Morning Digest: May 29, 2014

Baraka joins Watson Coleman for CD12 fundraiser

Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka joined Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) in Ewing tonight and helped the candidate raise approximately $15,000, according to Watson Coleman’s 12th District Congressional campaign.

Those in attendance, along with Baraka, included…

County executive Brian Hughes

Senator Shirley Turner (D-15)

Trenton Mayoral candidate Eric Jackson

Mercer Democratic Chair Liz Muoio

Freeholder Anthony Carabelli

Freeholder Sam Frisby

Clerk Paula Sollami Covella

Lawrence Democratic Municipal Chair Greg Puliti (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Baraka joins Watson Coleman for CD12 fundraiser | Politicker NJ





Newark council runoff races: Central Ward Councilman Sharif challenges Chaneyfield Jenkins to debate, calls out Baraka 

NEWARK – Newark Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif rhetorically teed off on his June 10 council election runoff rival, former city councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, on Wednesday, demanding a debate and calling her out on her previous public service record.

“I am very disturbed that in this runoff there will be no debate between me and Ms. Chaneyfield,” said Sharif, sitting in his City Hall office. “Constituents are coming up to me and saying that this is unfair. Our residents want to see us face off against each other.”

Sharif noted a conversation he had with local Cablevision station officials in which he was informed that a televised debate between the two Central Ward runoff candidates would not be possible before the election because of budgetary reasons. 

“These runoff debates have always been a custom and a tradition of these runoff elections,” Sharif said. “That explanation for me really is unbelievable. They own the facility. They own the cameras. The most that they would have to pay for is for a moderator. I offered to raise the money for that, because I think that it is critical with 13 days left [before the runoff election] for us to present our views and our accomplishments before the public. I think the people on [Chaneyfield Jenkins’] team are trying to run out time from the clock. They know about her record, and that record has been made public to everybody.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark council runoff races: Central Ward Councilman Sharif challenges Chaneyfield Jenkins to debate, calls out Baraka | Politicker NJ







MacArthur anxious to ‘move past this nonsense’ and head into CD 3 general election cycle 

MANAHAWKIN – Congressional hopeful Tom MacArthur says he’s looking forward to next week’s primary election.

“I want to move past this nonsense,” said MacArthur at the site of Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall in Ocean County, describing the leadup to the June 3 election he says has been fraught with “useless mudslinging.”

MacArthur, who’s vying for his party’s nomination to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) against fellow Republican Steve Lonegan, was in attendance at Christie’s latest town hall event. MacArthur attended four of the town hall events, by his count.

“I come to these because it’s a really important opportunity for me to come and hear some of the issues,” he said following the event where Christie fielded questions from residents devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

Despite being just a few feet from the Republican governor during the event, MacArthur said he has not sought Christie’s endorsement. Rather, MacArthur told PolitickerNJ he was proud of the local endorsements he’s garnered from GOP officials throughout his campaign – including state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-9), who was present for the event.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

MacArthur anxious to ‘move past this nonsense’ and head into CD 3 general election cycle | Politicker NJ






Blame Game on Pensions in New Jersey

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced his decision last week to forgo $2.4 billion in state pension payments over the next two years, he blamed his recent predecessors for leaving him a system deep in debt.

Those predecessors have different views. While some take at least part of the responsibility for the looming shortfalls, they also blame each other and Mr. Christie. They said they did what they thought was best at the time, even if they are now concerned about the state’s fiscal health.

“Everybody has to take the blame for this,” said former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, a Republican.

The state’s pension is currently underfunded by almost $40 billion, and that could rise to $46 billion by 2019, according to a state report.

Faced with a state budget shortfall of almost $3 billion between now and 2015, Mr. Christie last week announced that he would do what many former governors have done: He kicked pension obligations down the road in favor of immediate budget priorities.

The Republican cast his decision as a choice between reducing services and raising taxes, both of which he said he was unwilling to do. Either move could potentially drain his political capital at the national level, at a time when he is struggling to put the George Washington Bridge scandal behind him.

After his decision, the system’s deficit could rise from about $38 billion to $46 billion by 2019, according to a state report, higher than when he took office.

Calling out his predecessors for not paying more into the system, Mr. Christie said his current problems stem from “sins of the past.” (Dawsey and Haddon/Wall Street Journal) 







Port Authority to cover legal bills for 15 employees in GWB probe

In the latest indication that the public will bear an ongoing and significant financial burden for the multiple probes into the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, the Port Authority has agreed to cover the legal bills of 15 employees — including the agency’s executive director — who have turned to outside attorneys for counsel, an agency official said Wednesday.

