Morning Digest: March 13, 2014

Baraka and Fonseca display unity at fundraiser in Newark’s East Ward 

NEWARK – Newark mayoral candidate and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka rolled into the basement of an Ironbound restaurant on a roll Wednesday night.

In recent weeks, Baraka has stacked up labor endorsements, as well as the nods of former Governor Richard Codey and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Baraka walked down into a cheering crowd of more than 50 supporters in the basement room of Portucale restaurant in the East Ward moments after he and rival Newark mayoral candidate, former Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries, sat before the leadership of the Newark chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), seeking its endorsement. 

But before Baraka spoke to the crowd, longtime Newark political operative Pablo Fonseca (former chief of staff to then-Mayor Cory Booker), who helped organize Wednesday night’s fundraising event, felt compelled to clear the air. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Baraka and Fonseca display unity at fundraiser in Newark’s East Ward | Politicker NJ




NJ Citizen Action and Newark Teacher’s Union both back Baraka

The New Jersey Citizen Action’s PAC announced its endorsement of Ras Baraka for Mayor of Newark today, praising the candidate’s dedication to supporting community hospitals at risk from for-profit takeovers, strong support for the Paid Sick Days ordinance that passed in January, and commitment to Newark’s public schools. 

“Ras Baraka is the progressive candidate with a broader vision for the future of Newark,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen Action.  “Newark needs a Mayor who will stand up to corporate interests as they move in on community hospitals like Saint Michael’s Medical Center and Newark’s public schools. Newark needs a mayor who won’t stop at passing Paid Sick Days for Newark’s workers, but advocate for statewide measures that will benefit the people who live in Newark.  Ras Baraka will be that Mayor, and that’s why I’m so pleased to announce New Jersey Citizen Action PAC’s endorsement of Ras Baraka for Mayor of Newark.”

New Jersey Citizen Action, which has two offices in Newark, has over 3000 individual members living in Newark.  NJCA was very involved in the effort to pass Newark’s Paid Sick Days ordinance and is currently involved in a grassroots campaign to keep Newark’s community health care accessible, affordable and responsive to the community by requiring conditions that protect the community in the sale of Saint Michael’s Medical Center to California-based, for-profit Prime Healthcare Services. (PolitikerNJ)

NJ Citzen Action and Newark Teacher’s Union both back Baraka | Politicker NJ




CD3: MacArthur an Lonegan bash Obama; clash on military spending

Bearing down on his own 3rd Congressional GOP Primary later this month and with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine weighing on the White House, Tom MacArthur lumped President Barack Obama and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the same foreign policy penalty box.

A movement conservative used to being the farthest right in any race, Lonegan also seeks the same seat in Congress but will have to first get by MacArthur, who sources say has a significant leg up on Lonegan with the CD3 Republican establishment.

At odds with Lonegan on Hurricane Sandy Aid (the former Bogota mayor last year said he would have voted against a $37 billion Sandy aid package) MacArthur further argues that Lonegan’s obsession with limiting government has him in the camp of advocating for a weaker military, despite his rival’s arguments to the contrary. 

In a 2013 Bergen Record story by John Reitmeyer, Lonegan said he wants reductions in the “massive, bloated military” budget. 

At issue here now is President Vladamir Putin’s occupation of the Crimean section of the Ukraine and the deepening CD3 rivalry of Lonegan and MacArthur.

“We live in a dangerous world and must always have a strong military capable of defending our interests and supporting our allies,” said MacArthur, the former mayor of Randolph intent on securing the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3). (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

CD3: MacArthur and Lonegan bash Obama; clash on military spending | Politicker NJ




Housing advocates criticize Christie event

Governor Christie‘s decision to hold a town-hall-style event in the place where the state’s affordable housing laws originated — as his administration continues to fight those very regulations in New Jersey’s top court — is drawing the ire of housing advocates.

Groups representing affordable housing developers, low- and moderate-income residents and New Jerseyans with special needs have put out a call to supporters ahead of Christie’s event at the YMCA of Burlington County in Mount Laurel this morning to draw attention to the ongoing court battle over the state’s affordable housing rules. The groups hope to have dozens of supporters in attendance.

