Morning News Digest: Thursday, September 15, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Given residency question, Addiego says she’s not surprised Lewis unfamiliar with specifics on issues
The most ravenous political animals prayed for a collision between state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-8) and her Democratic Party challenger, Olympian Carl Lewis, at a Burlington County Chamber of Commerce mixer here tonight.
But it never came, as Addiego mingled with a hodgepodge of political insiders and left just as Lewis arrived with a coterie of supporters from a taping of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
The two rivals passed without any wayward elbows, trailing cocktail mutterings about their latest courtroom clash: the one that secured Lewis a place on the ballot (barring the success of an 11th hour GOP appeal) and reanimated the Democrat with two months remaining on the campaign trail.
Their undramatic face-to-face showdown didn’t deter Addiego from being critical of the 2-1 appeals court ruling yesterday in Lewis’s favor. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Thompson: GOP nominates McGowan to succeed Fried on LD14 ticket
Middlesex County Republican Committee Chairman Sam Thompson said a joint committee of Republican committee members from Middlesex and Mercer unanimously nominated Sheree McGowan of Robbinsville for the Assembly in the 14th District.
“We had at least 102 committee members show up and submit signed signatures,” Thompson told PolitickerNJ.com. “If anyone wants to come look at them, they’re here.”
The mini convention took place at the Stone Terrace on Kuser Road in Hamilton.
McGowan failed in her initial bid to succeed a health-challenge Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried a week ago when the joint committee couldn’t achieve a quorum.
“No problem this time,” said Thompson. “It went smooth as glass.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Greenwald anticipates Oliver will receive support for another term as speaker if she wants the job
Powerful Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald dismissed chatter about a Sheila Oliver overthrow as the idle talk of mischief makers and said if she pursues the speakership again she would do so with his support.
“It’s her decision,” Greenwald told PolitickerNJ.com as he exited a Burlington County Chamber of Commerce mixer.
“She’s led the caucus in a very difficult time,” added the assemblyman from Voorhees.
Greenwald insisted that intrigue around Oliver fatigue emanates from a very small Sheila scalphunting corner of the caucus and is confident it won’t take hold. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie details meeting with oil tycoon
The topic of a 10-state initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions never came up during a private lunch meeting between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and billionaire oil tycoon David Koch this winter — five months before Christie decided to pull the state out of the pact, the governor said Wednesday.
Koch and his brother, Charles, head a $100 billion-per-year company with holdings in power plants, oil, gas, cattle, chemicals and synthetics. They also bankroll Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that has been lobbying around the country for the repeal of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, and other energy regulations.
The Northeastern pact, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions by fossil fuel-burning power plants and requires them to buy permits to release such gases. The permits can be bought and sold among plants, giving them a financial incentive to operate more cleanly. (Associated Press)
Better Education for Kids going after NJEA instead of Christie
At a hush-hush political gathering in Vail, Colo. on June 26, Gov. Chris Christie told an audience of Republican conservatives of the New Jersey Education Association that he abhors, “That’s where we head next,” he said. “We need to take on the teachers’ union once and for all, and we need to decide who is determining our children’s future, who is running this place. Them or us. I say it’s us.”
Over two months later, Christie has lowered his voice and his verbal attacks on the union appear to have stopped — the tough-talking Jersey Guy routine was hurting him in the polls, especially with women. Instead, the governor this week is visiting with teachers and students in their schools to explain his public education platform, which includes changing the way teachers are evaluated. At a meeting at Roy W. Brown Middle School in Bergenfield on Wednesday, Christie never raised his voice and addressed female teachers as ma’m.
Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, was asked what’s become of the tough talk. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Postcard campaign: Action by Christie on nutrient pollution urged
Environmentalists delivered more than 7,000 postcards signed by New Jerseyans to Gov. Chris Christie’s office Wednesday calling for stronger limits on beach and bay pollution.
Christie has taken several steps to ensure protections — including his opposition to off-shore drilling and off-coast liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities — but Megan Fitzpatrick, Environment New Jersey’s clean water associate, said there’s more that needs to be done.
Fitzpatrick said this summer’s 119 beach closings and signs of Barnegat Bay.deterioration are worrisome.
