Author Archive: Brian McGinnis

Sarlo Blasts Garrett

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) fires the most recent volley at Farmer Scott, calling for an investigation into his suspicious-sounding farmland tax exemption:

“Scott Garrett is trying to have it both ways.” said New Jersey State Senator Paul A. Sarlo.  “Garrett tells the state of New Jersey that his ‘farm’ produces more than $520 a year in income and is a separate property from his home – and as a result, he gets a tax break worth up to $41,000 a year.  He then turns around and tells the federal government that he has no farm income – indeed, he tells them he owns no such property.  Scott Garrett cannot have it both ways, and the New Jersey Division of Taxation needs to open an investigation to determine whether Scott Garrett is engaged in a tax evasion scheme to duck his fair share of New Jersey state taxes.”

“Ordinary taxpayers know they can’t play a ‘get out of taxes free’ card with their local assessor, and they have a right to be confident that their elected representative is no different.  We need to make sure that the Wantage Township Tax Assessor is complying with the law, can justify her decision to give Scott Garrett this enormous tax break, and is not giving Garrett special treatment because he is a Congressman.”

Kudos to the Shulman campaign for continuing to press this!

Platitudes from the Post

The Courier Post had an editorial yesterday that was remarkable for its uncritical regurgitation of right-wing talking points.

To put it in perspective, it is encouraging to see that the Local Finance Board appears to be taking a close look at towns that come calling for higher tax increases and trimming from their requests.

But we still think a 4 percent cap should mean just that — a 4 percent cap with no exceptions aside from dire emergencies.

But the best way to make that happen isn’t through a Local Finance Board. The solution is rescinding some of the countless unfunded mandates that the state puts on towns, requiring to provide this service and that service and to do it this specific way that’s more expensive. Surely every local official tasked with planning an annual town budget would gladly accept a 4 percent cap on property-tax hikes if it came with doing away with all unfunded mandates from Trenton.

Putting in a bugdet-increase cap on towns and schools was a good step. The next step for lawmakers in Trenton is to look at every costly mandate on towns and schools that provides no state aid and start nixing some of them. Doing that could put a quick end to towns begging the Local Finance Board for a tax increase beyond 4 percent.

The editorial, which raves about costly unfunded state mandates on towns, fails to even slightly detail a single such mandate. That’s not surprising; the Courier Post is a Gannett paper, and we’ve seen (as with papers like the Asbury Park Press) a significant conservative skew to Gannett’s editorializing in the past few years. What is surprising is that this editorial failed to describe any such costly mandates. It’s almost like they’ve gotten lazy.

Listen, I don’t disagree with the general point– that there are some state mandates on towns that increase some costs. It’s also true that there are some state mandates that are underfunded (hospital aid for example) that prove difficult (putting aside for the moment that actually fully funding that “mandate” would save costs in the long run).

The problem I have with this editorial is that it is a blatant regurgitation of a right-wing mantra: Mandates Bad!!! Mandates Real Bad!!! Such thinking is pretty intellectually dishonest. For the post to devote an editorial raging about costly unfunded mandates on towns and not to at least point specifically to a single (or several) culprit(s), calling for their repeal, shows the editorial department favors ideology over real policy-making. Vapidity doesn’t equal cleverness, nor do platitudes substitute for progress.

“A Stroke of Brilliance”

Kevin O’Toole, 8/29/08, on McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as VP:

DENVER – Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz) selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin roused the fighting mood of state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, one of a handful of elected officials who has stood with McCain from the beginning of his presidential run.

“It’s a curve ball, which Democrats were not expecting, and it opens up a whole new constituency,”said O’Toole. “It is a stroke of brilliance.”

Today, 10/10/08, New York Times reports on the just-released Troopergate report:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, the chief investigator of an Alaska legislative panel concluded Friday. The politically charged inquiry imperiled her reputation as a reformer on John McCain’s Republican ticket.

Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report by a bipartisan panel that investigated the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The inquiry looked into her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he lost his job because he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor’s sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

The panel found that Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making even if it was not the sole reason Monegan was dismissed. ”I feel vindicated,” Monegan said. ”It sounds like they’ve validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I’m not totally out in left field.”

Branchflower said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

Brilliant! I’m guessing Kevin O’Toole wishes he could have this one back.

BREAKING: Huge Momentum for NJ!!! Connecticut Supreme Court Rules 4-3 FOR Marriage Equality

[Great news from the Nutmeg state!  — promoted by huntsu]

Breaking news and huge momentum for the campaign for marriage equality in New Jersey: the Connecticut Supreme Court, in the case of Kerrigan v Commissioner of Public Health, has ruled 4-3 in favor of marriage equality.

