NEW YORK HAS A NEW GOVERNOR TO SNUB NEW JERSEY
Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday he expects no problems working with Lt. Gov. David Paterson on issues important to both states when Paterson takes over as governor of New York for Eliot Spitzer, who is resigning in a sex scandal.
Corzine said he has known Paterson for years and spoke with him yesterday, talking about issues involving the Port of New York and New Jersey, "and we will get together on those very quickly."
"We have had a long-standing relationship for the better part of 10 years and I think our relationship with the state will be fairly seamless," Corzine told reporters in Trenton. "I think he is a gentleman, he is smart and he works to build consensus. We will be able to work together."
Paterson, of Harlem, was a veteran Democratic state legislator before becoming lieutenant governor in January 2007. He will replace Spitzer as governor Monday.
The relationship between the governors of New Jersey and New York in recent years has been observed more in the breach than in the practice.
Unless there's a specific problem, most business between the two states is transacted by the staffs and lawyers representing their respective chief executives. The personal relationship really becomes important only when it breaks down, as it did during the 1990s, when New Jersey's Christie Whitman and New York's George Pataki were often at odds. (Margolin and Hester, Star-Ledger)
PAID FAMILY LEAVE ADVANCES. REPUBLICANS AND BUSINESS LEADERS PREPARE FOR END OF WORLD
A bill allowing workers to take paid leaves of absence to care for family members moved closer to becoming law yesterday, despite a contentious Assembly debate over whether the program would hurt New Jersey's weakening economy.
The Assembly passed the paid family leave act, allowing workers to apply for up to six weeks off to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or a sick parent, spouse or child. Employees could collect two-thirds of their pay, up to a maximum of $524 a week.
The benefit would be funded by worker contributions of an estimated $33 a year through a mandatory employee payroll tax.
The bill (A873) passed 46-30 with two abstentions.
Its sponsors say employees should not be forced to choose between their jobs and their families when a new child arrives or a loved one has a health crisis. But opponents contend the measure will add to the cost of doing business in New Jersey and prompt some employers to take their jobs elsewhere. (Livio, Star-Ledger)
NO COMMON SENSE, NO JOB
Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday withdrew the reappointment of a Superior Court judge in Middlesex County for failing "to demonstrate the proper judgment" in making — and later defending — a racial slur from the bench, a spokesman said.
During a nomination hearing last week for a tenured position, Judge Fred Kieser Jr. of Metuchen admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he told a woman seeking payment for her daughter's tuition at Middlesex County College in 2005 that her ex-husband "should not be treated as a cash register, that this is not a free lunch."
He also admitted telling the woman "no tickee, no laundry," a racial slur mocking Chinese laun dries that require a claim ticket be fore returning clothes, after she failed to provide proof of her daughter's enrollment at the two- year school.
When confronted by senators about the comments, Kieser said he "had a bad day," but did not be lieve the comments were inherently racist.
"The litigants were African- Americans and the racial slur, I think, was a slur against Asians," Kieser said. "Again, there's no excuse for it. All I'm saying is there is a difference, at least in my mind there is." (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
WILL JERSEY JOE FORGIVE REPUBLICANS FOR THEIR LAST MINUTE CANDIDATE SEARCH?
In advance of his party’s convention on March 26, Monmouth County GOP Chairman Adam Puharic today said he no longer has reservations about state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris).
"I spoke with Joe Pennacchio, we had a real long talk, and I am growing more comfortable with Monmouth County Republicans getting behind his candidacy for U.S. Senate," said Puharic.
Following the departure from the Senate race of millionaire Anne Evans Estabrook, the Monmouth County Republican chairman called for a meeting of county party chairs to discuss strategy. But he admitted at the time that the Bergen County Republican Committee's likely endorsement of Pennacchio a day later would make it difficult to consider a viablealternative candidate.(Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
THE LAND OF ETHICS
The Assembly passed several ethics measures Thursday aimed at winning back the public's trust but again stopped short of taking stronger steps to stop legislators from using their office for profit.
Lawmakers passed measures to update their 25-year-old code of ethics, bar criminals from lobbying and removing legislators from a panel that judges whether their colleagues commit an ethical transgression.
The measures passed with little debate save for another failed Republican attempt to push stronger reform in the legislation to update the ethics code and in another measure requiring greater disclosure of changes sought in the governor's proposed budget that has historically been shrouded in secrecy.
"We owe it to the people of New Jersey to work as a Legislature to make sure we have closed every loophole that is currently open in our ethics laws," said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, who wanted to bar lawmakers from advocating for grants for their, or their families', employers. (Volpe, Gannett)
NOT GONNA PULL A SHADEGG
When Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) announced his retirement last month, Democrats reacted with glee and optimism at the prospect of running a competitive race for the open seat, especially with a candidate, Bob Lord, who had raised $600,000.
