Morning News Digest: January 11, 2010

Christie-Corzine transition gamesmanship; Has anyone seen C. Vivian Stringer?; N.Y. Jets politics

Long after Thursday’s fight over gay marriage was over and the 1,400 people who flocked to the Statehouse had gone home, things really began to heat up under the Gold Dome. With The Auditor among the few watching, the political gamesmanship over appointments and nominations that has marked the troubled transition of power from Gov. Jon Corzine to Gov.-elect Chris Christie turned truly bizarre. As the Senate Judiciary Committee worked deep into the night, chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said it would take up some nominations not yet submitted by Corzine’s office. As the sparse crowd snickered, Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) wondered if it was constitutional to consider people who hadn’t been nominated yet. No problem, Sarlo assured Gill. There was more. Without announcing it, Senate President Richard Codey left the Senate calendar open from Thursday evening into Friday (while the Senate was clearly adjourned) as Corzine’s staff haggled over a nomination particularly important to the governor: placing his state treasurer, David Rousseau, on the Mercer County tax board. The Christie camp had agreed to the nomination, but Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) invoked “senatorial courtesy” to block Rousseau and would not sign off, no matter what Corzine’s office offered. On Friday, Codey said “it all got worked out,” but sources on all sides told The Auditor getting Rousseau appointed would require a package of five nominations to be approved by Turner and Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer). Neither lawmaker would comment as talks continued into the weekend. (Star Ledger)

http://blog.nj.com/njv_auditor/2010/01/post.html

Bill would block new referendum votes for a decade

Reformists are crying foul over a bill that they say is aimed at stopping a group of New Brunswick activists from changing the way the city elects its council members. The bill, which has passed the senate and is set for an assembly vote on Monday, would force groups to wait a decade between tries to change the way municipal governments are elected. “That’s an abuse of the Legislature,” said the New Jersey Appleseed attorney Diana Jeffrey, who represents the New Brunswick Group, Empower Our Neighborhoods. “This is trying to make them stop two years from now, and make them wait ten years.” After months of wrangling, Empower Our Neighborhoods managed to get a question on the ballot in November that would expand the city council from five at-large members to nine members, of whom three would be at-large and six from wards. The question was defeated by just over 100 votes. The group plans to try again in two years. But if the bill is passed and signed into law, they will not be able to. Current law allows petitions to change the form of municipal governments to be brought every two, three or four years, depending on the type of government. The new law, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth), would only allow those petitions to be brought once every 10 years. An identical version of the bill sponsored by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) passed the senate yesterday 21-15 in a vote that was largely along party lines. Among the yes votes was Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who has built a reformist reputation by Bergen County’s entrenched Democratic Party machinery. Weinberg said she intended to vote no but hit the wrong button because she w as distracted by a phone call. “I just looked up and pushed the yes button, and I didn’t realize it was that bill, which I had marked down on my list to vote no on. I made a mistake and didn’t know it until the board was closed,” said Weinberg, adding that she was lobbying her assembly colleagues to vote no on the bill on Monday. Jeffrey made the case in a letter to Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden), writing that the bill would “take away citizens’ rights of self governance and self determination.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/matt-friedman/35908/bill-would-block-new-referendum-votes-decade

