Morning News Digest: August 16, 2011

Morning News Digest: Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Sources:  NJ GOP establishment worried about general election if Perry beats Romney

Reacting quietly to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s weekend entrance into the GOP Presidential Primary, New Jersey Republicans worried that Perry could beat former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and create the potential for President Barack Obama to win re-election against a too conservative candidate from the Lone Star State.  

There were two reactions among mainstream Gov. Chris Christie Republicans here, who all spoke on condition of anonymity and concluded that the nominee has to either be Romney or Gov. Chris Christie.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Farmer’s goal is to complete process well in advance of mid-Jan. deadline

The Congressional Redistricting Commission will hold its organizational meeting in Trenton on Sept. 6, with the specific place and time (probably early afternoon) to be announced in the next few days.

“At that meeting, we hope to announce the dates and locations of our three public hearings, which we would like to hold in the early fall,” said a source close to John Farmer, the commission’s 13th member.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Bolstered by local structures but alert to national mood, McCormac looks to finish Tea Party GOP Primary victor Struben

The two men in the Woodbridge mayor’s race have spent as much or more time fighting the power structures in their own parties as each other – but with very different results that give Mayor John McCormac a decisive advantage over challenger Chris Struben (pictured) in November’s general election, which is why Struben pounced on a picture of McCormac with fallen Democratic Party superstar John Lynch at a Yankees game. 

“I’d like to know whose tickets they are,” said Struben, referring to McCormac’s prime time television bleachers shot with Lynch a few weeks ago. “I don’t know if the people want a mayor at a baseball game with someone who’s been in prison.”    (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie not ready to endorse in GOP presidential primary

An endorsement from Gov. Chris Christie in the race for the Republican presidential nomination figures to go a long way — if Christie decides to make a choice before the primary process plays out.

Christie has met with many of the candidates, who in turn have praised the GOP governor’s work and at times seem to be competing for his approval.

Christie has signaled that he is open to backing a candidate early.

“You know me. I’m not a halfway kind of guy,” Christie said. “If there’s somebody I really like, I’ll say it, and I’ll go out and work hard for that person. But I’m not at that point yet.”  (Jordan, Gannett)



N.J. officials say state a good loan risk

No news is good news when it comes to governments and their credit ratings.

Three days before the United States received its credit downgrade, New Jersey made its case that it’s a good borrower. The state’s Treasury Department officials and top advisers to Gov. Chris Christie made the trip to Manhattan for separate sit-down meetings with three rating agencies.

Three days before the United States received its credit downgrade, New Jersey made its case that it’s a good borrower. The state’s Treasury Department officials and top advisers to Gov. Chris Christie made the trip to Manhattan for separate sit-down meetings with three rating agencies.  (Jordan, Gannett)



Port Authority toll and fare hikes may be on fast track to a veto

The Port Authority’s billion-dollar toll hike proposal is on a fast track through public hearings today and slated for approval by the Port Authority board Friday. But look for Gov. Chris Christie and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo, to slam on the brakes.

In fact, New Jersey Democratic leaders have suggested that it is hard to regard the hastily assembled plan as anything more than an elaborate political exercise designed to elicit a storm of protest over the Port Authority’s demand for unprecedented toll and fare hikes from economically strapped commuters.  (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



Andy & Chris team to put squeeze on PA tolls

Top aides for Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are tightening the screws on Port Authority officials in an effort to reduce their massive toll-hike proposal, The Post has learned.

An agreement, if one is reached, won’t likely emerge until just hours before the PA’s board takes a vote on Friday, sources said.

An agreement, if one is reached, won’t likely emerge until just hours before the PA’s board takes a vote on Friday, sources said.

A second set is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the George Washington Bridge Administration Building in Fort Lee, NJ, the Holland Tunnel Administration Building in Jersey City, the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Washington Heights and the PA Administration Building at Kennedy Airport.  (Margolin and Fermino, NY Post)



Port Authority defends huge toll hike, calling it ‘absolutely necessary’

Despite a negative reaction from both governors to a proposed hike in bridge and tunnel tolls of $6 in two phases, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is defending the increase as “absolutely necessary” and says it will stand by its initial proposal.

“It is absolutely necessary to ensure the financial strength of the Port Authority,” the agency’s executive director, Christopher Ward, said in a statement issued today.

Ward’s late-afternoon statement came on the eve of Tuesday’s eight public hearings scheduled at Port Authority facilities in the two states (see full list of hearings below), and was the first time an official of the bi-state agency was quoted by name defending the hike.  (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)



N.J. Supreme Court won’t rush to hear Superior Court judge’s challenge of pension overhaul

A Superior Court judge challenging the increased payments judges must make under just-enacted changes to public worker health and pension benefits plans won’t be allowed to have his case directly sent to the state Supreme Court.

