Morning Digest: May 7, 2014

What would a Jeffries loss mean for DiVincenzo? 

NEWARK – It would be one of the most spectacular pivots in recent New Jersey political history: Essex County Executive Joe DiVIncenzo perfects his Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin stage act with Republican Chris Christie- and a year later not only scares away any Democratic Primary opposition, but secures yet another ally on the throne of Newark City Hall.

That’s what would happen if Shavar Jeffries were to win next week.

Prodding one ally after another into the arena to promote Jeffries (first mayoral candidate turned Jeffries booster Anibal Ramos, followed by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) and state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), DiVincenzo remains an engaged behind-the-scenes Jeffries ally.

The powerful – but dented in the aftermath of Christie’s sagging fortunes – county executive wants a win on Tuesday.

For a lot of reasons. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

What would a Jeffries loss mean for DiVincenzo? | Politicker NJ

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Wisniewski: We have a ‘government run by intimidation’

TRENTON – Declaring New Jersey has a “government run by intimidation,” Democrats leading the charge into investigating the Gov. Chris Christie administration say they learned two important details following Tuesday’s testimony of a former Christie staffer.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chairperson of the joint legislative committee, argued the most significant points of former staffer Christina Renna’s testimony were the fear factor and discrepancies in the administration’s internal review of the George Washington Bridge lane closings.

“Renna testified that she was worried about her job,” Wisniewski said during a news conference immediately following her testimony, referring to Renna’s references about not reporting certain information to superiors or other members of Christie’s staff out of fear of retaliation.

Renna, who worked under former top Christie aid Bridget Anne Kelly, gave nearly six hours of testimony to members of the joint legislative committee.

“[It’s] a very disturbing development because it really says that we have a government that is run by intimidation,” said Wisniewski, referring to the so-called trend as being “one of the most striking pieces of information” to come out of Renna’s testimony.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Wisniewski: We have a ‘government run by intimidation’ | Politicker NJ

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Newark mayor’s race: war of words erupts in running street battle between Baraka, Jeffries camps as accusations fly

NEWARK – Supporters of rival Newark mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries waged verbal war in the streets of Newark on Tuesday, one week from Election Day. Each fired-up side, already fueled by differences over politics and policy, burst into fury as they leveled accusations against each other.

The first salvo was fired from the steps of City Hall as the start of the business day. Chris Pernell, president of the pro-Jeffries independent expenditure group Newark First, lashed out at Baraka for she alleged were potential violations of Newark’s 2007 contractor anti-pay-to-play executive order. According to Pernell, Baraka accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies that may have been prohibited from donating to his campaign.

“Since 2012, Ras Baraka appears to have accepted at least two prohibited contributions totaling thousands of dollars,” Pernell said, specifically detailing two contributions from companies that she claimed may have been prohibited from contributing by executive order in 2012 and 2013, respectively. 

A written release issued later by Newark First detailed donations made by another company in 2013 and 2014 that the organization claims may have been prohibited from contributing to Baraka in that time period. 

The total of these reported donations to Baraka adds up to $4,400. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: war of words erupts in running street battle between Baraka, Jeffries camps as accusations fly | Politicker NJ





GWB probe: Ex-Christie staffer Renna tells of ties between politics, government

An aide to Governor Christie detailed the inner workings of the political outreach office at the heart of the George Washington Bridge scandal, telling lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday about a supervisor who seemed to take orders rather than make decisions, and taking responsibility for the order to cut communications with Fort Lee’s mayor.

Christina Renna was the first of Christie’s staff to testify directly before the legislative committee investigating the bridge scandal.

Her supervisor and onetime friend, Bridget Anne Kelly, is the now-fired Christie deputy chief of staff who appeared to order the lane closings at the bridge with her “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email.

Renna, who worked in Christie’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and was Kelly’s former deputy, cast doubt on a core conclusion drawn by the lawyers hired by Christie to investigate the lane closures: that Kelly and David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official, alone ordered the lanes closed, apparently to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who would not endorse Christie’s bid for a second term.

During a daylong committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers pressed Renna to explain how the Christie administration staffers in her office straddled the line between politics and good government; whether Kelly was the type of manager capable of carrying out the lane closures; and what, if any, knowledge Renna had of the episode.

