Author Archive: jeffpickens

The Wall of Separation?

This is something of a diary rescue. It was written Wednesday, but there's a really interesting convo going on in comments … – Rosi

If you are one of the lucky few who have not been booted off Governor Christie's email list, or if you scour as I do, you should know by now that the Governor is holding one of his “Town Hall” meetings at St Jude's Catholic Church in Hopatcong, NJ.

As a lapsed Catholic, it had only occurred to me yesterday that today is Ash Wednesday, a Catholic holiday (disclosure: my brother is a priest with the Diocese of Paterson).

How appropriate is it for the Governor to conduct State business on Catholic property, on a Catholic holiday? Will there be a photo-op of him receiving his ashes at St Jude's church before entering the parish hall to shill for vouchers, that will subsidize Catholic schools, like the ones his kids attend?

At worst, this is a blatant First Amendment violation, at best it is plain bad optics. I wonder if he plans future Town Hall meetings at other places of worship like a synagogue or a mosque.

If this troubles you, write to the Governor's office to object. Do not bother with the “Contact us” page on the Governor's website; you will not get a response.Go directly to Constituent Relations:

If you're lucky, he just may answer you.

Or maybe you do not see a problem with this. What do you think?

The Sound of Silence in Trenton

A Republican governor is elected in a traditionally “blue” state on the platform of restoring fiscal sanity. Upon taking office, he declares war on the public unions, including the teachers' union, firefighters, police. He scapegoats public sector workers and attempts to turn public opinion against the state workers, because, after all, their outrageously bloated salaries, benefits, and pensions are to blame for the state's fiscal woes.

Outraged, teachers, police, firefighters, and other public workers storm the State Capital by the tens of thousands, protesting the governor's attempts to balance the state budget on the backs of public sector workers.

The whole world is watching! Why is the Liberal Media not in Trenton covering this?

Because it's not happening in Trenton, it's happening in Madison, WI. Unlike their brothers and sisters in NJ, the state unions in Wisconsin decided not to wait. Perhaps they looked east and saw what happens when you have a governor run amok, storming the state, and now the country, ramrodding his anti middle class agenda and getting fawning coverage by the press while he's at it, and the people do nothing. The story in Wisconsin is fluid and it remains to be seen how this will play out. However, I'm certain there will be no “Scott Walker for President” movements anytime soon.

Barbara Keshishian, are you listening?
Hetty Rosenstein, are you listening?

The people of Wisconsin took a lesson from the complacency in New Jersey and decided to fight back now.

It's time the people of New Jersey take a lesson from Wisconsin

Have You Written to Your Elected Officials Lately?

Well, glad to see Gov. Christie's getting some mileage out of his self-serving videos at taxpayer expense. – promoted by Rosi

Have You Written to Your Elected Officials Lately? I have.

Recently I wrote to the triumvirate who represent my Legislative District, #4: Senator Fred Madden (D), Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D), Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco Jr (R), along with Washington Twp Mayor Matthew Lyons (D). The subject was the growing number of once-thriving, now vacant, retail properties in the Township (which will be a topic for a future diary).

I received two responses: one from Mayor Lyons, who thanked me for my concerns and suggested that I attend the next planning meeting . The other was from Assemblyman DiCicco, the sole Republican Legislator in my District, who expressed that he shared my concerns, and included the usual Republican boilerplate about making NJ more business-friendly. I believe he was sincere. I am disappointed by the silence form the two Democrats who represent my District, especially Mr. Moriarty, who is a Township resident and former mayor. At least Mr. DiCicco had the decency to respond. Perhaps he is the only one who realizes that he is up for re-election this year, and re-election is not a given.

I also wrote to the Governors office, one sentence:

“When can we expect the Governor to unveil his 2012 budget proposal?”

his reply below

Welcome to the State of the Union – Have a seat!

How stupid/naive are the Democrats? a.) Very b.) Extremely c.) Quite a bit d.) All of the above.

As you know by now, much ado is being made about the Democrats and Republicans sitting amongst each other rather than separately. Some Democrats are absolutely giddy about the prospect of sitting next to their Republican colleagues.

Does anyone know who will be sitting next to Senator Lautenberg or Senator Menendez? Does anyone care?

Will this usher in a new spirit of bipartisanship? Don't bet on it.

When will they ever learn that the Republicans are not interested in working with the Democrats on anything? As soon as the President is finished with his speech, by tomorrow the Republicans will be getting back to work on their agenda, beginning with attempting to chip away at Roe v Wade and further restrict reproductive rights. Economic recovery can wait, because the economy is working quite well for the real Republican base, thank you.

