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Cronyism isn’t only Rapant on the Federal Level, Check your Backyard

According to documents from the Harrison Township town council, Assembly Candidate and Harrison Mayor Phil Rhudy is sacrificing the citizens of his town for nepotism and campaign contributions.  Take this press release from the Dems in District 3.  


Major Campaign Contributor Given Seat on Board; Rhudy Gives Job To Wife That Puts Him on the Sideline

Tonight is another Planning Board meeting in Harrison Township. And like every other planning board meeting since Phil Rhudy became mayor of Harrison Township, Phil Rhudy will not be there to protect the interests of his constituents. Although it is typical for mayors to serve on the planning board of their town, Harrison Township is different.  That’s because Mayor Rhudy has chosen to give his wife the job of planning board secretary and therefore render himself unable to serve and make critical policy decisions when it comes to growth management in his town.

But it wasn’t enough to stop at one huge conflict of interest when it comes to the planning board. Rhudy created a second conflict of interest when he appointed Robert Pacilli, owner of RJP Builders to the planning board. Not only does this mean that Rhudy is beholden to developers, it also shows that cronyism is at play at the expense of the citizens of Harrison.

Suzanne Holst Rhudy is one of the most highly-paid planning board secretaries in New Jersey, making $32,000 a year (the maximum salary allowed by Harrison law) plus benefits, including dental coverage.  On three separate occasions, the citizens of Harrison Township have paid for dental work for Mrs. Rhudy. They have also paid her travel expenses to attend several seminars.

“Mr. Rhudy does his constituents a disservice when he chooses not to serve on the planning board,” said Russ Oster. “Harrison Township residents are clearly concerned about the sprawl that is infesting their community. Unfortunately Rhudy has sent a clear message that he puts nepotism and the interests of his campaign contributors before those of the people who he was elected to serve.”

Robert Pacilli serves on the planning board as Phil Rhudy’s appointment.  Widely regarded as the largest builder in Harrison, Pacilli recently made headlines for suing Woolwich Township to fight their open space plan.  Pacilli is owner and operator of RJP Homes and has donated thousands of dollars to the Rhudy and Zee campaign and hosted an elaborate June fund raiser for Rhudy and Zee. Attending that fundraiser was a who’s who of developers in Gloucester County.

In fact, besides the $3,000 in contributions from Doug Forrester that are currently the subject of an Attorney General’s investigation, and the $6,000 that came from the Harrison Township Republican Club, which is also under investigation for failure to file campaign finance reports, nearly all the rest of Rhudy’s campaign funds come from those looking to add to the sprawl of Harrison Township.

Clearly they have already gotten their money’s worth from Mayor Rhudy. The number of houses built in Harrison during Rhudy’s time on the Town council has skyrocketed. Anyone spending their commute home crawling along Route 322 can attest to the devastating impact that the “sprawl czar” Phil Rhudy has had on the infrastructure of Harrison Township.

But perhaps none have gotten more from their investment in the Rhudy campaign than Mr. Pacilli. In exchange for the fund raising support, Pacilli now gets to set the growth policy for Harrison Township. Given Mr. Pacilli’s dislike for smart growth laws and open space planning, residents of Harrison should brace themselves for more traffic and more sprawl.

“This is a classic case of putting the fox in the henhouse,” said Senator Steve Sweeney.  â€œI’m fighting everyday to preserve open space and farmland in Gloucester County and to provide a sound strategy for smart growth. That’s why it is so disheartening to see Phil Rhudy shirk his responsibilities. I need partners in Trenton who will stand with me on these issues, not with developers.”

So two questions remain. The first to Phil Rhudy:

What is the price of a seat on the Harrison Planning Board? If you are willing to sell out to the highest bidder in Harrison, what is for sale when you go to Trenton?

The second question is to the Sierra Club:

This is the person you have entrusted to support your interests in Trenton? The man who sells his seat on the planning board to the biggest developer in his town?



The Corruption Issue: Getting Past the Myths

Public corruption has been a hot topic in this election year, and while even the hardcore GOP supporters acknowledge that there is corruption on both sides of the aisle (while trying to grab the moral high-ground on the issue), there has been very little in the way of factual information offered on the amount of public corruption in New Jersey.  Public-spirited citizen that I am, I went in search of something more authoritative than “everybody knows about it” and, through the miracle of Google, found it.

