Morning Digest: May 22, 2014

Bayonne: O’Donnell confident – but not overconfident

BAYONNE – Breaking: it’s still standing.

There were rumors circulating that Smith v. Davis had destroyed the Hudson County town.

They’re not true.

People walked up and down Broadway as on any other summery suggestive day, with the air punctuated nonetheless by shrieks of “War!” from Jimmy Davis headquarters.

It has felt like one, no doubt, acknowledges Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), the campaign manager for his close friend, incumbent Mayor Mark Smith, who clings now to a one percent lead over Davis with three weeks to go before the runoff.

With Smith clings the legislative career of O’Donnell, who depends on the mayor staying in City Hall for line leverage.

“We’re confident that we’re going to get our people out on the 10th,” said O’Donnell, the local tavern owner turned firefighter and public school teacher’s husband turned Democratic State Party Chairman for 45 minutes last year turned helmsman of the most watched local contest in the state. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Bayonne: O’Donnell confident – but not overconfident | Politicker NJ





Christie says credit agencies are the ‘same group of folks who allowed the financial crisis to occur’

TRENTON – Don’t put too much stock in those Wall Street rating agency downgrades, says Gov. Chris Christie.

The governor, whose administration has been at the helm during six credit rating downgrades over the course of his tenure to date, says he’s not worried about additional downgrades. Christie said he finds it interesting they “continue to downgrade the people who try to act responsibly,” but added he doesn’t live in fear of rating agencies.

“No, I don’t fear it,” he said Wednesday during a Statehouse news conference.

“This is the same group of folks who allowed the financial crisis to occur,” he said, arguing they “sat on their hands collecting huge fees” from clients during the financial collapse and essentially got paid “to look the other way,” he said.

“I don’t know how much credibility these places have,” Christie said.  (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Christie says credit agencies are the ‘same group of folks who allowed the financial crisis to occur’ | Politicker NJ






Source: meeting between Christie, DiVincenzo and Baraka “very, very positive”

NEWARK – A source with direct knowledge of Tuesday’s meeting between Governor Chris Christie, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka told that the first meeting between the three powerful politicos was “very positive.”

“It was a great first meeting. The governor was very supportive, and he said that [he had] invested a lot in Newark and wants to see Newark go forward. [Christie] wants to work with the new mayor,” the source told on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. “I think it went really well.” 

Observers of the Garden State political scene could have expected tension to be high between Christie, DiVincenzo and Baraka before Tuesday’s meeting. The three men, all native Newarkers, have not exactly seen eye-to-eye politically. 

DiVincenzo was the most prominent Democrat to publicly endorse Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate, for re-election last year and remains a close ally of the governor. DiVincenzo also endorsed rival Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries over Baraka, a Democrat who enjoys staunch public-sector labor union support, on the last day of the Newark mayoral campaign. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Source: meeting between Christie, DiVincenzo and Baraka “very, very positive” | Politicker NJ






Christie puts off property-tax rebates to ease budget problems

Senior citizens, disabled residents and other homeowners who are among the more than a million people enrolled in New Jersey’s Homestead program will not get their property tax relief this year.

That relief — in the form of a credit on annual property tax bills — is again being delayed by Governor Christie and his administration, who blame another bad budget year.

The latest delay means people won’t see this benefit until May 2015 — nearly two years since the last time the tax-relief credit was available.

“When you’re running out of money, you’ve got to manage your cash carefully,” Christie said on Wednesday, defending the decision to delay the credit as part of a plan to reduce his proposed budget by $1.7 billion. “You’ve got to prioritize your bills and decide which ones you absolutely must pay.”

Christie has now postponed the Homestead program three times since taking office in early 2010. Property taxes in New Jersey are still rising, but not by as much as they had when Christie took office and before he pushed for a 2 percent cap on increases. But they are still growing, to a record high statewide average of $7,988 last year.

What people get as a tax relief credit, however, has not changed much since 2010.

Seniors and disabled residents see an average of $516, for those earning under $150,000. Homeowners earning less than $75,000 see a benefit of $402.  (Reitmeyer and Linhorst/The Record) 





Christie strikes deal to retain Stuart Rabner as N.J. chief justice

 For the first time, Governor Christie has agreed to let a member of the Supreme Court stay on the job, announcing Wednesday that he would renominate the chief justice, ending months of speculation and fears that the court’s independence would be compromised.

First as candidate, then as governor, Christie has railed against the Supreme Court, repeatedly saying its members are too “activist” and its decisions out of step. Christie has vowed to remake the court, and has told audiences that to do that, he would have to change who sits on the court. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the face of the court, will remain, however.

Rabner’s reappointment will be a package deal. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he will support Lee Solomon, a Republican now on the Superior Court in Camden County, for a place on the Supreme Court alongside Rabner, whose term was set to expire in June.

Should the Senate confirm Rabner’s renomination – and there is every indication that is what will take place – he will be given tenure and allowed to serve until 2030, when he will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70. (Phillis/The Record) 





Democrats Fear Rebate Delay May Put Payments on Chopping Block for 2015 

 Senior citizens and homeowners expecting to see cuts in their August property tax bills will have to wait another nine months after Gov. Chris Christie pushed off payment of almost $400 million in promised 2014 homestead rebates to May 2015 as part of his strategy to cope with the state’s $2.7 billion budget shortfall.

