Morning News Digest: February 10, 2009

Poll finds N.J. residents want more state cost control

While most New Jerseyans are confident in President Obama’s ability to deal with the current financial crisis, Garden State residents are less confident that the state is doing enough to cut costs, according to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll released today. (AP)

Bill calling for merger of ‘doughnut’ towns’ gets cool reception

A measure that would compel some two dozen of the state’s so-called “doughnut” municipalities to merge or share major services with the larger municipalities that wholly surround them was rolled out for discussion today before the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. (Larini, Star-Ledger)

Marchand eyeing Assembly bid; GOP Salem Freeholders not interested

Paul Reed, the Salem County Republican Chairman, would like to see his own county – the least populous in New Jersey – get some representation in the state legislature. But even with Democratic Assemblyman Doug Fisher (D-Bridgeton) set to be nominated as Secretary of Agriculture, no local Republicans have stepped forward yet. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Kuhl will back DiMaio in primary, regardless of convention outcome

FLEMINGTON – Fighting criticism that he’s operating behind the scenes to weaken the chances of two home county candidates in order to protect state Sen. Marcia Karrow (R-Raritan Twp.), Hunterdon County GOP Chairman Henry Kuhl says he simply wants to keep the balance struck between those two counties that contribute to the 23rd Legislative District. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

New safety law could hurt small toy vendors

For eight years, Charles Duffy and his wife have owned Hooray for Toys — a small shop in Berkeley Heights filled with red, green and pink stuffed dolls, game boards and Legos. Selling toys in the shadow of big-name retailers is never easy, and these days Duffy said they are just breaking even. Now, he is concerned the government is making things tougher. A federal law that goes into effect Tuesday lowers the amount of lead in toys that retailers can sell. Duffy said the wholesale price of toys have jumped 15 percent to 20 percent this year, which he attributes to the cost of testing products for the toxic metal. (Perone, Star-Ledger)

Jersey City Council considers tax exemption for proposed building

The first major item at tonight’s City Council caucus was a tax exemption for a moderate income and market rate housing project at the intersections of Monticello, Fairmount and Fairview avenues. Nancy Skidmore, an attorney representing The Whiton Street Associates, the proposed building’s developer, went over the specifics. (Clark, Jersey Journal)

Booker details projects to help Newarkers weather ‘economic hurricane’

Despite a financial crisis he likened to an “economic hurricane,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker tonight said New Jersey’s largest city was growing stronger, more vibrant and more affordable for its residents, and he laid out an ambitious array of development projects he said would continue to propel the city’s progress. In his third State of the City speech, delivered before some 1,700 people at Newark Symphony Hall, Booker spoke frankly about the challenges facing the city during the deepest national recession in decades. (Ortgega, Star-Ledger)

Bergen County, Hoboken face six-figure bills for unauthorized early retirement programs

Early retirement programs are typically put in place as cost-saving measures, but things didn’t work out that way for Bergen County and Hoboken — and now both face whopping bills from the state. Regulators are hitting the two governments with seven-figure charges, saying they illegally offered early retirement packages to public workers without first getting state approval. The state is charging Bergen County $1.4 million and Hoboken $4.2 million. (Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Former NFL star accepts Democratic chairmanship in Kinnelon

A one-time New York Giants lineman who won a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has signed up for a task that may be tougher than battling in the NFL trenches. Roman Oben has agreed to be municipal Democratic chairman in Republican-controlled Kinnelon. The former athlete, who retired after the 2007 season, will try to energize Democrats in a Republican town in northern Morris County, which is arguably the leading GOP county in the state. (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

Assemblyman Douglas Fisher nominated for NJ Secretary of Agriculture

The State Board of Agriculture named State Assemblyman Doug Fisher as New Jersey’s next secretary of agriculture in a 6-2 vote today. Fisher, D-Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, would replace Charlie Kuperus, who retired at the end of 2008. The selection must be approved by Gov. Jon S. Corzine. The Press reported in December that Fisher was in the running for the post. (Press of Atlantic City)

