Morning News Digest: Thursday, September 01, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Sources: look for GOP Sate Committee to play in key races but keep focus on 2013
The consensus among party players is that the Christie-led Republicans will spend some of the money from state committee coffers – but not all, as they use this map-deprived cycle mostly as a precursor to protecting Gov. Chris Christie statewide in 2013.
“They will target a few state Senate and Assembly races, and other than that, they will look at some county races of significance to the party, but other than that you would not be wrong to think they wouldn’t spend it all and would save for the future,” said a high ranking Republican leader, who agreed that state party money would probably ultimately be best spent on the governor and not on nook and cranny contests played out on a map favoring Democrats. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Sette resigns as Morris County GOP, backs Inglesino to succeed him
Longtime Morris County GOP Chairman John Sette retired today, he told PolitickerNJ.com.
“It was just time to pass the baton,” said Sette. “Ten years is a long time.”
Sette said he supports former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino to serve as chair.
Patti Page is the acting chair until June at which time the party organization will have its annual convention.
“I never lost a freeholder race,” Sette told PolitickerNJ.com.
“Chairman John Sette has been an effective and dedicated leader in Morris County,” said Governor Christie. “John has helped Republicans win key races in Morris County time and time again and I am thankful for his help to my own race in 2009. He will be missed.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie versus Cantor
Hurricane Irene quickened a Republican Party collision course with itself, as Gov. Chris Christie today upbraided the GOP-controlled Congress in the aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) public declaration that hurricane relief be offset by other federal spending cuts.
The governor’s fracas with Christie put the governor in a local foxhole with old foe U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
“If Republicans want to block disaster relief, they will feel the wrath of everyday people,” Lautenberg said in an email blast.
Christie a-okayed that sentiment.
“We don’t have time to wait for folks in Congress to figure out how they want to offset this stuff with other budget cuts,” the governor said today at a press conference in Lincoln Park as quoted by Gannett.
“Our people are suffering now. They need support now. They can all get down there and get back to work and figure out the budget cuts later. But we need the support now in New Jersey. That’s not either a Republican or a Democratic issue.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Obama’s disaster declaration clears way for aid to N.J.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stood on a flooded street corner Wednesday afternoon in Paterson and read an announcement, off her cellphone, that President Barack Obama had approved New Jersey’s request for a disaster declaration, opening floodgates of federal aid in affected counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
W. Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, then walked over to a corner where some 30 residents, living without electricity in their neighborhood, had noticed the motorcade and gathered to catch a glimpse of Napolitano and Gov. Chris Christie, who also joined the trip.
Fugate recited the phone number for aid in a call-and-response style familiar in black churches: 800-621- FEMA (800-621-3362). The residents chanted the number back to him. Fugate also said residents could apply for aid online at DisasterAssistance.gov or over their cellphones at m.fema.gov. (Method, Gannett)
FEMA head Craig Fugate brushes off Eric Cantor
The coordinator of the federal response to Hurricane Irene said Wednesday that his agency has enough money to aid flood victims and he brushed off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s suggestion that congressional Republicans may seek corresponding budget cuts before approving storm funding.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate took to the network morning shows to tout the government’s response to Irene and post-storm flooding, which has incapacitated parts of Vermont, upstate New York and New Jersey and left hundreds of thousands of people without power on the East Coast.
He downplayed suggestions from Cantor that Congress won’t appropriate emergency response funding without corresponding budget cuts.
“We don’t know what’s coming down the line, but what I do know is we have funds to continue response, rescue operations and immediate needs and that’s been our focus,” Fugate said on CBS’s “Early Show.” “And again, we are working with the White House, because again another storm, once we get damage assessments completed on Irene, we’ll have a better idea of the funding needs not only for this storm but also for the other disasters we’re still working.” (Epstein, POLITICO)
Hurricane Irene losses still being counted; Jersey Fresh marketing materials ruined
New Jersey suffered losses of state-owned property to Hurricane Irene, but officials said Wednesday it’s too early to total up the damage.
A warehouse storing the supply of Jersey Fresh point-of-purchase marketing materials was damaged by flooding. Department of Agriculture officials posted a website message saying they’d be unable to fill orders for the materials “until funding is again available and supply has been refurbished.”
