Morning News Digest: Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
NJ voters against Obama 2nd term
Well over half of New Jersey voters say President Obama does not deserve a second term, but Republicans are not thrilled with the potential candidates that have emerged so far according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
Just 43 percent of those polled said the President should be reelected next year, down from 48 percent in February. Another 47 percent say the President should not be reelected, up from 39 percent six months ago.
But while Obama’s numbers show he’s vulnerable, just 3 percent of Republicans say they are very satisfied with their party’s candidates and another 56 percent are somewhat satisfied. An additional 31 percent say they are not satisfied with the Republican contenders. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
In LD 39, Hermansen would consider going for Vandervalk’s seat if she retired
Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-39) isn’t the only one mulling her political future tonight.
Freeholder Rob Hermansen said he is considering running in the event that Vandervalk doesn’t pursue re-election.
“I would give careful consideration to putting myself in a position to run, yes,” Hermansen told PolitickerNJ.com. “It’s not expected, she’s a great legislator, and if I am lucky enough and I am able to, I would be honored to follow in her footsteps and serve the residents of the 39th District.” (Pizarro, PolititckerNJ)
Sources: Middlesex Dems skittish over what they see as impending improvement authority audit
Middlesex County Democratic Party sources say their party is bracing for a state comptroller’s report they fear will land in time to possibly embarrass Monroe Mayor Richard Pucci, a key political ally of state Sen. Linda Greenstein’s (D-14) of Plainsboro.
Undertaken by the independent comptroller’s office, the report, say sources, focuses on the inner workings of the massive Middlesex County Improvement Authority, where exeutive director Pucci makes in excess of $200,000, and oversees a $70 million, 700-employee operation. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Rothman won’t run for governor in 2013
The office of U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) today ruled out the Bergen Congressman as a 2013 opponent to Gov. Chris Christie.
“Congressman Steve Rothman has great respect for the office of governor of the state of New Jersey, full well understands its important responsibilities, and is flattered by those who have suggested he should run to be New Jersey’s next governor,” said Rothman Communications Director Aaron Keyak.
“However, Congressman Rothman wishes to continue his career in public service for New Jersey in the Congress, where he continues to fight for and protect our country and our state. Therefore, Congressman Rothman will not be running for governor.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie to support 5-year ban on fracking in New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday is expected to conditionally veto legislation that would make New Jersey the first state to ban the controversial practice of so-called fracking as a way to drill for gas.
The governor is expected to propose the Democratic-controlled Legislature amend the proposal to set a five-year moratorium on the drilling method, according to sources familiar with the issue.
The fracking ban bill (S-2576) was approved by the Legislature in June in response concerns raised by New Jersey environmentalists about potential pollution and public safety issues stemming from fracking. Anti-fracking and environmental groups plan to react to Christie’s action in a press conference set for the Statehouse early Thursday afternoon. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Investigation opened on 3 Elizabeth school officials accused of abusing subsidized lunch program
The state attorney general has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that three Elizabeth school officials abused a taxpayer-subsidized lunch program, sources briefed on the matter said Wednesday.
Officials of the embattled school district and the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal program, confirmed they had received subpoenas seeking records on who receives free or reduced-price lunches.
The investigation was prompted by an article in The Sunday Star-Ledger that said the president of the Elizabeth Board of Education, a school principal and the head of custodians signed their children up for the lunches even though they earn too much money to qualify.
The two sources confirmed the attorney general’s investigation but requested anonymity because they are not permitted to speak publicly about it. Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Atlantic County’s Senate race is the one to watch in New Jersey
A duel between two sitting legislators, the entrance of a possible spoiler candidate motivated by a decades-old feud, and the expectation of millions of dollars in donations make the campaign for Atlantic County’s state Senate seat the race to watch in New Jersey.
Democrat James Whelan, an Atlantic City official for nearly two decades, is running for reelection against Vince Polistina, a two-term Republican Assemblyman who contends his opponent has failed the resort.
Whelan describes himself as a leader in helping to bring non-gaming attractions to Atlantic City and boosting the struggling casino industry. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
School head turnover rate rises
Nearly 30 percent of New Jersey school districts hired new superintendents in the last year, a larger-than-usual turnover that may have resulted from new salary caps and changes to pensions and health benefits.
The New Jersey School Boards Association reports that 170 of the 589 districts it tracks changed their top executives in 2010-11. The turnover was roughly 85 percent higher than the average over the previous nine years; no other year in the last decade topped 21 percent until last year’s 28.9 percent.
“Certainly part of it is driven by the salary caps, and part of it is likely driven by the changes in pension and health care benefits,” association spokesman Mike Yaple said. “Every public employee has to pay more. Some might find it more advantageous just to retire.” (Symons, Gannett)
Third District Legislators address questions at town hall meeting
The Third District Legislators held a town hall meeting here Wednesday night at Salem Community College and according to Senate President Stephen Sweeney it’s been a long time coming.
