Corzine headed to Switzerland for World Economic Forum; Burlington County Republicans endorse Myers for House, Estabrook for Senate, Stacey Jordan for freeholder and Gary Woodend for county clerk; Lonegan accuses Corzine administration of playing a part in his arrest.
CORZINE TO BLOW INTO HORN AND YELL “RICOLA”
Gov. Jon Corzine will take part in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum this week in Davos, Switzerland.
Corzine leaves for the Swiss mountain town today and will be out of the country the rest of the week, his office announced yesterday. Corzine is the only state-level official invited to take part in the meeting, the announcement said.
The timing of the trip means Corzine will miss the mid-week presidential campaign visit to New Jersey by Sen. Hillary Clinton, for whom he has campaigned in Iowa and Nevada.
The meeting in the Alps brings together some 2,500 business leaders, politicians, artists and celebrities for a five-day discussion of the challenges facing the global economy.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will deliver the opening address. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is among 27 heads of state who will be in Davos for the five-day conference. British actress Emma Thompson and Brazilian author Paul Coehlo are among the "cultural figures" attending the conference, in its 38th year. (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
As part of his bid to capture his party’s nomination for the 3rd Congressional District, Medford Mayor Chris Myers on Monday night accepted the endorsement of the Burlington County Republican Party.
"What I offer is my background as a businessman," Myers, an executive with Lockheed Martin, said as a counterpoint to Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly’s boast last week that Kelly has more experience than Myers as a freeholder serving half the 3rd Congressional District…..
In other endorsements, the Burlington County Republican Party picked Stacey Jordan of Moorestown, daughter off former Burlington County Freeholder Vincent Farias, to fulfill the unexpired freeholder term of Addiego. Addiego is abandoning her post to focus on her 8th District Assembly seat, which she won last November………
The party also endorsed Medford Lakes Councilman Gary Woodend, an attorney and longtime GOP campaigner, to fill the unexpired county Clerk’s term of Sen. Phil Haines, who was elected senator last year on a ticket with Addiego.
Finally, in the U.S. Senate primary, the party endorsed businesswoman Anne Estabrook over fellow Republicans state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and economist Murray Sabrin.
In her acceptance speech, Estabrook noted the challenge of becoming the first Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 36 years.
"Let’s go for it," she told the cheering crowd.. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
INSERT BOXER PUN HERE
At 37 years old, Matt Boxer already has investigated terrorists, jailed corrupt politicians and clamped down on secretive, poorly run state agencies.
None of that compares to the job ahead: Cleaning up government in a state perceived to be among the most corrupt in the country.
"I don't feel overwhelmed," said Boxer, who was publicly sworn in Friday as New Jersey's first independent comptroller. "We have a huge task in front of us. But if I had trepidation about doing it, I wouldn't have taken the job."
Two weeks into a job created as a cornerstone of Gov. Jon Corzine's government reform agenda, Boxer said: "We're not going to solve all of the state's fiscal problems. But I am confident that this will be an office that the state will be proud of."
But first, Boxer needs to find some paper clips, toner and more than 50 staffers.
"Starting from scratch is really where we are," he said. "I've had a lot of jobs over my time, but none where you show up at the office and you have no paper, you've got no pens. There's no copy machine. There's no fax machine. It's going to take some time." (Margolin, Star-Ledger)
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, LONEGAN STYLE
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Two protesters accused Gov. Jon S. Corzine's staff of orchestrating their arrest Saturday outside the Performing Arts Center minutes before the governor defended his plan to raise highway tolls.
Police said the anti-toll hike protesters tried to enter the building with signs in violation of the Board of Education's paper notice posted on the front door outlawing signs, gifts and backpacks at the town hall-style meeting. Lonegan accused the governor's staff of playing a role in his arrest to squelch public opposition to the proposal.
"The governor's staff was directing police," he said. "Their idea of a disturbance is not agreeing with the governor's plan."
Corzine's Deputy Press Secretary Jim Gardner on Monday disputed the claims.
"The governor's office had absolutely nothing to do with this whatsoever," Gardner said in an e-mail. "By virtue of the fact that the governor has committed to open town-hall meetings in every county in New Jersey, it is obvious that he is eager to hear from all members of the public and address all concerns. And he will continue to do so."
The protesters videotaped a confrontation between Lonegan and Walter Landgraf, the school district's business administrator, shortly before the arrest. In the video, Landgraf introduces himself and tells Lonegan he must take the protest off school grounds.
"It's not public property. It's owned by the Board of Education. There's a difference," Landgraf says on the video. "You're going to have to leave the property, please. I'd like you to leave the school board's property."(Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
CLINTON LOVES THE BOSSES
Hillary Clinton, the "agent of change," will cross paths in Bergen County on Wednesday with a powerful enemy of change, Joe Ferriero.
But don't expect a showdown over reform.
In fact, there's a good chance they'll lock hands in solidarity and thank a crudités-clenching throng at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack for their enthusiasm, their commitment and, of course, their $2,300 checks made out to Hillary Clinton for President.
