Author Archive: Senator Loretta Weinberg

Assembly Hearings….a Further Glimpse

The Assembly Transportation Committee hearings today into the “Ft. Lee closures” at the Port Authority, chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, gave us a real glimpse into the current environment at the Jersey side of the Port Authority.

Two of the senior administrators testifying were so frightened of David Wildstein and of losing their jobs in spite of their long years of service, they followed his direction without question. As ordered by the “culprit”, they did not tell Ft. Lee officials or even their own Executive Director, though they knew this was against all the rules of the PA.

Executive Director Patrick Foye explained that he found out about the closures through reading press clips which are circulated to PA officials. He immediately reversed the action. However, under questioning by Chairman Wisniewski. it was obvious that Mr. Foye also felt somewhat constrained by the “chain of command” on the Jersey side. He knows (and we know) that this closure order was given by David Wildstein. Mr. Foye does not think that there is, nor was there any “traffic study” to justify the closures. Yet given that knowledge and his claim of an “internal review”, he has never questioned Mr. Wildstein, nor considered terminating him. Mr. Wildstein is still technically an employee of the PA for the rest of this month, collecting a salary. The Executive Director does not know what, if  anything, Mr. Wildstein is actually doing in his current job. Mr. Foye said his “internal review” will be completed in 2014.

So there you have it! Bill Baroni’s Deputy, the man described in the media as the Governor’s “eyes and ears” at the PA, is the “culprit” (their words) who gave the order to close the lanes. The “order implementers” were told by the “culprit” not to tell anyone. And that’s exactly what they did because they were fearful of losing their jobs.

Are you now very confident that the busiest bridge in the world which is so important to our economic health and our security is in good hands?  

What a “glimpse”!

David Wildstein Resigns….

…From the Port Authority because the Ft. Lee issue has become “too distracting”! Governor Christie thanks him for his great service.  Maybe we will now get the rest of the story when Chairman John Wisniewski  and the Assembly Transportation Committee hears from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye on Monday morning. I am looking forward to seeing the ending of this sordid episode.  

Once Upon A Time They Closed Lanes to the George Washington Bridge

I attended my 4th Port Authority meeting this afternoon. It is a tiresome, time consuming and expensive trip from New Jersey. Tolls across the bridge and garage parking are not cheap. It is almost three months, and we’ve received so few believable official answers.The bright spot was Executive Director Patrick Foye announcing today he would comply with the Transportation Committee subpeona, and will appear on Monday, December 9th. Maybe we’ll finally get some answers.

Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni presented a ridiculous scenario to the last Assembly Committee. Talked about three lanes “dedicated” to Ft. Lee residents, and described this as an issue of “fairness”. First, there are no “dedicated lanes”. One can reach the bridge through local Ft. Lee roads or on 80, 95, Route 4 or the Palisades Parkway. All those roadways are well known, and open to anyone wishing to cross the bridge and pay the huge tolls. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson aptly said Mr. Baroni’s testimony should have started out with “Once Upon A Time….”. We agree.

Another Open Letter: This Time to the Port Authority

Dear Port Authority Commissioners:

(With copies to Executive Director Patrick Foye &

Deputy Bill Baroni):

Give it up already. Who closed the lanes to the George Washington Bridge the week of September 8th causing huge traffic jams and jeopardizing the safety of our residents? The Wall Street Journal names David Wildstein, the Governor’s ‘eyes and ears’ at the PA. According to Billl Baroni, Mr.Wildstein was originally hired to “reform the agency”. So perhaps these closures had something to do with our Governor’s idea of “reform”.

I attended my third meeting of the Port Authority this past week. This time I was accompanied by my colleagues, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Assembly Conference Chair; Assembly Transportation Chair John Wisniewski; and Bergen County Freeholder-elect Jim Tedesco. We all spoke and we were all met with stony silence. Was there a traffic study? Who authorized the closures and why? Why were local officials never notified?

