Morning News Digest: August 9, 2011

Morning News Digest: Tuesday, August 09, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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In Essex, Chiusolo versus Luciano contains all the undercurrents of county power

Republicans believe they have a shot in the 4th District of Essex County, where a win by Cedar Grove Deputy Mayor Joe Chiusolo over teacher Len Luciano would re-establish the GOP with a seat at the county level.  

There’s a back story here as Democrats affiliated with state Sen. Dick Codey, (D-27), Roseland, worry that Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo is putting up a soft candidate in part to weaken Codey, who’s running for re-election in a redesigned district that includes a portion of Morris County towns.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Citing her role in pension furor, LD 25 candidate uncomfortable with honoring Oliver at Morris County Dems event

A Democratic candidate for Assembly in the 25th District is in turmoil because he doesn’t want to attend a Morris County Democratic Committee event hosted by featured guest Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).

George Stafford of Wharton, former state Division of Motor Vehicles manager who’s run twice unsuccessfully in the heavily Republican district, said he doesn’t know whether or not he will eventually boycott the Aug. 27 event, but he’s uncomfortable with Oliver.   (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Sweeney demands ELEC investigation of Elizabeth Board of Education

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) today urged the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate the Elizabeth Board of Education to demonstrate, in Sweeney’s words, that the state will not condone any political activity that threatens the delivery or education or the integrity of teachers.

“I would like to bring to your attention a matter of concern involving the unlawful solicitation of campaign contributions from employees of the Elizabeth Board of Education (‘Board of Education’),” wrote to Executive Director Jeffrey Brindle. “I believe the seriousness of this allegation requires an immediate investigation and, if warranted, sanctions to punish all misconduct.”  (Pizarrom PolitickerNJ)



NJEA refuses to endorse Sweeney and Oliver for re-election

The politically powerful New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest ’s teachers union has decided not to endorse state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) for re-election, the second time the legislative leaders have been stung by public employee unions in the past four days.

The NJEA, the Communications Workers of America and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal workers, which represent the majority of state and local government employees are enraged at 22 Democratic senators and Assembly members who joined with Gov. Chris Christie and Republicans to approve an overhaul of pension and health benefits.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



New Jersey begins to venture beyond No Child Left Behind

A decade into the federal law that changed the debate on public schools, the federal No Child Left Behind Act looks like it will be gone well short of its goal that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

President Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan yesterday announced that his department will be granting regulatory waivers to states to get around the 100 percent proficiency goal and other rigid provisions of the NCLB.

In New Jersey, more than half of the public schools don’t meet the federal standards now, according to the state. Some predicted a failure rate as high as 80 percent nationwide in the next few years.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Christie kicks off health center week

Gov. Chris Christie signed a proclamation Monday declaring Aug. 7-14 as National Health Center Week, calling community health centers the most effective and efficient way to provide New Jersey residents with a wide range of medical services.

Fifty events throughout the week will boost awareness of health care issues and offer screenings, massages and immunizations across the state. The theme for 2011 is “serving locally, leading nationally.” The homeless and migrant farm workers are a special focus.

At a health center in Burlington, Christie said he has increased support for community health centers by $6.4 million since 2010, up to a total of almost $160 million. He said he wants to provide even more money next year.  (Lederman, The Associated Press)



Christie attempts to neutralize call for women’s health clinic funding

Gov. Chris Christie reframed the debate on health care funding for the poor as one about all underserved New Jerseyans, not just women and children.

Flanked by two of the three Republican women in the state Senate, Christie sought Monday to neutralize Democrats’ repeated attempts to restore funding for women’s health clinics, pointing to the backdrop — Southern Jersey Family Medical Center’s Burlington City Health Center — as a clinic that delivers “efficient and effective” care for “patients of both genders and all ages.”  (Roh, Gannett)



NJ Gov. Christie blasts the Port Authority toll hike proposal, calls the agency mismanaged

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday blasted the Port Authority over its push to raise tolls $4 and blamed a bevy of former and current politicians — including Mayor Bloomberg — for letting the bistate agency run wild with its spending.

Christie said he was shocked to learn of the massive proposed toll hike on Hudson River and Staten Island crossings from $8 to $12 for drivers with E-ZPass, recalling his first reaction: “You’re kidding, right?”

Once he stopped reeling from shock, he said he got angry — citing the toll hikes as “testimony to the mismanagement of the Port for years” and laying the blame squarely on bistate leadership over the past decade for overspending on Ground Zero.  (Margolin and Fermino, NY Post)



Gov. Christie, Sen. Sweeney sit down after public falling out

The summerlong silence between Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) is finally over.

