Morning Digest: April 15, 2014

East Side Neighborhood Association hosts packed Paterson Mayor’s Forum

PATERSON – On the eastern end of Market Street stands a restaurant amid the clinging remnants of industry and a city’s trampled history, where inside under chandeliers in front of a crowd of 100 people, seven candidates for mayor made the case for why he or she can best revive the state’s third largest city.

Cliques and preferred rivalries have developed along this jagged campaign trail, leaving the two women in the contest to share the conclusion that men have fairly uniformly contributed to the city’s ruin.

“I like her,” Maria Teresa Feliciano said following the concluding remarks of her fellow competitor, Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson Ivy, who threw up an arm in solidarity.

Cleaving to his message that the last 12 years have been a disaster, Council President Andre Sayegh attempted to simultaneously detonate both incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones and former Mayor  Jose “Joey” Torres.

“We don’t punch a clock we work around the clock,” said Sayegh, slashing at an unnamed target on the dais otherwise known as the incumbent mayor who signed off on – but didn’t ultimately receive – overtime pay when Hurricane Irene overturned this city of 150,000 people.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

East Side Neighborhood Association hosts packed Paterson Mayor’s Forum | Politicker NJ





In Irvington, Smith burnishes backing of Crump, Johnson in mayor’s contest

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith received the endorsements of several unions and politicians in his bid for reelection on May 13th, including Newark Municipal Council President Mildred Crump, Essex County Freeholder Rufus Johnson and Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca. 

President of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors and the former President and Chairman of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, Smith has also received endorsements from the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, the Communication Workers of America (including its locals 1037 and 1039), RWDSU local 108, and New Jersey Citizen Action. 

“I am both humbled and invigorated by the tremendous support that I received from… the CWA, locals 1037 and 1039, RWDSU local 108, NJ Citizen Action, NJ Working Families Alliance and my good friends and colleagues, Council President Crump, Freeholder Johnson and Mayor DeLuca,” Smith said. “Today’s endorsement may appear to signal support for me, but in reality they signal support for the citizens of Irvington who want to keep moving forward.  My administrations has taken bold initiatives in attracting record levels of investment to the town and have garnered national attention by standing up to Wall Street for the benefit of Main Street.”

Eight people are running for mayor in Irvington, including Smith, School Board President Tony Vauss, and former Council President John Sowell. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

In Irvington, Smith burnishes backing of Crump, Johnson in mayor’s contest | Politicker NJ





Newark mayor’s race: former Newark FOP president backs Jeffries, calls Baraka’s record on crime “dangerous”

NEWARK – A former president of the same Newark-based Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chapter that endorsed Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka last month lashed out in an open letter on Monday, calling the South Ward councilman “part of the problem” in Newark’s war on crime. 

The letter by Derrick Hatcher, the former president of FOP Lodge #12, was issued by Newark First, an independent expenditure group that supports Baraka’s rival in the race, former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries. Addressed to members of the law enforcement community, Hatcher assails Baraka’s record on crime as “troubling” and “dangerous.” 

“As a vice principal [at Newark’s Weequahic High School], Mr. Baraka allowed gang-related activities to exist in our schools,” Hatcher writes in the letter, referring to Baraka’s educational career. He is currently on leave as principal of Newark’s Central High School. “As a council member, he wrote letters to request leniency in criminal proceedings for some of Newark’s most notorious gang leaders. And as mayor, Baraka has vowed to give gang members a seat at the table as part of his public safety plan.”

