Morning News Digest: January 30, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Shelley Adler set to announce bit for Congress
Shelley Adler, the widow of former U.S. Rep. John Adler who died in April, is set to announce her candidacy for Congress in the 3rd District tomorrow, according to two sources with knowledge of her plans.
Adler lives in Cherry Hill, which was carved out of the 3rd District during Congressional reapportionment, but a source said she plans to move into the district by the end of the year.
An official kick-off is planned for early next month. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Stack hasn’t been served, may counterfile ‘frivolous’ complaint: attorney
State Sen. Brian Stack, (D-33), Union City, was named in a civil lawsuit Thursday, but his attorney said the suit was leaked before the mayor was served. He said the mayor may file a frivolous lawsuit claim against the allegations.
John Whipple, of Arseneault, Whipple, Fassett & Azzarello in Chatham, is representing Stack and the city in a suit brought by a former government attorney who is alleging pay-to-play violations, among other things. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Lawsuit against Stack alleges ‘pay-to-play’ system, heavy-headed micromanagement
A former government attorney in Union City has filed a lawsuit alleging state Sen. and Mayor Brian Stack, (D-33), awarded city contracts based on contributions made to his nonprofit organization; controlled federal housing assignments and Section 8 vouchers; and instructed the city planning board to only approve projects Stack had cleared first.
The civil suit was filed Thursday by Mateo Perez, former attorney for the Union City Housing Authority and Library Board, who said he lost his jobs because of a rift with the mayor. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Analysis: How Christie trumped Dems once again
Democrats looking for a signature issue to start the new legislative session resurrected gay marriage, thinking it would galvanize their base and hoping it would push Republican Gov. Chris Christie into uncomfortable political territory by forcing him to sign the legislation or veto it.
But Christie, a masterful political tactician, isn’t so easily boxed in.
The day before Senate Democrats were to conduct the first public hearing of the term on the bill, Christie stunned almost everyone by nominating a gay black Republican with a 32-year partner and a Korean immigrant to fill two slots on the state Supreme Court, unusual picks for a Republican governor that helped defuse possible criticism about his social views. (Associated Press)
Net property taxes up 20 percent under Christie
Property taxes are eating up a larger share of family income under Gov. Chris Christie than under previous governors, primarily due to a sharp reduction in direct property tax relief over the past two years. In fact, net property taxes are 20 percent higher under Christie than they were when Democrat Jon Corzine left office two years ago.
With property tax credits and rebates included, the average New Jersey homeowner paid $7,519 in net property taxes last year — compared with $6,244 in 2009 — according to statistics released by the state Department of Community Affairs on Friday. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Dozens of Port Authority jobs go to Christie loyalists
One was a gourmet food broker who landed work as an $85,000-a-year financial analyst at the Port Authority. Another got a $90,000 job to check maintenance contracts. An author and actor was hired as the employment publications editor — a three-day-a-week gig that pays $50,000 and provides full benefits.
What they had in common — like dozens of others hired by the bi-state agency over the past two years — were ties to Governor Christie’s administration, which has recommended 50 people for positions at the agency since it took control of Trenton in 2010, records show. (Boburg and Reitmeyer, The Record)
NJ Supreme Court nominee’s family tied to illegal deposits
A wine and liquor store run by the family of state Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon forfeited nearly $160,000 to federal authorities last month to settle civil charges that more than $2 million was deposited into the business’s bank account illegally, court records show.
The case, filed in June in federal court in Brooklyn, alleged that on 222 occasions from April 2010 to February 2011, cash deposits of slightly less than $10,000 were placed in the business’s checking account to avoid government scrutiny. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Spending at agency escapes Christie’s fury
Not long after Governor Christie’s inaugural ended in early 2010 he started to take on overspending and waste at the state’s many authorities, boards and commissions — what he calls New Jersey’s “shadow government.”
A former federal prosecutor who made his reputation putting corrupt politicians in jail, the governor has used everything from the veto pen to sheer political muscle to clean house at the agencies over the past two years.
