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Corzine’s approval rating drops, Coniglio court date pushed back, Corzine may slash 3,000 state jobs, civil unions criticized in report, Chris Myers drops Jamestown Associates from Congressional campaign.

Note: The online editions of the Star-Ledger and Trenton Times have not yet been updated


Gov. Jon Corzine’s has an upside-down approval rating of 37%-52%, down from 46%–43% in December, and 73% of voters oppose his plan to raise tolls, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

“Gov. Corzine’s toll hike proposal has smashed into a brick wall of massive voter opposition, causing his approval rating to drop from a three-point positive to a 15-point negative,” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Even those who don’t drive on the toll roads don’t want toll hikes. Voter anger is so strong that less than a third think the Governor deserves re-election. Corzine’s problems are just made worse by the fact that two thirds of the voters are dissatisfied with the way things are going in New Jersey today,”

More than half of the New Jersey voters surveyed (51%) say that Corzine does not deserve to be re-elected next year, and just 32% says he should serve as second term. Voters split 35%-33% on their desire to vote for Corzine or an unnamed Republican.

Among Democrats, opposition to the toll hikes is at 63%-31%. Corzine’s approvals among Democrats stands at just 53%. (Editor,



Nearly 60% of New Jersey voters say that 84-year-old Frank Lautenberg is “too old to effectively serve another six-year term in the U.S. Senate,” according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. Lautenberg has a 39%-31% job approval rating, but 40% of voters think he does not deserve re-election; 32% say he should return to the Senate.

“Senator Lautenberg, who faces re-election this year, leads an unnamed Republican challenger 37 – 30 percent. But the number of voters who think he is too old to run again has risen four points to 58 percent, and the number of voters who think he deserves re-election has dropped four points to 32 percent. Lautenberg could be in trouble if the Republicans field a serious challenger,” said Clay Richards, the Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac polling institute. (Editor,


Veteran newspaper reporter Deborah Howlett is going directly from covering Gov. Jon S. Corzine to helping spread his message as the governor's communications director.

Howlett, who covered the governor's office for the Newark Star-Ledger the past three years, had previously worked for Gannett's USA Today for 16 years. Corzine announced her hiring in a statement released Tuesday, praising her "talent, experience and integrity."

The administration has lacked a communications director since Anthony Coley left on Jan. 8. Howlett said the administration began courting her for the job about a week ago, and she decided to accept the offer over the weekend. She plans to officially leave the paper today and begin work for Corzine on March 4, in a post that will pay $125,000.

"The goal here for me was to make a quick decision, make a clean break … so that there wasn't any overlap between covering the governor and working for the governor," Howlett said. "I think if you look at what I've written about the governor, it's been pretty even-handed and pretty fair. I've certainly written critically about what he's doing and what he's done." (Volpe, Gannett)




Joseph Coniglio, the former state senator from Paramus indicted Thursday on federal corruptions charges, will have to wait another week to formally proclaim his innocence.

U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh has pushed back Coniglio's scheduled arraignment from today to Feb. 28.

At an arraignment, a defendant enters a plea to the charges, and the judge sets the date for trial and motion hearings.

Coniglio, 65, who did not seek reelection to a third term in November, was indicted on extortion and eight counts of mail fraud in a scheme to peddle his influence to the Hackensack University Medical Center. (Sampson, Bergen Record)


Chris Myers' campaign team no longer includes Jamestown Associates, despite the firm's success in helping secure victories for outgoing U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd.

Campaign representatives said Tuesday the decision had nothing to do with a recently published book in which a former Republican operative names Jamestown and its President Tom Blakely in an anecdote that recounts what the author later described as his most immoral action.

"Chris (Myers) wanted to balance out his team (geographically)," said Chris Russell, who announced Monday he will manage Myers' campaign. Russell is a former executive director of the Burlington County Republican Party.

Myers is running against Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly and Justin Murphy, a Tabernacle businessman, for the Republican nomination for the 3rd District House of Representatives seat Saxton is vacating.

Myers switched firms because Washington, D.C.-based consultant Bob Holste has the capitol ties that Jamestown lacks, Russell said. Jamestown has a Washington office, but is headquartered in Princeton. (Previti, Press of Atlantic City)



Gov. Corzine yesterday said he had "significant concerns" about whether civil unions gave gay couples the same rights married couples have, but didn't back a quick change to state law.