Normally, vendors can order Jersey Fresh logo stickers, banners, pennants, bin wraps, aprons, T-shirts and hats for a fee and posters and price cards for free.
Andrew Pratt, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, said reports are being compiled of other losses, such as for a flood-impacted Trenton building where used office furniture and computers are stored, and for a state-owned house on parkland where the basement flooded and a tree was felled by the storm. (Jordan, Gannett)
‘Frustration’ in Paterson
While most of New Jersey cleans up in the wake of the record floods brought by Tropical Storm Irene, much of the city of Paterson is fighting back floodwaters.
Streets throughout the downtown area were inaccessible on Wednesday, filled with overflow from the Passaic River. Traffic was snarled and only two of the city’s 11 bridges were open as workers inspect for damage.
Mayor Jeffrey Jones said more than 1,500 people have been displaced. “There’s frustration, there’s disappointment,” said Mr. Jones, standing on the steps of the police headquarters, parts of which were flooded earlier in the week. The river crested on Tuesday and evacuations continued Wednesday.
Gov. Chris Christie and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured Paterson late Wednesday. “This is as bad as I’ve seen, and I’ve been in eight states that have been impacted by Irene,” said Ms. Napolitano.
The fire department performed more than 500 rescues as
Gov. Chris Christie’s family recalls tragic day during Sept. 11 memorial visit
In the days after the 9/11 terror attacks, many parents shielded their children from the graphic images of destruction on TV.
Not Chris and Mary Pat Christie.
Although the attacks hit close to home — Mary Pat Christie worked two blocks from the twin towers, and their children had friends who lost parents that day — the couple let their oldest children, then 8 and 5, watch whatever they needed to see to understand the event.
“It happened. It’s the real world … This is real life,” the governor said. “They need to know that to be on guard.”
It’s one thing for a parent to urge a child to be good — advice that risks being ignored, Christie said. But allowing children to witness evil at work helps them understand what happens when people reject goodness.
“Evil being shown to kids can be an inspiration to them to be good,” he said. (O’Brien, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. revenue figures closer to Democrats’ estimates than Gov. Chris Christie’s
Final revenue figures for last year’s budget were more in line with Democratic projections than those used by Gov. Chris Christie, according to an Office of Legislative Services memo obtained by The Star-Ledger.
The competing revenue estimates were a key budget dispute between Democratic lawmakers and Christie this past June.
Democrats wanted to use higher revenue estimates offered by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services to increase funding for social service programs and education, along with property tax relief.
In their budget proposal, Democratic lawmakers increased final revenue projections for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 and planned to use the surplus to increase funding in this year’s budget. They also used the higher OLS projections to increase spending in this year’s budget.
Calling the Democratic plan a piece of fiction, Christie used his line-item veto power to lower the revenue projections and scale back spending. He said, “someone will have to be the adult in Trenton.” (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. public employee unions file suit to overturn state changes in pension and health benefits
New Jersey public employee unions and individual active and retired members on Wednesday filed suit in federal court against the recently enacted pension and health benefit overhaul that affects 50,000 state and local public workers.
The lawsuit charges the state violated the federal and state constitutions by suspending cost of living adjustments for at least 30 years, failing to make full payments into the pension system for the last decade, and handing the administration of the benefits system to committees.
The plaintiffs include the New Jersey Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, and the Communications Workers of America, the state’s largest public employee’s union, as well as police and firefighter unions.
“This lawsuit is about basic fairness and justice,” NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said. “Governor Christie and the Legislature passed a law which illegally takes away benefits that school employees and others have already earned through their service to the people of New Jersey. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Church withholds blessing from school conversion bill
A bill to allow private and parochial schools to convert to public charters looked as if it was on the fast track to passage in the legislature last week.
Then it wasn’t, for what may be a surprising reason.
In an unusual late summer session, the Senate budget committee convened last Thursday to hear just three bills, the charter conversion bill being the most prominent among them. But while it passed the committee 9-4, it was pulled from a full Senate vote that same day
Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the chief sponsor of the measure, said it was largely a technicality preventing the immediate vote. But he also acknowledged yesterday that he wasn’t sure the bill would make it after all without the support of the one group it was meant to help most: Catholic schools.