Christie, in one of his initial executive orders, banned state authorities from giving out huge retirement payouts, hiring lobbyists and allowing generous travel policies. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Campaign cash means trips, meals and golf for some candidates
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo used campaign funds to pay for hundreds of meals, dozens of golf games, a flight to Puerto Rico and even repairs to his bicycle after taking a spill in a county park.
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.) used them for a $9,000 trip to Scotland with his family.
And Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), even after leaving his post as Gloucester County freeholder director, used leftover money from that campaign account for expensive meals and spent $756 of it on fancy cigars for supporters. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Treasurer declines panel invite to discuss tax cut plan
State Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff will not appear before the Senate Budget Committee on Monday to discuss Gov. Chris Christie’s income tax cut proposal.
Christie, a Republican, had proposed the tax cut in his State of the State message this month, so the Democratic-controlled committee wanted to hear more about it. The administration has said that details will be forthcoming in the governor’s budget message, scheduled for Feb. 21.
Hence, Sidamon-Eristoff declined to preview the proposal. (Method, Gannett)
N.J. Assembly to hold hearing on same-sex marriage bill next week
The Democratic-controlled Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday to consider legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
The bill, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act (A-1), would eliminate the civil unions that have been in place since 2007. Democrats maintain the law has not provided equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples. The Democrats who control the Legislature have made legalizing same-sex marriage their first priority of the new session. The plan to send the bill to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk but he has vowed to veto it. The governor wants the issue of same-sex marriage decided through a ballot referendum. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Sen. Weinberg says Christie is afraid of same-sex marriage issue
Addressing the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner in Washington Thursday night, Gov. Chris Christie spoke of “saving (social issues) until we can get everybody back to work in New Jersey,” an apparent reference to the Democratic-controlled Legislature effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) reacted to the comment Friday declaring that the way she sees it, “the normally straight-talking and strident governor is simply afraid of the issue.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
N.J. gay rights advocates fight a vote on same-sex marriage
Gay rights advocates in New Jersey have been pushing for a decade to get state courts or lawmakers to recognize same-sex marriage. But last week, they demurred when Gov. Christie called for a public vote to settle the topic.
Their main reason is based on principle: It’s not fair, they say, to let voters decide a civil rights issue.
But there’s another consideration: It would be a costly and divisive fight, and the advocates know the odds are against them, even if recent polls have shown the majority of New Jersey voters support allowing gay marriage. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
Dealing with bullies back in NJ Legislature’s court
A little-know state council has found itself in the spotlight with its decision that New Jersey’s anti-bullying law represents an unfunded state mandate. The question now: How is the legislature going to fix the problem?
The Council on Local Mandates on Friday ruled that the new law laying out specific procedures and staffing in every school represented an unfunded requirement that is not permitted under the state constitution.
But the council gave the state a lot of latitude to address its concerns, saying the ruling would not go into effect until it filed its formal opinion in about 60 days. It all but implored Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature to take action in that time. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. legislators get busy removing medical-marijuana roadblocks
Bipartisan legislation designed to remove local roadblocks to the long-delayed launch of medical-marijuana businesses in New Jersey is gathering steam.
But Gov. Christie has hinted he may veto the measure.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R., Monmouth) earlier this month introduced a bill designed to prevent local zoning and planning boards from rejecting pot farms and marijuana dispensaries based on residents’ complaints. (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
On the train, off the rails
Once a year, the people who run New Jersey take a walk to the nation’s capital to hear the governor speak at a special congressional dinner.
Or do they?
At the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner in Washington, reality isn’t always what it seems.
Held Thursday and Friday for the 75th time, the annual event is the Garden State’s version of the Pennsylvania Society gala in New York City, as politicians, lobbyists, business executives, union leaders, nonprofit heads, and journalists schmooze, booze, deal, and wheel. It’s one big smoky back room (except there’s no smoking at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel). (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. covering all bets to bring in sports wagering
New Jersey has rapidly amassed a tool stockpile for taking down a federal ban on sports betting, with two congressmen introducing bills to change the law and a federal court challenge being brewed by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.
