speech.

“Friends,” Layton told the crowd of 300 in the Wyndham Hotel in Mount Laurel, “families fight. They fight all the time. But they leave their house unified, and they go and fight with the neighbors.”

Moments earlier, he had hugged his nemesis, outgoing chai
r Dawn Lacy, in a symbolic public display of partisan affection. The crowd clapped, and then broke into emotive overdrive with Sen.-elect Phil Haines leading the effort on his feet as the new chairman stood on-stage alone and gripping the podium said, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Layton presented himself as the ideological offspring and dutifully battle-ready protege of Glenn Paulsen, that powerful former chairman of 15 years who had called the emergency meeting of delegates in order to peel Lacy’s fingers off of the acting chairmanship she wielded for the last five months.” (Pizarro,

As about 250 feuding Burlington County Republicans met Saturday to elect a new chairman and try to heal their splintered party, Tom Wilson was already looking ahead to avoid another potentially nasty fight.

As chairman of the state GOP, Wilson said he hopes he can convince Republican leaders in Ocean and Burlington counties to stay out of a costly primary election battle as they try to decide which candidate will be their nominee in the 3rd District race for Congress.

George Gilmore, Ocean County’s political power broker, said Saturday that he’s considering “a host of good candidates” who live in his county.

Burlington County Republican boss Glenn Paulsen said Saturday that he is supporting Christopher Myers, a Medford councilman who’s a decorated Gulf War veteran and vice president at Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor in Moorestown.

Wilson said the potential success of any candidate can be measured by how much money that person can raise. (Guenther, Asbury Park Press)


A Burlington County attorney, his political enemy — South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross — and six newspapers, including The Star-Ledger, won a court ruling yesterday in an effort to make public 2,000 pages of documents collected during a suspended five-year state corruption probe of Norcross.

A state appeals court sent the case back to Superior Court Judge John Sweeney and directed him to review the documents, including 330 hours of tapes, and decide which documents could be released. He was instructed to explain his reasoning for any documents he finds should not be made public.

“Only then can we effectively review the factual basis of the judge’s decision and determine whether he ‘abused his discretion after weighing the competing considerations,'” appeals court Judge Jack L. Lintner wrote. Sweeney is expected to appoint a special master to assume the time-consuming job of reviewing the documents.

Ted M. Rosenberg, Palmyra Borough counsel; Norcross, and the newspapers appealed after Sweeney denied a request to release the documents, contending his decision to deny them failed to provide specific findings on individual records.

Rosenberg, Norcross and the newspapers are an odd mix of plaintiffs on the same side……….

Last year, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie sent a blistering letter to then-acting Attorney General Nancy Kaplan, accusing state investigators of botching the five-year corruption probe into Norcross so thoroughly it could not be salvaged.

The tapes became political fodder in the 2005 election campaign when Norcross was heard talking about his influence with then-U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who was running for governor. Corzine has said Norcross has exaggerated their relationship.

“As you might imagine, I am quite pleased the appellate division realized I do have a particular interest in these documents,” Rosenberg said yesterday. (Hester, AP)



State Sen. Loretta Weinberg said Friday she will no longer block a Senate vote on the reappointment of Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.

Weinberg exercised her “senatorial courtesy” power to block the appointment last June, citing unspecified concerns about Molinelli’s office that had been brought to her attention. Weinberg was told this week by state officials that issues she raised “seemed not to be a problem.”

“I’m satisfied that an appropriate review was done,” Weinberg said.

She refused to divulge details about the issue. She said she expects to sign off on the appointment after she meets with Molinelli. No date for a meeting has been scheduled.

But the prosecutor still has at least two hurdles to cross before securing another five-year term.

The Attorney General’s Office continues to review a September trip Molinelli took to Italy with state Sen. Joseph Coniglio — the Paramus Democrat who is the target of a federal investigation.

Critics complained that it was inappropriate for the county’s top law enforcement officer to be vacationing with Coniglio. Molinelli, Coniglio and attorney Dennis Oury, who also went on the trip with six others, share close ties to the Bergen County Democratic Organization.

