Morning Digest: May 12, 2014

Newark mayor’s race: Bergen Street diary – factory worker picks scallops over whiting for dinner, Baraka over Jeffries for election

EWARK – Michael Washington walked into Bergen Seafood on Bergen Street in Newark’s South Ward on Saturday afternoon, looking for a fried fish treat to eat. 

Washington knew what issue would be foremost in his mind when he went to the polls on Tuesday.

“Jobs, because there are no jobs,” said Washington, 32, a South Ward resident who works at a glass factory in Secaucus. “I work, but I know a bunch of guys who don’t. There are a lot of jobs here in Newark that other people are getting, I don’t know if it’s qualifications or not. I hope that the mayor can make companies hire more people from Newark, or they don’t get the contract at all.”

Washington leaned one way when it came to which candidate –  South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka or former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries – should get the job of Newark’s next mayor. 

“I would say Ras, because I’ve heard of Ras for a long time,” Washington said. “He’s done a lot of stuff for kids that I’ve personally seen. 

“I don’t know who Shavar is,” Washington added. “Where was he before he decided to run? If I knew the same about both, then it would be a decision, and I would have to make a choice. But in terms of what I’ve seen about Ras, it’s a landslide.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: Bergen Street diary – factory worker picks scallops over whiting for dinner, Baraka over Jeffries for election | Politicker NJ






Battle Stations Newark: Ramos and company combine in the North Ward for Jeffries

NEWARK – The North Ward Democratic organization and attendant allies mobilized six floats Sunday and took to the streets of the North Ward for two hours, up Mount Prospect, down Summer and up Bloomfield, horn-honking, salsa blaring and broadcasting the alliance of Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr. and his candidate for mayor: the South Ward-based Shavar Jeffries.

“We’re focused and we’re pumped,” said Phil Alagia, head of operations. “We’re going to produce results here on Tuesday that we have not seen in a while.”

“A while” takes this group back to 2006, when Ramos beat then incumbent Councilman Hector Corchado, leading the outfit into its peak performance in 2007 when it catapulted M. Teresa Ruiz into the 29th District senate seat.

Now ward Democratic captains are using the Tuesday presence of Ramos challenger Luis Lopez, a member of the Ras Baraka ticket, to motivate their Latino-centric North Ward base.

“On Mother’s Day, we had more than 300 cars participating in a caravan to show support for the Jeffries Team,” said Ramos, at the center of all attention, his face billboarded over the ward. “The outpouring of support is unprecedented and will carry our team to victory on Tuesday.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Battle Stations Newark: Ramos and company combine in the North Ward for Jeffries | Politicker NJ






Wimberly defends his choice in Paterson mayor’s race 

PATERSON – This mayoral election has been unsettling – even agonizing – for Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35), Paterson, the man who might have run for mayor himself, who didn’t run and controversially backed another man for the job.

But amid a back boil of racial anger and street charges that he finds himself deflecting about loyalty and race-identity, on one level it’s getting easier for Wimberly now, he says – easier to fight for Council President Andre Sayegh, an Arab-American.

“You can be an albino transvestite from Yugoslavia and if you can get the job done, are competent, and can balance the budget, I will be with you,” said Wimberly.

Within a community that represents roughly 32% of the city, African-American leaders have pushed back against the assemblyman – who is black – protesting his affirmation of Democratic Party support for Sayegh. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Wimberly defends his choice in Paterson mayor’s race | Politicker NJ






Kelly: 124 days later, we’re still in the dark in GWB probe

THINK BACK 124 days. It was Jan. 8, a Wednesday. Around 9 a.m., the world learned about an email from a little-known staffer in Chris Christie’s office who felt it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

So began the controversy that still threatens to derail Christie’s political career and his White House ambitions. But in those four months – a third of a year — what else have we really learned?

Sadly, not much.

We know, of course, that Bridget Anne Kelly of Ramsey, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff and a member of Christie’s self-proclaimed “circle of trust,” is the author of the “traffic problems in Fort Lee” directive.

Her email was first disclosed on The Record’s website on Jan. 8. But Kelly sent it almost five months earlier to David Wildstein, a political operative and Christie ally who had landed a job at the Port Authority for which he had few qualifications other than the fact that he knew Christie.

Several weeks after receiving Kelly’s email on Aug. 13, 2013, Wildstein ordered Port Authority workers to eliminate two of three access lanes from Fort Lee’s streets to the tolls at the George Washington Bridge. He said he was conducting a “traffic study.”

The resulting – and immediate – back-up of cars and trucks was a study in chaos. Fort Lee’s narrow streets were turned into parking lots during morning rush hour, stranding commuters, delaying school buses and blocking emergency vehicles.

After four days of vehicular bedlam, the access lanes from Fort Lee were restored – not by Wildstein, though. The executive director of the Port Authority stepped in, claiming that Wildstein never broached the idea of a “traffic study” with him and ordered traffic lanes re-opened.

