Morning News Digest: October 22, 2012

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Morning News Digest: October 22, 2012

By Missy Rebovich



Winners and Losers: The Dwek Sentencing Edition

Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop projected financial strength this week in his filing with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), Solomon Dwek is finally on his way to prison, and…

Congratulations, Andrew Hendry.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



In Jersey City Mayor’s race, Fulop has $700K COH

Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop, running for mayor in the May 2013 election, today announced he has raised nearly $250,000 in the quarter that ended October 15.

Of the nearly 400 donors who contributed to Fulop’s mayoral campaign during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, 64 percent are residents representing all wards in Jersey City, according to a release from the Fulop campaign.

Nearly 66 percent of the donors contributed $100 or less while 60 percent contributed $50 or less.   (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Poll: Support for higher-ed bond act, increased judicial pension contributions

A Stockton Polling Institute poll shows that a majority of voters support the bond act for higher education infrastructure improvements, as well as another question requiring judges to make larger contributions toward their pensions.

Both questions will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Christie to campaign for Conn. Senate candidate McMahon

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the latest nationally known politician to get involved in Connecticut’s close Senate race.

The Republican is scheduled to appear with former wrestling executive and GOP candidate Linda McMahon at three campaign rallies on Monday afternoon. The pair is scheduled to make stops in Stamford, Waterbury and Glastonbury.

McMahon’s campaign has said Christie plans to talk about why “strong, independent voices” like McMahon’s are needed in Washington.

McMahon is in a close race against Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy. They are vying for the seat held by the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent.  (Associated Press)



Cory Booker, Christie stump amid rivalry speculation

A Republican state senator saw the travel-weary look in Chris Christie’s eyes and had to give him a reminder about where he was.

“Governor,” Christie recalled the senator saying as he kicked off a town hall meeting in Mount Laurel this month. “It’s Thursday, and you’re in New Jersey.”

Since giving the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in September, Christie has been on the move, crisscrossing the country and state campaigning for Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates looking for a dose of the tough talk Christie is known for.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has also been hitting the road, lending support to President Barack Obama and other Democrats eager for a boost from a mayor who has 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Booker delivered the party platform speech at the Democratic National Convention in September.  (Associated Press)



Meet Joe Kyrillos, a nice guy trying to unseat powerful U.S. Sen. Menendez

As Joe Kyrillos makes his way through New Jersey shaking hands, making speeches and debating his articulate opponent in the race for U.S. Senate, you often hear voters say they don’t know him — even though he’s been a veteran of Jersey politics for decades.

Well, here’s your chance at the Real Joe.

First off a few basics, taken from having spent weeks covering his campaign, and from interviews with friends and colleagues, opponents and associates.

You could spend the afternoon with Kyrillos and his family and never guess there is a political animal inside him, though his wife says look out, it is there.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



First Congressional District candidates focus on big-picture issues

Two decades after James Carville bluntly advised candidate Bill Clinton to focus on the economy, the top election issue is still the national economy — including in New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District, where three candidates seek to unseat Democratic incumbent Rob Andrews.

The three challengers – Republican Gregory Horton, Reform candidate Margaret Chapman, and Green Party activist Bill Reitter – are all focusing on the national debate over how best to get the U.S. economy back on track.

The 1st District encompasses many middle-and-upper middle-class bedroom communities, a few older Philadelphia suburbs, some which are experiencing an economic rebirth, and the “post-industrial” city of Camden.   (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)



Democrat looks to continue legacy of late father in 10th District

On the verge of succeeding his late father as the congressman in New Jersey’s 10th District, Donald M. Payne Jr. hopes to continue a tradition rather than change the course.

Having survived a hotly contested Democratic primary, the Essex County freeholder and Newark City Council president faces only token opposition on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Payne reported $469,944 in campaign receipts through September. Only about a quarter of that has come in since the June primary, but Payne has no worries. His three opponents — independent Joanne Miller of Newark, Libertarian Mick Erickson of West Orange and Republican Brian Kelemen of Bayonne — listed nary a cent in campaign funds.  (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)



In a world of wild politics, N.J.’s Senate race is surprisingly tame

Running for statewide office in New Jersey tends to bring out the worst in people, or at least some of the nastiest campaign ads this side of Willie Horton.