In her responses, Renna said she played no role in the lane closures, but she acknowledged she ordered a staffer to stop communications with Sokolich. Renna did that, she said, after learning Kelly was not happy with the mayor. (Hayes and Reitmeyer/The Record)  






Christie, Cuomo form Port Authority reform panel

A new panel of Port Authority commissioners and top advisors to Governor Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will consider reforms for the authority, the governors announced in a joint statement Tuesday afternoon.

The six-member panel will “review and evaluate reforms of the Port Authority’s mission, structure, management, operations and overall governance for the betterment of the region,” the statement said. It will have 60 days to submit recommendations.

The statement was released minutes after a New Jersey legislative panel finished hearing testimony from Christina Renna, key Christie aide who oversaw outreach between the governor’s office and the state’s mayors.

Renna said little about the Port Authority during her five and a half hours of testimony. Instead, she said her boss, Bridget Kelly, expressed anger about dealing with the mayor of Fort Lee weeks before one of her friends at the Port Authority ordered that access lanes to the bridge be closed.

The joint statement from the governors cited the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has “raised questions regarding management and governance that must be analyzed and address.”  (Linhorst/The Record) 




Clean Drinking Water for New Jersey Residents Comes at Steep Price

face, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to upgrade sewer systems that now pollute rivers and bays during heavy rains, according to a new report prepared by Rutgers University for New Jersey Future, a smart-growth organization.

And time is running out for those communities to fix the problem. Without action to comply with requirements, towns may face penalties or other legal action, the report said. 

The 137-page report details a long recognized and unresolved problem in New Jersey, its failure to invest in a deteriorating infrastructure for delivering drinking water and safely disposing of sewage generated from residents in businesses.

The study is a clarion call to the state’s urban areas that they can ill afford to ignore a problem that results in more than 7 billion gallons of diluted sewage each year being dumped in New Jersey’s waterways.

“One point is clear: With aging water infrastructure, what can go wrong at some point will, unless preemptive action is taken,’’ said Daniel Van Abs, the principal investigator for the study, who works at Rutgers University. “Looking the other way does not make the system work any better.’’ (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




New Jersey Already Seeing Effects of Climate Change, National Report Says

tudy by group of scientists and other experts offers specific forecast of extreme weather’s impact on Northeast, rest of U.S.

New Jersey and the rest of the nation’s Northeast are already experiencing the effects of climate change and can expect more heat waves, downpours, floods and storms in the future, according to a major national report issued on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment said that longstanding predictions of climate change are now a reality, causing seas to rise, precipitation patterns to shift and temperatures to soar, with resulting damage to infrastructure, homes and human health.

“This report shows that climate change is here and now, and matters to each one of us no matter what part of the country we live in,” Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and a contributor to the report, said during a conference call with reporters. (Hurdle/NJSpotlight) 





Report: Sea Bright Mayor leaves Democratic party

SEA BRIGHT – Mayor Dina Long has dropped her affiliation with the Democratic Party, reports said Tuesday evening.

Long has changed her voter registration to unaffiliated, the Asbury Park Press reported.

The decision comes less than a year after Long took harsh criticism from Monmouth County Democratic Party Chairman Vin Gopal, and was asked to vacate her positions within the party, for her endorsement of Republican Gov. Chris Christie over the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Barbara Buono.

“In my county, any Democrat, especially those Democrats who hold party positions such as being on the county committee, who can’t do the basic of endorsing the Democratic platform which stands for our values should leave the party,” Gopal said in July. “Those Democrats who endorsed Chris Christie clearly don’t believe in the Democratic Platform.”

Gopal told the newspaper on Tuesday that he harbored “no lingering hard feelings” for Long.

Long declined to comment to the newspaper on her decision, which was made in February. She did not return a call for comment from on Tuesday evening. (Robbins/ 




 Law firm hired by Christie to probe bridge scandal billed NJ $1.1M through January

TRENTON — The law firm that conducted the internal review of the George Washington Bridge scandal at the request of Gov. Chris Christie has billed the state nearly $1.1 million for work performed through January, figures released today show.