How frustrating to speak at public meetings, and get absolutely no response! And I actually voted in the Senate for most of these Commissioners. I reminded Bergen’s former County Executive and current Commissioner, Pat Schuber, that he personally promised me to get to the bottom of this sordid incident. And what about my former Senate colleague, Bill Baroni? A rather “progressive” Republican during his Senate tenure and a great partner in the fight for marriage equality.  What a disappointment!

According to an email from Pat Foye printed in the media, this action might have actually broken State or Federal law. Mr. Foye’s answer to our repeated inquiries: “The matter is under review”.

I’ve learned a bit about the PA culture by attending their meetings. I now know why someone called the PA the 51st State! At the “public” meeting, votes are taken to spend literally millions of dollars, and the Commissioners seem to have no discussion. Then there is usually a press briefing attended by Foye and Baroni. I went to these “briefings” only to find that the public is usually prevented from attending. Imagine having a briefing to answer the press’ questions and the agency tries to close them to the public? What an experience!

Apparently FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests are routinely stonewalled or just ignored. Let’s see what happens to my request for any documents pertaining to the closures!

Assembly Transportation Committee already has subpeona power and Chair Wisniewski said he would be holding hearings within the next few weeks. I will move the subpeona request in the Senate State Government Committee if we do not get an appropriate answer to our inquiries.

This action might not only have broken laws, it jeopardized public safety. Without any other appropriate response, one has to speculate it was done for someone’s idea of a really bad joke or for some petty political payback. Governor Christie, I know you believe in accountability. Let’s get a little of that accountability right here at the PA.

So give it up already! The cover-up is always worse than the crime!



Next PA meeting on December 4th. See you there!

Port Authority and the GWB

I am about to attend my third Port Authority Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, November 13th! Still asking the pointed questions about closing lanes to the GW Bridge causing major traffics jams in Ft. lee! The closure put citizens in jeopardy as well as causing much inconvenience to so many! Can you imagine actually using the George Washington Bridge to get “even” with a political adversary?  The meeting is at the PA building in Jersey City at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.  Come on New Jerseyans! Let’s stand up to these kinds of dangerous bullies! Come along and speak out as we continue to demand answers!  Email my office if you want to join us (Senweinberg@njleg.org).

Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Housing Laws

A great Supreme Court win today to affirm the Mt. Laurel doctrine in New Jersey. It was a three to two decision with Justices Helen Hoens and Anne Patterson voting for the Christie administration’s attempt to delay or block affordable housing throughout our state!

Thank you to the Senate President Steve Sweeney and the Democrats in the State Senate for continuing to keep Governor Christie from “remaking the NJ Supreme Court in his own image”!  Yes, elections have positive results as well as consequences!  Vote!

Musings!

There would be no Joe Ferrieros (at least not the one who recently got indicted) if there were no enablers. Just sayin!

Congrats to Rutgers for making their alma mater more inclusive! Sponsored a Senate resolution urging them to do it.This idea was brought to me by a group of Rutgers women some years ago. To you “traditionalists” who might be upset: we’ve even updated the prayer service used in reform synagogues all over the world to make it more gender neutral. So I hope you’ll survive this cataclysmic change.

It was a great afternoon at Pat Stover’s beautiful home  in Hunterdon County celebrating and encouraging Marie Corfield and her running mates. What a refreshing rebuke it would be to the ultra right wing followers if we can win this one. Get involved.

Port Authority criticized by federal auditors for their lack of transparency and public input particularly their outrageous recently enacted toll increases. Senator Bob Gordon and I sponsored a bill which passed the Assembly and Senate requiring public hearings and guess what? Governor Christie vetoed it. Reaction from the Governor’s office on the report? Silence. Why am I not surprised?

Lovely September weather. Enjoy it. Get outside and urge friends and neighbors to vote in the special $12 million election on Wednesday, October 16th and then again on Tuesday, November 5th. Let’s celebrate a Democratic win at all levels. Send a real message to the anti-women’s health, anti-marriage equality, anti-raise in the minimum wage, highest property tax increases, anti gun safety Republicans. We’re Real Democrats and we’re voting!

