Morning Digest: Nov. 15, 2012

Latest from PolitickerNJ and State Street Wire

Former township official testifies about Bencivengo’s money woes

TRENTON – Mounting financial woes and fears of being embarrassed during an election year are the reasons Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo first asked a close friend to inquire with a former insurance broker about taking an alleged bribe, a federal witness told jurors Wednesday.

Rob Warney, Hamilton’s former director of community planning and compliance, told jurors his former friend asked him to contact prosecutors’ star witness, Maria Ljuba, about securing money. Bencivengo told Warney he was underwater with bills, which included outstanding taxes, bills for the mayor’s girlfriend and debt accrued through Bencivengo’s divorce. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)




Exclusionary policies at heart of affordable housing argument, advocates say

TRENTON – Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center said low-income residents have been waiting for years, “looking for the promise of Mount Laurel.”

As affordable housing regulations were being argued today before the state Supreme Court, he said that since the Fair Housing Act went into effect in 1985, 60,000 homes have been created. (Hassan, State Street Wire)




Rice: Each student deserves own textbook

TRENTON – State Sen. Ronald Rice, (D-28), Newark, registered concern about a lack of textbooks for students in urban areas, and said he would introduce legislation requiring schools to purchase enough textbooks for each student.

“I’ve been raising this issue for a number of years, because I hear from irate parents who want to know why their children have not been issued textbooks,” Rice said in a release in which he added that an Office of Legislative Services review he requested concluded the law is vague on whether students must have individual textbooks. (State Street Wire)




FBI agent: Bencivengo looked shocked when asked about tapes

TRENTON – When FBI agents first questioned Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo about accepting cash from an insurance broker turned federal informant, he looked “kind of shocked,” said the FBI special agent who questioned the mayor about the alleged bribery scheme.

Federal prosecutors called FBI Special Agent Stephen Montgomery to the stand Wednesday to give testimony on the FBI’s initial interview with the embattled mayor. Montgomery described going to the mayor’s apartment for the first round of questioning, where they played for the mayor secretly recorded tapes of conversations between him and his former friend. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)

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Wanted: NY GOP mayoral hopeful with vague conservative impulses


On a brisk mid-October day, Tom Allon announced he was dropping out of the highly competitive Democratic mayoral primary and would instead be a contender in the far sparser Republican field. “Theodore Roosevelt cleaned up New York by telling truth to power and truth to the public,” he declared, standing before the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt on the Upper West Side. “I plan to run a campaign that will talk about the hard truths facing our city, and ideas I have to fix our growing problems.” (Campbell, PolitickerNY)






Harrisburg ex-receiver calls for ban on muni-swap deals

Pennsylvania should ban the use of interest-rate swaps by municipalities and raise the bar for issuing debt to avoid the type of fiscal calamity that besets Harrisburg, the city’s former receiver told state lawmakers.

Taking both steps “would flush out any serious problem situations and avoid the sort of irrational piling on of inappropriate debt” as occurred in Harrisburg, David Unkovic, who quit as the capital city’s receiver in March, said today. He also recommended a criminal probe of Harrisburg’s bond deals. (Varghese, Bloomberg)







Once again: Obama vs. McCain


President Barack Obama just finished his second presidential campaign — but he’s not finished lashing out at his opponent from his first.

Obama’s irritation at his 2008 rival, Sen. John McCain, flared Wednesday during the president’s first news conference since winning reelection. It was a startling moment in an otherwise unremarkable appearance — and hinted at lingering tensions with McCain. (Epstein, Politico)




Conservatives in Congress appear ready to help Northeast rebuild from Sandy

Some House conservatives who unsuccessfully fought last year to require budget cuts to pay for the disaster aid needed after Hurricane Irene now say they are open to helping the Northeast rebuild from superstorm Sandy.