Sen. Henry McNamara, a Republican from Wyckoff who is retiring in January, also has not signed off on the nomination, looking to leverage his power to fill judgeship vacancies in Bergen County. (Stile and Fallon, Bergen Record)



The two words were dropped like bombs during a heated discussion between two South Orange trustees — one white, one black.

Mark Rosner, who is white, called Stacey Jennings, who is black, the F-word, followed by “bitch” while arguing minutes before sitting down for a board of trustees meeting in October.

The exchange has roiled South Orange residents, sparking accusations that Rosner is a sexist, a racist and is no different from radio shock jock Don Imus. It has also left residents in this Essex County village, which has prided itself on its racial harmony, agonizing over questions of race, gender and diversity.

Some residents are willing to accept that Rosner — who has apologized three times — made an egregious mistake and are urging the board of trustees to move on.

Others in the community want Rosner to resign in order to send the message that derogatory language is not acceptable, especially from public officials.

“It is a gender issue. It is a race issue,” said Kim Gaddy, a Maplewood resident and president of the International Black Women’s Congress. (Wang, Star-Ledger)




It’s an old New Jersey joke that magnifies the roles the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway play in the nation’s 11th-largest state.

But many New Jersey residents don’t live near a turnpike or parkway off-ramp. Those toll roads snake north-to-south, or in the case of the Atlantic City Expressway, east-to-west. But not through northwestern New Jersey or large swathes of the state’s central and southern sections.

That has some arguing that Gov. Corzine’s plan to increase tolls on the highways to pay off state debt will disproportionately hit motorists who live in areas that rely most on toll roads.

Both the turnpike and the parkway, for instance, cut through Bergen, Essex and Middlesex Counties, but neither passes through Cumberland, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties.

“What needs to be understood is that for certain sections of the state, the parkway and the turnpike are truly local roads,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski.

Wisniewski, the Assembly Transportation Committee chairman, instead supports increasing the state’s 14.5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax.

“The advantage to the gas tax is that it applies to users of all roadways regardless of where you live,” he said.

But Corzine wants to create a nonprofit agency that would issue bonds to bring the state enough money to pay half of $32 billion in state debt. The bonds would be paid back by increased tolls.(Hester, AP)



Two Republican lawmakers said yesterday they plan to appeal a court ruling that let the Corzine administration withhold a preliminary study of future toll increases.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled Monday that administration officials could keep the consultant’s study under wraps until it is final. The Republicans contend the public paid for the study and is entitled to see it.

“The judge’s ruling allows the Corzine administration to censor information out of the report we are seeking before releasing a version to the public,” said Assemblywoman and Sen.-elect Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), who is filing the appeal along with Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Monmouth).

“We are fighting for a larger principle here, which is to prevent any government from being permitted to censor data and information from the public when they have paid to produce it. It is a fight worth having,” Kean said. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)


New Jersey officials yesterday criticized the Bush administration’s plan to slash federal counterterrorism funding by more than half, saying the move would leave the state vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

White House budget documents indicate the administration proposes to eliminate programs across the country for port security, transit security and local emergency management operations in the next budget year, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

Those documents say the administration does not believe the federal funds have been well spent, and thinks the nation’s high-risk cities have adequate security measures in place.

Former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, who chaired the 9/11 commission from 2002 to 2003, disagreed strongly with the idea that the nation’s security needs are met. The commission’s report called for strengthened security in mass transit and ports, he said.

“Funding is basic,” Kean said. “We need more help with security, not less.”

NJ Transit spokeswoman Penny Bassett Hackett echoed that sentiment.

“Federal funding for transit security is critical for us,” she said. “And while we’ve made significant progress in this area since 9/11, more needs to be done.” (Steele and Kwoh, Star-Ledger)



Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday a majority of school districts would receive significant increases in state aid under his upcoming school funding plan, and he did not rule out the possibility that every district could get at least a small bump in money from Trenton.

A specific accounting of how much each district would receive remains fluid until updated enrollment numbers are factored in, Corzine said in a 45-minute interview with The Star-Ledger.

However, he revealed that preliminary estimates indicate up to two-thirds of the state’s 618 districts would get a marked increase in funding under a plan that sends the bulk of about $450 million in additional money to middle-class communities that have rising low-income and immigrant populations.

