Morning Digest: April 24, 2014

Organization to honor Gov. Kean

An event next month for Community Options, Inc. will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the organization’s founding and honor Governor Tom Kean, Sr., a was an advocate over 25 years ago for bringing individuals with developmental disabilities out of state institutions into small group homes.

Robert Stack, who worked for the Kean administration in the Human Services Department, started Community Options at his kitchen table.

The organization has expanded to eight states with one more state to be added any day now.

Thousands of developmentally disabled people are now living a higher quality of life thanks to Community Options. Families are happy. In addition, taxpayers are saved $100K for each person moved to a group home. (PolitickerNJ)

Organization to honor Gov. Kean | Politicker NJ

Paterson honors Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter

PATERSON – There was no bell for the 17th round, only stillness as the sister of the late Rubin “Hurricane” Carter stepped to the microphone in front of City Hall.

A crowd gathered in the cold below.

“Paterson,” said the Rev. Doris Carter, and let the word hang in the Market Street courtyard.

“In Paterson that’s just the way things go. If you’re black you might as well not show up on the streets ‘less you want to draw the heat.” – Bob Dylan “The Hurricane”

Since he died at the age of 76 on Sunday morning in Canada, the lyrics came back again, muttered or half quoted in close-quarters exchanges.

Now surrounded by other family members of the late boxer turned wrongfully convicted inmate on triple murder charges, turned author of “The 16th Round,” turned civil rights icon, the Rev. Carter said, “Paterson, you took a brother, a father, an uncle, a son – but today, Paterson, we forgive you.”

Her remarks came on the heels of the city’s proclamation honoring Hurricane Carter, which Mayor Jeff Jones read beneath a banner of the middleweight erected by Department of Public Works employees on the front wall of City Hall. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Paterson honors Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter | Politicker NJ

Newark mayor’s race: judge dismisses Baraka lawsuit to remove two Jeffries allies from Essex Board of Elections

NEWARK – An Essex County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka that called for the removal of two supporters of his rival, former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries, from the Essex County Board of Elections.

The suit, filed last month, asserted that Frances Adubato and Lee Fisher, who both serve as commissioners on the four-person board, were in violation of election law and ethics codes, including the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law, the New Jersey Uniform Ethics Code, the Essex County Board of Elections Ethics Code and the common law.

Frances Adubato, the wife of Newark power broker Steve Adubato, Sr., and Fisher serve as Democratic chairs in Newark’s North and South Wards respectively. Adubato and Fisher both endorsed Jeffries in February.

The lawsuit cited endorsements made by Adubato and Fisher on the Jeffries campaign website, as well as a article written at the time of the endorsement, to back the claims that the two Jeffries supporters should be removed from the board.

But in his written opinion released on Monday, Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena pointed to an opinion made on a similar matter in 1989. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: judge dismisses Baraka lawsuit to remove two Jeffries allies from Essex Board of Elections | Politicker NJ

Port Authority board delays 2 key votes; debate intensifies over NJ Transit lot, WTC deal

The Port Authority postponed two controversial decisions on Wednesday amid rare public debate by its commissioners, as the embattled agency tries to shed its reputation for hashing out deals behind closed doors.

The strong opinions and sharp words voiced by the commissioners at their monthly meeting represented a departure from years of unanimous votes and little public discussion. It also meant an unusual result: a failure to agree in public.

The two anticipated votes — whether to back a $1.2 billion construction loan for a private office tower at the World Trade Center site and the renegotiation of a lease with NJ Transit for a park-and-ride lot in North Bergen — were put off after some commissioners made clear during their longest and liveliest monthly meeting in recent memory that they couldn’t support the proposals before them.

It was the first meeting since a panel of experts advised the Port Authority commissioners earlier this week to be more transparent and more independent from the governors of New Jersey and New York. The commissioners seemed eager on Wednesday to show that they were doing so. The change in course grew out of increased scrutiny after the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal and controversies over the increased politicization of the bi-state agency and commissioners’ apparent conflicts of interest.

The turmoil has also reignited discussion about the core mission of the agency, which has an expansive portfolio, including the region’s airports, Hudson River crossings, PATH train system and bus terminal and the World Trade Center.  




N.J. politicians urge U.S. not to use Sandy aid for other projects

Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation say they won’t let the federal government use Superstorm Sandy aid for a nationwide funding competition that could benefit states that were not affected by the storm.

Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson; Albio Sires, D-West New York; and Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-Union City, are urging Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, not to divert a third round of federal aid to resiliency projects in other parts of the country.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Sunday that more than $1 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds could be used for a national resiliency competition. Pascrell sent a letter to Donovan on Tuesday objecting to the proposal, and Pallone issued a statement Monday saying he would personally address the issue during a meeting with the secretary next week.

