Republican and Democratic Reps’ alleged pay-to-play emails emerge, everyone holds their breath as they await new budget, young voters fired up for Obama.
“PAINTING A PICTURE OF HOW PAY-TO-PLAY WORKS”
A trail of e-mails revealed how congressmen who obtained money for the state's medical university sought help from the school's lobbyist in raising campaign funds, according to a published report.
The congressmen and the lobbyist say they did nothing wrong, but an ethics advocate told The Record of Bergen County that the e-mails "paint a picture of how pay-to-play works."
"The lobbyists need congressmen to deliver for their clients, and congressmen need lobbyists to help them raise money," Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the newspaper. "That is the definition of pay-to-play, and that's not how we want to appropriate our money and have public decisions be made."
The lobbyist for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who wrote the e-mails, Marilyn Berry Thompson, said she contributed to both congressmen but felt no pressure to do so.
Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., told The Record that the contributions they got from UMDNJ representatives had nothing to do with their efforts to secure more than $32 million for the multi-campus school. (AP)
IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE
Just when Gov. Jon S. Corzine needs friends, a key Democratic lawmaker has landed in a fight with a mainstay of their party's political base, New Jersey's large and growing Latino population.
Corzine needs chums at this particular moment, a little over halfway into his four-year term, because he appears to have lost legislative and popular support for his idea to raise tolls to trim the state debt. Things might get harder in the days ahead, when Corzine lays bare his painful state budget, which may include layoffs of state employees — another core constituency often loyal to Democrats.
"Gov. Corzine's plan to get New Jersey's fiscal house in order affects each and every resident of the state, all constituencies," said spokesman Jim Gardner. "As such, we must collectively remain focused on the goal of reducing state debt, cutting the state budget, and working through New Jersey's financial crisis."
State unions are girding to oppose parts of his budget plan that may imperil their jobs.
"They are playing the same game they always play. They are not looking where they can save money. … They have too many managers. Some of them have one manager for every three to five people," said Rae Roeder, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1033. (Baldwin, Gannett)
SWEENEY “READY FOR THE UNSIGHTLINESS”
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney knows it's not going to be pretty, but he's ready for the unsightliness that will surround the state budget to be unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Corzine.
That plan is to include about $2.5 billion in spending cuts as the first volley in Corzine's battle to restructure the state's troubled finances.
It could mean state worker layoffs and funding cuts for property tax rebates, hospitals, welfare recipients and municipalities, among other moves.
But Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said lawmakers should support the budget as introduced.
"I think the governor has the courage to introduce a really difficult budget, and, honestly, as legislators we should support it and pass it," Sweeney said. (AP)
YOUNG PEOPLE PRETEND THAT THEY’RE GOING TO VOTE.. AGAIN
The November election could make history, and not only because the first black or woman president could be elected. This also could be the year that traditionally apathetic young voters begin to have an impact.
Look into the crowds packing 20,000-seat arenas for Democrat Barack Obama. You'll see plenty of those college students we've heard about who are inspired by his candidacy. But it's not just Obama, or even the Democrats, who are stoking young adults' interest in this election.
Students from Rowan University and the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey traveled to New Hampshire to get out the vote for Rudy Giuliani in that state's Republican primary. Students also are reviving college Democratic and Republican clubs on the Rowan campus in Glassboro.
Stockton has hosted voter registration drives. When college staff held an information session just before the Feb. 5 New Jersey presidential primary, more than 200 students packed a large classroom and spilled into the hall.
JACK KELLY GETS SOME OSCAR-STRENGTH PUBLICITY
"Freeheld," the documentary about the fight of Detective Lt. Laurel Hester to leave her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, Point Pleasant, has won the Academy Award for best short documentary film.
Weeping openly, filmmaker Cynthia Wade dedicated the Oscar to Hester, who died of cancer in February 2006, and to Andree, who attended the awards ceremony. Andree was seen on camera as Wade and the film's producer, Vanessa Roth,
acknowledged her important part in getting the movie made.
Hester was a detective with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office for 25 years. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005, she requested her pension be left to Andree, an auto mechanic who lives in their home in Point Pleasant.