So why were the lanes closed? (Kelly/The Record) 






Pressure foils the start of N.J.’s tough smart gun law

The threats came from all over the country in the past two weeks, aimed at gun dealers in California and Maryland who were prepared to sell firearms that would set off New Jersey’s tough law.

Their ultimate target was in New Jersey, where the gun-rights lobby has been frantically working to derail a 12-year-old law intended to speed the adoption of new technology that would ensure guns would fire only in the hands of their authorized users.

Long an abstraction, the law that was largely forgotten until a story in The Record seven months ago has become a flash point in the debate over gun safety as a German manufacturer, Armatix, has attempted to sell the first such product in the country.

According to the law, passed when the technology was in its infancy, evidence that such a gun has been delivered to a dealer anywhere in the United States would be enough to start a three-year waiting period, after which every gun sold in New Jersey would be required to be equipped with a user-recognition system.

James Mitchell of California and Andy Raymond of Maryland appeared to be ready to sell such devices but met resistance from gun-rights advocates. Both have backed off, so the clock has not started on New Jersey’s law. But observers say its time will come.

Gun-safety advocates say the high-tech guns, called smart guns, would reduce accidental shootings — especially those involving children — and suicides. They could protect gun users from having their weapons used against them, and reduce illegal firearm sales.

Gun-rights advocates question the reliability of the software that controls such guns and resent any government attempt to regulate gun sales.

Intent on stopping what they call a “gun ban” in New Jersey, they have successfully pressured two dealers in recent weeks to back off plans to carry the Armatix gun, a .22-caliber pistol called the iP1. It would fire only if the user was wearing a watch that emits a radio signal. (Akin/The Record) 







Clash Over Changes in Civil Service Rules Isn’t Civil at All

When Gov. Chris Christie called Democrats’ bluff on a key labor issue last week – as the state Civil Service Commission followed through on its promise to relax promotion standards for most state jobs — the only surprise was that opponents of the changes were not ready with a coordinated response.

But they hope to agree this week on a counter-strategy to undo the unilateral moves by the Christie-appointed commission, which thumbed its collective nose at organized labor and Democratic legislators with its vote on Wednesday.

The commission’s action was the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game that began early last year between the governor, who is seeking more freedom for managers to reassign workers, and labor unions trying to preserve protections against political patronage in state jobs.

Traditionally, Civil Service job applicants and employees have been required to pass tests to be hired or to advance.

As part of a package first presented early last year to streamline regulations, the commission proposed lowering the requirements by grouping job classes into larger “bands,” allowing managers to shift some workers around without passing qualifying tests for their new positions.

In January, both chambers passed concurrent resolutions establishing the Legislature’s stance that the commission’s plan would violate the law and the state constitution.

Acting as though those votes never happened, the commission adopted the governor’s plan with some modest changes. The new version clarifies that the rules apply to state, not municipal, employees, exempts law-enforcement and public-safety positions, and states its intent to preserve a job preference for veterans. The commission also gave dissatisfied employees the right to appeal, albeit to the commission.

Those amendments would not affect the majority of the state’s Civil Service workers, who still would work with less job security and a more fluid promotion system under the new regulations. (Tyrrell/NJSpotlight) 







PSE&G Energy Efficient Programs Helps Hospitals Spend More on Healthcare

magine saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs a year, reducing significantly your carbon footprint, and averting the headache of spending limited capital dollars on equipment not part of your core mission.

That’s the case for 32 hospitals thanks to a $129 million program by Public Service Electric & Gas. It has enabled those facilities to reduce their energy bills by updating, renovating, and replacing antiquated boilers, lighting, and other equipment.

The program is probably one of the more successful efforts in the state to sharply curb energy consumption by businesses and residents — a top priority of the Energy Master Plan adopted by the Christie administration.

Hospitals have huge energy bills. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 







NJ private school for disabled children lied about finances, ex-workers allege

TRENTON — More than two dozen former employees of Somerset Hills School, a private school for students with disabilities, and a related treatment center claim they were misled about the companies’ finances and told their jobs were safe before being abruptly laid off last year.

In a confidential letter sent to the school last week and recently obtained by The Star-Ledger, an attorney for the 29 employees asserts they are owed more than $134,500 in lost wages and benefits because they were not given 60 days notice of the layoffs, as required under state law.

The letter also contends Somerset Hills never notified the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development of the layoffs, which is also required under the law.

The companies laid off 84 full-time employees Dec. 31, the letter said, shortly after the school came under fire for its spending of taxpayer money and the same day the treatment center closed after state officials, citing a host of problems, let its contract expire. (Baxter/Star-Ledger) 







 New Meadowlands hospital CEO pledges more cooperation with state

SECAUCUS — Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus has made a name for itself since becoming New Jersey’s highest-profile for-profit hospital three-and-a-half years ago, although some would say for the wrong reasons.

