Morning News Digest: December 7, 2011

Morning News Digest: December 7, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Christie bemoans 26% voter turnout in elections

A low turnout election last month boomeranged into Gov. Chris Christie’s remarks this afternoon.

“You did a lousy job,” Christie told a crowd of residents packed into a Catholic school gym.

“When 26 percent of people come out to vote on the people making laws – that’s a sin,” said the Republican governor, whose party got run over in a handful of battleground tests on Nov. 8th.

“People are fighting around the world to have the right to self-determine,” Christie said.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



In WNY, Christie sells sick pay overhaul while burnishing North Hudson alliance

Gov. Chris Christie this morning landed feet-first in the middle of fractured political territory, warmly showcasing his North Hudson allies: Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, West New York Mayor Felix Roque and state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-33).

“I’m not going to compromise, I’m not going to give into a system that by its very nature costs you another $3 billion – and if you’re willing to fight with me, we can get this done,” said the governor, targeting public worker sick leave practices and amplifying his proposed overhaul of civil service.

Under Christie’s plan, unused public employee sick days would have no cash value when workers retire.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)


Christie in Washington and Des Moines Wednesday for Republican politics

For the second time in eight days, Gov. Chris Christie will leave New Jersey Wednesday to take part in Republican Party politics.

The governor will go to Washington, D.C. to appear at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Gala Victory Luncheon at noon at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Then he is off to Des Moines, Ia. for a Romney for President Rally at 5:50 p.m. at Kum & Go Headquarters on Westown (CQ) Parkway.

Last week, Christie spent three days at the Republican Governors Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. The governor is vice chairman of the organization.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Gov. Christie chastises Dems in return to town hall circuit

Gov. Chris Christie returned to the town hall circuit for the first time in over two months Tuesday but sang the same tune: a criticism of Democrats for neither curbing property taxes by letting towns opt out of civil service nor eliminating payouts for unused sick leave.

This time, Christie brought backup.

Along with the Republican governor at the gathering in West New York were three Democratic mayors from Hudson County with whom he has established a friendly working relationship: Felix Roque of West New York; Brian Stack of Union City, who is also a state senator; and Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



State adopts Energy Master Plan

The Christie administration yesterday adopted an Energy Master Plan with changes aimed at stabilizing New Jersey’s once flourishing solar energy market, which some fear is threatened by a collapse.

For the most part, the final version of the plan sticks to the broad outlines of a draft unveiled this past June, ignoring many criticisms raised by clean energy advocates during public hearings on the proposal. Much of the disapproval focused on a scaling back of renewable energy targets and promoting an increased reliance on natural gas.

Yet in recommending some changes to how New Jersey’s solar market operates, the new plan drew praise from industry executives who say it could fix a problem that has dried up investment in the sector — an oversupply of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), the primary means of financing solar installations.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Goodbye, New Jersey; hello, Pennsylvania

After their youngest child finished high school in June, destined for college, Janice and John Potts lost no time bolting from New Jersey.

By the end of July, the longtime Haddonfield residents were cheerfully ensconced in a three-bedroom rowhouse near Philadelphia’s Washington Square.

Their new abode is much smaller than the 4,500-square-foot home (with swimming pool) that they sold, but it comes with a huge plus.

“We downsized in terms of space, but cut our property-tax bill in half,” said Janice Potts, 52, an outsource-services manager for a Center City firm. John Potts, 54, works for a networking-systems company, often from home. 

The Pottses spent as much to buy their Pennsylvania house as they realized from their Jersey sale. “Basically, we swapped dollars,” she said. “But for us, the move made perfect sense. We got rid of one car. I walk to work. It’s a more convenient life.”  (Matza, The Philadelphia Inquirer)  



Dirty business: Report blasts mob involvement in garbage and recycling operations

New Jersey just can’t seem to shed its image as the Soprano state.

How so? The state once again has become a haven for criminally tainted garbage and recycling entrepreneurs, according to still another report from the State Commission of Investigation (SCI). This is the third time in four decades the commission has put authorities on notice of criminal elements in New Jersey’s solid waste industry.

Joseph Lemmo Jr. is a poster boy for the problem, according to the commission in the report it issued yesterday. “Despite multiple criminal convictions and ties to organized crime, Lemmo profited richly from the industry, operating for years in plain sight, without intervention by state regulators,” the report said.  (Johnson and Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



State funds being sought to preserve Royal Governor’s Mansion

The Proprietary House, the Royal Governor’s Mansion, is the former official residence of Royal Governor William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin.

It is the only original existing colonial governor’s residence in the 13 colonies.

As such, the multi-story Kearny Avenue structure is a unique building for the city of Perth Amboy, the state and country, according to Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.

