Morning News Digest: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
In LD38, Driscoll and the GOP again hone in on Dems’ labor connection
Encamped at the train station across the tracks from state Sen. Robert Gordon’s (D-38) district office, Bergen County Freeholder John Driscoll and his Republican running mates today bludgeoned the incumbents for refusing to back meaningful reform of public employee sick and vacation time accrual.
The platform setpiece had the added benefit of being the professional jumping off point for commuters.
“We stand here today because this is where so many of New Jersey’s hard-working citizens leave for work every morning,” said Driscoll, flanked by Assembly running mates, Hawthorne Mayor Rich Goldberg and attorney Fernando Alonso. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Former BCIA Chairman pleads guilty to mortgage fraud
Former Bergen County Improvement Authority Chairman Ronald O’Malley pleaded guilty Tuesday to mortgage fraud.
O’Malley, while employed at Ridgewood mortgage brokerage firm Diversified Financial Group, which does business as Residential Mortgage Corporation, falsely claimed BCIA employment for numerous borrowers.
O’Malley, 48, of Upper Saddle River, and Laura-Jean Arvelo, a former Residential Mortgage employee, entered guilty pleas this morning.
According to the indictment, O’Malley, Arvelo and other Residential principals and employees falsely represented on mortgage applications and other documents that borrowers were employed by the BCIA. The group arranged for BCIA employees in on the scheme to answer calls from banks and other mortgage lenders calling to verify employment. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Rick Perry urges GOP to give up on Christie dream
For months conservatives have tried to get their fantasy candidates into the 2012 presidential race — Politico summed up the “egghead right’s” thinking on the current field like this: “Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud.” But one by one, the GOP dreamboats — including Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie — have said they’re for-real-for-real not running. So now Perry’s urging Iowa Republicans to give up the dream. Real Clear Politics’ Scott Conroy the Texas governor has been calling Iowa supporters of Christie. (Reeve, National Journal)
Christie to hold rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
Governor Christie will hold a rally in Baton Rouge, La. along with Gov. Bobby Jindal next month to support candidates for office there.
Christie will travel to Louisiana on Sept. 29 to headline a fundraising event for Republican candidates in the Pelican State. In addition to the dinner, Jindal and Christie will appear at a rally in Baton Rouge, said Jason Dore, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party.
Louisiana, like New Jersey, holds odd-year elections and this year their entire Legislature and the governor are up for election. The fundraiser, to be held a private residence, will also benefit Republican candidates for the elected Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Dore said. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. high court sides with fair-housing nonprofit in open-records suit
The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, a lobbying group for the state’s 566 towns, is subject to the Open Public Records Act.
Justices unanimously sided with the Fair Share Housing Center, a Cherry Hill nonprofit organization that filed a lawsuit in 2008 to obtain records related to the league’s opposition to proposed revisions to state affordable-housing rules.
Trial and appellate courts had ruled against the housing nonprofit group, denying its claim that the league was a “combination of political subdivisions” covered under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA). But the top court ruled that the records law was so broadly written that it covered a wide variety of entities. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Governor OKs ban on ‘bath salts’
Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation officially outlawing designer drugs associated with violent mood swings and at least one death in New Jersey, a decision that came as welcome news to Werner Schmidt.
He just wishes it could have been done sooner.
The legislation known as “Pamela’s Law” is named after Schmidt’s daughter, a Rutgers University student from Warren who was killed in March. Diane Parisio, whose son William is accused of murdering Schmidt, claimed that sustained use of bath salts by William, coupled with anti-anxiety medication, led to the circumstances surrounding the death of his longtime girlfriend.
The drugs, sold and marketed on the street as “bath salts,” had previously been banned by state order, but companion legislation was passed in both the Senate and Assembly in June. (Spivey and Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Gov. Christie wants to get rid of Division of Fire Safety, Democratic N.J. legislator says
A Democratic state senator said today that Gov. Chris Christie is looking into eliminating the Division of Fire Safety, which is responsible for enforcing the state fire code, education programs and firefighter training.
In a news release criticizing the plan, Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) said the administration wants to divide the duties of the office across state government, though the discussions have not been made public.
The governor’s office declined to comment, and referred questions to the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the Division of Fire Safety.
Hollie Gilroy, a spokeswoman for the department, didn’t dispute that such a move was under consideration, but said no decisions have been made. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Gov. Chris Christie’s staff says vacation no hindrance to earthquake response
Gov. Chris Christie seems to have pretty bad luck when it comes to timing his vacations.
