Lautenberg’s opposition to monetization doesn’t go well with Corzine, Christie called to testify in Washington DC, Lonegan takes Republican reigns.
UH OH. DOES THIS MEAN A PRIMARY?
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg's opposition to Gov. Jon Corzine's highway toll plan has opened a rift between the two men that could affect the senator's re-election bid.
The senator announced last week that he would not support Corzine's call for higher tolls as part of a plan to restructure the state's finances. The statement came after all three Republican candidates for Lautenberg's seat came out against the toll plan.
Lautenberg's announcement was a surprise and led one senior Corzine aide to tell top Democrats that the governor would retaliate by ceasing his fundraising efforts, and canceling a Manhattan fundraiser to be held next month at the home of a Corzine friend.
In an interview yesterday, Corzine declined to comment on the aide's threat. Asked about Lautenberg's opposition to the toll plan, the governor said: "I don't agree with his judgment on this particular situation. We see it differently."
The governor's top political adviser, Tom Shea, said the governor "will continue to assist in (Lautenberg's) fundraising efforts," and added that the March fundraising gathering would still be held.
"But it is safe to say," Shea said, "that it will be more difficult to raise money from the governor's strongest supporters in light of (Lautenberg's) statement on the governor's plan." (Margolin and Howlett, Star-Ledger)
CHRISTIE CALLED TO TESTIFY
In the six years that he has been the United States attorney for New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie Jr. has investigated freeholders and governors, party hacks and United States senators, winning indictments against Republicans and Democrats alike and obtaining convictions or guilty pleas against more than 125 public officials without losing a case.
But today Mr. Christie finds himself challenged over the way he has conducted business. He recently drew the attention of the Justice Department’s inspector general and Congress after awarding tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to his friends and political allies.
In the coming months, he may face more scrutiny if the Government Accountability Office, as requested, investigates one of those contracts, worth at least $28 million, awarded to his previous boss, John Ashcroft, the former United States attorney general, to monitor a medical-prosthetics company after it acknowledged defrauding consumers.
Mr. Ashcroft has been asked to testify later this month before a House subcommittee that is looking into the proliferation of the kind of contracts he received to monitor settlements of corporate-fraud cases.
The attention comes at an inopportune time for Mr. Christie, who most political leaders in New Jersey believe plans to run for governor next year. So far, Mr. Christie, 45, has not said what he plans to do when he leaves office. He will almost certainly be replaced by President Bush’s successor. But there is a growing chorus of critics who say that he has resorted to the same kind of cronyism and bullying tactics for which he has excoriated others. (Kocieniewski, New York Times)
“HE’S DONE A GREAT JOB OF GRABBING THE LEADERSHIP OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, WHICH IS FOLLOWING HIM LIKE LAMBS”
New Jersey may be dominated by Democrats, but Steve Lonegan is convinced that conservative New Jerseyans are just waiting for bold leadership to rally them.
Lonegan, 51, a former college football captain, has lately been positioning himself to be that leader, and people are taking notice.
"Steve is an outstanding organizer, probably the best the Republicans have," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R., Morris).
Even Democrats concede that Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, has emerged as a factor, though they're not necessarily worried about that.
"He's done a great job of grabbing the leadership of the Republican Party, which is following him like lambs," said Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D., Union), the state Democratic Party chairman. "If they want to attach themselves to his right-wing politics, that's fine by us." (Hester, AP)
And he's been taking his show on the road.
Tonight, Lonegan and others are expected to talk with Manahawkin taxpayers at the local Ocean County library branch. It is the latest "Grassroots Taxpayer Action Seminars" hosted by the former Bogota mayor and one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Lonegan, 51, is the executive director of the state's branch of Americans of Prosperity, a libertarian-leaning advocacy group.
He has hosted these seminars around the state for years, last year focusing on defeating ballot initiatives that included $450 million for stem-cell research. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
THE “KUMBAYA SESSION” THAT WASN’T TO BE
Peace among Hudson County Democrats never had a chance. On Monday, there was to be a gaggle of pols at Lincoln Park in Jersey City announcing an end to hostilities.
The explanation for the suspension of the momentous event was that there were some tactical problems, and it was said some of the federal lawmakers were unable to attend.
"We couldn't get all the parties together and a few had some questions," said Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy yesterday. Healy said he hoped that issues could be resolved and another press conference held next week.
Oh yeah, there was also the realization over the weekend that Union City Mayor and state Sen. Brian P. Stack, de facto leader of a rival splinter group of Dems, would be absent. Without Stack, why have a peace rally?