Christie said he moved the rebate payment from August to May for cash-flow reasons because state revenues come in most heavily in March and April. The delay means almost a million New Jerseyans will go 21 months between rebate checks.

“It’s important to be paid, but I think it’s also important to us how we manage our cash,” Christie said, dismissing Democratic assertions that the shift was a ploy to cancel the rebate payment. “If I wanted to eliminate it, I would just have eliminated it. I did that before in 2010.”

Christie’s decision to delay the rebates was discovered the day after the governor announced that he would cut $900 million in pension payments this year and $1.5 billion next year to plug the two-year budget gap, triggering a major confrontation with the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the public employee unions over the future of the state’s pension and retiree health benefits system. (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 







t’s unclear whether the renomination of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner will change the direction of the New Jersey’s highest court.

But Gov. Chris Christie’s action yesterday, taken as part of a deal to add a Republican to the bench, resolves a question that had concerned the state’s legal community. Some, however, say it does not negate the need for a constitutional amendment essentially giving judges lifetime tenure to ensure the continued independence of the state’s judiciary. (O’Dea/NJSpotlight) 






Chris Christie says he was obviously discussing Israel in foreign policy speech

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie never said the word “Israel” in a Sunday night speech in front hundreds Jewish philanthropists and political donors.

But, Christie said today, he was obviously talking about it.

“If people in that audience weren’t smart enough to figure out that when I was saying things like we need to treat our friends better and treat our enemies more directly — when I talked about the criticism of policy towards Syria and Iran — if they didn’t interpret that as support of Israel, then they weren’t smart enough to be in the room,” Christie said at a Statehouse press conference.

Several media accounts of the speech — which was delivered with billionaire casino magnate and political donor Sheldon Adelson looking on — led with the fact that Christie didn’t specifically mention Israel. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, quoted attendees as saying they would have liked to have heard it.

And it came after Christie in March gave another speech in front of Adelson in which he caught flack for referring to certain areas in and around Israel as “occupied territories.”

But Christie said complaints about his Sunday night speech were unwarranted.

“I don’t go to these things to pander,” he said. “And so I’m not one of those politicians who is going to go to a Jewish group and count how many times I say the word Israel… I’m not going to go to Muslim groups and do the same thing. I’m not going to go to labor groups and do that. I’m not going to go to taxpayer groups and do that. I’m going to go there and say what I think.” (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 





Codey introduces Port bill to avoid conflicts and encourage transparency

TRENTON — State Sen. Richard Codey introduced disclosure legislation intended to end conflicts of interest, encourage whistle blowing, and invite public input involving the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and other bi-state agencies.

Codey’s legislation, introduced on Monday, comes amid a flurry of reform proposals prompted by revelations that September’s George Washington Bridge lane closures were carried out by political appointees of Gov. Chris Christie for what was widely suspected to be a political retribution against Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor. A report by a law firm hired by Christie’s office asserted there was no evidence that the governor had advance knowledge of the closures.

Under the Codey legislation, agency board members and executives would be required to disclose whether they or family members have a financial interest in any company doing business with the agency, and would prohibit their participation in related discussions or votes when conflicts arise.

Prosecutors are now looking into whether former Port Authority board members were in conflict involving agency actions that benefited their private firms or clients.   (Strunsky/Star-Ledger) 







From the Back Room


Christie will be in Florida tomorrow with Gov. Rick Scott 

Republican Governors Association Chairman Chris Christie will travel to Florida this Wednesday to attend events for the RGA, Republican Party of Florida and Gov. Rick Scott, according to a release issued by the RGA.

Christie will be in Florida tomorrow with Gov. Rick Scott | Politicker NJ




Source: Baraka’s olive branch tour continues in the Ironbound 

Following sit-downs with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (Sunday), Gov. Chris Christie and powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo (Monday), Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka’s train continued its good government tour earlier today with a sit-down with another rival.

This time it was North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who ran for mayor himself before backing out and endorsing Shavar Jeffries.

Baraka last week beat Jeffries.

A source told PolitickerNJ that Amiri “Middy” Baraka and Ramos dined in the Ironbound section of Newark, where they chatted about the historic citywide election and the future of the city.

Source: Baraka’s olive branch tour continues in the Ironbound | Politicker NJ





DeGise’s 1997 Jersey City parallel for Bayonne

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise says he sees the Bayonne mayoral runoff playing out the way Jersey City did in 1997.

Bret Schundler was running for re-election and just barely managed to scrape past challenger Jerry Healy. 

After a judge ruled in favor of allowing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck votes to count toward the overall total, Schundler failed to attain 50% plus one and stumbled into the runoff against a charged-up Healy.

But Schundler found his traction in the head-to-head matchup with his rival and convincingly won, which Mark Smith will do over the course of the next three weeks, DeGise argued.

Other insiders dotting the turfscape at the county executive’s press conference earlier today in Union City strongly disagreed, arguing that Smith lost the initiative when he failed to finish challenger Jimmy Davis on May 13th.

DeGise’s 1997 Jersey City parallel for Bayonne | Politicker NJ



Morning Digest: May 22, 2014