"Chairs" who've raised $50,000 will probably be standing right next to them. So will the "co-chairs" who brought in $25,000 and "hosts" who've produced $10,000.
"Make History & Join the Event Committee," reads the campaign's fund-raising letter/invitation.
That taut sales pitch for the Ferriero-organized fund-raiser for Clinton brings into sharp relief one of the ironies — her critics call it the glaring hypocrisy — of Clinton's rhetoric of change. She is vowing to bring about the new order by relying on the largesse of the old guard in New Jersey that prefers to keep things the way they are. (Stile, Bergen Record)
THE BOOK THAT HAUNTS NJ POLITICS
A book about the methods of political strategists names a consulting firm that is working with Chris Myers' congressional campaign in what the author describes as his most immoral action.
Allen Raymond's "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative" hit bookstore shelves Jan. 8. The book claims to be a tell-all about underhanded political tactics by a consultant who ran state and national elections throughout the Northeast.
About halfway through the 240-page volume, Raymond alleges that Myers' consultant Tom Blakely was involved in improper calls to voters. At Jamestown Associates, Blakely, now president of the firm, discussed with Raymond how to play to the targets' racial biases to damage an opponent's chances, according to the book.
Raymond said if he had faced the publication of such a book while he was in politics, he would have downplayed the issue using sarcasm and discredited the author.
Blakely said he had skimmed the book, but wasn't taking it seriously. He said it he did not think its contents would be damaging because they are so far-fetched and that Raymond felt he had been slighted by the party. (Previti, Press of Atlantic City)
A crucial element of Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plan to cut state debt is the independence of a new entity that would run the state's toll roads.
But his critics, and even some supporters, say independence may be a crucial problem.
Corzine envisions a new nonprofit "public benefit corporation," or PBC, that would be free from political interference, allowing it to run like an efficient business, with the power to raise prices — tolls — to pay back its investors.
"It will be run like a company, like a transportation company," Corzine said at a town hall meeting in Livingston to discuss his proposal.
But some lawmakers are balking at the idea of handing over the roads and billions of dollars of toll money for the next 75 years to an entity that, by design, won't answer directly to elected officials.
"These are going to be people that don't answer to anybody. That's just not acceptable," said Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester. (Tamari, Gannett)
BARBARA BUONO – FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD BUDGET COMMITTEE
Barbara Buono is making history, but don't expect a big show of it.
"I don't exhibit a lot of bravado, but I like to think I more than make up for that with hard work and quiet resolve, and I intend to continue that approach," Buono said. "It's always worked for me in the past."
The 54-year-old Middlesex County Democrat is the first woman to lead the state Senate's Budget and Appropriations Committee, a panel that ranks among the New Jersey Legislature's most influential because it decides how state money is spent.
Buono was named to the post by Senate President Richard J. Codey and takes control at a crucial time.
The state faces a projected $3 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and Gov. Corzine has promised not to let spending increase, meaning major budget cuts loom.
Meanwhile, Corzine is seeking hefty highway toll increases to pay state debt and fund transportation.
"A lot of people have said to me, 'Oh, you must be lamenting the fact that you were appointed at this point in time, the fiscal situation being what it is,' " Buono said. "The truth is, I thought about it and I have to be honest, I would rather be chair of a budget committee that will allow me to be intellectually honest about the budget." (Hester, AP)
State Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney plans to renew efforts to enact a paid family-leave law by proposing a measure that would provide up to six weeks off, down from the 10 weeks in a bill that died in the Legislature's last session.
The law would be funded by an estimated $1 weekly deduction from workers' paychecks and would provide employees with two-thirds of their weekly salary, up to $500.
Workers could take the leave for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a sick family member.
Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said employers "won't have to spend a dime" to support the paid-leave fund, but businesses opposed the earlier measure saying it would affect their ability to be flexible with workers' schedules and could cost them money to hire temporary replacements.
Despite nominal support from Democratic leaders, the measure did not come up for a vote in either house before the last session ended Jan. 7.
"Many hard-working folks need support balancing job and family, and this bill provides it," said Jon Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a member of the NJ Time to Care Coalition, which is coordinating lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill's passage. (Gambardello, Philadelphia Inquirer)
GOODBYE MR. POTATO HEAD
It was 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 7. Professor Robert Martin was lecturing to his land-use class at Seton Hall University Law School in Newark.
His students were not aware of the significance of the time, but Martin understood it well. As he taught, his 23-year legislative career quietly ended. He was no longer a state senator. He had just become civilian Bob Martin.
"It's amazing how fast this has all gone," the 60-year-old Martin said in a recent interview at the Parsippany legislative office he shared with Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce and Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio (both R-Morris), who succeeded Martin in the Senate. "Seems just a short time ago I was taking my first peek into the room at the Morris Plains Republican Club and now it's over."
