Tag Archive: Sen. Loretta Weinberg

A Raucous Teaneck Council Meeting 

Teaneck’s Tuesday evening public council meeting started at 8:00 and extended beyond 11:30 with debate over its budget, farewell statements on its departing members, attendees expressing enmity toward its quick-to-anger Mayor, an accusation of slander against another member, and some…
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A Tale of Two Reports: “Never let this happen again”

This week two important documents were made available to the public: a report on the CIA use of torture after 9/11 and an interim report on Christie administration activities leading up to and following the gubernatorial election. U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said that the objective of making her committee’s report public was “To never let this happen again.” Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-chairs  of the NJ Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, said much the same thing, “If not for this work, the public may never have become aware of this threat -and this abusive behavior could have continued.”

As one might expect people have attacked both reports. CIA vehemently accuses the well-documented federal report of inaccuracies. Sen. Mark Udall countered with “The C.I.A. is lying.” Republican State Senator Kevin O’Toole, not for the first time created a tantrum and raised his voice in anger to the co-chair, “This is not North Korea, John, this is America.” Such an absurd allusion needs no response.

Although both documents increase transparency and bring to the fore important issues, there is at least one significant difference. The federal report deals with activities that took place some ten years ago. Civil suits may result from the detailing of torture, but it appears the Attorney General will not seek to punish perpetrators. In New Jersey, however, the Federal Attorney is undertaking a Bridgegate investigation.

According to unidentified NBC sources potential Bridgegate-related indictments may be filed against some six individuals as early as next month. In Feinstein’s Intelligence Committee case we have President Obama’s executive order in 2008 ending such torture, which can be rescinded or altered by a later President, and no Department of Justice charges being pressed. In New Jersey, we have Gov. Christie’s Executive Order closing down the intergovernmental department at the heart of Bridgegate, but more importantly the hope that through the justice system people who violated laws will be punished, further strengthening the likelihood that we will “Never let this happen again.”  

How does Gov. Christie sleep at night?

New York Times is reporting that the distribution policies for the 9/11 steel given out in New Jersey was changed at the Port Authority last week. It will no longer be handled by Gov. Christie’s political appointees but by the agency’s professional staff, which handles the steel for the 49 other states and the rest of the world. Promoted by Rosi.

As governor, Chris Christie has done a lot of truly awful things to the people of New Jersey in the past 5 years, but even more egregious than promulgating the myth of ‘failing schools’, demonizing teachers and other public employees, leaving Sandy victims sinking without a life boat, calling a Navy Seal an ‘idiot’ telling the press to ‘take a bat out’ on a 78-year old grandmother (who just happens to be the Senate Majority leader), turning his back on the poor, minorities, the middle and working classes, seniors, the LGBT community, commuters, and the homeless, surrounding himself (there are still no dots connecting him) with irresponsible, vindictive, selfish and, dare I say anti-semitic, staff who would put millions of George Washington Bridge commuters at risk for juvenile, political sport, is the report out of the New York Times and picked up by Rachel Maddow Tuesday that he actually gave away pieces of the World Trade Center as political carrots to the top 20 mayors on his  ‘must-get’ endorsements list.

Governor Christie cares so much about winning that he’s willing to trade off pieces of hallowed ground-a burial site-for political favors. It’s like FDR giving away pieces of The USS Arizona.

NJ Political Leaders Call for Suspension of Planned NY/NJ PA Toll Hikes

At a press conference this morning in Fort Lee Historic Park, overlooking the George Washington Bridge, five key Democratic leaders joined Senator Lautenberg, who said, “We stand here today with a simple message for Governor Christie and the Port Authority: suspend the next round of toll hikes, and stop punishing NJ commuters. They shouldn’t continue to pay the price for PA’s dysfunction. Local commuters can’t afford to be footing the bill for years of mismanagement and cost overruns by the Port Authority.” Representative Steve Rothman said, “The PA is challenged and dysfuntional and should get its own house in order before increasing tolls further.”

Before the press conference got underway there was an opportunity for me to ask for comments from attendees on various matters:

  • U. S. Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ)) – After thanking him for going after the “powers that be,” he said, “Maybe they are the powers that were.”

  • U. S. Representative Steve Rothman(D 9th) – Said he knew of no public poll coming out on the CD 9 primary race between him and Representative Bill Pascrell.  He went on to add, “I imagine we are ahead, but I’m taking nothing for granted and am working seven days week. Bill (Pascrell) also has a strong work ethic.”

  • State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) – On today’s news that she has had her name on top of more bills signed into law than any other lawmaker since Christie took office, said, “It’s not how many you introduce, but how many get signed.” She was pleased with developments regarding her anti-bullying law which now has a fund of $1 million just for this year’s implementation. More important she thought was the new task force which was set up to to provide further clarity and help guide schools through the process.

  • State Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) – When asked if she has endorsed a candidate for CD 5, she said she had not. She added, “My gut reaction would be to support Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen because of his local political experience.” As a side note, her colleague, also in attendance, State Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) has endorsed Marine veteran Jason Castle. (It was State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) who has endorsed Jason Castle.)