Essex elections super charged with official misconduct

Essex County Superintendent of Elections Carmine Casciano was charged today with official misconduct for allegedly giving unauthorized paid days off to county employees who worked on political campaigns, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. The second-degree official misconduct charge against Casciano stems from a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Corruption Unit. Casciano, 63, of West Caldwell, will be ordered to appear in Superior Court in Essex County at a later date to answer the charges. He is a former Essex County Freeholder whose political roots were in the North Ward political organization of Stephen Adubato, Sr. The complaint charges that between Jan. 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2008, “Casciano, in his position as Essex County Commissioner of Registration and Superintendent of Elections, orchestrated a scheme in which employees of his office would be given unauthorized paid days off to compensate them for vacation days they used to work on political campaigns.” Casciano allegedly instructed one or more county employees to maintain an “unauthorized log of vacation days used by county employees to work on political campaigns and paid days off owed to those employees to compensate them under the scheme. It is further alleged that, in an attempt to conceal evidence of a crime, he instructed one or more county employees to alter and/or destroy records related to vacation days and unauthorized paid days off of employees who participated in the scheme.” The official misconduct charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, a criminal fine of up to $150,000 and a lifetime ban on any future public employment. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) http://www.politickernj.com/max/35895/essex-elections-super-charged-official-misconduct Fifis drops bid for BurlCo Dem chairmanship Chris Fifis, the Lumberton Democratic chairman, has dropped out of the race for Burlington County Democratic chairman. Fifis has endorsed Gary Haman, the Riverside municipal chairman and former state committeeman, to run in his place. “While I am humbled by the outpouring of support for me to chair this great party, now is not the time for further intra party battles. We can’t change Burlington County unless we are united and the person to effectuate that change is clearly Gary Haman,” said Fifis in a written statement. “We will win with Haman’s leadership. He’s a voice of reason in an organization that needs one agenda — winning majorities to put taxpayers first, for a change.” Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Willingboro) is also running for chairman, and last night narrowly pushed through a resolution to hold a vote for an interim chairman on February 4 instead of allowing Acting Chairwoman Alice Furia to stay on until the party elects someone to a full term in June. The resolution passed 33-30. The party is still reeling from the resignation of former chairman Rick Perr, who was a rising star in Democratic circles until a campaign finance scandal forced him out of power in August. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/matt-friedman/35892/fifis-drops-bid-burlco-dem-chairmanship

New Senate Secretary will use on-air name during sessions, but will sign documents using legal name

Kent Hicks has spent nearly 23 years as a reporter for the New Jersey Network, but it’s ok if you don’t recognize his name – when on TV, he goes by his on-air name, Kent St. John. Hicks is Senate President-designate Stephen Sweeney’s pick to be the new Secretary of the Senate and is expected to take office on January 12. A spokesman for Sweeney says that the reorganization resolution the Senate will pass at the start of their session on Tuesday will contain both Hicks’ legal name and his on-air name, and that he can be referred to by either name during Senate proceedings. When it comes to signing legal documents in his role of chief administrative officer of the Senate – including resolution, proclamations, writs, warrants, subpoenas, and messages to the Assembly – he will use his legal name. Hicks uses his legal name on state employee records, according to the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, and is registered to vote in Camden County under his legal name. Hicks’s predecessor as Senate Secretary, Ellen Davenport, had a salary of $81,000. Hicks makes $72,111 at NJN. (Edge, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/wallye/35902/new-senate-secretary-will-use-air-name-during-sessions-will-sign-documents-using-legal-

New era begins Tuesday for New Jersey legislature

With New Jersey facing its worst financial trouble in generations, property taxes averaging more than $7,000 and immigration the only thing keeping its population from draining, state voters last year turned to a candidate with just a three-year history in elective office, Chris Christie, as their governor. Lawmakers, in turn, have opted for similarly new blood as their legislative leaders for the two-year term that starts Tuesday at noon. Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, 50, of West Deptford is poised to be elected Senate president, ending Richard J. Codey’s 12-year run as leader of the Senate Democrats, and Assemblywoman Sheila Y. Oliver, 57, of East Orange, through the deal brokered to secure Sweeney’s coup, rises from relative obscurity to become Assembly speaker. Between them, Oliver and Sweeney have 14 years of experience in Trenton, compared with the 59 combined years of Codey and outgoing Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. They’ll be the least experienced pair of legislative leaders since 1977, when Matthew Feldman ran the Senate and William Hamilton Jr. was speaker. As has been the mantra since the election, in which Republicans gained one Assembly seat and for the first time since 1997 won the governor’s race, Oliver said Democrats will focus on pocketbook issues in the new year. “Jobs, economy and beginning to examine and explore initiatives that, over time, will help us address the reduction of governmental spending. That can be described as property taxes,” Oliver said. “We know it (a decline in property taxes) is not going to happen next year, but there are things we have to begin to look at. “We have to begin to look at the pension system in this state. We’ve got to look at issues of increased health care costs for our public workers and how we’re going to deal with that. And we’re going to have to do an examination of our labor arrangements with our public unions,” she said. (Symons, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/article/20100110/NEWS0301/1100334/1007/NEWS03/New+era+begins+Tuesday+for+New+Jersey+legislature

