Author Archive: the_promised_land

The school choice “reformers” aren’t talking about

This Labor Day weekend, this Courier-Post article caught my eye. It describes the state’s interdistrict school choice program, and describes the increased number of districts opening up their seats to children from other districts.

I noticed something about the districts though: they are almost all older suburban districts such as Brooklawn, Collingswood, and Lawnside. Not districts with the top schools in the area – the Eveshams, Haddonfields, and Mount Laurels.

That’s because the state progam is voluntary. And it appears that each district has to make a choice: what is worth more to them, the extra cash the program brings, or the “value” of excluding lower-income kids, predominantly of color, from their schools?

To their credit, some districts, such as Brooklawn which is quoted in the article, have recognized that racial and economic diversity are positive, rather than negative, factors in education.

But why is that recognition limited to older suburbs? Some of the wealthier districts probably don’t have extra space. But I highly doubt there is a total correlation here.

Why don’t the school “reformers” talk about these kinds of issues more? We have lots of great schools already – public schools, with unionized teachers – in places like Haddonfield, or Livingston, where hedge funder and school reformer David Tepper lives. Why aren’t the reformers on the front lines demanding that the children that they are trying to “save” in Camden and Newark be admitted to Haddonfield and Livingston schools? Surely such opportunities would be greatly helpful to many children.

It’s easy to tell someone living somewhere else to reform their schools. It’s a lot harder to actually take on the task in your community. And to be fair, this separates out some of the reform community from others – like the Catholic Church who has worked hard to provide educations to poor kids in their own institutions.

But other reformers living in wealthier towns – will you demand that your own schools be part of the solution? And if not why not?

It’s just a smaller part of the question we all should ask this Labor Day – are we all part of one America where everyone’s work is valued and people of all backgrounds are welcomed as our peers and neighbors? Or are we headed back towards the caste society that unions were formed to overcome?

If Christie is so sure of his revenue numbers…

… then what’s his problem with the Legislature’s budget?

If he is so sure of the so-called Jersey Comeback resulting in revenue growth that exceeds any other state, and so sure that he’s got the numbers right even though Wall Street says he is wrong and they have nothing to do with revenue collections so far this year; if he’s so sure that he calls an independent analyst who dares doubt them “Dr. Kevorkian” – then he should be fine with the Legislature’s budget, because there will be a tax cut.

But I guess his condition for a tax cut is that it needs to be there even if he’s wrong on revenue.

So maybe he’s not so sure of his revenue numbers after all.

That seems a little… incoherent. Weak, even.

Just sayin’…

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Does Christie’s budget strategy mean no re-election bid?

As interested observer pointed out yesterday, Christie’s governorship relies on frequent distraction. And it really relies on distraction in this budget season, with a proposed tax cut for millionaires that can only be funded by ignoring the real revenue projections and, now, massive borrowing to fund transportation projects. Christie is on his way to making Christine Todd Whitman and Jim McGreevey look like masters of fiscal restraint.

Does this signify that Christie isn’t running for re-election in 2013? Here’s the storyline: Christie declares “mission accomplished” and bows out. The next Governor (likely a Democrat) is left to deal with the bill that comes due and Christie’s minions and Christie himself spin it as his or her fault for not following the Christie course. Meanwhile, Christie runs a morning show on Fox News and prepares to run in 2016.

What’s the alternative? The bill might not come due soon enough to hurt Christie in 2013. But there’s a real risk that it becomes a total mess soon after – and one he can’t spin away on the Democrats in the Legislature, while unemployment in NJ remains higher than surrounding states and the Governor’s big money in Xanadu goes bust. Even conservative columnists start turning on Christie.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen that way. But there’s significant risk there. Maybe enough so that Christie doesn’t run for re-election.

It’s all speculation at this point – and we probably won’t really know anything until after November. And I could very easily see Christie gambling on a triumphant second term buoyed by a national economic comeback that helps fill the budget holes. We shall see.

Wow – Christie REALLY goes after the building trades, and all other unions

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was saying that Christie’s honeymoon with the building trades was coming to an end.

Oh, wait a minute – it’s because it WAS just yesterday! I wasn’t really expecting the other shoe to drop so quickly, but Chris Christie doesn’t waste time, I guess.

And it’s a big shoe. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. submitted a bill today that would essentially ban unions from making campaign contributions.

Really.