A spokeswoman said the Democratic governor would sign a bill allowing gay marriage, but not until after November's presidential election.

"He will sign a bill, but doesn't want to make it a presidential-election-year issue," Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said.

Gay activists want gay marriage approved in New Jersey by year's end.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay-rights group, said a report by a state review commission that found civil unions create a second-class status for gay couples boosts activists' contentions that the unions don't work.

It found that gay couples in Massachusetts – the only state that allows gay marriage – don't experience the legal complications that those in New Jersey do.

"New Jersey's civil-union law segregates, discriminates, and humiliates the very people it is supposed to help," Goldstein said. (Hester, AP)

Same-sex civil unions have been a "failed experiment" in New Jersey and create "a second-class status" for civil union couples, a state review commission reported Tuesday.

One year after a law took effect allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, the Civil Union Review Commission unanimously endorsed a report, which found numerous employers fail to offer couples in civil unions the same benefits as married couples and that a lack of knowledge about such unions creates a second-class status and adverse effects on minorities, military personnel and transgender people.

"The testimony included no categories that it was working properly. None," said the Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman, a commission member and minister of The Unitarian Church of Montclair.

The report consists mainly of excerpts from testimony given to the commission at three hearings last fall. The testimony revealed an "overwhelming" number of civil union couples did not receive similar benefits from employers due to federal barriers. (Rispoli, Gannett)


Faced with a worsening economy, Gov. Jon S. Corzine is considering reducing the state’s work force by 3,000 employees and closing at least one department in the administration as part of his plan to slash up to $2.5 billion from next year’s budget, people who have been briefed on his plans said on Tuesday.

State Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat from Middlesex County and the chairwoman of the budget committee, said that Mr. Corzine — who will unveil his budget for the new fiscal year next Tuesday — was weighing eliminating the Department of Personnel and pushing for an early retirement package — not layoffs — to save tens of millions of dollars.

“We need to end this longstanding bureaucratic inertia where departments and agencies refuse to face up to wasteful spending practices and a lack of oversight,” Ms. Buono said. “I think we really need to change the mindset of how government operates.”

Administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plan, said that up to 3,000 workers could be affected, many of whom would presumably be older and have higher salaries. Some union leaders and lawmakers said, however, that they were wary of the governor’s plans. (Chen, New York Times)


Governor Corzine's controversial toll hike plan will negatively impact the economy of New Jersey for generations, driving residents and businesses out of the state, Republican lawmakers warned Tuesday.

"If this deal goes through, ladies and gentlemen, New Jersey is in the tank," said state Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Mendham. "You can't do this to future generations."

The dire predictions from members of the Republican Task Force for Fiscal Responsibility came at a town hall meeting in Wayne, where many in the crowd of about 130 people occasionally shook their heads in apparent disapproval of the governor's proposal.

The six task force members have been touring the state attacking Corzine's plan.


Hoboken has been dominating the set on the reality show that is Hudson County politics. The players are familiar, but at times the storyline has been surprising.

In the last column, we were wondering what is the future for the senior member of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Maurice Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons may fall victim to the ire of Union City Mayor and state Sen. Brian P. Stack, and leadership in the Hudson County Democratic Organization has made it clear that the freeholder's fate does not matter if it brings peace.

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, chairman of the HCDO, will shake hands with the Jersey Devil if it means no one is rocking the boat and the party will not have to spend a nickel until this year's elections.

Fitzgibbons is very different from former state Sen. Bernard Kenny, also of Hoboken. Kenny had HCDO support and this sparked the county civil war. Yet Kenny had no real local backing or voter base. Fitzgibbons is considered a favorite son, and there are some who resent the idea of an out-of-towner dictating local politics.

The only reason there is no public outcry is that the selection of Councilman Ruben Ramos as the 33rd District's successful Assembly candidate by Stack mitigates some of the annoyance factor. Most everyone, including Fitzgibbons, supports Ramos.

Another reason is that there are some Hoboken politicos who would like to see uncertainty as to who will become Hoboken's freeholder. A new alliance between council members Michael Russo and Beth Mason would back Mason's pal, Inez Garcia Keim, for the county seat. (Torres, Jersey Journal)


Its geography just above Newark's North Ward makes Belleville look like a natural complement to the political kingdom of Steve Adubato, who nevertheless denies he's personally backing anyone in local, nonpartisan municipal races in this hardscrabble town, with a population that hovers around 34,000.

