Morning News Digest: Morning News Digest: July 12, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Former Obama state director to challenge Gill in LD34
Seton Hall University Law Professor Mark Alexander, who served as President Obama’s state director during the 2008 primary, has filed paperwork to challenge Democratic state Sen. Nia Gill in the 2013 primary.
Alexander, who also served on Obama’s transition team and as general counsel to Newark Mayor Cory Booker during his first run for office, lives in Montclair.
He teaches Constitutional Law at Seton Hall. (Isherwood, PoltiickerNJ)
Israeli citizen sentenced to 30 months in prison for brokering illegal kidney transplants
An Israeli citizen who made headlines three years ago when he was arrested for brokering illegal kidney transplants was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months in prison.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 61, previously pleaded not guilty to brokering the kidney transplants in exchange for at least $120,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Rosenbaum made headlines when he was caught up in Operation Bid Rig, a long-term investigation into political corruption in the state that resulted in more than 40 arrests.
Rosenbaum, who resided in Brooklyn, is the first person to be convicted under the federal statute on the black market sale of kidneys from paid donors, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Report: Wiley to run for mayor of West New York
The Jersey Journal reports that West New York Commissioner County Wiley is planning to run for mayor.
Wiley is fresh off a verbal haranguing of current Mayor Felix Roque, who is facing charges of computer hacking. Wiley has called for Roque to step down and said he will run for mayor in 2015 or sooner if a recal effort he said he will launch is succesful. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie “by the numbers”
The New Jersey governor’s office somehow managed to determine that the “Late Show with David Letterman” has made 327,832 fat jokes about Chris Christie. As for the number of questions he’s received about running for either president or vice president? His aides could only summarize, “Too many to count.”
A press release titled “Chris Christie by the numbers” went up on the governor’s website Wednesday, taking “a look back at everything across three balanced budgets.” Ranging everywhere from Twitter followers (125,820) to bills vetoed (39) to Politifact.com ratings of “Pants on Fire” (four), the list boils down to the apparent point of the list: “Tax increases: 0.” (Boerma, CBS News)
Christie, Democrats forgo wish lists to pass university-merger plan
Gov. Christie wanted bail reform, elimination of payouts for public workers’ unused sick days, and an end to seniority rules that make young teachers the most vulnerable to layoffs.
The Democrats’ wish list included raising the minimum wage, fully restoring a tax credit to the working poor, and creating a penalty to be levied on towns that won’t share municipal services.
Neither side has accomplished any of those goals, at least not yet.
The hallmark bill of the first quarter of the 2013-14 legislative session – a measure that would restructure the state’s higher-education system – was so complex and contentious that it sucked up much of lawmakers’ time and delayed other initiatives. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The traveling show: Gov. Christie to hobnob out west and raise money for Romney
Gov. Chris Christie’s summer vacation has gone from from Jersey Shore joke to gold-plated glitz.
Though it started with a bang on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, the governor’s Statehouse respite continues this week at the prestigious Allen & Co conference in Idaho and stops in Williamsburg for meetings with other governors. Finally, he’ll make a jam-packed two day swing through six states for Mitt Romney.
Christie will join Newark Mayor Cory Booker to rub elbows with moguls of all stripes at the media and technology conference in Sun Valley. The governor will participate in an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel moderated by George Stephanopoulos of “Good Morning America,” according to The Los Angeles Times. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey GOP presses attack over budget
It might be summer recess for New Jersey lawmakers, but Republicans aren’t taking a vacation from political attacks over the $32 billion budget that took effect this month.
The New Jersey Republican Party released a new radio ad Thursday faulting Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, for not passing a budget with a guaranteed tax cut sought by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
“Sadly, it’s the same old story from the Legislature. Billions for special interest spending. Not a dollar for tax cuts for New Jersey families,” the one-minute ad declares. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
State aims to improve higher education with privatization, bonds
Overshadowed by fights over the state budget and the merger of state colleges late last month were two bills that could have their own broad effects on New Jersey’s higher education system. Both seek to spur new construction on college campuses: one uses a privatization arrangement to encourage private organizations to pay for construction at public colleges; the other authorizes $750 million in bonds to pay for new buildings.
