Morning News Digest: September 30, 2011

Morning News Digest: Friday, September 30, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Would George McClellan have been a diehard Springsteen fan?

Quick, what do the following cities – Crystal City, Philadelphia, Fayetteville and Staunton – have in common?

They were either the birthplace or childhood home of one of four presidential candidates from New Jersey.

As a Gov. Chris Christie presidential run continues to preoccupy the chattering classes, an insider happily noted to, “He’d be the only one of our presidential candidates who is actually a home grown guy.”

It’s actually not completely true – 1996 and 2000 presidential contender Steve Forbes was born in Morristown and went to school in Far Hills – but on every other count the observation holds.

Two presidents with ties to New Jersey and one Democratic nominee who later became a New Jersey governor all had heavily out-of-state associations, contrasting heavily with Christie – Newark-born, and Livingston-reared with a professional political profile built in the Garden State.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Internet interest in Christie eclipses Prez front-runners

Internet interest in Gov. Chris Christie has for the first time eclipsed that of the Presidential front-runners as Christie reportedly continues to weigh entrance into the field.

A search of trends on the internet search engine Google shows interest in Christie has spiked this week as speculation over his future ambitions roiled the Presidential field.

Interest in Christie among internet searchers has topped even Sarah Palin, who has historically generated huge search numbers on Google.

Only U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) continues to generate more Google searches than Christie.  Paul has a hugely loyal following, particularly among Tea Party members, but most polls and pundits put him squarely behind at least Mitt Romney and Perry in the race for the nomination.

“We think this is a pretty good proxy for offline behavior,” said Google spokesman Jake Parillo.  “Google would never claim that this predicts who people are voting for, but we think it’s a good proxy for interest.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



If he ran for prez, a Christie victory would defy GOP history

Notwithstanding his region-defying YouTube performances, embodiment of everyman anger in the face of a seemingly disengaged President Barack Obama, and appeal to both establishment Republicans and the Tea Party faithful, Gov. Chris Christie would be up against a decided GOP presidential curse were he to jump into the Republican Primary.

He’s from the Northeast.

“Particularly over the course of the last generation, ever since (1964 GOP nominee Barry) Goldwater and the Goldwater Revolution, Northeast Republicans have been perceived as Rockefeller Republicans – purveyors of a too liberal label, which has been their downfall,” said author and Kean University Prof. Terry Golway. “Certainly, Northeastern Republicans are a dying breed.” 

The pox goes back even longer – 88 years to be exact.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Gov. Christie fundraising for La. GOP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ducked questions Thursday about whether he’s considering a GOP presidential bid, while helping Louisiana’s Republican Party fundraiser for the state’s fall election cycle.

Christie, a rising national GOP star, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal participated in a public rally before heading to a private cash-generating event for the state GOP, where tickets ranged from $10,000 to $100,000.

“Chris is showing New Jersey, and we’re showing right here in Louisiana what Washington needs to learn: the way you create good-paying jobs is cut those taxes, cut that spending, get those excessive regulations out of the way, put our people back to work,” said Jindal, who is running for re-election to a second term in the Oct. 22 election but has no well-funded competitors.  (Deslatte, The Associated Press)



Chris Christie seriously considering run for President in 2012

Gov. Chris Christie is seriously rethinking his months of denials and may launch a campaign for the White House after all, a source close to the governor said tonight.

In the last week, Christie has been swayed away from his earlier refusals to run by an aggressive draft effort from a cadre of Republicans and donors unhappy with the GOP field, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Christie has a small window of opportunity to make his final decision, and some political experts think he has only days to declare.

Critical deadlines are approaching, such as the Oct. 31 filing date for the crucial Florida primary.

The governor on Tuesday lashed out at President Obama’s leadership during a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. — at which audience members implored him to run, He did not say he would run but stopped short of saying no.  (Gibson and Megerian, The Star-Ledger)



Chris Christie 2012 presidential run: What stands in his way

Let’s say Chris Christie decides to run for president – then what?

It’s a question that has occurred to Christie and his circle of intimates — and they’ve begun sketching a plan in the case the governor goes forward with a run.

They understand that all the enthusiasm and pleading in some Republican quarters for a Christie candidacy obscures the fact that the New Jersey governor would immediately have to scale the side of a steep and unforgiving political mountain.

With the initial primary and caucus states poised to move up their contests to January, an October announcement means that Christie would immediately confront two questions of some urgency: where would he compete and how would he get on the ballot in an array of states coming in rapid succession.  (Martin and Haberman, POLITICO)



Could Christie survive the Tea Party?

Republicans nationally remain enthralled by Gov. Chris Christie, the gregarious, pugnacious, budget-balancing, union-fighting fiscal conservative.

