Author Archive: KendalJames

Dear Chris Christie: You Blew It.

Governor Christie has finally been trapped by his own bullshit. No matter how he wants people to slice this one, no one is buying the special election stunt as anything more than a corrupt, self-serving abuse of power executed solely in the political interest of Chris Christie. His wilted response to Jon Stewart is especially laughable:

“It was funny, I laughed [and] it was really good, but it has absolutely no relationship to the truth of my position”

Can’t you just picture Christie’s reaction as he watched Jon Stewart’s downright embarrassing call-out of this sad affair? Oh yeah, he was definitely loving it. Definitely.

The Governor’s Race, Contrasts and the Universe – a Zen Moment

Before we know it, the gubernatorial election will be upon us. It’s an exciting and welcome focal point for any political junkie who might still be feeling the post-general election blues. And in the time between now and November, candidates and their supporters will spend most of their time talking about differences and drawing contrasts between their side and the other.

In a Buono-Christie match-up, there are, of course, many contrasts to be drawn. For example, one friend recently noted that Buono represents the interests of women, the middle class, people in or near poverty, gay people, Jewish people, seniors, people with health issues and those who breathe air and drink water in New Jersey. Christie, on the other hand, represents the interests of the wealthiest New Jerseyans, who just happen to mostly be old white men. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Between now and November we will have ample opportunity to explore these differences, and it’s sure to get spicy. Indeed, New Jersey needs and deserves a vigorous and illuminating governor’s race. Still, we must remember that 1) despite our differences and passions, we are all in this together, and 2) our differences are eclipsed by what we all have in common. Ideological rivals or even “enemies” are, at the end of the day, more the same than different. That’s not to be pollyana-ish nor to suggest that anyone should let wane the vigor of their pursuits – just that, at the end of the day, it’s important to step back – often – and get a little perspective that extends beyond the current electoral cycle or district boundaries. Such a reminder can serve to promote civility, constructivism and inclusiveness.

In that spirit, I invite you to take a deep, cleansing breath and watch this 5-minute video narrated by Carl Sagan. I dare you not to get choked up. Onward.

Jersey City Mayor’s Race: What Makes a Democrat a Democrat?

Promoted back up top, because this was posted late-late last night. – Rosi

It’s difficult to imagine a Republican getting elected as the mayor of Jersey City*, the largest city in true blue Hudson County. So what are conservatives to do when they want to make inroads in the Democratic stronghold? (You know, other than call Union City Mayor and Chris Christie Superfan Brian Stack.) They find a Democrat who can be wooed.

At least that’s what seems to be happening in Hudson County, where current councilman and long-time mayoral hopeful Steven Fulop is attempting to unseat incumbent Jerramiah Healy. And despite having run and served as a Democrat throughout his career in Jersey City, Fulop is receiving funding and political support from his connections among Monmouth County Republicans. This story first emerged in December when it was revealed that a former Executive Director of the NJ Republican State Party and counsel to the Romney campaign  – Brian Nelson – had been soliciting contributions for a Fulop fundraiser. Then, this week, Monmouth County Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon pushed out a press blast specifically targeting Jersey City’s use of red light cameras, despite the fact that such cameras are in use throughout the state and in municipalities much closer to O’Scanlon’s than Jersey City.

All of this comes months after a leaked email from Fulop revealed that he was meeting secretly with Christie’s Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and Fulop’s hand-picked Board of Education members. Cerf, who is also a registered Democrat, is at the forefront of the Republican agenda of privatizing public schools and union busting. True, Democrats aren’t generally known for their hostility toward organized labor and wanting to reduce children and teachers to test scores; but that doesn’t seem to phase folks like Cerf, or apparently Fulop.

Jerramiah Healy’s imperfections as a mayor and candidate are not a secret, but his accomplishments don’t get nearly enough attention. And his challenger’s associations dash the notion that Fulop is somehow a more pure or forthright alternative. Why would Republicans from another county want to see him in office, enough to help with both their money and political cover? Fulop has long shouldered accusations of careerism, and getting help from those who seek to undo the work of the Democratic party doesn’t help him shake that cloud.

(* Jersey City’s last Republican mayor was Bret Schundler – Christie’s first Education Commissioner and Race to the Top blunder scape goat – in 1992. He had been the city’s first Republican mayor since 1917.)

Quote of the Day: Newark-Facebook Edition

This is one of those times when less is more. Here’s the first sentence of a press release sent out today by the NJ chapter of the ACLU:

A Superior Court judge has ordered the City of Newark to release emails that were exchanged about the $100 million pledge that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made to Newark schools in September 2010.

