Author Archive: kwilkinson

All Citizens Speak English, according to Latina New Bruns Councilwoman/Mdlsx Freeholder

Dual officeholder Blanquita Valenti, New Brunswick Councilwoman and Middlesex County Freeholder responded at yesterday’s NB council meeting, when asked why campaign lit wasn’t in Spanish and English (after some sotto voce comments from others – council, counsel, administrators or whoever else on the panel – about “them‘ not being citizens):

If they don’t speak English, they can’t become citizens.

Um, some people gain citizenship, like I did, by being born here.  Truly astounding from the woman who purports to represent the hispanic community in New Brunswick and the county, and who also represents a county with monolingual Korean, Chinese, Hindi, (probably Urdu and Gujarati for all I know) speakers who are citizens, in substantial numbers.

Kudos to the Rutgers student who responded at the meeting, though she missed his point on the education system, resting on whatever laurels she has from back in the day for setting up bilingual education.  

Makes me worry about the upcoming nat’l immigration debate.

New Brunswick City Council Meeting Nov 4th: Valenti Says Only Those Who Speak English Can Vote from Daniel Dalonzo on Vimeo.

New Brunswick Wards may be decided late Friday

The Home News is reporting that the Board of Elections may have all the provisional ballots counted by 6 or 7pm on Friday.

I’m looking to the follow up reporting on how much was spent on the NB ward campaign, since the slick mailers from the ‘NO’ side were rife.

I wonder if I’d be wrong if I conjectured that the ward campaign was outspent 10 to 1? And out of 4,000+ votes, it’s down to probably close to or less than 100 votes.  Remarkable.

New Brunswick Ward Question Undecided, are all the votes being counted?

The Star Ledger is reporting the following numbers on the New Brunswick Ward ballot question

2,368 against and 2,255 in favor, according to unofficial election results. Just 113 votes separate the “yes” from the “no” vote, and the vote total does not include 185 provisional ballots plus an undetermined number of military ballots that will be counted on Wednesday, city and county officials said. Additionally, the results do not include vote totals from one district — Ward One, District 2, home to 694 registered voters, said Daniel Torrisi, city clerk. The district sent an electronic copy of results that can be counted Wednesday but no hard copy for preliminary tallies, Torrisi said.

The Coalition for Democracy issued a press release claiming:

widespread accounts of voter suppression, fraud and irregularities that are being brought forward by election monitors and community leaders…Among numerous concerns raised are legitimate voters being turned away at the polls, residents casting double ballots and poll clerks telling voters the way they should vote on the municipal question.

“Voters from all over the City are demanding a voice,”… said Martha Guarnrei, President of Empower Our Neighborhoods.

…Martin Perez, Chair Person for the Coalition for Democracy, “We will work to make sure the voice of the people of New Brunswick is heard”

I’ll be watching for the results of this one tomorrow and future election protection monitors’ reports on voting irregularities.

Good Week for Immigration Detention Reform

Starting with Middlesex County cutting the contract with ICE that allowed the county, since Dec 2001, to house immigrant detainees in the county jail, reported in the Home News, to 2 Massachusetts jurisdictions ending their 287(g) programs that deputize local law enforcement as immigration agents, Boston Globe, on the same day that Middlesex acted.  

“We’re done. I told them to come get the computers.”  Framingham Police Chief Steve Carl

Ya gotta love the frankness of police chiefs when they don’t want to give in to ICE demands…

“It doesn’t benefit the police department to engage in deportation and immigration enforcement,”

And now today’s news, announcing reforms of ICE detention, Nina Bernstein’s story and release of Dora Schriro’s Report and Recommendations on detention reform.

Topped off by the new rules for Maricopa County making Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, “furious,” HuffPo.  Though this only covers the cops in the street, so they are still detaining people who come into the county jail.

Gives one hope for change.  In the meantime, I’d love for them to make it easier for those of us in our Middlesex visitors program to find the guys we were visiting who are now dispersed to Monmouth, Hudson and Essex jails. And I’m hearing that in Essex, you can wait for 3 hours and not even get the 15 minute visit!