Providing the first look at how the plan would affect local schools, Corzine said the beneficiaries would include a handful of the poorest districts that already have been helped by court-mandated funds, as well as a few wealthy ones.

Acknowledging the money pressures on all districts, Corzine said small increases in the 1 to 2 percent range may be feasible for the remainder of the state — “so that everybody gets at least a little. We haven’t decided that yet. It’s a matter of how much we can afford.” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)



Being nominated to a state commission can carry a steep political price tag if you hold the highest elected office in the state’s largest county.

For Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney, it may involve publicly denouncing two Democratic allies.

First, the back story:

McNerney has been tapped by Governor Corzine to join a nine-member state panel that will look at consolidating services among the state’s 566 municipalities and more than 600 school districts.

But first, McNerney has to get through the political back alley known as senatorial courtesy — the unwritten tradition that allows state senators to block a gubernatorial nominee who lives in their home county. Without those senators’ support, the nomination cannot move to the full Senate for confirmation…………..

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the Teaneck Democrat who has often sparred with McNerney’s political chums, notably Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero, said she has “no reason not to support him.”

That leaves Sen. Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Demarest.

McNerney made the trip to Cardinale’s Fort Lee dental office last week to make his pitch. McNerney described the meeting as a productive exchange of ideas between political opponents.

“I suggested he keep an open mind,” McNerney said. “He said he’d give it consideration.”

But Cardinale said in an interview that he wants McNerney to take a stand against dual-offi
ce holding by denouncing two freeholders — Elizabeth Calabrese, who is also a Wallington councilwoman, and James Carroll, who is also mayor of Demarest.(Stile, Bergen Record)



Twice this week state leaders tried to convince South Jersey’s business community to support a 10-week paid family leave bill and twice they were shot down.

Friday, Gov. Corzine told about 200 members of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey that he plans to sign the family leave bill sponsored by Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, in January because he is “not convinced it is so devastating to business practices and operations.”

Gains in helping families balance their life and work demands outweigh potential abuses by workers taking time off for no good reason, he said.

He also predicted that some measure of paid family leave will be mandated at the federal level if a Democrat is elected president in 2008.

The federal Family Medical and Family Leave Act now entitles a worker to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year and job protection to recover from a personal illness, disability — including pregnancy — or to care for a sick family member.

Recalling his car accident in April, in which he spent 18 days in Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Corzine said having his family by his side aided in his recovery.

“For the life of me, I can’t figure out how somebody on a $35,000-a-year income could afford to do that,” said Corzine covering much the same territory as Sweeney at another chamber breakfast on Wednesday in Voorhees. (Stilwell, Asbury Park Press)



Casino employees would be allowed to run for office in Atlantic City for the first time under legislation introduced by state Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough.

McCullough’s bill seeks to eliminate a state law that bars any person employed by an applicant or holder of a casino license from serving in elected office in the municipality where the casino exists.

“I think it would help bring new, intelligent people into the government by making the pool of candidates larger,” McCullough said.

McCullough, who leaves office when the new legislative session begins Jan. 8, said he plans to contact state Sen.-elect Jim Whelan next week. Whelan, contacted by The Press of Atlantic City, said he is in favor of the concept of allowing casino employees to run for office but noted it might be difficult to get the Legislature to hear the bill before the current session concludes (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)



The gray hair is striking among the officials on the dais at Middlesex County freeholder meetings.

Freeholder Deputy Director Stephen “Pete” Dalina — the top vote-getter in last month’s election — will be 80 when he finishes his seventh term in 2010. Freeholder Director David Crabiel marked his 77th birthday last spring — making him just few months younger than Dalina.

Freeholder Blanquita Valenti turns 74 at the end of the month, and since Freeholder Camille Fernicola celebrated her 65th birthday in June, a majority of the board is at or above retirement age…..

But the most senior official is Irving Verosloff — the 83-year-old, Harvard-educated county tax administrator.

None of the Middlesex officials has immediate plans to step down. While their supporters emphasize that the veteran officials’ experience makes them invaluable, others point out their longevity in office has left few opportunities for the next generation.

Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at the Eagleton Institute for Politics at Rutgers University, said the graying of Middlesex County officials “is important to look at from the point of view of succession planning.” Since the Middlesex County Democratic Organization controls most of county government, she said the party should be concerned with making openings for young leaders.

But Dalina insisted “nobody ever mentions anything about age.” The former Woodbridge councilman and retired tavern owner said “my wife is the only one who says I should retire. (Walsh, Star-Ledger)



To live in Newark often means grappling with unrelenting poverty, the anesthetizing lure of drugs, murderous gangs, a lack of decent jobs.

But for gay men, lesbians and transgender people, there are additional obstacles that are seldom acknowledged: gay bashings, H.I.V., open hostility from many religious leaders and sometimes callous treatment by the police.

When venturing outside his Central Ward neighborhood, Tyrone Simpson, 19, stays on main thoroughfares and steers clear of the men in gang colors looking for easy quarry. Dynasty Mitchell, 21, an aspiring poet who works at a supermarket, has learned to blend in by stretching a do-rag over his head and adopting a thuggish gait in public.

“If you’re not prepared to fight, you’re not going to survive in Newark,” said Mr. Simpson, who is unabashedly gay.

New Jersey has become a national beacon for gay equality. It boasts some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country, and recent legislation makes it one of only three states that recognize same-sex civil unions. Gay marriage, some say, is just around the corner. Across the state, same-sex couples and their children have become integrated into suburban life.

But here in the state’s largest city, gay men and lesbians might as well live on another planet. (Jacobs, New York Times)



New Jersey will soon begin debate on whether it should become the first state to abolish the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstate
d it in 1976.

Two legislative committees are expected to hold Statehouse hearings in the coming week on replacing capital punishment with life in prison without parole. A Senate budget panel is slated to consider the bill on Monday; The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee is slated to do the same on Thursday.

A Senate budget panel is slated to consider the bill on Monday; The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee is slated to do the same on Thursday.

If approved by each panel, the bill can be considered for final votes by the Assembly and Senate.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a death penalty foe, has said he would sign a bill banning capital punishment.

Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. has already scheduled an Assembly vote for Dec. 13. The Senate is expected to act soon, too.

New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982, but hasn’t executed anyone since 1963.

“The law has become an absolute exercise in futility,” said Roberts, D-Camden. “It is time to end it.’ (Hester, AP)


A federal tax originally designed to prevent the super-rich from avoiding taxes altogether continues to dun more and more of North Jersey, including thousands of families earning less than $100,000.

The latest data from the Internal Revenue Service shows a dramatic increase in the number of North Jersey families required to pay the alternative minimum tax, which produces higher bills than the regular income tax.

New Jersey is home to the highest percentage of AMT payers in the nation.

There is general agreement in Congress that the AMT is growing out of control. But there is wide disagreement about how to fix it, because there are political downsides to each of the three options available: cutting spending, raising taxes or increasing the deficit.

The Senate recently tried but failed to pass a one-year patch that would have kept an extra 21 million families, including 1.5 million in New Jersey, from being subjected to the tax. On average, these families will owe $2,100 more in taxes in April if Congress doesn’t act. (Jackson, Bergen Record)



Some scoff when Rosemarie Agostini says God has a plan for her, one that may include being mayor of Parsippany — despite five losses at the polls.

But friends say her deep belief that she is called to serve the residents of Morris County’s biggest town is at the heart of the Republican councilwoman’s unrelenting fight to challenge the results of the mayoral election — which was held two years ago — in which she was 39 votes short of a victory.

“I’m not comparing her to Mother Teresa,” said Fran Malloy, a close friend for almost 20 years. “But there are people in the world who have that single-minded sense of purpose and (Agostini) is one of them.”

That was on display for the two years it took for the courts to review Agostini’s lawsuit asserting Democrat Michael Luther won with illegal ballots. Finally, on Nov. 8, the state Supreme Court ordered the trial she wanted and it is set to begin in Morristown on Jan. 7.

For the 68-year-old grandmother, it’s the fight of her career that no one who is close to her is surprised she is pursuing.

“She’s not stubborn,” said Andy Maybo, Agostini’s campaign treasurer for 14 years. “Even in defeat, her automobile has just one gear: forward. She can’t accept defeat. It motivates her.” (Frank, Star-Ledger)



Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday started to raise the curtain on a long-awaited school funding plan that would steer tens of millions in additional aid to middle-class districts with surging low-income and immigrant populations.

