Morning Digest: Feb. 27, 2014

Christie unwilling to give into Bridgegate ‘hysteria’

Gov. Chris Christie charged the media with being obsessed with the so-called Bridgegate scandal Wednesday night.

The governor told listeners on a monthly radio program that he’s unwilling to give “into the hysteria” of questions surrounding the George Washington Bridge lane closure investigation.

“You folks are the only people at the moment who are asking me about this,” Christie told 101.5 FM’s Eric Scott during the station’s Ask the Governor program.

“We’re going through an internal investigation … [and] I’m not going to give into the hysteria,” he said. “I am no longer going to speculate on things I don’t know about.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Trenton and the political understory of CD12 | Politicker NJ





Jeffries rolls out Newark mayoral race council slate, senior party platform

NEWARK – Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries, flanked by his newly-announced council slate, rolled out his plans to help Brick City’s seniors on Wednesday. 

“Currently in the city of Newark, we operate without the benefit of our Office on Aging. For us, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Jeffries said to a crowd of about 50 people at the Essex Plaza, a seniors-only building on Broad Street. “Under our administration, the Office on Aging will be reorganized, expanded and renamed as the Office of Senior Services. [The office] will aggressively pursue public and private funding to increase senior citizen programs and services.” 

Jeffries proceeded to outline his senior policy plan, which includes the creation of a central office unit designed to develop and coordinate senior services throughout the city. The city will operate full-day senior citizen centers Monday through Friday, improve transportation for senior citizens and the physically challenged, and facilitate contact with the federal, state, county and local public and private agencies involved with senior welfare, according to the Jeffries plan. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Jeffries rolls out Newark mayoral race council slate, senior policy platform | Politicker NJ




N.J. Oks multi-slate jackpots

ATLANTIC CITY  — New Jersey casino regulators approved a multi-state slots system designed to result in larger jackpots.

The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement said Wednesday it has authorized a wide-area progressive slots jackpot system involving New Jersey and other jurisdictions.

It said “several states” have indicated an interest in participating, but listed only one: South Dakota, which is still considering its own regulations for multi-state slots. The launch of the system depends on how quickly other states approve their own regulations, the division said.

The goal is to create larger jackpots that will be more appealing to players — some of whom will come to Atlantic City’s casinos for a crack at them. (Parry/The Record) 





Christie says Port Authority chairman still has his full support

In an effort to build on his budget address earlier this week, Governor Christie pushed for pension reform he says has an outsized impact on the state’s budget during his monthly appearance on a radio call-in show Wednesday.

Christie was pushed on the bridge scandal where he said he supported the embattled chairman of the Port Authority, David Samson, and promised that his administration was continuing to review the matter.

When asked why he didn’t push harder to question his staff and appointees, like former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, about the closings, Christie said, “My staff had already spoken to him about this and he said it was a traffic study.” At the time, Christie said he had no reason not to believe Baroni.

At one point, when asked about a winter salt shortage, he shot back at host Eric Scott, “You are on a hysterical binge tonight.” Many of the questions on the show were friendly but on Wednesday a fair number were also targeted at frustrations with not only the bridge scandal but Superstorm Sandy relief and the budget.

Economic issues were Christie’s focus. He acknowledged that the time wasn’t right for a tax cut. “The best I can do is hold the line on taxes,” he said. (Phillis/The Record) 





Former NJ Commissioner Expected to Return to Old Post

Christie expected this week to announce choice of David Hespe to succeed Chris Cerf. 

Returning to the job he held more than a decade ago, David Hespe is expected to be named Gov. Chris Christie’s next state education commissioner by the end of this week.

According to two sources close to the situation who asked to remain anonymous, Hespe will be announced in the coming days to succeed Chris Cerf, who is leaving the post after three years of spearheading Christie’s education policies. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 




Christie Administration Ignores Top Court’s Affordable-Housing Mandate  

Missed deadline for new COAH quotas sets stage for legal showdown as fair-housing and environmental advocates cry foul. 

The Christie administration has defied the state Supreme Court’s order that new affordable-housing quotas be put in place by yesterday’s deadline, setting the stage for a battle over the rules in appellate court next week.

The inaction by the NJ Council on Affordable Housing was not completely surprising, given Gov. Chris Christie’s attempts to stop the body from doing any work throughout his first term and his animosity toward the court.

But flouting an order from the state’s highest court is nevertheless significant.

“Ignoring a court order is serious business,” said Kevin Walsh, the Fair Share Housing Center attorney who has been fighting for years to get COAH back up and functioning to boost the state’s affordable housing stock. “This is a breach of the basic rules by which our government functions.” (O’Dea/NJSpotlight) 





Foreclosures Surging in New York-New Jersey Market

The epicenter of the U.S. foreclosure crisis is shifting to New Jersey and New York, threatening a housing rebound in one of the country’s most densely populated areas.

