Morning News Digest: December 14, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Buono excoriates Lowe’s over advertising decision impacting Muslim realty show
Disappointed over Lowe’s decision to terminate its advertising during TLC’s reality show “All-American Muslim,” state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-18), Metuchen, fired off a protest letter to Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock.
“In New Jersey, we take great pride in our state’s diversity,” wrote Buono. “Tens of thousands of Muslim Americans make their home in the Garden State. They serve their communities in elected and appointed positions. They are active members of the PTA. Their children attend public schools and participate in Little League sports. The only thing that distinguishes our Muslim neighbors is the shocking disrespect that Lowe’s has shown them through its indefensible advertising boycott.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
DeAngelo wants NJ Hall of Fame to cast out Nast
Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-14), Hamilton, doesn’t want New Jersey to honor the late cartoonist Thomas Nast of Morristown.
In fact, DeAngelo wants Nast removed from this year’s list of nominees for induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, citing Irish Catholic community worries regarding anti-Irish imagery portrayed in the political cartoonist’s works.
“As an Irish Catholic myself and the state Assemblyman representing a large Irish community, I am deeply troubled by the nomination of Mr. Nast given disturbing imagery and depiction of Irish Catholics in the 19th Century,” DeAngelo wrote in a letter to the New Jersey Hall of Fame. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Video of Christie-Romney fundraiser
For those of you who dig a stump speech, here are NJ Gov. Chris Christie and Mitt Romney at last night’s Jersey fundraiser that pulled in $1.1 million for Romney’s campaign. (Frates, National Journal)
Christie ramps state police presence in Camden
More state police will patrol Camden’s streets, Governor Christie said, as he faces pressure from city leaders to reverse the effects of steep budget cuts that almost halved the numbers of city police.
Christie said Monday that he would expand an existing group of troopers who have been based in Camden since the state took over the failing city government in 2002. Christie’s office would not disclose how many troopers would be moved, or where. But Monday’s action came after city officials, led by Councilman Luis Lopez, called on Dec. 6 for outside sources such as the National Guard to step in to bolster policing. (Fletcher, The Record)
N.J. Dems: Recent Christie moves are acts of spite against Sen. Richard Codey
When Gov. Chris Christie took to the podium on Thursday, he delivered a signature tongue-lashing that accused State Sen. Richard Codey and others of using parliamentary tactics to hold up the approval of his appointment for education commissioner.
Codey (D-Essex) called the governor’s accusations a lie and said he should apologize, though he wasn’t going to hold his breath.
The Christie administration delivered its rebuttal on Monday, but it wasn’t an apology.
Codey was notified by the State Police on Monday that he will no longer be afforded a security detail, which he has relied on occasionally during public appearances since he left the governor’s office in 2006, according to sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the actions. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. bill would allow NJPAC to transfer 12 acres to Prudential for future Newark office tower
Lawmakers are expected to vote today on a complex bill designed to help the New Jersey Performing Arts Center jump-start a mission it has tried to get launched for 20 years: the redevelopment of Newark’s downtown.
Tucked into a bill that expands urban tax credits is an unrelated passage that would transfer ownership of NJPAC’s 12-acre site from the state to the nonprofit arts organization.
If the bill passes, it would allow NJPAC to turn around and sell a parcel of the site to insurance giant Prudential for a planned office tower.
Several lawmakers and NJPAC officials say there is nothing mysterious about the bill. The arts center was designed to be an economic engine for the state’s largest city and the extra land around it was always intended for development. The state signed a 99-year lease with NJPAC in 1996, the year before the $187 million arts center opened. (Renshaw and McGlone, The Star-Ledger)
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Telephone counseling program for veterans going nationwide
A New Jersey phone counseling program for veterans is going nationwide.
Vets4Warriors, a toll-free hotline and peer-to-peer outreach program, will provide critical counseling to National Guardsmen and Reservists 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
The nation outreach was announced jointly on Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., national military leaders and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
One of its major goals is to reduce the number of suicides among military personnel.
Vets4Warriors began six years ago as a program for New Jersey veterans at UMDNJ. (Staff, Gannett)
Activists float ‘Christie’ impersonator at N.J. air quality protest
Using a fake Gov. Chris Christie and props depicting mercury pollution drifting into New Jersey, environmentalists made the case Tuesday that stronger federal protections against pollution are needed.
The Sierra Club staged a boat crossing on the Delaware River featuring the imposter Christie, played by Sussex County resident Greg Gorman, who clutched bunches of mercury balloons. It took place at the site of an annual re-enactment of George Washington crossing the Delaware during the Revolutionary War.
Organizers said Christie has expressed “vocal opposition’’ to the influence exerted by the federal Environmental Protection Administration. The EPA is due to set a national standard for mercury pollution next month. (Jordan, Gannett)
Monmouth Park horse racing could end if deal not reached in one week
Governor Chris Christie has given New Jersey’s horsemen a one-week deadline to reach a lease agreement with Monmouth Park, or they will run the risk of seeing the track shut down in 2012.
