Morning Digest: March 31, 2014

Paterson Mayor’s Race: Arab-American leaders, Currie and Pascrell III fundraise for Sayegh

CLIFTON – Getting on 2012 game faces for the May 13th 2014 mayor’s race, leaders of Paterson’s Arab-American community and the Democratic Party crowded into a banquet room in the Valley Regency last night and rammed the candidacy of Council President Andre Sayegh.  

Anchored by Arab-American leader Al Abdelaziz (pictured, right); Democratic State Party (and Passaic County Dems) Chairman John Currie; and Bill Pascrell III, son of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), who led an historic get-out-the-vote effort in his hometown in the 2012 Democratic Primary, the event raised Sayegh’s mayoral campaign $80,000.

“I’m all in on this race, and I’m ready to double down,” said Pascrell, who sat at the front of the room with Currie and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) days after the Arab-American Screening Committee organized by Abdelaziz awarded its endorsement to Sayegh. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Paterson Mayor’s Race: Arab-American leaders, Currie and Pascrell III fundraise for Sayegh | Politicker NJ

Torres partners with Kramer, reaches out to Dominican voters

Former Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres fundraised on Wednesday at Cortina’s Ristorante in the 2nd Ward with former Paterson Mayor Pat Kramer, and last night anchored an event at a Dominican club as part of a demonstration of support beyond his Puerto Rican base.

“I’m reaching out to the greater part of the community,” said Torres, who tried to turn the Democratic Party’s support for his rival, Council President Andre Sayegh, into an asset.

“This is a non-partisan race, and my team is the of team of inclusion,” he said, in a nod to the support from Kramer. “There are many issues affecting our city. We are this great mosaic and we are truly reflective of it.

“My congratulations to Andre last night, however, my team and I are going to stay focused because ultimately this race will be decided by the people as part of a grassroots movement, and not party bosses.”

Internal polling in the Torres Campaign shows the former mayor up, and even at Sayegh’s fundraiser last night, sober Sayegh allies acknowledged a tough slog going forward.

But the former mayor still has the challenge of two other Hispanic candidates in the contest: Councilman Rigo Rodriguez and activist Maria Teresa Feliciano. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Torres partners with Kramer, reaches out to Dominican voters | Politicker NJ





Bergen Freeholder Tedesco: Samson resignation “necessary for reform,” calls for more N.J. appointees to quit Port Authority

HACKENSACK – Bergen County Freeholder Jim Tedesco called Friday’s resignation by Port Authority Chairman David Samson an action that was “necessary for reform” at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, then called for wider changes at the bi-state agency.

“I am renewing my call for all of the New Jersey appointees who failed the state they represent, resign as well,” said Tedesco in a written statement. “During Samson’s chairmanship the Port Authority compromised the health, safety and well-being of the region that it is meant to serve.”

Tedesco was one of the first county officials to call for an investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane closures, now known as the Bridgegate scandal. He recommended in January that future county contracts with Wolff & Samson, the law firm of Samson, who was appointed to the Port Authority by Gov. Chris Christie, be halted until the conclusion of the state investigation of the scandal. The firm received close to $1 million in county contracts in recent years.

Tedesco also called on Samson to resign his position as chairman in January. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)  





Christie tells GOP donors the country needs his ‘direct’ style of governing

LAS VEGAS — Governor Christie talked tough on Saturday, telling a group of influential Republicans — including a billionaire casino magnate — that President Obama would do well to adopt the New Jersey politician’s style of governing.

The message appeared to play well at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting in Las Vegas, where several other possible 2016 presidential contenders also tried to woo billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Speaking just two days after the law firm hired by his administration released a report that said Christie had no advance knowledge of the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Christie largely avoided mention of the controversy surrounding his administration.

Instead, he focused on a message he has delivered many times before: the need for Republicans to be focused more on winning elections than debating ideas, and the value he sees in his “direct” style.