Gay rights group pledges to withhold financial support

New Jersey’s most influential gay civil-rights group pledged Friday to withhold financial support from Democratic lawmakers who did not vote for the same-sex marriage bill. The lack of campaign contributions will cost future candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Steven Goldstein of Teaneck, founder and director of Garden State Equality. “The gay ATM is done,” Goldstein said. “In a bigger sense, the progressive [issues] ATM is done.” The state Senate on Thursday defeated the gay-marriage bill, 20-14, with three Democrats not voting: Sen. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge, incoming Senate President Steve Sweeney of Gloucester County and Sen. James Beach of Camden County. Two other senators were absent; another seat is vacant. Sarlo, who voted against the measure last month in a Judiciary Committee meeting, said he had made his opinion clear at that time, and did not need to vote again in the full house. Sweeney said that he had planned to vote yes, but only if the bill needed that final vote. Garden State Equality has contributed $79,350 since 2005 to legislators, their political funds and political party funds, according to records maintained by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Goldstein said individual donations from the group’s members has brought the total to $500,000. The Senate Democratic Leadership fund, controlled by Senate President Richard J. Codey, has received the most cash from the organization, a total of $26,500. Money from that fund — soon to be under Sweeney’s control when he becomes president next week — is doled out to Democratic candidates all over the state. “It’s a complete lack of leadership,” Goldstein said of Sweeney. “What is a politician thinking when he abstains?” Sweeney said he understood that Goldstein had worked hard on the issue. “I did not mislead. I did not betray,” Sweeney said. (Reitmeyer/Young, The Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/news/politics/nj_politics/010810_Gay_rights_group_pledges_to_withhold_financial_support.html

Essex County elections chief charged with paying workers on days off taken for political campaigning

Carmine Casciano, Essex County’s longtime superintendent of elections who has been credited with sparking a far-reaching election-fraud probe, was charged today with official misconduct in a scheme to give paid days off to employees who worked on political campaigns, authorities said. The state Attorney General’s Office said that between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2008, Casciano instructed one or more county employees to keep a log of days they took off to work on political campaigns so they could be paid for those days. Casciano then attempted a cover-up by ordering the records altered or destroyed, authorities said. Authorities have not said which campaigns were targeted. Casciano’s attorney, Henry Klingeman of Newark, said his client will plead not guilty to the second-degree charge and will not resign. Six weeks ago, Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, since tapped as the next state attorney general, credited Casciano with bringing voter fraud to the attention of her office. That wasn’t lost on Klingeman. “He has been a conscientious and ethical public servant for 40 years, so this allegation has to be weighed against that service by any rational person,” Klingeman said. “This is a real shame, but we will deal with it.” The latest revelation is the outgrowth of an ever-widening investigation that, until today, had ensnared 10 defendants accused of election fraud in the 2007 campaign of state Sen. Teresa Ruiz. The biggest piece of the criminal case came Dec. 1, when a state grand jury indicted Essex County Freeholder Samuel Gonzalez, Ruiz’ husband, along with four campaign workers on charges of ballot tampering in Ruiz’ Senate race in the 29th Legislative District. Ruiz, who won handily, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Casciano, 63, of West Caldwell, is a former Essex County freeholder and a veteran superintendent of elections.(Read, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/essex_county_elections_chief_c.html

Three N.J. Gov. Corzine cabinet members to be dismissed by Gov.-elect Christie

Gov.-elect Chris Christie gave three members of the outgoing governor’s cabinet their walking papers today, although their replacements have yet to be identified. In a hand-delivered letter, Christie’s chief of staff Richard Bagger informed Children and Families Commissioner Kimberly Ricketts, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard and Public Advocate Ronald Chen that they would be out of a job on Jan. 19 – inauguration day, state officials said. All three had been appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine. Children’s Rights, the advocacy group whose lawsuit forced a court-monitored child welfare reform until at least 2012, is disturbed Ricketts is being let go so quickly, without a sense of who will take over. “There’s been outstanding leadership in this agency over the last four years and leadership was critical to bringing about the reforms that were necessary to protect New Jersey’s children,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “We don’t know whether this decision is meant to send any signals. But there is a court order in effect, and we’re very concerned about it.’’ Ricketts spokeswoman Mary Helen Cervantes confirmed the letter arrived but declined further comment. Three state sources confirmed Howard also got a termination letter today. A spokeswoman for Howard referred questions about her employment to Christie’s transition team and declined further comment. All of the sources declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the commissioners’ jobs. Chen’s spokeswoman, Laurie Brewer, confirmed he received the letter today. She said Chen already had made his intentions to leave known. “With the change in administrations, we are changing personnel in order to effectively carry out the drastic changes that must take place in order to address New Jersey’s fiscal challenges,’’ Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella said, without naming names. (Livio/Graber, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/three_nj_gov_corzine_cabinet_m.html