And that includes the building trades, because the bill covers project labor agreements, the agreements entered into for big government projects to lay out union involvement from the start.

Not to mention the unions that represent all government workers.

Chris Christie already tried this through Executive Order 7, which absurdly tried to rewrite the pay to pay law without involving the Legislature right after Christie came into office. That was struck down by the courts.

So now he’s trying, through his top spokesperson in the Legislature, to make it so that corporations are people, but unions (who actually do represent people, after all), are not.

Expect to be hearing about this a lot from the Christie SuperPAC world in the coming months.

Christie targets the building trades

For much of Chris Christie’s early term, the building trade unions have had a pretty good relationship with him. Exhibit A: Revel, in which Christie teamed up with the building trades and contributed hundreds of millions of public funds to build the new casino, all over the objections of HERE Local 54, the union representing the casino workers in AC that Revel has turned a cold shoulder to in such great acts as trying to figure out how to only hire waitresses as long as they are deemed attractive.

Was yesterday Chris Christie’s PATCO moment? I’m not talking the train that runs from South Jersey into Philly (for the record, that is called the “Speedline”). I’m talking about the moment when Ronald Reagan, who claimed to support unions during the 1980 presidential campaign, and even got some endorsements, busted the air traffic controllers’ union by hiring scabs to replace them. Even after that union had endorsed him. The New York Times called it “the strike that busted unions.”

It came to light yesterday that the New Jersey Department of Labor is gutting the BUILD program, which provides job training for women and people of color getting into the building trades. Just last year Christie labor commissioner Harold Wirths made the announcement of $760,000 in grants a major part of his speech at the building trades convention. But as of yesterday, it became apparent that Christie was grabbing $6 million from the program to help fund his tax cut for millionaires. Props to Sen. Weinberg et al for seizing upon this issue and promoting using the money for women’s health care (though we should be able to do BOTH) – see prior link – and to Asm. Vincent Prieto for following up today on both this and another jobs program Christie cut.

At the end of the day, the modern Republican Party is simply against unions. And as Christie’s star rises, he will keep moving in that direction, much as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who once said he did not favor a so-called “right to work” bill, reversed himself when the opportunity came.

Christie promised public servants in 2009 that he wouldn’t cut their pension. We saw how long that lasted. Does anyone really believe that, on his road to national Republican stardom, the building trades won’t be the next casualty?

Independent restaurants, not chains, dominate NJ

This nice little piece in the Asbury Park Press says that we’re fourth in the country (behind VT, NY, DC) in highest percentage of non-chain restaurants.

That’s a good sign for our economy – more of our dollars for diners, Indian, Italian, Korean, and the many other great places to eat in NJ stay with small business owners in the community instead of going to out of state CEOs.

These are the type of jobs, and businesses, we hear talked about too little about in Trenton. Xanadu can get hundreds of millions of dollars from our state lawmakers and Gov. Christie despite widespread public opposition. But small businesses, which keep their money in the community and often support local community causes, too often get short shrift, even as New Jersey’s job numbers continue to lag behind the nation.

But in the meantime we should be proud of the higher levels of independent restaurant entrepreneurs in New Jersey compared to most places. And grateful for all of the great food they provide.

News Roundup & Open Thread: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Christie’s Fun Day with Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove

  • Christie, speaking at a conference put on by President Bush on how to address America’s tax and spending issues (which must have George Orwell rolling over in his grave), says our country is turning into “a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for a government check.”
  • Dems respond: “The only people sitting around on the couch enjoying life these days are the millionaires who have been coddled by Gov. Christie. Everyone else is working as hard as they can to pay for the net 20 percent property tax hike they’ve endured under this governor.”
  • Blue Jersey reacts.

    ARC Tunnel fallout

  • When it becomes apparent that Christie made up numbers to justify a political decision, what happens next?
  • Ledger: we need a solution to this.
  • Stile: Christie needs to bridge a credibility gap.
  • Truthiness.

    New Rutgers President named

  • It’s Robert L. Barchi, current president of Thomas Jefferson University in Philly. And his appointment leaked out in a weird way.
  • He will have a lot on his plate, including the Rutgers-Rowan merger, which has been the subject of a series of “secret talks” among Dems and Rutgers.

    Education “reform”

  • Christie: more money’s good for my kid, but not for yours.

    Sen. Menendez names new statewide director

  • Congrats to Karen Elkis, who replaces the departing Mike Soliman who is running Menendez’s re-election campaign.