The two leaders sat down for a meeting today in the governor’s office at the Statehouse, their first face-to-face in more than a month.

Spokesman for both men refused to divulge what the two talked about, except to say it was a private meeting.

A powerful duo who worked together to pass an overhaul of public employee pension and health benefits, Christie and Sweeney had been in a standoff after a falling out over the state budget. Sweeney backed a budget plan that included increased funding for several projects that Democrats pegged as important, including women’s health care, schools and tax credit increases for the working poor.  (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



How much did Gov. Chris Christie know about the Port Authority’s proposed toll hikes?

Could Gov. Chris Christie, the iron-fisted leader who installed some of his closest confidantes to run the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have been caught unawares by Friday’s announcement of a 50-percent toll hike at Port Authority bridges and tunnels that mainly serve his constituents?

Some say no: It’s political theater scripted to let Christie intervene on behalf of commuters and partially roll back the increase to a level more like the one he said he would be open to back in June.

“Realistically, it wouldn’t have been done without both governors having complete knowledge of what was in place,” said Michael Francis, a former chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, appointed by Republican Gov. Christie Whitman.  (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)



Liberal group goes after ‘Christie-crats’

A newly formed group of progressive Democrats wants to oust Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver from their leadership posts.

NJ-CAN, dubbing as “Christie-crats” the 22 Democrats who voted for the changes to public workers’ pensions and health benefits enacted in June, launched a petition drive Monday demanding the Legislature’s Democratic leaders be removed before the post-election lame-duck session.

Its members oppose the benefits law and questioned why Sweeney and Oliver couldn’t extract concessions from Gov. Chris Christie on the state budget in exchange.  (Staff, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



Rep. Rothman pitches Meadowlands for Democratic convention site

U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman is trying to get his party talking about having the 2016 Democratic National Convention in the Meadowlands, Newark or possibly a combination of the two. But even he won’t predict that it’s going to happen.

“We’re at the early stages,” said Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, who has reached out to the Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee. “But you never know how far a good idea will go until you express it.”

The 2008 Democratic convention in Denver was a two-venue event, with the first three nights held in an indoor arena and the final night, where Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech, at an outdoor football stadium.  (Jackson, The Record)



Menendez: House Republicans threaten funds that would improve roads in Hudson County, put thousands to work

Hudson County road projects would lose $30 million in federal funding if the House of Representatives adopts its latest funding proposal, Sen. Robert Menendez and other transportation advocates warned yesterday.

“I am here today to expose the Republican threat to kill 18,000 transit and construction jobs in New Jersey and put our transportation infrastructure in this nation in jeopardy,” Menendez said standing outside a county government building on Duncan Avenue in Jersey City.  (Hack, The Jersey Journal)



NJ lawmakers create Alzheimer’s commission

Alzheimer’s disease, the progressive illness that affects 5 million Americans, devastates so many families that state lawmakers adopted a law this summer creating the New Jersey Alzheimer’s Disease Study Commission.

The 15-member volunteer board will raise awareness, study the disease’s far-reaching effects and help develop community-based services for patients and families.

“This commission is a good thing — the state is finally paying attention to this important problem,” said Dr. Howard Fillit, a Tenafly neuroscientist and executive director of the Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation.  (Williams, The Record)



Vote devices in counties re-evaluated

In the middle of a vast warehouse of Gloucester County voting machines last Wednesday, Gary Plummer replaced chips and resealed some of the 520 voting devices.

Plummer’s Medford-based Election Support & Services Inc. has been contracted by several New Jersey counties — including Burlington and Camden — to help them comply with a controversial Superior Court order.

In February 2010, Judge Linda Feinberg ruled New Jersey’s 11,000 voting machines be disconnected from the Internet and re-evaluated by a panel of experts, and that anyone who works with or on voting machines be subject to a criminal background check.  (Rosen, Gannett)



Gas utilities look for rapid recovery of costs for upgrading infrastructure

With infrastructure up to a hundred years old, the state’s gas utilities are apparently going to ask the Christie administration to approve a system that would allow them to recover costs of upgrading their pipelines more quickly and with less regulatory oversight. It also would enable a faster return on investment.’

A similar concept has been discussed in stakeholder meetings between the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and New Jersey’s regulated water utilities during the past year as a means of upgrading their antiquated infrastructure.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Woman who inadvertently left 4-year-old child home alone should not be on child-abuse registry, court rules

The state Supreme Court today said an Atlantic Highlands woman should not have been placed on a state registry for child abuse for inadvertently leaving her 4-year-old son home alone while she dined with a friend.

