Tag Archive: Cumberland County

Verizon wants to be excused from its broadband obligation – even though you’ve already paid for it

It was called Opportunity New Jersey, and you’ve already been paying for it for more than 20 years. It was designed to make this state one of the most wired, most advanced in the nation. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ve been financing this at $1 dollar per month on your phone bills, with old copper wire out, fast new fiber optic services in. Verizon took in billions, according to some reports. Verizon, after striking this deal in 1993, also got the state to agree to looser regulatory oversight that it would have had without the deal. And the deal was, “essential” to the economic growth of NJ, which you now know is sluggish.

But depending on where you live, you might not feel very good about it. As long as two years ago, came reports that “the battle for America’s entire communications future is playing out this week in two small towns in New Jersey.” Those two little towns are both in Cumberland County; Greenwich and Stow Creek, where phone lines would suddenly go out, not for hours but for weeks or have background noise, plus bad wireless, and no cable. After complaints, the company seemed to do little more than move the goalpost.

Flash forward. We’re now 4 years past the 2010 deadline. And now BPU’s about to OK an agreement that would modify some requirements of the original deal, including allowing the company to provide only high-speed wireless Internet in some areas. Which is not what they promised, not what they collected your money for, and not what serves the people who won’t be getting that high-speed wireless. Verizon says it’s already invested heavily in the state. Here’s what NJ Citizen Action says:

Every Verizon telephone customer in NJ has been paying an extra $1 on their phone bill for the last 20 years so Verizon could build out high speed internet network to the entire state. We’ve paid for it, and now Verizon is saying they don’t have to do it.

BPU has kind of an arcane platform for registering comments. But if you want them to hear from you on this issue, here’s what to do: (1) me@BPU at this address. Put this in the subject field: “Verizon New Jersey, Docket No. TO12020155”. Deadline is 5pm, March 24.  

Fracking Causes Ohio Earthquakes – NJ Next?

Hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking – has been popping up in New Jersey a lot lately. It’s a process whereby natural gas is shaken loose and captured from deep underground deposits. Fracking is widely controversial for multiple reasons, all of which relate to the safety of the practice. We’ve reported on it a few times here at Blue Jersey.

Well, it looks like those urging caution and re-evaluation of the practice might not be alarmist party poopers after all. In Youngstown, Ohio, fracking waste water caused two earthquakes on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The quakes measured 2.7 and 4.0 respectively on the Richter scale; they did little damage and no one was injured. However, scientists know for sure that the quakes were in fact caused by the operation of a fracking waste water injection well used by nearby Northstar Disposal Services. How do they know this? Because between March and November of 2011, nine earthquakes took place in the otherwise earthquake-free Youngstown area. Nine! And so the Ohio Department of Natural Resources teamed up with scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LEDO) to place seismographs around the area, to test what seemed like the glaringly obvious answer: that the fracking waste water operation was, in fact, causing earthquakes.

The Christmas and New Years quakes provided the LEDO scientists with conclusive evidence – with a 95% rate of certainty, that fracking caused all 11 earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio between March and New Year’s Eve.

Fracking – it makes people sick, makes tap water flammable, fills dangerous pipelines and CAUSES EARTHQUAKES.

Here in the Garden State, the latest action in this fight came in November when the Delaware River Basin Commission decided to postpone a vote on natural gas regulations which could have opened the door to the construction of up to 35,000 fracking wells in the Delaware basin. That basin provides drinking water for 15.6 million people – 5% of the population of the United States. The postponement of the vote was considered a victory by environmentalists, but it was only a delay – not an outright rejection of fracking.

New Jersey should ban fracking, as well as the transport of natural gas acquired through the process – at the very least until the EPA completes its study on the practice’s safety, which concludes in 2014. (One can only hope the EPA will incorporate the Youngstown earthquakes into their final report.) This summer, legislation banning the practice was sent to Governor Christie; he issued a conditional veto, weakening the ban to a one-year moratorium with no teeth and all of the important loose ends left un-tied. And though legislators are currently considering override legislation that could protect NJ against future DRBC regulation changes, it’s not clear why the DRBC would move on fracking at all without some clarity from the EPA.