“We’re calling on Gov. Christie to tackle this head-on,” said Fitzpatrick, who was joined at a Statehouse press conference by the New Jersey Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel and Jaclyn Rhoads of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
The signed postcards, collected by Environment New Jersey, are addressed to Christie. (Jordan, Gannett)
Customers getting answers to outage problems from their utilities
Jersey Central Power & Light is once again under the gun.
The state is launching a series of hearings into how well New Jersey’s four electric utilities responded to power outages that left more than a million people and businesses without lights in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The first two of the hearings, expected ever since Gov. Chris Christie criticized the performance of some utilities after the storm, will be held in Manalapan and Morris Plains. Both are served by Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), the target of most complaints from customers who waited up to eight days to have power restored.
The hearings cast an unwelcome light on JCP&L, the state’s second largest utility, with more than 1 million customers. In 2003, a slow response to a string of outages at the Jersey Shore during the Fourth of July led the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to temporarily reduce the utility’s rate of return after an investigation found flaws in its performance. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Lewis says ballot battle actually helped his campaign
Legal wrangling over Carl Lewis’ eligibility to run for the New Jersey Senate has overshadowed campaign issues for six months, but the Olympian doesn’t think it has detracted from his effort.
“I think it enhanced it,” Lewis, a Democrat, told reporters on the patio of a Westampton sports bar Wednesday morning, the day after a federal appeals panel ruled that his name could appear on the ballot in November.
Republicans are considering a last-ditch petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit even as the deadline to print the ballots bears down. They have argued that Lewis does not meet the four-year residency requirement to run for the office.
Republicans are considering a last-ditch petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit even as the deadline to print the ballots bears down. They have argued that Lewis does not meet the four-year residency requirement to run for the office. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Carl Lewis says he’s ready to focus on issues, campaigning after clearing hurdle to run for New Jersey Senate
Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis said he is happy that he appears to have beaten the challenge of his bid to run for New Jersey state Senate.
Lewis said Wednesday he is looking forward to turning his attention away from the partisan politics of the race and focusing on learning the issues and campaigning for the Senate seat in the 8th Legislative District, which includes Hammonton in Atlantic County and most of Burlington County. An appeals court a day earlier restored his name to the ballot.
“I’m not running for state Senate because I wanted to become a politician,” Lewis said during his first public comments since the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor Tuesday. “I’m running because I wanted to serve.”
Republicans claimed that Lewis, a Democrat, was ineligible to run because he did not meet the state’s residency requirement. A months-long legal battle ensued in state and federal courts. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Elizabeth school board president: I didn’t know my children were receiving free lunches
Amid a growing criminal investigation, the president of the Elizabeth Board of Education said today she has repaid the school district $2,682 to cover the cost of six years of free meals her children were not entitled to.
In a statement tonight, Marie L. Munn said because of misunderstandings and financial complications, she was unaware her children were receiving free lunches until contacted last month by a reporter for The Star-Ledger.
Munn acknowledged she had indeed filled out an application to receive free lunches, but never intended to actually use the program. She said she gave her sons money to buy lunch each day and only recently learned they spent it on snacks, and ate the taxpayer-subsidized meal as well.
The Elizabeth board has already placed two other school administrators on paid leave after disclosures in The Star-Ledger that their children were also receiving free or subsidized lunches — despite salaries that far exceeded income-eligibility limits set by the federal government. (Sherman, The Star-Ledger)
Taking the first steps toward a New Jersey healthcare exchange
The law — at least on this point– is clear. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that healthcare insurance exchanges — virtual marketplaces that let individuals and small businesses comparison shop for health coverage — must be established in all states by January 2014.
Defining the details of an exchange, however, is left up to individual states. That task brought analysts, advocates and researchers to Trenton yesterday, to a stakeholder forum co-hosted by NJ for Health Care and the NJ Citizen Action Education Fund.
Discussion among panelists and findings from a report released by Rutgers University last month reveal that there is general agreement that New Jersey should create its own exchange — streamlined and simple to use.
Panelist Ray Castro, senior policy analyst with research organization New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that while New Jersey is already ahead of other states in terms of health policies, “by having our own exchange we’re going to be able to tailor the exchange to meet the needs in our state. (Roman, NJ Spotlight)
District may require checks for parents
Staff members may not be the only ones who have to submit to background checks in Marlboro Public Schools – parents and other visitors here may soon have to pass them, too.
