Monthly Archives: August 2009

Christie campaign letter re: debate schedules

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jerry Fitzgerald English, Chair
New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission
28 West State Street
13th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08608

Dear Ms. English,

I learned for the first time yesterday that NJN has decided to unilaterally change the long-settled debate schedule because of pressure from the Corzine campaign (the only campaign optionally participating in the debates due to their self-funding status). NJN’s decision to bow to pressure from the Corzine campaign is extremely disappointing, and suggests that NJN will allow the Corzine campaign to exert unnecessary influence over the debate.

If the Corzine campaign is serious about engaging in a frank and open discussion about the important issues facing this state, they must respect the current schedule and appear for the debate on the scheduled date. It remains unclear why the Corzine campaign has requested a three week delay in this scheduled debate, but the length of the delay is certainly suspicious. Seeking to delay the debate three full weeks appears to be a strategic consideration, not a scheduling conflict. Chris Christie is prepared to have the debate on the originally established date, and strongly believes that the debates should proceed as scheduled.

I also note that the proposed delay by the Corzine campaign will impact upon the date of the debate between the candidates for Lieutenant Governor. The voters of this state should not be forced to wait until just a few days before the election to begin hearing from the candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in this campaign. Unfortunately, the proposed delay tactics from the Corzine campaign would create just such a result. We urge you to reconsider this decision, and to honor the date originally established for the first debate on October 1st.

Thank you,

Bill Stepien
Christie-Guadagno Campaign Manager

Christie for Governor
1719 Route 10 East Suite #126
Parsippany, NJ 07950

cc: Jeff Brindle, Executive Director
cc: Amy Davis, Director of Special Programs

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Raise matter headed to court

Attorneys working for the Palmer administration have rejected a set of proposals submitted by Judge Linda Feinberg to resolve an impasse over an ordinance that handed top city officials thousands in salary increases last year.

The ordinance, which was vague and contained little information about the raises, has been targeted by the Trenton Residents Action Coalition for invalidation.

Two sitting City Council members admitted they were not aware that the raises were contained in the ordinance, which was described to council and noticed to the public solely as a measure approving union contracts.

Judge Feinberg, after reviewing the ordinance and briefs submitted by both sides, said the measure appeared to be invalid. She asked both sides to allow the raises to go back to City Council for another vote, or, in the alternative, be placed on the November ballot for the public to decide whether Mayor Palmer & Co. deserve untold thousands in extra compensation while the city cuts budgets and lays off workers.

Attorneys for the City of Trenton and Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, however, have apparently been instructed to fight the TRAC filings in open court because neither option is acceptable to the city government.

Such a decision sets the stage for a jam-packed September court schedule that could see three blockbuster court hearings in a single month during the same calendar year as a major city election: Police Director Irving Bradley’s residency, the TRAC-led salary case, and the Trenton Water Works sale appeal.

Stay tuned.

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We’re dying

(the below article appeared on the online Wall Street Journal Thursday – I am surprised Trenton wasn’t represented among “the dead.”)

‘FASTEST DYING CITIES’ MEET FOR A LIVELY TALK

By DOUGLAS BELKIN

DAYTON, Ohio — Here’s an idea for saving Rust Belt cities: Tell bloggers and radio stations to stop calling your town a basket case.

That was one suggestion from representatives of eight of the 10 cities labeled last year as America’s fastest dying. They met at the Dayton Convention Center last weekend to swap ideas about how to halt the long skid that’s turned cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., into shorthand for dystopia.

The city representatives lunched on $6 sloppy Joes and commiserated through Power Point strategy sessions: Lure back former residents, entice entrepreneurs and artists, convert blighted pockets into parkland.

What emerged was a sense of desperation over the difficulty of rebounding from both real problems — declining populations, dwindling tax bases — and perceived woes.

Valarie McCall expressed frustration at marketing a city that still echoed the image of the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire. “That was 1969,” said Ms. McCall, Cleveland’s chief of governmental affairs. “Come on, I wasn’t even born then.”

