Morning Digest: May 8, 2014

Newark mayor’s race: at final debate, verbal knives come out

NEWARK – The two major Newark mayoral candidates entered the Cablevision television studios on Central Avenue on Wednesday night for the final debate before the election. They entered in almost the same way that two fighters enter a boxing ring. 

In one corner was South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka. In the other corner was former Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries.

Baraka was escorted into the waiting room by his aide Kiburi Tucker, the son of Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-28) and the late Assemblyman Donald Tucker. The Tuckers were married by Councilman Baraka’s late father, the poet and activist Amiri Baraka, Sr. 

Jeffries was escorted into the waiting room by Teresa Wells, a media consultant according to her LinkedIn account. Wells worked as the traveling press secretary for former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, under whose administration Jeffries served. 

The two candidates sat perhaps two feet apart before the one-hour debate began. They exchanged not a glance, not a word. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: at final debate, verbal knives come out | Politicker NJ





Destination Tuesday: Team Jeffries in Newark

NEWARK – Mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries leads a full nine-person slate running in the May 13th local non-partisan election.

Jeffries’ team includes North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, himself a candidate for mayor until he dropped out of that contest in Februrary and endorsed Jeffries, seeking re-election on the ticket of his former rival.

The Jeffries ticket features two other former members of the Booker Team: veteran East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador and At-Large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez.

Former Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo is Jeffries’ fellow professor of law at Seton Hall University. At-Large Council candidate Terrence Bankston is a former Booker Team member, while the Rev. Andre Speight in the much-watched Central Ward serves as chairman of the Central Ward Democratic Committee.

Destination Tuesday: Team Jeffries in Newark | Politicker NJ





If Baraka prevails, who will be the first to call Fulop? 

NEWARK – Insiders wonder how long it will take two powerful on again/off again political bosses to call Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop next Tuesday if Ras Baraka defeats Shavar Jeffries – and who will execute faster with the Machiavellian aim of maintaining a leg up on future statewide domination.

Virtually alone in the upper reaches of Democratic Party power in his choice to back Baraka in the Newark mayoral election, the Hudson-bound Fulop in this campaign cycle made a play for muscle in neighboring Essex.

Conversely, the staunchest allies and operatives of powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and South Jersey Democratic Party kingpin George Norcross III both back Jeffries.

A Baraka victory would strengthen Fulop’s hand as he seeks an advantage over other players intent on succeeding Gov. Chris Christie.

Hudson and Essex together add up to 330,169 registered Democrats, more than Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, Camden, Salem and Burlington combined (313,896).

If a humbled DiVincenzo calls Fulop first in the aftermath of a Jeffries loss he can signal that he wants to begin the process of solidifying a badly frayed North Jersey.

The play has payback potential for DiVincenzo. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

If Baraka prevails, who will be the first to call Fulop? | Politicker NJ






Feds Step In, Say They’ll Fund NJ Offshore Wind Plot Up to $47 Million

Fishermen’s Energy yesterday received a $47 million federal grant to move forward with its pilot project to build a small offshore wind farm about three miles from Atlantic City — even though the project already has been rejected by regulators in New Jersey.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is a key element in making the project financially viable. Proponents say the pilot could demonstrate offshore wind as a cleaner way of generating electricity in the future — one that also could create new jobs — and pave the way for more such projects in New Jersey.

The view was not shared by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which has repeatedly refused to back the $188 million project, saying it would be too costly to utility customers who would foot much of the bill. They also questioned if the developer would ever receive the grant from the federal government it was seeking.

The failure of BPU to approve the project, which sought to build a 25-megawatt offshore wind farm, has been harshly criticized by clean-energy advocates who say the denial reflects a retreat from the Christie administration’s own Energy Master Plan and its recommendation that the state develop 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020.

That goal is nowhere close to happening, given that Fishermen’s Energy’s Atlantic City Wind Farm is the first project to come before the BPU. While the regulatory agency called the project too costly, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, which represents the interests of ratepayers, signed off on the project, largely because of grants from the federal government that would reduce costs to utility customers. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)   







Rebuilding Sandy Survivors May Violate Federal Flood Insurance Rules

As more residents of the Jersey Shore receive funding to repair or rebuild their Sandy-damaged homes, the pace of construction is picking up in advance of the summer vacation season. But federal officials and flood insurance experts are worried that inconsistencies between state and federal construction standards mean some homeowners might rebuild in violation of key flood insurance regulations. That could lead to some nasty surprises after future storms — or when selling properties. Some people may find they have to pay insurance surcharges or that they are ineligible for insurance at all.

Last December, FEMA sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, threatening harsh penalties if the inconsistencies aren’t fixed. But five months later, the state has yet to make the requested corrections.

State officials are downplaying the concerns, saying that local construction officials know the proper rules to follow. Experts familiar with the issue argue that’s not necessarily always the case. Though evidence of problems has yet to arise, they fear that issues are likely to crop up as the recovery continues.