 

Open Letter: To Mayor Steve Fulop from Senator Loretta Weinberg

Mayor Steve Fulop

Jersey City, New Jersey

September 10, 2013

Mayor Fulop:

I want to applaud you for your efforts to see that employees who work in Jersey City are entitled to paid sick leave as an earned right. I stand with you as you work to have it enacted in Jersey City and I encourage other cities in New Jersey to follow your lead with the goal of building momentum and support for my legislation that would set the same standard statewide.

The time has come to ensure that the men and women who work so hard to support themselves and their families are not forced to choose between their health and their jobs when they become ill. But it will take the efforts of public officials, employees and even employers to see that this smart and compassionate right is made available to all workers. We have to work together in support of what is fast becoming a national movement to see that earned sick leave becomes a basic right in the same way that other rights have become part of the American workplace.

My bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Dick Codey, Senator Ronald Rice and Senator Sandra Cunningham, with companion legislation in the State Assembly sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, would allow employees to earn five sick days a year if they work at businesses with ten or fewer employees and seven sick days if they work at larger companies.

Like your proposal in Jersey City, earned sick leave would be as smart for businesses, their customers and clients as it compassionate for employees and their families. It allows workers to get well, it prevents the spread of illnesses and it would allow parents to use the time to care for sick family members. For working people everywhere, this should be a right that accompanies the state law on Paid Family Leave, which has succeeded in New Jersey and elsewhere.

I look forward to success in having earned sick leave enacted in Jersey City, in other cities and in the State of New Jersey.

Sincerely,

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg

 

Dear New Jersey Democratic National Committee members

I am a life long Democrat who, along with former congressman Steve Rothman, was one of President Obama’s earliest Bergen County supporters! I don’t think I have to spell out my credentials for championing progressive ideas, or for my support of our shared values!  

I know a seat on the DNC is a sought after position! You get to represent NJ Democrats at all kinds of meetings and on a variety of panels. You get to go to lots of parties with “big name” Dems from around the country. Sometimes you even get to “hang out” with POTUS himself!

OK, now that we have the parameters spelled out, I’d like to remind you that New Jersey has a gubernatorial race in November! We have a smart, progressive woman who shares our values at the top of our ticket. She  is running against a smart (wily) anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, anti-minimum wage raise, man who, as Governor,  has presided over four years of the highest unemployment rate in the region, and the highest property taxes!

So now it’s your collective turn to speak up for our candidate, and our party’s values!  Collectively you have the ear of the White House staff! Together, let them know we expect the Prez or the VEEP to at the very least come in for a BARBARA BUONO fundraiser. At a minimum, they owe New Jersey Democrats that! Time to shake things up a little. Please let us all know what you’re doing for Senator Buono and, indeed for all Democrats.

It’s now time for us to hear your voices in this! Speak up, and please do it together! We supported you to reach this “exalted”  position, now New Jersey needs your leadership.

Sincerely,

Senator Loretta Weinberg

Senate Majority Leader

Why?

Why do the people of the 16th district and indeed the people of New Jersey need Marie Corfield in the New Jersey State Assembly?

Just answer the following questions, and you’ll know why we need Marie Corfield in the New Jersey Assembly.

Who did not support aid for family planning Centers?

Who is against middle class tax relief?

Who is against common sense gun laws?

Who is against protective environmental regulations?

Who doesn’t support marriage equality?

Donna Simon – that’s who!

And that’s why we need Marie in our legislature.That’s why I need Marie as an ally in the Assembly. Marie Corfield can and must win this election and we must work to replace the regressive Tea Party- supported Donna Simon representing the 16th district. Marie will be a clear and strong voice for all of us.

You can help to give the right answers to these questions. Join the #CorfieldMoneyBomb today! Give whatever you can. Volunteer, call your friends to help. Together we can turn a Tea Party seat into a Blue Jersey seat.