The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the township a $37,500 Community Oriented Policing Services-Secure Our Schools grant, district officials and legislators said. The approval came on the heels of recent board talks about purchasing a security system that would check visitor backgrounds at all eight district schools.
Marlboro was one of seven communities, including Bayonne and Berkeley Heights Township, to apply for and receive the federal funds, which totaled $530,000. The funds may be used for metal detectors, locks, security systems and other safety measures.
“New Jersey’s students and teachers should never have to worry about their safety in our schools,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the grant program. (Williams Boyd, Gannett)
NJ Transit promises Port Authority toll increases will not mean higher fares
NJ Transit officials said they have no plans to increase bus fares, even though the toll that the agency will pay for buses to cross the Hudson River will increase by $6 per bus starting Sunday.
Executive Director James Weinstein said Wednesday that the increased cost, estimated at an $4.6 million, would be absorbed by the agency by putting off doing “other things.”
Academy Bus officials notified customers Tuesday that a fare increase could be in the works because of the increase in Hudson River crossing tolls at Port Authority facilities. The toll for commuter buses is set to increase from $4 to $10 per bus on Sept. 18, the same date that all Port Authority tolls and PATH fares are scheduled to rise.
Some commuter advocates called on the Port Authority to waive the toll increase for commuter buses. A Port Authority spokesman said they’ve received no requests for a waiver so far. (Higgs, Gannett)
N.J. taxpayers picking up $420K to cover ‘Jersey Shore’ production costs
New Jersey residents got their bar tab today from the cast of the hit television show the “Jersey Shore” — and it was a big one.
Taxpayers will be picking up to $420,000 of the production costs from the show’s inaugural 2009 season under a state film tax credit approved today by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The approval was part of the first round of film tax credits awarded by the EDA since Gov. Chris Christie suspended the program in 2010 to close budget deficit, and state officials said it was based on a set of strict guidelines that is blind to the show’s content.
But, news of the award drew sharp criticism from some the state’s biggest critics of the tax incentive program.
“I can’t believe we are paying for fake tanning for ‘Snooki’ and ‘The Situation’, and I am not even sure $420,000 covers that,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “This is a great investment for the taxpayers, as if they can make a show called ‘Jersey Shore’ anywhere else.” (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Fine Print: New Jersey’s SAT profile, 2011
What it is: The College Board each year releases the mean SAT scores and other data for millions of college-bound students, broken down both nationally and state by state. The SAT scores are the most closely monitored, but the report also provides extensive data on courses and grades.
Why it matters: This year, much of the attention is on the sudden drop in the mean scores across the country, on every test, with reading scores the lowest on record. In New Jersey, the overall math score rose slightly, up two points, while reading and writing stayed the same. But the state’s public school numbers were not as promising, falling an overall 11 points on all three tests.
The numbers everyone cares about: New Jersey saw no change in its overall mean scores in reading (495) and writing (497), and the slight rise in math (516), each of them out of a maximum of 800. The reading score remains a little below the national mean (497), but the state slightly topped the national norm in both math (514) and writing (489). Still, New Jersey’s public school numbers were more troubling, falling three or four points in each of the tests, to 492 in reading, 516 in math and 494 in writing. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Court: R.I. can’t freeze pensions
A lower court in Rhode Island has decided initially in favor of government worker retirees and indicated the state can not freeze government pensions. The ruling favors unions and contradicts recent decisions in other states.
Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter on Tuesday allowed eight public-worker unions to proceed in their lawsuit, which seeks to block recent pension reductions.
Taft-Carter also held that an annual cost-of-living increase and a pension are “one and the same.”
The decision, expected to be appealed eventually to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, contradicts lower state court decisions in Colorado and Minnesota, which have held that pensions can be frozen.
New Jersey’s government workers unions filed a federal lawsuit in September.
The 17-count lawsuit attempts a broad legal challenge to pension and benefit refroms and says a freeze of annual increases is a violation of the state and U.S. constitutions. (Method, Gannett)
Paterson mayor apologizes for terrorism remark
Paterson’s mayor came to Washington on Wednesday to explain to senators how back-to-back floods have left his city desperate for disaster relief, but had to backtrack after saying how desperation can lead to terrorism.