Sires is sending a letter today, and he said Wednesday that the entire New Jersey delegation could join together in opposition of a nationwide competition for the money.

“They better be very careful about who they are messing with because we’re not going to take this,” Pascrell said Wednesday. “Many of the congressmen have had it up to our eyeballs. We are not going to sit down and allow HUD to take the money that we voted for, for those folks, those towns, those counties that were impacted by this storm.”

The Community Development Block Grants are discretionary funds that the states can tailor to their needs. New Jersey received $1.83 billion in the first round. The state used $710 million of that for its Reconstruction Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program, which offers grants of up to $150,000 to rebuild homes significantly damaged in the storm. That money funded 5,124 grants, but more than 7,000 residents remain on a waiting list.

The state is set to receive a second round of funds — $1.46 billion — next month and plans to allocate $390 million to take residents off the waiting list. The block grant money has also been used to help businesses recover from the storm. (Boburg/The Record)  

Number of Children Living in Poverty Climbs Sharply in NJ, Rising in all but 3 Counties

The number of children living in poverty continues to rise in New Jersey, as measured by the newest edition of the Kids Count report for the state, which is being released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Almost one-third of all New Jersey children — 646,000 — were considered low-income, which is defined as living in a family with an income at twice the federal poverty limit, in 2012, the latest New Jersey Kids Count shows.

That’s a big increase from 2008, when some 310,000 children, or 15 percent of all New Jersey children, were living at the poverty level, with almost half of those considered very poor, in families with incomes of less than half the poverty limit. That year, the poverty level for a family of four was $23,050.

“While the rankings shift every year, we see certain trends across many counties, including increasing child poverty, fewer child care options for working parents and high housing costs,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ’s executive director. “These statistics should be used to inform local, county and state leaders, as well as community organizations, in their efforts to improve the well-being of all New Jersey children.”

The report shows that child poverty continued to rise from 2008 to 2012 in all but three counties — Morris, Salem and Warren. Warren and Salem saw substantial declines, at 46 and 22 percent, respectively, while Morris had a modest 1-percent decrease. In the other counties, increases in the number of children living in families earning too little to meet their children’s needs ranged from a low of 8 percent in Monmouth County to a high of 246 percent in Somerset County.

Statewide, the number of children living in poverty jumped 22 percent during this time.  (O’Dea/NJSpotlight)  




New Online Tool Gauges Local, Statewide Threats from Rise in Sea Level  

A new online tool to help assess New Jersey’s vulnerability to sea-level rise was released on Thursday, one that delivers both a micro and a macro level of information to homeowners, planners, local and state officials, first responders, and a host of others.

On the micro level, the Surging Seas Risk Finder from Climate Central, a Princeton-based researcher into the effects of climate change, quantifies the threat to the state’s homes, roads, power plants, schools, hospitals, and a host of other locations under varying water levels above the local high-tide line.

On the macro level, the tool’s overarching message is that all areas will be affected by sea-level rise even if they are not in coastal flood zones, according to Ben Strauss, Climate Central’s vice president for climate impacts,

“The highest-level message is that everything is in the coastal zone,” he said. “Sea-level rise is going to affect everything about our economies, our home lives, our nation.

“People who don’t live in flood-risk zones still benefit from trade that moves through our ports and over vulnerable roads,” he said. “There’s all kinds of infrastructure that’s affected.”

Closer to home, the tool delivers a detailed assessment of the local dangers of sea-level rise.

Residents of Ocean County, for example, will find that more than $29 billion worth of real estate would be flooded by a rise in sea level of five feet, a margin that is within scientists’ expectations for the end of the 21st century.

In Middlesex County, two power plants, or about a fifth of the county, lies below the level that a combination of tides, storm surges, and higher seas would drive water five feet above the high-tide line.

And in Atlantic County, 86 hazardous waste sites, or 22 percent of the total land area, would be inundated by a five-foot rise in waters. (Hurdle/NJSpotlight)  

Stephen Sweeney on school safety: ‘Sprinklers should be in all our schools’

EDISON – Most New Jersey schools were built before the law required that they have sprinkler systems to put out fires.

And there’s no law on the books that requires local districts to retrofit their campuses.

On a tour of temporary classrooms housing studentsof a school that burned down earlier this year, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said today that that needs to change. Sweeney said he was open to legislation to address the matter.

“Sprinklers should be in our schools, in all of them,” Sweeney said today at James Monroe Elementary School’s temporary location on the Middlesex County College campus. “You can retrofit schools to put sprinklers in them.”