Finally someone standing up to Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson on Substance: Sen. Menendez

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Here’s what happens when you’re the only Hispanic Senator, and on the Finance Committee, you just might be able to make the healthcare bill less punitive. From The Hill, my objections to the non-sensical term ‘illegal immigrant‘ notwithstanding (it doesn’t even cover the group it intends to cover, since many people who are undocumented have overstayed a visa, which is not a crime):

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is putting Democrats in a bind by seeking to let illegal [sic] immigrants benefit from the healthcare overhaul…

Menendez said he is withholding his support for the bill until his concerns about immigration and other matters are addressed…

The Senate Finance Committee bill, drafted by centrist Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), does not allow illegal [sic] immigrants  to purchase health coverage over an exchange set up to create competition within the insurance industry and reduce costs.

Menendez is troubled by that language and has joined Hispanic advocacy groups in criticizing the bill for placing too heavy a burden on legal and illegal [sic] immigrants.

Good for Rockefeller for saying no to the Baucus bill.  Since there are 13 Dems and 10 GOP on the finance committee, Menendez’s vote is crucial.  But how far can he get?

One Democratic aide said it would be difficult for Menendez to win the inclusion of illegal [sic] immigrants into the insurance exchange. But Menendez may have more success increasing subsidies for those mixed families that include illegal [sic] immigrants.

Having just attended a vigil for the rights of children, many of whom are American Citizens (one of 11 vigils around the state), it looks to me like covering mixed families will have a very big impact.

The Home News and even APP have great photos, and here’s one from the end of the night at the Reformed Church of HP:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Political Wisdom from inside the walls of an old Highland Park house – updates with pics

I was in D.C. recently, at the superb FDR Memorial, carved out of the Cherry Tree Walk along the Tidal Basin. The memorial is designed not only to remind and inspire, but inform too. It’s built into 4 outdoor “Rooms,” for each term in office. The first makes starkly clear how at risk Americans were, and how valuable Roosevelt’s reform initiatives were. We count on them now. The same way future generations are counting on us now, to see healthcare as a fundamental right, not a privilege. Thanks for reminding us, Karina.

– – promoted by Rosi

[Update for those who’ve asked to see the article, I finally got a camera on it.  Alas my archivist friend says it’s not going to last too long, with the water damage and all –kw]

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

We had to have our old leaky pipes replaced, opening up a wall in our entry hall, and the electrician found this gem from an old newspaper with no date on it, possibly 1935.   I believe it was a Central Jersey paper, since there were ads nearby that were.  It was the “Daily ??” and the first name of the columnist appears to by Byron:


Politics at Random

The present extraordinary situation in congress is difficult to understand without going back to fundamentals, and examining the ‘new deal‘ philosophy which underlies it.

It is obvious that a large section of public opinion favors an early adjournment.  Organized business, in particular, has asked for a legislative armistice, saying it would promote confidence. Congressional leaders themselves had planned to adjourn long since; many of the pending issues are so explosive politically that they would prefer to let the country think them over for the present.

Yet Mr. Roosevelt insists that his program be completed. Why?  No comprehensive reply to that question has been made publicly by the White House, but certain otherwise unconnected features of the situation combine to shed some light on the President’s mental processes.

Government’s Duty

On numerous occasions Mr. Roosevelt has said he wanted [illegible] “reform” and “recovery” intertwined in the accomplishments of his administration.

[paragraphs missing] … After the NRA’s [National Recovery Administration] decision, the question was whether the “new deal” would fold up, or find new methods of carrying on.  It never has been Mr. Roosevelt’s habit to surrender without a fight.  He showed fight plainly in his famous press conference remarks about NRA and the constitution.

To say he was angry might be open to question, but certainly he was aroused, and the result was [illegible] he enlarged his program and … demanded action on it…

Maybe Obama could take a page from history?