New Jersey has surpassed Florida in having the highest share of residential mortgages that are seriously delinquent or in foreclosure, with New York third, a Mortgage Bankers Association report showed last week. By contrast, hard-hit areas such as Arizona and California have some of the lowest levels of soured loans after allowing banks to quickly foreclose after the 2007 property crash.

The number of New York and New Jersey homeowners losing their houses reached a three-year high in 2013. Banks in these states have been slowly working through a backlog of delinquent loans that enabled borrowers to skip mortgage payments for years. Now these properties are poised to empty onto a market where affluent Manhattan suburbs neighbor blighted towns that are struggling most with surging defaults. (Gopal/Bloomberg) 





Chris Christie faces new uproar in state’s largest city   

Just as he’s fighting to regain his political footing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing a new uproar on the home front, as public protests mount against state control of the public schools in Newark, the state’s largest city.

Parents and teachers are demanding the ouster of Christie’s appointee as superintendent of the Newark schools, Cami Anderson, who is fending off accusations that she orchestrated political payback against opponents of a district reform plan.

On Wednesday evening, teachers unions ratcheted up the pressure as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent Christie a letter demanding that he relinquish control over the troubled school district, which the state has run since 1994. 

Weingarten has accused the governor’s appointees of dismantling programs that were helping poor students, making backroom deals to turn over public schools to private management and imperiously ignoring public opinion, triggering a surge of raucous protests over the past several weeks. (Simon/Politico)





Schools would be required to set social media guidelines

TRENTON — Every public school district in New Jersey would be required to set guidelines on how its employees communicate with students online under legislation set for a vote in the state Senate today.

The bill (S441) would require that the policy be written, and include “provisions designed to prevent improper communications between school employees and students made via e-mail, cellular phones, social networking websites, and other Internet-based social media.” If it passes both houses and is signed by Gov. Chris Christie, school districts would have four months to adopt the policy.

“The number of school personnel having inappropriate contact with students has been just exploding all across the country,” said state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington), a sponsor. “And probably the main reason – at least from information that I’ve read – indicates it’s social media that’s really to blame. There’s just so many ways school personnel can contact and have relationships with students.”

Another sponsor, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), said the bill would ensure staff and students “have a template, policy or something to point to for what is responsible communication and what is not.” (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 





Christie to raise money for RGA in Boston today, Atlanta next week

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie hits the road again today with a quick fundraising trip to Boston, and has another planned for Georgia next week.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie will be joined by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker for the RGA dinner.

Christie, who will also meet one-on-one with RGA donors, stumped for Baker in his losing 2010 bid against Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. He plans to return to New Jersey later tonight.

Next week is another busy one for the governor. He holds his 112th town hall Tuesday in Berkeley Township, Ocean County. The following day he will attend a groundbreaking for the Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy at Lanning Square in Camden. (Portnoy/Star-Ledger) 





From the Back Room



Sources: unredacted emails due for release contain ‘salacious’ Wildstein comments

Sources tell PolitickerNJ tonight that unredacted emails related to Bridgegate contain “salacious” comments by former Port Authority official David Wildstein about reporters and others.

One source described the documents as a “whole treasure trove” of emailed nastiness from Wildstein, who resigned over his role in Bridgegate.

Sources at the Statehouse today orginally said the legislative oversight committee investigating last year’s lane closures at the George Washington Bridge would release the emails in the late afternoon Wednesday.

It didn’t happen. (PolitickerNJ)

Sources: unredacted emails due for release contain ‘salacious’ Wildstein comments | Politicker NJ




Holt got 12% of his 2012 Primary vote from Somerset 

16,799 of CD12’s total 147,975 registered Democrats reside in the Somerset portion of the district.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) of Hopewell drew 12% of his primary vote from the Central Jersey county, which just endorsed Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) of Franklin Twp.

In a June Primary with Mercer’s Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) and state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) of Middlesex, Chivukula is confident of the size of his hometown projecting some support as he finds himself dwarfed by the district’s two bigger counties. (PolitickerNJ)

Holt got 12% of his 2012 Primary vote from Somerset | Politicker NJ







A winning NJ charter schools awaits word on its fate

A charter school in Hoboken, “Hola,” is doing a terrific job educating kids with an innovate dual-language program, and parents are lining up to compete for scarce seats.

Hola’s innovation is to immerse kids in both Spanish and English instruction when they are young and their brains are wired to absorb new languages. In kindergarten, 90 percent of the instruction is in Spanish. By fourth and fifth grade, the split is about even. So kids become fluent in both languages, a big leg up in a country that is increasingly bilingual.

Now Hola officials want to expand to the eighth grade, and the local superintendent, Mark Toback, is trying to stop them. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: Feb. 27, 2014