There was Republican Doug Forrester’s campaign in 2005, with an ad reminding voters of the bad blood between Jon Corzine and his ex-wife.

There was the 1996 senate race — then seen as a national model for mud-slinging — that included an ad by Democrat Robert Torricelli featuring seniors in wheelchairs warning that Dick Zimmer would cut their Medicare.

And there were scraps in which New Jersey candidates called each other too old, sympathetic to drunken drivers, crooked, incompetent and liars — complete with noses that grew just like Pinocchio’s.  (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)



N.J.’s local tax bills keep spiraling upward

Ted Marvel pays $4,900 in annual property taxes on his 1,000-square-foot home in the heart of Collingswood.

In fact, his monthly tax bill – $407 – is starting to rival what he pays in principal and interest on his mortgage. Said Marvel: “They’re going to meet soon.”

In the new millennium, New Jersey’s property taxes, the highest in the nation, are exploring new heights.

“It’s astronomical,” said Marvel. “It’s crazy.” That, too, his Garden State neighbors affirm.

Even as incomes have dropped (4.4 percent), and overall taxable value has fallen in a third of the towns, an Inquirer analysis showed that from 2000 to 2011, average tax bills in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties rose 44 percent. And that’s adjusted for inflation. The average bill jumped from $3,964, to $5,691.  (Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Move to Nov. has major effect on N.J. school races

New Jersey school board candidates, who typically spend just a few hundred dollars per election, are finding it’s a different world this year.

Instead of being at the top of the ballot in an April school-only election, most now find themselves in obscure corners of ballots that include Mitt Romney and President Obama, a couple of guys spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their campaigns.

One board candidate says the challenge now is not getting people to the polls; it’s getting those who do go to remember their local elections.

And a political consultant says he’s getting inquiries from board candidates asking whether it’s time to make their campaigns a bit more professional, with real fund-raising efforts and ad campaigns.  (Mulvihill, Associated Press)


New bills: PANYNJ transparency, red light camera intersections, more

Assembly members introduced a diverse group of bills this week, including ones regarding red-light camera intersections, milk sold at schools, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s transparency.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Lawmakers seek to end N.J. takeover of schools

Paterson would gain control of its public school system for the first time in 21 years under legislation introduced by Democrats that also would limit future state takeovers to five years, lawmakers announced Friday.

“It’s time for the state to admit that the prolonged takeover of a local school district is a failed experiment, and it’s time to return the school districts that have languished under state control back to the people in those school districts,” said state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who has sponsored the bill with Nellie Pou, D-North Haledon.  (Clunn, The Record)



Proposed bill would put all EMTs under state control

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee has passed a bill that would hold all of the state’s emergency medical services — including EMTs — to a single professional standard. It would also put the New Jersey Department of Health in charge of all EMS statewide.

The proposed measure changes the status quo in several ways, requiring, for instance, that volunteer EMTs be licensed and that they pass background checks.

Backers of the bill (S-1650) say it “puts the framework in place so that we can create one standard of care across the board for patients throughout New Jersey,” according to Andy Lovell, chief of the Gloucester County Emergency Medical Services.  (Vecchione, NJ Spotlight)



N.J. assemblyman views video of his own disputed traffic stop

In the July 31 video, captured by a dash-mounted camera in the Washington Township police cruiser, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty’s car is seen driving north on the Black Horse Pike.

The squad car, driven by Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura, pulls off the median strip where it has been parked. It makes a U-turn, hits a curb, and darts past traffic at speeds – recorded on the video – up to 80 miles an hour.

Moments later, DiBuonaventura catches up to Moriarty and pulls him over in a restaurant parking lot in Turnersville. He accuses him of a moving violation and drunken driving after Moriarty declines a breath test.  (Colimore, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Slow economy, savings speed up NJ road projects

The bad economy has proven to be good for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which saved enough money on major projects to allow it to start work on other plans that wouldn’t have started for another two years.