N.J. Gov.-elect Christie names three former colleagues to positions in administration

Gov.-elect Chris Christie today named three more former colleagues from the U.S. attorney’s office to positions within his administration. Two will serve in the Attorney General’s Office, while the third will work with the governor’s counsel. Christie named Robert Hanna as director of the Division of Law and Stephen Taylor as director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Hanna, director of the Newark law firm Gibbons PC, previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney. Taylor worked for 20 years as a prosecutor in Essex County and the U.S. attorney’s office before entering private practice. Neither position requires Senate confirmation. Both will work under Paula Dow, Christie’s attorney general pick, if she is confirmed by the Senate. Deborah Gramiccioni, the current criminal justice director, will move to the governor’s office to oversee the authorities unit, which reviews the actions of several independent agencies in the state. Christie has chosen several current and former employees from the U.S. attorney’s office for his administration. Of the four cabinet members he’s announced so far, three — Dow, Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno and Charles McKenna — have worked in that office. Gary Lanigan has worked as a budget official in several New York City agencies. (Megerian, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/nj_gov-elect_christie_names_th.html

New Edison mayor demotes 10 cops promoted by Choi, cites economy

Citing economic reasons, newly sworn-in Mayor Antonia Ricigliano has demoted 10 township police supervisors who were promoted in November by outgoing Mayor Jun Choi. Police Chief Thomas Bryan said Friday evening he was “shocked and concerned” about the disruption and impact the moves would have on the department’s daily operation. He predicted more legal trouble for township, which in recent months has been sued by other police officers. “I believe the township will incur more litigation due to this, but I do realize that the mayor stated she did this for purely economic reasons,” said Bryan, who said he has contacted the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police about the demotions. In a memo obtained by the Home News Tribune, the mayor said the administration is reviewing the procedures invoked for the promotions, and asks police administrators for documents pertaining to any promotions since July 1, 2009. “The review is necessary to establish what, if any, rights the employees may have concerning future promotions to the ranks in question,” the memo stated. Effective Monday, the following officers will be demoted: Deputy Chief Mark Anderko, Capt. Gregory Formica, Capt. Anthony Marcantuono, Capt. Joseph Shannon, Capt. Dominick Masi, Lt. Kennth Schreck, Lt. Frank Todd, Sgt. Michael Carter, Sgt. Douglas Freeman and Sgt. Alan Sciarrillo. Ricigliano could not be reached early Friday evening. The promotions were made a day after the Nov. 4 mayoral election by Choi and Police Director Brian Collier, who also stepped down at year’s end. (Burd, Gannett)

http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20100108/NEWS/1080349/-1/newsfront/New-Edison-mayor-demotes-10-cops-promoted-by-Choi-cites-economy

Hamilton, Robbinsville mayors channel anger at Cablevision

One week in, and there’s still no “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” no “House Hunters,” and no “Myles of Style” on the TVs of Cablevision customers in Mercer County. Fans of HGTV and the Food Network have been without their favorite shows since Dec. 31 at midnight, when the channels went off the air as the result of a dispute between Cablevision and Scripps Networks Interactive, which owns the two channels. And as the war of words between Scripps and Cablevision escalates in print and over the Web, local officials say the ongoing spat continues to threaten cable franchise renewal agreements in Hamilton and Robbinsville. The blackout began Dec. 31, when a contract between Scripps and local cable provider Cablevision expired. Scripps pulled HGTV and the Food Network in protest, claiming Cablevision was refusing to pay the fair market value for the right to carry them. Cablevision contends its customers are being used by Scripps as leverage to negotiate higher rates for the popular channels. “Why won’t Scripps Networks put Food Network and HGTV back on while we negotiate?” asks a full-page Cablevision ad in yesterday’s Times. “Obviously, they don’t care about you, the viewer, as much as they claim to.” On Web sites ilovehgtv.com and ilovefoodnetwork.com, Scripps has fired back, urging viewers to send electronic messages to Cablevision and sign petitions asking the company to work with Scripps to restore their favorite programs. “Cablevision Customers, we are sorry you still don’t have access to Food Network,” reads a post on ilovehgtv.com. “Cablevision has given us a deeply discounted rate that doesn’t reflect the value of Food Network and HGTV … Other cable, satellite and telecom providers have agreed to a fair market rate, so everywhere else in the country their viewers continue to see Food Network and HGTV.” (Duffy, Newhouse)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1263019534306750.xml&coll=5