Last year, Forbes.com used long-term trends of unemployment, population loss and economic output to devise a list of “America’s Fastest Dying Cities.” A few months later, Peter Benkendorf was eating chicken tacos when he hatched the idea for the symposium.

Mr. Benkendorf, a 47-year-old Dayton resident, said he was angry the article ignored efforts by the cities to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs. He thinks these cities are poised for reinvention.

“For a long time, people thought granddaddy was going to come back and make everything all right again,” said Mr. Benkendorf, referring to the manufacturers that decades ago built the economies of cities like Dayton. “People have begun to realize that’s not going to happen.”

One was college student Joe Sack, 22. “It’s like a gambling addict [trying] to help an alcoholic,” he said while at work in a coffee shop. “It’s hard to see what they can learn from each other.”

Dayton, which has a population of 155,000, has since 1970 has lost more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs a year and a third of its residents. NCR — the cash-register and ATM maker — once employed more than 20,000 here. This summer the company said it would move its headquarters and 1,000 jobs to Georgia.

The cities’ meeting began Saturday with Forbes reporter Joshua Zumbrun telling the city representatives and about 100 visitors that his story was among his most popular. Then he apologized for any hurt feelings.

Representatives of Dayton, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo; Canton and Youngstown, Ohio; Flint, Mich.; and Charleston, W.Va., took turns talking about their plans. There was little discussion of how cities might pay for the initiatives.

Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin ran to the podium for her talk. “If you look under the surface, you will see that we are developing a boutique city,” she said. She didn’t elaborate on what she meant.

But the city is working with hospitals, universities and a U.S. Air Force base to rebuild neighborhoods. About 500 abandoned structures will be razed this year with $3.5 million in federal stimulus money. Neighbors can annex the empty lots or the city will plant prairie grass and call them parks, said John Gower, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

“We can’t go back and recreate the neighborhoods of the 1950s and 1960s, but we have a huge opportunity to create a new form for our cities,” Mr. Gower said. “People want to live in beautiful places near green space.”

In a historic reversal, the cities are embracing plans that emphasize growing smaller. In Buffalo, where more than a third of the students drop out of high school, Michael Gainer, executive director of Buffalo ReUse, is putting young people to work dismantling some of the thousands of abandoned homes and selling the scrap materials.

A councilman from Charleston described how the city lured “The Worlds Strongest Man Competition.” It was shown several times on ESPN, she said.

Matt Bach, public relations manager for Flint’s convention and visitors bureau, said the image most closely linked to Flint was a scene from Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary “Roger and Me”: a woman skinning a rabbit to make a fur coat. The Dayton audience groaned in sympathy.

Mr. Bach described how he is fighting back. After a Canadian radio station aired a “This Ain’t Flint” campaign to cheer up listeners depressed about Ottawa’s economy, Mr. Bach orchestrated a letter-writing and email effort to stop the ads. The station awarded Flint more than $60,000 in free radio time that Flint used to air spots about vacationing in Michigan.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams talked of helping startup companies. This month, his city was named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 10 best in the U.S. to start a business.

Mr. Williams, a tall 37-year-old with a background in banking, argued that some who have moved out of Youngstown may consider moving back. A University of Pittsburgh demographer is tracking former residents with the idea of telling them about the city’s new direction. “We don’t want to force anything on them,” said John Slanina, a Youngstown native working on the project. “But we want people to know, ‘Hey, Youngstown is changing, take a look.'”

Mr. Slanina said he’s optimistic about the future of his hometown. But for now he lives in Columbus, Ohio, and has no plans to move back.

Write to Douglas Belkin at doug.belkin@wsj.com

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Water appeal advances

The validity of a Mercer County Superior Court decision that invalidated petitions challenging Trenton’s misguided water works sale will be evaluated by a three-judge panel in the state’s Appellate Division later this year.

The petitioners contend that the lower court was incorrect in ruling that the ordinance implementing the sale was not subject to a citizens’ protest petition.