It’s an embarrassing ruling for the Booker administration, which first claimed such emails didn’t even exist, then admitted in a Jauary court hearing that they did, in fact, exist, but weren’t subject to release since they were personal and not official in nature. In fact, that’s been the core excuse for all of the secrecy surrounding the Newark-Facebook-Oprah-Christie-Cerf-Anderson-stravaganza – that, since, Booker’s role in securing the grant money was not related to his official capacity as mayor, the emails were not subject to public scrutiny. That doesn’t come close to passing the sniff test, however, and Judge Rachel N. Davidson said so:

Judge Davidson rejected all those arguments, noting for instance that a press release on the City of Newark’s own website touts Booker’s involvement in the donation as mayor and that all of the emails in dispute are maintained by Booker’s executive assistant in Newark City Hall. The judge also noted that Booker’s role as mayor is repeated in statements about the donation that are mentioned on his campaign website, as well as in some of the emails that are being sought… The judge also said it is not clear if executive privilege applies to mayors at all, but assuming that it does, “it does not apply here.”

No deadline has been set for the release of the 36 emails in question. Read the full press release here.

It’s been a particularly bad few days for the NJDOE – last Friday an administrative law judge ruled that under Christie and Cerf, the NJ DOE has been violating the constitutional rights of students by failing to repair crumbling school buildings in a timely and legally proper way – impeding their right to a “thorough and efficient” education as required by law.  

Happy Thanksgiving! Open Thread for November 22, 2012

We at Blue Jersey would like to wish everyone in the Garden State and across the U.S. a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving! We’re taking the day off from proper blogging in order to stir the gravy, watch football and spend time with friends and family.

How are you celebrating this year? Are you cooking, or just eating? Are you rooting for the Lions or the Cowboys (or the Jets)? Do you prefer the cranberry sauce that’s like jelly in the shape of a can, or the lumpy kind?

And most importantly – for what are you thankful?

Enjoy, and again – from all of us here at Blue Jersey, Happy Thanksgiving!

News Roundup and Open Thread for Thursday, October 25

Housing – Good News, Bad News?

  • New home sales rise to highest level in two years

  • NJ Builders Association CEO Says Newest Housing Numbers Are Encouraging (video)

    but…

  • NJ’s Worsening Foreclosure Crisis – Despite some positive spin from politicians, many real New Jerseyans are finding it harder than ever to hold onto their homes

    Higher Education

  • Tuition at N.J.’s public colleges, universities third highest in the nation

  • Senator Steve Sweeney supports Higher Ed Bond for NJ Colleges

    Gov. Christie brings “bipartisan” style to New England

  • NJ’s Christie stumps in support of LaMontagne, calls challenger Maggie Hassan a “New Jersey Democrat”

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attacks Democrat Elizabeth Warren as part of ‘liberal Democratic elite’

    Fewer NJ Kids in Jail

  • Report: Number of juveniles in jail declines throughout New Jersey

  • N.J.’s alternatives to juvenile incarceration are dropping rates

    From the “Inspect Your Pipes” Department

  • New Jersey gets more than $1 million in fed. money to inspect pipelines

  • Montclair Pot Dispensary: New Jersey’s First Marijuana Storefront Lands Pot License

    And the rest…

  • Court’s Split Decision Provides Little Clarity on Surrogacy

  • Campaign worker charged in removal of political signs is Menendez congressional staffer

  • N.J. Man Wants To Develop App To Bring Healthy Items To Food Pantries
  • School Privatization Efforts Continue in NJ

    The deceptively-named school privatization group American Federation for Children is attempting to link the Chicago Teachers Union strike to what they claim is public support for school vouchers. That’s a long walk, considering that most Americans don’t want their tax dollars to pay for private and religious schools. AFC claims that their commissioned polling shows a whopping 85% of New Jerseyans support vouchers. If that figure seems weird, it is – AFC’s claims are wildly inconsistent with the findings of an arguably much more neutral and reputable polling operation – Quinnipiac University – which consistently finds that a majority of New Jerseyans actually oppose vouchers. It’s not surprising, since AFC is a “trustee” level supporter of the now largely toxic conservative bill mill ALEC, and is essentially in the same business of advancing prefab legislation ultimately designed to benefit private interests – whether they’re selling firearms or school supplies, facts and the public good be damned.