“New Jersey ought to take steps to preserve it,’’ Wisniewski said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind building in the entire country, the only original Colonial era governor’s mansion still standing.’’  (Russell, Gannett)



Talks to privatize Monmouth Park break off

Talks to complete a deal to allow for private management of state-owned Monmouth Park have broken down, leaving the landmark Oceanport thoroughbred racetrack with an unstable future.

Negotiations were terminated by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration late Monday, with the state locked in a dispute with a horsemen’s group over control of a small portion of the race days allotted to the tracks, several parties said.

The disagreement doesn’t involve the prospective manager, real estate executive Morris Bailey, who had planned to hold 71-day meets at Monmouth Park for each of the next five years under a lease with the state. Bailey has homes in Deal and Brooklyn and is the owner of the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.  (Jordan, Gannett)



Bergen Democrats do more with less

Bergen County Democrats spent a lot less on countywide campaigns this fall than in recent years, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.

The report filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission 20 days after the Nov. 8 election showed the Democrats spent a total of $238,592 to reelect David Ganz and elect Joan Voss to the Freeholder Board.

That compares with $1.4 million that the Democrats spent to reelect Ganz and Freeholder Bernadette McPherson in 2005 and $2.1 million spent in 2002, when the county executive post also was up for election.

Despite spending less, the Democrats got better results this fall, sweeping all four countywide seats, including the Bergen County clerk and surrogate.  (Ensslin, The Record)



Ports may prove boost to S.J. economy

Can South Jersey have too many ports?

Marlin Peterson, director of development for the South Jersey Port Corp., which is in the process of building a new, $300 million marine terminal in Paulsboro, doesn’t think so given the state of the economy.

“Now is the time to bring back manufacturing and international trade. We have lots of land that needs to be redeveloped and we need the jobs,” Peterson said Tuesday after briefing the board of the Port Corp. on a potential port in Greenwich Township.

Owned by DuPont, the waterfront site has been on the radar of port leaders, the state Economic Development Authority and state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney for at least three years as a potential job generator.  (Stilwell, Gannett)



U.S. Postal Service considering closure of 6 N.J. facilities

Reportedly 42 percent of first-class mail gets to your house the next day, but after the Post Office budget cuts go into effect next spring, around half of first-class mail will arrive in two days and most of the rest will arrive in three days.

That’s just the beginning of the changes coming from the United States Postal Service in 2012. The Street reported that the Post Office has announced that first class stamp prices will rise to 45 cents on January 22. That will mark their first price hike since May 2009.

The Postal Service expects to close around 252 of its mail processing facilities. They are looking to cut $20 billion in costs by 2015.  (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)



Convicted mayor appeals for full pension

Martin Barnes, a former mayor who served two years in prison for fraud and tax evasion, could find out today how much money he can expect to receive from his public pension.

Barnes, 63, was scheduled to appear this morning in Trenton before a state board that could give him credit for portions of his public employment that were not tainted by his criminal conduct, said Bill Quinn, a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.

Had Barnes not been convicted, he would be eligible for a monthly pension of $1,595, state figures show.

His lawyer, Joseph DiPisa, could not be reached for comment.  (Clunn, The Record)



National Guard urged to help fight crime in Camden

A top city official on Tuesday called for National Guard troops to battle an upsurge in violent crime, saying gunmen had turned Camden into a “city under siege.”

“We need the help,” said City Council President Frank Moran, standing outside a Cramer Hill corner store where robbers killed the shopkeeper and wounded three others Monday night.

Moran said an assault weapon was used in the holdup at Bernard Grocery at 27th and Pierce streets. Authorities on Tuesday revealed one person had escaped the fusillade of bullets by hiding in the rear of the store.

The grocery-store shooting came after a bloody weekend in Camden, which included the killing of a 19-year-old man in Whitman Park and five nonfatal shootings across the city.  (Walsh and Cooney, Gannett)



Two Pa. officials urge Corbett to block DRPA plans

Two Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday asked Gov. Corbett to block plans by the Delaware River Port Authority to spend remaining economic-development funds on non-transportation projects in New Jersey.

Auditor General Jack Wagner, who sits on the DRPA board, and State Sen. John Rafferty Jr., chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, wrote to Corbett, who is chairman of the DRPA, to object to a plan to spend about $20 million on such projects as a Camden cancer center, housing for Rutgers-Camden students, and Cooper River rowing improvements.

In separate letters, both officials urged that lawmakers strip the DRPA of the authority to engage in economic development in the future as well.  (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Cancelling stay, U.S. orders 72 Indonesians in New Jersey to leave

Two years ago, a community of Indonesians in central New Jersey was spared deportation after a Protestant pastor brokered an unusual agreement with immigration authorities that allowed them to stay in the country temporarily. The agreement was clear: The Indonesians would be able to stay and work, but the permission could be rescinded at any moment.