Christie said, according to NJBiz, “The problem is that the thoroughbred horsemen are completely untrustworthy. ” The governor says he had a handshake deal with the horsemen at 12:45 a.m. on Dec. 6, but they asked for an added $5 million eight hours later. (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)
New task force tackles familiar topic: College and career readiness
Three years ago, a large state-appointed task force issued a plan for “redesigning” the state’s public high schools to better prepare students for college and work.
This month, the state is back at it — a different governor and task force but a familiar mission to define “college and career readiness” and set new requirements for courses and testing.
Yet for all the déjà vu, the results may be a bit different this time, given that national standardized tests are coming and that accountability — for schools, students, and especially teachers — has become a major concern.
That may be why the Christie administration insists that this time will be different. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
New Jersey developer says it’s giving up on offshore wind
The fate of New Jersey’s offshore wind projects took an unexpected turn this week, with the announcement by one of a handful of companies bidding to develop a wind farm off the coast that it is pulling out of such projects.
NRG Energy on Monday announced it would terminate an agreement to build a 200-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Delaware. Yesterday, it said it would put its subsidiary, NRG Bluewater Wind, up for sale and not proceed with its proposal to build a wind farm off the Jersey coast.
The decision comes at a time when New Jersey has been struggling to adopt a complicated financing program that would support the development of 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity through ratepayer subsidies, a process NRG Bluewater Wind had been a key player in structuring. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
NJ’s health information exchanges share electronic medical records
Medical data is starting to be exchanged electronically in New Jersey via “health information exchanges” whose members are hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers working in the same region of the state. Often, these providers treat the same patients; the goal is to improve outcomes by giving them access to information on all the care these patients receive. Ultimately, the state plans to link these regional information exchanges into a statewide digital health information network, so one day the medical records of a Sparta resident who winds up in the emergency room while on vacation at the Jersey shore will be available to the local medical team, just as they are to the individual’s family physician at home. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Survey shows business climate slowly improving
New Jersey’s businesses are still facing tough times, but conditions are improving, according to a new survey from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
“The key now is to keep the momentum going whether that’s on taxes, regulations, or government spending,” said Philip Kirschner, president of the association.
Kirschner presented the results at the start of a day-long public policy forum held by the association at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was set to be the event’s keynote speaker. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)
2 Jersey City councilmen quizzed by FBI about city’s involvement with insurance broker: report
Two Jersey City councilmen have confirmed that FBI agents recently approached them about the city’s dealings with Bergen County insurance broker Joseph Bigica, a prominent campaign contributor who has brokerage contracts with a number of communities in northern New Jersey, The Record reported.
Councilman Peter Brennan and William Gaughan, while confirming the meetings, didn’t provide any details about the FBI inquiries, according to The Record.
Brennan told The Record: “I don’t really know the guy. I might see him once a year. All I know is he makes a lot of campaign contributions.” (Staff, The Jersey Journal)
Camden residents challenge council and each other over crime
It’s gut-check time for the city as some Camden residents called out each other at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to take ownership of the problems of a town that has averaged one homicide a week over the course of the year.
Through the weekend 50 people have been killed through violence in the city. Only 10 homicides have been reported in Camden County outside of the city.
North Camden’s Bryan Morton fears for the young people who are held captive in their own city every day. For him, the root issue in town is the lack of viable jobs for residents.
“We are guilty of supporting a system that has allowed our city to become what it is,” said Morton, who organizes youth baseball in Camden. “We’re guilty, all of us.” (Murray, Gannett)
Verizon’s false emergency alert text freaked out New Jerseyans
We’ve all seen the Emergency Broadcast System messages. “This is only a test. This is not an actual alert.” It helps to know that.
On Monday, a series of text messages in the central New Jersey area went to Verizon cell phones declaring a civil emergency and warning people to take cover.
According to mycentraljersey.com, after receiving numerous calls from residents, State Police released a statement saying they were looking into where the message came from, and that no emergency existed. Monmouth County’s 911call center accepted 172 calls between noon and 1 p.m., more than twice the amount of the previous week during the same time period. (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)
NJ Transit approves deals on bus shelters, bridges and platforms
NJ Transit’s board approved a contract Tuesday to bring bus shelters to towns in Camden, Middlesex and Monmouth counties; made a deal to replace a railroad bridge in Plainfield; and signed off on rebuilding platforms in Penn Station in Newark.
Under a $1.499 million contract with Handi-hut Inc. of Clifton, 150 shelters will be installed during the first phase of the project at bus stops in Gloucester Township, Chesilhurst, Ocean Township and South Plainfield. (Higgs, Gannett)
UMDNJ president submits resignation
William F. Owen Jr., the president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who in a surprise last month indicated he supported a partial merger with Rutgers University, unexpectedly submitted his resignation today.