New Jersey ranks 16th.  Not the best record ever, but certainly not the horrible sinkhole of despair that we are painted to be.  Who are the top ten?  Mostly the so-called Red States, believe it or not, with Mississippi leading the way.  Nebraska is the least corrupt.

Feel free to explore the link and argue with the methodology, but unless you have some hard facts to support your arguments then I won’t concede the corruption claims.  It is important that the public know the facts and have solid information to work with, so it is important that this “common wisdom” of New Jersey’s corruption be debunked.

WNYC Lies, My Letter

Dear Listener Services,

The recent report by Bob Hennelly entitled “Candidates Question Each Other in NJ Gov Debate” I feel lacks the high quality typically displayed by WNYC reports.  First, it is completely lacking in argueably the most interesting portions and issues debated by the candidates.  More importantly, the issues that matter most to New Jersey voters were completely ignored by the article.  Almost anyone following the New Jersey gubernatorial race would concede that property taxes and the state’s budget are worth a bit more air time than wether or not the candidates have pandered to current or former political office holders.

The following paragraph is practically irrelevant to the race:

Democrat Jon Corzine probed his opponent on whether his prescription drug company ripped off its customers by pocketing rebates from pharmaceutical companies. Forrrester denied the charge and questioned Corzine’s praise of Governor Jim McGreevey just before the former Governor’s exit in disgrace. For the first time, Corzine conceded that McGreevey’s tenure was a failure. But he said that his joint appearances with the former governor were the poltical eqiuvalant of Forrester’s glad-handing President Bush or his top strategist Carl Rove.

While both candidates have been playing to each others political connections, and accusing each other of corruption, this is hardly an issue of substance in terms of policies that each candidate will espouse as governor.  In a report on a debate that was chuck full of policy substance, I find highlighting political name calling irresponsible journalism.  

Medicare B and the Denial-of-Reality Right

This is the second part in an ongoing series about health care costs and Medicare B. The first part is posted immediately below this.  You can find more Xpatriated Texan at his personal blog (where he is currently exploring illiberal democracy and systemic corruption in New Jersey) or exposing political corruption in Hudson County.

I am forced to admit that, as much fault as I find in Ayn Rand’s Objectivism philosophy, she did provide one of my favorite quotes in arguing for it.  “A lie,” she writes in Atlas Shrugged, “is the worst insult you can give a man.  It tells him that you find him incapable of dealing with reality.”

Reality is certainly a problem for many people on the political right.  Take, for instance, this quote from the 2004 State of the Union Address,

A government run health care system is the wrong prescription. By keeping costs under control, expanding access, and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America’s health care system the best in the world.

Actually, it is the last part that shows a distance from reality. The Heritage Foundation was quick to pick up the lie to push its own agenda for health care, though.  

The truth, however, is that by almost any objective measurement, the US does not have the best health care system in the world.  For instance, Health Policy Reform actually finds that the US lags behind such countries as the UK, Germany, and Switzerland.  Groups like Physicians for a National Health Program are even pushing to implement systems that emulate those in other countries.

Such efforts, however, are as much lacking a touch of reality as those of the far right.  The truth is that there are too many interests vested in the current system to implement such a huge upheaval.  While I believe all elephants can be eaten one bite at a time, it would be pure gluttony, and foolish, to try to eat the biggest elephant simply because it looks tasty.

Health care reform is badly needed, but it must begin with where the system is now.  It isn’t exactly broken, because it works for a lot of people.  What is needed is a way to make it profitable for those who lack access to the system to gain that access.  That means finding a way to enlarge the system while still operating on sound.  Specifically, we have to utilize the principle of risk averaging and the law of large numbers.

Risk averaging is exactly what it sounds like.  Let’s say there is a ten percent chance of every person in America incurring a one hundred dollar health care bill this month.  If you have a group of one hundred people; then you can be sure that ten of them will need to pay one hundred dollars worth of medical bills each.  You don’t know which ones, and it doesn’t matter.  What matters is the risk is averaged among the whole group.  To be profitable, you only have to charge the hundred people enough to pay a little more than the total of the medical expenses.  In this example, you only have to charge each of the hundred people ten dollars to break even.  If you charge eleven, you make profit.