It did not stop everyone else from trying to hold the hug-your-fellow-pol session. Even those aligned with Stack were called over the weekend to attend the event – even though it was obvious that Stack was the last to know about this scheduled Kumbaya session.
The Hudson County Democratic Organization leadership scrambled to repair the damage Monday morning at a breakfast at the Coach House restaurant in North Bergen. County people said the breakfast had been prearranged weeks before between County Executive Tom DeGise and Stack. This time they included Mayor Healy, who is also chairman of the HCDO. (Torres, Jersey Journal)
DECROCE: MY BAD
A state lawmaker from Morris County who voted for naming Route 23 for former Rep. Robert A. Roe — who seriously injured two people in a 1993 drunken driving accident in Rockaway Township — said Tuesday the honor should be revoked.
Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, R-Parsippany, — a co-sponsor of the Roe highway bill signed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in January — said he would ask the leading Democratic sponsor to "consider rescinding the name of the highway."
"If he does that, I'm willing to go on board," DeCroce said.
DeCroce added that he planned to write "a letter of apology" to the family of John and Julia Worosila. Their then-15-year-old daughter, Jodi, suffered numerous fractures in the accident on Green Pond Road and her spleen had to be removed. Julia Worosila broke her pelvis in two places while her husband was unhurt. (Jennings, Daily Record)
MADD: YOUR BAD
Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants to stop the state from renaming Route 23 for Robert A. Roe, the former congressman from Wayne who was convicted of drunken driving in 1993.
"MADD is severely disappointed that more consideration was not put into the decision to rename Route 23 after Representative Roe, a convicted drunk driver who seriously injured two people," MADD's state director, Mindy Lazar, said in a statement. "MADD is going to be reaching out to the victims to see if we can do anything to help."
On Jan. 3, Governor Corzine signed a bill that the state Legislature had adopted nearly unanimously naming the entire stretch of Route 23 "Robert A. Roe Highway."
The renaming was meant to honor Roe for his days in Congress as chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, which funneled billions of dollars in federal aid to New Jersey for road and rail projects. (Cowen and D’Aurizo, Bergen Record)
RUDDER LEAVES MEDFORD COUNCIL.. TWO WEEKS LATE
It was development that prompted Scott Rudder to run for township council in 1997 and development kept him there two weeks later than he planned.
Rudder, 38, officially stepped down from council Tuesday night to focus on his new office in the state Assembly. He had originally intended to step down on Jan. 31 but wanted to stay on board to see a $9.9 million deal go through that will preserve almost 400 acres of farmland in the township.
"Times change and Medford changes but I think we've really been able to preserve its quality of life," he said. "I'm really proud of the accomplishments we've been able to pull together."
A lifelong resident, Rudder was inspired to run for office after returning home from college in West Virginia and his early career working for U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., in Washington.
"Medford was growing too fast and it didn't seem to have a plan attached to it," he said. "There was a lot of development on the table in the mid-'90s that was going to change the township's character dramatically." (Nark, Courier-Post)
BUT MIMS IS COOL
The field of candidates to unseat embattled Orange Mayor Mims Hackett Jr. grew longer yesterday after longtime Orange community activist Betty J. Brown threw her hat into the ring.
Brown, a former AT&T executive who is now an investigator for Essex County's office of fraud prevention, became the third challenger to enter the race.
Councilman-at-large Donald Page, a veteran of the governing body, and Eldridge Hawkins Jr., a West Orange police officer who is a first time political office-seeker, already have announced their mayoral candidacies.
Brown, who is making her third bid for mayor, said she entered the race because it was time to rid city hall of years of political shame, mismanagement, special interest control and stagnated redevelopment efforts.
"I have considered this decision very carefully, and hereby commit myself to the endeavor of making much needed changes in our city," said Brown, who kicked off her campaign by handing out quart-size bottles of Pine-Sol all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant to supporters outside Orange City Hall. (Dilworth, Star-Ledger)
IN BRADLEY BEACH
There was another minor skirmish between Borough Councilwoman Julie Schreck and Mayor Stephen G. Schueler Tuesday over an ordinance Schreck initiated and the mayor opposed.
In the end, the ordinance, which would require that all items to be placed on the council's meeting agenda be submitted to the borough clerk 96 hours in advance of the meeting, was approved.
But not before Schueler got in a few more zings.
Schueler continued the objections to the ordinance he aired at last month's meeting, when it was introduced. The mayor said he didn't think such a time requirement was necessary. (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)
A former Fair Haven official pleaded guilty Monday to endangering the welfare of a child in a case that involved using his work computer to download child pornography.