In a two-paragraph order issued today, Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long said the state’s highest court will not relax the rules of the court to allow Judge Paul DePascale to skip the trial and appellate levels.

DePascale, who sits in Hudson County, filed a complaint last month calling the health and benefit law enacted July 1 unconstitutional for judges, saying it cuts their salaries and threatens their judicial independence.  (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)



Christie: No extra aid for Big J

Gov. Chris Christie said Monday there will be no additional state aid this year for the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial in Camden.

Christie made that clear at a press conference at Paulsdale, the Mount Laurel home of famed suffragette Alice Paul. The conference followed the signing of legislation to secure $10 million from a voter-approved trust fund for historic preservation that includes a $20,000 grant for Paulsdale.

Asked if he is exploring restoration of $1.7 million in state aid for the battleship and more than $300,000 for the Old Barracks in Trenton, Christie answered, “Right now, we don’t have it.” 

He cited budget constraints and state revenue in July that was less than projected.  (Comegno, Gannett)



Superintendent survey gives low grades to education department

Back in the spring, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf approached the state’s superintendents association about organizing a no-holds-barred survey of its members.

All 580 of the state’s district superintendents would be polled on what they like and dislike about the state education department, which is charged with monitoring, supporting, and regulating their public schools. There would be 66 questions in all, and a comments section.

Well, the results are back, and they’re not pretty.

Cool relations between Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and the field are nothing new, but superintendents — 408 responded in the end — gave low grades to the department in nearly every regard, from all the paperwork it requires to the quality and usefulness of the data it gives back.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Runyan holds states’ rights stance on offshore drilling

Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., clarified his position on offshore drilling at a rare South Jersey media event Monday, stating he firmly supports oil exploration in U.S. waters.

But the 3rd Congressional District Republican — who was touring the new Virtua Hospital in Voorhees — steadfastly stuck to a 10th Amendment defense when asked his personal opinion about drilling near the Jersey Shore.

He’s held that position since the 2010 campaign, when the Gulf Oil disaster was fresh in voters’ minds. 

“You can’t guarantee a disaster won’t happen again but you have to put the steps in place,” Runyan said, adding states should decide for themselves.  (Roh, Gannett)



Lawmaker says NJ can be winner with expanded gambling at Meadowlands

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to expand the state’s gambling choices, citing weak business at the Atlantic City casinos and signs that New York will ramp up competition with commercial casinos in the future.

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo, D-Essex, has made frequent calls for putting video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the Meadowlands Racetrack but, on Monday, said the time is ideal for the state to place its bets on gambling outside Atlantic City.

Of course, the concept is dead on arrival as long as Gov. Chris Christie remains in office. Christe’s vision for Atlantic City’s revival doesn’t include more in-state gambling competition.  (Jordan, Gannett)



New Jersey wasting NextGen edge as other states lure aviation business, Atlantic County lawmakers say

Atlantic County’s two assemblymen on Monday called on the Christie administration to create an economic development team to attract aviation companies to the region and the state.

Assemblymen John Amodeo and Vincent Polistina, both R-Atlantic, said in a letter to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno that New Jersey needs to take advantage of federal funding of NextGen aviation navigation research at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.

The state, particularly the N.J. Economic Development Authority (EDA), should work to attract aviation and technology businesses, they said. However, New Jersey may be ceding the advantage of billions of dollars in federal NextGen investment to other states, particularly Virginia, Amodeo and Polistina said.  (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)



Court moves to protect New Jersey Highlands from developers

The Christie administration may have some problems with the law preserving the New Jersey Highlands, but a series of decisions from the appellate division finds the court backing the stringent protections enacted by lawmakers.

In a series of five court rulings, the law protecting more than 800,000 acres in 88 municipalities was upheld yesterday, turning back efforts by affordable housing advocates and developers to challenge some of underlying provisions of the regional master plan adopted by the Highlands Council in 2008.

For conservationists, the rulings were a welcome affirmation of the Highlands law, coming at a time when, in their view, the law has been under attack.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Reversing course, officials in New Jersey cancel one-bid immigrant jail

In a sharp turnaround, officials in Essex County, N.J., announced Monday that they would not accept the sole bid on a contract to run a 450-bed immigrant detention center after questions were raised about the transparency and fairness of the bidding process.

The lone bidder was an affiliate of Community Education Centers, a private detention company whose executives have close political ties to Gov. Chris Christie and the top elected official in Essex County, Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.

The county appeared to give special treatment to Community Education, though its record in housing immigrant detainees is checkered.  (Dolnick, The New York Times)



NJ agrees to run new immigration detention center

New Jersey officials signed an agreement Monday to operate one of the newest immigrant detention centers in the nation, a facility that may eventually more than double the number of immigrant detainees housed in the state.

Officials at the Essex County Executive’s office have signed a service agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to expand the number of beds for immigration detainees from 500 to up to 1,250 during an initial phase, and as many as 2,750 during the life of the five-year agreement.