Mayor Jeffery Jones appeared at a news conference with a half-dozen Democratic senators and later apologized after he said that the way people feel when their government refuses to help them “kind of explains, at least to me, why those who lay claim to terrorism in these United States feel that they can.”
Jones said in a follow-up interview he was not suggesting that a lack of aid would lead to a terrorist attack. He said he had had little sleep before he came to Washington and that he meant that people can lose hope if they believe they are entitled to help and it is not provided because of political battles.
Jones was invited to Washington to explain to senators now debating a $6.9 billion disaster relief bill how his city needs federal aid after the deluges from Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. (Jackson, The Record)
Housing decision reversed
Residents of a Mount Holly redevelopment plan have won a federal court appeal in a discrimination case and will get their day in court.
In reversing the decision of a federal district court in Camden that favored the municipality, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said the lower court needed to develop more facts to decide whether redevelopment of the Mount Holly Gardens neighborhood discriminates against its primarily low-income and minority residents.
Most of the more than 300 houses in the blighted neighborhood already have been torn down and residents displaced by the township. A federal court order halted further demolition in March pending the appeal.
It what could be a precedent-setting case, the appeals court sent the lawsuit back to U.S. District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman for further discovery of facts, which could lead either to a trial or to another summary judgment hearing without a trial. (Comegno, Gannett)
NJ Transit honors employees who acted as first responders to 9/11 at meeting
An otherwise routine meeting of the board of directors of New Jersey Transit was marked Wednesday by remembrances of the quiet heroics of agency employees who drove buses, mobilized ferries or comforted stricken passengers fleeing the horrors across the river in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.
The agency unveiled a memorial plaque that said “We Remember” at a spot along the waterfront behind the Hoboken train station that has direct views of ground zero across the water.
“The greatest rescue effort in our nation’s history occurred at the World Trade Center, but it didn’t end there,” said Christopher Trucillo, the chief of the New Jersey Transit Police. “It continued across the river.”
Trucillo and others described how New Jersey Transit employees, from police officers and first responders, to bus and train drivers, mobilized to help the thousands of people — many of them injured or requiring decontamination after being caught in the collapse of the towers — streaming off ferries from Manhattan that day. (Henry, Associated Press)
NJ town yanks 9/11 marker with politicians’ names
Apologetic officials in a small New Jersey town rushed Wednesday to remove a stone marker commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks amid an uproar about what the monument didn’t include — any reference to what happened, or the victims — and what it did — the names of the mayor and other local officials.
Samir Elbassiouny, mayor of Washington Township, a 6,600-resident community in northwest New Jersey’s Warren County, said he did not mean to put up a marker that looked as if it was about officials, not the victims.
He also said people who were so angry about the sign were blowing it out of proportion.
“The most important thing is for us not to take away from the intent of the event. It’s truly a misunderstanding,” he said. “The intent is to honor the victims of 9/11.” (Associated Press)
Jerseyan’s credit card debt drops 13.5 percent
Borrowing to buy has been trending downward as many people, dogged by rising poverty, high unemployment and falling incomes — and spurred by the fear that comes with it all — put their financial houses in order.
A report released Wednesday by CreditKarma.com, a free credit management website, shows that credit card debt nationally fell by a whopping 18 percent from August 2010 to last month.
“The relative uncertainty of the current job market has forced consumers to live within their means and focus on being financially responsible,” said Kenneth Lin, CEO of CreditKarma.com.
Lin said the figures are based on a survey of about a quarter of a million consumers.
The average credit card debt for New Jersey consumers fell from $8,475 to $7,326 year over year — about a 13.5 percent decline. (Serrano, Gannett)
Latest from State Street Wire
Treasurer: Year to date revenue collections in line with estimates
State revenue collections through August were just slightly higher than the predictions made by the state treasurer for the current year’s budget, according to numbers released by the state today.
Through August, the state had collected $1.944 billion, about $9.3 million over initial forecasts. (Isherwood, State Street Wire)
Christie to beach advocates: ‘What else?’
Confronted with the protests of shore advocates, Gov. Chris Christie asked what else he can do.