“Unless we can show a demonstrated need [from the Catholic schools], probably not,” said Lesniak. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Bergen Freeholder Hermansen withdraws from Assembly race
The dynamics for selecting the next state Assembly member for the 39th Legislative District shifted on two fronts Wednesday, when Bergen County Freeholder Robert Hermansen announced he would not seek the county Republican Party’s nomination and Washington Township Council President Fred Goetz stated his intention to compete for it.
Goetz became the third local official to throw his hat in the ring for outgoing Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk’s 39th Legislative District seat.
Vandervalk announced last week she would not be seeking reelection this November.
Hermansen of Mahwah, who had announced his candidacy last week, said several considerations went into his decision to bow out, including family concerns, his current position as a freeholder and his regard for Vandervalk and her wishes.
Hermansen said Vandervalk made it clear to him about a year ago that she wanted a woman to replace her in the 39th district. He also noted that he promised his children he wouldn’t campaign this year and that he still has unfinished business as a freeholder. (Harris and Gartland, The Record)
Rutgers gets $587,000 grant to study sea level rise
Two days after Hurricane Irene’s passage, Rutgers University received an anxiously awaited $587,190 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that will fund studies on the impact of storm
Rutgers will match the money with $231,020 of its own funds through its Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Programs enabled by the grant include Barnegat Bay restoration efforts, coastal erosion studies, work with kindergarten through grade 12 schools, and fisheries research.
At an Aug. 25 meeting with Rep. Jon Runyan, R-NJ, and fishing advocates, institute director Richard Lutz those programs are deeply dependent on NOAA funding, and scientists were worried about their fate amid budget cutting in Washington. (Moore, Gannett)
Diegnan: NJTV failed miserably during Hurricane Irene coverage
NJTV, New Jersey’s new public broadcasting station, was missing in action when it came to coverage of Hurricane Irene, leading Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex) on Wednesday to call for the state to revisit the contract to ensure adequate coverage for future emergencies.
“NJTV has failed their first test miserably,” Diegnan said. “While Hurricane Irene was battering our state, NJTV was airing cartoons and cooking shows. They couldn’t send a reporter to cover any of the governor’s press briefings.
“This is more than an embarrassment, it’s a disgrace,” Diegnan continued. “The people of New Jersey deserve better. Our taxpayers are subsidizing NJTV’s operations and receiving nothing in return. It’s time we revisit the contract between the state and NJTV. Immediate action must be taken to assure that this never happens again.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
High hopes for medical pot in N.J.
With New Jersey in need of an economic boost, medical marijuana advocates say the state should not overlook the lift the drug can provide when it’s expected to become legally available at the end of the year.
The newly minted medical marijuana law will allow New Jersey to begin cashing in on what is a nearly $2 billion market for states with similar laws, Thomas Leto, president of the U.S. Medical Marijuana Chamber of Commerce, said at a news conference Wednesday.
Leto speculated there will be a surge of new New Jersey residents — those exiting neighboring states, such as New York, where the drug isn’t legal.
“There will be new spending, new jobs and new businesses,” Leto said.
Leto said 20 companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange have investments in marijuana dispensaries and ancillary businesses. New Jersey is joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing the growing, sale and use of medical pot. (Jordan, Ganentt)
Commander set to take over Atlantic City Tourism District
The city’s Tourism District will officially have a commander starting Thursday.
Tom Gilbert has been acting in that capacity, but will formally take on the role now that his retirement from the State Police – where he has been serving as chief of staff – goes into effect.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff already under way,” Gilbert said of plans for the city.
Gilbert, along with Atlantic City police Deputy Chiefs Ernest Jubilee and Henry White, have stressed that they are taking a joint approach to policing the city.
Plans include an “Eyes on Atlantic City” system similar to that in Camden, where cameras are used to help fight crime. The first step has been taking an inventory of all the privately owned cameras currently in the city, including where they are located and contact information for each. The cameras at Bally’s Atlantic City were used earlier this summer to help identify a man accused of wounding two Cumberland County brothers in a shooting onto the Boardwalk just hours after the city’s Fourth of July celebration. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
Essex 9/11 ceremony will dedicate Twin Towers’ piece
Essex County will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a ceremony dedicating a 7,400-pound steel-and-concrete structure from the World Trade Center, the site of one of the horrific terrorist attacks, that’s been transported to Eagle Rock Reservation.