That is on top of the five law firms hired by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to represent public employees who have been embroiled in the lane closure scandal. Those firms are being paid $340 per hour.  (Boburg/The Record)    





Christie: New Sandy aid to clear ‘everybody’ off waiting list

Governor Christie heard about the bad and the good of the state’s Superstorm Sandy recovery at a town hall-style event in Manahawkin on Wednesday.

He also announced that the federal government would approve New Jersey’s plan for spending the second installment of recovery money – totaling $1.46 billion. The state expects to receive $882 million in the third and final installment from Washington, he said.

That last batch of money “should permit us to take everybody off the rebuilding waiting list,” said the Republican governor, who told the Ocean County crowd that he still spends “40 to 50 percent of every week” on Sandy rebuilding.

Christie heard several complaints from people who said they had struggled to secure recovery money, or who complained that second homes are not eligible for the federal programs. Christie says he raised the second home issue with President Obama, but federal officials have declined to provide any money for those houses.

Sandra Smith, who lives on Avon Beach, said she and her husband “felt victimized” by the centerpiece of New Jersey’s Sandy efforts, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation Program.

“We still have gotten nothing,” Smith said. “Every single time we talk to someone on the phone or gone to a meeting … we saw different people and every time we were told, ‘Oh no, I don’t know who told you that, but that’s not right.’”

Back in Trenton, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, also criticized the recovery effort. He promised to attempt to override the governor’s conditional veto of the “Sandy Bill of Rights,” a bill championed by Sweeney that was aimed at making the distribution of federal aid more effective and transparent.  (Linhorst/The Record) 






Fate Uncertain for Bills Aimed at Slowing Down Switch to New State Testing

It’s a big question in New Jersey education circles these days: What is happening with legislation and other efforts to slow down the full implementation of new online testing and the attendant educator evaluations.

And the short answer at this point appears to be — stay tuned.

The chief sponsor of the bill in the Assembly said yesterday that she is still hopeful it will be posted for a full vote in the lower chamber, even after it was passed over for the last voting session.

“I would hope to have it posted,” said state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex) yesterday. “I think there are a lot of people who would like to see it happen.”

And the likely sponsor of a companion bill in the Senate said he, too, had high hopes — but also wasn’t sure next steps. And the likely sp

“I’d like to see at least a discussion about it,” said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May).

But there does not seem to be much wavering from the Christie administration, at least for the time being, raising doubts as to whether a bill, if ever passed, would have a chance of being signed by Gov. Chris Christie. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 




Air Pollution Shows Slight Rise As Feds Prepare First Greenhouse Gas Limit

With the federal government poised to enact new rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a five-year decline in carbon dioxide emissions has now reversed, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It isn’t a big bump, increasing only 2.4 percent in 2013 compared with 2012, but a sharp reversal in the 12.5 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions of five years ago. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions climbed by 7.5 percent in the first two months of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013, according to the EIA.

Much of the increase appears to be due to expanded use of coal, which boosted carbon dioxide emissions by 4.2 percent in 2013 compared with the prior year. Coal accounted for 32 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in 2013.

Not all of those increases were attributed to the power sector — the residential and commercial sectors both grew quickly as well, according to the EIA. Natural gas, whose price has dropped because of newly found deposits of the fuel in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, also rose by 2.1 percent in 2012 and by 10 percent in the first two months of 2014.

Those trends are likely to continue.  (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 






Christie administration to investigate pension investment tied to Massachusetts Republican

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s administration will audit a $15 million investment of state pension funds into a firm linked to a Republican candidate for governor in Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, state officials said today.

Baker donated $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican Party in May 2011, and seven months later, New Jersey invested $15 million from its pension fund in General Catalyst, a Massachusetts venture capital firm where Baker works that has funded start-ups such as Airbnb and SnapChat.

The donation was first reported by the website PandoDaily and has become an issue in the Massachusetts governor’s race, in which Baker is running as a Republican. He has hired Anthony Herman, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, as his attorney.

New Jersey’s pay-to-play law prohibits awarding state contracts, such as the $15 million investment in General Catalyst, to firms whose “investment management professionals” have made political donations in New Jersey in the previous two years.  (Rizzo/Star-Ledger) 





Rutgers trustees call emergency meeting on bill to expand board of governors

NEW BRUNSWICK — Faced with a bill in the state Legislature that could chip away at its power, the Rutgers board of trustees will hold an emergency meeting in New Brunswick Friday to consider ways to fight the legislation.

The 59-member board, made up mostly of Rutgers alumni, is fired up over a bill proposed by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) that would increase the number of seats on the university’s powerful board of governors from 15 to 19.

The legislation, which is slated for a Senate committee hearing Monday in Trenton, would give the governor and state lawmakers more power in selecting members of the Rutgers board of governors by making 12 seats on the board political appointees.