Attorneys for the city, however, argue that a small section of state law governing sales of small utilities prevents the Trenton Water Works ordinance from being put to a public vote through a protest petition.

Judge Linda Feinberg, who made the initial decision, was overturned on a similar issue by the state Supreme Court two years ago. The high court interpreted state law to mean that under Trenton’s form of government any and all ordinances are subject to protest petition.

At issue was a petition that sought to put an ordinance that would have changed the city police department’s command structure to eliminate the positions of three deputy chiefs.

In comments in The Times Thursday, acting business administrator and enemy of the people Dennis Gonzalez said the Appellate Division agreed to accelerate the hearing schedule at the city’s request.

This is patently false.

The city and its attorneys, upon Feinberg’s most recent ruling, immediately requested the Appellate Division consider the appeal in an expedited and emergency fashion.

That request was immediately denied by the appeals court.

But attorney for the petitioners George Dougherty supported an expedited hearing schedule in the interest of sparing the city unnecessary budget mayhem in the event the Appellate Division affirms Judge Feinberg’s ruling.

Without this move on behalf of the petitioners the City of Trenton would have faced Appellate Division proceedings that could have dragged on for a year or more.

In conclusion, Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Moody’s downgrade reflects poorly on water sale

Numerous media outlets this week reported that Moody’s Investor Service is downgrading New Jersey’s $31 billion in tax-supported debt from a “stable” to a “poor” credit rating outlook.

Moody’s cited the state’s widespread use of non-recurring revenue and one-shot budget gimmicks in the rating decision. The move means an increased probability that New Jersey’s long-term credit rating will be lowered, raising interest rates and costs for a cash-starved state that faces a $10 billion budget shortfall.

The City of Trenton should beware.

These moves, so frowned upon by Moody’s, are based on the type of unsound fiscal logic that created the plan to sell suburban Trenton Water Works infrastructure.

The New Jersey state government, under the leadership of both parties, has relied on bond sales, temporary tax hikes, and other moves that have provided the type of fleeting, ephemeral revenue that stands to be generated through the Trenton Water Works sale.

The sale threatens to eliminate the water utility’s annual $4 million to $7 million contribution to the city budget.

In return, we get an $80 million payment that will gone in less than two years.

At that time, we will find ourselves facing the same structural imbalances we see now, without the extra water revenue.

With the sale still hung up in court, Trenton still has time to reconsider its decision to sell this asset.

We don’t have to follow New Jersey’s lead.

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Interesting piece by Bob Ingle…

This piece by Bob Ingle of Gannett was published in the newspaper company’s publications Sunday:

“CORZINE IS LOSING SUPPORT”

TRENTON – It took them a while, but the enviros finally discovered what the rest of us have known for a long time, that New Jersey government kowtows to developers. At the bottom of almost every scandal there is some kind of development deal.

“We strongly believe that we’re never going to have clean air or clean water without clean government,” said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club, an outfit that fell all over itself endorsing Corzine for governor.

Environmental groups came together in a news conference to call for an independent investigation of the state Department of Environmental Protection, an arrogant bunch known for harassing the little guys and turning the other cheek to the well-connected.

After the FBI rounded up the gang of 44, we found that (now former) Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith allegedly called Corzine’s DEP commissioner, Mark Mauriello, to secure a clean-up approval to allow a day care center and affordable housing to be built on a chromium-contaminated site in Jersey City. (Also now former) Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt allegedly accepted a bribe to speed up approval of coastal development and wetlands permits.

There have been other environmental connections to corruption. Former state Sen. John Lynch tried to get a wetlands permit for a quarry and Joseph Ferriero was trying to obtain open-space funds for a contaminated site that couldn’t be developed.

“It’s not a few bad apples. We’ve got an orchard out there,” said Tittel.

