Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

News Roundup & Open Thread for Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2009

NJ-14

  • Wayne DeAngelo is signaling that he will not challenge fellow 14th district assembly member Linda Greenstein if she wants the nomination to succeed Senator Bill Baroni, whose appointment to the Port Authority creates a vacancy that has politicians all over the district pondering their own movement up. DeAngelo told politickernj he’s not ready to take himself out of the running, but recognizes his colleague as the frontrunner and will not force a convention.

    Perhaps we should have a meeting. I’ll bring the headache pills.

  • It’s been quite a few weeks for the NJ Association of Counties. Several counties are withholding dues to the lobbying organization partly funded by taxpayer dollars, in the wake of reports of “excessive” pay – $205K, up from $133 in 2003 – and benefits for its executive director, and calls for her resignation. There’s a special executive board meeting today.

    Jon Corzine

  • Looks like the former govy will be a regular guest host & commentator at CNBC, and will be guest lecturing at Princeton, and may yet return to the world of finance.

    Let’s just start calling them by their numbers, shall we?

  • This is Christie’s lucky #15.

    Mercer GOP Chair asks for investigation of Sheriff Larkin’s actions

  • Sheriff Kevin Larkin’s recent adventure interrupting a class at Mercer County Community College that had earlier discussed him, prompted a formal request from Mercer GOP Chair Roy Wesley to County Inspector General Roy Farkas to see whether Larkin’s action – involving taxpayer-funded personnel and vehicles paid for by taxpayers – was an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

    Rob Andrews a major player in Thursday’s health care summit

  • Andrews chairs the health subcommittee of the Education and Labor Committee.

    Brand new Attorney General

  • Paula Dow, sworn in.

    Turnpike

  • NJ Transportation Commish James Simpson promised transparency, increased customer service & budget oversight at yesterday’s Turnpike Authority meeting.

    Cooling towers

  • In public hearings today, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station – open since 1969 – there will be discussion whether to require installation of cooling towers, a multi-million $ upgrade its owners say will force its closing.

    The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station will likely come under intense scrutiny today when public hearings begin on whether to require installation of cooling towers, a multi-million dollar upgrade its owners say will force the Ocean County facility to close. At issue, the health of Barnegat Bay.

    Sigh.

  • Environmentalists are urging Gov. Christie to show support for the Highlands preservation.

    Revel Casino tax abatement goes forward

  • Atlantic City residents won’t have the chance to vote on whether the $2 billion Revel casino project should receive a $260 million state tax break, under a bill that passed in the Senate this week, sponsored by senators Steve Sweeney & Ray Lesniak.
  • Let’s look at these 2 statements: McClellan & Wisniewski

    Politickernj  has a story that Shirley Turner is expecting to be primaried this cycle, with the drive for that challenge coming from the marriage equality movement. There are some quotes about what a wonderful democracy we have, that such a thing could happen. Okay. Glad Sen. Turner is feeling informed, and glad of the good, civil remarks from her. But that’s the backdrop for something else I want to point out.

    At the tail end of Matt Friedman’s piece is a quote from Mercer Dem County Chair Rich McClellan, who believes she’ll be challenged, then has this to say. McClellan:

    But it’s a concern to me as the county chair that an important part of our constituency is unhappy with one of our star candidates.

    Compare that now, with what the Party leader up the food chain – NJDSC Chair John Wisniewski – said when news broke that Garden State Equality voted to stop contributions to political party committees. Wisniewski:

    To hurl a broadside against the one party that stood up for this and say the effort wasn’t good enough is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Memo to State Dem Chair John Wisniewski from me:

    It is better, as Chairman McClellan does, to acknowledge that constituencies in the Party you lead are not only disaffected but may actually have the power to make change. Much better than saying something accusatory. Much better than giving the impression of presumptuousness, implying GSE – or anybody – somehow owes something to the Party, and is out of line withholding it. You don’t get anywhere disparaging a loyal constituency already feeling beaten up.

    And then there’s this: I cannot emphasize enough that breaking gay hearts engages the justice instincts of many, many people who are straight. I would say to both Chairs, the rest of the Chairs, and some of the legislators we expected better of:

    You just lost a state election big-time to a guy who couldn’t even get re-elected Freeholder in Morris County. You’re not in a great position to alienate whole chunks of your Party. And don’t assume you only have to deal with the gays on this. It’s a progressive thing now.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Late Edition News Roundup for Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2009

    If I have to be here for the snow, damn it, so does he

  • Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt was vacationing in sunny Florida while tons of snow was being dumped on his town, and his Chief of Staff Dan Keashen lied about his whereabouts. h/t Jay Lassiter.