Court papers indicate that Baraka wrote the letters on behalf of convicted gang leader Al-Tariq Gumbs at his sentencing in 2010. Baraka wrote that Gumbs could serve as “an asset to our community” in resolving gang-related conflicts that result in homicides and shootings in New Jersey’s largest city. Baraka also claims that he was unaware that the letters would be included in motions requesting leniency for Gumbs, the alleged founder of the Brick City Brims set of the Bloods street gang. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: former Newark FOP president backs Jeffries, calls Baraka’s record on crime “dangerous” | Politicker NJ






Bridge scandal papers show depth of Christie staffers’ endorsement work

More than 400 pages of documents made public Monday present a detailed picture of Governor Christie’s intertwined government and political operations, a network run by people so close to him that he became physically ill when reading a story in The Record that showed they were involved in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Page after page of interview notes detail how staff in Christie’s administration worked to secure Democratic endorsements on behalf of his reelection campaign. It was an operation that helped Christie win by 22 points, earn a majority of Latino and female voters, garner 32 percent of Demo­crats and set up a potential presidential bid in 2016. Now Christie’s political future is in question after members of his inner circle were tied to the politically vindictive lane closures at the bridge last September.

The documents released Monday – the work of the lawyers Christie hired to review his office’s involvement in the lane closures – also show that members of the administration suggested legal counsel for two key figures embroiled in the controversy: one a top aide, the other the governor’s campaign manager. (Hayes, Reitmeyer, and Linhorst/The Record) 





New Jersey budget gap keeps growing

Four days after a downgraded credit rating, New Jersey has more bad financial news: Tax collections were once again short of Governor Christie’s already lowered expectations.

This time, the gap was $145 million for March – a full 7 percent short of what Christie projected for the month, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Treasury.

That means the Christie administration has to make up that gap with just three months left in the state’s fiscal year, time that includes the crucial income tax collection month of April. Already, the administration has said it cut nearly $700 million in spending to help balance Christie’s $33 billion budget after an earlier shortfall. More money was also raised this year by restructuring state tobacco bonds.

Treasury officials attributed the weaker-than-expected March tax collections to the lingering effects of harsh weather in February, and also to taxpayers’ use of new technology that is allowing income tax refunds to go out at a much faster rate than in prior years.

“Accelerated refund payments, in addition to February’s harsh weather, constrained March cash collections compared to projections,” Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said. “We do not believe these factors will carry over to April and the balance of the fiscal year.”

“We anticipate as refund payments cool off, and final payments come in, net revenues will improve,” said Charles Steindel, Treasury’s chief economist. (Reitmeyer/The Record)   






Moribund State Planning Commission Keeps Smart Growth in Limbo

Who’s protecting open spaces and farmland in the country’s most intensively developed state?

Its new plan to control growth in New Jersey has been on hold on for 15 months. Its deputy director just left to take a position at the Department of Environmental Protection. Its commission rarely meets as scheduled, cancelling three of its only four meetings this year.

The State Planning Commission, never a very visible public agency, has virtually disappeared as a functioning government entity, according to some. By many accounts, the commission’s efforts to steer growth away from open spaces and farmland have been largely unsuccessful, a familiar criticism. Perhaps it is even more so because of the Christie administration’s inaction, claim some critics.

As the nation’s most intensively developed state, New Jersey passed a law nearly three decades ago to set up a State Planning Act, a move aimed at directing future growth and aligning state resources to support growth in the right places.

It never happened; in part, because past administrations failed to require state agencies to direct aid to areas most suitable for development. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)   







Bridgegate Panel to Begin Calling Witnesses Next Month

Wisniewski blasts participation of Christie friend in governor’s interview, release of Mastro memos raises more issues.

After receiving 75 interview memos compiled by the governor’s internal investigation team, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), cochairman of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Investigation, said yesterday his panel would begin calling witnesses next month to testify in the Bridgegate scandal.

“We’re looking at a May timetable to start bringing in witnesses,” said Wisniewski, who sharply questioned the integrity of the report by Randy Mastro’s Gibson Dunn & Crutcher law firm that exonerated Gov. Chris Christie and his top aides of all wrongdoing in the Bridgegate and Hoboken cases.

Wisniewski said he was shocked that one of the three Gibson Dunn lawyers who sat in on the Christie interviews was Debra Wong Yang, who not only is such a close friend of the governor that their families have vacationed together, but who also received a lucrative monitoring contract from Christie when he was serving as U.S. Attorney. “It’s hard to imagine how she could be truly objective being indebted to the man,” Wisniewski said incredulously.

