Tag Archive: Upendra Chivukula

What’s Happening Today Tue. 11/19/2013

“How can government be made to work?” That question was conveniently in the title of last night’s WSJ-sponsored CEO event which included a presentation by Chris Christie. His answer basically was “Elect me President.” Today he will be elevated to Chairman of the Republican Governors Association at its meeting in Arizona. Such will bring him more moola and opportunities to campaign in other states. Time will tell if he looks like a prince or a frog to the electorate.

How the FDA has changed: Those who have seen the movie Dallas Buyers Club are reminded that when thousands of individuals were dying of AIDS the FDA arrested people for importing DDC (approved for AIDS in Europe but not yet in the USA) as well as other medications not yet sanctioned by the FDA. Now the FDA is permitting the import of a meningitis vaccine (approved in Europe but not the USA) for Princeton University students where seven people have been afflicted but none fatally.  

Our fragile NJ Supreme Court: After unanimous Senate confirmation yesterday our newest member of the Supreme Court is the Cuban-born Faustino Fernandez-Vina, the Camden County assignment judge. He takes the oath of office this morning and joins a court beset by a governor who wants to re-make it. Christie has broken tradition by failing to grant judges tenure –  placing all tenured members in a position of insecurity whenever they decide in a way that goes against his wishes. This also impacts judges in the larger court system. For any future appointments to the Supreme Court, Senators should insist on at least one Democrat to retain balance.

Two new Democratic members of the Assembly are sworn into office: Filling the temporary vacancy left in LD 29 by Al Coutinho (who resigned and then pled guilty to theft) is Eliana Pintor Marin, who, also won the seat in the General Election for the next two years. Filling a vacancy until January created by the resignation (for personal reasons) in LD 38 of Connie Wagner is Paul Contillo (who previously served in the legislature). In LD38 where four candidates for two Assembly seats each garnered about 25% of the vote, Democrat Joe Lagana received the highest ballot count followed by Democrat Tim Eustace who recently was ahead by only some 50 votes. A recount is likely. Go Tim!

Dreamers may soon achieve their dream: The Senate yesterday passed the New Jersey DREAM Act (S2479 – Sponsor Teresa Ruiz) providing the two essential components: tuition equality and access to college loans for undocumented youths living in NJ and brought to the USA by a parent. The identical Assembly bill (A3509 – Sponsor: Gordon Johnson) still has to go through committee. Leadership in both houses seek to present the bill to Governor Christie during the lame-duck session. Christie recently said he might sign-off on such a bill,  but he could also prove meddlesome with a conditional veto. Supporters need to keep up the pressure and email Christie their concern until it is signed into law.

Get Covered America joins Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula for Health Reform Roundtable: 9:30am, Outreach, Informational Session to Provide Asian Americans with the Facts on Affordable Care Act, Raritan YMCA, 144 Tices Lane, East Brunswick. Our beleaguered  ACA Law relies not only on quickly fixing the website glitches, but on enrolling a large number of young, healthy individuals in order to spread the risk pool and keep prices reasonable.

Fighting An Uphill Battle Against Christie’s Climate Deniers

There are a lot of issues facing us today, but arguably the most important one for this and future generations is the impact of global climate change. Even if we solve our problems with civil rights, the economy, and jobs, without a habitable planet, all of those solutions are for naught.

Searching for solutions, today Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula convened an informational session of his Telecommunications and Utilities Committee to hear testimony from all sides of this issue.

As David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation put it, this is not a zero sum game. In other words, we don’t have to choose between a clean environment and jobs. We can have both. In fact, according to Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club, the state has lost 1,800 jobs since Governor Christie unilaterally pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have fallen into fourth place in terms of solar energy, and our wind energy projects are stalled as they continue to wait for Christie administration approval. Jobs in these industries are going to neighboring states.

Probably the biggest waste of time, and yet the most entertaining part of the hearings was the testimony of climate-change deniers from Americans for Prosperity – a group that was led by Steve Lonegan before his Senate run. Every time they espoused their Fox “News” talking points, Chairman Chivukula struck them down with something the AFPers are unfamiliar with – facts. When confronted by Chivukula with scientific evidence, they determined that it was just “fairy tales.” One of them testified that RGGI was costing a 7 percent hike in electricity rates. Chivukula did not let them go unchallenged -he pointed out that the correct number is 0.7 percent. So in my estimation, the AFP crew is either stupidly misinformed or a bunch of liars.

After the hearing, I spoke with Chairman Chivukula to get a brief summary. Below the fold is a short audio interview with renowned climate scientist Dr. Anthony Broccoli of Rutgers.