Owen, who has led the 6,000-student Newark-based university for the past 4 1/2 years, will leave his $570,000 post on Dec. 31. His contract was set to expire in June.
Owen, through a UMDNJ spokesman, declined to comment and Kevin M. Barry, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, did not discuss the reasons Owen gave for his resignation. (Corbett, The Star-Ledger)
City Council lifts ban on Occupy Newark overnight encampments
Occupy Newark will stay in Military Park through Jan. 7 without interference from the City Council.
Police have looked the other way for weeks as occupiers have camped out, but staying overnight is technically illegal.
City leaders voted today to lift the ban on encampments at the downtown park until Jan. 7. But councilmembers had a lot to say to occupiers who they claim have offended the history of Newark activism.
“The established organizations have been invited not to come back,” said Councilwoman Mildred Crump, referring to groups such as the People’s Organization for Progress and the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition. (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
Despite setbacks, protester pledges that Occupy Trenton will persevere
A half-dozen tents that provided comfort to Occupy Wall Street supporters and others are gone from a city park, but colder weather hasn’t ended a nearly round-the-clock Occupy presence across the street from the State House.
Edward Anthony Salter, 29, and a handful of others have staffed the protest site in front of the World War II Memorial on West State Street since Oct. 6.
Police began enforcing a ban against permanent structures there since the second week of the stand.
Salter described himself as a “law-abiding Trenton resident.” (Jordan, Gannett)
With states desperate to keep jobs, companies have upper hand, report finds
As the unemployment crisis grinds on, states are trying to both lure and retain businesses by offering tax breaks, grants, cheap loans — just about anything (short of candy and foot massages) they can think of. But how many jobs do these expensive incentives actually create?
And are the jobs any good?
Economic development programs cost states and cities billions of dollars a year, but many programs require little if any job creation, fewer than half call for wage standards, and fewer than a quarter require the companies to provide health care for their workers, according to a study of program requirements scheduled to be released Wednesday by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research organization that tracks corporate subsidies. Some merely require companies to invest in plants or new equipment, which could actually enable them to reduce their head counts. (Cooper, The New York Times)
On tap: Senate to vote on sports gambling, Transitional Aid, and ‘jobs’ package on Thursday
The lame duck season is in full swing this Thursday, with full-body sessions in both chambers. The Senate is handling a long list of bills, including state Sen. Ray Lesniak’s (D-20), of Elizabeth, sports betting bill; a bill restoring $139 million in Transitional Aid; and several job-creation measures that were vetoed once by Gov. Chris Christie, but have made their way back through the Legislature. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Long Branch hotel, Jersey City apartment tower approved for EDA assistance
The N.J. Economic Development Authority approved a grant for the Pier Village Hotel project in Long Branch today. The $46.9 million project qualified for up to $8.4 million in state assistance under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) Grant Program. The program reimburses state taxes for qualifying projects, in this case over a 20-year period. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
At NJBIA conference, Guadagno says N.J. business climate improving
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno painted a rosy picture today of the state’s business climate and job growth prospects, saying employers are feeling more optimistic.
It wasn’t always this way.
“People had very little hope tomorrow would be better than today,” she told attendees at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association conference, where Guadagno was the keynote speaker. (Minhaj, State Street Wire)
Spurring 484 new jobs, EDA approves business incentive awards
Five companies were awarded business incentives by the N.J. Economic Development Authority today, intended to spur 484 new jobs down the road.
The majority of the awards were under the Business Employment Incentive Program (BEIP), which caps grants at an average of $50,000 per new employee.
The largest of the awards was for Tower Insurance Company, which is planning to consolidate its New York headquarters with its Paramus office at a new location in either New Jersey or New York. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
In dismissing ethics complaint against Stack, committee wrestles with sorting out aide’s roles
Before dismissing an ethics complaint today against state Sen. – and Union City Mayor – Brian Stack regarding his use of a state legislative aide on Union City business, a state ethics committee wrestled with the problem of how to quantify how much work the aide did for the state and how much for the city.
In the complaint to the ethics commission, Joseph Blaettler alleged that Stack aide Brian Albiez, who is paid by Stack’s Senate office as well as by the Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, spends time doing Union City business though he is not employed by the city and collects a $75,000 salary for his full time work with the legislators. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Christie-Codey feud driven to the limit
In the middle of the backroom demolition derby between Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. (and state Sen.) Richard Codey (D-27), the sitting governor not only snatched away the former governor’s car keys, but also his driver and car, according to sources.
Neither Codey nor Christie would comment, but political insiders used to seeing Codey pull up to events in a chauffeur-driven state automobile might find themselves doing double takes in the future when “the guv” arrives behind his own steering wheel.
Sources say the state police green-lighted deflating the wheels of the Codey car. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)