The trustees are expected to vehemently oppose the legislation. In the past, the Rutgers board of trustees has threatened to sue the state if the Legislature tried to change the university’s governance without the trustees’ permission.

University officials sent out a public notice today announcing the trustees meeting at noon Friday in Winants Hall on the New Brunswick campus.

Rutgers officials did not respond to a request to comment on the legislation or what actions the trustees may take.  (Heyboer/Star-Ledger)   





From the Back Room



Former Mayor Muti jumps into Ramsey race as an independent

Former Ramsey mayor Richard Muti announced today that he is a candidate for mayor of Ramsey.

Muti plans to run as an independent.

Ramsey councilwoman Deirdre Dillon is the likely Republican Party nominee for mayor.

She is running unopposed in the June 3rd primary election, as is former councilwoman and freeholder Julie O’Brien in her bid for the Democratic Party nomination.

More than 200 Ramsey residents petitioned the Bergen County Clerk to place Muti on the November ballot.

Former Mayor Muti jumps into Ramsey race as an independent | Politicker NJ






There is a Republican Primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday

How badly does the Republican Party want to beat U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)?

Here’s a look at the competitors in Tuesday’s GOP Primary:

Back from Florida in a sequel to his failed 1978 bid for U.S. Senate, Jeff Bell has $4,000 cash on hand.

Concrete businessman Brian Goldberg has $1,600 cash on hand.

(He’s the candidate with the most Republican county organization lines and apparently the goodwill of the party).

Monmouth County Businessman Richard Pezzullo didn’t file a report with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Ramapo Prof. Murray Sabrin has $42,714 cash-on-hand.

Running for re-election to the seat he won last year in a special election, Booker has $3 million cash-on-hand.

There is a Republican Primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday | Politicker NJ





Cryan v. Lesniak with Bayonne backdrop 

They’ve had their troubles although managed to find a way back to each other in the foxholes of LD20.

This time, though, they’ve surfaced on opposite sides in a town on the far side of the river called Bayonne.

In the June 10th mayoral runoff there, Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20) stands with his friend, incumbent Mayor Mark Smith; while the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice, is also on the scene in support of Smith’s challenger, Jimmy Davis.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) set up the super PAC last year.

Cryan v. Lesniak with Bayonne backdrop | Politicker NJ








Tarrance Group Polling Memo shows MacArthur ahead of Lonegan in CD3

The American Action Network (AAN) this morning released the results of a survey of Republican Primary voters in the 3rd Congressional District, where former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan are competing to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3).

In a polling memo, the Tarrance Group reported findings to AAN based on telephone interviews with 400 “likely” Republican Primary voters throughout the 3rd Congressional District conducted from May 18-20.

According to the poll, 43% of Republican Primary voters indicate they would vote for MacArthur, while 30% indicate they would vote for Lonegan, and 27% indicate they are undecided on a primary ballot test.

The margin of error was +4.9%.

Tarrance Group Polling Memo shows MacArthur ahead of Lonegan in CD3 | Politicker NJ






Latino group to endorse Perez in Trenton mayor’s race, Chivukula in CD 12 Democratic primary race today 

A Latino business and community group based in Trenton will make two June election endorsements today on the steps of Trenton’s City Hall. 

The group, known as the Latino Business and Community Leaders Panel of Trenton, will endorse Paul Perez in the June 10 Trenton mayoral runoff election and will back state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) in the June 3 Twelfth Congressional District Democratic primary. 

“Both [Perez] and [Chivukula] respected us enough to come talk to us,” said Manny Segura, former Trenton councilman and 2010 mayoral candidate, who is the Latino group’s chairperson. “They engaged us.” 

The endorsements will take place at Trenton City Hall, 319 East State Street, at 5:30 p.m. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Latino group to endorse Perez in Trenton mayor’s race, Chivukula in CD 12 Democratic primary race today | Politicker NJ










Give N.J. veterans access to health care at all hospitals

Our elected leaders want to give veterans the option to seek medical care at civilian hospitals instead of having to trek to a Veterans Affairs facility.

For many, that journey means a long drive to a VA hospital. For some, that journey also comes with a long wait time for care.

The scandal rocking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs centers around fudged record keeping regarding wait times at some VA hospitals and allegations that veterans died waiting for the care they were due.

More than 20 VA hospitals are under investigation.

Backlogs at these hospitals are nothing new. We’ve been reading about them for years.

What’s difficult to understand is why it has taken this long to give veterans the option of finding care at their local hospitals.

Whatever the reason, this is welcome news. U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2, Ventnor) plans to propose a measure giving veterans this freedom to choose. State legislators in the First District have proposed similar measures.

Under these proposals, the VA would reimburse local hospitals for care given to veterans.  (South Jersey Times Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: May 29, 2014