The proposal would make fundamental changes in the way New Jersey pays for its public schools, including new guidelines on how much money is “adequate” to educate each child. It would mandate preschool in all districts with pockets of poverty, revise funding for special education and add new money for security measures in every school.

Corzine has pledged for the last year to move away from the cur rent two-tiered system that focuses additional aid on the poorest districts but has done little to help struggling suburban ones.

Yesterday afternoon, he met behind closed doors with about 60 leaders of the state’s major education associations to lay out further details of his plan, which administration officials said would add about $450 million next year to the $8 billion the state now distributes to schools.

The presentation left out a critical piece: a line-by-line accounting of how the proposed formula would affect each district and its property taxes. Officials said that will come in a public presentation of the plan within 10 days. (Mooney and McNichol, Star-Ledger)



It’s never a welcome arrival.

Fiscal monitors have been appointed to seven troubled school districts in the state since the law allowing them was passed in April 2006.

Each time, Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy comes to a Board of Education meeting to introduce the monitor, who will have far-reaching powers in the district.

“Nobody ever greets me with a band and cake,” Davy said at one such meeting.

But, in Pleasantville, the man holding the position – John Deserable – has taken more hits than usual.

“We’ve seen nothing compared to what’s happened in Pleasantville,” said Katherine Attwood, the Department of Education‘s assistant commissioner in charge of finance. “It’s been almost daily since he’s
been down there.” (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)



Assistant school superintendents here are routinely summoned to a 10 a.m. Thursday meeting where they must answer for missing test scores, overdue building repairs and other lapses, which are presented in painful detail on PowerPoint slides.

Excuses are not an option. It is the latest evolution of Compstat, a widely copied management program pioneered by the New York Police Department in 1994.

Paterson is one of a half-dozen school districts around the country that have embraced this confrontational approach, known here as SchoolStat, in an effort to improve school performance and overhaul bureaucracies long seen as bloated, wasteful and unresponsive to the public. (Hu, New York Times)



Newark Mayor Cory Booker vowed to make prisoner re-entry a top priority of his administration.

The mayor often talks about the issue, most recently giving a speech at the Manhattan Institute and leading a panel discussion at the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention.

But 16 months after taking office, some council members are criticizing Booker’s initiative as nonexistent. (Mays and Wang, Star-Ledger)



It’s a question of secession.

Some people think of Twin Rivers as just another waypoint along the New Jersey Turnpike. Money magazine sees it as a contender for being one of the Top 100 places to live in America.

The housing community now boasts four swimming pools, 12 tennis courts, a shopping center, its own garbage collection, snow removal and sidewalk repairs plus a population of almost 8,000 residents.

One of those residents thinks Twin Rivers is so self-sufficient it might be a good idea if the community seceded from East Windsor Township, the municipality that governs it.

When Twin Rivers Board of Trustees President Scott Pohl threw the provocative secession question at six candidates vying for three seats on the community’s nine-member board, he says he was just trying to stimulate debate. Now even he’s not sure it was worth stirring up the hornet’s nest of controversy when no one is enthusiastically supporting him.

“Oh, everybody thinks it’s an interesting idea,” Pohl says. “But it was simply a candidates’ night question. Basically, considering we represent 23 percent of the township, we’re not given fair representation,” he adds citing as an example that the development pays for its own garbage collection. (Persico, Trenton Times)



Rutherford’s retiring police chief is owed $311,000 in sick, vacation and other unused time from his 34 years on the force.

That’s on top of the $127,000 annual pension Steven Nienstedt will receive after retiring Saturday as the second-highest-paid police chief in Bergen County, with a yearly salary of more than $182,000.

Nienstedt, 55, saw his salary balloon by about 40 percent in the last five years of his career, rising from $132,300 in 2002 — much of it thanks to a whopping $24,797 raise the Borough Council awarded him in 2003.

When Rutherford voters pushed Mayor Bernadette McPherson and two Democratic council members out of office last month, they also might have nudged the police chief into retirement. (Clunn, Bergen Record)



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