    Thwunk … thwunk … thwunk …

  • Atlantic City might be getting more wind turbines, given a bill just passed by the Senate.

    Senate approves sweeping changes in pension policies for public employees

  • 3 bills drastically altering pension policies for public workers easily passed the Senate, are fast-tracked now to the Assembly and have already had support from the governor. Unions – whose members turned up in numbers to protest – say those workers have already sacrificed, shouldering the cost of their own pensions and giving up raises in exchange for benefits and pledges against layoff. The bills cap at $15K the value of unused sick leave future hires can cashin at retirement, eliminate some disability programs, limit part-time employee participation and alter the formula for benefits to factor in more years of service. On Monday, there will be a public hearing on the 4th bill that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment binding the state to making its full payments to the pension fund.

    A “reversal of fortune” for NJ’s public employee unions

  • Charlie Stile: “Deference is totally old school. In Governor Christie’s “new world order,” unions are banished to the bottom of the pecking order.”

    Schundler gets a grilling

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Acting Education Commish Bret Schundler in detail – with many of the questions seeming to probe him on whether his religious beliefs would govern his policy choices – but ran out of time to vote on confirming him.

    Assembly Budget Committee has some tough questions

  • for Christie’s Acting Treasurer Andrew Eristoff.

    A post office, named for the late Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek

  • Christopher Hrbek, of Westwood, was killed last month in Afghanistan by an IED. A month before, he rushed into enemy fire to carry rescue an injured Marine. Federal legislation is introduced – proposed by Rep. Scott Garrett in the House and both NJ Senators – to name the Westwood Post Office in his honor, in the town where he was a firefighter, and I can’t think of anything more fitting.

    NJ-14

  • Linda Greenstein is working the district and laying the groundwork to capture the Dem nomination to run for the Senate seat Bill Baroni is leaving.

    Joe Doria may be off the hook

  • Doria, who Solomon Dwek says was supposed to get nearly $40K in bribe money, because that money went to political consultant Jack Shaw (whose death in July was an apparent suicide) and Shaw may never have forked that money over to Doria.

    Oh, goodie, more betting

  • Senate voted to allow the Senate President to join a lawsuit challenging the federal ban on sports betting.

    A cop, or the Mayor. Not both.

  • A Wildwood police officer, who won a seat on his town’s governing board in 2007, cannot fill both roles at the same time, according to a state appeals court decision, because those roles are incompatible.

    Now, does everybody feel better? Can we please address some serious issues now?

  • Senate voted to approve a bill cracking down on the use of “diploma mill” parchments – unaccredited institutions of higher learning – by school administrators & teachers to boost their salaries.

    How not to conduct yourself on a college campus

  • Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin made a spectacle of himself driving over and interrupting a college class in which his name had briefly come up, after being tipped off via text by a class member. An incident sending shock waves even to other campuses, even as it produces perhaps more mild disapproval  by some fellow Mercer politicians.  
  • News Roundup & Open Thread for Monday, Feb. 22, 2009

    Was it good for you too?

  • Feel anything unusual yesterday. Central Jersey?

    Dancing at the White House, taking notes, and being like a sponge

  • Herb Jackson on Chris Christie’s weekend at the National Governors’ Association winter meeting.

    Latino Action Network

  • A series of goals and priorities that national and state Hispanic leaders thought would see positive action under President Obama, and former Gov. Corzine, have stalled or been defeated under Democratic leadership, and leaders of the nation’s diverse Hispanic community, which voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, are openly questioning the abilities of Democrats to live up to promises involving immigrants. A new group has plans to flex some political muscle.

    Vet-2-Vet

  • Returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets who need help from somebody who “gets it” as they struggle with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and PTSD can call the peer counseling peer counseling program Vets-3-Vets with its toll-free confidential help-line.  It was created 5 years ago by the state Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and UMDNJ, but it’s only funded on a year-to-year basis now. Sen. Fred Madden wants permanent funding for the program, which last year managed 3,200 cases.

    www.kathedonovan.com

  • Charlie Stile: Right-wing political consultant Rick Shaftan disparages Bergen County Clerk Kathleen (Kathe) Donovan enough to buy a website domain with her name, then use it to direct visitors all kinds of mischievous places. Also in this column: Who might run the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners, and the Tuesday Group, who took their inspiration from Rep. Scott Garrett.