The issue became fast-tracked after the state’s voters in November overwhelmingly said they wanted to be able to make bets at New Jersey casinos and racetracks on professional and college games. (Jordan, Gannett)
Study weighs recession toll
New Jersey’s poorest school districts were hit hard by the recession and changes in state funding, a one-two punch that led to steep cuts that reached into the classroom, according to a study by Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists.
More affluent districts were better able to shield their classrooms, benefiting in part from a change in the funding formula that was implemented by former Gov. Jon Corzine, the study said.
Economists billed the study as the first comprehensive look at the recession’s effects on school funding in New Jersey and New York. The study does not link spending to student results or comment on policy decisions. (Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)
‘Hybrid’ charters will meld online lessons with conventional instruction
A great deal was made of the Christie administration’s last round of charter school approvals, and the lack of any suburban charters on the list.
But the urban ones that were approved are interesting in themselves, including two in Trenton and Newark that are trying a new model of education, mixing online learning with face-to-face instruction in a setting unlike any other in the state.
Or at least that’s the pitch.
The person making the pitch is Ben Rayer, a self-described education “entrepreneur” out of Philadelphia who won approval to bring the new model to two of New Jersey’s toughest cities. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
NJ district, state sparring over leader’s salary
State officials and a northern New Jersey school district remain at odds over how the district should recover almost $38,000 in alleged salary overpayments made to its superintendent.
Executive County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino has given the Parsippany-Troy Hills school district until Tuesday to develop a plan for collecting the money.
State officials contend the district paid Lee Seitz more money than allowed under a state salary cap, saying district leaders signed a contract that had not received proper authorization from the stat (Associated Press)
Lawsuits threatened over planned merger between Rowan and Rutgers-Camden
A plan to roll Rutgers-Camden and Rowan into a single university under the Rowan banner could produce a barrage of lawsuits from Rutgers faculty, according to a union leader at the Camden campus.
“We are very much outraged by this proposal for many reasons. We think it’s fraudulent for one nonprofit, as in Rutgers, to dispose of its assets to another nonprofit, i.e. Rowan,” said Janet Golden, a professor of history at Rutgers-Camden. (Stilwell, Gannett)
Wildwood may tiptoe toward beach fees
Come next year, Wildwood may no longer be able to market its famously free beach.
The Cape May County resort’s status as one of a handful of Jersey Shore destinations that do not require beach tags is advertised to would-be tourists from Florida to Quebec.
A recent assessment of the city’s finances has officials wondering whether that may have to come to an end – a move that at least one tourism expert warned could backfire in a still-sputtering economy. (Urgo, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Supporters of MS sufferer hope marijuana prison term is commuted
A multiple sclerosis sufferer who grew marijuana reported to prison today after exhausting legal appeals.
Supporters of John Ray Wilson, whose appeal was not heard by the state Supreme Court, said that Wilson turned himself in at the Somerset County Courthouse on a five-year prison term. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Mosquera/Lovett race in state Supreme Court’s hands
The state Supreme Court heard arguments this morning over whether the new member of the 4th Legislative District should be Gabriela Mosquera or – possibly – Gabriela Mosquera.
That is one possible outcome of this legal argument over whether a one-year residency requirement should preclude November-election winner Mosquera from taking office. And if a lower court ruling invalidating the Democrat’s victory is upheld, does that mean a county Democratic political committee can then appoint someone, including Mosquera? (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Judge skeptical of absent paper trail for Newark’s Facebook grant, allows lawsuit
Superior Court Judge Rachel Davidson blocked Newark’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit seeking records pertaining to the city’s $100 million education grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Davidson denied a motion by the city to dismiss the complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of N.J. (ACLU-NJ) on behalf of a group of Newark parents and grandparents, the Secondary Parent Council. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Assembly to hear marriage equality bill in committee on Thursday
Marriage equality was moved along in the Senate this week, and next week the Assembly will be joining the action.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday to hear testimony on A1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, which would eliminate civil unions that have been in place since 2007. Proponents of marriage equality argue that civil unions have not provided equal treatment to same-sex couples. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Former Hamilton mayor lands on Forbes list of social media gurus
Former Hamilton Township Mayor Glen Gilmore found himself a niche after leaving politics in 2008. The former Mayor, who some thought might one day be governor was recently recognized by Forbes as #7 on the magazine’s list of top 50 social media power influencers.