The 72 Indonesians and their supporters, led by the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, had appealed for the arrangement in the hope that with extra time, they would be able to figure out a way to secure permanent legal status, either though the courts or with the passage of immigration reform legislation in Washington.

Immigrant advocates had hoped the deal signaled a broader use of humanitarian release for illegal immigrants without criminal records and with deep ties to the community.  (Semple, The New York Times)



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Governor responds to SCI solid-waste abuse report

Gov. Chris Christie’s office responded this afternoon to the findings of the State Commission of Investigation into the presence of abuse and criminality in the solid waste industry in New Jersey.

“We are still reviewing the findings of the SCI report and will consider its recommendations,” the governor’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Post-election, Singer believes death penalty bill has better chance

The senator who seeks to restore New Jersey’s death penalty says there are some crimes so heinous that no lesser punishment will suffice.

Sen. Robert Singer, (R-30), Jackson, is talking about the death of a 2-year-old girl whose father faces charges that he he attached a car jack to her car seat and tossed her into a river.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Animal-related bills progress in the Assembly

Three bills for the four-legged were moved by the Assembly Monday in session.

The first bill has been the butt of Gov. Chris Christie’s jokes, and the subject of a conditional veto, but S2923 seems now poised to become law.

The bill creates a pilot program for required sterilization of stray and adopted animals, and revises various other sections of law addressing care, impoundment, and sterilization of stray, abandoned, and adopted animals.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Mennen v. Spadea in LD16

Hunterdon County Freeholder William G. Mennen today told 16th District Republican Committee members that he will indeed pursue the Assembly seat left vacant when Peter J. Biondi died last month. first reported last month that Mennen was poised to get in the contest and would be the favorite to secure party establishment support.

Mennen is the second formally announced Republican candidate for the seat, joining Princeton businessman Bill Spadea.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Sources: Gorka to leave NJGOP

Sources tell that Rick Gorka, communications director for the NJ GOP, is poised to leave his current job to work for the Romney Campaign.

Prior to coming to New Jersey, Gorka worked for the 2008 McCain campaign as the Republican candidate’s West Coast spokesman.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



40 indicted in phony driver’s license case

The sale of illegal driver’s licenses has led to indictments against 40 people, including six former clerks at the Motor Vehicles Commission, the state announced.

Attorney General Paula Dow and other state officials said in a release that 21 customers and 13 brokers also were among those facing charges, including conspiracy, official misconduct, computer criminal activity, tampering with public records, and more.

The state said that the phony licenses were sold to people who did not have the required six points of identification.  (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)






Christie’s cheaper health plans fail to hook public workers

As we reported this morning, Governor Christie’s healthcare offer to public workers — to sign up for health plans that will cost the state less — hasn’t exactly snagged many takers.

For every worker who selected the highest-deductible family plan over the traditional state health family coverage, taxpayers would have saved at least $4,000.

But just 15 of the 397,809 workers in state and local governments and school offices enrolled for new high-deductible plans, in the first year they become available.  So that’s $60,000 in savings, as the state’s debt for insuring public workers grew by $3.5 billion. 

Another 294 people signed on for mid-tier plans. In total, fewer than one percent made the switch this year — less than half the lowest estimates by state actuaries.  (Fletcher, The Record)



Transportation plan skirts voter sentiment

Governor Christie has a problem. He is working on a plan to spend billions of dollars on New Jersey transportation projects. But he doesn’t have the money. He is not even close.

A logical place to turn for it would be the state gasoline tax. At l4.5 cents a gallon, it is one of the lowest in the nation, lower even than the taxes imposed by such oil-producing and refining powerhouses as Texas and Oklahoma.

The New York tax is 44.6 cents a gallon, three times New Jersey’s. The Connecticut tax is close behind New York’s, at 41.9 cents, and Pennsylvania’s is 32.3 cents.  (Ahearn, The Record)



Republicans should try Community FoodBank food stamp challenge

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey, a miracle in our midst, has issued a challenge: Try to feed yourself on $31.50 a week, the average weekly allotment that recipients receive.

It’s a timely challenge, because Republicans have targeted the food stamp program for deep cuts even as stagnant wages and job losses swell the ranks of those who depend on it. The budget passed by the Republican controlled House, and supported by all the GOP Congressman from New Jersey, would slash $127 billion from this program over the next decade, a cut of about 20 percent.

So maybe those folks should actually try to live on $25.20 a week, which would be 20 percent smaller than the actual allotment. Let’s just hope they like rice and beans.  (Moran, The Star-Ledger)


  Morning News Digest: December 7, 2011