William Acker, 52, resigned his posts as deputy borough clerk and assistant tax collector in March 2006 amid allegations that he had used his office computer to surf Internet porn sites. Following his resignation, borough police received allegations that he had downloaded child pornography and lurid sex stories on his computer, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.
Acker had held the borough administrative posts from December 2004 until March 2006. Prior to that, he had been a Fair Haven police officer, retiring after 20 years service, officials said. (Johnson, Asbury Park Press)
A suspended Monmouth County official has been indicted by a grand jury on official misconduct charges, after an investigation revealed he was inappropriately taking gasoline from the county central motor pool.
William Doggett, 68, of Freehold Township faces five years in state prison if convicted on charges he filled one or more 5-gallon containers with gasoline and stored them in his official county vehicle.
Doggett had the use of a county-owned vehicle for official business as superintendent of the county Department of Weights and Measures. He was authorized to fill the gas tank of the vehicle at the county's central motor pool but was not authorized to pump the gas himself.
An investigation conducted by the county Prosecutor's Office revealed Doggett, a county employee for approximately 28 years, took his assigned county vehicle to the central motor pool between February and March 2007, where he pumped gasoline from the county gas pumps into one or more 5-gallon containers. (Webster, Asbury Park Press)
TOMS RIVER COUNCIL FORMALLY JUMPS ON THE BANDWAGON
TOMS RIVER — In its first meeting since Gov. Corzine was in town to discuss his plan that would raise tolls to reduce the state debt and fund transportation projects, the Township Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposal.
Since Corzine began discussing his plan, council members have been vocal about what they characterize as an unfair burden for Ocean County residents. They continued the criticism Tuesday night.
"We are paying much more than what our fair share is of state debt," Council President Gregory P. McGuckin said. (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)
A state takeover of the township's finances is shaping up as a collaborative affair that will allow the township to spread the pain of a looming tax increase into the coming years, but still maintain its independence.
Susan Jacobucci, head of the state's Division of Local Government Services, described the impending takeover as a rare step, but said she expects it to be a cooperative effort intended to ease the pain of the town's fiscal dilemma.
Under state law, officials said they had to take the formal step of filing a suit against the state, but both Jacobucci and township at torney Lindsay Burbage said the case will not likely be adversarial.
Residents face a municipal tax rate hike of 25 cents per $100 in assessed home value, which for the owner of the average township home means a rise of more than $330 in the yearly tax bill.
"Hamilton came to us and pointed out some problems meet ing the (state-imposed budget) caps, and unfortunately the taxpayers would bear the brunt unless something was done," Jacobucci said. "Statutorily, this is the only thing we could find that would alle viate the tax burden on the taxpayers." (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
THE ANTI-GANG CONSULTANT GOT A CITY CAR?
After learning that former city anti-gang consultant Barry Colicelli planned to finish up his work this week, city council members told officials to stop paying him immediately and have him return his city car.
After the council voted 4-2 against renewing Colicelli's contract, Colicelli and city officials planned to have him finish his work, such as handing over documents related to a grant proposal to the Nicholson Foundation.
He also kept his city car, under the terms of his existing contract.
Colicelli drove the car home after the council meeting Thursday, according to Renee Haynes, chief of staff to Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. She said he needed a means of getting home.
West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue said he must stop working for the city.
"Even as a consultant, the contract is over," she said. "Those services need to be terminated immediately." (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)
ALSO IN TRENTON
Former mayoral candidate Tony Mack's petition to overturn the city's 2006 mayoral election has come to an end, as the state Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear the case. Mack, a Mercer County freeholder, chal lenged the election, alleging numerous improprieties by the campaign of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. After finishing second, losing by about 3,700 votes, Mack asked that a new election be ordered or he be appointed mayor.
His challenge was heard in Superior Court. After three weeks of testimony, Judge Linda R. Feinberg wrote in her decision she found no evidence of fraud in the election, and no evidence to establish that alleged illegal votes would have altered the result of the election that gave Palmer his fifth term. (Trenton Times)
Republican Councilwoman Linda Clifton has resigned her seat on the planning board after Democratic council members said she should step down because the process by which she was appointed was questionable.
"A statute was broken," Councilman Joseph "Bud" Mullaney alleged Tuesday in a telephone interview. "Obviously, people were misadvised legally on the statute."
Clifton, 49, had been appointed as a Class III member of the Unified Planning/Zoning Board of Adjustments Jan. 22 by newly elected Republican Mayor Paul Buccellato. She was sworn in Feb. 4 for a one-year term. (Thompson, Asbury Park Press)