    Healthcare changing in NJ

  • No matter what the Supreme Court decides, changes could be here to stay.

    Fire in the Pines

  • An important part of the forest’s natural life cycle. But tell that to the people who almost lost their homes – but were saved thanks to the quick work of some outstanding firefighters. Governor, care to criticize these public workers today?

    Goodbye, Rick Santorum

  • And onwards towards the general election.
  • Chris Christie Is Truthiness

    If there is one word that defines Chris Christie, it is truthiness. In the words of Stephen Colbert:

    Well, anybody who knows me knows that I am no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true, what did or didn’t happen.

    Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I want to say it happened in 1941, that’s my right.

    Chris Christie’s philosophy exactly.

    The elitist truth says that New Jersey would have only paid 14.4 percent of the cost of the ARC Tunnel, based on some actual numbers and stuff, while Christie’s truthiness says New Jersey would have paid 70 percent. 70 percent! He said so, so it must be right.

    The elitists say that New Jersey won’t experience a miraculous increase in revenue that would be the most optimistic budget forecast of any state. But Christie has the truthiness: these people are off by $537 million, because only Christie knows that there will be an incredible surge in state revenue!

    The elitists (in this case Christie’s own education commissioner) say that Christie missed out on $400 million in federal education funding because his administration made a mistake. But Christie has the truthiness: that in fact President Obama was to blame.

    Why is this truthiness all ok? More below…

    Cerf shore rental complicates senatorial courtesy calculations

    In the latest episode of the year-long saga over Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s stalled nomination in the Senate, Cerf has rented a LBI home for the summer. In doing so, he hopes to avoid the longstanding hold on his nomination from Sen. Ron Rice, who is concerned about his prior role as an outside consultant paid by the Newark schools.

    The move, adding to his longtime residence in Montclair, Essex County and a rental in Rocky Hill, Somerset County, has veteran political observers scratching their heads.

    “What does this move mean for senatorial courtesy considerations?,” asked former Region IX EPA Director Alan Steinberg. “I remember a time when I visited a Superfund site with former Governor Whitman on one side and President George W. Bush on the other…”

    The remainder of Steinberg’s hour-long remarks did not appear to have anything to do with Cerf.

    Other commentators speculate that Cerf’s move may have something to do with little-known Senate Rule 24(a), instituted during the last time Senate Republicans had a majority, which gives the power of senatorial courtesy in Ocean County solely to county boss George Gilmore, and also gives him the power to directly approve any nominations from the county without the customary Judiciary Committee review.

    “Cerf has been surprisingly effective at putting the Democrats in a bind,” Patrick Murray, Monmouth University pollster, said. “Do they ignore time-tested Senate rules? Or do they simply cede their power to George Gilmore?”

    Further complicating the matter is Cerf’s bizarre remarks to the Save Jersey editorial board, which make his prior comments to the Asbury Park Press, which had scotched his last confirmation hearing, look mundane in comparison.

    In response to a question about where he sleeps at night, Cerf offered the following answer:

    “It really depends. Some nights, I start by sleeping on LBI. But then I get up in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and drive up the Parkway to Montclair. I stop in and get something to eat, and then I go to my apartment in Rocky Hill, because that’s the closest for my commute to my job in Trenton. So basically I’d say that my domicile is in Somerset County.”

    Ultimately, it is up to Senate leadership to determine when, or if, to bring Cerf up for a hearing.

    Springsteen agreement to Christie AC proposal is revel-olting

    Of all the people that I thought might betray their values to get in on the national Chris Christie love-fest, Bruce Springsteen was always on the bottom of the list. After all, he did write a letter to the Asbury Park Press on how Christie’s budget cuts were eating at New Jersey’s middle class.

    So when Christie asked Springsteen to play at the new Revel casino at its opening on Labor Day weekend last week, most people dismissed it as unlikely given that Springsteen has shown no love for the Governor. As I wrote last week, the Revel in particular, with its bad labor policies, seemed an unlikely place for Springsteen to play given his values.

    Well, we were all wrong. I’m not only outraged, as a huge Springsteen fan, but also deflated. Bruce has always been one of my musical and political heroes, who says what is on his mind no matter what is popular. This announcement makes me want to burn all of my Springsteen albums and go listen to some Tom Morello instead.

    The full press release is pasted below the fold…