    NJ schools brace for possible aid cuts

  • Lay off teachers and staff and increase class sizes. Ax sports programs and clubs. Scrap class trips and keep the school band home. Eliminate programs, put off repairs, scuttle faculty training, and raise taxes – if possible.
  • Schools walk a fiscal tightrope.

    Guard against phony Newark cops and bad ones

  • Joan Whitlow says bad enough some people are flashing phony police ID’s in Newark, the real cops may be doing wrongs.
  • ACLU-NJ’s took up Diana Taylor’s case after she recounted a run-in with Newark Police.

    Horse racing associations

  • Are they using state grant money, funded by taxpayers, to then lobby Trenton?

    Inept Stoopid Borderline hostie Bad media relations in Christieville

  • Bob Ingle on some unwise stuff going on in the governor’s communications staff.
  • Have to say, I have zero problem with the Governor having a savvy new media strategy, which he may be developing, but they sure left themselves open to ridicule choosing the way they went about it. And this – from Chris Oliviera – is pretty funny [video].

    I’m posting this pretty damned early in the morning, maybe too early for some early-filed stories. So, if anything good’s posted you think we should all know about, please let us know in comments, and throw in the link – thanks. And, as always, it’s an Open Thread.

  • Weekend News Roundup for Feb. 20-21, 2009

    Hey, Hopeful posted a great blog roundup on budget issues, and is looking for additional blogs to bookmark. Got ideas? Hit us up in comments.

    Senator Lautenberg’s first chemo was this weekend

  • He may be out of the hospital by tomorrow, is doing well, and plans to finish out his term and run for another one: “My contract goes to 2014. I want to finish this term doing things that count for the public.”
  • First chemo “capped a week from hell,” says Lautenberg.
  • His cancer was caught early.
  • The less-important reason to wish him well.

    “I’m not a wallflower.”

  • Christie is getting the national Republican love and sunshine.
  • And goes to the National Governors Association winter meeting – his first such meeting – and takes a potshot at Corzine.

    Open antagonism

  • “Most politicians and political experts agree the war between Christie and the unions is unique in Statehouse history. No previous governor ever opposed the unions so directly and with such gusto, and the unions never fought back so readily.”

    Middlesex tries to balance budget

  • Middlesex County will cut its open space tax by 1 cent for 2010, one of several steps to balance its $405 million budget without increasing taxes. Morris County did something similar last year, cutting open space preservation tax from 3 to 2 cents, the third year in a row where Morris used the open space budget line to cut taxes.

    Raiding NJ’s surplus is not the answer

  • Star Ledger opines that Democrats need to come up with something better than drawing down the state’s surplus to restore funding.

    Gov. Chris Christie ready to play ‘Let’s make a deal’

  • Tom Moran: It was a whirlwind day in Trenton and at the end of it all, the furniture had been rearranged. Democrats were suddenly relevant again.

    Church of the Holy Izod

  • Maybe the Izod will be sold to a televangelist for a mega-church, or maybe it can be a casino. Maybe the NJSEA, losing $$$ by the day, will be disbanded. Maybe the Prudential Center can lure another NBA team to NJ …

    The Auditor

  • State Police sergeant who helped save Corzine’s life is demoted. Jerry Zaro stays on, and more.

    Star Ledger: Open the books on NJ Assn. of Counties

  • Track the finances, track how the Executive Director salary ballooned up to $205,000, track why she’s driving a Lexus leased by NJAC, and how the head of the taxpayer-funded lobbyist group got into the pension system.

    Okay, now THIS is cool.

  • Can City Apps bring transparent data to Jersey City’s citizens?
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg being treated for stomach cancer

    Statement, minutes ago, from Sen. Lautenberg’s aide, Caley Gray:

    STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF SENATOR LAUTENBERG

    After several days of hospitalization and testing, Senator Lautenberg’s doctors have diagnosed that he has a B-Cell Lymphoma of the stomach.  This is a curable tumor, and will require treatment over the next few months.

    The Senator is under the care of Dr. James F. Holland and Dr. Martin Goldman of Mount Sinai Medical Center.