What about jobs? How about removing the word “bipartisanship” from the vocabulary and replacing it with “jobs”? The President and his Democratic cohorts in Congress can take a lesson from the Republicans, and name every bill they introduce “The Job-Creating {insert name of bill here}”.

It's about JOBS, Mr. President. Not “stimulus”, not “bipartisanship”, not a new spirit of cooperation and national unity.

Jobs. That's what we need.

No room at the inn for the Westboro Baptist Church

My blood pressure would shoot up off the charts any time I heard about the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) protesting at a funeral. They started at funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty, but have now branched out to others, like Elizabeth Edwards and Christina Green (although they were gracious enough to avoid the nine-year-old girl's funeral in exchange for air time on Phoenix and Toronto radio, how nice). I swore that if they ever set foot in New Jersey I would be there.

Unfortunately I got the opportunity, when 23 year old Benjamin Moore of Bordentown, NJ, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan on January 12. The WBC announced they would be there. I decided I would be there too. I learned through a Facebook Group that people were planning on surrounding the area in order to shield the grieving family from the “God Hates Fags” protesters.

When I arrived in Bordentown at around 7:00am, Farnsworth Ave was relatively quiet. I asked a police officer what he knew about the possible appearance of the WBC. He told me there was a designated spot for them and “they would be dealt with accordingly”.

I parked my car and joined a small gathering of people at the corner of Farnsworth and Crosswicks St, all there for the same reason. A woman walked by and passed out American flags, provided by an anonymous donor.

Later I walked over to the church where a large crowd had gathered and lined up along Farnsworth: police, firefighters, military, veterans, and civilians. By that time every road surrounding the church had been cordoned off and there was no sign of the WBC people. The people I spoke with mentioned that the WBC had tried to check into some local hotels but were turned away. I also heard that they were at the firehouse. I walked around the area to see if I could find them, but could not. By 10:00 I got back in my car and drove around the surrounding area, past the firehouse, and still saw none of them.

It was apparent by then that the outpouring of support from the community, including people from all over the state, had succeeded in keeping the WBC away. I learned when I got home that the WBC arrived, saw their designated area, didn't like it, and left. They then headed for the cemetery, didn't like their designated area there either, and left for good. Most of us never saw them. I did not get the photo op I had hoped for, but this time I was not at all disappointed.

This time, the Westboro Baptist Church picked the wrong state to mess with. Law enforcement and firefighters from all over the state, veterans and active military, and ordinary folks like me had all played a part in keeping these monsters away. Bordentown's fallen soldier had the dignified send-off he deserved. May he rest in peace.

There were no incidents, other than the swift departure of the Westboro Baptist Church. Good riddance.

Westboro Baptist Church – Unwelcome in New Jersey

Concerned citizens will gather tomorrow to form a human wall to shield the grieving family of US Army Spc Benjamin Moore, from the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, at 08:00am at Trinity Church 300 block, Farnsworth Ave, Bordentown, NJ.

(thanks to deciminyan for tipping me off to this story)

As if it weren't bad enough that NJ lost another soldier in Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Benjamin Moore, 23, of Bordentown, was one of three soldiers killed in an IED (improvised explosive device) attack in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on Jan. 12.

Now comes the disturbing news that the Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest Spc Moore's funeral in Bordentown, NJ tomorrow, Saturday, January 22. Regardless of your religious or political beliefs or affiliations, no person on this planet, with the possible exception of members of the Phelps family, could possibly justify the despicable actions of these monsters.

If there can be any good news here, the community has mobilized and and is planning a non-violent demonstration to shield the family of Benjamin Moore from the presence of the WBC protesters.

The following is from the Facebook wall of William Brown, of Mt Laurel, one of the leaders of the protest:

Hope I see you Saturday morning at 0800 at Trinity Church 300 block, Farnsworth Ave, Bordentown, NJ. Westboro Baptist church is planning one of their despicable protests at the funeral of Ben Moore, who passed away in Afghanistan last week. Let's join the non-violent blockade of that piece of crap who desecrates our heroes funerals and honor our brother Ben Moore and his family.

 There is always the possibility that the Westboro Baptist Church is bluffing, or will change their minds and not make the trip to Bordentown.

But if they do, New Jersey will be ready and waiting.


Let it not be forgot, that once there was a spot……

With the death Sargent Shriver earlier this week, and Ted Sorensen this past October, that's about it for Camelot (if it ever really existed).

It was fifty years ago today that John F. Kennedy gave his stirring Inaugural Address. I was three years old at the time so of course I do not remember watching it live, but I've seen it so many times I feel like I was there. The words still stir today.