But not without plenty of interesting times for Martin, who was a force in education as chairman of the Senate's Education Committee, author of the Sunshine Law to open government to the public, and who was willing to buck party leadership — and get slapped down for it, too — on statewide issues whenever he felt personal conscience trumped party views. (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)
THE GERIATRIC FREEHOLDER BOARD
Middlesex County Freeholder Camille Fernicola says she won’t seek re-election to a fifth term this year. Fernicola, 66, spent fifteen years as a Piscataway Councilwoman before her election to the Board of Freeholders in 1997. Her running mate, 78-year-old Freeholder David Crabiel, has not yet announced his plans for 2008. (Editor, PolitickerNJ.com)
ROE V. WADE ANNIVERSARY
It is one of those private issues that doesn't need an anniversary or a presidential election to stir up public passions: abortion.
But today, the abortion debate takes on at least added meaning for activists on both side of the issue as they mark the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide as a woman's constitutionally protected right.
In recent years, the number of abortions in the U.S. has fallen, dipping to 1.2 million in 2005, 25 percent fewer than the record high of 1.6 million in 1990, according to a report issued earlier this month by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.
But New Jersey, which historically has had a far higher abortion rate than the country as a whole, continued that pattern in 2005, although the Garden State's abortion rate that year — 34.3 abortions per 1,000 women and girls of reproductive age (15 to 44 years old) — was 5 percent lower than in 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Nationally, Guttmacher reported that the abortion rate dropped more dramatically — 9 percent from 2000 to 2005, when it fell to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 females of reproductive age, its lowest level since 1974. (Stern, Trenton Times)
CORZINE SLOW TO FILL A VACANCY? NO WAY
The New Jersey Highlands Council that votes on a controversial regional land use master plan this spring could be very different from the one that proposed the 383-page document last November.
Four of the current council members, including Chester Township farmer Kurt Alstede, are holdovers whose terms expired last year, and a fifth seat, that of the Somerset County representative, has been unfilled since last spring. Those represent a third of the 15 seats on the council.
If new members are appointed before that final vote and depending on their feelings about the 2004 Highlands Act, the council's actions this year could differ markedly from its first three years of work. The state's Highlands Act created an 860,000-acre region that includes most of Morris County and requires about half those acres comply with a new master plan, in the name of conserving public
Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Gov. Jon Corzine, said the governor's office is working on the nominations.
"Candidates have been identified and are currently undergoing the review process," said Gardner. "Nominations will be forthcoming in the near future." (O’Dea, Daily Record)
The borough might try to block its former administrator from helping his new boss, Donald Trump, rally public support for EnCap, Mayor John Hipp said.
Timothy Stafford, who resigned when Hipp took office three weeks ago, could provide Trump with an unfair advantage since he had access to confidential information about the landfills- to-links project during his four years as administrator, Hipp said.
"If we went into litigation with Trump, because of his position, Stafford would have a lot of information that we would rely on," he said.
Trump hired Stafford, who began as a vice president on Jan. 7, to help convince officials and residents in Lyndhurst and Rutherford that his organization will manage EnCap more effectively than the project's former parent company, said George Sorial, a Trump vice president.(Clunn, Bergen Record)
The township pays a total of about $50,000 annually in health benefits for four of its seven part-time council members, including the mayor. The three who opted out of the plan are eligible for a $3,000 stipend each.
The Citizens Budget Committee last year raised questions about the expense, moving the Township Council to mandate that part-time employees contribute a small amount for a plan that was once free. Even so, increases in medical benefits contributed to the 5 percent increase in the $21 million budget.
Now, some officials are moving to do away with the benefit for part-time employees, maintaining that the benefits are out of line by private-sector standards.
"The township shouldn't pay health benefits at all for any of the council members," said Keith Hartman, a political newcomer recently elected to council. "… We certainly think that if you're doing this type of thing, you're not doing it for financial gain, for the health benefits. And for the most part we all have jobs."(Rao, Press of Atlantic City)
IN LOWER TOWNSHIP
Douglass, who bucked the party in 2006 to defeat incumbent Stig Blomkvest in the Republican primary, made the announcement Monday. Douglass said voters are telling him they are not going to support Craig.
"People say they want somebody different. I'm getting my petition tomorrow. I'm just getting my name out there for a choice," Douglass said. (Degener, Press of Atlantic City)
The Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) threw most of its support behind Sen. Barack Obama's Democratic presidential primary bid in an endorsement vote Sunday, but Obama — and every other candidate — fell short of the 60 percent threshold needed for the PCDO's endorsement.
Obama received 54 of the PCDO's 113 votes, compared to the 35 votes for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
For any candidate slate to have gotten the PCDO's endorsement, however, a minimum of 68 of the 113 votes cast were needed. As a result, no candidate will get the organization's official endorsement in the primary.
Rounding out the tally after Obama and Clinton's one-two finish are John Edwards (10 votes), Dennis Kucinich (six votes), uncommitted (five votes), Al Gore (two write-in votes), and no endorsement (one vote), according to the PCDO. (Trenton Times)