    And so even more bizarre is the idea of making Chicago teachers into villains. That is, unless you’re the American Federation for Children, whose mission is innately hostile toward teacher unions; any opportunity in which public school teachers can be made into faceless bad guys is, for these folks, an irresistible messaging opportunity.

    Yet the major sticking point of this strike is a deeply flawed teacher evaluation plan designed to please  bureaucrats and testing company executives – one which will almost certainly denigrate the quality of public education in Chicago, not improve it. This strike is not about compensation or benefits – its about defending the craft of teaching from being measured and judged in inaccurate and inappropriate ways. These striking teachers are defending their right to do their best, by not having their entire professional existence subjected to evaluation based on information not intended for that purpose, and not even useful for it.

    This Monday in Haddonfield, Governor Christie stated his continued support for NJ’s own zombie charter legislation, the Opportunity Scholarship Act. But he bemoaned what he implied was an unwillingness among NJ legislators to move the legislation.

    Maybe it’s not unwillingness, but instead, wisdom – scratch even slightly below the surface of statistical “evidence” offered by voucher proponents and one finds that their arguments are not borne out by any reasonable standard. Here is a particularly eloquent description of why, exactly, seemingly good-news studies like one recently published by the Brookings Institute and lauded by privatizers do not, in fact, measure anything at all.  

    NJ Doesn’t Need Virtual Charter Schools

    Today’s Star Ledger features an opinion piece titled “State Has Virtually No Reason to not Give Virtual Charter Schools a Shot.”

    But that’s inaccurate. There are lots of reasons for us to avoid so-called virtual charter schools. In the case of what’s being proposed for NJ:

    A virtual charter school would drain resources from neighborhood schools across the state, with 90% of per-pupil funds winding up in the hands of for-profit charter operator K12 – even though their per-pupil costs are lower than those of the real schools.  

    • K12 is the for-profit charter school management company set to manage NJ’s first virtual charter. They have operated in other (lower-achieving) states, but have cultivated a checkered past that, in addition to not delivering outcomes for students and parents, includes numerous transgressions including fiscal mismanagement, theft, and insider trading!

    Virtual charters are NOT LEGAL in New Jersey. Acting Commissioner Cerf would like to change that, of course, and intends to do so by making changes to charter school regulations, avoiding all of that pesky democracy.

    New Jersey should continue to build on its excellent public schools, where “what works” can be found in abundance. Wondering aloud whether there are reasons to avoid virtual charter schools should be a brief exercise, because the reasons are plain as day.

    It should be noted that the author of the piece, Michael Horn, is a well-known educational technologist working within the fold of the Gates Foundation. He is known for his “disruptive innovation” approach, which coincidentally favors many facets of the fake education reform movement. He’s got a MBA from Harvard (classic fake reformer – business, not education credentials) and lives in California (but knows what NJ needs). He’s a rock star in the world of educational technology, and you can see why – all of those tasty tax dollars would look pretty good in the hands of for-profit technology companies. Even if they aren’t really that innovative or special after all.

    If you think this all sounds pretty lousy, you can do something about it. The ever-vigilant Save Our Schools NJ has a petition that you can sign, opposing Acting Commissioner Cerf’s attempt to change charter school regulations in NJ.

    You can sign it here:

    Reject Destructive Changes to New Jersey’s Charter School Regulations!



    Want to know more about the threat virtual charter schools pose? Our own Jersey Jazzman will sing you a sad, sad, song. Oh, and then there’s that whole problem with students cheating online. What, you’ve never heard of collaborative cheating?

    But no, no reason not to try these virtual charters. Right guys?

    Guys?

    Jon Stewart Leads with Christie Hypocrisy

    Chris Christie loves the spotlight, and got plenty of it on last night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart highlighted Christie’s promised veto of A-1465, which would decriminalize up to 15 grams of marijuana. Christie’s guiding principle here? The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, and it’s not NJ’s place to question the wisdom of the federal government.

    “I don’t think the state should be in the business of undercutting the federal government on that policy.”

    Of course, the inverse logic applies to Christie’s take on currently illegal sports betting, which our governor figures everyone is doing anyway. So he says he’ll fight the federal government on that.

    “If someone wants to stop us, then they’ll have to take action to try to stop us.”

    Oh, and he doesn’t like Obamacare, either. So of course, his statement on today’s healthcare ruling is predictably convenient, if not hypocritical given his stance on pot:

    “…each governor should have the ability to make decisions about what works best for their state.”

    Watch and giggle:

    Of Vice and Men – New York Weed Bill Dies & Chris Christie’s Veto Threat