When an earthquake rattled New Jersey today, Christie was vacationing with him family at the shore. He has taken this whole week off to spend time at the state-owned beach house in Island Beach State Park.
It isn’t the first time Mother Nature has decided to pick on New Jersey while the governor was away from his office.
In December, the governor was vacationing with family at Disney World in Florida when a blizzard pummeled the state. He was buried with criticism after deciding not to return home early.
Christie’s office insisted the governor’s response was no different than had he been at his desk. Christie was in contact with several key members of his administration and was getting real-time briefings. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. to receive $158M in homeland security grants
Urban areas and transportation agencies in New Jersey will receive $158 million in homeland security grants, Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced today.
The grant money, which was set aside under the Department of Homeland Security’s $43.6 billion 2011 budget, is intended to protect lives and infrastructure in northern New Jersey, Lautenberg’s office said.
The biggest part of the allocation is a $51.7 million grant for transit security to “protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and travelers from acts of terrorism, major disasters and other emergencies,” a statement from Lautenberg’s office said. Most of that money, $28.6 million, will go to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the PATH system. NJ Transit will get $16.4 million to protect its trains and buses, while the Delaware River Port Authority will receive $6.7 million. (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)
Parents, ACLU sue NJ city over Facebook records
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state’s biggest city for refusing to release records related to a $100 million gift pledged to its schools by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Newark on behalf of a parents group denied access to records requested under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.
The initial April 1 request sought to review correspondence among Zuckerberg, Newark employees including Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, state officials and others involved in the deal.
“As parents, as taxpayers and as citizens, we have a need and right to know how the money pledged to Newark’s public schools will ultimately serve Newark’s public school students,” said Laura Baker, who filed the initial request and has a granddaughter in the school system. (DeFalco, The Associated Press)
Manufacturing sector needs government help, says congressman
It’ll take government action — both localized and international — to help struggling American manufacturers grow and hire more help, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. told workers at a pipe fittings factory Tuesday.
He said the manufacturing sector — including a North Jersey factory work force that’s plummeted by more than half — could be saved if Congress slapped developing nations with tariffs and gave tax breaks to shops that hire.
“We have lost our ability to make things in this country,” said Pascrell, D-Paterson. “We have to figure out what products we can compete on and [the government] needs to support those products.”
Pascrell conversed with Knickerbocker Machine Shop workers during a town hall-style meeting to address the challenges to New Jersey’s manufacturing sector. (Schectman, The Record)
New Jersey Congressmen, business leaders brainstorm at Rutgers on how to boost manufacturing
“Groundbreaking” was a word used early Tuesday afternoon to describe the types of innovation believed to be necessary to spark a revitalization of New Jersey manufacturing, comments that came during a forum hosted by two Congressmen at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus.
Speakers had a figurative interpretation in mind, but the notion was driven home quite literally moments later.
The earthquake felt up and down the East Coast caused noticeable swaying on the seventh floor of the CoRE (Computing Research and Education) Building at the Rutgers School of Engineering, but only managed to interrupt the forum briefly before U.S. Reps. Rush Holt, D-12th District and Frank Pallone, D-6th District, got back down to business.
“In Washington, recently we’ve been having a lot of distractions,” Holt said, as the forum marked the end of his two-week tour of New Jersey manufacturers. “But this should have been the main interest all along.” (Spivey, Gannett)
Camden to pay students $100 in anti-truancy program
Nearly 70 Camden high school students will be paid $100 each to not skip school.
The city’s newest attempt at combating truancy – I Can End Truancy, or ICE-T – will focus on conflict-resolution and anger-management workshops and educational reinforcement during the next five weeks, ending Sept. 30.
Sixty-six youths, who range from incoming high school freshmen to seniors, filed into the Isabel Miller Community Center in Camden’s Liberty Park neighborhood Tuesday for their first anti-truancy session.
The program, which will be held three days each week, is being funded mostly through a $63,000 Community Justice Grant from the state Department of Criminal Justice.
The County Prosecutor’s Office received the grant but because the office no longer has a community justice director (Angel M. Osorio was laid off in May) to manage the grant, it agreed to give it to the city, said prosecutor’s spokesman Jason Laughlin. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Lance weighs in on economy, debt crisis at Courier News editorial board
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th District, on Tuesday called on federal lawmakers and President Barack Obama to restore “certainty” to taxpayers who continue to struggle under the weight of the stagnant economy.