Whether they’re ready for the Christie who opposes rolling back gun-control laws, believes it’s wrong to demagogue about immigration or Muslims, and endorses President Barack Obama’s education plans might prove another matter.

“The idea of Chris Christie is much more powerful than the reality of Chris Christie,” said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.

Odds are, they’re not going to have to pass judgment soon. Christie says he’s not running for president in 2012, though his answers leave people who hope he might change his mind enough reason to keep the fires stoked.  (Symons, Gannett)



Legislation planned to enable N.J. town to provide hurricane recovery aid

Five Democratic legislators announced Thursday that they intend to introduce legislation to help low and moderate income home owners and business people offset the costs for flood and wind damage to their property caused by Hurricane Irene.

The legislation also would enable local governments to use money they’ve been mandated to set aside for the development of affordable housing, something many municipalities have attempted to avoid going back as far as 1985.

The proposal would create the Municipal Natural Disaster Relief Grant Program to enable local governments to provide aid to homeowners and small businesses for repairs necessary to occupy their houses or businesses if the costs are not sufficiently covered by federal FEMA assistance.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



The hard work of leaving behind No Child Left Behind

New Jersey certainly seems to have a good shot at a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which would free the state from some of the constraints dictated by the controversial law.

When President Obama last week announced details of the new waiver, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf was at the White House. An hour later, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan hosted a press conference by phone, and Cerf was one of just two state commissioners with him on the call.

But for all the invitations and allegiances, now comes the hard part. In order to qualify for a waiver, Cerf’s and Gov. Chris Christie’s education agenda must be tailored to the evolving — and detailed — guidelines coming out of Washington, D.C. The first round of applications is due November 14.

“It’s not just the writing of the application,” Cerf said yesterday. “It’s the policy we’ll need in place.”  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Feds start charging interest and penalties on $271 ARC debt owed by NJ

A year after Governor Christie shut down a Hudson River rail tunnel project, New Jersey’s debt to the Federal Transit Administration has grown to nearly $274 million.

NJ Transit had already sunk $271 million in FTA money into the Access to the Region’s Core mass-transit tunnel project when Christie halted construction last October. He said he didn’t want taxpayers saddled with a potential $5 billion in cost overruns.

But the FTA, which had been heavily invested in the $8.7 billion project, demanded its money back. Now it’s charging the state interest and penalties.

Interest began to accrue on the debt on May 14 at a rate of 1 percent a year, while additional penalties began to accrue on Aug. 13 at a rate of 6 percent a year. As a result, New Jersey now owes the FTA more than $958,139 in interest and $1,693,455 in penalties on top of the original $271 million.  (Rouse, The Record)



Port Authority Chief to resign

Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, plans to step down by the end of October, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Ward, the top official at the Port Authority appointed by the governor of New York, has found himself on the outside looking in since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in January. Mr. Ward was appointed by Mr. Cuomo’s predecessor, David Paterson, in 2008. It isn’t clear whether the Cuomo administration has identified a successor.  (Grossman and Brown, The Wall Street Journal)



Big decisions await Port’s new director

The person New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appoints to run the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will inherit an agency wrestling with the twin pressures of declining revenue and escalating costs.

The imminent departure of the authority’s executive director, Chris Ward, comes as the authority is reviewing all the projects in its $25 billion, 10-year budget for capital projects. The effort is meant to free up cash and may lead to a rearranging of the agency’s priorities.

“What we need to do is look at all the projects that are on the drawing board, those that are in the pipeline, those that are ready to go, those that are going and decide about priorities and timing and sequencing, and that’s part of this process,” Port Authority Chairman David Samson said in an interview Wednesday. “Everything is on the table.”  (Grossman, The Wall Street Journal)



Tax-free online shopping unfair?

Harvey Finkel, proprietor of the Clinton Book Shop, has heard about the allure of tax-free online shopping directly from his customers.

“A lot of customers come in and see a book they like but then go and buy it online. Many times they say to my face, ‘I’m going to buy it on Amazon,’ ” Finkel said.

Sales to out-of-state online outfits like Amazon cost New Jersey $171 million in sales tax revenue in 2009, a figure that is expected to rocket to $310 million by 2015, according to a study by Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, which was released Thursday.  (Jordan and Willis, Gannett)



Proposed measure would ease strict constraints on commercial and sport fishermen

Jim Lovgren, a commercial fisherman operating out of Point Pleasant, says he might have shut down his operation if the timeframe for rebuilding the summer flounder fish stock hadn’t been extended by three years.

“That little adder kept me in business,” said Lovgren, who attended a press conference yesterday with other commercial and recreational fishermen to back a bill introduced last week by Rep. Frank Pallone, a congressman representing Shore communities.

