Morning News Digest: November 11, 2009

Codey intent on appointing at least one congressional redistricting commissioner

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) will make his own appointment to a 2010 congressional redistricting commission and leave a second seat for his presumptive successor to fill with his own choice. The former governor's game plan comes in the face of state Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney's (D-West Deptford) control of the lionshare of Democratic caucus votes and Codey's likely imminent defeat come Jan. 12th when the senate reorganizes. "I intend to make one of those appointments and leave a second appointment for Steve," former Gov. Codey told The Inside Edge yesterday reported that Codey could appoint two congressional redistricting members to the six-member commission before the end of his current term, according to the law. The law technically requires members of the congressional redistricting commission to be appointed by June 15, 2011, but does not specify how early an appointment could be made. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

O'Toole relishes new role as power contact of both Christie – and Sweeney

Already state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr.'s (R-Westfield) appointee to the congressional redistricting commission and more than a forward observer in the legislative redistricting process, state Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove) catapulted into a place where he can now speak candidly in the ears of power, both of the incoming governor and the incoming senate president, with Gov.-elect Chris Christie's victory last week and Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney's (D-West Deptford) imminent ascendency on Nov. 23rd. It has been a slow turn-about and rapid ascent for a politician who on more than one occasion clung to what appeared to be the last shreds of his political career. "When Treffinger went down, it looked bleak," admittted the former chief of staff to the fallen Essex County executive. "2001 redistricting was bleak." Mayor of Cedar Grove at 25, the pugnacious political animal spent a career toiling as the dedicated minority in the engine room of the Democratic Party behemoth here in Essex, learning for the sake of survival how to nurture close ties to the other side even as he proudly hanged framed portraits of Ronald Reagan and Sean Hannity in his law office. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Adler’s vote against health care reform bothers some Democrats

U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) is in a tight squeeze between left and right. The freshman congressman's voting record so far is not all that different from his Republican predecessor, Jim Saxton – a moderate Republican. But his opposition to the health care bill and his amendment that loosened auditing regulations for smaller corporations – seen by consumer advocates as weakening the Sarbanes-Oxley law — have drawn the ire of progressives, some of whom staffed his campaign last year. Republican leaders in Adler's district, on the other hand, believe that he's pulling the moderate card in his first term only to shift left once his incumbent status is more secured. Jay Lassiter, a South Jersey Democratic activist who was the Adler campaign's new media director, sees Adler's voting record as preserving the area's status quo in representation – minus the seniority. "The new Adler votes a lot like Saxton and [state Sen. James] Beach votes a lot like the old Adler," said Lassiter. "Which would be fine if we didn't lose all that tenure in the process." Although an early supporter of President Obama while most of the state's Democratic establishment backed Hillary Clinton, Adler ran his congressional race as a moderate – even if many of his staffers, like Lassiter, belong to the Democratic Party's progressive wing. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Former Eagles player is possible Adler opponent

Now that the gubernatorial election is over, Republicans in Burlington, Ocean and Camden Counties are starting to focus on recruiting someone to take on freshman U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) next year. There is a deep bench of potential candidates, but some Republicans have one in mind who could clear the field: Philadelphia Eagles legend Jon Runyan, a Mount Laurel resident. Sources tell that Assemblywoman Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham) – who knows Runyan because their children attend school together – has talked to him about running. Runyan, who is not currently active in the NFL but has not retired, has not ruled out a run. It is unclear, however, how serious the prospect is. Reached for comment by, Addiego said "I don't think I'm at liberty to discuss that right now." The leading contender of the more conventional candidates to take on Adler is state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey Twp.). A little further down the shortlist is Assemblyman Scott Rudder (R-Medford), Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor), Toms River Councilman Moe Hill and former Assemblywoman Virginia "Ginny" Haines. One source said Lumberton Committeeman Patrick Delany has expressed interest. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Oliver ready for Nov. 23 leadership vote, wants up or down vote on marriage equality