Local districts tightening belts

Following recent recommendations by New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy to freeze all non-essential and discretionary spending for the remainder of the school year, local districts have taken steps toward securing funds for their upcoming budgets. “The Deptford Township public school district has put a freeze on all spending in schools other than necessary costs associated with the middle and high school co-curricular programs and high school commencement,” said Deptford Superintendent Dr. Joseph Canataro. “In addition, out-of-district professional opportunities for staff have been curtailed other than those funded by grants.” (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)

Mangia! Table talk targets HCDO’s leader

What do mayors of three North Hudson municipalities and Bayonne and a congressman have in common? Besides all being Democrats, that is. The answer is that that they like to quietly meet in Italian restaurants and discuss common concerns – political ones. Last week, the elected officials gathered in Bayonne and had lunch at DaNoi. About a month before, they all munched at a North Bergen Italian eatery. Each time, the majority of the conversations were about Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. (Jersey Journal)

The economy is going to be in the Hudson

The pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 was scheduled to appear on “60 Minutes” on CBS on Sunday to finally tell the public what it was like on that short-lived flight. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger has been lauded for his calm in crisis. He skillfully coasted his disabled aircraft onto the waters of the Hudson. Everyone survived. Somebody should send Sullenberger to Congress. (Doblin, Record)

Just sworn in, Adler already in GOP sights

Soon after he was elected, U.S. Rep. John Adler went back on the road. He met with veterans, senior citizens, business owners, health-care providers and others in his South Jersey district. He also started “Congress on Your Corner,” a program that takes him to libraries and diners to meet with constituents. (Burton, Inquirer)

Corzine hoping for state aid restoration in stimulus

Gov. Corzine said today he hopes Congress restores some of the state aid that was shrunk in the Senate version of the federal stimulus bill. “I think some of the changes in the Senate were good. Some of them may be a little harsh in areas where we want to protect jobs, we want to protect public safety, we want to grow jobs in the educational field,” Corzine said in an afternoon interview on MSNBC. “I think some argument about that in conference would be good and I will say it would be helpful to New Jersey.” (Inquirer)

Jersey Lawmaker Wants to Give Average Citizens Better Access to Legislators

Right now members of the general public are not permitted to speak directly to State lawmakers when the Assembly and State Senate is in session – but that could soon be changing. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick has introduced a measure that would require – at least 4 times a year- that “we would set aside a certain amount of time, where the public could come before the legislature and ask the Speaker and the members – what are you doing about this problem?” (NJ 101.5/Millennium Radio)

East Brunswick mayor slates monthly evening office hours for residents

EAST BRUNSWICK —Mayor David Stahl has begun holding evening hours to meet with residents before the second Township Council meeting scheduled each month. Stahl will hold the hours in his office at the municipal building from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Racz, Courier News)

South Amboy Mayor O’Leary on state Assembly race: ‘I’m in’

MIDDLESEX COUNTY —South Amboy Mayor John O’Leary says it all comes down to affordability. If homeowners are having a tough time paying the taxes, insurance and utility costs in New Jersey, how can a business in the Garden State expect to? (Russell, Courier News)

Poll: Most in N.J. doubtful of state government’s fiscal efforts

The vast majority of New Jerseyans have little confidence in state leaders’ ability to improve the state’s financial picture, according to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll. Nearly four out of five state residents polled — 78 percent — said that state government is not doing enough to control costs. (Khavkine and Lausch, Courier News)

Jersey City Council considers Greater Journal Square Redevelopment Plan

The second major topic discussed at tonight’s City Council caucus meeting was the Greater Journal Square Redevelopment Plan. The plan would include in the 244-acre area several skyscrapers, landscaped streets, pedestrian malls, a revamped PATH station, a narrow-gauge trolley from Route 139 to McGinley Square, a light rail spur to Journal Square, bike paths and more parks. (Clark, Jersey Journal)

Morning News Digest: February 10, 2009