Hester's request to the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders was initially denied, but after national media coverage and a grass-roots campaign advocating for Hester, the Freeholders voted 4-0 to sanction the request. (O’Sullivan, Asbury Park Press)
Luis Barrios Quiroz, an illegal immigrant working as a restaurant cook, was stopped by police last October driving 62 mph in Hunterdon County where the speed limit was 40.
When the Lambertville police officer checked Quiroz's valid Mexican driver's license, he also found fake Social Security and green cards — tools of the trade for immigrants who lack legal working papers.
On Oct. 18, Quiroz, 27, pleaded guilty to presenting false documents and was sentenced in January to probation by a state Superior Court judge.
A year ago, Quiroz likely would have walked out of the courtroom and simply gone back to his job flipping burgers.
This time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were waiting in the courtroom to take Quiroz back to Mexico. He was deported in January.
Following a directive issued Aug. 24 by state Attorney General Anne Milgram, police, prosecutors and federal immigration officials worked together on the Quiroz case, allowing ICE agents to detain him as soon as the criminal justice system let him go. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
DON’T FORGET REPETITION
Volume is usually the most marked characteristic of the cable news networks — as in the pitched babble of politicians, analysts, flaks and other guns-for-hire. This election season, it's volume — as in the sheer breadth of coverage.
"Nobody got the memo that it was supposed to be over after Super Tuesday," said CNN political director Sam Feist. This would be an extraordinary race if it was only the first time in more than 50 years that no sitting president or vice president would be running, he said.
The scandals may be the same — plagiarism allegations, anti-Americanism accusations and, this week, the specter of extramarital affairs. But consider the intriguing slate of nationally known figures — including the first legitimately viable female and African-American candidates — and also that this campaign comes at a time of war and economic uncertainty, and "it's the election of a lifetime," Feist said.
The Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism tabulates the amount of coverage devoted to the presidential race each week, and from Feb. 11 through 17, election talk filled 62 percent of airtime on cable television. (The week before, which spanned Super Tuesday, that number was up to 74 percent — and to think, that left only 24 percent of airtime for Britney Spears' sudden release from a hospital mental ward.) (Hyman, Star-Ledger)
MR. CORZINE GOES TO WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday joined colleagues from California, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and a host of other states to press for sizable, long-term federal investments in rebuilding the nation's crumbling roads, bridges, sewer and
The governors, part of a new organization called Building America's Future, estimated the national infrastructure needs are $1 trillion over the next five years, and argued that the states cannot go it alone.
"We need a national program. We need federal help," said Corzine, who is in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. "To stand back and not move forward now will only cost the nation and the taxpayers dramatically more in the future." (Cohen, Star-Ledger)
DOBLIN TRASHES XANADU
WHEN IT COMES to a taste challenge, it's a no-brainer. Pepsi beats Coke every time. When it comes to the aesthetic taste challenge, it's a no-brainer. The people creating Xanadu have none.
It takes a lot of creativity to develop something as costly and extraordinarily hideous as Xanadu. But hey, this is North Jersey, and developers are allowed to treat most of us like rubes and hicks. We willingly reelect the people who later claim they took developers at their word that there would be a minor league ballpark at Xanadu. Or that Xanadu wasn't going to be a mall.
I can imagine those meetings, with all those good high-end suits talking to all our good low-end politicians. "Take no notice of that retail store behind the curtain," the suits must have said. "Sure, there are going to be a few stores, but when we build the office space and the hotel, it's all going to pale in comparison."
Now we learn that Pepsi is going to pay $100 million to have its signature red, white and blue logo affixed to the 287-foot Ferris wheel attraction. It's going to be New Jersey's answer to the St. Louis Gateway Arch or the London Eye. Please, give us some respect.