The state Health Department has fined the community hospital on the Hackensack River $58,000 for withholding financial reports. It’s been accused of outrageously high billing practices, earning a reputation as among the most expensive hospitals in America. And to some lawmakers and union leaders, it is the embodiment of what’s wrong with the for-profit hospital business model sweeping across North Jersey.

Thomas Considine, the hospital’s third CEO since 2010, aims to change all that.

In an interview with The Star-Ledger on his third day on the job last week, Considine — Gov. Chris Christie’s law school friend and the state’s former banking and insurance commissioner — promised to change the hospital’s management style and begin a new era of cooperation that would remake its image from a “pariah” into a health care leader.

“There is no secret there are challenges here,” Considine said. “There needs to be a new era of transparency. There will be.”

Richard Lipsky, an owner and board chairman, said in a statement that Considine “will have full executive authority at the hospital, and a free hand to make the changes he believes necessary.”

Considine sees his role as the embattled hospital’s defender. He said one of his first priorities is to aggressively pursue managed care companies that he says have taken advantage of Meadowlands’ troubles by cutting back their reimbursements. Although the hospital isn’t losing money, he said, this practice threatens the bottom line.

“Our reputation situation leads payers to say: ‘We don’t have to pay,’ ” Considine said. “Politically, they can get away without paying us because of the successful portrayal of us as a pariah.” (Livio/Star-Ledger)






From the Back Room




Gearing up for historic elections Tuesday with PolitickerNJ: all of our exclusive weekend coverage 

PolitickerNJ reporters operated in the major theaters of New Jersey elections this weekend in the lead up to this coming Tuesday, Election Day 2014, when voters will go to the polls to pick urban mayors in Newark, Paterson, Bayonne, Trenton, Irvington.

We kick off this week’s 24/7 coverage of these historic contests this morning in anticipation of ward-by-ward, block-by-block coverage on May 13th by sharing our weekend PNJ round-up from Newark and Paterson:

Gearing up for historic elections Tuesday with PolitickerNJ: all of our exclusive weekend coverage | Politicker NJ





Jersey Journal backs Smith’s re-election in Bayonne

The Jersey Journal today endorsed incumbent Mayor Mark Smith in Tuesday’s Bayonne election.

“Mayors of the 21st century must be qualified to go beyond providing the basic municipal services of public safety, education and clean streets…this newspaper feels he [Mark Smith]has the skills and know-how to continue as the city’s chief executive.”

See the full endorsement here.

Jersey Journal backs Smith’s re-election in Bayonne | Politicker NJ







The Independent Expenditure Era: ‘That’s politics now’ 

There was a scene on Election Day 2013 that spoke to the new dimensions of political campaigns in this Huxleyan world of independent expenditures.

It was ground zero of a battleground district and as PolitickerNJ entered the bunker the only sound rattling down the hallway might have been the indifferent nasal snoring of one of the prime combatants in that much-watched contest.

It wasn’t quite that bad.

The candidate actually was awake, but with his legs kicked up on a table in front of him.

An attitude of sublime complacency governed his every gesture.

As the candidate chewed a sandwich and began a philosophical dissection of its contents, PolitickerNJ finally asked him what the hell was going on, he was in a race, wasn’t he? Why was he acting like he didn’t care?

“To prove a point,” was the answer, delivered without missing a beat.

“This is an independent expenditure game now,” he added. “You don’t have to even shake a hand anymore. The million dollar ads come in from IEs and that’s the campaign. That’s politics now.”

He threw the crumpled sandwich wrapper into the empty room.

“That’s politics.”

As they fight block by block in the May 13th election, the Shavar Jeffries people would probably object strongly to that characterization.

Nonetheless, the observable features of classic New Jersey/Newark contests showed Ras Baraka with a conventional campaign edge prior to a massive, multi-million dollar network television ad and mail onslaught on behalf of Jeffries in the two-week lead-up to this coming Tuesday’s election.

See the details here.

The Independent Expenditure Era: ‘That’s politics now’ | Politicker NJ






Braun savages The Ledger

Former Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun ripped into his former employer’s endorsement of Shavar Jeffries in the Newark mayor’s contest.

See Braun’s piece here.

Braun savages The Ledger | Politicker NJ






Star-Ledger backs Jeffries in Newark mayor’s race

Calling him the real reformer in the Newark mayor’s race, the Star-Ledger this afternoon endorsed Shavar Jeffries, the former state assistant attorney general.

“As mayor, he’d have the best chance of prevailing over Newark’s highly contentious politics to actually get things done,” the editorial notes.

See the whole piece here.

Star-Ledger backs Jeffries in Newark mayor’s race | Politicker NJ

Morning Digest: May 12, 2014