State Department of Transportation officials said they’ve also benefited from competitive lower bids, which permitted them to plow the savings into a $1 billion capital program instead of a $700 million one for fiscal year 2013.

Money saved on the big work, such as the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike between Exits 6 and 9, has allowed officials to accelerate the other projects, said Richard Razcynski, chief engineer of the Turnpike Authority.  (Associated Press)



Judge: NCAA, pro leagues’ chiefs to give depositions in lawsuit over NJ sports gambling

The heads of the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues will give depositions in a lawsuit that seeks to stop New Jersey from instituting sports gambling.

Under a judge’s order released Friday, NCAA president Mark Emmert, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA commissioner David Stern, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be questioned for up to four hours each.

They’ll also have to produce years’ worth of documents regarding the potential impact of sports betting, fantasy sports leagues and even “March Madness” office pools.

The leagues and the NCAA sued in August after Gov. Chris Christie vowed to defy a federal ban on sports wagering.  (Associated Press)



Facebook Foundation turns corner with contribution to Newark contract

The Foundation for Newark’s Future, the organization created to distribute Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark schools, hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze.

Slow and methodical may be the best way to characterize its two-year ramp-up. And while it has committed $16 million to worthy projects — such as grants to new schools and teachers — none were exactly headline-grabbing.

All that just changed.

The centerpiece of the new five-year contract between the state-run district and the Newark Teachers Union is the provision that directly ties teacher raises to positive evaluations each year — with bonuses of up to $12,500 awarded to exemplary teachers working in the toughest schools and fields.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



PJM proposed rule won’t prevent new power plants from being built

It is becoming more likely that the effort of states like New Jersey to promote new power plants will be played out on two fronts — in the courts and in regulations being developed by the operator of the nation’s largest electric grid.

In a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission, Terry Boston, the chief executive officer of PJM Interconnection, tried to assure the agency that there is no predetermined outcome in a proceeding that governs when new power plants receive payments to provide the reserve electricity needed to keep the lights on.

The letter sent this past Friday aims to clear up “several misunderstandings’’ about a new proposal being pushed by power suppliers, transmission owners, electric distribution companies, and end-use customers, according to Boston, who is also president of PJM.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Disappointment from business as F1 is postponed until 2014

A business owner said today he was disappointed when the group hoping to bring Formula One racing to New Jersey’s Hudson waterfront confirmed today what had been rumored for months: the inaugural race slated for June 2013 has been postponed by a year.

In a statement issued this morning, race organizers tied the delay to “ongoing construction issues on the unique riverfront street course.” They pointed specifically to the need for more time to develop facilities and finish the second pits and paddock garage on the site.

For nearly a year, race organizers and state officials have touted a world-class event that would take place on public roads in Weehawken and West New York, largely through the Port Imperial master-planned development. The race, which would take place on a 3.2-mile course, would be the first in a 10-year run and draw some 100,000 spectators to the region.  (Burd, NJBIZ)



Commissioner takes NJ Transit directors to the woodshed

When the boss talks, employees had better listen.

State Transportation Commissioner James Simpson verbally took NJ Transit senior staff to the woodshed last week, for not following up on items he asked for reports on – some of which had been brought up by the public. And he gave them homework assignments.

“A couple of the speakers spoke about the fact that this agency has not gotten back to them or the board … I apologize,” Simpson said. “I guess I’ve been spoiled at the other agencies I chair. Typically, when I ask for something on the record, usually at the next meeting, I get an answer the next month.”

Simpson is chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority board, the South Jersey Transportation Authority and the state Transportation Trust Fund Authority, in his role as transportation commissioner.  (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)



Colleges hope training effort lets N.J. workers compete for specialized jobs

Plenty of talk about the economy centers on companies shipping jobs overseas, but one group of state colleges is aiming to improve training so that New Jersey technology companies can one day hire home-grown talent, instead of having to look overseas for high-skill workers.