I've been to London. I've been to St. Louis. Those "similar" attractions are in the big city. I know the Giants and Jets think the Meadowlands is the far West Side of Manhattan, but it is not. There will be views of the Manhattan skyline, but nothing spectacular. If someone were to suggest erecting a Ferris wheel on the Gold Coast, I could understand the logic — although it would still be an eyesore. (Doblin, Bergen Record)
IN MERCER COUNTY
If there were sabbaticals for judges, it's possible Superior Court Judge Neil H. Shuster, the presiding Chancery judge for Mercer County, wouldn't be retiring.
He'd just be taking a break.
“This job has been wonderful," Shuster said of his 20 years on the bench. Friday was his last day on the job.
"I've enjoyed it so much. I'm just a little tired and I don't want to get into a position of not giving 100 percent. If there was such a thing as a judicial sabbatical, I'd do that."
Highly praised for teaching the legal trade to green young lawyers with their heads full of book knowledge, Shuster also was known for getting diametrically opposed litigants to compromise. His diverse career in the court system brought him all sorts of cases, from medical guardianship to a landmark case involving police sobriety testing.
Shuster, 62, described himself as an accidental judge.
"There was no plan to be a judge," he said. "I happened to be in the right place at the right time." (Stein, Trenton Times)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
JUST NO MORE TALES OF ADULT MOVIES AND LOTIONS, OK?
After months of legal wrangling, the corruption trial of former Newark mayor Sharpe James begins Tuesday with the search for a jury that will determine the fate of a New Jersey political giant.
The 250 potential jurors from across North Jersey will be called into a federal courthouse in Newark before U.S. District Judge William Martini as the judge and attorneys select a 12-person panel with seven alternates.
The candidates will be asked everything from how much they have already heard about the high-profile case to whether they could remain impartial if they learned the 72-year-old former politician had had an extramarital affair.
Prosecutors said during a hearing last week that evidence of an intimate personal relationship between James and his co-defendant, Tamika Riley, would be an "essential" part of their case and the subject of witness testimony.
James, also a former state senator, is charged with rigging city land deals so Riley, a 38-year-old publicist, could buy nine properties at steep discounts and quickly sell them for $700,000 in profits. Riley also faces tax and housing fraud charges. (Whelan, Star-Ledger)
AT LEAST DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS AGREE ON SOMETHING
Two congressmen who steered money to New Jersey's state medical university turned around and asked the university's lobbyist to help them raise campaign contributions, e-mails show.
One ethics advocate said the e-mails "paint a picture of how pay-to-play works," but everyone involved says they did nothing wrong.
Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding, and Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, say the contributions they received from representatives of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey had nothing to do with their efforts to secure more than $32 million for the sprawling medical complex.
The lobbyist who wrote the e-mails, Marilyn Berry Thompson, said that while she did contribute to both candidates, she felt no pressure to do so.
But the e-mails to UMDNJ executives in August and September 2004 did stress how important the congressmen were to crucial programs, and identified employees who should attend fund-raisers.
One of the recipients of the e-mails allegedly ordered a UMDNJ employee, Louis E. Copeland, to contribute $1,000 of his own money to Pallone in 2004, according to a lawsuit Copeland filed in federal court. Copeland said he found $1,000 in cash in an envelope on his office chair after he mailed the check. (Jackson, Bergen Record)
“IT’S JUST AS BAD AS BEING IN IRAQ ONLY YOU DON’T EXPECT IT”
IRVINGTON – Shot in the leg as he walked out of a pizza parlor in Irvington two years ago, Keith White instinctively ran for cover from the blast of the 9 mm going off next to him.
"I didn’t even know I’d been hit," says White. "I was hit an inch above my knee. No police came to the scene, no police came to the hospital to file a report. I drove myself to the hospital."
Standing on Durand Place outside the neighborhood firehouse this week, he’s wearing combat boots, a cap with the National Guard insignia on it and fatigues.
"I’ve lived in Irvington all my life and I haven’t seen the positives increase." says the 21-year old career counselor and retention specialist with the Guard who’s been stationed stateside his three years in the service.
"I tell people it’s just about as bad as being in Iraq only you don’t expect it," he adds with a grin………..