The ruling is at least the second time this year the court has overruled the state’s child protection agency. In January, it said slapping a teenager or taking money from her paycheck to pay family bills does not constitute child abuse or neglect.  (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)



Groups call for scientists to engage in the body politic

When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was “I don’t know.” In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist.

While these may not have been statistically rigorous exercises, they do point to something real: In American public life, researchers are largely absent. Trained to stick to the purity of the laboratory, they tend to avoid the sometimes irrational hurly-burly of politics.  

For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the technically trained among the 435 members of the House include one physicist, 22 people with medical training (including 2 psychologists and a veterinarian), a chemist, a microbiologist and 6 engineers.  (Dean, The New York Times)



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MGM Resorts wins 18-month extension to control its sale of stake in Borgata

The  Casino Control Commission will give MGM another 18 months to control the marketing and sale of its majority ownership in the Borgata Hotel Casino.

An amendment to a March 2010 settlement agreement between the Division of Gaming Enforcement and MGM Resorts International, Boyd Gaming and Marina District Development Company will extend the date from Sept. 24 to March 24, 2013, the commission reported today.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Christie and Sweeney log social visit in Trenton, but budget leftovers hover

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, was seen heading in the direction of Gov. Chris Christie’s office today, but sources in the Statehouse said it was nothing more than a hello following more than a month of radio silence between the two most powerful politicians in the state.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Thousands of N.J. jobs at risk if federal transportation program not reauthorized, coalition warns 

A coalition of lawmakers and union leaders warned today that New Jersey could lose as much as 50,000 jobs if a federal transportation infrastructure program is not reauthorized by Sept. 30.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



CWA and IBEW striking, but not to stifle Verizon negotiations

As of 11:59 Saturday night, 45,000 Verizon employees from Maine to Virginia are without a contract, and two unions kicked off negotiations in New Jersey by announcing a strike.

According to Verizon New Jersey spokesman Lee Gierczynski, the two bargaining units in the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania region – the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – broke off contract negotiations this weekend to strike.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Operative’s son victim of hit and run

Ravaughn Leach, eldest son of Democratic Party operative and CWA political director Lionel Leach, was critically injured Sunday in a hit and run accident in the Bronx.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Jersey Journal: Menendez calls for audit of PANYNJ

The Jersey Journal is reporting that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has called for an audit fo the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to see if “whether or not this is an agency that is operating efficiently.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)






The final repudiation of liberal policies

The final nail in the coffin of liberal tax-and-spend fiscal policies was driven last week when S&P lowered the American government’s credit rating for the first time in history.

Interestingly, nowhere in S&P’s analysis was there a call for higher taxes, or an assumption that the federal government taxes too little.

The downgrade resulted from S&P’s conclusion that the government has not cut spending enough.  The rating agency concluded that the debt-ceiling legislation was more than 2 trillion SHORT of spending cuts that are necessary for AAA confidence.  (Michaels, PolitickerNJ)



Jobs trump politics for trade union president

William T. Mullen is a powerful, beneath-the-radar leader of New Jersey’s Hard Hat Nation — the thousands of skilled union workers spending dismal, uncertain stretches these days at hiring halls, waiting for work.

But if you didn’t know that the lifelong Democrat was the president of the 150,000-member New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council or if you didn’t see the Obama-autographed photo of his granddaughter standing next to an Obama-Biden campaign sign on the wall of his office in Clark, it would be easy to mistake him for a supply-side Republican.  (Stile, The Record)



The Port Authority is turning Christie into a tax-hiker

Central to our governor’s national popularity is his pledge to never raise taxes.

Chris Christie will be breaking that pledge in the very near future if the Port Authority goes through with its plan to raise tolls on bridges and tunnels by 50 percent.

That’s a tax hike, at least according to the definition from the man who first dreamed up the no-tax-hike movement: Grover Norquist. Through his Americans for Tax Reform group, Norquist has created a powerful movement based on getting politicians to sign a pledge to never raise taxes.  (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)



Chris Christie says Jersey’s safe from Shariah

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and fantasy presidential candidate of countless pining Republicans, is the Placido Domingo of contempt, a virtuoso of disparagement.

There are times when he blows too hard, or misdirects his anger. Even Placido Domingo has the occasional off night. But when Christie settles on a suitable target, his scorn can scatter his enemies like crows from the trees.

Such was the case last week, when he directed a blast of righteous anger at a campaign to thwart the appointment of a prominent Muslim lawyer to the Superior Court in Passaic County, mainly on grounds that the lawyer is, well, a Muslim.  (Goldberg, Bloomberg)



Morning News Digest: August 9, 2011