What’s Happening Today Thu. 10/10/2013

“Obama is a Tyrant” and “bodies floating around of shooting victims”, were just a few of the extreme comments uttered by former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the last U.S. Senate debate with Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Democratic candidate Booker offered a strong performance last night – firm, rational, and giving no quarter to Steve Lonegan. In fact he made Lonegan flustered, mad and defensive on occasion. Booker frequently tied Lonegan to the Tea Party and added statements like “You are very much on the extreme on this issue.” Several times the debate became heated with each interrupting the other. Lonegan may have felt empowered as he threw out red meat because there appeared to be a large contingent of like-minded individuals in the audience. However, Lonegan’s rhetoric is not going to win the day with Democrats or most independents. According to yesterday’s Stockton Poll, “Booker leads by 11 points, which is identical to the percentage of respondents who are undecided or refuse to identify who they will vote for. Lonegan is in the position to have to convert all of these to draw the race into a tie with Booker.” With the lottery they say, “You have to be in it to win it.” It’s no different with this Special Election next Wednesday for which turn-out is predicted to be low.

Flags at half-staff today for Nicholas Oresko to mark the passing of a NJ veteran who had been the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. The Army master sergeant, a Bayonne native, was badly wounded as he single-handedly took out two enemy bunkers during the horrific Battle of the Bulge in 1945. He died Oct. 4 at a New Jersey hospital at the age of 96.

No news is bad news: 10th day of the shutdown: For voters in CD 5 this is a petition you can sign here from MoveoOn.org to Rep. Scott Garrett: “From the government shutdown to the debt ceiling, Tea Party Republicans have wreaked enough havoc on our country. Stop holding the country hostage to further your political gains; vote on a clean budget resolution and raise the debt ceiling without demanding cuts to Social Security, Obamacare, or any other vital programs.” The petition will not stop Garrett, but in a district where Democrats and independents often accept apathetically his garbage, it is important to remind him there are many in disagreement with him.

Yardsigns have arrived for LD 38! You can get yardsigns for other districts as well by calling your local legislators. (Not recommended if they are Republicans.) For LD 38 you can show your support for Sen. Bob Gordon and Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Joe Lagana. Pick up your sign (and offer to volunteer) at their campaign headquarters at 31-00 Broadway, 3rd Floor in Fair Lawn.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign says, NJDOT spends more on walking, biking and transit but not enough to improve safety or maintain State’s roads. The full report can be found here.


U. S. Senate candidate Cory Booker, Gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono, and  Lt. Gubernatorial Candidate Milly Silva: 4:30-6:30pm, a joint Monmouth County Voter Rally, 4:30-6:30pm, Bates Elks Lodge #220, 306 Shrewsbury Ave., Red Bank.  

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: Barbara Buono: 7:45pm, with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampittt (D-6), Camden County Democratic Committee, 2240-15 Route 70 W., Cherry Hill.

Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign: Chris Christie: 11:15am, with former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal (two individuals who are never shy) talk with students at the Boys & Girls Club and make an announcement about a Just Play campaign, East Camden.  

U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker: morning news conference on the shutdown, with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and NJ State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech, Social Security Administration office, Trenton; 7:00pm, fundraiser at the home of Ghulam Suhrawardi with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-CD 6), Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal, and Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula (D-17), Colts Neck, for more info go here.

What’s Happening Today Mon. 09/23/2013

“Showdown week in Congress”: Roll Call reminds us, “House Republicans will push through this week a debt ceiling increase tied to an assortment of GOP wish list items (including of course: death to Obamacare.) But those are sidelines to the main event: whether the government will shut down come Oct. 1.”

Where are our Democratic congressional challengers?: To run a successful campaign against a Republican congressional incumbent there is no time to waste. However, few such candidates have appeared so far. Below is the status and the votes in each of the four closest races against Republican incumbents in the last cycle.

  • CD 3: Jon Runyan: 174,257 – Shelley Adler: 145,509. There are efforts to recruit a candidate but no one’s name is public yet.

  • CD 5: Scott Garrett: 167,503 – Adam Gussen 130,102. Roy Cho, Hackensack, Attorney, Ex-Congressional Aide & Ex-Gubernatorial Aide, raised $80,804 through June 30 – more than Adam Gussen but a far cry from what is needed.

  • CD 2: Frank LoBiondo: 166,679 – Cassandra Shober. 116,463. Conservative (more so than LoBiondo) Mike Assad (R) Ex-Absecon School Board Member and Radio Talk Show Host, seeks to primary LoBiondo, but no Dem. candidate in sight yet.

  • CD 7: Leonard Lance: 175,704 – Upendra Chivukula. 123,090. No candidate has surfaced.