“We have been so consumed with the budget and pension and health care reforms,” said Sweeney. “The first 18 months as Senate president have been pretty full.”
But the local legislators said they were glad to be in Salem County as Sweeney and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley took and answered questions in an open forum to better understand issues residents are facing locally in the state of New Jersey.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli was unable to attend due to a previous business commitment. (Dunn, Today’s Sunbeam)
In New Jersey, rules are changed on witness IDs
The New Jersey Supreme Court, acknowledging a “troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness identifications,” issued sweeping new rules on Wednesday making it easier for defendants to challenge such evidence in criminal cases.
The court said that whenever a defendant presents evidence that a witness’s identification of a suspect was influenced, by the police, for instance, a judge must hold a hearing to consider a broad range of issues. These could include police behavior, but also factors like lighting, the time that had elapsed since the crime or whether the victim felt stress at the time of the identification.
When such disputed evidence is admitted, the court said, the judge must give detailed explanations to jurors, even in the middle of a trial, on influences that could heighten the risk of misidentification. In the past, judges held hearings on such matters, but they were far more limited. (Weiser, The Associated Press)
Lawsuit over promised $1 houses in Camden’s Lanning Square drag on another year
After seven months of meetings and at least two settlement conferences with a judge, lawyers involved in a federal lawsuit in Camden over promised $1 homes are still at odds, leaving prospective homeowners to wait what could be another year for a resolution.
What started as an effort by local leaders, including the Rev. Al Stewart and Cooper University Hospital board chairman George E. Norcross III, to foster an amicable solution instead led to a squabble behind closed doors.
The lawsuit alleges that the developer of Camden Townhouses II, Israel Roizman, deceived low-income tenants and denied them their right to homeownership.
Roizman, of Lafayette Hill, signed agreements with the city and state in 1992 to buy and rehabilitate 91 units – including 41 single-family houses – in the Lanning Square area for $175,000. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Towns balance books by selling off their assets
For sale: marinas, property lots, paper roads and even used town halls.
You can find them all on municipal property sales lists as some New Jersey towns turn to selling off old assets to help balance their budgets.
Many local officials credit tough economic times for forcing them to explore innovative ways to make up budget deficits and to keep taxes down. The trend has included the sale of municipal assets such as land, marinas, utilities and outsourcing the cost of certain programs.
“It is not only a matter of the bad economy but in towns also trying to keep within the 2 percent property tax cap,’’ said Matthew Weng, a staff attorney for the state League of Municipalities, a voluntary association made up of about 566 municipalities throughout New Jersey. (Vosseller, Gannett)
Gov. Christie’s cuts sinking Battleship New Jersey
It’s a sad sign of the times: For the last two years its funding was $1.74 million; this year, it’s $0. And its paid work force has been trimmed from 50 to 6.
With numbers like that, how can you keep a business afloat? That’s what those involved with the Battleship New Jersey are wondering, now that Governor Chris Christie has vetoed aid to it, as well as to Trenton’s Old Barracks and the Newark Museum, according to CourierPostonline.com.
However, Jim Schuck, president-CEO of the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial, as it’s properly known, says full speed ahead with a campaign to lobby the governor and state legislators to restore funding. This ship – the most decorated battleship in US Naval history – will not go down. (Summers, New Jersey Newsroom)
Possible voter fraud discussed
Evidence that possible absentee vote fraud occurred in the Republican primary election in Parsippany mounted Wednesday at a civil trial in which Morris County Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom is contesting her primary loss to newcomer William “Hank” Lyon.
Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck was conferring in his courtroom late Wednesday with lawyers for Nordstrom and Lyon, a state deputy attorney general and Morris County Counsel Daniel O’Mullan on how the GOP freeholder candidacy spot could be filled if he ultimately decides the June 7 freeholder primary results should be thrown out.
Nordstrom, a freeholder for the past 12 years, unofficially and very narrowly lost her bid for the Republican nomination to Lyon, a 23-year-old Montville resident who is making his first run for political office. The countywide vote at the polls was 12,271 votes for Lyon and 12,261 for Nordstrom. A recount of 1,249 absentee or vote-by-mail ballots narrowed the split to six votes in favor of Lyon. (Wright, Gannett)
Longtime Middlesex County political leaders mourned
Two longtime county political leaders from opposing parties who died in the past week are being fondly remembered by party leaders.
Funeral services were conducted on Monday for G. Nicholas Venezia, 89, of the Colonia section of Woodbridge, who for 18 years in the 1970s and 1980s served as chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.
Venezia, a Bayonne native who was a founding partner of the Venezia & Nolan law firm in Woodbridge, where he practiced for more than 50 years, died on Aug. 18 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway.