The existence of state building rules that are out of compliance with the federal standards puts the onus on local officials to know just which regulations to follow. People like Dane Sprague, the construction official in Long Beach Township — where over 1,500 homes sustained damage during Sandy. Sprague and his colleagues conduct inspections and issue permits, and they’ve been working pretty much non-stop in the year-and-a-half since the storm. (Gurian/NJSpotlight)   






GWB inquiry expands scope, subpoenas files from Christie political strategist

Lawmakers leading the inquiry into the George Washington Bridge scandal announced Wednesday that they’ve expanded their investigation to seek documents from the top strategist on Governor Christie’s campaign.

The move comes a day after Democrats questioned a former staffer in Christie’s office about the political nature of her team — which dealt with mayors and local officials courted by the campaign for endorsements — during an election year.

By demanding that Michael DuHaime provide documents, emails, text messages and his calendars, the committee is furthering its “bipartisan investigation into the lane closings and apparent abuse of power,” its co-leaders, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, said in a statement.

The subpoena seeks information about conversations and meetings DuHaime had months after the lane closures with Christie; Bill Stepien, the governor’s campaign manager; and David Wildstein, the Port Authority appointee at the heart of the controversy. (Hayes/The Record) 





New Jersey lawmakers get antsy about budget gap

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Lawmakers are expected to grill New Jersey’s state treasurer for a second straight day on how Gov. Chris Christie intends to fill an $800 million budget gap between now and June 30.

Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff is scheduled to appear Thursday at a state Senate budget hearing, one day after he appeared before an Assembly hearing.

He told lawmakers Wednesday that decisions have not been made on how the state will fill the gap, but listed some of the obligations the state has over the next two months. The list includes aid payments to hospitals, schools and universities and a pension contribution for public employees.

The treasurer also says the proposed $34.4 billion budget for the coming fiscal year might need to be rethought in light of this year’s shortfall. (The Record)   





Tobacco use on all NJ college campuses would be banned under bill to be considered today

TRENTON — Smoking would be banned on all New Jersey college campuses under a bill set for a committee hearing today.

The bill, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), would prohibit lighting up on the grounds of any institution of higher education, public or private.

“The thought behind it is that we as a society should be promoting a healthy lifestyle. And our institutions of higher learning are where our kids go,” Riley said. “They’re in an environment where it is teaching them to be not only intellectually smart. But we should also teaching them to be healthy, vibrant citizens. I feel smoking goes completely against that. We should be promoting the healthy side of life.”

But the bill doesn’t stop at smoking. It would also ban the use of smokeless tobacco products on college campuses, such as chewing tobacco and dip.

Riley said she did not think the bill would ban electronic cigarettes. “That will be something we’re going to discuss,” she said.

New Jersey has banned smoking in college dorm rooms since 2005. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 17 New Jersey colleges banned smoking on campus as of January 2013. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 




Cuomo announces start of Goethals Bridge replacement project

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced the start of construction of a new Goethals Bridge, a $1.5 billion project to replace the aging and congested span that links Linden and Staten Island across the Arthur Kill.

Preliminary work began in December after more than a decade of planning and environmental reviews. A contract was awarded in April 2013 to a consortium known as NYNJ Link Partnership.

Under a public-private partnership, the agreement calls for the group to invest $100 million to build the bridge and maintain it for 40 years. Nearly $1 billion of the cost will come from bonds and low-cost federal loans. (Strunsky/Star-Ledger)   






From the Back Room


At Newark debate, blast from Corzine past

A familiar face from New Jersey campaigns past was seen Wednesday night at the last debate before the Newark mayoral election. 

Teresa Wells escorted candidate Shavar Jeffries into the Cablevision television studio before his clash with rival Ras Baraka. 

Wells, a media consultant, is well known to many who follow New Jersey politics. She served as both director of advance and traveling press secretary for former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.  

She also had prominent communications positions in the presidential campaigns of former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and former U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), now the U.S. Secretary of State. 

Her father is Ted Wells, a prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney. He was the treasurer of Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign. 

Her mother, Nina Mitchell Wells, served as the New Jersey Secretary of State. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

At Newark debate, blast from Corzine past | Politicker NJ





Christie pledges ‘big money’ in Maine

Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, yesterday campaigned for Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

The Bangor Daily News has the story on Christie’s RGA swing through the Pine Tree State.

Christie pledges ‘big money’ in Maine | Politicker NJ






Documentary about Newark mayoral race to premiere Thursday night

A new documentary made by Newark filmmakers about the city’s mayoral race will debut tomorrow night, just five days before the May 13 election day. 

The film, called The Race to Save Brick City, follows the campaign trials and tribulations of mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries, as well as their council candidates.

Producer Ayana Stafford of Leopard Stripes Productions partnered with director Jamal Hall of Dynomyte Films to create the documentary in the hope that the film will help Newark residents choose the best candidate to move the city forward. Among the Newark residents to be interviewed for the film is reporter Mark Bonamo.

A city-wide public screening of the documentary will be held on Thursday, May 8 at CityPlex12 Movie Theatre, 360-394 Springfield Avenue in Newark at 7:00 p.m.. General admission tickets are $12. Baraka and Jeffries are confirmed to attend, as well as former Newark Mayors Sharpe James and Kenneth Gibson. The evening features a live band and red carpet treatment in celebration of the two rivals uniting for this occasion.

Documentary about Newark mayoral race to premiere Thursday night | Politicker NJ

Morning Digest: May 8, 2014