    In the meantime SuperPAC’s are building their warchests: Although SuperPACs are waiting until next year to unload their cargo, the conservative Club for Growth has just landed a big donation. Roll Call reports, Virginia James, a self-employed investor from Lambertville has contributed $500,000. In 2012 she gave $1.2 million to the Club.

    Strong support for a minimum wage increase: Monmouth University poll today indicates that 65% of registered voters say they will vote in favor of the increase. Support comes from majorities of Democrats (74%), independents (63%), and Republicans (54%). The rate still falls below the inflation-adjusted rate from the late 1960s, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    Public Schedule:

    Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: No public events today.

    Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign:  Chris Christie: 10:00am, National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Council ribbon-cutting ceremony, Asbury Park Middle School.

    U.S. Senate Candidate Cory Booker: Fund-raiser: 10:00am, Morning Reception hosted by ECE Works, Los Angeles, CA; 6:00pm, Reception at the home of Ron Burkle, with Matt Damon in Los Angeles. For more info go here.

    Assemblyman (D-38) Tim Eustace: 8:00pm, Fund-raiser: Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, John DeBellis and Brian Karemk, Comedy Night, Paramus Elks Lodge #2001, 200 New Jersey 17, Paramus, $25.00 (for union members) and up. RSVP to Andrew at 201.669-8213.

    U. S Senate 2:30, Hearing on combating Human Trafficking with former NJ Attorney General John J. Farmer testifying on a major concern of Senator Jeff Chiesa, Washington, D.C.

    Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities, 10:00am, hearing on the safety of jitneys, State House, Trenton.  

  • Too Good to be True?

    When I was bringing up my children, it was always tough to get them to clean their rooms. So on occasions when I found their rooms neat and tidy, I was skeptical, suspected an ulterior motive, and I was usually right.

    So how should I react when a Republican New Jersey Senator, a woman who invariably toes the line on Chris Christie’s energy policies, promotes an approach to energy that has been denigrated and unsupported by the Christie administration? Is there something there that I don’t understand?

    Along with Chris Brown, her compatriot in the Assembly, Senator Dawn Marie Addiego has announced that she will be introducing a bill to promote the use of solar energy on state projects. Specifically, the bill would give priority to state construction projects that include solar generation and that return excess energy to the power grid (for a credit).

    According to a press release from Addiego’s office, the proposed projects must be approved by the Board of Public Utilities – an entity that, like the governor, has not been proactive in promoting renewable energy.

    It’s difficult for me to understand why such a bill is coming from a Christie acolyte and not from some of the more enthusiastic supporters of clean energy like Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula.

    I welcome this initiative, and hope there’s no hidden catch in the legislation that enriches the electric companies or otherwise hurts consumers and taxpayers.  When I asked Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, about this bill, he provided this comment:

    “We believe giving priorities for schools and other governmental entities for solar arrays is important step forward in clean energy. Reserving space on the grid is needed to make sure these projects can get built. This will save taxpayer money and protect the environment because green equals green/ We support the concept of this bill [and] are looking forward to reading it once it is available and may have more comment then.”

    I agree with Jeff. Hopefully when the bill becomes available, my skepticism will be proven to be unwarranted.

    Epiphany or Miracle?

    The solutions to the world’s environmental problems are numerous and inextricably related. There’s no silver bullet, but rather a set of choices – some easy and some more difficult – that have to be made if this planet is to remain habitable.

    Solutions involve combinations of environmentally efficient energy sources like CHP, totally clean non-fossil solutions like wind and solar, and reduction of energy usage through conservation.

    The issues are not only technical, but they have a large political component as well.

    While some of our elected officials, mostly but not exclusively from the Republican Party, still look backward toward fossil fuels and subsidies for the obscenely rich oil barons, others are promoting more sensible approaches.

    One approach to alleviate some of the environmental damage is to improve the way we construct our buildings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in the United States buildings consume 40% of our energy and produce 39% of our carbon emissions. Yet the technology exists to significantly reduce energy, CO2 emissions, water use, and solid waste.

    Assemblymen McKeon, Chivukula, Barnes, and Conaway are among legislators who have promoted realizable solutions to our energy and environment crisis. Despite their effort, Governor Christie has vetoed green building initiatives in the past, using his veto message to excoriate the Democrats in the legislature. Those four assemblymen have re-introduced a green building bill (A-1966) this session.

    I spoke yesterday with Assembly McKeon outside of the Trenton office of the Department of Environmental Protection. I asked him why the bill is being re-introduced despite the governor’s opposition to investment in jobs and the environment. In the short conversation, posted below, McKeon said he hoped the governor would have “an epiphany” and consider signing the bill this year.