A funeral mass is scheduled for Friday for former Middlesex County Republican Chairman Joseph Leo, 73, of Old Bridge. Leo worked for the past 45 years as a public administrator, manager and public safety director in a number of towns, including Old Bridge, Holmdel, Marlboro, Jackson, Monroe, Delran, Brick, Middletown and Matawan. Leo died on Sunday at Bayshore Hospital in Holmdel. (Staff, Gannett)
Local officials speak about women in politics
In a world in which former First Lady Hillary Clinton came within a hair’s breadth of getting the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate that same year and current Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is leading the candidates for the Republican nomination for president, the idea that women can rise to the highest levels of political office is no longer as foreign as it was just a few decades ago.
This was one of the topics of discussion at an event at the Rutherford Public Library last week on Aug. 16 sponsored by the Women’s Republican Club. Speakers at the event included Bergen County Executive and former County Clerk Kathleen Donovan, current County Clerk and former Bergen County Freeholder and New Jersey Assembly member Elizabeth Randall and Marlena Huesmann, a former president of the Bergen County chapter of the Young Republicans. Current Bergen County Freeholder Maura DeNicola was scheduled to attend the event, but she was unable to attend at the last minute. (O’Keefe, South Bergenite)
Latest from State Street Wire
$2.7 in public safety grants for N.J. counties
Nearly $2.7 million in U.S. Department of Justice grants for public safety will be split among 14 counties in New Jersey.
The Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) were awarded to cities and towns in New Jersey for “a broad and diverse range of projects for law enforcement and the justice system, including law enforcement technology and equipment, legal and correctional services, and other crime prevention initiatives,” according to a release from Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Three investors plead guilty to bid-rigging at municipal tax lien auctions
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark office announced guilty pleas in a case where three financial investors conspired to rig bids at municipal tax lien auctions.
The charges, according to a release, were filed today in U.S. District Court in Newark against Isadore May of Margate; Richard Pisciotta Jr. of Long Beach Township; and William Collins of Medford. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Lesniak’s charter school bill faces committee hearing, Senate vote
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-22), of Elizabeth, is determined to unshackle the charter school movement, one way or another.
The Opportunity Scholarship Act was a pilot program – when it started – that would have loosened the noose on charters through a voucher program. But its opponents felt it was runaway-train legislation, ending up much more broad and unwieldy than it began. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Guadagno’s first bill signing freezes developers’ affordable housing fees
In her first official bill signing, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno eased the way for job creation, property development, and economic growth. It was right up her alley.
Guadagno (acting governor while Chris Christie is away) signed S2974, which extends a moratorium on 2.5 percent commercial developers’ fees and which returns fees paid since another moratorium ended last summer, if the municipalities have not used the funds for affordable housing. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Report: Perry trying to peel away Christie backers
The Des Moines Register is reporting that GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to pry loose a conglomerate of Iowa Republicans who organized to recruit Gov. Chris Christie to run for president.
Perry wants those financial power players to release themselves from their Christie dreams and instead support him. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Republicans must stop their senseless EPA bashing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by a Republican President, the late Richard Milhous Nixon in December, 1970. EPA was founded in order to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.
Without question, the history of the EPA is one of America’s great success stories. Throughout the four decades since its establishment, the agency has continuously fulfilled its mission of improving the quality of our nation’s air, water, and land. (Steinberg, PolitickerNJ)
Top New Jersey comedians meet in emergency session to deal with Chris Christie fat/earthquake jokes
Within hours after a 5.8 earthquake was felt in the Garden State, the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Comedians Association (NJ-PCA) called an emergency meeting to deal with the issue of the possibility of a post-earthquake proliferation of “Chris Christie/Earthquake fat jokes”.
Shecky Noodleman, President of the NJ-PCA, said, “This kind of situation demands the comedy industry deal with this matter swiftly. We’ve had too many amateur comedians making Christie fat jokes at comedy clubs throughout the state like ‘Christie is so fat, he has his own zip code. Or ‘Christie is so fat that in Trenton, state legislators orbit around him’. Those jokes just are not funny, and we need to nip these in the bud before the big Labor Day comedy weekend. Nip it, nip it, nip it.” (Novick, PolitickerNJ)
How now Paula Dow? AG was warned of school lunch irregularities
What took her so long?
State Attorney General Paula Dow is finally looking into charges that false applications have been submitted for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. But Dow was informed of potential irregularities in that program more than a year ago. She ignored the issue. Because she did, hundreds of millions in state school aid seem to have been distributed on the basis of bad data.
That’s the allegation of state Sen. Michael Doherty. The Warren County Republican has been hammering on potential abuse of the federal subsidized lunch program for more than a year. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)
Scent dispute won’t go away
Asthmatic and breast cancer patient Charlene Garlic stepped out of her front door Wednesday for rare fresh air.
But her peace was quickly shattered.
As we walked down the driveway of her Monroe Township home, her neighbor, Frank Sudano, shouted at us from his front yard, then called police.
Garlic and a group of supporters led me to makeshift signs they recently posted at the mouth of her driveway, facing Glassboro Road.
One reads: “Monroe stop the racism we pay taxes too!”
Another says: “We are being stinked (sic) out of our home. That Stinks.” (Rosen, Gannett)