The state’s ocean water quality is receiving historically high grades, Christie said, and the amount of debris and materials washing ashore this year was also an improvement. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Wisniewski wants to rally opposition to state bid to reorganize fire safety division
The head of the state Fire Safety Commission wants to rally opposition to the state’s proposal to dismantle the Division of Fire Safety.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, has sent a letter to fire chiefs and labor leaders seeking their attendance at a meeting Thursday in Wildwood of the Fire Safety Commission. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Here’s to us and those like us
The Washington Township (Warren County) mayor and committee have some ‘splaining to do after the group erected what they called their Sept. 11 memorial, but instead looks to be a monument to themselves.
The Express Times reported earlier this week that the township’s Sept. 11 memorial, dedicated Sunday, did not actually mention the events of Sept. 11 nor the monumental loss of life that happened that day. Instead, the chunk of granite listed the date, the fact that it was the ten year anniversary (though it doesn’t say anniversary of what) and the names of the mayor, the committee and the township administrator. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
To Christie, big donors are just like family
Governor Christie will not release every detail on his out-of-state schedule because he doesn’t want reporters barging into his “zone of privacy,” like family vacations.
But Christie knows it’s not his Family Guy role that has him again defending his travel plans. It’s his below-the-radar visits to political sugar daddies, the donors and kingmakers that can steer millions of dollars into the state GOP coffers and choreograph his ascendancy to the national stage, like his two, pay-homage trips to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists, climate change deniers and nurturers of Tea Party extremism.
But Christie knows it’s not his Family Guy role that has him again defending his travel plans. It’s his below-the-radar visits to political sugar daddies, the donors and kingmakers that can steer millions of dollars into the state GOP coffers and choreograph his ascendancy to the national stage, like his two, pay-homage trips to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists, climate change deniers and nurturers of Tea Party extremism. (Stile, The Record)
Jobs act can hurt workers in state
If you’re doing more for less at work or struggling to advance a career, President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act wouldn’t be a boost for you or the economy in general.
The president’s 155-page Jobs Act delivered to Congress Monday would make it easier for unemployed to be hired and credit your employer for doing nothing extra. It also passes significant funding responsibilities to a committee, although the president says he has plans to pay for the $447 billion jobs initiative.
Positives to this bill include tax credits up to $5,600 for unemployed veterans and up to $9,600 for “wounded warriors”; patent reform through bipartisan support; and $25 billion to modernize schools, $518.6 million of that for New Jersey.
In New Jersey, the act also would cut payroll taxes for 200,000 businesses, invest at least $1.3 billion in construction projects around the state to create an estimated 17,200 jobs and provide $831 million to support 9,300 public teacher and law enforcement jobs. (Rosen, Gannett)
The mighty Morris machine crushes a kid
Just before the June election, Hank Lyon sent out a mailer to Republicans registered to vote in the primary for Morris County freeholder.
The mailer listed a number of towns according to how much each paid in open space tax and how much the town got back.
One town, Netcong, got back zero. Another town, Washington Township, got back 184.8 percent. That town is where Lyon’s opponent in the race, Margaret Nordstrom, lives.
Above the list were the words “Do you believe in redistribution of wealth?” It went on to state of Nordstrom, “See how she’s redistributing YOUR money.”
Lyon, a 23-year-old conservative just out of college, ended up winning that race by a 10-vote margin. After a recount, that margin stood at six.
That should have been the end of the matter, given the fact that both candidates are Republican. Instead, the faithful members of the Morris Republican establishment declared a jihad on the lad. They held a fund-raising campaign to raise $20,000 to contest his victory in court. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)
State awards Pearson $82.5 million to move from Upper Saddle River
The state awarded Pearson Education an $82.5 million tax break on Wednesday to help finance a move from Upper Saddle River to Hoboken.
The 17-member Economic Development Authority voted unanimously at its meeting, paving the way for Pearson to relocate to a riverfront development planned by SJP Properties.
Two legislators, meanwhile, have proposed a new incentive program to spur business investment in New Jersey’s suburbs, just as Secaucus prepares to lose Panasonic to Newark.
According to an EDA summary of Pearson’s plans, the textbook publisher would relocate 1,275 employees from 1 Lake St. in Upper Saddle River when its lease expires in 2014.
Pearson could move those jobs to lower Manhattan in one scenario or move 750 of those jobs to Hoboken in another plan, according to the EDA summary. The Hoboken plan would cost Pearson $38 million more without a state tax break, according to the EDA analysis. (Tangel, The Record)
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