Wisniewski said Gibson Dunn lawyers confirmed that there were no tapes or transcripts of the 75 interviews the firm conducted, and characterized the interview memos compiled by Mastro’s team of lawyers as “the definition of hearsay” because there is no way of knowing if the descriptions of the interviews are accurate or if important information was left out.

“It really runs to the fundamental question of what was Gibson Dunn’s mission. If you are a defense attorney defending someone and accepting their actions, then the generally accepted rule of thumb is that you don’t tape the interview,” said Wisniewski, who is a lawyer. (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 






Port Authority Commissioner Resigns Amid Investigations

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioner with a key role overseeing the World Trade Center redevelopment resigned Monday in the latest high-profile departure at an agency under scrutiny since the George Washington Bridge scandal broke.

Anthony Sartor, 71 years old, submitted his resignation just days after the emergence of a new probe into the Port Authority by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., including the agency’s work rebuilding the World Trade Center. A grand jury has subpoenaed a broad swath of the authority’s records, and federal prosecutors are also investigating the agency.

In a letter submitted Monday to the Port Authority’s secretary, Dr. Sartor portrayed his departure as a retirement brought on in part by his attendance at a grandson’s 13th birthday party, an event he called a “tipping point” in his motivation to leave. He said he had long planned to leave the board after the 2013 governor’s race ended. (Mann and Brown/Wall Street Journal) 







Most of Hoboken’s Sandy energy grant requests not scored due to errors, memos show

Top Christie administration officials told a legal team investigating charges Hoboken was shortchanged Hurricane Sandy relief funding that politics played no role in the aid process, internal memos released today show, but mistakes may have left the town with less money than it deserved.

A state official who served as “de facto chair” of the group awarding Sandy-related energy grants acknowledged that most of Hoboken’s requests to the program had not been scored because of data entry errors.

Hoboken submitted an application to the energy grant program requesting more than $1.7 million to purchase 13 generators for emergency backup power at police and fire department buildings, schools and other public facilities. The city was awarded $142,080 through the program. (O.Neill/Star-Ledger) 







Chris Christie’s friend interviewed him as part of bridge scandal review

TRENTON — A close friend to Gov. Chris Christie, Debra Wong Yang, was one of three attorneys who interviewed the governor as part of the taxpayer-funded internal review that he ordered in the wake of the September lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.

Wong Yang, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, was, like Christie, appointed a U.S. attorney by former President George W. Bush. The two have gone on vacation with each other’s families, and Christie steered Yang a lucrative contract while U.S. attorney.

She conducted the interview of Christie with Randy Mastro, the firm’s lead attorney on the matter, as well as Alexander Southwell. A summary of the interview, as well as interview summaries with 74 other people conducted as part of the review, were released today.

The report, made public earlier this month, cleared Christie and his current staffers of any wrongdoing in the lane closings and placed most of the blame on Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, a former Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who ordered the lanes closed. (Baxter/Star-Ledger) 






From the Back Room



Bergen Record reporters finalists for Pulitzer but not for Bridgegate work

Avid readers of the Bergen Record were puzzled on Facebook this evening over the announcement of Pulitzer Prize finalists in journalism.

Many expected Record reporters to get a PUlitzer nod for the paper’s work on the George Washington Bridge scandal.

But Rebecca D. O’Brien and Thomas Mashberg of The Record, were Pulitzer finalists for their “jarring exposure of how heroin has permeated the suburbs of northern New Jersey, profiling addicts and anguished families and mapping the drug pipeline from South America to their community.”

Check out more details here.

Bergen Record reporters finalists for Pulitzer but not for Bridgegate work | Politicker NJ





Rice won’t endorse in Irvington Mayor’s race

Contrary to claims made by the Christie administration, it appears that the recipient of $4.8 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds, Boraie Development LLC, never before provided affordable housing in New Jersey. (PolitickerNJ)

New Brunswick Today has the story.