Christie plans to discuss his proposed $34.4 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, though the residents he calls on in the crowd are free to ask him questions on any topic. The governor has held town halls in welcoming Republican communities focusing on his budget and the state’s ongoing recovery from Superstorm Sandy while trying to move ahead with his agenda as members of his campaign, State House staff and appointees at the Port Authority are being investigated for their ties to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last year.

Advocates say Christie’s decision to visit Mount Laurel just a week after members of his administration sought an extension to a court mandate to complete new affordable housing rules is a slap in the face. The state Legislature enacted the Fair Share Housing Act, creating the Council on Affordable Housing, which sets housing requirements for municipalities, in 1985 in direct response to two state Supreme Court cases that originated in Mount Laurel. Commonly referred to as the Mount Laurel Doctrine, the court rulings require municipalities to have enough affordable housing to meet the needs of residents. (Hayes/The Record) 





New NJ Transit executive director makes debut at board meeting

The to-do list unleashed on NJ Transit’s new executive director in her first official board meeting on Wednesday ranged from the reachable – like educating riders about the various ways to get information from the agency, to the ambitious, like someday having a railroad where customers could ride a train from New Jersey to Connecticut.

But most of what Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim heard from railroad advocates and her boss – State Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson, had to do with turning the agency’s focus back to the customer.

Ideas pitched by a half-dozen customer advocates who welcomed Hakim’s leadership at what has been a troubled agency, included a restoration of off-peak fares, the creation of a multi-ride reduced fare ticket for senior citizens, and repairing the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure problems that contribute to train delays.

Donald Winship, a spokesperson for the Lackawanna Coalition advocacy group who also develops software for a firm in Clifton, told Hakim that NJ Transit’s Scorecard survey program was a good idea, but that “we, the riders, expect to see some tangible sign that our feedback is being taken into account.”

Winship also told her the agency’s “We’re Listening” forums, held at train stations during rush hour throughout the year, weren’t practical. “Our main objective is to get on the next train. We don’t have time to chat!” (Rouse/The Record) 



Is Record-High State Aid to Schools Really Just a Numbers Game?

Nonpartisan analysis shows districts getting less than total received in 2009-2010. 

n touting his proposed state budget for next year, Gov. Chris Christie is quick to say that New Jersey, under his watch, is providing more state aid to public schools than at any time in history.

But while that is true for the total aid package, a new analysis by nonpartisan legislative staff finds that four out of five school districts would continue to see less state aid under the new budget than what they received in 2009-2010, when Christie took office. (Mooney/NJSpotligt) 



State Regulators May Deep-Six Proposed Offshore Wind Farm 

The 25-megawatt pilot project developed by Fishermen’s Energy has languished for three years, but its days may be numbered.  

The state’s first proposed offshore wind farm may finally get a decision next week from regulators on whether the project will move forward, but developers are likely to be unhappy with what they hear.

The state Board of Public Utilities is expected next Wednesday to vote on a proposal by Fishermen’s Energy, LLC to build a 25-megawatt wind farm about three miles off Atlantic City. Several sources told NJ Spotlight that the staff is currently recommending the commissioners kill the project, which has been pending before the agency for three years. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




Gun background checks spiked in 2013 as Jersey debated gun control

The push by lawmakers to further tighten New Jersey’s gun control laws may have had one unintended consequence.

Gun sales are up in the Garden State.

Federally-mandated background checks for people looking to purchase guns in New Jersey saw a nearly 40 percent spike last year. It was the second year in a row the number of background checks in the state rose sharply.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 120,071 checks in New Jersey in 2013, up from 85,851 in 2012 and 60,256 in 2011. (Sullivan/ 




Rutgers-Newark faculty call for Rutgers to nix Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker

NEWARK — The faculty at Rutgers-Newark’s voted today to call for the university to rescind an invitation to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as the university’s commencement speaker.

The Rutgers-Newark professors joined their counterparts on the university’s New Brunswick campus, who last month called for Rice to be disinvited because of her role in the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s approval of controversial prisoner interrogation techniques.