Eight hundred detainees would be held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, and 450 beds would be at a nearby privately run facility.  (Henry, The Associated Press)



Public hearings on hikes to GWB tolls, PATH fares are today

Residents who want to weigh in on the Port Authority’s proposed toll and fare hikes can do so today during an online public hearing or in person at one of eight hearings in New Jersey and New York City.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to raise tolls on the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels this year. Drivers with E-ZPass would pay $4 more per crossing — $12 during peak times and $10 in off-peak hours. Cash tolls would jump from $8 to $15.  (Saeed, Gannett)|newswell|text|News|s



Pinelands Preservation Alliance report gives Stafford Township a poor grade

An annual report on the state of the New Jersey pinelands gives Stafford Township a poor mark for its decision to support a solar power project atop a landfill in the Stafford Business Park.

An annual report on the state of the New Jersey pinelands gives Stafford Township a poor mark for its decision to support a solar power project atop a landfill in the Stafford Business Park.

“This is one of those items that has such a long and tortured history since 2006,” said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.  (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)



Drivers question true destination of taxes and tolls

A survey by AAA Mid-Atlantic, released the same week the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey could approve a toll hike for its Hudson River crossings, shows that drivers are skeptical that all money they pay in gas taxes and tolls goes to fixing roads and bridges.

Late Monday, Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, released a statement saying that the agency was standing firm on its proposal to increase Hudson River crossing tolls by $4 in September and an additional $2 in 2014, and to hike PATH rail fares by $1.  (Higgs, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



4 banks given OK to resume foreclosures in N.J.

Four lenders can resume foreclosing on homeowners who have defaulted on their mortgages after a state judge ruled Monday that she was confident the companies will no longer engage in so-called robo-signing.

General Equity Judge Mary C. Jacobson said Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have upgraded their foreclosure procedures enough to ensure that their customers will get a fair shake.

The companies were found in compliance seven months after state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner essentially placed a moratorium on foreclosures until it was clear that lenders weren’t robo-signing documents — a process in which company employees or contractors, inundated with foreclosures, sign off on documents so fast that they don’t know what they are signing.  (Diamond, Gannett)



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Christie acknowledges proposed Port Authority toll hike will have scant support among commuters

Gov. Chris Christie said today he expects scant support for the 50 percent toll hike proposed by the Port Authority.

“I’m sure there will be very few people getting up saying, ‘Hey I like to pay more,’” he said during a bill signing in Mount Laurel.

Nonetheless, he said Tuesday’s public hearings will serve as a sounding board for various interest groups to present their case.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Christie discounts OLS revenue figures

Gov. Chris Christie said today the Office of Legislative Services is “not giving us real numbers” when it comes to revenue projections.

He added, however, that his own Treasury Department‘s figures were off for the month of July.

“I hope it gets better,” he said.

Christie made the comments at a press conference here after he was asked why some arts project were shortchanged.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



$10M in historic trust funds made available

Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation today that will provide $10 million in National Historic Trust funds for historic preservation purposes.

He signed the legislation at the Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel. The institute is named after a woman whose work led to the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Superior Court Chancery Division says banks may resume mortgage case proceedings

The Superior Court of New Jersey Chancery Division has ruled today that several banks may resume prosecution of uncontested residential mortgage foreclosure cases.

The order issued today states that Bank of America’s BAC Home Loan Servicing arm, Citibank and Citi Residential Lending Inc., JPMorgan Chase Bank and Chase Home Finances, and Wells Fargo Bank may all proceed with mortgage foreclosure cases.  (Staff, State Street Wire)




From the Back Room 



This item on Gov. Chris Christie arrives, courtesy of our sister site, PolitickerNY…  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






Poll shows Christie seen in favorable light despite Democrats’ hammering

Governor Christie’s public image should be suffering from a black eye, but it seems the Democrats are finding it hard to lay a glove on him.

After his Mad King George line-item veto — slashing aid for poor women, kids in after-school programs and an assortment of low-income programs that suburban Republicans loathe — Democrats said Christie had gone too far. So they recast their bully as a heartless ogre, climbing onto the national stage on the backs of the vulnerable.  (Stile, The Record)



It’s starting to look like the tea party’s in the bag

On the phone, RoseAnn Salanitri sounds like a nice lady. But then you go her website called “Conservative News and Views.”

There you will find prominently displayed a novel she has written titled “The False Prophet.” The false prophet in question is the pope. He’s plotting to obtain the DNA of Christ from the Shroud of Turin so he can clone the Antichrist.

Salanitri is a former Catholic who converted to a form of fundamentalism in which it is safe to assert that Noah took baby dinosaurs on the ark. I asked her whether Catholics might get a bit upset at her portrayal of the pope.  (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)


  Morning News Digest: August 16, 2011