Morning News Digest: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Aron joins NJ Public Broadcasting team as vice prez of news
The “Dean of the Statehouse Press Corp,” Michael Aron has joined the Foundation for New Jersey Public Broadcasting (FNJBP) as vice president of News and Public Affairs
NJTV also named Aron as its Chief Political Correspondent and announced that Aron will return as host and executive producer of his two public affairs television series, On The Record and Reporters Roundtable with Michael Aron. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie says Iowa trip was chance to present educational reform ideas on national stage
Gov. Chris Christie – as usual downplaying any talk of a presidential run – said today his trip Monday to the first presidential primary state of Iowa lasted a mere four hours.
He said his plan touched down at 3:30 p.m. and he was headed back east at 7:30 p.m. (Hassan, PolitickerNJ)
Christie blasts critics of new judge
A lawyer who defended Muslims detained after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was sworn in as a New Jersey Superior Court judge on Tuesday, as Gov. Chris Christie called those who criticized his nomination ignorant.
The appointment of Sohail Mohammed, 47 years old, angered some conservatives, who said they were concerned about the influence of Sharia law, an Islamic code of law. (Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)
NJ GOP websites down after Obama tells public to contact Congress about debt
Heavy traffic crashed the web sites Tuesday of several House Republicans representing New Jersey, apparently in response to President Obama’s call for the public to speak out about the debt-limit stalemate.
House telephones also were heavily taxed, and there were multiple published reports about other House members’ web sites, including those of Speaker John Boehner and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, going down because of high volume. (Jackson, The Record)
Hearings under way on N.J. energy plan
New Jersey’s long-term energy plan was praised Tuesday by energy advocates for promoting the installation of solar panels on brownfields and landfills, and criticized for failing to do enough to promote energy efficiency.
More than 150 people filled a room for the first of three hearings on Gov. Christie’s vision for meeting the state’s energy needs for the next 10 years. Additional hearings on the draft energy master plan are scheduled next month in Trenton and Pomona. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)
Christie gas plan, drilling debated
The formal debate over Gov. Chris Christie’s push to rely more on natural gas as part of New Jersey’s future energy policy was launched Tuesday at a public hearing attended by hundreds of environmentalists, power company officials and members of the public.
Administration officials said New Jersey’s energy pricing stands to improve from the state’s proximity to abundant Marcellus Shale gas reserves in northern and western Pennsylvania. But the drilling process has raised safety and environmental concerns. (Jordan, Gannett)
Environmentalists urge public to come out and fight for clean energy
With hearings scheduled to begin next week on a revamped draft Energy Master Plan, clean energy advocates and a prominent lawmaker yesterday called for increasing New Jersey’s efforts to promote solar power and energy efficiency, instead of scaling back those goals.
Unhappy with the plan’s lukewarm endorsement of New Jersey’s aggressive solar targets, they urged the public to come out and fight to retain various programs, which they fear may be curtailed or eliminated. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
New law designed to help spur urban development in New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Tuesday that paves the way for the state to provide economic incentives to the long-stalled Meadowlands development project and large projects that mix commercial and residential development near urban train stations.
The bill doesn’t expand the $1.5 billion the state can spend on such transit-hub tax credits, though it does possibly accelerate their award by making more projects eligible. (Symonds, Gannett)
Education Commissioner speaks out on public radio
New Jersey’s acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf took to the radio waves yesterday, spending 20 minutes with Brian Lehrer of WNYC radio, one of NJ Spotlight’s partners.
In a wide-ranging interview, Cerf spoke to the differences between New Jersey and New York City schools, where he last worked as deputy chancellor. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
1st Indian-American judge sworn
The first Indian-American and second Muslim to become a state Superior Court judge in New Jersey was sworn into office Tuesday, at a ceremony that attracted a standing-room-only crowd including Gov. Chris Christie.
Sohail Mohammed’s path to the bench was a bumpy one. First considered as a judge by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006, Mohammed was nominated by Christie last September but got tangled up in Passaic County judicial horse-trading, as well as intense, speculative opposition by conservative bloggers. (Symons, Gannett)
NJ Assembly panel to review cuts to legal services
A New Jersey Assembly panel is scheduled to hear from poor people who rely on state-funded legal assistance.
Gov. Chris Christie cut $10 million from the program that assists poor people with housing and tax disputes and myriad other legal matters. The cut in this year’s budget comes atop a $9.7 million cut last year. (The Associated Press)
For Turnpike Authority, settling lawsuits is cheaper than risking costly awards in a jury trial
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority settled at least seven lawsuits in the last year and a half — paying nearly $1 million to plaintiffs — rather than take its chances on long, costly court battles.
Among them was a $60,000 settlement with a man left with chronic back, hip and leg pain after a fall at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. (Rouse, The Record)
U.S. debt crisis brings protesters to Frelinghuysen’s office in Morristown
Protesters outside Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s office on Tuesday urged the Republican congressman to vote to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.
About 40 members of the Morris Council for the Rebuilding of the American Dream, an affiliate of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, carried signs outside the Schuyler Place office reading “Rodney, Will You Stand Up for the Middle Class?” and “Frelinghuysen Don’t Default on Us.” (Manochio, Gannett)
N.J. State Council on the Arts awards more than $15.8 million to nearly 800 arts organizations
The state Council on the Arts has awarded $15.8 million in state and federal funding to nearly 800 arts organizations, programs, projects and artists in the 21 counties, the agency announced on Tuesday.