Hoping to make his own contribution in the face of the gangs, White wants to run for City Council in the West Ward, as a challenger to Council President John Sowell in May 13 elections. "I want to be an inspiration to younger men," says White. "There’s a disconnect between adolescents and adults in this town. I think people on the council forgot who they represent………
For in addition to the crime and gangs, the dank suggestion of public corruption hangs over this election year, as the biggest corruption bust in the state in 2007 has an unfinished plot-line implicating Irvington. Indicted by the feds last fall as part of a corruption network that extended from Pleasantville to North Jersey, Keith Reid, former chief of staff to Newark Council President Mildred Crump, accepted a payment of $5,000 from a dummy insurance company on behalf of an individual identified only as "Irvington public official 1."
According to the Reid indictment, a cooperating witness listed as CW-2 first "attempted to give Irvington Official 1 a cash payment of $5,000 in exchange for Irvington Official 1’s assistance in securing insurance brokerage business with the Township of Irvington…….
So far the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not issued charges against Smith or any public officials in Irvington, but the mayor has caught the brunt of rumor in the political world, as when he showed up to chair the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association meeting in Atlantic City in the wake of the indictment, and the room remained virtually empty. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
NEWSPAPER DOESN’T BOTHER PRETENDING THAT ANYONE ELSE HAS A CHANCE AT HUNTERDON ENDORSEMENT
Tomorrow night, state Sen. Leonard Lance will muster his loyal Hunterdon County allies to begin his march east to the Elizabeth River in his quest to become the next congressman from the 7th Congressional District.
But to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson and keep the traditionally Republican 7th District secured in GOP hands, Lance must still face the hedgerows of Somerset and Union counties. For it is here that at least eight challengers would stop him — including the most well-financed of them all, former Gov. Christie Whitman's daughter Kate, whose war chest now tops $200,000.
He must also face the ghosts of races past.
In giving Lance the party line, Hunterdon County Republicans will be the first of the four GOP county committees in the congressional district to back a candidate.
But Lance's winter soldiers may ultimately remember this night as the most critical in his primary campaign, for just as they saved Ferguson from losing his seat to Assemblywoman Linda Stender two years ago, they could well be the ones to deliver Lance on June 3. (Gluck, Star-Ledger)
DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T
Some state lawmakers say Gov. Corzine's plans to propose massive budget cuts are a veiled attempt to build support for significant highway toll increases, a claim the governor denies.
As part of his plan to revamp troubled state finances, Corzine aims to freeze state spending in the budget to be introduced Tuesday. The budget is for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Corzine contends the cuts are needed no matter what happens with his toll plan.
"It's not because I'm trying to push to my plan," he said.
Corzine said the spending freeze would mean about $2.5 billion in budget cuts to offset rising costs.
Among the possibilities: Early retirements and state worker layoffs to cut the work force by 4,000 positions; eliminating the agriculture, commerce and personnel agencies; reduced hours at parks and motor vehicle agencies; reduced funding for hospitals, municipalities, welfare grants, property-tax rebates, and state colleges; and a Medicaid copayment.
"I suspect there's going to be a lot of cuts that a lot of members are not going to be happy about," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer). "I think the governor is going to present a budget that, unless there's some movement toward monetization, there will probably be wholesale cuts." (Hester, AP)
His grand plan to save New Jersey from fiscal purgatory is in tatters. More residents than ever before are unhappy with him. And things are unlikely to get better anytime soon.
After a difficult week in which he had to admit that he lacked the legislative support to raise tolls sharply, Gov. Jon S. Corzine is poised to unveil a budget on Tuesday with at least $2.5 billion in spending cuts and probably a steeper drop in revenue than expected.
“The budget address is going to be nothing but bad news,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “And it will have a much broader impact than simply the tolls. Unfortunately, the budget address has the capacity to make virtually everyone in the state unhappy.”
Mr. Corzine is expected to propose a budget of $33.5 billion, or maybe less, that threatens to spare few, if any, areas — not higher education or hospitals or local governments.
