Morning News Digest: February 11, 2009

GOP hopefuls filling the coffers

The two leading Republican gubernatorial primary candidates are neck-and-neck in fund-raising. Christopher J. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, announced that he has raised $500,000, while former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan has raised about $462,000. (Burton, Inquirer)

Feds extend time for studying East Coast oil drilling, pleasing some N.J. environmentalists and lawmakers

The Obama administration announced today it will slow down an offshore oil drilling plan advanced in the final days of the Bush administration, saying the public needs more time to comment on it. Calling the Bush energy plan "a headlong rush of the worst kind," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended the March 23 deadline for public comment by six months. He said the federal government will gather more-current information about offshore drilling and develop a comprehensive energy plan that includes harnessing the power of wind and waves. (Spoto, Star-Ledger)

Public Advocate focuses on tenants rights

With the constant rise in foreclosures, it's good to see someone on the side of the people who fall victim to the economic hardships: At the Department of the Public Advocate, we have learned that tenants who rent properties that are subject to foreclosure are being kicked out of their homes when the bank takes over the property. Make no mistake: this practice is almost always illegal in New Jersey. (Springer, Blue Jersey)

Corzine endorses Fisher as N.J. agriculture secretary

South Jersey Assemblyman Doug Fisher has been nominated as the state's next agriculture secretary — a choice Gov. Jon Corzine endorsed today during the state's annual agriculture convention, said Agriculture Department spokeswoman Lynne Richmond. The state Agriculture Board named Fisher to the post in a 6-2 vote Monday. Unlike most cabinet positions, the board nominates its choice for secretary and the governor can approve or veto that choice. (AP)

Ex-Freeholder candidate seeks ouster of Gloucester GOP chair

Led by a former Republican freeholder candidate, critics of Gloucester County Republican Chairwoman Loran Oglesby have launched an offensive intended to force her from office. "If she cares anything about this party she'll resign now — step down gracefully while she still has good favor," said Phyllis Scapellato, a school administrator who unsuccessfully ran for freeholder last year, coming a little under 14,000 votes short of the least popular Democrat, Freeholder Warren Wallace. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

County GOP standout changes parties

MARLBORO – Councilman Jeff Cantor, a 2007 Republican candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder who nearly won, has changed parties and become a Democrat, according to a press release issued by the Marlboro Democratic Party. Once seen as a rising GOP star, Iraq War veteran Cantor came within just a handful of votes of winning his bid for freeholder against John D’Amico. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Carla Katz's brother-in-law pitching book on Corzine

Rocco Riccio, a self-described former "street thug," is trying to publish a book about his one-time friendship with Gov. Corzine, promising to expose details of the governor's breakup with former labor leader Carla Katz. Riccio, who is married to Katz's sister Genise, blames the governor for ending his state career, for trouble in his personal life, and for financial ruin, according to an outline and partial rough draft of the untitled book. (Burton, Inquirer)

Rocco Riccio plans book on Corzine, Katz, report says

Rocco Riccio, who is married to the sister of Gov. Jon Corzine's former girlfriend and labor leader Carla Katz, is seeking to publish a book about his one-time friendship with Corzine, promising to expose details of the governor's breakup with Katz, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inqurier. (Star-Ledger)

FBI's Pleasantville corruption case hits Interior Dept.

Coastal Solutions was formed as a front to catch Pleasantville school board members accepting bribes. But the connections the FBI made through its fictitious brokerage firm found corruption in this small town went national. An official with the U.S. Department of the Interior admitted last month to taking $15,000 in bribes in exchange for using his contacts with U.S. territories to help garner insurance contracts for Coastal. He also used a relative connected to a high-ranking Detroit official to get business there as well, according to the indictment. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)

Essex, Passaic counties discuss money-saving juvenile detainee transfer

If Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. has his way, the county's Juvenile Detention Center will be getting more detainees from neighboring Passaic County, which is thinking of closing its own youth house to save money. (Read, Star-Ledger)

Official says drilling off N.J. unlikely

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has rejected a Bush administration plan to open vast waters off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling, promising "a new way forward" in offshore energy development including new wind projects. Salazar did not rule out expanded offshore drilling, but criticized "the enormous sweep" of the Bush proposal, which envisioned energy development from New England to Alaska including lease sales in the North Atlantic that have been off-limits for a quarter-century. (AP)

LBI munitions stored next to Surf City school

SURF CITY – World War I-era military munitions found recently on this town's beaches have a temporary home next to the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School, and the mayor wants them out of there. The sandbag bunker holding the munitions, which are in the public works yard, also abuts the Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library. Mayor Leonard T. Connors said the borough will demand the corps move the bunker immediately. "I just found out they've been storing them there for two years. The council didn't know. They're going to have to take them out daily. They created this mess. This is outrageous," Connors said. (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)

Fisher wins backing of Corzine for ag chief

CHERRY HILL Assemblyman Doug Fisher, who fought a proposal to shutter the state Department of Agriculture last year, was endorsed by the governor Tuesday to become the next state agriculture secretary. "He has character, knowledge and the ability to deal with the political process that invariably comes with this territory," Gov. Jon S. Corzine said at the annual New Jersey Agriculture Convention held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. "I am thrilled to support him." (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

2 join Weiner's Secaucus slate

SECAUCUS – Mayoral candidate and attorney Peter Weiner on Sunday announced two running mates for June's Democratic primaries. Weiner, 61, the town's public defender for 15 years, announced his ticket at Lorenzo's Restaurant on County Avenue. (Jersey Journal)

Hoboken Board of Education votes not to implement dual-language program

In a 4-to-3 vote, the Hoboken Board of Education voted tonight against establishing a Spanish-English dual-language program. Some parents spoke in favor of Hola during tonight's public portion, saying it will raise test scores and make Hoboken public schools more attractive to those in town who would otherwise send their children to private schools. But many others asked the Board not to pass Hola. (Jersey Journal)

Central Jersey officials offer general praise of Obama in first news conference

It was President Barack Obama's first prime-time press conference, and he was frank with the American people, but not too frank. "We have an illusion that a president can be a complete truth-teller," said David Greenberg, an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. (Malwitz, Courier News)

Hoping to avoid 'major layoffs,' Plainfield council works to find solution for 2009 budget

PLAINFIELD —With time running out to approve a budget for the 2009 fiscal year, administrative officials are calling on the city council to support a state plan asking municipalities to defer pension payments in order to save money. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and City Administrator Marc Dashield both touted the plan last week, citing it as perhaps the only way to avoid significant cuts in service and municipal layoffs. (Spivey, Courier News)

Morning News Digest: February 11, 2009