Her early critics quietly grumble that she's a political neophyte – the preferred Essex County term of art for someone who rises too quickly in politics. But Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), a veteran of local East Orange politics, said she is more than ready to assume the lead role in the lower house come Nov. 23rd, when both the Assemby and the senate are scheduled to vote on leadership. Her rapid ascent coincides with the fast dimming political career of lame duck Gov. Jon Corzine. "He genuinely wanted to effectuate glaring social issues of interest to a broad cross section to advocay groups, but did not understand the complexity of navigating the shark and barracuda filled waters of New Jersey politics," said Oliver when asked to reflect on Corzine's legacy. Poised with a sufficient number of caucus votes to become the Assembly's first African American woman speaker as succesor to Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden), Oliver said she received a phone call yesterday from Gov.-elect Chris Christie but was unavailable. She said she intends to return his call today. As state Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) this afternoon considers what to do in lame duck about a gay marriage bill championed by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine, the assemblywoman said the bill should receive an up or down vote. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

N.J. Gov.-elect Chris Christie considers pay-to-play rules for inauguration fundraising

Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who has embraced New Jersey’s campaign finance restrictions and wants to strengthen them, does not have to abide by those rules as he raises money for his inauguration, state officials said today. Because of a quirk in state law, it’s up to Christie himself to decide whether or not to use the same rules that are in New Jersey’s pay-to-play law, which bars big-money donors from getting state contracts. Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella said today the governor-elect and his advisers are weighing whether to voluntarily follow the pay-to-play limits. "We haven’t made a final decision as to how we’re going to proceed, but it is our intent to donate a large portion of the proceeds to charity," Comella said. "The inauguration will have an appropriate tone, considering the challenges the state’s currently facing." The Republican’s inaugural ceremony and celebration in January will be the first since New Jersey imposed some of the strictest campaign finance limits in the country after a series of controversies involving donors and contracts. Past gubernatorial inaugurations have been a flurry of political fundraising, underwritten largely by donations from business executives, lawyers, builders, bankers, physicians, politicians and lobbyists. (Heininger/Margolin, Star Ledger)

Camden Mayor-elect Dana Redd wants city powers back from state

The city's mayor-elect has a vision of bringing the middle class to her impoverished hometown. But Dana Redd's first task is to try to get full mayoral powers restored. Seven years ago, the state implemented a $175 million bailout designed to invigorate commerce in Camden, a city weighed down by poverty, crime and corruption. In exchange, the governor got final say over the actions of governing bodies from the planning board to the school board to city council. Now that most of that aid has been spent, Redd says it's time to put the mayor back in charge."I fully expect to be in control of leading the city," Redd said in an interview days after her easy victory. Gov.-elect Chris Christie, a Republican, supports the idea. Though Redd campaigned for fellow Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine, the Republican might be a better ally when it comes to self-rule. "I think the people who live in those cities should make the determination of who their elected officials are," Christie said Monday, "and should hold those people responsible for their success or failure." In January, Redd will take over for 84-year-old Gwendolyn Faison, who became mayor in 2000 after her predecessor was convicted of corruption. Without much power, Faison was often cast into the role of a feisty civic cheerleader. Meanwhile, state appointees oversaw redevelopment and tried to streamline government by updating financial systems. (AP)

Democrat wins council seat by two votes

A Democratic candidate for council edged out a Republican by two votes in a count of provisional ballots tallied Monday to settle a tied race. John Parnofiello won a three-year term and prevented Republicans from picking up an additional seat, if the latest count becomes official. Republicans currently hold a 4-2 majority. But Republican candidate Todd Hennessey said Monday night that he would consider asking the state Superior Court for a recount. Candidates have until Nov. 17 to do so. Hennessey and Parnofiello received 2,725 votes each from machine and mail-in ballots. But Parnofiello received 10 additional votes from provisional ballots, two more than Hennessey. Voters cast provisional ballots when poll workers cannot determine if they are registered. Election workers counted 19 of the 34 provisional ballots cast in the borough, said Peter Incardone Jr., chairman of the county election board. They tossed out 13 ballots of voters who were not registered. Two ballots were invalid, he said. Republican Councilman John Genovesi won the other council seat, with 3,011 votes. (Clunn, The Record)

Perth Amboy council president sets 'proper way' for questioning period; audience member disagrees