Administration officials and lobbyists say he is also considering shrinking the state work force by at least 3,000 employees through buyouts or early retirement packages, and closing as many as three departments. No wonder he expects a backlash from interest groups that, in prosperous times, would be allies. (Chen, New York Times)
THIS MIGHT HURT A LITTLE
Jon Corzine on Tuesday will become the first New Jersey governor in a decade to propose a state budget that cuts total spending, when he presents a plan that has no new taxes or fees, shrinks the state payroll by as many as 5,000 jobs and eliminates three departments, according to three individuals familiar with the budget.
Having pledged to keep total state expenses below the current $33.5 billion, the governor also will propose slashing state aid to towns and cities by about $100 million, and "charity care" funding for hospitals by as much as $200 million, according to the individuals, who requested anonymity because Corzine's plan had not been made public yet.
And while administration officials have said aid to school districts defined by New Jersey's school funding formula will increase by $530 million, overall school funding will be about the same as last year because of other reductions, not yet disclosed.
In addition, the spending plan will eliminate rebates to about 152,000 homeowners. Administration and legislative officials said last week homestead rebates would be limited to families making no more than $150,000 instead of the current $250,000 limit. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimates that move will save more than $100 million. (Donohue and Margolin, Star-Ledger)
HE’S NO LONGER A JUDGE, BRO
George R. Korpita's days as a judge are over.
The former municipal court judge in Dover, Rockaway Borough and Victory Gardens, who tried to use his official position to avoid a 2007 drunken driving arrest, can never serve in public office again, according to a sentence handed down yesterday in Superior Court in Morristown.
Korpita, 48, got three years' probation, 100 days of community service, a requirement to attend an in-house substance abuse program, loss of his license for a year and $1,000 in fines. But he also agreed, in a plea bargain formalized by Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto, never to serve in public office again and to never seek to have his record expunged.
Korpita sat quietly through most of his sentencing, somberly listening as Ahto detailed how mental health and alcohol problems derailed his life — even leading to another DWI arrest last weekend as he awaited yesterday's hearing.
"You are unraveling right in front of us, in a downward spiral, are having a meltdown," said Ahto, who approved a plea deal that allowed Korpita to avoid jail time. (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)
UH OH, CONIGLIO
Take it off Wearing handcuffs and shackles in federal court Feb. 14 for his indictment on fraud and extortion, former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Bergen) also had to suffer the minor indignity of removing his hairpiece for his mugshot.
Michael Schroeder, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said there was no intention to humiliate Coniglio, who was allowed to put the hairpiece back on before entering the courtroom and facing the public. Schroeder said authorities need to ensure defendants aren't trying to smuggle weapons in with the hairpiece. "Anything that is removable, we'll take it off. Whether it's eyeglasses, body piercings, so forth," he said.
The marshals, who have the responsibility of tracking down fugitives, also need an accurate photo of defendants in case they jump bail.
"This is his official mugshot and his official record of stepping into the federal justice system," Schroeder said. "It's just how we do business, regardless of who the individual is." (The Auditor, Star-Ledger)
A Bergenfield councilman and his wife said Friday that they have received state grand jury subpoenas in a probe of an election forgery scandal from 2005.
Councilman Robert Gillman said Friday that the Attorney General's Office served the subpoenas a day earlier on him and his wife, Marie, who was one of five people whose signatures were believed forged during a clash over the Democratic Party's state Senate nominee for the 37th District.
"My wife was a victim," said Gillman, adding that the couple had not heard from state authorities since they spoke with an investigator two years ago about the matter. He said the subpoenas require them to testify Thursday before a grand jury in Trenton.
The high-profile election fight in September 2005 pitted Loretta Weinberg, then an assemblywoman who went on to win the Senate seat, against Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa, the choice of Democratic Party County Chairman Joseph Ferriero.
The apparent resignations of five members from the Bergenfield Democratic Municipal Committee proved crucial in a party vote decided by a single ballot, Weinberg said. She filed a successful legal appeal after the vote, claiming the resignations were a ploy to replace her supporters with people favoring Zisa. (Tumgoren, Bergen Record)
It's back to the future for this seaside resort's mayoral race.
Former Mayor Lorenzo Langford said he plans to run in the city's June 3 Democratic primary in an attempt to recapture the office he held from 2002 to 2005.
