Author Archive: the_promised_land

Christie fail: New Jerseyans could care less about “activist judge” charge

About two weeks before the legislative elections, Chris Christie thought he had found the issue that would lead him to “make history” in reducing the Democratic majority.

Judge Linda Feinberg struck down the part of pen/ben applying to judges. And Christie pounced.

He held a rally with fifty Republican legislators and candidates at Trenton’s War Memorial. Christie threw down the gauntlet.

“Which side are Democratic lawmakers and candidates on? New Jerseyans deserve to know whether they stand with public employees and taxpayers or the privileged 432 (judges).”

Derek Roseman, one of the state’s key Democratic strategists, responded:

“As if on cue, New Jersey’s Republicans have called their biennial pre-election confab to pledge their unwavering support for an issue that doesn’t register with the people they are seeking to represent,” Roseman said. “Perhaps our opponents’ time would be better spent walking their districts and actually talking to voters, as opposed to driving to Trenton for photo-ops with their party leaders. If they did, they’d know, like Democrats do, that voters care about their property taxes, their jobs, and the fact that the Republicans who are spending today fawning all over each other care more about giving millionaires special treatment than they do funding schools, ensuring women’s access to health care, or even providing real property tax relief to middle-class families and seniors.”

What happened next – below the fold.

Which one is it, Governor?

“The new map still is more competitive than what previously existed.”

– Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak in April after new map produced.

“I do believe we’re going to make history [in the legislative elections].”

– Christie, October 31.

“The map did what I thought it would do.”

– Christie, today.

Just sayin’…

NJ’s Most Diverse Legislature Ever (But…)

By the end of this decade, New Jersey will be close to 50 percent people of color. That fact – and particularly the increase in the state’s Latino population – was front and center in the redistricting debate earlier this year. And of course, our state is already comprised of 50 percent women.

With the results from yesterday’s legislative elections in, how will the new Legislature compare on reflecting New Jersey’s population?

Next year’s Legislature will be the most racially and ethnically diverse in New Jersey history. As a result of several key areas flagged during redistricting being met – such as Latino representation in the 36th in the person of Marlene Caride and Nellie Pou moving to the Senate in the 35th to replace John Girgenti (which in turn led to that district having two new African-American assembly members, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly), 29 of the state’s 120 legislative seats will be held by people of color starting January, a record. Latinos picked up two seats (including a Senate seat) to reach an all-time high of 10 seats, and African-Americans reversed a minor decline in seat numbers over the past several cycles to reach 17 seats, which ties the prior all-time high. Asian-Americans held steady at 2 seats. These numbers still, however, represent significantly lower shares of Latinos and Asian-Americans than the population as a whole.

More below the fold…

Koch Brothers Punk’d by Own Climate Change Study

Hey David Koch: you just got punk’d.

The Koch Brothers, it seems, paid for a study to show that global warming is not real. The only problem: the study showed that global warming is real. And noted physicist Richard Muller – one of the global warming deniers relied upon by Koch to have a “debate” about climate change – has now recanted based on the findings of the study.

What impact might this have on another one of Koch’s franchisees, Governor Chris Christie?

Christie has, in a move based on a strategic calculation that the public is stupid or doesn’t care, agreed that global warming is real. But, as this picture on Politico well represents, he is throwing up his hands on doing anything real about it.

So he gets to have it both ways – be feted by the Koch brothers at secret gatherings for pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, while also claiming that he agrees with the science.

Perhaps this is a harbinger of a new national Koch strategy now that the denial train has run into a major roadblock. Say that global warming is real – but that there’ just nothing we can do about it. Watch for it in months to come…

Look busy: Christie, jobs, and the #7 line

Maybe 10 years ago, I read a book called Omon Ra published in Russia right after the fall of the USSR. In the book, a teenager is sent to Soviet space camp, which turns out to be a rusting set of “spaceships” – but everyone has to pretend that they are really training for the space program.

The book has a lot to do with the Christie Administration’s economic development strategy. Despite an anemic job creation record that pales in comparison with the rest of the country – and that’s saying something in these economic times – we are all supposed to pretend that Christie knows something about economic development and is creating “Jersey jobs.” In reality, the Christie Politburo cares far more about enforcing the ideological line than creating or saving jobs. But if you actually say that – or do anything other than participate in the charade – then you become persona non grata with the Christie Administration, which is not an option for most businesses in the state – as Christie made clear by forcing the firing the head of the NJ Chamber of Commerce when she disagreed with him.

The #7 line extension to New Jersey is a case study in this charade. More below the fold.

Who will be Assembly speaker and majority leader?

PolitickerNJ has had several reports on negotiations over who will be Assembly speaker and majority leader. In case you missed them, here’s a summary of what they report – with a disclaimer that this post relies entirely on those reports which all themselves rely on unnamed, and surely not unbiased, sources.

The underlying assumptions seem to be (a) the Democrats will retain both houses of the Legislature (which even Chris Christie agrees will happen); and (b) Steve Sweeney will remain Senate President unless something unexpected happens (watch for a separate post on Blue Jersey on that soon).

Several key considerations – existing and potential new alliances among power brokers and county parties, the pen-ben vote, and racial and ethnic diversity – appear to be driving the discussions on whether Speaker Sheila Oliver and Majority Leader Joe Cryan will keep their positions.

Where will it all go? And what do you want to see happen? A more detailed summary below the fold – and the floor is open for comments.