Mulshine: Gov. Jon Corzine’s greatest public service

Jon Corzine will be giving his final State of the State speech on Tuesday. So when I was walking around the Statehouse the other day, I decided to ask people for their thoughts on how to sum up his four years in office. I soon ran into Deborah Howlett, a former Star-Ledger reporter who left the paper to join Corzine’s staff. She made a spirited defense of her soon-to-be-ex-boss. He had trimmed more than $5 billion from the current year’s budget, she boasted. In fact, said Howlett, he would leave office as the only governor to have a fourth-year budget lower than his first year’s budget. That was quite an accomplishment, I granted. But having cut all that spending, just what public services did Corzine cut? “Well he cut the Statehouse staff in half,” Howlett replied. Another accomplishment. But the staff serves the politicians, not the public. What actual service to the public did Corzine cut? Howlett couldn’t think of any. Nor could I. And if you think about that for a second, you might want to give Corzine credit. He cut all that state spending without cutting services. Quite a feat. But if you think about it for another second, you come to the next logical question: If the governor could cut all those billions from the state budget without cutting services to the public, just why in the heck were we spending all that money in the first place? As it happens, that question was addressed in a recent article by William Voegeli in City Journal, the publication of the Manhattan Institute. It was titled “The Big-Spending, High-Taxing, Lousy-Services Paradigm” and it was about states like New Jersey and California. The politicians in such states love to tell the voters that in return for high taxes they get a higher level of services than people in low-tax states. But just what are those services? I can’t think of a single service the typical Jersey taxpayer receives that was not provided half a century ago when the state had neither an income tax nor a sales tax. The same goes for Joel Kotkin as regards his home state of California. Kotkin, who is a fellow at Chapman University and executive editor of NewGeography.com, was quoted in the article comparing high-tax California to low-tax Texas. A couple of decades ago, he said, services in Texas were noticeably inferior to services in the California. “Today, you go to Texas, the roads are no worse, the public schools are not great but are better than or equal to ours, and their universities are good,” he was quoted as saying. (Mulshine, Star Ledger)

http://blog.nj.com/njv_paul_mulshine/2010/01/gov_jon_corzines_greatest_publ.html

Ingle: In-state tuition bill is political dynamite

Same-sex marriage is over and done within the Legislature; the battle moves now to the courts, where backers will argue the current situation denies equal protection and violates First Amendment rights of churches that want to perform gay marriages. The issue got a lot of attention, but the bill that could potentially retire lawmakers is the one granting children of illegal immigrants in-state college tuition. Thursday’s scheduled vote on tuition was put off until Monday, probably signaling fleeting support from lawmakers hearing from outraged constituents. Marriage equality was defeated after impassioned speeches by Senate President Dick Codey, Sen. Bill Baroni, the only Republican to vote for it, Sen. Nia Gill and the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Ray Lesniak. Codey said generations to come will look back on that day and say, “What were they thinking? What were they afraid of?” Gill spoke to those who claim the bill would change the definition of marriage after 1,000 years. You don’t have to go back that far, she said, just to 1967. That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws across the nation that said blacks could not marry whites. The debate also had its stupid moments: Sen. Gerald Cardinale said the issue was settled on Nov. 3 when Chris Christie was elected. Christie is opposed to gay marriage, Jon Corzine is not. The election was not a referendum on gay marriage, it was a referendum on the past four years and Corzine’s administration. Sen. Sean Kean went on about how in his district gays moved in, ran the drug dealers out and made neighborhoods respectable again. He was full of praise, then allowed as to how he couldn’t vote for the one bill the gay community had asked for. (Ingle, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/article/20100110/OPINION05/1100319/1093/NEWS03/In-state+tuition+bill+is+political+dynamite