Fracking is an issue that impacts all of New Jersey. Here are recent related bits from Cumberalnd County, Jersey City and Trenton.

And if you know anyone in Ohio, they can help by signing here.

New Jersey’s Disputed Congressional Election of 1838

It’s a little quiet on the blog right now so let me bring you back to the exciting 19th Century.

I ran across another disputed election in American history that Blue Jersey readers might find interesting. This one is sometimes called the Broad (or Great) Seal War of 1838: Both political parties claimed to have won New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation. In turn, control of the House of Representatives rested on those disputed New Jersey votes. If you’re one of the people who think the elections in Florida (2000) or Minnesota (2008) were handled badly, wait til you see what was possible in the 19th century.

Let’s set up the political situation in 1838. New Jersey had six seats in the House but didn’t use districts. All six Representatives were chosen by statewide vote, and people got to vote for all six seats. There were no official government ballots then, either, as parties would print up ballots of their own candidates and distribute them, so most votes were party-line. The decade was dominated by Andrew Jackson, and America suddenly had two major political parties: The Democrats (often called “the Democracy” then) and the Whigs, who were opposed to Jackson. Six Whig Representatives were chosen by New Jersey in 1836 and were running for re-election. Jackson’s Vice President, Martin Van Buren, had been elected President despite losing New Jersey in 1936, and Democrats controlled the federal House and Senate. In 1837, the Whig William Pennington became Governor. The Panic of 1837 hit New Jersey hard so the economy was in a depression.

On election day, one of the Whigs, Joseph F. Randolph ran thousands of votes ahead. His victory was not disputed. But what about the other five seats? The Democrats claimed five of their candidates won, though the widest margin was only 159 votes and the closest was 60 votes. You know that statewide that’s not much of a lead, and indeed the official election returns instead found that the Whigs had won by a tiny margin.  

What was the discrepency? It turned out that in Middlesex County, the (Whig) County clerk said the South Amboy election results were not properly signed by an inspector. He therefore left that town out completely, costing Democrats a net 252 votes. Meanwhile, in Cumberland County, another Whig county clerk left out Millville’s (and partially Deerfield), moving that county from net +37 Democratic votes to net +169 Whig. These two clerks had thus stolen the election for the Whigs. There was no appeal process at that time, except that the Governor and Privy Council had to certify the final results with the “Great Seal of New Jersey,” and Democrats argued they should restore the missing towns’ votes.

Great Seal of New Jersey

The Whig Governor announced that he had no official evidence there had been any election in South Amboy or Millville(!), and therefore he was approving all six Whigs as victorious. The argument was that the Governor could only go by the forms the county clerks filled out. The “Great Seal” went on the Whig election certificates. The Democrats, however, created their own election certificates without the governor’s approval, apparently somehow including a copy of the Seal.

A year went by, because in those “simpler” days Congress didn’t meet until December 1839. Without the New Jersey seats, the House was divided 119-118, so the five New Jersey seats would decide which party was in control. The clerk of the House continued to serve from the previous (Democratic) Congress and he decided not to read out the New Jersey names in the first roll call, saying they were disputed. A meltdown followed. Some Congressmen walked out and left town. A Speaker could not be chosen. After a few days, John Quincy Adams (the former President but now a Representative) was chosen as a “temporary chairman.” Finally the House agreed to leave out the disputed five Representatives and a compromise Speaker was selected. In February 1840, the five Democrats were accepted by the House by a vote of 111-81. A committee report in July 1840 declared they had won the election and was also accepted by the House (102-22.) So in the end, in some sense, the votes of South Amboy and Millville were counted.

The sequel: In the election of 1840, the Democrats were defeated, and the very same six New Jersey Whigs were returned to Congress! The Whigs took a huge majority and the Presidency — but they had somehow chosen a Vice President who wasn’t a Whig. But that’s not State of New Jersey history anymore.  