That hopefulness was dampened, however, when Shadegg reneged on his decision just 10 days later — after entreaties from 130 congressional colleagues and letters from conservative supporters who begged him to reconsider.
Two Republicans say that's not going to happen here.
Regardless of the chances that their seats will turn from red to blue, Reps. Jim Saxton and Mike Ferguson say that there's no chance they'
ll pull a Shadegg. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
IS EVERYONE SICK OF HEARING ABOUT RON PAUL YET?
A Hawthorne man and Ron Paul supporter is fighting theborough after he said local code enforcement officers told him to remove two Ron Paul for president signs from his lawn.
Andrew Gause said a few days after the Feb. 5 primary, officials visited his residence and cited a municipal ordinance outlawing the display of political signs more than seven days after an election.
Threatened with fines if he did not immediately remove theoffending display, Gause said he was determined to defend his Constitutional rights, and refused.
On Feb. 26, the borough issued a citation, and under what he calls state intimidation, Gause removed the signs in question.
But he insists the case is not over. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
DEMOCRATS CAN FINALLY UNVEIL SECRET STALIN STATUE IN FRONT OF STATE HOUSE
Three of every four registered voters in New Jersey believes everyone should be required to have health insurance, with about the same number supporting a mandate requiring employers to help uninsured workers purchase coverage, according to a poll released today.
The AARP New Jersey survey also found strong support for increasing taxes on tobacco or alcohol — and imposing new taxes on foods containing trans fats — to help fund health care coverage for the uninsured.
"People believe that personal choices that affect your health should be taxed," said Patricia Kelmar, associate state director for advocacy for AARP New Jersey.
Overall, 79 percent of those responding to the survey said they "strongly agree" that all New Jersey residents should have access to affordable, quality, health care.
While the overwhelming majority of survey respondents said they had health coverage, four of every five reported that their out-of-pocket medical expenses have increased in the past five years, with equally large numbers saying they are worried about future health care costs.
"People are concerned about being one illness away from not being able to afford to take care of themselves and their family," Kelmar added. (Stewart, Star-Ledger)
“LESS MEANS LESS”
YOU CAN DISAGREE with Governor Corzine's budget or his toll-road restructuring plan, but you have to give him credit for meeting the public face to face. Between the town hall meetings, editorial board meetings, interviews and other public events — short of riding a FedEx truck and delivering his message to your front door by 10:30 a.m. the next day — there's little more the governor can do.
Corzine met with The Record's editorial board Thursday, his second such meeting this year. Editorial boards are civilized by newspaper standards. We serve coffee, sometimes in real, not foam, cups. The hour-long meetings can be tedious and grueling if you're on the receiving end of the questions.
It is clear the governor understands his material. He is immersed in the numbers and the calculations. He also is concerned that many of the public policy issues he deeply cares about are no longer his top priorities. Selling a bad-news budget and then crafting a debt reduction plan that also funds transportation projects and isn't roundly rejected by everyone in the state are more important.
Corzine doesn't want to talk about running for reelection, although he admits it's highly probable. He doesn't want to dwell on the misfortunes of New York's self-steamrolling, soon-to-be-former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Corzine wants to convince elected officials, newspaper editorial boards and average Jersey men and women that the state cannot provide the same services with less funding. Less means less. (Doblin, Bergen Record)
ONLY IN ATLANTIC CITY.. AND HOBOKEN.. AND JUST ABOUT EVERY OTHER TOWN IN NEW JERSEY
ATLANTIC CITY – Despite potential threats of further litigation, City Council voted Wednesday against granting nearly $200,000 in back pay to a former fire captain ousted for allegedly making racist threats.
The 4-3 vote defies a settlement already agreed upon about three months ago and could open the city up to costly litigation.
The administration approved a settlement to reinstate Edmund Mawhinney and give him his back pay after he was fired from his captain position amid allegations he threatened a subordinate while imitating a Ku Klux Klansman.
Former firefighter Ricky Williams sued the city in 2005 after claiming Mawhinney draped his head in a pillowcase and threatened to burn down Williams' house in 2003. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
WHY NOT JUST GIVE HIM A JOB AT THE PARKING AUTHORITY?
He resigned his job as a municipal judge in Jersey City amid allegations he fixed parking tickets. But Vincent Signorile, a former chief judge of the court and former city councilman, is still on the city payroll and practicing law.
"I am doing litigation and development matters," Signorile said yesterday, ensconced in his office at City Hall. "It is a challenge to serve the city."
Last October, Signorile, 48, abruptly took an unpaid leave from his job as a municipal judge amid allegations he fixed parking tickets for court employees even though he ultimately was not charged with any crime.