“We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure if we will be with them and our enemies are unsure if we will be against them,” Christie said, telling the crowd that Obama has sent mixed messages to other countries. “In New Jersey, no one has to wonder whether I’m for them or against them. There is never really a cloud of indecision around what I say and what I do.”

On Saturday, though, Christie’s message was tempered by the bridge controversy. Christie told the crowd that the scandal has taught him he needs to “redouble his efforts” to make sure his staff members know what conduct is acceptable and what isn’t. He has also learned to question his aides more aggressively, he said.

The governor received three standing ovations from the 400-person crowd, which appeared to be more enthusiastic about Christie than about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also spoke on Saturday. (Linhorst/The Record)   






Foreign enrollment reaches a record – and it is still growing

Nearly 820,000 international students studied at American colleges and universities during the last school year — an increase of about 40 percent in the last decade.

The total is an all-time high, and enrollment has grown rapidly within the last three years, according to the 2013 Open Doors Report prepared by the Institute for International Education.

China, India and South Korea are the top three countries of origin for international students studying in the United States. Most of last year’s growth came from China and Saudi Arabia, where the government funds nearly 45,000 students studying in America, the report said.

There are 50 Saudi students with government scholarships studying at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck this year, said Admissions Director Jonathan Wexler. Most of them are graduate students; fully half of full-time graduate students at the university are international students, he said.

Foreign students make up about 10 to 15 percent of undergraduates at the universities’ New Jersey campuses. Fairleigh Dickinson’s 700-student campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, is primarily international, Wexler said, and enrolls students from 30 countries. The school opened there in the hopes of capturing enrollment from the Pacific Rim.

Private schools like Fairleigh have courted international students as a demographic decline in the college age population that began in 2009 has led to challenges in maintaining enrollment. Drew University earlier this month announced an agreement with an overseas recruiting firm that it hopes will allow it to increase enrollment and diversify its campus in Madison. (Alex/The Record)  





Tapping Port Authority toll revenues would enable the governor to avoid racking up massive debt or raising the gas tax — two bad moves during the 2016 presidential primaries.  

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to dismantle the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in order to give each state control more than $1.3 billion in annual tolls would solve his biggest fiscal headache: where to find $1.6 billion a year in state revenue to renew theTransportation Trust Fund (TTF) without adding massive state debt or raising gas taxes right in the middle of the 2016 presidential primaries.

New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statement this weekend that he might support Christie’s proposal to break up the Port Authority caused consternation among transportation experts, who believe that splitting the agency in two would lead to more dysfunction in transportation development and less long-term regional thinking and planning.(Magyar/NJSpotlight)  








Concerns being raised on both sides of aisle about who is being tested and how the results will be used

Among them is a bill that would prohibit the use of commercially developed tests below third grade. Another would require districts to inform parents of exactly which standardized tests are being administered each year to their children.

A third bill would delay using the new tests, aimed for launch in 2015, as a factor in the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

If approved, the bills would face long odds from ever being signed by Gov. Chris Christie, but Jasey said this weekend that she wanted to prompt further discussion as much as make any specific changes to the state’s testing regimen.

“We need a conversation about what we are doing,” said Jasey, a member of the Assembly education committee. “How much instructional time are we losing. Is there an overlap in the tests? We need to talk about this.” (Mooney/NJSpotlight)  





New Jersey Regains Half of Recession Employment Losses

New Jersey has regained 123,200 jobs under Governor Chris Christie, about half of the number lost in the recession that began in December 2007, according to state Labor Department data.

The Garden State lost 3,700 jobs in February, after gaining 6,300 in the first month of the year. January’s job count was revised from initial reports that indicated a drop of 3,900 positions. New Jersey’s unemployment rate remained at 7.1 percent in February, down from 8.8 percent a year earlier, according to the data.

“The February count, especially in a sector like leisure and hospitality, was probably held down by the big storm around Valentine’s Day,” Charles Steindel, the state’s chief economist, said March 27 in a statement. “The large and welcome upward revision for January suggests that in these conditions, the preliminary numbers may be less reliable than usual.”

