Morning Digest: May 15, 2014

Attorney contends Christie misstated what ex-aide Bill Stepien knew about GWB lane closures Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter Sign

Attorney contends Christie misstated what ex-aide Bill Stepien knew about GWB lane closures

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Governor Christie “misspoke” when he said in December that his campaign chief had assured him that he didn’t have “any knowledge” about the George Washington Bridge lane closures, an attorney for the former campaign manager said Wednesday.

Bill Stepien contends that he told the governor on Dec. 12, a day before Christie made his public comments, that he had been approached by Port Authority executive David Wildstein with the idea of closing the lanes, Stepien’s attorney wrote in a letter released Wednesday.

At the time of Christie’s comments, the controversy was largely confined to the Port Authority and no indications had surfaced that anyone at the bi-state agency had broached the idea with a member of Christie’s inner circle prior to the closure of the lanes for five days in September.

The revelation that a Port Authority executive had approached Christie’s campaign manager with the idea before it was carried out would likely have inflamed the controversy and raised further questions about who authorized the closures, part of a purported traffic study. (Boburg/The Record) 





New Jersey lawmakers look at college affordability

EWING  — Lawmakers who want to make the state’s colleges more accountable and affordable are finding agreement in principle from advocates, students and college administrators, but there are doubts on some of the specifics.

The Assembly Higher Education Committee, which is considering 20 bills dealing with the way colleges work, held a hearing Wednesday at The College of New Jersey, the first of three planned on-campus hearings.

The package includes bills that would freeze tuition and fees for entering students so they would know what they would pay over the course of their college careers; compel schools to make public details about their graduates’ debt rates; and require county colleges to have plans for how to get one-third of their first-time, full-time students to earn associate’s degrees within three years.

County college graduation rates triggered some debate.

Mercer County College President Patricia Donohue said graduation is not the only goal for community colleges.

Some students come just to take classes to gain expertise in a certain area. The majority need remedial courses before they can take for-credit classes. Many students transfer to four-year schools without earning a community college degree. And students who start out taking classes full time often drop to part time because of work obligations.

All of that should be taken into account, said Donohue, whose college graduates less than one-fifth of its first-time full-time students in three years. 






Program Boosts Energy Efficiency, Trims Costs at State Facilities 

ncumbent Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith lost to challenger Tony Vauss Tuesday night, according to unofficial election results.

Vauss received more than 33 percent of the vote against Smith’s 17 percent.

Vauss defeats Smith in Irvington | Politicker NJ





Christie: Nothing new came out of 7-hour GWB hearing

The state finally seems poised to implement a once highly touted program that would allow government facilities to significantly reduce energy costs without laying out any capital.

The program, dubbed the Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP), has been a big disappointment to its proponents since no projects have ever been undertaken since former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the law in 2009. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 





Under Discussion: Imminent Teacher Layoffs Keep Camden at Low Boil

The impending layoffs of more than 300 teachers and other staff in Camden continued to reverberate in the city yesterday, as hundreds of students walked out of class and marched on the offices of the state-appointed administration.

Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard met the students on the front steps of the Cooper Street offices and said he had few choices in making the cuts to address a $75 million budget gap. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 






Washington Township sued for OPRA election petition request denial

A Washington Township man is suing the township after it denied his Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for surveillance footage from inside the clerk’s office. 

Attorney Steve Altamuro filed the suit on behalf of Republican Jerry Keer in Gloucester County Superior Court on May 7, stating that the township improperly denied Keer’s OPRA request for video footage that, according to Altamuro, should settle a dispute over election petitions. 

In the suit, Altamuro said he’s seeking video from the three-hour period on March 31 in which council President Giancarlo D’Orazio submitted his petitions to run for one of three council seats up for election this fall. 

D’Orazio and running mate Bob Maloney are facing off against the slate endorsed by the local Republican Executive Committee, Joe Micucci, Christine Bailey and Nick Fazzio in the June 3 primary.

This is the second suit Altamuro has filed regarding D’Orazio and Maloney’s petition, the first alleging that they did not have enough signatures to be placed on the ballot because too many of the signatures were from Democratic or unaffiliated voters. 

A judge ruled against them last month, however, after D’Orazio produced two more petitions in court that Altamuro was unaware of, and which gave him more than the 50 required to appear on the ballot. (Caffrey/South Jersey Times) 






Obama and Christie to attend 9/11 museum dedication today

President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie will appear together this morning during the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero.

The 10 a.m. dedication ceremony at the below-ground museum at the World Trade Center site coincides with its opening to family members of 9/11 victims today, before the museum opens to the general public on May 21. Media outlets, including The Star-Ledger were given a preview on Wednesday.

The two politicians were last together during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, when Obama joined others in ribbing Christie over the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal that has rocked his administration for several months.

Christie’s speech was schedule to be followed in the program by a song, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” performed by Idina Menzel. However, Menzel is ill and will not appear.

However, an appearance by the president and the governor at a solemn and and patriotic ceremony like the museum’s dedication is likely to be more in line with the grave camaraderie the two shared when Obama visited New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. (Strunsky/Star-Ledger)  

Morning Digest: May 15, 2014