In December, he officially resigned and took a job with the city's Law Department earning the same he was making as a judge – $105,000 a year, according to city officials……
Asked if he fixed tickets, Signorile said: "I have no comment regarding that."
He said he took a leave of absence from the court because he "just wanted to move on."
Apparently Signorile's role in the scandal did not dissuade the city from hiring him. In fact, the city's top attorney said, residents will benefit from Signorile's legal know-how.
"Vinny Signorile has extraordinary experience in various areas of municipal law and has served as a municipal judge, as attorney to the Zoning Board, as a member of the Planning Board, and as a City Council member," said Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis. (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
“LISTEN DUDE, YOU REALLY WANT THE SEX?”
The high-priced New Jersey call girl at the center of the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal is profiting from her newfound celebrity — more than 200,000 people had listened to the aspiring musician's songs by Thursday night.
Ashley Alexandra Dupré, aka "Kristen," also had more than 5 million hits on her MySpace page, where people flocked to view her photos, listen to her music and read her bio.
Born Ashley Youmans, Dupré, 22, portrayed herself on the site as a Jersey girl who left a broken home on the Shore to pursue a music career in New York, alleging she had been abused, addicted to drugs and homeless.
But her aunt and grandfather disputed Dupré's claims of abuse Thursday, saying they wanted to set the record straight.
"Frankly, as much as we love her, she was a spoiled brat," said her aunt, Barbara Youmans of Seaside Heights.
"She never had a bad life when she was growing up," her aunt said. "She had the best of everything: bicycles, clothing, O'Neill surf boards. … She was always dressed to kill and got everything she wanted."
By late Thursday, Dupré's MySpace page had a message from her that stated, "Yeah, I did it." It was later changed to read, "Thank you for your support, it means a lot to me." (Fabiano, Bergen Record)
IN MERCER COUNTY
TRENTON — Mercer County Freeholder Anthony P. Carabelli was unanimously elected vice chairman of the freeholders board last night, replacing Elizabeth Muoio, who resigned as freeholder last month to take a six-figure county administrative job as director of economic development and sustainability.
Carabelli was elected to the freeholder board in 1980 and has spent 38 years in public office.
"I've said that oath so many times before," he said last night after placing his hand on the Bible.
Muoio's seat will be filled by the Democratic County Committee at its convention Saturday.
The freeholders also voted last night to spend more than $3 million for pipe relocation required for the demolition of the county parking garage behind the county courthouse. (Trently, Trenton Times)
DON’T GET ON HIS BAD SIDE, GOVERNOR — UNLESS YOU WANT TO WIND UP LIKE ROSIE.
Donald Trump — renowned for his “Art of the Deal” style — made a dramatic offer Thursday to Governor Corzine and to the residents of Lyndhurst, Rutherford and North Arlington:
Accept thousands of additional residences and as much as 2 million square feet of office space — with no affordable housing — or be stuck with the current controversial EnCap plan.
“If this [new plan] isn’t approved, then we’re going to build what is approved,” Trump said, referring to the EnCap plan, which he described as “bad master planning, bad job, wrong entrance points, wrong everything.”
The fast-talking Trump at one point used the word “commitment” eight times in a machine-gun burst of discussion during a 30-minute interview at his Trump Tower office in Manhattan. Each time, he was underscoring what he contends are ironclad deals for the state to spend as much as $200 million on landfill cleanup in the Meadowlands, and for the towns to turn over nearly half their future tax revenues from the project. EnCap already has attempted to collect 30 years worth of such payments up front — at least $600 million. (Brennan and Pillets, Star-Ledger)
Gov. Jon Corzine told municipal officials yesterday he is open to phasing in $168 million in state aid cuts to cities and towns over two years, but he warned such a move would prompt other cuts in his proposed $33 billion budget.
Corzine raised the possibility as he spent nearly an hour in Trenton addressing more than 150 mayors and officials from towns with populations over 10,000. The governor's proposed budget would cut $132 million in aid to towns with populations over 10,000 and slash $37 million in aid to towns with populations under 10,000.
"I am more than willing to work it out over a couple of years," Corzine said. "But I hear people talking of four years, five years — that's not going to happen. If we restore this aid, it is going to have to come out of somebody else's hide. This is a zero sum game at this point."
Reminded after the meeting that Senate Democrats reviewing the budget say they want to avoid the municipal aid cuts, Corzine said: "Should we take more out of charity care? Should we take it out of higher education? I hope they will listen broadly to the communities of interest who are having to deal with the cuts, because it is not just the municipalities." (Hester, AP)
NEW YORK – Former Councilman Chris Campos' DWI trial was postponed again yesterday, this time until April 7. Yesterday's postponement was at least the fifth since Campos was arrested 15 months ago.