House Leader too scared to face Occupy Philly, pollster sees movement having an impact

Just across the river, #2 House Republican Eric Cantor canceled a planned appearance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School – on the topic of the “growing gap between the rich and poor” no less. Why? A planned protest from Occupy Philadelphia, which has drawn many South Jerseyans to its cause.

“The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met,” Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said in an e-mail.

So – because the University couldn’t ensure that the 99% were going to be kept out, Cantor couldn’t speak on the topic of – the gap between the 1% and the 99%.

But, hey, since Cantor thinks the protestors are “mobs” maybe he is scared to show up.

The news comes on the heels of a national poll finding that 58 percent of Americans are now “angry” at government, and 37 percent support the Occupy Wall Street movement, significantly more than recent polls have found support the Tea Party. This poll led Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray to tweet yesterday that “Something’s happening!” Exactly where this movement goes, who knows – but it seems to be shifting the national debate and seeping into the consciousness of even powerful leaders like Cantor.

Cryan, State Bar get it right on Christie’s threat to independent judiciary

Gov. Christie, for the second day, yesterday attempted to bully a well-respected judge, the Hon. Linda Feinberg of Mercer County Superior Court, for a decision striking down part of the pension/benefits law.

We reported on the initial decision yesterday, and so won’t repeat the basic details. The developments yesterday, however, merit an update, as Christie went off the wall.

As the Ledger reports, his attacks on Judge Feinberg – by all reports a cautious and highly ethical judge – ran the gamut, getting more and more crazy.

Christie’s criticism ran the gamut, from accusing Feinberg of protecting “cronies” to describing all judges as “elitists” trying to take money from taxpayers. Then Christie compared Feinberg to Bryan Christiansen, whom the governor ousted as head of the scandal-plagued Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.

Trying to delegitimize an entire branch of government as “elitists” is quite simply dangerous. We need a fair and honest court system that rules on the merits and not based on favoritism.

And comparing a judge, who in fact has often ruled in ways that would please Christie as discussed yesterday such as ruling that neither civil unions nor gay marriage were legally required, to the head of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, without any evidence, is reprehensible. As the head of the New Jersey State Bar Association, Susan Feeney, stated:

His personal criticism of Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg is unwarranted and irresponsible. Judge Feinberg has a sterling record for integrity as one of the most respected members of the New Jersey bench, as well as a long, distinguished career as a public official.

This kind of statement, in itself, from the Bar Association – a non-partisan trade organization – is notable. But what the Governor did went way too far. Joe Cryan explained it very well:

No matter how one feels about the ruling, the governor’s lack of respect for the judicial process is chilling. (Christie) of course has the right to defend his law, but he should be above throwing a tantrum and disparaging someone else’s character if he doesn’t get his way.

That’s right – Christie can defend the law in court by taking an appeal, and criticize the decision. It’s also fair game to call for a constitutional amendment if needed, as he did yesterday (though whether one would be wise and what else he might try to stuff in there is another question – we’ll see if and when he proposes specific text). But disparaging a respected judge’s character, and the entire judiciary, is unethical and a mark of a poor leader.

Judicial controversy another Christie attack on a powerful woman

Looks like the Governor is once again unjustly attacking a powerful woman who won’t bow to his new order, with important consequences for our state.

Christie’s immediate response to Judge Linda Feinberg’s ruling against portions of the pen/ben law subtly highlighted Feinberg’s gender:

This outrageous, self-serving decision, where a judge is protecting her own pocketbook and those of her colleagues, is why the public has grown to have such little faith in the objectivity of the judiciary.

Let’s try that sentence with, say, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in its place:

This outrageous, self-serving decision, where Chief Justice Stuart Rabner is protecting his own pocketbook and those of his colleagues, is why the public has grown to have such little faith in the objectivity of the judiciary.

Don’t think he would have written it that way, do you?

Part of pen/ben struck down, Christie bashes independent judiciary

Late yesterday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg struck down a portion of the pen/ben law that reduced pensions and benefits for state judges. The decision, available here, is a pretty straightforward application of a constitutional prohibition against the legislature tampering with judicial compensation once promised. The Christie Administration had argued that “compensation” did not include any benefits or pensions, and really just meant salary. Judge Feinberg found that case law and the history of the constitutional convention (you know, intent of the founders, originalism – very conservative ideas) made that twisting of words implausible.

Judge Feinberg is known as a fair and cautious judge, and frequently rules on major constitutional issues given her role as the top judge in Mercer County trial court (where most state offices are located and thus many cases against the state are brought). Her past rulings have cut both ways – see for example her decision blocking then-Gov. Codey from using debt to cover state operating expenses based on the State Constitution. Just last year she refused to block an earlier pension and health benefit law from going into effect despite

a suit by the police union.
She also ruled against gay marriage in the trial court decision that became the Supreme Court’s civil union decision – Judge Feinberg wouldn’t even require civil unions.

Especially given that context, this statement by Gov. Christie last night on the decision is shocking:

This outrageous, self-serving decision, where a judge is protecting her own pocketbook and those of her colleagues, is why the public has grown to have such little faith in the objectivity of the Judiciary. These political appointees, who are the most lavishly paid public workers, with the richest lifetime benefits, have now had one of their own rule that they are above the law and should be treated preferentially. We trust that the Supreme Court will reverse this ridiculous decision and find that judges should have to pay their fair share, just like every other public employee.