The privatization bill, which the Legislature passed June 28 but the governor has not yet signed, seeks to encourage private entities – including for-profit companies – to pay for new construction on public college campuses. In exchange for financing the construction, the firms could lease existing dormitories or other revenue-producing buildings at the colleges. (Linhorst, The Record)
N.J. Treasury: No fiscal risk from higher ed borrowing
A state Treasury official says $750 million in proposed higher education borrowing won’t alter New Jersey’s credit rating.
The spokesman told a financial review panel Wednesday that Treasury expects no change in the state’s borrowing power if the bonding is approved.
Voters could be asked in November to approve a bond act to fund capital projects at state colleges and universities. The measure dedicates funds to the colleges for long-sought projects.
The Higher Education commissioner and Legislature would approve individual building projects. (Associated Press)
Politicians silenced at 9/11 event
In the midst of a power struggle over Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided no elected officials will speak at this year’s ceremony marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Instead, the solemn reading of the victims’ names—2,983 in all—will be the event’s central feature, officials said Wednesday, shifting the focus further from politicians as Mr. Bloomberg fends off attempts from the governors of New York and New Jersey to get more control over the memorial. The ban on political figures will include Mr. Bloomberg, who has played a prominent role in the event in the past. (Saul, The Wall Street Journal)
Debate swells as decision nears on virtual charters
The prospect of New Jersey’s first online charter schools continues to stir up debate, even as the Christie administration moves closer to announcing its decision on the virtual schools.
A group of a half-dozen of the state’s most prominent education organizations delivered a letter to acting education commissioner Chris Cerf this week, asking him not to approve final charters for two all-online schools until a number of legal and policy issues could be resolved.
The letter was signed by the New Jersey Education Association, the Education Law Center, and the New Jersey School Boards Association, as well as state associations representing principals, superintendents, and other administrators. Also signing were the state NAACP and the Latino Institute. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Troubled legacy of COAH could cost NJ towns $161 million
One municipality has $400,000 in contracts to rebuild deteriorated housing and convert an abandoned school. Another has plans for 151 units, including some for very low-income special-needs adults. A third is collaborating with other state agencies on a supportive housing project.
None of these municipalities, nor any other in New Jersey, knows if its plans are sufficient to stop the state from taking $161 million in affordable housing trust fund money held for the communities to build low- and moderate-income units. In fact, Gov. Chris Christie’s 2013 budget was counting on as much as $200 million coming from local housing funds — and the deadline for the first funds transfer is July 17. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Bleak outlook for Barnegat Bay
The outlook for Barnegat Bay is getting bleaker all the time.
In a new multiyear study by the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, three researchers concluded overdevelopment and the resultant pollution pose a serious threat to the Barnegat Bay/Little Egg Harbor Estuary, leading to a long-term decline in the ecosystem.
“This study paints a bleak picture of the ecological health of the Barnegat Bay/Little Egg Harbor Estuary,” said Michael Kennish, a longtime researcher of problems in the bay. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Experts: Benefits under health care reform, but costs, restrictions will impede biotechs
Though biopharmaceutical firms in New Jersey will benefit from expansion in Medicaid enrollment and the creation of health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, increased pressure to lower drug costs and greater restrictions in the number of drugs covered under Medicaid will hurt revenues and drive up competition, industry experts said in a webinar hosted by the industry group BioNJ. (Eder, NJBIZ)
NJ Transit OKs budget that keeps fares unchanged
New Jersey Transit’s board of directors has approved a $1.9 billion operating budget that does not call for a fare increase.
Executive Director Jim Weinstein says the budget approved Wednesday grew by just one-half of one percent from the previous fiscal year, which he says is NJ Transit’s second lowest overall growth rate in the last 15 years.
