Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 26

TRENTON – The week began with a celebration of the 93rd anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and with celebrants calling on constituents to exercise that right in November, especially on the question of increasing the minimum wage.

Voters will decide on Nov. 5 whether to hike the hourly pay rate $1, to $8.25, and include a cost of living adjustment along with it. But advocates of the measure are concerned it might not pass.

State lawmakers, labor leaders, educators and average working women rallied at the Statehouse to make people aware the question is on the ballot and to urge them to support it.

The hike supporters issued warnings that opponents such as business groups will use scare tactics of layoffs and price hikes in order to defeat the measure.

However, they said a $1 increase actually would help the economy.  The low-wage workers who would benefit the most from this hike would not put that extra $1 in their pocket, the advocates claimed.  They will put it right back into the economy and purchase necessities, supporters argued.

In addition, there is a political angle.  Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Barbara Buono was on hand to support the increase.

It would seem that if the Democrats can drum up interest in this question then possibly more voters will go to the polls, and that might help close just a little the wide gap that polls say still exists between Buono and Gov. Chris Christie. Or so the Democrats hope.


Grade incomplete

The state Comptroller issued a new report on Rutgers University’s practices regarding public bidding of some contracts.

The audit, a follow-up of a critical 2011 study, concluded that Rutgers has a ways to go when it comes to transparency.

The report did give the state’s largest public higher-education institution credit for eliminating a policy that allowed non-competitive contract awards in which Rutgers justified its decision as being in the “best interest” of the school.

However, the state Comptroller slapped Rutgers for continuing to limit competition to certain bidders, and awarding capital project contracts without public advertisement.


Shore tour

Gov. Chris Christie spent much of the week leading up to the Labor Day weekend visiting some of the Shore towns battered last year by Superstorm Sandy.

The purpose was twofold.  On the one hand, he was rallying the troops – the vacationers and tourists – to continue patronizing boardwalk vendors and keep priming the economic pump.

On the other, he was imploring business owners to take advantage of the federal money available in grants and loans to rebuild from Sandy. 

Not nearly enough of the storm-battered businesspeople are taking the time to do all they can to help themselves fully recover from last year’s storm, Christie said.

From Point Pleasant to Long Branch, from Wildwood to Sea Bright, Christie emphasized the reality that the state still has a ways to go to fully recover from the storm of 2012, but that continued patronizing of shore businesses and business owners accessing federal aid are two ways to help attain that goal.


Is he or isn’t he?

The issue of U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker’s sexuality – is he gay or straight? – became a centerpiece of the campaign.

Booker helped to fuel this engine by not directly responding to a reporter’s questions, and by admitting he frankly enjoys the social media back and forth of whether he is or isn’t.

That led to a rejoinder from his opponent, Steve Lonegan, that left some folks – um – puzzled.

Lonegan made remarks about how he enjoyed a good Scotch and a cigar and how he liked being a guy, which caused some people to criticize the GOP candidate and led others to demand that Christie rescind any support for the former Bogota mayor.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that Booker unveiled a detailed plan for addressing overcrowded and unsuccessful prisons.

He called for an end to mandatory minimum terms for nonviolent drug offenders and a curtailment of private prisons that he said are driven to make money, not rehabilitate felons.

Lonegan fired back that Booker can’t even control the epidemic of crime in Newark.


Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 26