Note to President Obama: the Torch has been passed to you; please do something with it!

Too soon to start thinking about 2013? (How NOT to run a campaign)

promoted by Rosi

No, it's not too soon, considering:
1.) Christie began running for re-election the day he was inaugurated (as do all incumbents)
2.) No potential Democratic candidate (as far as I know) has stepped forward
3.) We can draw important lessons from 2009 and the shoddy campaign run by Jon Corzine, as illustrated by my experience with a clueless Corzine campaign worker:

Late in 2009 gubernatorial campaign, a Corzine canvasser knocked on my door. I answered, and told him right off the bat we had five registered Democrats in my household; no need to give me a sales pitch. However, I told him three of us would be out of town on Election Day, myself on business, and two of my sons away at college, and we needed absentee ballots.

The canvasser told me about NJ's new vote-by-mail option, and had a stack of applications in his hand. I asked for three forms, and the canvasser refused to give them to me. I asked for the website so I could download my own, he said, no, he did not know the website. Just as I was telling him to get lost, as he was no use to me, he asked if I wanted a yard sign. I said, sure, put as many as you want on my lawn.

As soon as I slammed the door, I immediately fired off a nasty-gram to the campaign, informing them of the behavior of the canvasser and his refusal to help me out with absentee voting. A few days later a representative called me, apologizing, and explaining that this particular canvasser “doesn't believe in vote-by-mail” (!) and that is why he refused to give me the applications. I asked, how can you expect anyone to vote for your candidate if this is how you are running your campaign. I then asked if it was possible to vote at the County Store, and the person said no (this turned out not to be true). I also asked where's my yard  sign and was promised I would get one (I never did). 

County Stores, by the way, are these nifty one-stop shops for just about any government service. The service is friendly and effective. We have them in most malls in South Jersey. I am not sure if every County has one. 

Infuriated, and despite my temptation to sit the election out or vote for a third party candidate, I went to the County Store at the Deptford Mall, held my nose, and voted for Corzine,

I have a feeling I was not alone in my disappointment with the way the Corzine campaign was run, and Christie did not so much win as Corzine lost. He broke the cardinal rule of any job-hunter: Act like you want the job.

Let's not let this happen again.

Weekend Roundup and Open Thread for Saturday, January 15, 2011

We start the weekend off on a sad note:

One of Lakewood's finest shot “execution style”
Authorities seeking a “person of interest” in the killing of Police Officer Christopher Matlosz Friday afternoon

More layoffs in Camden
Including up to 170 police officers

NJ revenue intake exceeds expectations
The state took in $12.61 billion – almost $600 million more than was projected, according to state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.
Some key items of interest:
 > Some high-income taxpayers, expecting the Bush-era tax cuts to expire in 2011, took their income in 2010
 > Corporation business taxes came in 21.7 percent above projections
 > Collections from the state lottery were down 3.3 percent.

New funding for NJN
Three-month budget approved that includes $2.1 million in new state aid; Christie still calling for privatization
The battle over school superintendent salary caps continues
A lawsuit  by the NJASAand two Morris County superintendents alleges a moratorium on contract approval until the DOE completes an “inventory” of those contracts is illegal.

more below the fold

News Roundup & Open Thread for Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Of course the big news is yesterday’s State-of-The-State Message
Read reactions from the Bergen RecordAsbury Park Press, Star Ledger (Mulshine), the Inquirer (Riordan), NJ Dems, and our own Deciminyan.
And, high praise from the other side.
What was Michelle Rhee doing there?

More snow
Up to a foot expected in some parts of the state, old hat by now. At least we know the Governor is in the State. Let’s see if he can do what he said he could have done from Orlando, but didn’t.

New Jersey Assembly to vote on film tax credits
Could this mean the next season of “Boardwalk Empire” will be filmed in New Jersey?

Meet the NJ Republican Party’s new state chairman

Saddle River Mayor Sam Raia, sworn in last night.

Who should pay for the $1.25B Christie squandered on the ARC tunnel?
Not the toll-payers, say the Democrats

Privatize the PATCO line?

Why mess with something that works?

Making college less affordable

Christie says he wants to do away with the 4 percent cap in tuition increases at the state's public universities, and let the market determine tuition.

Upcoming Events

Governor Christie Town Hall Meeting

Thursday, January 13
Paramus Elks B.P.O.E. 2001
200 Route 17 North
Paramus, NJ
Doors open at 10:00am

Public hearing on the impact of Gov Christie’s state education cuts

Hosted by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex)
Thursday, January 20
6:00pm – 8:30pm
Edison High School Auditorium
50 Boulevard of the Eagles
Edison, NJ