He'll face incumbent Scott Evans, who took over in October for scandal-plagued Mayor Robert Levy.
"In order to move us forward, we must go back to the future," Langford said at a news conference Friday announcing his candidacy.
Langford is no stranger to political controversy. He was barred from public office for 18 months after he admitted in March 2006 that he used his office to endorse a city council candidate running against then-council president Craig Callaway, a violation of the federal Hatch Act. (AP)
EVEN IF IT WAS MUSTARD GAS, NOBODY WOULD NOTICE
Peace is in the air over Hudson County. Or is that mustard gas?
While the upstart Democrats for Hudson County publicly seems in frozen stasis, leaders among the Hudson County Democratic Organization have been active and happy about the détente they believe is in full swing.
As mentioned before, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, chairman of the HCDO, wants a peaceful county going into the June primary and following general election. He has U.S. Rep. Albio Sires in the fold and on the HCDO primary column, and it appears everyone on the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, except District 5's Maurice Fitzgibbons of Hoboken, is a shoo-in to return to office, with possibly six out of the nine seats controlled by the HCDO – most of the time.
Everyone was on a high at Healy's fundraising event Thursday evening at Casino in the Park in Jersey City's Lincoln Park. Sure enough, there was Sires, almost an attached twin of North Bergen Mayor and state Sen. Nick Sacco of North Bergen. Loyalty was pledged to Healy at the event by most all the mayors of the county.
As one member of the party noted, there was a lot beer muscle flexing going on with calls for taking on Stack and those other ingrates. It is not the sort of thing Healy wants to hear. Peace is part of the plan.
OK, in the real world, political operatives have been busy. HCDO "buddies" have been busy trying to pick off Stack backers in Jersey City. For example, Jimmy King and his civic association has been a prime HCDO target. The idea is an old one. Isolate Stack and anyone still with him. (Torres, Jersey Journal)
ABATE THINKS BCDO MEMBERS COULD MAY NOT FOLLOW FERRIERO’S ENDORSEMENT. HAS SHE EVER BEEN TO A BCDO MEETING?
Civil rights attorney Camille Abate is courting the support of the Bergen County Democratic Organization in her bid for the 5th Congressional District.
But she has no intention of backing out if she doesn't get it.
Abate, of Glen Rock, said she will slug it out in a primary this fall against Dennis Shulman, a clinical psychologist and rabbi from Demarest. Abate said Friday that she will "most likely" campaign for the seat until November even if she does not win the party line from Bergen.
The district, represented by two-term Republican W. Scott Garrett of Wantage, includes all of Warren County and parts of Passaic and Sussex counties, but 38 Bergen towns provide the largest bloc of voters.
Abate brushed aside speculation that BCDO Chairman Joe Ferriero is expected to endorse Shulman at the organization's nominating convention on Thursday night at the Hackensack Middle School. Party sources say Shulman's roundup of endorsements from BCDO apparatchiks such as James Carroll, a Bergen County freeholder, and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner of Paramus, is a de facto Ferriero-BCDO blessing.
"Everybody is trying to read into it, but truth be told, it doesn't mean that the individual members are duty bound to go where the chairman is to go," said Abate, who has been rustling up her own endorsements, including nine unions, Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale, Waldwick Mayor Russell Litchult, and a roster of other local officials.
STATE LOOKS TO MAKE HEALTH CARE MANDATORY. CRITICS FEAR GIANT STALIN STATUE IN FRONT OF STATE HOUSE
It boiled down to this for Stephen and Tina Seaman: Either pay the rent on their Ocean County apartment, or pay for their son's medication. They couldn't afford both.
The Seaside Heights couple chose to buy the medication that prevents 9-year-old Devin from having seizures. And shortly thereafter, on Jan. 15, they faced the consequences: The Seamans were hauled into court to face eviction proceedings.
As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't a choice at all," said Stephen Seaman, 60, a telemarketer who works on commission. "I will do anything to get Devin what he needs."