In a meeting in Smith Hall, more than 100 members of the Rutgers-Newark faculty overwhelmingly approved a resolution nearly identical to the one passed in New Brunswick, participants said.

H. Bruce Franklin, a Rutgers-Newark English and American Studies professor, said he introduced the resolution to continue to raise awareness about Rice’s speech.

“This is not good for Rutgers,” Franklin said. “What we’re doing is awarding an honorary degree and having a commencement speech from someone who is a war criminal.” (Heyboer/Star-Ledger) 



From the Back Room


Influential Mercer backers continue to deem Trenton candidate Worthy

Despite an uptick in efforts to get him out of the race for political races bigger than Trenton City Limits, mayoral hopeful Walker M. Worthy, Jr. hopes the presence of some of Mercer County’s most influential Democrats will motivate city voters.

“Momentum is clearly building for my campaign,” said Worthy, the Deputy Mercer County Clerk running for mayor in the May 13th election. “This groundswell of support will enable me to reach more Trenton residents and let them know how I intend to improve their quality-of-life and reinvigorate our city.” 

More than 200 supporters showed up last Thursday for Worthy’s fundraiser at the Lafayette Yard Hotel. County Executive Brian M Hughes and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) co-hosted the evening event. (PolitickerNJ)

Influential Mercer backers continue to deem Trenton candidate Worthy | Politicker NJ



Report: North Jersey GOP operative served with subpoena

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s office has served subpoenas to Bergen County, Hackensack and North Arlington seeking information about the employment of public relations consultant Thomas Ammirato, who works for all three government entities, according to a report in the Bergen Record.

Read the story here.

Ammirato is a full-time employee in the office of County Executive Kathleen Donovan, earning $35,000 and benefits, The Record reported. Ammirato has been named a runner-up “Operative of the Year” on PolitickerNJ’s Year In Review, including in 2011, when we credited him with making “North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco’s life miserable over the course of a few weeks last spring when he laid on a heavy barrage of excellently researched dirt that bewildered the long-serving incumbent.” (PolitickerNJ)

Report: North Jersey GOP operative served with subpoena | Politicker NJ



Kramer backs Torres for Mayor of Paterson

Former Paterson Mayor, Lawrence “Pat” Kramer, today endorsed Jose “Joey” Torres for mayor of Paterson in the May 13th nonpartisan election.

In his letter of endorsement, Kramer said the city experienced “sound growth” during Torres’ two terms as leader of the city, from 2002-2010. (PolitickerNJ)

Kramer backs Torres for Mayor of Paterson | Politicker NJ






As Chris Christie falls in the polls, watch for Ben Carson to rise

You might have seen this article about Chris Christie’s recent decline in the national polls.

That’s a bad sign as far as any ambitions he might have to run in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

An even worse sign came on Saturday in the form of another poll. That was the poll of attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

It wasn’t merely that Christie’s arch-enemy, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, finished far ahead of him. That’s to be expected; Paul’s youthful supporters pack the convention.

What was deadly was how Christie did in comparison to another guy who seemed to be angling for the 2016 GOP nomination.

That’s Ben Carson, a retired physician from Maryland who’s become a national hero to conservatives. Carson finished with 9 points compared to 8 for Christie.

Carson, who is black, is a sort of reverse Barack Obama. He’s conservative, not liberal, and he’s opposed to Obamacare based on his extensive knowledge of how the health-care system works.

Those are among the reasons he’s taken over Christie’s role as what you might call the Flavor of the Month among Republicans

From time to time a politician comes along and steals the national spotlight. That described Christie when, shortly after becoming governor in 2010, he became the star of a number of videos that went viral.

Since then, however, Christie has taken to repeating some of the same lines over and over and over. If I never again hear Chris Christie talk about his Sicilian mother, I will die a happier man. I had a mother, too. She was a wonderful woman. But somehow I can get though a week without reminding everyone within earshot of that. (Mulshine/Star-ledger) 



Morning Digest: March 13, 2014