Richard Piatkowski has no plans to go away quietly, despite being led by police from Monday's City Council meeting for arguing about a change in procedure for the public portion of the session."It's nothing new for me to challenge the city," said Piatkowski of Gordon Street, who has not yet decided how he will challenge the procedure change. During Monday's meeting, the procedure for the public portion was changed to allow the public to ask questions without being interrupted by council members or the administration. But that also means there won't be any back and forth dialogue between the different sides, Council President Peter Jimenez said. "They ask a question, they get an answer from the administration. It cuts out the the back and forth. You get an answer and move on," Jimenez said. Piatkowski doesn't like the change. "You can't have a dialogue. It doesn't allow for follow up questions," he said. "You can't reason out why something was done. It's not transparency of open government." Piatkowski was removed by a police officer after arguing that the meeting is for discussion of government. (Russell, Gannett)

Lopez evades taxes, then uses campaign money to pay legal fees

Jersey City Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez is dipping into her campaign funds to pay her legal bills. Lopez has paid Newark-based law firm McManimon & Scottland $4,161.80 to represent her in a Superior Court case challenging her residency. The payment was made from the "Friends of Nidia R. Lopez" account in two checks, according to reports filed last month with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. An official at the Election Law Enforcement Commission said candidates are supposed to use their campaign funds for lawsuits tied to elections. Lopez appeared before Superior Court Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli Oct. 26 to defend her residency. Norrice Raymaker, who finished third behind Lopez in the May election, contends that Lopez' primary residence is in Florida and therefore she should not be allowed to serve in Jersey City. (Hayes, Jersey Journal)

Ingle: Christie not bound by layoff agreement

Gov-elect Christie said during a visit to Hamilton that he is not bound by the no-layoff agreement reached with unions by the Corzine administration. “I want to leave my options open to reach a fair and appropriate resolution in light of the economic circumstances that confront the state today.” Christie said. He said he hoped for no layoffs but that would be a product of negotiations that have to come. Christie faces his first state budget — said to be 8 to 10 billion out of balance — shortly after taking office Jan. 19. Christie has the option of declaring a state of emergency. That gives a governor great authority over finances and resources just in case those negotiations don’t produce results. Christie has made it clear that he is no Jon Corzine when it comes to negotiations, that he won’t roll over. (Ingle, Gannett)

Jennifer Webb-McRae prosecutor prospect for Cumberland County

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine may still be considering nominating a woman to the seat of Cumberland County prosecutor, despite losing his first choice for the post. Rumors confirmed by sources in the local law community are that attorney Jennifer-Webb McRae is a top contender to take over the position of Cumberland County prosecutor, a post currently held by Ron Casella. McRae, a former partner with the law office of Robinson, Andujar, McCrae & Webb, in Millville, is the second female lawyer considered for the post. Cumberland County has never had a woman as its chief law enforcement agent. Tina Kell, a former assistant prosecutor and trial chief with the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, was a leading contender for the prosecutor's job, but her appointment did not get the approval of the state attorney general's office. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew would not comment on the possibility of McRae's appointment Tuesday. "Out of fairness, we're not going to name names at this time," he said. Previously, Van Drew spoke at great length about Kell's possible nomination. His refusal to get into names this time around could indicate the urgency of the task of appointing a new prosecutor. (Dunn, Newhouse)

NJ Transit spends $6M on disel-locomotive woes

NJ Transit will develop a “cost-effective” maintenance program rather than overhaul its aging diesel locomotives, officials said Tuersday. The agency agreed to spend at least $6 million on a specialized program that will detect problems using customized diagnostic tools, said Rich Sarles, NJ Transit’s executive director. “You can address the problem before you have a breakdown,” Sarles said at the agency’s board of directors meeting. NJ Transit has more than 100 diesel locomotives in its fleet, many of which were put into service more than two decades ago. Overhauling could cost the agency about $3 million per locomotive, Sarles said. NJ Transit hopes to develop a program using diagnostic equipment similar to what is hooked up to an automobile to detect problems with braking, the engine or tires. The agency would observe the locomotive while it is standing still and detect vibrations or other problems. Jack May of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers said the maintenance program is a good idea, though NJ Transit’s operations have needed to be modernized for a while. He said the agency should have considered moving to selfpropelled cars rather than locomotives to drive NJ Transit’s diesel trains.(Davis, Star Ledger)

  Morning News Digest: November 11, 2009