The Seamans found themselves in such a predicament because of quirks in Devin's Medicaid coverage and because, like nearly 1.3 million New Jersey residents, the Seamans don't have health insurance. It's not offered through Stephen's employment, and the couple can't afford the $600 to $800 monthly premium for private coverage.
So they do what uninsured people do: They hope and pray they don't get sick.
But, of course, they do. And that's when the doctor bills roll in, the credit cards are maxed out, and the hard choices — the "rent or medication" types of choices — are made.
"It's really an untenable situation for many people," says state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. "Health care insurance has simply become so expensive that it's unaffordable, even for many people who work full time."
Vitale hopes to change that. (Cullinane, Gannett)
IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY
BRIDGETON — Detectives with the county prosecutor's office were turned away Friday from a press conference by Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu.
The press conference was to further address Magazzu's contention that the county prosecutor's office has not shown a substantial increase in efficiency since the Prosecutor Ron Casella filed a lawsuit against the freeholder board in 2004 alleging a lack of funding and resources.
When the detectives asked whether Friday's press conference was open to the public, Magazzu replied that it was open to "the prosecutor."
This and past incidents show an apparent lack of cooperation between the county prosecutor's office and the freeholder board.
Casella, whose term as prosecutor expires in April, said that while Freeholder Joe Riley was liaison to the prosecutor's office in 2007, he did not visit the office once.
Millville attorney Arnold Robinson has been approached about taking over the county prosecutor job, according to sources. (Dunn, Bridgeton News)
It was all about power.
Four Pleasantville school board members were looking for a swing vote in 2006 so they could have control over who would get certain contracts in the district, then-President Jayson Adams testified in a federal corruption case last week.
"We wanted to be the ones to determine those people," he said. "We were building up power. Building a regime."
But while they were picking someone to join the team, they didn't know the dual loyalties of two men they were already dealing with: John D'Angelo and Bruce Begg. The insurance broker and the roofer who were paying board members for their support were really working with the FBI.
Adams and 11 other were arrested Sept. 6 on bribery charges in the scheme. Five school board members and a private Pleasantville resident were among them. Then-board member James McCormick is now on trial for his alleged role. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
FRANK HAGUE IS TURNING IN HIS GRAVE… OR NOT
Jersey City might be a "Destination City" for the up and coming. But when it comes to regular citizens playing a role in government, it's still a backwater town, according to a survey released this week by two watchdog groups.
According to the survey by the Citizens' Campaign and Civic JC, Jersey City measured up well in four of 16 categories examined in assessing the city's civic health, but fell short in three other areas, and failed to address nine other components.
"I don't view the survey as the end of the process, but as a blueprint directing us to Jersey City's best resource, the residents," said Norrice Raymaker, a Heights resident and activist with the Citizens' Campaign.
The groups applauded Jersey City for the fact citizens can speak at City Council meetings, the city's Web site is regularly updated, public schools offer classes in civics, and the Jersey City Public Schools Web site lists meeting dates and agendas. (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
IN MONMOUTH COUNTY
A screening committee of the Monmouth County Republican Party failed Saturday to arrive at a consensus about who should be Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry's running mate in the upcoming election.
Three potential candidates — Red Bank Councilman John Curley, Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso and Freehold Township Zoning Board member Steven Walsh — tied for a spot on the GOP ticket, said party Chairman Adam Puharic.
Puharic said that, according to the organization's bylaws, as chairman, he is responsible for narrowing that list of three to two names before the county convention on March 26. He said he has yet to make a decision and that he will announce his choice publicly at 6 p.m. Monday at the party's Lincoln Day dinner at Southgate Manor in Freehold.
"This is an interesting result and we want everyone to stay tuned," Puharic said. (Pais, Asbury Park Press)
New Jersey's congressional delegation scored well on an environmental scorecard released by a national group this week.
The League of Conservation Voters rated members of Congress based on how they voted on various environmental measures last year. Those included two measures environmentalists supported: the new energy law, which requires cars and light trucks to give 35 miles per gallon, and a nonbinding proposal to limit global warming.
The LCV also examined votes on a proposal that environmentalists opposed, to expand offshore drilling. (Chebium, Gannett)