Morning News Digest: November 2, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Foes to friends
Gov. Chris Christie, who this week exchanged mutual admiration with President Obama over their respective handling of Hurricane Sandy, also picked up two new endorsements this week, one form a longtime foil.
During a trip to Bergen County to tour the aftereffects of the storm, state Sen. Paul Sarlo, who is also the mayor of Wood-Ridge heaped praise on the governor for keeping in touch with local mayors as the state begins the long recovery from the storm.
“You’re doing a great job,” Sarlo said while shaking the governor’s hand. “I’m serious. I mean, those calls, I was on every one of them until I lost everything. But really, you have done a great job – the phone calls, the shore stuff. We got hit hard.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Former state Sen. Joseph Maressa has died
Former state Sen. Joe Maressa, who was instrumental in bringing a medical school to South Jersey, died Tuesday at the age of 89.
As a senator, Maressa served as both majority whip and Judiciary Committee chairman. In the mid-1970’s Maressa was the lawmaker behind the creation of the University of Medicine and Dentistry-School of Osteopathic Medicine, South Jersey’s only medical school.
Caught up in the Abscam investigation, Maressa took $10,000 from a purported Arab Sheikh, though Maressa said at the time it was a legal fee. No charges were ever filed against him.
Maressa is survived by sons Anthony, Joseph Jr., and Julian, daughter, Jo Lynne; five grandchildren, and his companion, Muriel Mansmann. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
LG: County clerk’s offices must keep Sunday hours
The Secretary of State’s Office has extended mandatory hours from 8:30 to 4:30 on Saturday and Sunday at every county clerk’s office in the state, according to a directive issued today by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Voters will have an opportunity to walk into those offices in those time frames on the weekend (and on Monday) prior to Election Day.
Guadagno has imposed noon tomorrow as a hard deadline for clerks to submit lists of polling places.
The LG has also ordered clerks’ offices to remain in mail-in ballot processing mode through Election Day. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Menendez: sex allegations the product of “right wing smear machine”
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez today responded to allegations that the Democratic senator paid for sex with prostitutes while on a trip to the Dominican Republic, stating that the story is false and the product of the “right-wing smear machine.”
Spokesman Michael Soliman also took aim at Republican opponent Joe Kyrillos, who earlier today issued a statement demanding more information about the story, which ran in the Daily Caller.
“It is disgusting that on a day when New Jerseyans are focused on responding to one of the worst disasters to ever hit the state, Joe Kyrillos and the right wing smear machine are peddling lies about Bob Menendez,” Soliman said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie unveils measures to push NJ to a faster recovery—with potential to ruffle feathers
In a whirlwind of post-storm decisions that might ruffle some feathers, Gov. Chris Christie announced a string of orders and plans intended to speed New Jersey’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy, including telling teachers to work on their days off and utilities to speed up the job of power restoration.
He secured loaned rail cars to use in place of some of the New Jersey Transit cars that were flooded, ordered natural gas shut off in devastated places and announced that military trucks would be used as makeshift polling places in places where regular voting spots are without power.
“We’re in the triage and attack phase of the storm, so we can restore power, reopen schools, get public transportation back online and allow people to return to their homes if they’ve been displaced,” he said Thursday in Moonachie. (Associated Press)
Christie tells utlities to step up efforts
Governor Christie Thursday demanded that the power utilities discard “whatever playbooks” they are using and create a new plan that will speed up the restoration of electricity to hundreds of thousands of New Jersey customers.
Christie, speaking in Moonachie, said he met with the CEOs of Public Service Electric & Gas Co. and Jersey Central Power & Light Co, both of which serve North Jersey, and asked for a list of resources they needed to jump start the effort.
“I made clear to them that whatever playbooks they had were to be thrown out – because we’ve never faced anything like this before,” Christie said. (Morley, The Record)
Gov to teachers: With convention cancelled, teach
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is urging teachers to voluntarily be back in the classroom next week on their cancelled convention days.
He told a news conference Thursday he prefers not to have to invoke emergency powers and order them to be in the classroom Nov. 8 and 9. But he also said he “would not hesitate to do what needed to be done to help our children get the education they need.”
The New Jersey Education Association announced Thursday that it is canceling the event for the first time in 158 years because of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The convention was to be held in Atlantic City. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
NJ to use military trucks as polling places
New Jersey will deploy military trucks to serve as polling places on Election Day in storm-battered communities, the state secretary of the state announced Thursday during a visit to this flood-ravaged town. The state is also extending the deadline on mail-in ballots.
Department of Defense trucks will be parked at regular polling places that have lost power, as long as the sites are still accessible. Paper ballots will be used.
Republican Secretary of State and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said voters will find “a DOD truck with a well-situated National Guardsman and a big sign saying, “Vote Here.” (Porter, Associated Press)
N.J. election officials reviewing plans to ensure every voter can cast a ballot
State and county election officials are reviewing plans to make sure voters can cast ballots Tuesday in parts of the state that might not have the power needed for the electronic voting machines.
And since many locations across the state suffered widespread damage from Hurricane Sandy, polling locations may have to be changed.
Governor Christie said flood victims are not thinking about voting and he wants to focus on other things first, like restoring power and clearing roads.
He said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno who is also secretary of state and responsible for overseeing elections, would develop a contingency plan. (Reitmeyer and Patberg, The Record)
The bromance continues…
The nation’s newest political bromance continues.
A day after President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a public show of their admiration for each other while touring the Sandy-stricken Jersey Shore, the two heaped more praise on each other during a Thursday afternoon conference call with local New Jersey officials.
Obama spent about 20 minutes on the 1 p.m. call, largely repeating the here-to-help themes he struck during the Wednesday visit to Brigantine, according to Rob Eichmann, a GOP state committeeman from Williamstown who was on the call. (Epstein, POLITICO)
Storm puts stoplight on transit investments
Getting around is getting tough.