The list, published last week, is based on search engine Peekyou.com’s social pull metric, which according to the Forbes’ story, measures the number of people in your network that are “active and identifiable.” (Isherwood, PolitkckerNJ)
Showdown in 9th District puts Bergen’s string at risk
Bergen County will be without a home-county representative in Congress for the first time in 100 years if U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, overcomes tough odds and defeats Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, in the turf war-primary for the newly drawn 9th Congressional District in North Jersey.
Losing the home county advantage is one of the themes Rothman and allies are stressing in the impending showdown with Pascrell. The primary winner would be favored to win the general election in November. Listening to some Rothman supporters, you get the impression that Bergen always had a home-county representative in Congress, from the tri-cornered hat days of the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia right through the beaming, professional-career-woman era of Ridgewood’s Marge Roukema in the 1980s. (Stile, The Record)
Diversity is good, but Gov. Chris Christie’s judge picks are mediocre
The politically correct reaction to Gov. Chris Christie’s two nominations to the state Supreme Court is to praise him for selecting an openly gay black man and an Asian.
So let’s get that over with: The diversity is most welcome. This state is a beautiful mosaic and its courts should be, too.
But be careful. Because people said the same thing when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, that we should skip past his thin résumé and embrace the glory of diversity.
That turned out to be a mistake of historic proportions. Thomas sits glum and mute during arguments, then embraces bizarre views that even his conservative cabal on the court can’t stomach, such as his belief that states have a right to establish an official religion. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Gay marriage lawmakers’ responsibility
The games that politicians play sometimes come at the expense of the people most affected. It can be a selfish display of one-upmanship and ego-massage.
Two years ago there was an attempt to pass a same-sex marriage bill. Senate President Dick Codey brought it to a vote and it failed with seven votes short of passage. The bill’s supporters at least got to see who really favored marriage equality and who was faking it to keep the contributions coming. In the Assembly, Speaker Joe Roberts wouldn’t even bring it up so no one can be sure, and that served politicians well. They can always claim they would have supported it given the chance. (Ingle, Gannett)
Cartoonist Thomas Nast misses cut for N.J. Hall of Fame
The controversy swirling around 19th-century political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who died more than 100 years ago, and his entry into the New Jersey Hall of Fame can be put on hold for at least a year.
The Auditor is told that Nast — whose nomination stirred outrage among some politicians and the Ancient Order of the Hibernians because of his anti-Irish and anti-Catholic cartoons — failed to make the cut for induction this year.
The commission’s executive director, Don Jay Smith, won’t confirm Nast didn’t make it and said although the votes have been cast, no announcement on new inductees has been scheduled. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Chris Christie’s judicial nominee wrote an e-mail supporting same-sex marriage
Looks like we’ve got a good idea how Harris feels about Harris after all.
I’m talking about Bruce Harris and Lewis v. Harris.
The former is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s two nominees for the state Supreme Court.
The latter is the 2006 decision in which that court ordered the Legislature to pass a statute granting same-sex partners the same marital privileges as heterosexual couples.
When Christie introduced Harris and fellow nominee Phillip Kwon to the press on Monday, he made a point of noting that Harris is openly gay. He also introduced the domestic partner of the 61-year-old Chatham mayor, who is an attorney in private practice. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)
Legislature gives some charities a boost over others
When it comes to getting favors from the state, a lot depends on whom you know — even for charities.
Lawmakers gave three prominent charities a big leg up next year in their fund-raising efforts, providing them with a significant competitive advantage over thousands of other charities in the chase for donors.
And that has some in the non-profit world questioning why the state should be in the business of providing special treatment to any particular charity. (Lipman, The Record)
Teachers turn to subtler protests over contracts
As protests go, this one did not seem like much.
But when it comes to teachers and their contracts, these are different times.
When teachers at Midland School in Rochelle Park wanted to demonstrate their concern that contract negotiations with the school district had stalled, they did not pick up picket signs or call in sick.
They merely stopped hanging as much student work as they once did on bulletin boards. (Kelly, The Record)