"Belleville's always worried about me going over there," said the North Ward Democratic leader. "I was looking for a place for a charter school once. I went over to Belleville. That would have been great for Belleville, but they weren't interested."

The specter of Adubato in Belleville's May 13th elections comes in part as a result of Assemblyman (and Freeholder) Ralph Caputo's support of three candidates who have teamed up to try to unseat Mayor Ray Kimble's slate. Adubato and Caputo go way back, to when the latter lived in Newark before moving to Belleville. And, of course, it was Caputo who was part of the district 28 ticket that last year ousted Sen. Ron Rice's running mates, Oadline Truitt and Craig Stanley.

"Change is in the air," mused the new assemblyman, consciously invoking the clear-the-decks campaign slogan currently most associated with presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. (Pizarro,


Having recently notched his third year at the helm of New Jersey's second largest city, Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy used his second "State of the City" speech last night to highlight accomplishments ranging from putting a crimp in crime to fostering development in long dormant areas of the city.

Before a politician-packed auditorium at the Franklin L. Williams Middle School 7 in the Heights that included Gov. Jon Corzine, Healy called public safety his "number one issue."

To polite and steady applause, Healy boasted an 11.5 percent overall drop in crime last year, but said more officers are needed and promised 30 more officers would be paid for from state Urban Enterprise Zone funds.

Healy cited the December 2007 unemployment rate of 5.1 percent – compared to 8.2 percent in January 2004 – as proof of job creation in the city and he touted the city's recently created apprentice program to put locals to work on construction sites. (Koepp, Jersey Journal)


Assembly members Joan Quigley and Vincent Prieto of Hudson County, along with Assemblyman Jack Conners from Burlington County, have introduced legislation to allow soldiers stationed overseas to apply for a ballot and vote via the Internet.

"The act of voting should not be a daunting or an impossible task simply because a person is an ocean away from home," said Quigley, a Jersey City Democrat and chairwoman of the Assembly State Government Committee.

"It's past time that we streamlined the process to account for the near-global connectivity afforded us by the advent of the Internet and e-mail."

Under current law, a New Jersey resident living or stationed overseas during a primary, special, or general state or federal election can only request a ballot via airmail or fax. (Jersey Journal)


The state Supreme Court is giving Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature another crack at replenishing the state's school construction fund in a decision released Tuesday that denies to impose a deadline for the new funding.

For the second time in a year, advocates for children in the state's neediest school districts, the so-called Abbotts, were seeking to prod the state to approve more money when it became evident the $8.6 billion borrowed for construction was running out.

The court again ruled Tuesday that New Jersey government should be taken at its word that funding will come.

"In light of the representations made by defendants, the relief sought by plaintiffs is premature," Justice Virginia Long wrote in a unanimous opinion. (Volpe, Gannett)



Poverty is worsening in New Jersey, an anti-poverty group said Tuesday, though it says Gov. Jon S. Corzine could help ease the pain without affecting his expected bare-bones budget due out next week.

"Not only are poverty rates failing to move down, the people counted in those percentages are facing a harder time," said Shivi Prasad, policy analyst for the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute.

Serena Rice, the institute's managing director, joined Prasad and others in a news conference to highlight the Poverty Benchmarks 2008 report, which paints a broad-stroke picture of the poor in New Jersey, among the wealthiest of states, where nevertheless people cannot find housing, health care and good-paying jobs.

The report said the poverty rate has not dipped in three years and that from 2004 to 2006, 9 percent of New Jersey's 8.7 million people lived below the federal poverty bar — a family of three scraping by on $16,000 a year or less. (Baldwin, Gannett)


ATLANTIC CITY – By the end of the week, Craig Callaway will be back in Atlantic County. But he'll still be in handcuffs.

The former City Council president, currently serving a 40-month federal prison term for accepting bribes, is expected to be transferred Friday to Atlantic County jail to face charges of orchestrating a blackmail scheme against City Councilman Eugene Robinson, a spokeswoman with the county Prosecutor's Office confirmed Tuesday.

Callaway is expected to make his first appearance and enter a plea after he arrives from a federal prison in West Virginia, but spokeswoman Madelaine Vitale was uncertain when his appearance would be held or how long Callaway would be lodged in the county jail. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)


An investigation into Pleasantville's school board requested by then-member James McCormick can be mentioned in opening arguments for his federal corruption trial today, a U.S. district court judge ruled Tuesday.