The council’s 2011-12 awards were distributed through several programs including $13.9 million in 196 matching grants to organizations and $1.8 million in 28 co-sponsored initiatives that support state and regional partnerships which attempt to advance arts education, showcase New Jersey artists, increase access to the arts for people with disabilities, foster arts in community development, and promote the arts statewide. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom) http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/state-council-on-the-arts-awards-more-than-158-million-to-nearly-800-arts-organizations
N.J. Council on the Arts forced to make cuts across-the-board to save Newark Museum
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts was forced to play the role of King Solomon today, making across-the-board cuts to the majority of its traditional grantees so it could award money to help save a new applicant, the Newark Museum.
One of the state’s cultural gems, the museum was given $1 million to help stave off the crisis created when it lost the $2 million it usually receives from the Legislature. (McGlone, The Star-Ledger)
New tax credits likely to spur Camden projects
Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Tuesday to expand eligibility for new construction tax credits to encourage investment in nine cities, a move long-awaited by Camden leaders.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd said the bill is likely to jump start a 15-acre project along Haddon Avenue linking Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center with PATCO’s Ferry Avenue station, a project which has been in the pipeline for at least seven years. (Stilwell, Gannett)
Newark program aims to help vulnerable homeless
Syretha Stokley spends her days in the waiting room of Newark’s Penn Station, clutching a backpack stretched at the seams with her meager belongings, wearing several mismatched layers in the summer heat. Diagnosed as bipolar and on medication, she cycles between shelters and spending nights on a bench in a nearby subway station. She passes most of her days in a corner of the train station where the chronically homeless congregate. (Henry, The Associated Press)
Cost of cop consolidation study is questioned
Bergen County should examine why a recent law-enforcement consolidation study by a New York consulting firm cost $623,000, three freeholders said this week.
A memo from within the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office dated Dec. 17, 2010, noted that the California-based Matrix Consulting Group submitted a $49,000 bid to compile a report about consolidating Bergen County law enforcement agencies. The memo recommended that the county choose Guidepost Solutions, which submitted the only other bid, because it was far more qualified and did not have any conflicts of interest. (Gartland, The Record)
9/11 memorial will be ready for anniversary, official says
It seemed impossible only a few years ago, but a 9/11 memorial will open at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York by the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey said Tuesday.
Until 2008, it appeared the memorial wouldn’t be ready in time — until the port authority did a top-to-bottom review of the project after years of grappling with unrealistic plans, budgets and construction timetables, Chris Ward told reporters at the National Press Club. (Chebium, Gannett)
Bellmawr dropped as site gor medical-marijuana facility
A medical-marijuana facility once expected to operate in a Bellmawr industrial park is looking for a new home.
Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. gave up a tentative lease agreement for a Benigno Boulevard property due to the state’s delay in implementing a medical-marijuana program in New Jersey, a spokesman said. (Walsh, Gannett)
Pa., N.J. officials question costs of tough sentencing
As states across the country struggle with anemic revenue, officials are taking a harder look at one subset of government that eats huge chunks of taxpayer money: prisons.
Corrections officials on both sides of the Delaware say the “get tough on crime” philosophy that has governed prison operations since the early 1980s must change. It’s expensive and, in many cases, it’s not working. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Latest from State Street Wire
Christie places responsibility for police layoffs at municipal, union official’s feet
Against the backdrop of a city that saw more than 160 police officers laid off earlier this year, and shootings increase in the aftermath, Gov. Chris Christie said today he doubts there’s going to be any political reprisals for state budget cuts he made. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Christie downplays Assembly Judiciary budget hearing as ‘election year theater’
Gov. Chris Christie criticized Wednesday’s scheduled Assembly Judiciary hearing on legal service aid cuts as nothing more than political posturing.
“Tomorrow will be election year theater,” he said during a question-and-answer session during a bill signing ceremony in Newark today. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
On energy plan, coast considered before safety, says League of Women Voters
Many experts and industry insiders spoke today about the state’s Energy Master Plan, but it was a polite woman from the League of Women Voters who garnered the most applause of the day. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Christie, DEP cheer ruling holding company liable for pollution remediation in lower Passaic River
A Superior Court judge has ruled that Occidental Chemical Corp. is responsible for remediation costs for a polluted stretch of the lower Passaic River.
The Christie administration today hailed the ruling of Judge Sebastian Lombardi, who ruled last week that the company is liable for costs associated with the cleanup of sediments in the river contaminated decades ago by a Newark plant where pesticides were manufactured. (Staff, State Street Wire)
A hated bureaucracy is trashed. Now what?
Great was the rejoicing when Governor Christie announced he was abolishing the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing. A panel that had become entangled in flawed regulations of its own devising, the council had outlived its usefulness.
Last fall a three-judge appellate court invalidated most of the latest rules adopted by the council. They were supposed to expedite construction of housing affordable for households with low and moderate incomes. (Ahearn, The Record)
Trenton Dems lose the high ground if PAC stays secretive
Dante put hypocrites in one of the lowest levels of hell in his “The Divine Comedy” for good reason, it’s indefensible and disgusting behavior. Dante comes to mind as Democratic Party supporters launch a secret PAC called One New Jersey.
When Republicans created their secret PAC, Reform Jersey Now, under a section of tax law used for nonprofit groups, Democrats in the Legislature went ballistic because it was impossible to see who was giving money to it. It was linked to Gov. Chris Christie and programs he supports. (Ingle, Gannett)
But would Chris Christie be interested as a job as vice president?
When Republican rising star Chris Christie shows up in Iowa with his wife and two of his kids in tow in the presidential campaign high-season, it’s hard for Iowans to believe he’s not interested in the White House.
The talk last night at a fundraiser in West Des Moines? That Christie might be open to a vice presidential role. (Jacobs, Gannett)