Gannett State House bureau chief Michael Symons called the DEP to get its side. Mauriello wasn’t there so a deputy, John Watson, got on the horn. “I’m completely offended by their accusations,” said Watson, whose sister is Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Decades of journalism has taught me a few things to watch out for. One is someone in government who gets offended at questions or accusations. Taxpayers aren’t paying them to be offended. It’s usually a dodge to avoid answering.

Corzine probably thinks the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll is offensive. Among likely voters, GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie leads 50 percent to 36 percent, with independent Chris Daggett getting 4 percentage points.

Christie’s unfavorable ratings have grown by 6 percent since July to 30 percent. Pollster Patrick Murray attributes that to Corzine’s extremely negative campaigning. That would include the ad that made it look like Christie walked out of a congressional hearing when, in fact, he told them in advance when he had to leave. It was staged by congressional hacks.

After that ad got Corzine so much bad publicity and his poll numbers kept falling, he did a positive one where people like state Sens. Dick Codey and Ray Lesniak endorsed the governor. It was short-lived. Corzine right away came out with another negative one.

It ties Christie to former President George W. Bush and says politics entered into Christie’s selection as U.S. attorney. No kidding, Mr. Corzine? And how did Anne Milgram get appointed your attorney general? Was it because she worked for you in Washington?

And if Christie were such a bad choice for U.S. attorney, why did you vote to confirm him and why did you name one of his top people, Stu Rabner, to be your chief counsel, then attorney general, then name him chief justice of the state Supreme Court?

Bob Ingle is Trenton bureau chief for Gannett New Jersey newspapers. He can be reached via E-mail at bobingle@app.com and heard on New Jersey 101.5 FM radio at 5 p.m. Fridays. Join his blog at www.app.com/state.

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Monmouth University/Gannett: Christie lead widens

The latest polling conducted by Monmouth University and Gannett New Jersey has Republican Chris Christie widening his lead over incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in the race for Drumthwacket.

Mr. Christie now holds a 14-point advantage – 50 percent to 36 percent – with 4 percent for independent Chris Daggett, among likely voters. That marks an increase from last month, when Mr. Christie held an 8-point lead – 45 percent to 37 percent – among voters contacted in the poll.

Among registered voters, who may or may not vote on Nov. 3, the gap narrows to 4 points – 43 percent for Mr. Christie to 39 percent for Gov. Corzine – which Monmouth University statistician Patrick Murray categorized as “statistically similar to the 6-point gap among registered voters in the July poll.”

“As an election heats up most polls focus only on likely voters with the aim of predicting the eventual outcome. However, we are still in the early days of this race and the role of a public poll should be to increase our understanding of electoral dynamics, including which registered voters may or may not show up on election day,” said Mr. Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“In this case, we find that Corzine has made some gains with black and Hispanic voters, while Christie has increased his vote share among union workers. But the bottom line is that Christie’s supporters are more engaged, which is why the Republican’s lead among likely voters has grown.”

The poll, conducted after the July campaign stop by President Barack Obama in Monmouth County and the arrests of dozens of public officials and political operatives, mostly Democrats, is a tale of two still unsettled electorates, according to Mr. Murray.

Mr. Murray said the Obama visit helped Gov. Corzine increase support within blocs of registered voters, but the poll found that the visit did not make those voters more likely to show up at the polls on election day.

The Monmouth announcement noted that Gov. Corzine now claims the support of 65 percent of black and Hispanic voters, which is up from 50 percent last month. However, only 58 percent of all Gov. Corzine supporters who are registered to vote are likely to hit the polls.

Moving to changes in traditional Democratic voting blocs, Mr. Christie now holds a 48 percent to 30 percent lead among voters in union households and a 47 percent to 37 percent lead among teachers. He also draws nearly even with the governor for state government worker support – 43 percent for Gov. Corzine to 40 percent for Mr. Christie.

These findings mark significant gains for a Republican, among groups that are politically aware and tend to vote for Democrats. For Mr. Christie, it is expected that fully 78 percent of his supporters who are registered to vote are deemed likely to turnout to vote, up from 64 percent reported in last month’s poll.

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