Any way you slice it, this is huge momentum for New Jersey’s marriage equality movement. Here’s GSE’s statement on the decision, from Steven Goldstein:

“Today’s decision in Connecticut has particular relevance to us in New Jersey.  Connecticut has had a civil union statute exactly like New Jersey’s.   Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court said civil unions do not and cannot provide the equality of real marriage — that civil unions don’t work in the real world and that they don’t provide the dignity and respect of marriage either.   These are exactly the points we’ve been making in New Jersey.  Today, Connecticut said, civil unions, with all their myriad of problems, are not enough.  

“This decision can’t help but have enormous persuasive impact on New Jersey, not only because both states have had civil union statutes, but because both states are neighbors in the tri-state region.

“Garden State Equality salutes all the organizations involved in bring marriage equality to Connecticut, including Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the legal organization serving New England’s LGBT communities; and our sister marriage equality organization in Connecticut, Love Makes a Family.

“All of us at Garden State Equality extend to GLAD and Love Makes a Family, and all the other organizations involved, our love and deepest appreciation.  They are among the all-time heroes for LGBT America.”

The parallels to New Jersey are undeniable. Connecticut, like New Jersey, has a civil union law. But, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that civil unions fail miserably to guarantee the equal rights of marriage–rights like health benefits, financial security, as well as the basic dignity and psychological assurance for children and families.

This decision confirms what we in New Jersey have already found: civil unions don’t work. They can’t work. They can’t be fixed. Marriage equality is the only way to guarantee equality. Some will certainly try to spin this, but the fact remains–this is a huge boost of momentum to movement for marriage equality in New Jersey!!

UPDATE: From the decision:

Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection. Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise

qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.

UPDATE 2: Check out this video of the plaintiff’s reaction to the verdict. If this doesn’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will.

Assemblymen Albano, Milam Talk to the Internets

Coinciding with the start of the nor’easter season, 1st district Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam have introduced a package of ten bills to streamline and increase the effectiveness of coastal evacuation and emergency planning. And they’re announcing it with a video press release:

A little scripted, sure, but not bad for a first shot. I’m also glad to see they and other Assembly Democrats are venturing directly onto the Internets to spread their messages more and more frequently.

You can read the short titles of all ten bills after the jump

GSE’s Phone Bank & Debate Watch Parties!

If you’re looking for a way to make a difference, here it is! Promoted from the diaries – – Thurman Hart

At Garden State Equality, we are doing everything we can to elect progressive  leaders up and down the ticket. This election is no exception, and we’re working hard and scaling up a massive effort to help make sure Barack Obama wins New Jersey on November 4– and wins big.

To that end, we’ve been hosting debate watch parties in our brand new office in Montclair at 500 Bloomfield Avenue. But this isn’t the usual brand of debate watch party. Sure, there’s free pizza, pasta, and soda, a huge flatscreen TV, and a great activist atmosphere like you might expect. But the real action at our debate watch parties starts before the candidates even take the stage.

In our two previous debate watch parties, we’ve already hosted over 100 activists. More than just being gracious hosts, we’ve put everyone straight to work phone banking for Obama, a critical part of their field and GOTV effort.

We’ve also had a few great speakers help to fire us up to do the hard work for Obama– the VP debate featured Assemblyman Tom Giblin and Congressman Steve Rothman (who wanted to come with his daughter, but had to call in because of the bailout bill vote). Check out the pictures here:

Unlike a lot of other outside organizations, when we endorse candidates, we really get down to work making sure that they win. And that’s why we need your help! Please, join us as we work hard to get Barack Obama elected and then watch the debates. Here’s the info for the remaining debates: No RSVP required, but for admission you must arrive at 7:30PM for phone banking. That’s right, the cost for admission is an hour and a half of your time on the phone, doing the grassroots work that will make sure Obama wins New Jersey in a few short weeks.

Please, join us on any of the following dates:

TONIGHT arrive at 7:30PM, 500 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair (Presidential debate town hall format), featuring senior Obama national adviser Mark Alexander!

WEDNESDAY, October 15 arrive at 7:30PM, 500 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair (Presidential debate, domestic policy)

We hope to see you there!

Casinos Go After the Smoking Ban

How are some of Atlantic City’s casino company executives responding to the one-two punch of the tight credit markets they use for capital improvements and the declining revenues in the city’s casinos? Why, by calling for a repeal in the smoking ban of course.

