Morning Digest: Nov. 12, 2012

Latest from PolitickerNJ 

Dem redistricting expert takes aim at Farmer

Redistricting expert Tom Bonier, who acted as a consultant to the Democratic congressional reapportionment team last year,  has some harsh words for the map and the man who chose it.

In an Op-Ed submitted PolitickerNJ,  Bonier, who has worked on redistricting campaigns throughout the country, savages the map ultimately chosen by tie-breaking member John Farmer Jr. as well as Farmer himself, saying the map is “partisan gerrymandered” and the man who chose it a “complete disaster.’  Farmer chose the map created by the Republican commission, which combined three North Jersey districts and all but guaranteed that the odd man out when the delegation shrank from 13 to 12 would be a Democrat. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Would have, could have, should have

The irony of U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) wriggling through Election Day without a serious challenge infuriated Democrats who had reason anew to bewail Steve Rothman’s decision to forego a general election showdown with Garrett.

Rather than run a general election campaign against the Sussex County Republican congressman in a GOP-edge district on paper, Rothman faced fellow Democrat Bill Pascrell, who retired him.

With Rothman sidelined out of political existence, Garrett on Tuesday night beat Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, 55-43%. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



DuHaime defends fairness of redistricting map

In the aftermath of congressional redistricting and a subsequent 9th District Democratic Primary bloodbath, the state found itself treated to 12 virtual non-contests that not even the most exorcised press handlers could make compelling.

Six Democrats and Six Republicans stayed cemented in their chairs of power at the end of Tuesday’s night’s election, prompting Obama-energized New Jersey Democrats to point a finger in the direction of the same Heldrich Hotel staircase leading up to the backrooms where Republicans last year crafted the successful congressional redistricting map.

“As you know, this map was a product of 13th member John Farmer,” said State Democratic Chairman John Wisniewski. “He started with certain conditions, including protecting certain incumbents, and that produces a 6-6 delegation.”




Hanna on short list for Supreme Court

A source close to the Christie Administration’s selection process says Robert M. Hanna, president of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), is in the mix for one of two vacant state Supreme Court seats.

Hanna has served as President of the BPU since 2011.

Prior to his 2011 appointment to the BPU, Hanna served as Director of the Division of Law within the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, according to the BPU website. As director, he oversaw a division totaling more than 500 attorneys.  As part of his role, Hanna was charged with offering legal advice on Christie administration initiatives and defending them in court when warranted. (Pizarro, Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)


Latest from State Street Wire

Christie: Storm rebuilding will take years

SEASIDE PARK – Gov. Chris Christie, in assessing the damage suffered by the Jersey shore from the superstorm, was blunt Friday.

“I have to tell you a harsh truth,” he said during a briefing into efforts at recovery. “Next summer is not going to be exactly like last summer.”

Although the state is lifting its evacuation order for Long Beach Island, Christie said that “The reality of the situation is that we’re going to have some real, real challenges ahead of us.” (Hassan, State Street Wire)


Latest from The Back Room

Restaurant Association announces new president

The Restaurant Association of New Jersey has hired Marylou Halvorsen as its new president.

Halvorsen replaces Deborah Dowdell, who held the position for more than two decades until she passed away in March.

A former Director of Marketing for Jenkinson’s Boardwalk Point Pleasant Beach and Casino Pier, Halvorsen will take over an organization representing 25,000 eating and drinking establishments  employing more than 300,000 people in the Garden State.  She is  currently  a  board  member of  the  New  Jersey  Travel  Industry  Association  and  Jersey  Shore  Convention  and  Visitor’s  Bureau.    She  also is a former  chair of  the  Governor’s  Tourism  Conference  and  Legalized  Games  of  Chance  Control  Commission.  (PolitickerNJ)



Lawmakers in both parties see resolution to fiscal cliff

Senior lawmakers in both political parties predicted an end to a standoff on the U.S. fiscal cliff that threatens to yield $607 billion in tax increases and automatic spending cuts in January, while saying the details of a debt-cutting deal may come later.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he thinks lawmakers can reach a “framework agreement” directing tax and spending panels in Congress to craft a broad deal next year that cuts soaring budget deficits. At the same time, he said, they could agree now to a smaller package of spending cuts and some tax-code changes before the year is over. (Litvan, Bloomberg)



Cuomo to seek $30B in storm relief

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in disaster aid to help New York City and other affected areas of the state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, according to top administration officials.

