Wake-Up Call for Friday, October 10, 2008

Doug Schoen stops toll hikes

The scaled-back plan for toll increases the Turnpike Authority is expected to approve on Friday closely follows the advice Gov. Jon Corzine received from a confidential poll he commissioned to prepare for his re-election bid. Corzine indicated on Thursday that he would sign off on the plan, which increases tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway this year and in 2012 to raise money for transportation projects. It was trimmed back at Corzine's orders from a plan the Authority introduced in September. That proposal followed a failed effort by Corzine to raise tolls by 800 percent over 14 years to pay down state debt, buy open space and fund road work — an idea so unpopular that it sent his approval ratings plummeting. (Heininger/Margolin, Star-Ledger)


Corzine continues to struggle

Gov. Jon S. Corzine's approval rating has risen slightly in the past month, according to a new poll released Thursday. The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll found 45 percent approve of the Democrat's performance, while 39 percent disapprove. That's an improvement from the marks he received in September, when 41 percent approved of the job he was doing, while 43 percent disapproved. Meanwhile, only 23 percent of respondents said the state is headed in the right direction, while 67 percent say it's off on the wrong track _ numbers that remain unchanged from last month. (Shipkowski, Associated Press)


Lance calls Stender on commission absenteeism

In July, 2005, Acting Gov. Dick Codey appointed Assemblywoman Linda Stender to the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission. Since then, the commission has held 13 meetings at Rutgers University’s Piscataway campus — 12 miles from Stender’s hometown of Fanwood. Stender, who’s still a member of the commission, has not attended a single one of them. The position is unpaid, and other board members sometimes skipped meetings as well, although few as consistently as Stender. But her opponent for the 7th Congressional District seat, State Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Flemington), argues that she didn’t do the job that was asked of her – especially in light of the nation’s economic crisis. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)


55 also-rans from 2006 give House seat another whirl

Democrat Linda Stender hopes to repeat much of what she did when she ran for Congress in 2006 — everything but the part where she lost the election. Stender, a New Jersey state lawmaker, lost to a Republican incumbent two years ago by fewer than 3,000 votes. Now, she is making a second run in a race that is among the most competitive in the nation. "Last time, I think I spent most of my time trying to convince people that we could win," Stender, 57, said. "Now, people are acting like I've already won, which concerns me because we haven't won." (Fritze, USA Today)


Corruption fistfight in 3rd Congressional District

Trying to get disentangled from a corruption trial narrative that has put Democrats on the run these last two weeks, state Sen. John Adler (D-Camden) trained his sights on the Republican-engineered Burlington County Bridge Commission scandal, and urged his GOP rival in the 3rd District Congressional race to demand a return of $2.7 million in taxpayer dollars pilfered during that more local example of government gone bad. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)


Frelinghuysen backed by VFW, not Iraq, Afghan vets

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen has gotten the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in his re-election bid for an eighth term. But he also earned negative points this week from a veterans' group that contends he has not supported health care and education benefits for veterans. Frelinghuysen, a Vietnam War veteran, has been a strong supporter of President George W. Bush's military policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. His Democratic opponent, Tom Wyka, has been critical of Bush and Frelinghuysen on that issue. (Star-Ledger)


Obama’s N.J. operations seems rather confident

Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) New Jersey operations employ 25 full-time staffers to man the ground game here and harness volunteers in the lead-up to and in the hours of Election Day. But with the Democratic presidential candidate now leading Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 13 points in the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University poll and Pennsylvania still a battleground, N.J. for Obama plans to dispatch volunteers across the state’s western border this weekend as part of a coordinated voter registration drive. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)


Hamilton headed to prison

Former Asbury Park Councilman/Deputy Mayor John J. Hamilton, Jr. was convicted late yesterday by a federal jury of accepting a free paving job for his driveway worth $5,000 at of taking a $2,000 cash bribe. Hamilton was one of 11 sitting or former public officials from Monmouth County charged with corruptioni n February, 2005. His trial last year ended in a hung jury. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)


Plumeri keeps job in Port Authority shuffle

In a bold move it said would increase efficiency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has eliminated the chief's position in its police department. The position was held by Christopher Trucillo, a 22-year police department veteran, at an annual salary of $159,822. The position of police superintendent, a civilian post held by Samuel Plumeri, will remain, officials at the agency said. (Ben-Ali, Star-Ledger)


Menendez bill on immigration raid guidelines

With federal authorities stepping up immigration enforcement raids across the country, Democratic U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Menendez of New Jersey have sponsored a bill to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents who get caught up in them. (Associated Press)


Irvington mayor: Yes, I want Santiago as top cop

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith confirmed yesterday he planned to hire former Newark police director Joseph Santiago as his police director. Smith said he chose Santiago to succeed Michael Damiano because of his reputation as a leader in law enforcement. Santiago was forced out of his job last month as Trenton's police director after he re fused to move to the city. (Reynolds, Star-Ledger)


N.J. races focus on health-care costs

When typical New Jersey workers take a look at their paychecks, they see an increasing amount of money taken out for health care – an amount that covers, on average, about a quarter of its cost. Residents are looking to the November election in hopes of getting some relief. "Everything is going up but my husband's salary," said Pat Katz, of Pennsauken, only half joking. A former information-technology worker, the 60-year-old Katz said she is going out to dinner less often, cutting back on vacation plans and recently started shopping at Wal-Mart for generic drugs. Candidates in the most significant federal races in South Jersey say they have plans to help Katz and other voters by cutting health costs – something Democrats and Republicans alike seem to agree has to happen. (Burton, Inquirer)


Board member quits over slur

ROBBINSVILLE — A school board member who used a derogatory term for homosexuals during a public meeting has stepped down from his post after gay-rights advocates and school officials condemned the statement. Joseph Armenti, who was elected to a one-year unexpired term in April, submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday, school officials confirmed yesterday. He could not be reached for comment. (Cusido, Times of Trenton)


State letting cash-strapped towns exceed property tax cap

TRENTON — A new property tax cap aimed at protecting New Jersey property owners from ballooning municipal property taxes hasn't stopped towns from requesting — and getting — waivers from a state board to exceed the limits. Thus far in 2008, the first full year of the 4 percent property tax cap on municipal governments, 39 towns have appeared before the state's Local Finance Board to ask if they can raise taxes above the limit. Of those towns, 38 got all or some of what they requested and one had its request deferred, according to records from the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the board. (Ryan, Gannett State Bureau)

http://www.app.com/article/20081010/NEWS0301/810100340/1007/NEWS03 Wake-Up Call for Friday, October 10, 2008