Weekly Roundup: Week of April 8

TRENTON – Outside of the recent hoopla that is the Rutgers University men’s basketball scandal, it was another week marked by budget committee hearings focusing on individual departments.

But Robert Barchi, president of the state’s largest public university, has become a lightning rod, with some people thinking he should step down for not taking action sooner.

Gov. Chris Christie, who commented publicly for the first time on the matter this week, made clear he stands behind the embattled university head.

While acknowledging that Barchi made a mistake by not viewing right away the graphic video of fired coach Mike Rice hurling verbal assaults and basketballs at his players, Christie said Barchi’s inaction early on is not considered by him “a fireable offense.”

He added that seeing Barchi go would have a cataclysmic effect because he is playing a central role in the massive merger with UMDNJ to create a state-of the art medical school.

He also pointed out that in such large organizations, many tasks are delegated and leaders at the highest level cannot be in a position to micromanage every facet.

On more academic-related matters, officials from Rutgers University’s-Newark campus testified before the Assembly Budget committee to say that they’re being shortchanged compared to the university’s flagship campus in New Brunswick. Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-28) of Newark, agreed.

Report on violence

The long-awaited “violence” control report by an administration-appointed task force came out on Wednesday, containing dozens of recommendations on everything from regulating video-game purchases and setting up tiplines at schools, to prudent treatment of mental illness and substance abuse.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono, however, were not impressed, saying while there were some common-sense solutions, the task force report avoided recommending some of the more far-reaching, but also polarizing, recommendations. Those include universal background checks and limiting the number of bullets in magazine clips.

Civil service

About 100 people protested outside the Civil Service Commission headquarters to oppose a CSC plan to consolidate various jobs into groups, or broad banding. Opponents say the plan would open the door to subjective criteria being used to determine which workers get ahead, creating the opportunity for cronyism, nepotism and political patronage.

Finance board

Local Finance Board Chairman Tom Neff blasted the Union County Improvement Authority executive director for what he described as excessive perks,  her $160,000 salary and 35 vacation days.

Charlotte DeFilippo defended her actions and said the small workforce of two is an example of how they are saving taxpayers money while still getting the job done.

Economic development

The Economic Development Authority on Tuesday awarded $100 million worth of tax incentives for three large residential projects in cities (approximately $33 million per project). One is for Rutgers University in New Brunswick and two others are for apartment/condo projects in Jersey City.

EDA officials, including CEO Michele Brown, defended the use of such tax credit programs, like the bipartisan Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program.

She pointed out a major safeguard is in place so that the number of jobs that are planned to be made by a company must be created before the applicant can reap the tax savings. Otherwise, the credit total is affected, she said.

Weekly Roundup: Week of April 8