Speaking at an editorial board meeting with New Jersey Press Media, the second-term congressman said that reducing the unemployment rate was among the biggest issues before him. At several recent town-hall meetings, Lance said, almost all of the questions from his constituents have been about the economy.
“In general they want to know, ‘What is Washington going to do to help create more jobs to help the middle class, the bedrock of our society?’ ” he said. “And my answer to that is that we need greater ‘certainty.’ That’s the one word I would use to encapsulate what I would do.” (Burd, Gannett)
Runyan event the catch of the day
When a group of supporters of Congressman Jon Runyan wanted to organize a fundraiser for the freshman Republican Congressman, they knew right away a fishing trip would be the ideal activity.
This would not be a formal affair marked by stiff political speeches. This was to be a fun day on the blue Atlantic waters.
On Monday, Aug. 22, Captain Eddie Yates took Runyan and 20 of his backers out summer flounder fishing on the “Hunter” out of the Barnegat Light Yacht Basin.
Yates was the natural choice to leads such a trip as Runyan has been fishing on the “Hunter” for eight years.
As a player on the Philadelphia Eagles, Runyan had volunteered his time to accompany groups fishing with Yates to raise money for charity. (Hutchinson, Gannett)
Adler family establishes memorial fund at Harvard’s Kennedy School
The family of the late Rep. John Adler, D-N.J., have established a memorial fund in his honor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The announcement of The John H. Adler Memorial Fund for Veterans’ Affairs today comes on what would have been the former state senator’s 52nd birthday.
“It is our family’s intent to continue John’s legacy of respect and support for veterans,” said wife Shelley Adler, who, like her husband, served on Cherry Hill Council.
“It is a population that is sometimes sadly neglected, despite the tremendous personal sacrifices made by those individuals and their families. This fund will lead to better governmental treatment of our service men and women after they are no longer in active duty.”
Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood welcomed the announcement. (Staff, Gannett)
Latest from State Street Wire
Pennacchio calls on Budget committee chairman to look into school lunch scandal
Sen. Joe Pennacchio, (R-26), Montville, has sent a letter to the Budget committee chairman that calls for an investigation into the Elizabeth School Board’s handling of the National School Lunch program.
Pennacchio wants a probe into the program administered by the state Agriculture Department that has come under fire following a Star-Ledger story that reported instances of ineligible students being admitted. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Fair Share Housing ‘gratified’ over League OPRA ruling
Fair Share Housing spokesman Kevin Walsh said his organization was gratified by this morning’s state Supreme Court decision that the N.J. League of Municipalities is subject to the Open Public Records Act.
“We’re happy that the court has decided to let some sunshine into the League affairs,’’ said Walsh, associate director of the non-profit public-interest agency that champions the housing concerns of poor residents. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Police, firefighters associations lose retirement contribution suit
The state Superior Court this morning ruled in favor of the state and against the associations representing police and firefighters concerning changes made in 2003 and 2009 to employer contributions to retirement plans.
The court rejected claims by the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey and the Fraternal Order of Police that contractual rights of members had been violated by the state. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Former Middlesex County GOP Chairman Joe Leo dies
Former Middlesex County Republican Chairman Joe Leo has died, county Republicans told PolitickerNJ.
Leo, who took over the post in 2002 after a stint as Old Bridge Republican chairman, was a stalwart in county politics. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie statement on the passing of Joe Leo
“I was deeply saddened to learn of Joe Leo’s recent passing. As the Former Middlesex County Republican Chairman, he was an exceptional leader. A staple in local Middlesex politics for over 50 years, Joe worked tirelessly to promote his deeply held principles and beliefs.
“Politics aside, Joe was also a dedicated public servant. As the local business administrator in Matawan and Old Bridge he continually strove to improve the quality of life for residents in both communities. Middlesex County has truly lost one of its finest citizens….” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie weighs in on energy plan
Governor Christie has revised New Jersey’s energy master plan. It now includes possible construction of another nuclear power plant to replace one scheduled to close in eight years.
The revised plan also proposes three new generating plants fueled by natural gas, which would come from wells being drilled in nearby states, delivered to New Jersey through new pipelines.
The plan, intended for the guidance of administration officials, particularly the Board of Public Utilities, modifies the state’s initial energy plan, adopted by former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, in 2008. (Ahearn, The Record)