Campos' attorney, Louis Zayas, sent a colleague to request the postponement because he is in the middle of a major drug-distribution trial in Bergen County. Zayas stressed that he isn't trying to delay Campos' case, but said the more serious drug trial takes precedence.
"It's a big case," said Zayas, who is also representing five Latino Hoboken police officers suing for alleged discrimination. (Clark, Jersey Journal)
ANOTHER SETBACK FOR MOVING OUT OF PARENTS’ BASEMENT
More than 200 arts leaders gathered in Trenton yesterday to plot a unified strategy to fight the steep funding cuts proposed by Gov. Jon Corzine two weeks ago.
The arts community is facing a $5.9 million cut to the state Council on the Arts grants budget, a 27 percent reduction that brings grants to $16 million.
"Our message could not be simpler: Arts are part of the economic solution," said Mark Packer, president of ArtPride, the nonprofit arts advocacy group that organized the meeting. Programs that generate revenue "should be the very last and not the very first cuts to be made." (McGlone, Star-Ledger)
IN CAPE MAY AND CUMBERLAND COUNTIES
School officials in Cape May and Cumberland counties got a chance to provide their 2 cents' worth about the new school-funding formula Thursday, and said that's about all they could afford.
The issues were different, but the message was the same: No one is happy with the new funding formula, the amount of aid they are getting or plans for district consolidation.
Education Commissioner Lucille Davy attended the hearings at Cumberland County College in Vineland and Atlantic Cape Community College in Cape May Court House. The meetings were arranged by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who is also concerned about the impact of the new formula.
While largely cordial, the speakers got testy at times. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
DENVILLE — Mayor Ted Hussa is being sued by a former township employee who claims she was fired because of her age and her support for Hussa's political rival.
Hussa denied the allegations and said that cost-cutting — not political payback — prompted the decision.
"This had nothing to do with her personally. This had everything to do with the budget," Hussa said of former 19-year employee Julia Ryan.
Ryan, 65, of Denville, was director of the human resources and insurance departments and alternate commissioner to the Joint Insurance Fund. She also was former Mayor Gene Feyl's secretary. (Jennings, Daily Record)
Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 266's endorsement today of Vineland Police Lieutenant Robert Romano for the office of Vineland mayor left Romano’s opponents shrugging their shoulders.
"Big surprise," said Nick Girone, a former school board president and retired business administrator who earlier this week talked to PBA reps in advance of their announcement, knowing he had no shot against Romano, a police veteran.
Mayor Perry Barse, meanwhile, says endorsements are fine but Romano still has not agreed to debate him at an April 21 event at the high school, sponsored by the Daily Journal and hosted by the League of Women Voters.
"We have plenty of things we’re going to be discussing in this campaign, but so far the main issue is his reluctance, no – his refusal – to debate," said the incumbent Republican. "So we’ll let that take its course." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
EWING — As they say in the world of pro wrestling, it's on.
Republican Mayor Jack Ball, fed up with being banned from speaking at Democratic-run council meetings, yesterday vowed to take his battle to court.
"That's it. I've had it," Ball fumed. "I want an opportunity to speak and I'm not backing down." (Coryell, Trenton Times)
A Trenton Municipal Court judge is in hot water over allegations that he practiced law while serving as a full-time judge and that he allegedly made "disrespectful and insulting" remarks.
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has filed a formal complaint against Judge Lawson R. McElroy. McElroy, who was admitted to the bar in 1983, has 20 days to respond to the complaint, according to court rules. After that a hearing will be scheduled………
On June 13, Municipal Court Administrator Maria Cosme had a meeting with Maria Ivette Gonzales, a security officer, to discuss an issue, according to the complaint.
McElroy knocked on the door and in an "angry and hostile tone" demanded to be part of the meeting, saying he was Gonzales' lawyer, the complaint said. McElroy also allegedly threatened to sue the city of Trenton, the complaint said.
His "disrespectful and insulting" remarks to Cosme were a violation of the judicial canons, the complaint alleged. (Stein, Trenton Times)
Nearly one year after Plainfield City Councilman Don Davis was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, one of the charges against him has been dismissed after a judge said Plainfield failed to provide the defense attorney with requested documents.
But Plainfield Police Chief Edward Santiago vigorously disputed that Wednesday court decision, saying his department provided Davis' attorney with all the requested information, adding he had copies on file to prove it.
Santiago said he would launch an investigation into why the documents weren't received.
At issue is whether police gave Davis' attorney, James Trabilsy, all the papers he asked for concerning the qualifications of Plainfield officers who administered Davis a field sobriety test that night. Santiago will meet today with Scotch Plains Prosecutor Thomas Russo to sort out the matter. (Friedman, Star-Ledger)