In making the case for federal aid, the governor’s advisers provided a staggering inventory of need as the city and state continued to rebuild in the storm’s deadly wake: $3.5 billion to repair the region’s bridges, tunnels and subway and commuter rail lines; $1.65 billion to rebuild homes and apartment buildings; $1 billion to reimburse local governments for overtime costs of police, fire and other emergency personnel; and several billion dollars in federal loans and grants to affected businesses. (Hernandez, N.Y. Times)



N.J. lawmakers to budget for shore recovery

But eventually, they will have to shed their fleece jackets and return to Trenton, where a tight – some argue deficient – budget also requires attention.

The Senate is scheduled to resume committee meetings on Thursday and the Assembly plans to reconvene next Monday.

Leaders in both chambers plan hearings on infrastructure repairs and improvements and other Sandy-related recovery issues.

“We were worried about the budget before the storm,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who sounded exhausted in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “We’ve got a couple of things here. We’re struggling financially, and we depend on our summer economy. The tourism is such a big industry in New Jersey, and we’re seeing if we can get the Shore rebuilt in time. All the way around, it’s a lot to take in.” (Farrell, Inquirer)



Little movement on fixing N.J. halfway house system

Nearly four months ago, lawmakers listened to the tearful testimony of a Garfield woman whose sister was allegedly killed by a runaway parolee living in a state-funded halfway house.

And they heard authorities describe conditions inside some of those houses as out of control — with gangs, drugs and violence running rampant and hundreds of escapes each year.

Yet in the time since the Legislature held those hearings to scrutinize the halfway houses, which are supposed to be a bridge between prison and freedom for roughly 3,000 people in the system, no bills have been introduced to address the problems — even as lawmakers put forward proposals for things like preventing replacement referees from working National Football League games and requiring pets to wear seat belts. (Reitmeyer, Hayes, Fletcher, Record)




The GOP’s media coccoon

A long-simmering generational battle in the conservative movement is boiling over after last week’s shellacking, with younger operatives and ideologues going public with calls that Republicans break free from a political-media cocoon that has become intellectually suffocating and self defeating.

GOP officials have chalked up their electoral thumping to everything from the country’s changing demographics to an ill-time hurricane and failed voter turn-out system, but a cadre of Republicans under 50 believe their problem is even more fundamental.  (Martin, Politico)




Possibly the worst boating insurance loss in U.S. history

Kevin Kelly couldn’t quite tell the damage superstorm Sandy caused his 30-foot Wellcraft Sportfisher when he saw it last week. It was in the middle of Shrewsbury Avenue under a pile of about 30 boats entangled in power lines.

Wednesday, he got the bad news: American Star is a total loss after the top was ripped off its tower and the engine compartment was flooded.

“It’s a big mess,” said Kelly, 50, who owns a custom apparel company and lives in West Caldwell but keeps his boat in Highlands. “A good way to look at this is there is really little you can do. You are going to pull your boat out of the water and pray for the best.” (Asbury Park Press)




Giving auto insurers tools to better battle fraudsters

It could get easier for auto insurance companies to share information when they suspect fraud, and harder for fraud rings to prey on accident victims, under legislation being considered in Trenton.