The bills cover the period from Jan. 12 to Jan. 31, which means the total cost is likely to swell far beyond $1.1 million. The law firm — Gibson Dunn & Crutcher — issued its final report in late March.

In a letter to Jeffrey Jacobson, who runs the state’s Division of Law, a Gibson Dunn attorney says the firm charged the state $350 per hour, far less than the $650 per hour rate initially agreed upon. In addition, the letter says the firm wrote off time for attorneys who billed only a small number of hours and those who billed more than a capped number of hours in a given day.


Gibson Dunn attorney Alexander Southwell said the firm agreed to the lower rate because the “volume of work and related costs on this matter have far exceeded what was originally anticipated, not only in terms of the scope of the internal review, but also in terms of the broad subpoenas to which the Governor’s office has had to respond from both the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Select Committee on Investigation.”

The $1,077,785.20 bill includes $1,076,092 in attorney’s fees and an additional $1,693.20 for photocopying. (Isherwood/ 




From the Back Room


Bridget Anne Kelly: ‘Insecure, paranoid, erratic,’ former staffer says

TRENTON – Bridget “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” Kelly was characterized in an unflattering way in the administration’s internal review of the George Washington Bridge lane closings and again Wednesday when a former employee gave testimony to lawmakers on the topic.

Christina Renna, who worked under Kelly in the administration’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, described being close with her former boss while delivering testimony to lawmakers, but also detailed an unflattering report of the former staffer.

Here are a collection of some of the words and sentences used to describe Kelly in the words of Renna:


“Enormously overwhelmed and enormously stressed with everyday life.”


“She relied heavily on other people, I think, to make her decisions for her.”


“Enormously overwhelmed with family and work.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Bridget Anne Kelly: ‘Insecure, paranoid, erratic,’ former staffer says | Politicker NJ






Christie spending Wednesday in Maine

Gov. Chris Christie is headed north Wednesday to attend a fundraiser as chairman of the Republican Governors Association for Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Christie will travel to Maine Wednesday to attend a fundraiser for the Republican incumbent and will also take questions from the press following a “retail stop” with the Maine governor in the city of Portland.

Christie will attend two LePage fundraisers in Portland on Wednesday.

4:00PM: RGA Chairman Chris Christie attends a fundraising event for the Maine Republican Party in Portland, ME.


5:00PM: RGA Chairman Chris Christie participates in a retail stop with Gov. Paul LePage in Portland, ME.

Press: OPEN, availability to follow

5:30PM: RGA Chairman Chris Christie attends a campaign fundraiser for Gov. Paul LePage in Portland, ME.

Press: CLOSED (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Christie spending Wednesday in Maine | Politicker NJ





Partisan tensions bubbling within legislative Bridgegate committee

TRENTON – A former Gov. Chris Christie staffer sat silent before a panel of lawmakers Tuesday as Democratic and Republican members of the joint legislative committee sparred on procedure and charges of a partisan investigation.

Republicans lawmakers, led first by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13), petitioned the committee to issue subpoanes to additional members of the Port Authority. The matter was tabled and overruled by the Democratic-controlled committee.

Then, another GOP lawmaker, Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40), made a motion to have the state Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to investigate leaks of George Washington Bridge documents to the media. The matter was tabled and overruled by the Democratic-controlled committee.

“With all due respect, we want to get on to the witness,” said co-chairperson Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

“You have put your … issues before us in writing,” she said. “And I would like to move on. You have received all the documents that we have received.”

The brief spat highlighted the increasing tension along party lines as the committee continues its investigation into the administration and GOP legislators weigh their future involvement in the proceedings. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Partisan tensions bubbling within legislative Bridgegate committee | Politicker NJ





WAPO: Christie’s Downgrade Dilemma

The fiscal cliff cost the United States its coveted triple-A bond rating. Now, even though it’s been a year and a half since Congress and the White House narrowly avoided plunging off the cliff, it’s costing New Jersey — and Gov. Chris Christie, according to a report.

The Washington Post has the story here.

WAPO: Christie’s Downgrade Dilemma | Politicker NJ

  Morning Digest: May 7, 2014