Sex Offender Unit Ordered Closed/ Who wants it?

This from the Star Ledger:

KEANRY — New Jersey will have to find a new place to house sexually violent predators currently being held in Hudson County.

An appeals court has given the state corrections department a year to move the offenders from the county correctional facility in Kearny, where they’ve been held for several years on a temporary basis.

The dispute between the county and state dates back to an executive order issued by former Gov. Christie Whitman in 2000.

Whitman ordered more than 100 offenders classified as sexually violent predators to be housed at Kearny while the state sought a permanent home.

But efforts to relocate the offenders have been defeated by strong local opposition.

Two years ago a huge battle occured in South Jersey as the Department of Corrections tried to sneak the sex offender unit into the largest Prison in the state which is located in Bridgeton. State Senators Sweeney and Van Drew, and Assemblyman Burzichelli successfully won out, but now a court order has said the unit has to  be closed and there is little room in the prison system , especailly since Riverfront State prison in Camden has closed , to absorb this unit.

This could be a real political headache for Democrats in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties if Corrections Department officials ” dust off ” their old plan to move this unit down South.

No one wants it in their back yard and there is no money to purchase land and build a whole new unit .

If it is not absorbed into one of the 13 remaining prisons where will it go? Will your county take it????  

How did Cumberland County get shut out?

Was this an oversight?

Gov. Jon S. Corzine revealed Thursday the 55 transportation projects that state officials chose to receive New Jersey’s $894 million share of federal transportation funding. Not one Cumberland County project was among them.

Nineteen other counties had projects funded. A 20th, Sussex County, saw funding go toward a rail line planned to cut through it. The only chance Cumberland has of seeing any of the $894 million is by applying and competing with 16 other counties for some of a $3 million allocation for replacement minibuses through NJ Transit.

Although Cumberland County is the poorest county in the state with the highest unemployment rate, they didn’t make the cut:

State officials considered 65 projects, according to state Department of Transportation documents. Of those, one was in Cumberland County: $21 million for improvements to the Route 49 and Route 55 interchange. It was turned down, in favor of 39 other DOT projects and another 16 from New Jersey Transit.

“Regional balance was an important factor in DOT’s selection of projects,” DOT spokeswoman Erin Phalon said. “However, other criteria precluded DOT from selecting additional projects.”

And more:

A state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said Friday a formula determined that Cumberland projects received lesser precedence. Only one – improvements to the Routes 49 and 55 interchange – even made the final list.

“I definitely want to know what kind of formula was used to exclude one county in the state,” Milam, who lives in Vineland, told The Press of Atlantic City. “I read it about the same time everyone else did. But it just took me off my feet. I was like, ‘Whoa.'”

Who determined that this one county should receive lesser precedence? Assemblyman Wisniewski made mention of this problem in his response to questions posed here on the blog:

Although the DOT said that geographic balance was an important criterion in determing which projects were selected, that promise did not materialize in the final list that was present.  While all parts of this state are facing serious economic challenges and all need to benefit from the stimulus package, at least one County was entirely shut out of receiving any stimulus money.  The DOT should have paid closer attention in making sure that infrastructure projects are truly spread out and will provide a boost in every region of the state.

I just don’t see how you can completely leave out one county under any formula.  If the whole point of the stimulus was to create jobs, how do you not have any of the funds go to the area with the highest unemployment rate? I look forward to hearing this explanation.

Magazzu calls on LoBiondo to vote for stimulus

Promoted by Jason Springer:  More of this in other districts please. It’s gotta be harder to ask if their own Representative won’t.

The Daily Journal is reporting that Democrat Louis Magazzu is asking Frank LoBiondo to vote for the stimulus.  We know it has the votes to pass regardlesss, but Magazzu says:

“It will be a lot easier for the officials of Cumberland County to advocate for our fair share of the stimulus funds if our congressman was a partner in developing the program than if he was an opponent”

I agree 100% with Magazzu.

cross-posted at Frank LoBiondo Record

Who will replace Doug Fisher in LD3?