One difference between now and then is the reputation built by Governor Christie among Republicans — including those he campaigned for this year. (Jackson, Record)




Congressional unit blames Corzine for MFGlobal collapse

Jon Corzine’s decision to ramp up risky bets at MF Global while ignoring the need to improve its systems for protecting customer money were two of the key mistakes he made that ultimately caused the firm to collapse and more than $1 billion in customer funds to disappear, according to a summary of a congressional report to be released Thursday. (Beeson, Star-Ledger)




Grand jury in Trenton mayor corruption case to hear testimony today

The grand jury in Mayor Tony Mack’s corruption case will hear testimony today as the government seeks an indictment of the mayor on charges of attempted extortion, according to documents obtained by The Times.

Subpoenas have been sent out to witnesses in the case, who will appear at the federal courthouse in Trenton starting this morning, the documents show. (Zdan, Trenton Times)




Christie status as lightning rod fades after Sandy

AS NEW JERSEY settles into the “After Sandy” era, Gov. Chris Christie has put his trademark fleece jacket back in the closet.

For the last two weeks, Christie’s been all over the state and in national headlines, as he toured every corner of New Jersey touched by Hurricane Sandy. His Halloween tour with President Obama of Brigantine, Atlantic County, and his praise of the president’s efforts sparked debate in conservative circles, with many wondering whether Christie torpedoed any chances Mitt Romney had to win last week’s election. (Nark, Daily News)




Senators ask for $1B in aid for N.Y. coastline

WASHINGTON — Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York called on Wednesday for up to $1 billion in federal aid to repair and fortify at least 120 miles of coast from Montauk Point to Rockaway Beach hit by Hurricane Sandy. (Hernandez, N.Y. Times)




Gloucester County waits for green light from Trenton before counting provisional ballots

Officials from the Gloucester County Board of Election hope to begin counting provisional ballots today, with three municipal races still within margins of victory of less than 100 votes.

According to Stephanie Salvatore, superintendent of elections in Gloucester County, boards of election across the state are still waiting for Trenton’s approval to begin counting provisional ballots, as officials continue to deal with the affects of Hurricane Sandy more than a week following the election. (Laday, South Jersey Times)



Incumbent Jersey City councilwoman concedes loss of seat

Though Jersey City resident Diane Coleman last week claimed victory in the special election to fill an unexpired term on the City Council, second-place finisher and incumbent Councilwoman Michele Massey did not concede defeat.

Until now.

“I don’t anticipate 2,000 votes coming in,” Massey told The Jersey Journal yesterday morning. “So, I’m fine with the conclusion that Ms. Coleman won the seat.” (McDonald, Jersey Journal)




Cherry Hill school board to vote on deal with teachers

The Board of Education will conduct a special action meeting Monday to vote on a tentative two-year contract agreement between the board and the Cherry Hill Education Association. (Camden Courier-Post)|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s





Common sense makes for fair map

I met Tom Bonier in the 2000 legislative redistricting process when he played the same consulting role he did in the 2010 redistricting cycle for the N.J. Democrats. Tom is a man of great skill and intellect and played an important part in selling Larry Bartels on the non-responsive iron-clad Democratic Legislative map of the last decade.  For this partisan spin master, truly a job well done. And he beat me, one of the GOP consultants in that process. (Torpey, PolitickerNJ)



Obama, Republicans should protect middle class in debt deal


President Obama yesterday opened the bargaining over the national debt by proposing to protect the middle class from higher taxes.

That is exactly where he should plant the flag. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has agreed that tax increases must be part of a final deal, so the question now boils down to who should bear that burden. (Star-Ledger)



Next step in Sandy recovery is dealing with insurers

Unfortunately for many homeowners, having power restored might be just the start of the recovery from Sandy.

Now comes a harder part: Getting your life and your home back in order. It’s a process that can be long and frustrating, with homeowners putting themselves in the hands of contractors and insurance adjusters who will make many of the key decisions on what repairs are made and who pays for them. (DeMarrais, Record) Morning Digest: Nov. 15, 2012