The bill, they say, would help preserve a commercial and recreational fishing industry that is vital to the Jersey Shore, an economic engine that provides jobs to about 50,00 people. It also would provide some flexibility to stringent quotas established by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions, which have hit people who fish for a living and fish for recreation hard.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Angling to be VP: Republicans with ambitions campaign for running mate without campaigning

They’re writing books. They’re making speeches. They’re fawning over the big dogs.

It’s all part of the Campaign That Shall Not Be Known As a Campaign.

More than a year out from Election Day, all sorts of Republicans are making a point of keeping themselves in the national spotlight, stoking speculation that they’re positioning themselves as potential running mates for the eventual GOP presidential nominee.

It’s too early to know who’s really interested and who’s just savoring a little extra attention. But it’s clear there is no shortage of ambitious Republicans.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has a new book out. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also are writing books. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell raised eyebrows by speaking in politically important New Hampshire, Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by popping up at the Reagan Presidential Library in California.  (The Associated Press)



Collingswood to ask Moody’s to reconsider rating

Collingswood officials are expected to ask Moody’s Investors Service on Friday to review the borough’s progress in refinancing a redevelopment loan and reconsider its recent downgrade of the town’s credit rating.

The borough is on the hook for a $8.5 million loan guarantee for Lumberyard Redevelopment L.L.C.’s troubled LumberYard condominium and commercial development, a project beset by slow sales and rentals.

In explaining the Sept. 12 downgrade, Moody’s wrote that the town “will be challenged to make payments within the next 30 days.”

According to a public notice Wednesday from TD Bank, Collingswood’s financial agent, the borough was able to extend the maturity date of one loan from Oct. 7 to Dec. 7. The extension was secured within days of the downgrade.  (DiStefano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Hospital debt is hurdle

Hoboken officials are hoping to salvage the sale of one of New Jersey’s oldest hospitals to avoid shuttering the 350-bed facility and being left holding $52 million in debt.

The nonprofit that operates Hoboken University Medical Center filed for bankruptcy protection in August to facilitate a $65 million sale to HUMC Holdco LLC, changing the hospital to a for-profit model. Most of the money from the sale would go to repaying $52 million in city-guaranteed bonds that were raised when Hoboken purchased the ailing hospital in 2007.

But the hospital still needs to reach a settlement with creditors owed $34 million before the sale can go through. Earlier this week, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that negotiations to settle debt were progressing.  (De Avila, The Wall Street Journal)



GCC, Rowan University launch dual-enrollment program

Gloucester County College and Rowan University will launch a dual-enrollment program next September, accepting students into the schools concurrently in an effort to make it easier and more affordable to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Students may earn an associate’s degree at GCC, then complete their studies by taking Rowan classes on the county college campus. They will receive a 13 percent discount on Rowan’s tuition and fees.

The agreement, announced Thursday at GCC, will provide more classroom space for bachelor’s degree students and thus address a capacity issue at Rowan. The university this fall has more than 12,000 students, the largest number in its history. GCC’s enrollment of more than 6,800 students also is a record.  (Collimore, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Poll: Oldest, youngest N.J. adults are happiest

New Jersey’s oldest and youngest adults are happier with their quality of life than those who are middle-aged, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Monmouth University Poll series on the Garden State’s quality of life revealed that Garden State residents between the ages of 18 and 29 and those older than 70 are more likely to have a positive view of their quality of life than those aged 30 to 49 years and 50 to 69 years.

Gender does not make much of a difference in how state residents feel about their quality of life, according to the poll results. Women tend to rate their quality of life higher than men, the poll shows.  (Bowman, Gannett)



Advocates celebrating renewal of autism bill

As recently as 30 years ago, there was virtually no public money dedicated to research on autism.

“Less than $300,000. Nationally,” said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J.. “What’s that get you – a couple of phones and desks?”

The actual number was closer to $282,000. Fortunately for families of children with autism, that amount has increased significantly since the 1990s.

A big reason for the change is due to the efforts of advocates like Brick residents Bobbie and Bill Gallagher.

A sign of how times have changed for the better will occur today when President Barack Obama signs the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, a law that dedicates $231 million annually over the next three years toward autism research and education.  (Ruscitti, Gannett)



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Cancer Society criticizes changes to smoking cessation program

The state’s free telephone counseling service for people wishing to quit smoking will be available only to those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, according to the American Cancer Society, which criticized the decision today.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Solar farm on state-owned landfill

The state today touted the first solar energy farm constructed on a state-owned landfill.