The V-shaped remnant from the Twin Towers, as well as a new bronze plaque recognizing the valor of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) during the tragedy, have been added to the 9/11 memorial that’s already at the Essex County park, which straddles West Orange and Montclair.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. will preside at the dedication, which will be part of the annual “Essex County Remembers” ceremony. It will take place at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Essex County Eagle Rock Sept. 11 Memorial. The public is invited to attend. (Moss, The Montclair Times)
Gay rights advocates weigh in on Census, marriage equality
The 2010 Census figures show the number of same-sex couples in the South Bergen area have increased, but critics say that gay and lesbian couples are undercounted and should also be counted according to their sexual orientation.
Regardless, church leaders and marriage equality advocates believe that the U.S. Census is trying to do a better job to represent a growing number of couples who are moving into suburban areas. And although same-sex marriage is only legal in five states, many believe that representation in U.S. Census figures will help the marriage equality movement. In states like New Jersey, civil unions prevail—for now.
“The civil union and marriage licenses look identical. The only difference is one shows ‘partner one and two’ and the other shows ‘bride and groom,'” said Greg Rupright, minister at Rutherford Congregational Church. (Nicholaides, South Bergenite)
New Jersey first state to check babies for heart defects
New Jersey’s newborns are now the first in the nation required to have a painless test to ensure they don’t have serious heart defects.
The Newborn Screening for Congenital Heart Defects law went into effect Wednesday requiring hospitals and birth centers throughout New Jersey to test the blood oxygen level of all new infants before they go home.
The test, called “pulse oximetry,” detects if a baby’s body is not absorbing enough oxygen — a sign of a possible serious, congenital heart or lung abnormality that could lead to a sudden health crisis if undetected.
Maryland also enacted a similar law that has not gone into effect yet. Pennsylvania is considering similar legislation as are several other states, reports Clinical Cardiology, a cardiology journal. (Quann, Burlington County Times)
NJSIAA official critical of Burzichelli’s comments
NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko said on Wednesday that Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) is “turning” scholastic sports into a “political football game.”
Timko’s comments came in a statement issued by the NJSIAA’s new public relations firm and was in response to Burzichelli’s statement on Tuesday that severely criticized the NJSIAA’s decision to move its four South Jersey football sectional championship games to The College of New Jersey in Ewing.
The NJSIAA announced that decision on Aug. 24.
In recent years, the South Jersey championship games were played at the fields of the highest remaining seed in each section.
“While New Jersey is faced with a state of emergency, hundreds of thousands of residents are without power, thousands have been displaced from their homes and jobs, reports of crumbling roads and infrastructure are widespread and the state continues to wrestle with serious economic issues, politicians like Assemblyman Burzichelli should not be turning high school sports into their own political football game,” Timko said. (Falk, Gannett)
More than $400 million in recent health care-related construction brings better jobs, treatment options to South Jersey
Booming health care construction in the area has meant employment for the building trades as well as more, better-paying jobs in the medical industry.
For others, such as Brigantine residents James and Regina Mitchell, it has meant not having to travel to Philadelphia for cancer treatments.
“We just didn’t want to go through the ordeal of back-and-forth should something come up serious and we would have to go back,” said James Mitchell, 75, a Philadelphia native. “We felt, talking with other people, and from our own experiences, we could get just as good treatment here as we would in Philly.”
During the past five years, more than $400 million in health care-related construction has taken place in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties. Led by the $125 million expansion and renovation project at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point — the grand opening of which is scheduled for Sept. 7 — the region has seen increased capacity for treatment and care. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
Offshore wind could be moving closer to reality
If offshore wind developers get their way, state officials will decide what projects will move forward along the coast of New Jersey sometime around December 2012.
At least that is the tentative timeframe suggested by developers working with the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on how the projects will be funded and how the wind farms will be awarded offshore renewable energy certificates (ORECs) for the electricity they generate.
The Christie administration is aggressively pushing offshore wind projects, hoping they will spur the creation of thousands of green manufacturing jobs to supply wind turbines, cables and countless other parts.