    STATEMENT FROM DR. JAMES F. HOLLAND

    “We expect a full and complete recovery for Senator Lautenberg.  The Senator will be treated with chemotherapy administered approximately every three weeks.   We anticipate that he will receive between six and eight treatments, and in between treatments, the Senator is expected to be back at work in the Senate.”

    From all of us here at Blue Jersey, our best wishes for the tough gentleman that Frank Lautenberg is. One of the priveleges of living in New Jersey is being represented by a Senator with the solid voting history – and high Progressive Punch ratings – Lautenberg has. Our thoughts are with our Senator.  

    Bill Baroni will leave the Senate

    Politickernj:

    Gov. Christopher Christie has tapped State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) as the new Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, setting up a November 2010 special election for the politically competitive 14th district Senate seat.

    Baroni, who distinguished himself this year as marriage equality’s standout stalwart in the GOP Senate caucus, will be missed. And the 14th District just got very interesting.  

    Why I did a fundraiser for Newark City Councilman Ron Rice Jr.

    Last night I visited Newark, NJ for the first time. I’d been through Newark on buses and trains between NYC and Philly or DC, but I had never bothered to stop. I’d become mildly obsessed with the city as my previous posts on Mayor Cory Booker and the Brick City documentary made clear. However, last night, I had good reason to exit the train station and stay a while.

    I had been invited, along with comedians Leighann Lord and Scott Blakeman, to donate my time to a re-election fundraiser for the city councilman for the West Ward. Ron Rice Jr, I was told, was a true progressive. He was the first New Jersey candidate nationally endorsed by Democracy For America. He supports marriage equality, believes in evolution and was part of the largest turnover in Newark city government when he, along with Mayor Booker and five other council members, were elected in 2006.

    These are all nice boxes one can check off on a list defining a “good progressive candidate,” but these are not the things that convinced me to jump on a commuter rail and tell jokes to strangers. What stood out to me was that Rice helped start the West Ward Collective whose stated mission is:

    To finish the business of the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention by decentralizing the decision-making process of the city of Newark by example in the West Ward and to empower West Ward stakeholders to create a holistically stable ward for all of its residents.

    The West Ward Collective is organized and run by workgroups and ward based organizations and non-profits… Each workgroup is made up of West Ward residents, community based organization leaders, ward business owners, etc. that have expertise and/or interest in working on these issues directly for the benefit of the West Ward. It is ward based.

    The WWC is organized into a series of workgroups such as education, arts and culture, housing, etc and meets twice a month. It helps raise awareness of city resources within the community, and operates in the opposite direction, influencing city policy based on community involvement.

    I was impressed with Rice’s commitment to sharing and distributing power deeper within the community. Elected officials often use their positions to consolidate power for themselves, to make themselves indispensable to the extreme and create something that looks more like a kingdom than a democracy. Rice appears to be doing the opposite, and I was proud to support that effort in a small way last night.

    Side note: I also learned that making Sharpe James jokes in Newark is still a bit risky. He has some vocal supporters who let me know my jibes and Marion Barry comparisons were unwelcome. As we often say in the business: too soon.

    You can find out more about Ron Rice Jr on his website. (Incidentally, his father is State Senator Ron Rice, whom Booker defeated for mayor in 2006).

    News Roundup & Open Thread for Friday, Feb. 19, 2009

    Blue Jersey got a big shout-out last night from the stage as comedians Baratunde Thurston, Leighann Lord, Scott Blakeman and Joey Novick joined together for a fundraiser to re-elect Newark’s West Ward Councilman Ron C. Rice. Pix and a post later on, but it was a fun late night for our solid progressive friend, Ron.

    This is why we have a medical marijuana law

  • Tim Dagiau

    Leonard Lance is righty enough, thank you

  • The NJ-7 councilman now has not one, but two Tea Party people who want to take him on in the Republican Primary. (tee hee)

    Christie’s treasurer is confirmed

  • Andrew Eristoff was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday after a four-hour hearing focused largely on Gov. Christie’s spending freezes. Sen. Sarlo tried to get Eristoff acknowledge that the $475 million withholding to schools would force districts to raise local property taxes. Sen. Loretta Weinberg voted against confirming Eristoff. de

    No great debate shakes Schundler’s Education Committee appearance

  • Bi-partisan love-fest yesterday. Max Pizarro (pnj) has it, and damn, this is good writing: The discussion hinges mostly at this point on platitudes buoyed by various combinations of buzzwords: schools are the future; children are the future; children in good schools are the future.