    During the speeches Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), feisty as ever, quoted an on-line toll group which referred to the PA as “A huge conglomerate, and you never know where the money is going.” During the Q&A period Senator Lautenberg charged, “Governor Christie receives the PA minutes and knew what was going on, but he conspired with the PA to put the toll increases into place so he could receive more PA money for his transportation projects.” When asked about Governor Christie saying that Lautenberg was an “embarrassment,” Lautenberg responded, “The Governor should look in the mirror.”  

  • The Legislature Should Override Christie’s Implementation of Medical Marijuana

    Following Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s comprehensive public hearing in January on the problems with the Compassionate Medical Marijuana Law, it is now time for action. Governor Christie has not followed the intent of the law. The legislature should vote to rescind the regulations and have them rewritten.

    This has been one messed up process. The Health Department in December cancelled a public hearing on the regulations when Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) and Governor Christie, without the support of sponsoring Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), announced a supposed compromise. Later the Health Department on its website promulgated limited revised proposed regulations, based loosely on the compromise, but simultaneously moved ahead with its Request for Proposal before the revisions were published in the register. Many groups did not apply because they saw too many counterproductive regulations and were unclear what the final regs would be.   more below…

    A Triad Multiplying Wealth for the Wealthiest and Leaving the Rest in the Dust

    America’s slow, steady slide toward economic oligarchy has been neither beyond human control nor bereft of resistance.  It is about how the “Have-It-Alls” have managed to restructure the economy to shift the risks of their economic playground downward saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on workers, investors and taxpayers. We find that most Americans experienced extremely modest gains over the last 30 years in which the rewards at the top multiplied. From 1979 until the eve of the great recession the top 1% received 36% of all gains in household income. In 2009 at the 38 biggest financial companies investors and executives earned $140 billion.” – WINNER TAKE ALL POLITICS: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson (Simon & Schuster – Sep. 2010)

    Hacker and Pierson argue that too many books on US politics focus on the electoral circus which determines who can set policy. However, this is not the only period of policy choice, nor the only source that determines outcomes. Elections do have consequences, but most recently we have had both Republican Governor Christie and Democratic President Obama be influenced into maintaining a lower tax rate for millionaires. Hacker and Pierson place their emphasis on the broad, interconnected, influential nexus of policy research groups, organizations representing special interests, and governmental institutions. Together individuals in this triad  – some working on behalf of middle and low income families and others in full-throttle support for the wealthy – battle it out with each other. The victors over the past 30 years, achieving a knockout, have been a fortunate few – the rich and the superrich.

    Policy research and setting, the first leg in the triad, does not easily grab the attention of the general public or the media, but its influence is everywhere. The anti-gay marriage policy and talking points were framed in part by the NJ Family Policy Council and used throughout the debate. David Evans, Advisor to Drug Free America Foundation sent out a mass email on proposed policies to make the medical marijuana law even more restrictive, and his arguments and talking points were used word-for-word by people testifying during the legislative resolution hearing. The Tax Foundation develops NJ financial data which has been used for a variety of causes benefiting the wealthy.

    There’s more about special interest groups, governmental institutions, how the correct path is not always clear, and the trend remains unabated.  

    “Pride, Precision, and Professionalism”

    What events in NJ attract a crowd of over 600,000 people? Izod Arena holds 23,000 and Meadowlands stadium holds over 60,000. One of the few event I can think of is a result of intensive training, winnowing of candidates, incredible guts, supreme determination, laser-like focus, and the highest level of professionalism. Unfortunately it’s not our NJ politicians. It’s the air force Thunderbirds and colleagues – a total of 80 pilots who flew in the Atlantic City Air Show on Wednesday dazzling us with their skills, death-defying aerobatics, and precision teamwork.

    It’s not that we haven’t had great political leaders in New Jersey. Today a person like Senator Loretta Weinberg who started as Assistant Administrator to the County of Bergen, and then went on to become a Teaneck Councilwoman, Assemblywoman, Senator and LG candidate is an example to emulate. Our own Jeff  Gardner first spent time learning the craft and then mobilized Democrats in his town to take over the Democratic committee.

    Politics, above the introductory level, should be a vocation not an avocation. People with huge sums of money and zero political experience should not assume they are qualified for a high position. Those who are idolized only as a sports hero lack the training. Those who hold multiple positions lack the focus and are subject to conflicts of interest. They also need to understand what they do not know and avoid micromanagement, like thinking their office has the skills to direct the rewrite of a complex grant. As in all professions, politics requires training and ongoing education. Starting at a local level is an important step. Mastering new media is a virtual requirement today. Working smart and total immersion are necessary. A variety of groups including DFA provide the nuts and bolts for beginners. Garden State Equality recently offered a seminar to its constituency.

    I don’t particularly want a Thunderbird pilot as a NJ governor or legislator. But I sure would like politicians to receive more training and education before assuming midlevel or high positions and then to display more professionalism, focus, dedication and teamwork. If such were to happen maybe our leaders would have a higher voter approval, more voter turn out at the polls, and a level of enthusiasm, interest, and respect somewhat closer to what the Thunderbirds receive. And it’s up to all of us to insist on higher standards.

    To read about Wednesday’s event and view videos of the air show go to The Press of Atlantic City or the Thunderbirds website. Their motto: “Pride, Precision, and Professionalism.”