The New Jersey Schools Development Authority hasn’t done a good enough job keeping up with modern technology, Sweeney said. And with Gov. Chris Christie proposing a longer school year, there are a number of upgrades that schools need, including air conditioning on sweltering summer days, Sweeney said.

But the most important thing is safety, Sweeney said, standing in a school corridor as a class of youngsters passed. (Amaral/Star-Ledger)  

Port Authority director will comply with bridge scandal subpoena to testify

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye and authority Commissioner William “Pat” Schuber will comply with subpoenas to testify before the Joint Legislative Committeeinvestigating September’s George Washington Bridge lane closures.

Port Authority spokesman Chris Valens confirmed that Foye would testify on May 13.

Schuber said in a brief interview before today’s Port Authority board meeting that he would testify as called on May 6.

“Of course I will,” Schuber said.

Foye and Schubert were among a group of four officials subpoenaed by committee co-chairs, state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). The two others are Christina Genovese Renna, Gov. Chris Christie’s former director of intergovernmental affairs, and Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor.

The latest subpoenas come on the heels of more than two dozen already issued by the joint legislative committee, which is trying to determine who ordered last September’s lane closings and why, and who was in on the planning.

The assemblyman said Renna and Schuber were called to appear before the panel on May 6, and Drewniak and Foye on May 13, about the controversial closing of two of three local-access lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge — a move Democrats say was organized by members of Christie’s inner circle as political retribution.

The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, declined to endorse the re-election of Christie, a Republican, as governor, last fall. (Strunsky/Star-Ledger)  

From the Back Room

It’s Christie – no, it’s Sweeney.

President Steve Sweeney (D-3) for Gov. Chris Christie.

“It’s Christie!” the student said, according to an report.

“I’m hurt,” Sweeney said, adding later, “I was a little upset, because the governor has lost a lot of weight, but I’m still thinner.”

Read the story here.

It’s Christie – no, it’s Sweeney. | Politicker NJ

Tea Party Express backs Lonegan in CD3

Tea Party Express, which calls itself the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, today announced its endorsement of Steve Lonegan for the 3rd Congressional district.

Tea Party Express Executive Director Taylor Budowich said, “Steve Lonegan is exactly the kind of Constitutional conservative that will go to Washington D.C. and fight for what’s right. He is a proven conservative champion who will not back down in the face of President Obama’s liberal agenda.

“Throughout his career, Lonegan has proven his willingness to stand up to the establishment of both parties, and we are confident that he will do the same as a member of Congress,” Budowich added. “Above all else, Steve Lonegan is a fighter who will do everything he can to put an end to the Obama-Pelosi big government agenda of tax increases, crippling regulations and reckless spending. He has already demonstrated his strong appeal to voters in the 3rd Congressional District, which he carried in the recent Special U.S. Senate election, where the Tea Party Express was proud to endorse Lonegan.  We were victorious yesterday in the Special Congressional Election with outsider, Curt Clawson, and Lonegan will bring the same kind of energy and fresh approach that is needed in Washington.”

In a closely watched GOP Primary, Lonegan is vying against businessman Tom MacArthur to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3).

Tea Party Express backs Lonegan in CD3 | Politicker NJ

Was Buono/Silva a precursor to a national Democratic ticket?

Read more at Was Buono/Silva a precursor to a national Democratic ticket? | Politicker NJ

An unprecedented number of female U.S. senators (20; 16 of them Democrats) has insiders chatting about a possible all-female national ticket if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs for president.

Other names include senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Take a look at this piece on that debate here.

Was Buono/Silva a precursor to a national Democratic ticket? | Politicker NJ



Chris Christie in no position to slam Colorado on cannabis

Pity the poor saps who live in the beautiful Rocky Mountain State, where voters decided in a referendum that marijuana should be legal, beginning this year.

Now their quality of life has deteriorated, according to our governor.

“See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there are head shops popping up on every corner, and people flying into your airport just to get high,” Chris Christie said on a radio show Monday. “To me, it’s not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey. And there’s not tax revenue that’s worth that.”

Of course, if Christie were truly concerned about quality of life, he would not have sabotaged our medical marijuana program with his foot-dragging, as patients wallow in chronic pain.

But let’s put that aside for a moment. We are talking about marijuana legalization here — an idea most New Jerseyans and even municipal prosecutors support.

A New Jersey lawmaker has proposed a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana like liquor, predicting we could raise $100 million a year in revenue. That’s certainly a big plus. Colorado collected more than $2 million in recreational pot taxes in January. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)   Morning Digest: April 24, 2014