Nearly half of the operating budget’s revenues — roughly $894 million — comes from fares. The rest comes from a combination of commercial revenues, capital transfers, state operating assistance, as well as other state and federal reimbursements. (Associated Press)
Richard Scudder, newspaper exec and recycling pioneer, dies at 99
Born into a newspaper family almost a century ago, Richard Scudder spent a lifetime working with words — and just as notably, the paper they were printed on, as a pioneer in newsprint recycling
Mr. Scudder died Wednesday at the age of 99 at his home in Navesink. He had a journalism career that took him from a Depression-era reporting job at his family’s paper, The Newark Evening News, to the chairmanship of Denver-based MediaNews Group, which owns 61 newspapers in 11 states.
Mr. Scudder and his MediaNews co-founder, William Dean Singleton, formerly owned the Herald News of Passaic. The Record bought the Herald News, along with 11 weeklies, and formed North Jersey Media Group in 1997. (Lynn and Levin, The Record)
DreamWorks plans to bring Shrek, Kung Fu Panda to theme park at stalled New Jersey mall
Shrek might find a home in the swamps of northern New Jersey.
The Hollywood studio that created the green ogre and the wisecracking zoo animals of “Madagascar” announced Wednesday it had agreed to license its characters, storytelling and technology for a theme park at a long-stalled and vacant megamall in the Meadowlands.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, in a joint statement with the mall developer, said the indoor theme park 10 miles west of New York City would create “a unique and innovative family entertainment experience.” (Associated Press)
Business Facilities magazine ranks Jersey second in nation for biotechnology strength
New Jersey ranked second in the nation for biotechnology strength, according to a trade publication’s list of top business locations in the U.S.
Business Facilities magazine ranked New Jersey among the nation’s top business states, Acting Governor Kim Guadagno announced Wednesday. The administration reported New Jersey ranked first in the nation for workforce health and safety and jumped eight positions in ranking second for biotechnology strength, according to a new release. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Helmets to Hard Hats receives funding
The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said on Wednesday it will give $190,000 to the New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council’s (NJBCTC) Helmets to Hardhats program.
The Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program enables National Guard, reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military members to connect to career and training opportunities in the construction industry. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
New Jersey job growth ahead of national trends, Rutgers economists say
Speakers at tomorrow’s New Jersey League of Municipalities Economic Summit are expected to say that New Jersey has seen consistent private-sector job growth since the Great Recession technically ended three years ago, performing better than national trends. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From a perch in the suburbs, a cheap shot at cities
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon has been getting a stream of congratulatory phone calls since he took aim at Newark Mayor Cory Booker and threatened to cut state aid to the city.
Most came from the suburbs, especially his district in Monmouth County, a Republican stronghold.
“These folks are absolutely getting screwed,” O’Scanlon says. “There is a growing fury among people who are helping foot the bill for cities like Newark.”
That is a recurring theme in New Jersey, where the cities are all dependent on suburban taxpayers to stay afloat. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Why Romney should reconsider Chris Christie
No U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt has won reelection when the unemployment rate was more than 7.4 percent. That has many Republicans wondering why Mitt Romney isn’t the runaway favorite over President Obama.
So why isn’t he? Because Obama remains more popular personally than one would otherwise expect. Because the Obama campaign has been more effective at sowing doubt about Romney’s record as a wealthy capitalist than the Romney campaign anticipated — which is evidence to some that Romney’s campaign isn’t overstaffed with brilliant strategists. And because Romney himself has an unfortunate tendency to come off as artificial and superficial. (Goldberg for The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Common sense on the drug war
It was good to hear a politician on the Republican side talk bluntly and logically about the so-called war on drugs, a skirmish we’ve invested billions in over the years but are losing miserably. Gov. Chris Christie didn’t go far enough.
“The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure,” Christie said in a speech at The Brookings Institution in Washington. “We’re warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment.”
It’s not the first time he has spoken out. In Camden in December he said this: “I don’t believe the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration. I just don’t think it’s worked. And I think we see it over and over again that there’s evidence that it hasn’t.” (Ingle, Asbury Park Press)