Morning News Digest: December 22, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Congressional redistricting hammering at the Heldrich puts 5 and 9 at ground zero
Sources at the Heldrich Hotel say the Republican and Democratic redistricting commissions are primarily concentrated on the 5th and 9th Congressional Districts, but the process still keeps other parts of the map in play.
“I don’t want to say it’s down to a single geographic area,” Republican Redistricting Team Leader Mike DuHaime told reporters.
Sources in both camps anticipated arriving at a conclusion, if not tonight, then by tomorrow.
A short time ago, African-American leaders, including a representative from the NAACP, left here confident that North Jersey minority communities, including the Asian-American community, would not be separated in a way that would water down their interests. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Mennen bows out of 16th District contention; cites worry about family upheaval with move
William Mennen, who declared his candidacy for the 16th Legislative District Assembly seat held by Peter Biondi before his death, has bowed out of the race, a source with knowledge of his intentions told PolitickerNJ.
Donna Simon of Readington Township has announced her intent to run for the spot.
South Brunswick Health Board member John Saccenti and GOP operative and businessman Bill Spadea have alse declared their intent to run for the seat. Currently the seat is held by Jack Ciattarelli, who was on the ticket alongside Biondi, but was appointed to fill the vacant seat when Biondi died. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie lays the “canned questions” rap to rest
A 12-year-old tells Gov. Christie he was unfairly busted at school for bullying because the “Jewish community” controls the school board.
A woman who says she’s the victim of a conspiracy asks the governor for a job.
And a retired teacher, who says she is a former teacher of the year, advises him not to change the tenure system or else teachers will have to have sex with their bosses to keep their jobs.
To which Christie responded, straight-faced: “I don’t want teachers to have to sleep with the principal.”
After a town-hall meeting this month in which a man accused the Christie camp of planting favorable questions, Wednesday’s 24th town hall of the year at a run-down Knights of Columbus hall in a sleepy Middlesex County borough seemed to indicate otherwise. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Garrett and Rothman look like odd men out
New Jersey’s Congressional Redistricting Commission will wrap up its new map before Christmas, and it’s beginning to look like Congressmen Steve Rothman (D-9) and Scott Garrett (R-5) will be the two getting coal in their stockings.
While the commission continued to meet behind closed doors last night, all indications are that Rothman, an early supporter of President Obama in his 2008 primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, will be facing off against Garrett, the most conservative member of New Jersey’s House delegation, in a matchup of incumbents in a redrawn district stretching across the state’s northern border. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Redistricting negotiations focus on merging two North Jersey areas
The panel charged with redrawing New Jersey’s congressional map was focusing on combining two districts in the northern part of the state, as negotiations between Republicans and Democrats stretched into a third night.
Areas represented by Republican Scott Garrett and Democrat Steve Rothman were emerging as the most likely to be merged. However, it was unclear what the final map would look like and uncertain that a decision would be reached Wednesday. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
ACLU pokes hole in N.J. attorney general’s internal affairs complaint forms for police
After rolling out tougher rules in May for police departments’ internal affairs units, State Attorney General Paula Dow has released new reporting forms that omit a crucial question: How many complaints about police officers are being investigated at the end of each year?
The new forms published Tuesday don’t require police departments to list the number of open investigations at year’s end, raising concerns among rights’ advocates that cases will continue to fall off the books, as they have for years.
“The intention with these forms is to provide a snapshot of accountability,” Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Dow, said today. “That reporting was never intended as a means to track individual cases.” (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
12 N.J. towns commit $5M to create housing for people with developmental disabilities
To create more housing for people with developmental disabilities, matching funds will be available for 12 municipalities that are committing a combined $5.1 million to the effort. The program’s short-term goal is to create housing for 600 people with developmental disabilities by June 2013, the Department of Community Affairs said today in announcing the funds.
The housing is to be provided through the purchase and conversion of existing residential structures in those municipalities, according to the DCA. The long-term goal, it said, is to help integrate people with special needs into the community. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Atlantic City councilman sues state over voter fraud charges
Twice charged with voter and twice acquitted City Councilman Marty Small is suing state prosecutors, accusing them of malicious prosecution in this corruption-prone seaside gambling resort.
Small is suing the state attorney general’s office and five state officials over the voter fraud charges he successfully fought. He said investigators manipulated witnesses and recklessly disregarded their credibility to try to make their case. (Parry, Associated Press)
At loggerheads over logging bill
A proposal to allow commercial lumberjacks to cut and sell trees from state forests has pitted Democratic lawmakers against environmentalists, testing the traditional alliance of the two groups.
Environmental scientists, ecologists and land restoration experts during a conference call with the media Wednesday blasted legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, that would let the Department of Environmental Protection select a private contractor to oversee forestry and logging. (Jordan and Moore, Gannett)
For terminally ill, new law gives final say on medical care
Legislation that encourages patients to decide if they want aggressive medical care at the end of life was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday, moving New Jersey in line with more than 30 other states that provide residents with a relatively new planning document called the “Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment” or POLST.
POLST allows individuals to remain in control when facing a life-limiting or terminal illness.”Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regarding their medical care, especially as they enter the final phase of their lives,” said Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz (R-Essex, Morris, Somerset and Union), the bill’s co-sponsor and a registered nurse. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
State: Nuclear plant can draw water from Oyster Creek
A year ago, New Jersey environmental officials reached a deal with the owners of the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant to shut it down 10 years earlier than expected. In return, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station would not have to build costly cooling towers.
On Wednesday, state officials kept their end of the deal, granting Chicago-based Exelon Corp. a permit that will enable the plant to continue drawing water from the Oyster Creek to help cool the nuclear reactor. It also will be able to keep discharging heated water back into the creek and the Barnegat Bay. (Parry, Associated Press)
Movin’ on out: More New Jersey residents opting to flee
Many people may be leaving Las Vegas these days, but many more have been exiting New Jersey.
An annual study released Wednesday by United Van Lines — the nation’s largest moving company — shows that Garden Staters are moving out at a high rate. New Jersey and Illinois are tied for the largest outbound migration, with 60.5 percent of those moves involving people heading out.
“This is certainly not the kind of list we want to be at the top of,” said state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney of Gloucester County. (Cooney, Gannett)
New Jersey’s advocates for the aging
As New Jersey’s Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, James McCracken has what some might define as an impossible job: He is ultimately responsible for protecting the more than 30,000 nursing home and assisted-living residents in the state from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Clearly, it’s not a job he can do alone. That helps explain why McCracken is hoping to double the number of volunteer advocates he works with. His office also has an 11-member investigative team comprising former state troopers and nurses who are dispatched to a facility to gather information and intervene if they find something wrong. (Last year there were 2,648 verified complaints, about the same number as the year before.) (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Supporters of a Camden County police force back Camden chief to lead it
With a crime spike fueling calls for action, supporters of a Camden County police force are backing Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson to lead a “metro” division, which could likely be the entire force.
“There has been nothing promised, no job offered,” Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said Wednesday. “Our thoughts going forward are, he might be the guy to lead this thing. He has the leadership skills necessary to help with this transition.” (Simon, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Report: Plainfield mayor, city employees violated law by approving payments for Sharpton radio broadcast
Critics of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and her decision to spend $20,000 in city funds on a 2010 radio broadcast featuring the Rev. Al Sharpton were hoping to hear a more contrite, apologetic mayor following the long-awaited release of a detailed investigative report on the matter.
On Wednesday, they were disappointed.
Despite the 16-page report penned by independent counsel Ramon Rivera indicating that Robinson-Briggs and two city employees violated the state’s Local Public Finance Law by signing off on payment for the event before the broadcast ever took place, the mayor continued to deny any wrongdoing — and even praised Rivera for some of his findings. (Spivey, Gannett)
Federal highway funds will go toward enhancing nearly 50 New Jersey trails
Some 49 recreational trails throughout the state will split $1.28 million in federal Highway Administration grants, the state Department of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Special-needs housing funding set
More than $10 million will be used for special-needs housing in 12 municipalities, the Christie administration said today.
The towns include Brick Township, Denville Township, Edison Township, Florham Park Borough, Hanover Township, Jackson Township, North Brunswick Township, Parsippany Township, Randolph Township, Roxbury Township, Washington Township (Morris County), and Wayne Township. Several other towns are in active discussions with the DCA and could begin participating as early as next month. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Christie: No compromise on sick-leave reform
On the first anniversary of his signing arbitration reform, one of three key property tax toolkit laws passed by Gov. Chris Christie – and maybe in the spirit of the holidays – the chief called for the leftovers.
Shared services, civil service, and sick leave reforms are still on the table, Christie told his audience at the Knights of Columbus hall in Spotswood. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Forestry bill necessary for healthy environment, Smith says
One of the lawmakers behind a forest stewardship bill that has drawn some environmental opposition disputed their claims today.
After opponents of S1954/A4358 said the proposal would place loggers’ profits over habitat preservation and environmental security, Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, said what they fail to recognize is that doing nothing places people and property at risk by increasing the possibility of a forest fire and decreasing species’ diversity. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Leach wins union presidency battle
CWA political director Lionel Leach this afternoon defeated three-term incumbent Tom Palermo to become the new president of CWA Local 1039.
Leach won by a 2-1 margin.
Police data contradicts Camden School District’s crime stats
In Camden, where children and teens are murdered on city streets, schools must be sanctuaries for learning and growing.
But as long as $240,000-per-year Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young and her administration are in control, it’d be foolish to think city classrooms can be safe havens.
In response to Tuesday’s column, school officials and nurses have told me stories of Camden High School students being beaten in cafeterias and slashed with box cutters as the building was being evacuated during a fire drill. (Rosen, Gannett)
The hidden mysteries of school spending
In Bob Bowden’s excellent documentary “The Cartel” there is a series of interviews about school spending. Everyone is for spending more on education until they find out how much is being spent already.
The difficulty is finding out what the actual spending is. School boards have taken advantage of voters’ lack of knowledge in that area to get ever-increasing amounts of money without ever-increasing achievement.
The hocus pocus starts with the amount the school districts claim they need for each student. The Common Sense Institute of New Jersey has studied that and issued a report called “Misleading the Taxpayer: The Per-Pupil Expenditure Dilemma.” It’s worth a read. (Ingle, Gannett)