    Certainly, the governor has occasionally changed his mind on issues – as he recently did with internet gambling. But given the fact that the Koch Brothers are pulling the governor’s strings and the governor relies on dirty energy money to further his political ambitions, I suspect that more than an epiphany is needed. We need either a miracle or a new governor to advance the cause of clean energy in New Jersey.

    Chipping Away at Our Power Needs

    One of the characteristics of our electricity infrastructure is that much of our power is generated at a relatively small number of capital-intensive facilities. With today’s technology, these facilities generate power at about 30% efficiency.  While this has been the most economical way to generate cheap power, there are also downsides. The plants and the transmission grid are vulnerable terrorist attacks and to storms like Hurricane Sandy.

    One potential solution is to bring the power generation closer to the user, especially institutions like hospitals and universities that use large amounts of power within a relatively small area. Such technology exists – it’s called Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

    Not only does CHP provide electricity, but as the name implies, it also can supply heat (or air conditioning) to these institutions. CHP plants can operate at up to 80% efficiency.

    The downside is that these plants operate using natural gas. As one Blue Jersey writer notes, natural gas is a contributor to global warming.

    Nevertheless, until our government is willing to commit to an all-out Apollo-like effort to wean ourselves from dirty fuels (not an impossibility, as Germany is demonstrating), natural gas is a better bridge to the future than coal, and does not have the long-term disposal problems of nuclear fuel waste.

    Today, the Assembly Utilities Committee passed a bill on to the full chamber that would give large power users incentives to utilize CHP. I spoke with the committee’s chair, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, about this and also about the governor’s dismal record on renewable energy.

    Human Trafficking Awareness Day

    Yesterday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day across the country. In Trenton, a rally was held on the State House steps and was followed by presentations by the Attorney General and others working to combat this crime.

    Below, are links to the remarks by the speakers at the rally – lawmakers from across the political spectrum as well as representatives from the Polaris Project, an international NGO devoted to combat human trafficking.

    Patricia Devine Harms – Junior Leagues

    Congressman Chris Smith

    Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle

    Senator Nellie Pou

    Senator Tom Kean Jr

    Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose

    Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter

    Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula

    Justin Zimmerman for Senator Nia Gill

    Kate Keisel and Ingrid Johnson of The Polaris Project

    Assembly Hearings on Utilities’ Response to Hurricane Sandy

    Today, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee held a hearing on the response of New Jersey’s electric and gas companies during and after Hurricane Sandy. Committee Chair Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula opened the meeting praising utility workers for working under very difficult conditions and expressed thanks that the number of injuries and deaths were kept low for a storm of this magnitude. He, along with several other members of the committee, had toured the affected area, and each noted that it’s difficult to fathom the extent of the damage without seeing it firsthand.

    Prior to the testimony from the heads of the utilities, the committee heard from Stefanie Brand, the state’s Director of the Division of Rate Counsel. This is the entity that approves rate hike requests and is charged with representing the interests of consumers. Brand implored the committee not to just throw money at the problems encountered, but rather to integrate remediation costs within the current rate structure approval process.

    Some of the proposed solutions that have been discussed in the aftermath of the storm were deemed too expensive by Brand and the utility chiefs. Underground power transmission lines, while less vulnerable to high winds, cost about $1 million per mile, and would be vulnerable to salt water effects in the barrier islands. (Interestingly, the above-ground power poles on Long Beach Island survived remarkably well.) While the utilities’ ability to pinpoint outages to the house level would be enhanced by “smart meters”, these too were deemed too expensive by Brand and the utilities. PSE&G head Ralph LaRossa said it would cost $1 billion to outfit all homes with these meters.

    Utility CEOs recommended that the public be better educated on what is and what is not possible in order to set expectations adequately. Each time the utility chiefs brought this up, Chairman Chivukula reminded them that BPU President Hanna had given the utility companies a grade of “F” in their ability to communicate with customers.

    Utilities relied on social media (and in the case of Atlantic City Electric, reverse 911) as their primary means of keeping customers informed.

    So where do we go from here? I asked that to Chairman Chivukula after the hearing. His response is below. Other interesting tidbits from the hearing are below the fold.

    This is how Team Chivukula does post-Hurricane contingency

    With more than 80% of Somerville still without power, and a 5pm curfew in place because of still-dangerous conditions, the Chivukula for Congress HQ is inaccessible. But in addition to duties to his Assembly district constituents, there is also a congressional campaign going on with an election day 6 days away. Most of the staff is still without power, so today some of them went to Upendra and Dayci Chivukula’s home – where they’re lucky to have power – and got some work done together. They also had probably the calmest meal in days, charged all their devices and did their laundry.

    This is how we do campaign contingency plans in NJ-7. How’s your campaign doing post-Sandy?

    Chivukula for Congress contingency meeting