The effect of the credit crisis on Atlantic City’s biggest industry has been apparent for months, as three new casinos have been delayed because of financing problems.

Current casino operators are doing what they can to keep revenue coming in. One senior gaming executive urged the resort’s City Council to consider delaying or repealing the casino smoking ban that begins Oct. 15. Casinos fear the ban will force smokers to flee Atlantic City for gaming markets that have no smoking restrictions.

“We can’t control the financial crisis. That’s something that has to resolve itself. The bigger challenge is the smoking ordinance,” said Larry Mullin, president and chief operating officer of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. “The one thing we have control over is the smoking ban.”

Casino executives are up in arms about the smoking ordinance, which hasn’t yet begun in full force, as though they’re powerless to attract customers and gamers without having a more robust smoking option. Really? These guys are masters of a multimillion dollar advertising game that spreads through and saturates a variety of media. Their marketing campaigns are extremely catchy and creative, and they’ve been innovating in advertising successfully as market conditions changed for decades now.

And yet, somehow, the smoking ban is the end of casino life as we know it? Please. Has anybody even thought of the fact that the smoking ban might invite more customers? You know– people who aren’t interested in being poisoned slowly by secondhand smoke? Have they thought that their workforce, not having to deal with daily smoke, would be healthier and therefore likely to be more productive and help increase profits?

Despite this, they’re likely to be successful.

Biden/Palin: Managing Expectations

I won’t lie: it’s been a godawful two weeks for Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin. After listening to segment after segment of her interview with Katie Couric, I think my cringe reflexes are totally worn out. I’m sure many of you agre.

But for those of you who are already proclaiming a Biden victory in tonight’s debate, I’d say not so fast.

The expectations game, as it’s currently been set, favors Palin, in part because of those embarrassing interview spots with Couric. The congealing CW on this is that the bar is so low for Palin, that she can’t help but exceed it unless she totally melts down onstage. So she’s got that going for her, and we’ve got to do our best to try and reset that narrative, short though our time is.

The truth is, while Sarah Palin is certainly no intellectual heavyweight or even wonky in the slightest, she is an excellent debater. Check out this video of her past debate performances:

Clearly, she’s a very skilled politician. So let’s not start doing the McCain camp’s job for them in lowering expectations for her.

Adler Goes On TV

John Adler’s campaign in NJ-03 has finally decided to use some of their massive cash on hand edge to move the race. He’s up on the air now with this ad, called “True Son of New Jersey”:

As an ad, I think it’s a solid B+, emphasizing his previous leadership and stressing local roots. The ad I’d really like to see would feature John Adler speaking directly to camera, telling the story of his middle-class roots and the tough situation of trying to make ends meet and pay for health care while his father, a laundromat owner, suffered repeated heart attacks.

I’ve heard him tell this story succinctly and emotionally at a few campaign events, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s almost always effective. I hope the campaign will capitalize on this and put out such an ad– which would not only help Adler connect with voters who don’t know him, but really strikes an emotional, narrative chord. Overall though, this is still a decent ad, which should help make the case to voters.

Check out their webpage to throw them some change or to volunteer.

Dick Zimmer: Earmarks are the problem

Dick Zimmer has been railing about earmark spending, as though eliminating earmarks is a silver bullet to solve all of New Jersey’s economic problems:

In the grand scheme of the federal budget, the $196,000 grant that U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) got for the Scottish Rite Auditorium — a theater in Camden County — isn’t even chump change. But to the senator’s opponent, former Republican Congressman Dick Zimmer, it represents federal spending at its worst.

“It’s politically motivated,” Zimmer said. “It’s of marginal benefit. It doesn’t address New Jersey’s crying needs.”

Most offensive to Zimmer is how it was obtained. It is one of 11,524 “earmarks” — spending items inserted into the federal budget by particular lawmakers to benefit their pet projects. This year, they total $16.5 billion nationwide, according to the Office of Management and Budget.


Zimmer shares his aversion to earmarks with Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who has scolded members of both parties for exploiting them.

“I would stand with President McCain and Vice President (Sarah) Palin to put an end to this whole rotten system,” Zimmer said.

Wow. Earmarks must be a serious, fundamental problem as far as expanding Washington spending goes, right? Wrong, as we see in this graphic of the federal budget. (h/t to Mark Thoma. Earmarks are red, non-earmarks are blue.)


Look at all that earmark spending Dick Zimmer is going to cut down on!