Neighboring New York gained back all of the jobs it lost in the slump by 2012. Its unemployment rate is 6.8 percent. The national jobless level was 6.7 percent in February.

Christie, a 51-year-old Republican who won a second term in November, has cut business taxes and awarded companies tax incentives to create jobs. Democrats, who control the legislature, have said he isn’t doing enough. (Dopp/Bloomberg)  






Chris Christie tells Diane Sawyer he’s found comfort at home amid bridge scandal

TRENTON — In the second half of a two-part television interview with Diane Sawyer, Gov. Chris Christie said he’s invested more time at home with his family in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal.

“I’m spending a lot more time at home than I ever have,” the governor told the ABC news anchor in a clip that aired Friday night on “World News.” “I think that what happens is: When you get involved in a public life that continues to get bigger and bigger, you feel an obligation to be out there more. And I’m taking more control over what I want to do.”

The first part of the interview aired Thursday night, with Christie once again saying he had nothing to do with last year’s controversial lane closures at the nation’s busiest bridge.

The second part featured the governor and his wife, Mary Pat, speaking to Sawyer at their Morris County home.

Mary Pat Christie said the governor, whom she’s been married to for 30 years, has not only been home more but has been “much more present.”

“He knows what’s important,” the First Lady said.

Mary Pat Christie said she has “no real opinion” on whether the scandal will be forgotten. (Johnson/Star-Ledger)  





Cory Booker, U.S. Attorney among speakers at Newark child abuse prevention summit

NEWARK — Roughly 6 million children are abused in America every year. More than four die from abuse and neglect every day.

In New Jersey, there were more than 92,000 reports of child abuse in 2012, according to the annual Kids Count, a yearly survey of child health and well-being.

Aside from the personal trauma those statistics represent for the children affected, the epidemic of sexual and physical violence toward children also bears huge costs for society in treatment, prosecution and the lasting effects on children as they become adults, advocates say.

Next week, Wynona’s House in Newark — the state’s only full-service child advocacy center — will host a two-day summit at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, titled “Invisible No More.”

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10th Dist.) and Essex County First Assistant Prosecutor Robert Laurino are among political and law enforcement heavyweights scheduled to speak at the summit.

“This is our response to kids that have been severely sexually and physically abused,” said Evelyn Mejil, executive director of Wynona’s House. “We want to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.” (Giambusso/Star-Ledger)  

From the Back Room


Weinberg wants Christie to go before Investigative Committee

Appearing this morning on Meet the Press, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) said she wants a list of the “70 so-called witnesses” who participated in the internal review of Bridgegate by attorney Randy Mastro that cleared Gov. Chris Christie of wrong-doing.

A member of the joint investigative committee examining the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, Weinberg said if Christie goes before the committee with that list and accompanying documents and transcripts missing from the Mastro post-mortem, “I would be more than satisfied.”

Shor of that, the Bergen lawmaker said the report is hardly conclusive.

Weinberg wants Christie to go before Investigative Committee | Politicker NJ




Baraka birthday fundraiser generates $200K in campaign funds

NEWARK – The star-studded birthday fundraiser for Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka generated more than the apperance of famed hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill, who serenaded Baraka with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

According to Baraka campaign event coordinator Jennifer Kohl, the Wednesday night event raised approximately $200,000 for the South Ward councilman, who is locked in a contentious battle with his rival, former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries, with just more than six weeks left in the Newark mayoral campaign. More than 800 Baraka supporters attended the event, including noted filmmaker Spike Lee and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Kohl noted that the Baraka campaign will be holding more fundraising events in the next few weeks, including an event on Monday, April 7 that will be hosted by professor and prominent public intellectual Dr. Cornel West. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Baraka birthday fundraiser generates $200K in campaign funds | Politicker NJ Morning Digest: March 31, 2014