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno toured the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s 1A Landfill Solar Project in Kearny that is designed to provide up to 3 megawatts of power.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



DCA officials have sent application for federal grant to help low-income households

Officials from the Department of Community Affairs told the Joint Budget Oversight Committee Thursday morning that they submitted an application for a $16 million Community Services Block Grant that would provide funds to state-based agencies to deliver various services to low-income residents.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Pataki jumps on Christie bandwagon

Our colleagues over at PolitickerNY are reporting that former New York Gov. George Pataki is urging Gov. Chris Christie to end the speculation and jump into the race.

Speculation over a Christie run has continued unabated this week and was stoked earlier today by a New York Post story citing unnamed insiders saying Christie is reconsidering his initial position.  (PolitickerNJ)






Requiem for a governor before he’s in the ring

Look, I’m sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat. Maybe, if he runs for president and we get to know him, we will overlook this awkward issue because we are so impressed with the way he stands up to teachers’ unions. But we shouldn’t overlook it — unless he goes on a diet and shows he can stick to it.

That’s not a very liberal attitude. It’s discriminatory. It’s patronizing. It’s coercive. What business is it of ours whether Christie weighs too much (and who gets to define “too much”)? Why should we even care, as long as we like his policies? These points will all be made by political commentators if word goes out to the vast right-wing conspiracy that it’s time to get behind Christie.  (Kinsley, Bloomberg)



Chris Christie’s big problem

Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to run for president, Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not.

You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice. Obesity is a national epidemic whose costs are measured not just in dollars and cents but also in lives. Christie’s weight is as legitimate an issue as the smoking habit that President Obama says he has finally kicked.

On rare occasions, Christie speaks candidly about his weight. “I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it,” he told CNN’s Piers Morgan in June. “And I know that it would be better for my kids if I got it more under control, and so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that.”  (Robinson, The Washington Post)



Election 2011: A referendum on Chris Christie?

On election night two years ago, Gov. Chris Christie told a roomful of supporters delirious with victory that he intended to “pick Trenton up and … turn it upside down.”

His bevy of backers roared approval.

In the past 20 months, Christie has been working with relish to make good on that pledge. He’s slashed spending beyond what anybody expected him to. He’s imposed a cap on municipal spending that he hopes will rein in future tax increases. He’s forced people all over the state to accept less from Trenton and take more out of their pockets. Classrooms are more crowded, and funding for education has shriveled from previous years. He has taken on the public unions, pushed for more charter schools, and cut public health funding. His state transportation plan relied on canceling a tunnel to New York that was to be paid primarily through regional and federal funds.  (McMahon for NJ Spotlight)



Sizing up Gov. Christie’s chances

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is weighing his options regarding a presidential campaign, and the political pundits are taking his measure, it seems a fitting time to ponder the role of the large man in politics.

If Christie were to jump into the race for the GOP nomination, he would stand out — not just for his policy positions but also for his girth. He has never revealed his weight, though he has described himself as “fat.” If elected, he would certainly be the largest president since William Howard Taft, elected a century ago, who was said to have scaled in at upwards of 330 pounds. 

One has to reach back to the likes of Grover Cleveland (first elected in 1884) and William McKinley (1896) for other similarly oversize commanders-in-chief, our colleague Emily Heil reports.  (Kamen, The Washington Post)



Christie’s case

Pres. Barack Obama doesn’t lack for detractors, but he has never had one with quite the sting of Chris Christie.

Christie, of course, is the New Jersey governor who is not running for president. How do we know? He’s told us, over and over. In true Jersey style, he has been more Shermanesque than Sherman in his denials. Even the Civil War general didn’t threaten to commit suicide to get people to stop asking him about a presidential campaign.

No matter how many times Christie slammed the door, people kept knocking. According to published reports, he now may be rethinking. This created a frenzy around his recent speech at the Reagan library, which previewed the rationale for a Christie candidacy. His case against the president hinged on the L-word — not “liberal,” but “leadership.”  (Lowry, National Review)



‘Otscam,’ Paterson’s overtime scandal

Not since the glory days when Paterson hummed with textile mills has such expert weaving been on display in the Silk City.

Mayor Jeffery Jones and, at last count, six salaried members of his administration, received overtime checks totaling $50,861 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, according to Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee. As the threads keep spinning, the Jones administration continues to manufacture one ugly piece of whole cloth.

The OT money was supposedly for all the extra hours these righteous individuals — first responders, no less in the mayor’s eyes — worked as floods literally swamped the city. Seven individuals claimed more than a total of $50,000 in OT. It would make a reasonable person think Hurricane Irene started in July 2010 and flood waters covered the city for more than a year, not for a week or two.  (Doblin, The Record)

  Morning News Digest: September 30, 2011