Guadagno – Just Plain Wrong about AG Letters

You’d think if a sheriff’s going to fire off an angry response to being reminded of an AG directive, then at least she’d get her facts straight. Guadagno is accusing AG Ann Milgram of politicizing the issue of Guadagno’s 287g application to ICE, which would deputize Monmouth corrections officers to ask immigration status – a rich pot calling the kettle black.  And goes on this paranoid rant that Milgram only sent letters to the GOP strongholders of Monmouth, her county and Morristown, in the county where Christie is from, leaving out Hudson, which already has ICE trained officers in the jail.  She’s just plain wrong, which she could have known by looking at the articles in the APP or Star Ledger:

Milgram sent letters Friday and Tuesday to officials in three counties saying they should show no bias when upholding the law…

Monmouth County and Morristown, along with the Hudson County Department of Corrections, are among 79 departments nationwide that have been accepted into the program, known as 287(g), which was overhauled to allay fears it would be used to target or harass immigrant groups.

The third letter was sent to Corrections Director Oscar Aviles of the Hudson County jail.

Guadagno’s accusation that Milgram is ‘misinformed‘ and ‘hate-mongering‘ is based on Guadagno’s statement:

“Under our program, we simply ensure that if you are detained in our jail and you are an illegal alien, you will be identified, processed by federal authorities and deported if appropriate,” Guadagno said.

I’ve discussed here why this is only going to lead to civil rights abuses and not net any criminals who aren’t already covered under the AG’s directive.  But Ann Milgram was probably just covering all bases, seeing as the Monmouth sheriff’s department does have a ‘law enforcement’ division. While Guadagno hasn’t applied for a ‘task force’, do we know that she can’t have some of her law enforcement officers trained by ICE?  From the sheriff’s department website:

“The Sheriff’s Office law enforcement division consists of a warrants division and fugitive task force, a criminal investigations bureau, a court security unit, a civil process unit, a canine unit and an id bureau.”

Milgram’s letter just looked to be a generic reminder to both Morristown, that is asking for a task force and Monmouth that, according to Guadagno’s statements, wants to use 287g for corrections officers.

I, for one, am pleased to see the following in Ann Milgram’s letter:

In addition, any law enforcement officer that exercises authority under Section 287g must submit monthly reports to the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, as required by Directive 2007-3, that document the name, address, gender, date of birth, country of birth, race and ethnicity of the individual queried; the location of the encounter; the criminal offense that formed the basis for the arrest; the outcome of the inquiry; and whether the individual was taken into custody or otherwise detained based upon immigration status.

This is how you track instances of racial profiling and is exactly what is missing, according to the ACLU, from the new ‘Memo of Agreement’ put out by ICE that is supposed to address the issues of racial profiling.

On another topic, in the sheriff’s department statements on the cost of housing federal detainees, either she or her spokeswoman is misleading, if not outright wrong, just throwing facts around in a way that it’s hard to tell whether the contract is saving the county money or not.  In a August 20th APP OpEd, Guadagno tries to answer the allegation that she is losing the county money, after her spokeswoman said the county receives $105/night for federal inmates and it costs $134/night to house them.  The reasoning is pretty convoluted.

If we canceled the per-diem program, there would be fewer in each mandated housing area but, under state law, each area would still remain open. We would have empty beds with the same overhead with no offsetting federal income. Eliminating the program as the editorial urges would end a revenue stream of approximately 10 times the amount saved. Thus, eliminating the per-diem program would plainly result in added cost to the already overtaxed people of this county.

I don’t find that so plain, especially compared to her spokeswoman’s numbers.  So, it looks like those numbers are inaccurate or don’t factor everything in.

I have to laugh that she thinks the APP is calling to cut the contract for federal and ICE detainees in the Monmouth County jail.  They’re advocating that if you take her spokeswoman’s numbers on face value.  

In light of the county’s budget troubles, the Board of Freeholders should do what it neglected to do during the budget hearings: Insist that Sheriff Kim Guadagno … justify the expense of housing federal prisoners. If she can’t, at least one wing of the jail should be shut down, with the staff reduced accordingly.

Guadagno apparently gave no hint at the time that the federal prisoners were costing the county money.