“For this grant, it was on the proposers to show which areas in the country have the highest composition of men and women working on H-1B nonimmigrant visas, and North Jersey was chosen,” said Gale Tenen Spak, associate vice president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which will share the $5 million grant with six other colleges in the state’s northern footprint. “Many of the technical expertise that companies look for is coming from people who are not American citizens, so the goal for this program is to train New Jersey residents on the skills those people now possess to permit them to, one day in the future, occupy high-level positions held by those H-1B workers.”  (Eder, NJBIZ)



Manufacturing Week aims to spotlight opportunities in sector

New Jersey’s first Manufacturing Week starts Monday, and teenagers and adults will tour factories, community colleges and technical high schools striving to replenish a highly skilled work force to secure a competitive future for the state’s manufacturing sector.

“Our intention is to make New Jersey’s manufacturers accessible, to demonstrate the international reach and technical sophistication of today’s manufacturing, and to connect workers and students seeking careers,” said Meredith Aronson, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Based at New Jersey Institute of Technology, in Newark, Aronson is working with manufacturers, schools and political leaders to rebuild training programs to replace workers nearing retirement.  (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)



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Major Electoral College gains for Romney

As we move closer to the Presidential Election 2012 finish line, I am creating a new category of “Lean” in my projections, which include those states which I previously had in a “toss-up” status, but which now show a clear trend towards a candidate. 

I have moved North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes into the “Safe and Likely Romney” column.   The states of Florida, Virginia, and Colorado are in the “Lean Romney” column, and the states of Wisconsin, Nevada, and Iowa are in the “Lean Obama” column.  Ohio and New Hampshire remain as toss-up states.  As I said in my previous column, Ohio will decide this election.  There is no doubt, however, that Romney has made major gains in the battle to garner the necessary 270 electoral votes needed for victory.  (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)



Is Christie doing enough on job front?

Toward the end of one contentious exchange during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, GOP nominee Mitt Romney tried hard to get in the emphatic last word.

“Government does not create jobs,” Romney said as moderator Candy Crowley tried to introduce a new questioner. “Government does not create jobs.”

This, of course, came after long discussions from both Romney and President Barack Obama over what government can do to spur job growth, which — despite an unemployment rate of under 8 percent — is still a sputtering and pessimistic part of the nation’s economy.

The distinction, of course, is between an active government role, which often sees money funneled toward jobs that our leaders think ought to be created or saved, and a set-them-free government, which advocates for lower taxes leading to more cash for investment and innovation, spurring job growth in whatever areas the market demands.  (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)



Newark teacher union’s chief backs groundbreaking reform

Joe Del Grosso is 65 years old now, slowed by Crohn’s disease, with a ring of thick silver hair circling a bald top.

He remembers his militant days as young man, when he began the climb that landed him at the top of the teachers union in Newark.

“I was in jail for three months,” he says.

His crime was joining a strike in 1970. But he was never caught for shooting out the car windows of the school board president, something he did over and over to vent his rage.

“I saw him later at a bar,” Del Grosso says. “And I said, ‘You’re the son of a bitch who sent me to jail.’ And he said, ‘You’re the son of a bitch who blew my windows out.’ So we decided to have a drink, us two sons of bitches. And we became friends.”  (Moran, The Star-Ledger)



Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi requests a seat change

Fences may make the best neighbors, but sometimes new neighbors work just as well. Ask Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a freshman Republican from Bergen County who made an unusual request last Thursday.

Angered at being publicly linked to Assemblyman Robert Schroeder — her district mate who is charged with writing almost $400,000 in bad checks — Schepisi requested that her Assembly seat right next to him be changed.

So her seat, nameplate and all, was moved to the back of the chamber.

In addition to the state attorney general’s bad-check charges, Schroeder faces several civil suits from lenders and banks who say he owes them millions of dollars. Schepisi loaned him money, but she said she was repaid.  (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)



Morning News Digest: October 22, 2012