If Doug Fisher becomes Agriculture Secretary, we will need a replacement in the Assembly for LD3.  LD3 covers part of Gloucester County, all of Salem County, and part of Cumberland County:

New Jersey LD3 map

Both Sweeney and Burzichelli are from Gloucester County, so I’m going to agree with a Republican as PolitickerNJ points out Salem is the only County without representation:

“We haven’t had representation in Salem County for a long time, and we need representation up there,”

Beth Timberman and David Lindenmuth are both popular Freeholders who would do a great job.  But instead, we get this outrageous quote from a foolish Democrat

“Cherry Hill has more people than Salem County,” said one influential Democratic insider.

Cherry Hill is not in our district, and frankly I can only take this remark as a “screw you” with a hint that Norcross is more important than the people of our district.  I’m as partisan as they come, but when I feel this way I know people here won’t stand for it.

Blue Tide: Cumberland County

This story should serve as a reminder of why we need to work every district in every election:

As of Tuesday — the last day for a New Jersey resident to register to vote in this year’s presidential election — there were almost 10,000 more registered Democrats in Cumberland County compared with registered Republicans.

In February of this year, the difference was only about 4,000.

The largest bloc of voters, as in most NJ counties, are the unaffiliated voters, which number 47,482.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, given the lack of any reason to expect differently, those unaffiliated voters will likely split in a similar manner as the partisan voters.  That would mean a likely near-20,000 vote surplus for Democrats in Cumberland County.

Vineland-Bridgeton-Millville: New Jersey’s Forgotten Towns and Their Struggling Economies

Imagine, if you would, a part of New Jersey where farmland and marshes take precedent in the landscape over developed cities and towns, and instead of the urban issues that preoccupy cities like Camden, Newark and Trenton, different issues — development vs. an agricultural economy, migrant workers vs. working-class and working-poor New Jerseyans, and urban redevelopment zones and their lack of investment — are dominant. In getting to this triangle of cities in Cumberland County, one could be at a loss in whether they’re in New Jersey at all; after waking from sleep on a trip north, one out-of-state person I know who came to Cumberland County asked what state she was in, after seeing the vast tracts of open spaces, the dense pine forests, and the low-lying swamps and streams that are dotted with old farms. This narrative is about the economic problems besetting three urban areas of this region: the mini-metropolitan triangle area of VinelandBridgetonMillville and what can be done about it.

3rd District Community Rights?

Should the State be able to totally ignore the wishes of those who live in a community that might be effected by a State decision?

On Saturday a Rally will occur at South Woods State Prison. It is being organized by the Legislators who represent the people in the Cumberland County communities that are opposed to having a Civilly Committed Sex Offender Unit moved into their area.

It is a Unit that has been in existence for over 9 years in North Jersey. Now that it has reached its maximum occupancy the Department of Corrections Commissioner George Hayman, on his own, and with no consultation of the Bridgeton and Cumberland Community, has made South Woods State prison the  ” primary” destination for these Civilly Committed Sex Offenders. He said so himself at a Senate Budget Hearing.

No known ” Plan B” , just move a North Jersey problem to South Jersey.

Both he and his boss , the Governor, apparently feel that this is perfectly fine.

Is it?

Just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it.

Governor Corzine should have demanded that his Commissioner of Corrections have open discussions with both the Community and the three Legislators who represent the 3rd District. State Senator Sweeney, and Assemblymen Burzichelli and Fisher cannot continue to be ignored by the Corrections Commissioner George Hayman.

The Department of Corrections leadership over the past few years has shown a strong tendency to arrogance, so their part in this backdoor manuever is not surprising. I however expected more from Corzine.

A successful Rally on Saturday will create a rift between the South Jersey Democratic Party and a Democratic governor.

Is this what Corzine wants? Is there no one in Corzines inner circle that can make George Hayman respect the good people of Cumberland County?