The proposal emerged from a series of stakeholder hearings held in Trenton this past month on how the wind farms will earn ORECs for the power they produce and how power suppliers will pay for the certificates. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Latest from State Street Wire
WNET President, CEO Shapiro responds to criticisms of NJTV storm coverage
Two Democratic legislators have issued stern criticisms of NJTV’s coverage of the tropical storm, to which parent group WNET President and CEO Neil Shapiro responded via email today.
“NJ Today ran bulletins on the air every hour starting at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with the latest editorial information about Hurricane Irene,” Shapiro said. “As we said in June, our video gathering capability and distribution wouldn’t be ready until after Labor Day, nonetheless with the very small staff we have, we were still able to devote Friday evening’s broadcast to preparations that communities all across New Jersey were making for the hurricane and last night’s broadcast featured the aftermath.” (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows support for gay marriage, even more for civil unions
While a majority of N.J. voters support legalizing gay marriage, even more support the alternative of civil unions.
That is the finding of a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today.
Fifty-two percent favor gay marriage, 32 percent are opposed, and 16 percent are unsure, according to the poll. However, 58 percent are in favor of civil unions when that is included in the question.
“We were surprised by the margin favoring gay marriage, which is much greater than previously (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Medical marijuana advocates say N.J. program’s restrictions impede economy
Supporters of New Jersey’s fledgling medical marijuana program believe the state’s restrictive guidelines are impeding economic growth as well as health care.
Advocates of dispensing marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes believe the low potency permitted under the state’s program – 10 percent – as well as the fact physicians have to register with the state in order to participate are serving as roadblocks. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
ADP reports 91,000 private sector jobs added in July
The private sector added 91,000 jobs in July, according to a report released today by ADP.
The modest growth was further tempered by a revision down to 109,000 from 114,000 of the June numbers.
Small business, considered by many to be the best hope to drag unemployment below 9 percent, added the bulk of the jobs at an additional 58,000 while medium-sized business added 30,000 jobs.
The service-providing sector added the largest number of jobs at 80,000 but that number is well off the average of 115,000 jobs added in the sector over the previous two months. (Isherwood, State Street Wire)
Politicians drop the ball, again
Media sycophants have been tripping all over themselves heaping praise on Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo for their handling of tropical storm Irene. Yes, Irene turned into a tropical storm before it hit the New Jersey shore, a fact that should have known by the “Big Three” hours before they dominated the airwaves with their dire warnings about the impending Apocalypse in New York and New Jersey.
Therefore, if their staffs misled the Big Three or if the Big Three ignored the evidence that Irene was going to be a much less devastating event at the Jersey shore and in New York City, why have they not issued an apology to the millions of people who were evacuated unnecessarily? (Sabrin, PolitickerNJ)
Bergen Freeholder Hermansen passed over fir Assembly seat contender
Dressed in an oversized Giants football jersey, Bergen County Freeholder Rob Hermansen wedged into a group photo last year with Governor Christie, moments after the NFL announced plans to hold the 2014 Super Bowl at the new stadium in the Meadowlands.
Hermansen beamed like the benchwarmer who has just been told that he’s starting in this Sunday’s game.
But, to continue another sports metaphor, Hermansen will not get his shot at big league glory this fall. Team Christie is reaching deep into the party depth charts, drafting an unelected official, River Vale Township Attorney Holly Schepisi, to replace retiring Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk, R-Westwood. Hermansen, part of the GOP duo that broke the Democratic majority on the Freeholder Board two years ago, will toil there for the foreseeable future. (Stile, The Record)
We’re powerless in the face of the alternative-energy lobby
I have seen the future and I don’t like it.
I’m talking about alternative energy. I’ve spent the past four days looking for it.
Early Sunday morning, a tree took out a power line across from my house. Ever since, I’ve been trying to find an alternative to the energy that flowed so reliably from my electric outlets for so many years.
I called JCP&L to report my outage. I got an answering machine. The next morning, another answering machine called back to say my power had been restored. It hadn’t. That answering machine gave me a number to call, just in case I still didn’t have power. I called and got another answering machine.
In the midst of all this, I had to recharge my cell phone. I plugged it into my car’s 12-volt outlet. The car battery died. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)