Report: Sandy-aided developer had no affordable hosuing experience | Politicker NJ




Rice won’t endorse in Irvington Mayor’s race

Essex County insiders describe a building battle in the May 13th contest between incumbent Mayor Wayne Smith and challenger Tony Vauss, but one key player won’t publicly pick a side owing to a longstanding alliance with a local renegade.

Vauss is the president of the Irvington School Board and has the backing of veteran Freeholder L. Bilal Beasely and other key county level players.

State Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-28) supports a running mate of Smith, CWA Local leader Lionel Leach, Rice’s longtime political confidant. 

Another staunch Rice ally, Freeholder Rufus Johnson, also stands with Smith.

But for his part, Rice is staying away from issuing an endorsement in the mayor’s contest owing to his years-long alliance with Councilman David Lyons, a frequent Smith critic.

Rice won’t endorse in Irvington Mayor’s race | Politicker NJ




Fonseca in Paterson

Pablo Fonseca, former chief-of-staff to former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, is working in Paterson mayoral politics to help elect Council President Andre Sayegh.

Sayegh is one of seven candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Jeffrey Jones.

Sources told PolitickerNJ that Fonseca has been with the Sayegh Campaign for the past three weeks.

Fonseca in Paterson | Politicker NJ





CD2 Update: Hughes has $328K COH

Bill Hughes, candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, announced that for the first quarter of 2014, his campaign raised $190,515.

These fundraising totals will be part of the report for the first quarter of 2014, which his campaign committee will file with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by April 15, according to the Hughes Campaign.

“I’m humbled and grateful for the outpouring of grassroots support I’ve received from the voters in New Jersey’s 2ndDistrict,” said Bill Hughes, a former federal prosecutor. “We’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, but there is much work to be done if we hope to bring back commonsense, bipartisan leadership to a Congress that hasn’t worked for middle class Americans in years.”

Hughes said his fundraising totals of over $375,683 with $328,171 cash on hand since announcing, is record setting for the district during that time period.

He’s running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2).

CD2 Update: Hughes has $328K COH | Politicker NJ




POLITICO: Christie, Cuomo and the Arc of Irony 

POLITICO has a hunter has become the hunted story, comparing and contrasting the political careers of two former headline-happy lawmen on either side of the Hudson: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Jersey for months has probed Christie’s administration in connection with Bridgegate, while this week, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “savaged Cuomo in public for his decision to shutter a state panel, known as the Moreland Commission, formed to investigate rampant corruption in Albany.

“Bharara suggested the decision may have arisen from an improper deal with the Empire State’s famously crooked legislature and left the door open to an investigation.”

Read POLITICO’s story here.

POLITICO: Christie, Cuomo and the Arc of Irony | Politicker NJ







Codey slams DiVincenzo, credits Norcross

TRENTON — What’s that? Did state Sen. Richard Codey saying something nice about George Norcross, the state’s most influential Democrat and the lawmaker’s political nemesis?

Well, kind of — but at the expense of another frequent target of his, Joseph DiVincenzo, the Essex County executive and fellow Democrat.

In a profile of Gov. Chris Christie that appeared in last week’s New Yorker magazine, DiVincenzo longingly described Norcross’ considerable clout, noting that the South Jersey insurance executive and newspaper owner could count on the votes of seven senators and 12 Assembly members.

“I don’t have what George has,” DiVincenzo whined to the reporter. “George has seven and 12! I have two senators and five Assembly people.”

To Codey, DiVincenzo wasn’t just saying those legislators were his allies. He was saying he controlled them.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” Codey said. “It’s belittling those senators and those Assembly people. … To say that is so demeaning, and shows you not only is he corrupt and unethical, he’s also dumb as dumb can be.”

Codey then gave Norcross credit. (This is where the reader asks to be pinched.) “I’ve never seen George say that he controls them,” he said. “He has a brain. Joe doesn’t.”

DiVincenzo aimed his own barbs at the veteran lawmaker. (The Auditor/Star-Ledger)   Morning Digest: April 15, 2014