I would want the ICE contract cut because ICE doesn’t enforce its standards for jail conditions, even when deaths have occurred, as in Monmouth and Middlesex, and because it doesn’t make sense to detain people with only administrative violations. Most of the 1,000 rented jail beds in NJ are a waste of federal dollars.

So Much for Diversity on the LD19 Slate

The LD 19 committee convention endorsed Craig Coughlin as the Dem candidate for assembly, so O’Leary’s withdrawal did not open up a spot for Judge Mattias Rodriguez or Jean Pierce.  Very disappointing.

The Star Ledger reports the vote was overwhelmingly for Coughlin:

District Democratic Party committee members nominated Coughlin with 170 votes. Superior Court Judge Mathias Rodriguez of Perth Amboy received 77 votes and Jean Pierce, a Woodbridge health care professional and activist, took 25 votes…

Coughlin will run with Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville, who attended tonight’s convention, and who several people suggested could be the next Assembly speaker.

“The man who I hope will be the next speaker,” Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo said in introducing Wisniewski…

Coughlin and Wisniewski will face Republican candidates Pradip “Peter” Kothari, a Woodbridge businessman, and Richard Piatkowski of Perth Amboy in November.

Even the Ocean County GOP (LD9) did a better job of getting a diverse ticket after Van Pelt’s resignation than the Mdlsx Dems.

[Update:  Just saw this remark from Max Pizarro’s diary:

“I’m trying to break the barrier and prove you don’t need to be 6 ft. 4 to represent this district,” Coughlin said.

That just adds insult to injury.

South Amboy Mayor John T. O’Leary cracked a smile as he applauded in the back of the banquet hall.  Coughlin was the man the 6 ft. 5 mayor from the south side of the bay had supported to be his successor…]

Arrest at Pallone’s Piscataway Town Hall, Freedom of Speech? Who created ‘public alarm’?

The Home News reported on the arrest of Highland Park activist, retired Rutgers professor, David Antebi, outside Pallone’s Piscataway town hell, for a comment he made after being baited by a teabagger.  It is so far over the top that he is now facing charges.  His wife described it to me the next day as “surreal” and “Kafka-esque.” From the article, pic included:

The Highland Park man was searched by plainclothes police officers, handcuffed, fingerprinted and booked after a confrontation with people opposed to the health-care legislation being pushed by President Obama. He was charged with the disorderly persons offense of creating false public alarm

Antebi said he was egged on by the anti-reform people who were the ones who called the police.  Antebi documents protests through photography and brought a camera with him for the town hall meeting, he said.  After a heated discussion about health-care legislation with people he believes were part of an organized group, one of the opponents asked him if he had a bomb in the bag, according to Antebi. He said he laughed off what he felt was a ridiculous remark…

The alarm that I’m feeling (as well as the section of the ‘public’ that includes David’s friends and the Highland Park area activist community) is that police can use the post 9/11 hysteria to create havoc based on an off hand remark that was clearly not serious.  And there’s nothing false about that sense of public alarm.

WAGG’s Women Equality Day Press Conference w/ Loretta

Promoted by Jason Springer: It was a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Women in Government, while knowing they still have more work ahead. Thanks for posting the diary.

Women Advocating Good Government recognized the first ever candidates for Lt. Gov both being women.  Photos courtesy of Jeannine LaRue, Chair-Elect of WAGG.

Myra Terry, former president of NOW NJ and founder of WAGG, introduced Ingrid Reed, saying

“We look to the first ever Lt Gov. to have real influence in matters of state and to be an effective arm of the executive office.”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Ingrid Reed, Policy Analyst and New Jersey Project Director at Eagleton, talked about the importance of being at the table when redistricting happens after next years Census, mentioning

3 NJ legis. districts are won by less than 5% of the vote

8 districts are between 5 and 15%

3/4 of the 40 districts are won by more than 15% of the vote

“Women do well in competitive districts and when there are open seats.”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Update by Jason: I split the diary and there are more great pictures along with the rest of the story below the fold.