Attorney James R. Murphy hopes the fact that his client was the one who asked that the board's actions be examined proves McCormick was not involved in the scheme to take money in exchange for supporting contracts for the district.

McCormick is charged with accepting $3,500 in exchange for his vote in favor of an insurance broker, who was really a cooperating witness for the FBI. He is one of five former board members accused in the case. The other four have all pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)



GLASSBORO For two of the world's superpowers to engage in successful diplomacy, all it might take today is a cross-continental phone call.

But in 1967 that meant a teletype message sent from the Kremlin directly to the White House a message that prompted the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States to meet right here in Glassboro in an attempt to ease Cold War tensions.

Sergei Khrushchev, son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, recalled this moment in history when his father's successor, Alexei Kosygin, sent a message to President Lyndon B. Johnson, arranging to speak with him about the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War.

Khrushchev, the author of many historical and economic books, as well as his father's memoirs, addressed a crowd of more than 200 people at Rowan University Tuesday afternoon as part of the college's continuing celebration of the 1967 Hollybush Summit.

Khrushchev, the author of many historical and economic books, as well as his father's memoirs, addressed a crowd of more than 200 people at Rowan University Tuesday afternoon as part of the college's continuing celebration of the 1967 Hollybush Summit.

"One of the biggest events of the Cold War happened right here," Khrushchev said. "Nothing started with the Cold War, nothing ended with the Cold War. It was a war without war." (Beym, Gloucester County Times)




A well-known Buddhist koan asks, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

A New Jersey version of that riddle might ask: "If a local public official takes a bribe and no one knows at the time, is anyone in town actually hurt by it?"

A complaint filed by Marlboro Township in November asserts that the town was indeed damaged by the actions of four former public officials who accepted more than $300,000 in bribes from real estate developers between 1997 and 2004.

Marlboro claims that the corrupt activity by those officials resulted in increased development and a corresponding increase in the need for public services, such as roads and schools. As a result, the town would like to recoup damages of at least $300,000.

But one of those corrupt officials — former Mayor Matthew V. Scannapieco, who admitted accepting $245,000 in cash and awaits sentencing — contends that Marlboro has no proof of such harm and is asking a judge to dismiss the township's complaint. (Cullinane, Asbury Park Press)



TOMS RIVER — The Township Council will hold a public hearing on and consider adopting Tuesday a proposed ordinance to prohibit the township from hiring certain family members of the mayor, council members and business administrator to any permanent position.

"It is an important step to make a concrete gesture to show that it is about public service, not about self-service," Councilwoman Melanie Donohue said when the ordinance was introduced Feb. 12.

The ordinance was a campaign promise of Donohue, who took office Jan. 1.

"I felt strongly about it during the campaign and wanted to make sure it was a priority as soon as I got into office," Donohue said in an interview. (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)



Former Mayor Alvin Sloan, who was still active in the community well into his 90s, has died. He was 96.

Mayor Marianne Van Deursen said he died of natural causes in his Grand Avenue home Saturday.

He was a true community servant," said Van Deursen, a close friend. "His legacy will go on."

Sloan was Washington's youngest mayor. He started as the borough's mayor in 1936 and served through the following year. He was also a borough councilman for many years. (Olanoff, Express-Times)



MOUNT OLIVE — A small office on Route 206 in Flanders will serve as the Morris County headquarters of state Senator Steve Oroho, R-Franklin, and state Assembly members Gary Chiusano, R-Augusta, and Alison Littell McHose, R-Franklin.

The office was opened three weeks ago so the District 24 legislators, who all live in Sussex County, could maintain a presence in the southern part of the district, said the legislators' Chief of Staff, Jeff Spitola. The 24th legislative district covers all of Sussex and parts of Morris and Hunterdon counties.

"Unlike a lot of districts, our geographic range is quite large," Spitola said. "The legislators want to cover as much ground as they can." (Van Dyk, Daily Record)



Parsippany Police Sgt. Louis Valori said Tuesday that he is running for a school board seat in April.

Valori, 43, a 15-year Parsippany police officer and a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, said he filed his nominating petition at the school board office.

Valori was the first candidate to file, according to the board office. The filing deadline is coming up on Monday.

The three school board members up for re-election — Robert Perlett, Andrew Choffo and Robert Crawford — did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday. (Jennings, Daily Record)



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