Tag Archive: Angel Fuentes

Koch Conspirators

There’s an old Middle Eastern saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I don’t buy into this philosophy, but it does provide a starting point for evaluating that enemy of my enemy.

Today, the Koch Brothers’ organization, Americans for Prosperity, released a 2014 scorecard of New Jersey legislators. AFP has a simplistic philosophy – government and taxes are bad. However, the real world is more nuanced than that, but it’s interesting to see how AFP rated some of our New Jersey legislators.

Talking About Guns in the Belly of the Beast

Perhaps it is fitting that the first public hearings of The NJ-SAFE Task Force, a panel chartered to recommend approaches to combatting violent crime, took place tonight in Camden. In his remarks addressing the Task Force, Senator Donald Norcross said that the murder rate in Camden is not just the highest in the United States, but is the highest in the world.

The Task Force is co-chaired by two former Attorneys General, John Degnan and Peter Verniero (who is also a former State Supreme Court justice). In addition, there are four other panelists from various walks of life within the state.

Prior to hearing testimony from the general public, the panel and the audience heard remarks from elected officials. In addition to Senator Norcross, Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Cherry Hill) addressed the group. While politicians often talk in platitudes, Lampitt’s remarks made the most sense – she called for a holistic approach that includes not only an examination of gun laws, but restoring funding for mental health programs that have been victims of the governor’s veto pen.

The pro-gun advocates who testified outnumbered the gun law supporters by about a six-to-one ratio. Proudly brandishing their NRA credentials, several citizens quoted the last part of the Second Amendment while ignoring the first part. Several regurgitated the NRA line that gun laws do nothing to stop criminals because criminals don’t obey the laws. Selective anecdotes were cited (often several times) where someone with a gun defended herself, while the statistical analyses that show that people are more likely to be killed when guns are around were summarily ignored.

The pro-gun people who spoke are not the crazy lunatics that you see on the GOP side of the aisle in the House of Representatives. Most are sane and rational, but they unfortunately have bought into the NRA and gun manufacturers’ propaganda. Some, like John Snively, blame video games – ignoring the fact that countries like Japan which have as many if not more gamers, have significantly lower gun crime.  And they’re right in their contention that strengthening New Jersey’s gun laws will not totally solve the problem. Without strong Federal laws and strong enforcement, it is simple for someone to smuggle guns across state lines. And the criminals that smuggle guns and sell them to non-criminals simply make the possibility of accidental shootings or rage-related killings by these non-criminals more likely.

The solution is not relaxing New Jersey’s tough gun laws, but rather strengthening Federal law while at the same time adequately funding mental health and drug addiction programs to lessen the chances of another Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook.

Additional public hearings will be held on February 6 in Lincroft and February 7 in Newark

“I Am My Own Man”

“Don’t assume anything because I have a similar last name”.

That’s how Senator Donald Norcross opened his remarks to a group of about 30 Camden citizens at a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon, sponsored by the Friends of Lanning Square School Coalition and the Camden City Education Reform Committee.

Of course, without explicitly saying so, Norcross was referring to the positions held by his brother, South Jersey power broker and education privatization advocate, George Norcross III.

Saturday’s meeting brought together citizens and real reform advocates to discuss the seemingly elusive goal of improving Camden’s public schools at a time when the Governor and his administration seem more interested in lining the pockets of private school entrepreneurs and giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

Senator Norcross tried to put distance between his position and that of his more powerful brother in discussing the path forward. The Senator was promoting the recently signed Urban Hope Act as a way to get a new school built in the Lanning Square area of Camden.

Assembly Budget Committee meets in Camden

Arguably, the most important function of the state legislature is developing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The governor has already submitted his version with wildly optimistic revenue forecasts coupled with significant tax breaks for millionaires. Budget committees in both houses are in the process of developing plans that meet the needs of the citizens of New Jersey.

The third and final session of state-wide hearings of the Assembly Budget Committee, aimed at hearing from the public, was held today in Camden.  Committee chair, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto and committee members listened to the testimony from a diverse set of interests.

The meeting was kicked off by the obligatory set of local dignitaries starting with William Thompson, the Vice President of Camden Community College which hosted the meeting.  He was followed by Camden Mayor Dana Redd and local Assemblyman Angel Fuentes.

Mayor Dana Redd

Assemblyman Angel Fuentes

Top photo: Ranking Republican member Declan O’Scanlon (L), Chair Vincent Prieto (R)

Blue Jersey Focus – José Delgado

Camden is a city in trouble and many politicians from Governor Christie to Mayor Redd to Senator Norcross and Assemblymen Wilson and Fuentes are getting a lot of press coverage. No doubt, there are a lot of bad people who are taking advantage of the city’s inbred poverty and the Governor’s cutbacks in public safety and education to the detriment of the law-abiding and struggling residents of that city. But the silver lining is that there are also residents who are quietly working below the radar to incrementally improve the situation there.

One such citizen is José Delgado, a retired investigator for the public defender and former long-time member of the Camden Board of Education. I spoke with Delgado this afternoon about crime, education, and the hopes for Camden’s future.

Norcross chosen to replace Roberts

From an email sent out by Chairman Angelini of Gloucester County and Beach of Camden County:

Donald W. Norcross was unanimously nominated today to be the Democratic candidate for the 5th District State Assembly seat being vacated by Speaker Joseph Roberts. Norcross, a longtime labor leader whose work on behalf of working families, charities and civic ventures has earned him the respect of ordinary citizens as well as government and community leaders, was chosen at a special meeting of the Camden and Gloucester Democratic county committees. A resident of Camden, Norcross will be seeking the position left open by Roberts’ decision not to run for another term in the November election.

And a comment from the new Assembly candidate:

“I believe we must change the way business is done in Trenton,” Norcross told hundreds of Democrats attending the meeting at Brooklawn American Legion Post # 72.  “We must put our partisan differences and the special interests aside to do what is best for the ordinary, hard-working taxpayers of this state. The status quo is not working. The state government is wasting too much of our money.”

Norcross called for a state-government spending freeze and a moratorium on tax increases. He said that if elected he will push initiatives to create jobs for the growing number of unemployed New Jerseyans, institute tax breaks and other economic incentives for small businesses and stimulate New Jersey’s struggling economy.”

Norcross will now run with Camden City Council President Angel Fuentes for the seats in November. The changes may not be done in the 5th however, as State Senator Dana Redd is expected to win Mayor of Camden. That would mean that a new Senator would be coming as well and Wally speculated about the implications of that change on a potential contest for Senate President. I’m sure there are varied opinions on this as always. Have at it, but let’s try to keep it civil.