    Cory Booker responds to his former Deputy Mayor’s indictment

  • In video, in tweet, and in text.

    Sit-com waiting to happen

  • Ray and Matt Grabowski are the first brothers to run for City Council at the same time (and yes, more than one seat is up).

    Where the real money is

  • Eight execs at NJ authorities get bigger paychecks than the Governor.

    Christie’s happy

  • The governor praises the resignation of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners chief, who was raking in a $313,000 salary, which both he – and Senator Weinberg – criticized.

    Got license issues and not much money?

  • New Jersey has economic-based options for people with non-driving-related issues, which is good news if you have fines, need to pay in installments and have to get to work.
  • Dems

    I think some freshman mistakes have been made by the new NJDSC team. Some lack of graciousness. Some lack of mission, at least made known publicly. And there’s considerable unrest among many in the party ranks, some due to the staggering loss of a governor and the malaise that attaches itself to that loss. But not all.

    I think this is a lackluster time for the NJ Party. The times are restive, yes. But there is a deflated, joyless mood that settles heavily around our party’s leadership. And some of it is their own doing. The good news is that it’s early. And it’s fixable.

    And that’s how some of us here missed a message hidden deep in an email greeting from NJDSC Chair John Wisniewski to Dems. It was a pretty good message, lost in a just-okay email.

    I think the party needs a turnaround. A recognition – and a mea culpa that we need a rebuild of the party’s reputation, and that we should own this. This is still a Democratic state, long may it wave. But the Democratic perp walks of Corzine’s summer have morphed into the bizarre Dwekian diner videos of Dems-on-the-take, and trials that have only just begun. To be sure, our fresh Governor played Karl Rovian politics with his US Attorney job, and that’s on him. But the rest of it, that’s on us. We’ve deepened perception that the reformist Party Democracy Act needed to be written more for us, than for the GOP.

    What is to be done is a public relations campaign – but one with real teeth behind it – that we won’t tolerate corruption, that sunshine is the best disinfectant, that the self-policing is going to be rigorous. Making that believeable requires an openness,  transparency, outreach, and doors to party leadership open. I don’t think Dems are more corrupt than Republicans – even in this hell year. But this isn’t about them; they’re their own cesspool. This is about us.

    The base problem – Some of your foot soldiers – too many – have had it, and are giving you every signal you shouldn’t count on their work, or money. Big, big mistake. God damn it, why would you respond to that with anything but understanding, concern and the question, What can we do to make this better?

    The NJDSC team had the chance to mend some of that, but chose not to. When Garden State Equality (full disclosure: I’m a board member now) voted unanimously to stop funding political parties, Chairman Wisniewski’s “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” response did nothing but deepen resolve.

    Wisniewski’s bathwater statement was presumptuous, because it implied GSE somehow owed something to the party – mind you this is after contributing about $500,000 to Dem candidates since 2005. And that GSE’s decision what to do with its own cash was somehow not its own to make. We heard: Trust us, we know what we’re doing and go sit down. Was GSE’s vote a shot at the Democrats? But they deserved it. Man up, and move on. You don’t get anyone back by disparaging a loyal constituency already feeling beaten up.

    I cannot emphasize enough that breaking gay hearts engages the protective instincts of many, many people who are straight.

    We’re not the NJDSC’s only constituency. We understand that. Respect that. But there’s considerable unrest statewide, mirrored by an aimless DNC presence and ineffective DNC Chair Tim Kaine.

    That’s the mood I was in when I got Wisniewski’s email to Democrats yesterday (posted after the jump). For the most part it felt too late, too laudatory and did little to invest me.

    But the real problem with it is that Wisniewski made a classic mistake: he buried the lede. It’s a meh email with a good closer. And it makes an ask I think we should all answer:


    Over the next few months I look forward to having the same kind of dialogue with you. Soon we will be announcing a series of meetings to hear from local Democratic elected officials, county committee people and grassroots activists about what you think the State Party and Democrats in general should be doing as we enter this crucial stretch for our party.

    In the meantime, please send me some of your ideas, whether broad strategy or specific action, for what we should be doing as a party across the state and in your area at ideas@njdems.org.