The law of large numbers says that such percentages are more precise in larger groups.  The ten percent chance in the above example is for every month, so some months you’ll have more and some you’ll have less.  To remain solvent, you have to maintain a large amount of reserves to cover the months when lots of people get sick.  If you increase the pool from one hundred people to one thousand people; the monthly expenses get larger, but the percentage fluctuation from month to month gets smaller.  If you increase the pool to a million people; then the law remains true.

Frogsdong Covers Debate

The radio-broadcast debate last night between Doug Forrester and Jon Corzine was one of the best political debates I have ever been privileged to hear and I was delighted with it.  I have to credit both candidates for answering the questions directly most of the time, unlike Forrester’s “on message” performance in the first debate.  While Forrester was his usual, attack-your-opponent-and-make-demands-of-him self, and Senator Corzine was likewise in his usual mode, sounding professorial as he described policy details, it was pleasant to find Forrester finally catching up with Corzine by staying on-topic.  I credit moderator Eric Scott for that, since he would have none of it when either of the candidates didn’t give him what he felt was a reasonable answer.  Scott was terrific.  If all debate moderators were as insistent as he was on getting a real answer then more people would watch political debates.

Both Candidates PRO-POT

You heard it here first!  

Over at the LIVE blog and over my radio I hardly believed it.  Both candidates were asked about medical marijuana by a caller and both said they were FOR IT!

Only one cliche’ can follow that news.


UpdateOctober 12, 2005 at 00:03:04 EST by jmelli
From the AP wire:

On the topic of medical marijuana – a bill that stalled in the state Legislature – both the Democrat and the Republican said they would sign such a bill if it reached the governor’s desk.

“With respect to providing relief under doctor’s supervision, under the proper circumstances, I think we need to provide all medical resources and that includes what is emerging now with regard to this particular application. So, yes, I’m very much open to that,” said Forrester.

“I believe medical marijuana is something that, if a doctor prescribes it, we need to do what is in the best interest of the patient. It’s a tragedy when you’re not giving the best medication to an individual,” Corzine said.

Live Blogging of debate w/Franken commentary.

We’ll begin live blogging Al Franken commenting on the Corzine/Forrester debate. You can listen in at 101.5 or by streaming online at nj1015.com

We’re at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick. Al Franken walked in a few minutes ago. It’s packed here.

[7:34] Franken’s on the stage. Debate isn’t being broadcast here yet.

See the extended entry for commentary….

Taxes: no free lunch

The folks over at ChangeNJ hit the nail on the head regarding the issue of taxes. There is no free lunch. But that’s not what New Jerseyans believe:

Fifty five percent of New Jersey’s likely voters believe the state can reduce property taxes without raising state taxes or cutting services, according to a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll.

Both major party candidates talk about cutting taxes as if it’s a miracle solution, but they don’t realistically explain how they’ll make up the deficit.

You can’t get something for nothing, and the only way to reduce the burden of property taxes is to raise the money somewhere else. New Jerseyans need to realize that the problem is not necessarily the total dollars collected, but the manner in which and the people from whom it is collected.

In other words, progressive tax systems are the only way to reduce the tax burden on New Jersey’s low and middle income families.



Remember this?

That was three years ago while Forrester was running for Senate.

Now, with Bush’s approval rating in NJ down into the 30’s, Forrester is trying his best to distance himself from the wreckless administration.

But he can’t change the fact that he espouses the same ideological opposition to embryonic stem cell research – which has the potential to lead to cures that could save millions of lives.

He can’t change the fact that his tax plan mimics that of Bush’s fiscal ideology. It won’t help out low and middle income renters, but it will result in thousands of dollars of tax breaks for our wealthiest residents. This is Forrester’s plan to “starve the beast” in order to cut New Jersey’s social programs that help our most vulnerable. Meanwhile, Corzine wants to make sure that every uninsured child in the state has the health coverage they need. Who’s your choice? It’s clear who Bush’s choice is.

(Gloucester Co. Times)

UpdateOctober 11, 2005 at 10:03:08 EST by jmelli
Today’s editorial cartoon from Jimmy Margulies in The Record: