Morning News Digest: December 29, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Passaic freeholder exploring 5th District run
Passaic County Freeholder Director Terry Duffy announced he is forming an exploratory committee for a potential 5th District congressional bid.
In a statement, Duffy said he will meet with residents of the newly drawn district over the next 30 days in an effort to decide if challenging incumbent Republican U.S. rep. Scott Garrett is feasible.
“Our priority needs to be unseating Congressman Garrett – who now becomes the most vulnerable incumbent Congressman in New Jersey with this new map,” Duffy said in a statement. ” I look forward to challenging his extremist record with pragmatic common sense solutions.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
N.J. survey shows local governments turned to shared services, surplus funds to hold 2 percent property tax cap
The governments of New Jersey cities and towns turned to sharing public services and using surplus funds to comply with a new state mandate that property taxes can increase by no more than 2 percent annually.
The actions come to light in an annual Legislative Priorities Survey conducted by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities which garnered the responses of over 100 mayors. The responses to specific issues provide direction for League staff to take when lobbying the Legislature in Trenton.
This year was the first budget year that municipal officials had to comply with the 2 percent property tax levy cap. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
NJ gets $16.8 million bonus for providing low-income children with health insurance
Federal health officials awarded New Jersey a $16.8 million bonus Wednesday for doing a good job enrolling and keeping low-income kids in Medicaid and FamilyCare, the state’s children’s health insurance plan.
New Jersey has gotten a bonus in each of the three years such awards have been in effect, and this year’s total eclipses the $8.8 million received in 2010 and $2.4 million received in 2009.
Twenty-three states received bonuses totaling $296.5 million Wednesday for surpassing enrollment targets and adopting at least five of eight procedures that make it easier to access Medicaid or a state’s children’s health insurance program. (Symons, Gannett)
Another call for removal of Thomas Nast from N.J. Hall of Fame ballot
Assemblyman Scott Rudder (R-Burlington) on Wednesday called on the New Jersey Hall of Fame to eliminate 19th century cartoonist Thomas Nast from the list of potential 2012 inductees.
Rudder is the third legislator to argue that Nast’s racist depictions of Irish Catholics is inconsistent with the Hall of Fame’s mission.
“Thomas Nast’s depictions of Santa Claus are beloved, but his portrayal of Irish Catholics was deplorable,” Rudder, an Irish-American, said. “Nast’s inclusion on the public ballot for induction to the Hall of Fame is not only insulting to New Jersey residents of Irish descent or Catholic faith, but to people of every group that has been victimized by bigotry and stereotyping. I have asked the executive director of the Hall of Fame to have him removed from consideration immediately.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Sarlo hit by holiday robocalls—again
New Jersey Republicans targeted Democratic legislators’ home districts with a series of automated phone messages Wednesday night, hammering their stance on sick-time payouts for government workers.
It’s an issue Governor Christie has pushed to resolve during the last three weeks of the lame duck legislative session, vowing to end those payouts for unused time altogether.
But Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood Ridge, a Bergen County Democratic legislator and mayor, has objected to Christie’s zero-tolerance approach — and so has found himself in Republicans’ sights.
In the recorded ad currently robocalling voters in northern counties, the New Jersey Republican State Committee ramps up an attack against Sarlo directly, telling residents in his district Christie is “being blocked” by the senator’s defense of some sick time payouts for government workers. (Fletcher, The Record)
N.J. mayors take aim at illegal, online gun sales
Imagine purchasing a firearm as easy as a click of a mouse from your personal computer in the comfort of your own home.
Now, a coalition of Mayors is proposing to put an end to unscrupulous online gun sales and close the loopholes that give criminals easy access to such deadly weapons.
According to the website, FixGunChecks.org, a project of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bi-partisan coalition of more than 550 Mayors across the country have joined together to form a common bond around what they call one simple concept: respect the rights of responsible law-abiding citizens and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, gang members, drug abusers, or anyone who just may be dangerous. (Sammarco, New Jersey Newsroom)
Patrick Lott’s career as educator, public servant rocked by charges
Winning coach. Beloved school administrator. Politician. Civil Air Patrol veteran. A father of two stepsons and a daughter.
These are accomplishments and accolades on Patrick Lott’s resume.
So it came as a shock to those who knew him that Lott — who for so many years had been entrusted with students and athletes — had been arrested and charged with videotaping naked teenage boys showering at Immaculata High School in Somerville. (Bichao, Gannett)
Former NJ mayor dies in car crash
The first woman to be mayor of Stafford Township has died after a car crash with another elderly driver.
Delores Barnes was 88.
She got into local politics in the 1970s after her husband, a town committeeman died. The Republican became mayor of the shore community became mayor in 1979. (USA Today)
Camden police union officials seek referendum to block county police force plan
Police union officials in Camden believe they have found a way to potentially block plans to dissolve the city Police Department and replace it with a county force.
Union members and city activists are circulating a petition to force Mayor Dana L. Redd to hold a referendum and put the matter before voters.
Under state law, if they gather signatures amounting to 15 percent of the city turnout in last month’s general election – about 900 people – and overcome likely legal challenges, the city would be required to put the matter on the ballot and abide by the outcome. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Morris County towns join push toward sustainable Jersey
In Belmar, developers of commercial district projects must achieve a minimum number of points on the borough’s sustainability checklist in order to proceed.
In Morristown, Jonathan Rose Companies , a green urban solutions planner, is guiding redevelopment and master plan revisions.
In Somerset County, stakeholders are discussing “Sustainable Somerset: The Strategic Plan for Somerset County,” a framework to foster the interrelated goals of regional economic growth and infrastructure, sustainable communities and environmental protection. (Flachsenhaar, Gannett)
These pols morph into Mummers: Octopi anyone?
Most days, Jeff Nash, a lawyer and Camden County freeholder, wears a suit and tie.
On Sunday, he’ll dress as an octopus, with eight black tentacles stretching from his hooded sweatshirt and with his face and shoes painted gold.
Nash, who is also vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority, is part of an intermittent Mummers comic brigade known as the Golden Schleppers. The group of South Jersey politicians, county, and municipal workers and their friends came together in 1990 but hasn’t participated for 10 years since a key member died, Nash said. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
14-acre reservoir tract in Hudson County preserved
The state Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday announced preservation of a 14.4-acre reservoir near the Lincoln Tunnel that will serve as open space for passive recreation pursuits. (Staff, State Street Wire)
In 2011, N.J. privatization efforts gathered steam
In June, the decision to let New Jersey Network go dark in favor of the privately run NJTV spurred an outcry among Democratic legislators.
As evidenced by such initiatives, the drive to privatize state operations was alive and well this year in New Jersey. Other targeted areas seen as ripe for some degree of privatization this year included public parks, fire inspections, and toll collectors. (Hassan, State Street Wire)