And it could get a lot tougher if flood-damaged tunnels and mass transit systems aren’t fully restored by the start of next week, when more people return to work and kids go back to school.
The havoc wrought by Sandy brought into sharp focus the region’s dependency on road and rail systems that, even under normal circumstances, often seem overburdened. But it also ignited a broader discussion Thursday about whether long-term, and potentially expensive, measures should be taken to protect the system and coastal areas from the kind of powerful storms that have slammed the region with more frequency in recent years. (Boburg, Copley and Rouse, The Record)
Congress may need to step in on Sandy aid
Lawmakers on the front lines of the Hurricane Sandy disaster recovery have a message for their colleagues in Congress: We’re going to need a lot more money.
Even though FEMA’s coffers are relatively flush now, lawmakers who have spent the last several days seeing the sheer scope of the disaster — flooded homes, destroyed boardwalks and torn up public transit systems — say the $7.8 billion in FEMA reserve funds won’t be enough. Many predict Congress will ultimately have to take up emergency funding bills due to the massive storm that wrecked much of the Eastern Seaboard. (Kim, POLITICO)
Plenty of fuel, no way to pump it
There’s plenty of gas in New Jersey.
The problem has been powering up the state’s fuel terminals so that fuel could be unloaded and delivered to the few gas stations open in the days after Hurricane Sandy and restoring electrical service to stations with plenty of fuel but no way to pump it.
That irony is of little solace to the thousands of motorists and homeowners who lined up, sometimes for hours, at igas stations around New Jersey that electricity to opeate their pumps and gasoline to sell.
The shortage was emerging Wednesday and Thursday as a burgeoning crisis, even as more than million residents were still stuck with no power in their homes, no landline phone service and no Internet service. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Days lost to hurricane put N.J. schools to the test
On top of Hurricane Sandy’s immediate devastation throughout the state, public schools and their students could feel the storm’s disruption well into next year.
Schools were reopening today in many parts of the state, state officials said, but hundreds of districts remained closed for a fifth straight day and maybe into next week as power was slow to be restored in vast swaths of New Jersey.
That left school officials grappling with how to make up days on a calendar that had only just begun, with the state’s 180-day requirement unlikely to budge, if history is any indication.
In 1995, districts saw snow days pile up into the teens, but the state did not waive the 180-day statutory mandate and instead required districts to make up the days elsewhere, including shortening winter, spring or summer breaks. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Voters will rule on whether judges should pay more for benefits
A decision by the state Legislature last summer means voters will decide Tuesday whether New Jersey judges should have to pay more for their pensions and benefits, as other public employees do, or whether a clause in the state constitution means they are exempt.
The issue became a subject of debate after the state Supreme Court ruled that judges’ salaries were exempt from revisions imposed by Gov. Chris Christie on public employees’ pensions and health care benefits. In the past, judges paid only 3 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and benefits, leaving taxpayers to pick up the remainder of the tab. In July, the court decided that, in the interest of fairness, sitting judges would have to pay 12 percent, the same as teachers, police officers and other state employees. The ruling did not apply to tenured judges. (Federico-O’Murchu, NJ Spotlight)
Hurricane wreaks havoc on Senate race ad campaigns
Hurricane Sandy altered the physical landscape — and it also changed the political and media outlook for the closing days of New Jersey’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
Incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) both tried to avoid obvious politicking, canceling or postponing campaign events and advertising, while maintaining high profiles.
As with so much else in the campaign, that was easier for the incumbent Menendez. Just doing his job as a senator, Menendez was among the group of officials and polticians touring stricken Shore communities with President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie, reassuring local residents and officials. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. consumer affairs: Division investigating hundreds of price gouging complaints
The state’s consumer protection agency is being swamped with complaints about price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“We’ve gotten hundreds of complaints in the past 48 hours,” said Eric Kanefsky, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Every investigator in the division is out in the field investigating and cracking down – subpoenaing information, issuing summonses and even if the allegation doesn’t check out, we’re issuing warnings. They’re going to hit every place we get a complaint about.” (Lipman, The Record)
Disabled North Jersey regional sewage plant dumping untreated waste into Newark Bay
One of the nation’s largest wastewater treatment facilities has been pumping about 300 million gallons of raw sewage into Newark Bay since Monday, and environmental regulators weren’t sure Thursday when the hurricane-disabled plant would resume operations.
The plant run by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, which treats wastewater for more than 20 towns in Bergen and Passaic counties, was socked with damaging floods during the height of Hurricane Sandy on Monday night and doesn’t have the power needed to pump out a series of tunnels that were inundated during the storm, state officials said Thursday. (Clunn, The Record)
Psychoanalyzing Christie: Why the love for Obama?
The internets are atwitter today, scratching their collective heads to grapple with the fact that a big-name Republican and the biggest-name Democrat HUNG OUT YESTERDAY at the Jersey Shore.
The most obvious explanation is that New Jersey is in a lot of pain right now, needs a lot of hands and a lot of cash. No one in America has more access to what Christie needs to help his state than Obama. And by all early indications, Obama is helping. He called Christie at midnight on Tuesday, roused him out of bed:
POTUS: Chris, Barack here. What do you need?
GOV: Emergency declaration, stat.
POTUS: Done. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Natural disasters hurt incumbents
As Hurricane Sandy leaves millions without power across the East Coast, many commentators have argued that at least one person may benefit from the storm: President Barack Obama. But seeing Sandy as only an electoral benefit for the president ignores accumulating evidence on how “acts of God” influence elections. That evidence shows that voters often punish the incumbent party for adverse events, even events seemingly beyond any president’s control. (Cole, Healy and Werker, POLITICO)