Ingle: More evidence Corzine is not serious about crisis

My colleague Mike Symons uncovered additional evidence the big thinkers under the Gold Dome are more interested in passing out taxpayer money to their cronies than saving the state financially. Late Friday, they scheduled a 9:30 meeting for Monday morning at the request of Corzine’s administration — those fine folks most will be happy to see depart Jan. 19 at noon. The purpose is to shift $44 million into the Department of Community Affairs’ special municipal aid program. The account already has a $72 million balance. That brings it to $116 million. It’s used to reward cronies. Symons reports the Local Finance Board is scheduled to award special municipal aid at a meeting Wednesday, including (according to Senate Republicans) roughly $61 million for Camden (where the mayor until last week was a senator from Boss Norcross, Dana Redd), $27 million for Paterson (where a lawmaker is the assistant business administrator), $15 million for Jersey City (the same amount, coincidentally, that the city hoped to save if the pension deferral bill had passed), $11.3 million for Union City (where the mayor is also a state senator) and $2.25 million for Bridgeton. The Local Finance Board is loaded with political trough-swillers to make this kind of thing happen. It shows you how serious Corzine is about cleaning up his mess. On Nov. 3 the voters said enough spending and handed Corzine his walking papers. But these people who like to call themselves “public servants” show how little respect they have for voters. (Ingle, Gannett)

http://blogs.app.com/politicspatrol/2010/01/10/more-evidence-theyre-not-serious-about-crisis/

McCarthy: That’s Governor Sweeney to you

Just call him Gov. Stephen Sweeney. When Sweeney gets sworn in as Senate president this week, that will not be the end of his rise to power. At least not temporarily. Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford, confirmed that outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine will be out of state for a couple of days following Tuesday’s State of the State address for a planned trip. Corzine’s departure, which Sweeney said he could not provide details about, means the Democrat from West Deptford will serve as governor those days. “I’m someone who worked on building buildings,” said the ironworker Sweeney, “so it’s an extreme honor to get the opportunity to serve in the position.” By law, if the governor leaves the state for any reason – even to drive across the Delaware River for lunch – somebody must take his spot for the time. Sweeney said he doesn’t expect to “do anything crazy” during his short tenure as the head of state. The plan is to find something for Sweeney to sign — whether it be a small piece of legislation or an executive order. “They’re going to let me get in the history books,” he said. As the Senate majority leader, Sweeney has been way down on the list of those called upon to serve in the governor’s absence. As Senate president, however, he is next in line. With Republican Gov.-elect Chris Christie set to take office, and a lieutenant governor set to be the No. 2 person, it is unlikely the Senate president will ever serve as governor again in New Jersey. “I’ll be a trivia question,” Sweeney joked. Oops. Tim Chell’s 10 years as Mantua Township mayor seems to be getting to him. Chell, who is also solicitor for Washington Township, was reading resolutions during Washington’s reorganization meeting on Wednesday when he slipped up. (McCarthy, Newhouse)

http://www.nj.com/gloucester/voices/index.ssf/2010/01/pete_mccarthy_thats_governor_s.html

Torres: HCDeadO’s continued decline is altering everything

The 2010 power list of those with political influence in Hudson County reflects the disintegration of Jersey City as the foundation of the county Democratic Party. With arrests and indictments and the failure of the political establishment to infuse new blood into the party, any power list would be very different from years past. This has national implications because without a shift of power to more functional areas of the county U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez becomes vulnerable. The senator is trying to fix the Hudson County machine. He wants No. 2A in this list to head up the HCDeadO. Menendez’s ability to send tremors through the county political landscape, his standing in the U.S. Senate, and his ability to bring home big slabs of bacon put him at No. 1. Here are the rest of the “powerful.” 2A. Union City Mayor and 33rd District Sen. Brian P. Stack’s influence on the Senate Judiciary Committee is growing. He is expected to be a county icon for years. He is a consummate political organizer who doesn’t sleep. 2B. North Bergen Mayor and 32nd District Sen. Nick Sacco is an old guard politician who has managed to resist the “haven’t-got-a-clue” virus that has infected other Democratic officials in the county. A pragmatist, Sacco has a working détente relationship with Stack in Hudson and Trenton. Along with No. 4, the trio could fill the void created by the Jersey City decay. 3. State 31st District Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham of Jersey City is strong in the Jersey City section of her district and the Bayonne administration has yet to prove it can get out the vote. What she has going for her is a strong relationship with Republican Gov.-elect Chris Christie, a powerful talisman. 4. Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith is high on the list because of his relationship with Sacco through his father-in-law, No. 6. Smith could become the third member of a loose triumvirate that includes Stack and Sacco. 5. Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop is laying down the inside track that he expects will take him to the Mayor’s Office in 2013. Some see him as the light of reason on the City Council. Time will tell if it’s real or just a flash. (Torres, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/columns/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/columns-0/126302195635500.xml&coll=3

Morning News Digest: January 11, 2010