A bill making its way through the Assembly seeks to grant limited immunity from lawsuits when insurers seek to short-circuit fraud by sharing information with other insurers or law enforcement. The bill imposes a 30-day waiting period before police accident reports become available to the general public, making it harder for fraud rings to find accident victims and pressure them to get unneeded medical care that pads insurance claims. And it makes it a disorderly person offense for New Jerseyans to obtain auto insurance in another state to evade the higher insurance rates here. (Fitzgerald, NJBiz)




Mayor Bloomberg launches rapid repair program for homeless

Hurricane Sandy has left thousands, possibly tens of thousands of New Yorkers without their homes. There will be much rebuilding for many months, if not years, on the South Shore, Red Hook, Coney, the Rockaways and beyond. Whether it is an entire house, from the foundation up, or some section of home, the wall, the room, the mechanical systems, thousands of homeowners are in desperate need of help, especially as winter sets in.

Normally, this might pose a particular challenge—contractors are already plenty busy, and who knows if they insurance company of FEMA will pay up in time. “Until today, homeowners would have largely been left to fend for themselves to get an electrician or a contractor to get this work done,” Mayor Bloomberg remarked at a press briefing this afternoon. “While FEMA offers assistance to pay for these repairs, it was still up to the homeowner to arrange for the work and carry it out.” (Chaban, New York Observer)



Cape May volunteers head to Hoboken with Sandy relief items

When volunteers from throughout Cape May County came together to help residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, their primary focus was local residents and those evacuated there.

More than 1,000 local residents and another 250 families sent to Wildwood received food and clothing from John Lynch, the Lunch with Lynch group and other volunteers working out of the North Wildwood firehouse on 15th Street, said Kevin Celli, an organizer of the effort. (Damico, Atlantic City Press)



State should buy out flood prone properties, senator says

In the Garden State, a new slogan emerging could be, “If we build it, another storm will knock it dNew Jersey needs a new game plan when it comes to flood-prone areas where homes are suffering severe storm damage year after year according State President Steve Sweeney. He thinks buying the homes out should be a consideration.

Sweeney has toured flood-ravaged areas. When he was with Governor Chris Christie recently he spoke with homeowners.

Sweeney explains, “People were pleading with us to buy out their properties and not re-build them and they’re right, we should.” (McArdle, 101.5)

Congress wants answers on Petraeus affair

Members of Congress said Sunday they want to know more details about the FBI investigation that revealed an extramarital affair between ex-CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, questioning when the retired general popped up in the FBI inquiry, whether national security was compromised and why they weren’t told sooner.

“We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The FBI was investigating harassing emails sent by Petraeus biographer and girlfriend Paula Broadwell to a second woman. That probe of Broadwell’s emails revealed the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI contacted Petraeus and other intelligence officials, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked Petraeus to resign. (Townsquare News Network)




Latest from Opinion

Booker should wait for a 2014 run

WHOEVER CHALLENGES Chris Christie in 2013 will be a Democratic version of Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos: a decent, smart individual with little hope of actually winning the race he or she is in. Newark Mayor Cory Booker is not that man.

Booker is smart, decent and charismatic and has the personal character to run into a burning building to save a neighbor. He’s the embodiment of a State Farm Insurance commercial. He does not run expecting to lose.

While Christie has yet to officially announce that he is running for reelection, it is assumed he will. The governor enjoys his job and, after superstorm Sandy, has earned a place in the hearts of even his more vocal critics. Christie may grow impatient with people who ask him questions he does not like, but when the rubber meets the road — or, as we have seen of late, when the Atlantic Ocean meets the Shore — there is no public official anyone would rather have in his corner. (Doblin, Record)



Newark schools contract a turning point

The long effort to improve Newark schools faces a critical test on Wednesday when teachers will vote on a pioneering new contract that would put city schools on the vanguard of national reform. It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed, one that is good for kids and generous to teachers.

Despite the huge investment, half of Newark kids drop out of school. And of those who make it to college, 90 percent need remedial help. Clearly, money is not the entire answer. Reform of the teaching profession is needed as well. (Star-Ledger)



Morning Digest: Nov. 12, 2012