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|Weekend News Roundup & Open Thread for May 18-19, 2013||Christie, Buono
Gov. Chris Christie rode into Sayreville this week on his white horse, pledging to save the day for residents in that flood-stricken town and others with a $300 million home buyout plan.
Menendez, Holt & Lance support bill supporting craft beer companies
Cory Booker raked in $1.3M from speeches since 2008
This week in NJ education
This is an interesting post-Newtown wrinkle
Jersey City mayor-elect, one of NJ's new, young politicians
Defeated Passaic candidate vows to sue over election results
Court should keep Gov. Christie's hands off housing trust funds: Editorial
|NJ Education News Round-Up, 5/18/13||Here's this week education news for the Garden State:
- Christie Christie: A Gigantic Fraud
Chris Christie told teachers, cops, firefighters, and other public employees that he was "saving" our pensions. What a crock:
More important, however, is that no one in the press seems to be interested - in this election year - in getting Christie's plan on the record, once and for all, to come up with the $5.5 billion a year he's going to need starting in 2018 to fund the pensions.
- NJEA Elections: Yawn...
NJEA officer elections were a boring affair: basically, the current president retires, and everyone else moves up a notch.
Whatever anyone thought of Barbara Keshishian, you have to admit her term was really defined by a war with NJEA that Chris Christie started. Wendell Steinhauer is going to have to continue to fight that war whether he wants to or not: Christie has already made quite clear he has no interest in toning down his rhetoric against the teachers union during his campaign.
- Education Privatizers Put Fulop Into Office in Jersey City
So expect a new push for charter schools in JC, and expect a series of bruising fights between the Fulop-backed JCBOE and the local teachers union, led by one of the emerging stars of the labor movement, Ronnie Greco.
- Why Can't Tom Moran and I Get Along?
Tom, you are going to force me to continue writing pieces like this until you start figuring out that charter schools do not educate the same kids as public schools.
The editor of the Star-Ledger's op-ed page shouldn't be this willingly blind to the facts.
More after the flip...
Kevin Riordan interviews David Kirp, whose new book, Improbable Scholars, has been getting a lot of attention in edu-wonky circles. I haven't read it yet, so I'm reserving judgment, but I like this:
No wonder Kirp is so unimpressed with "celebrity" superintendents and "no-excuses" reformers who generally parachute down on troubled city school systems, foster a crop of admiring headlines, and then move on.
Someone tell that to NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf and the rest of Jeb! Bush's "Chiefs For Change"...
Teacher Evaluation: Lost, But Making Great Time!
A report from Rutgers says the new teacher evaluation system runs the risk of not being ready next year:
When asked whether the Christie administration and the Legislature should have factored training time into its mandate that the system be fully deployed next year, he said that not doing so was risky.
- I am amazed that this state doesn't have full-time kindergarten for every student.
- Local districts are pushing back on Chrirstie superintendent's pay cap, claiming they can't compete with states like New York that actually respect labor market forces.
- I summarize the many failings of state-control of Newark's schools.
- The Legislature wants us teachers to take on another role: educating kids about social media. Yes, it's important, but when do the unfunded mandates stop?
And while data gained via standardized tests like NJASK may be extremely helpful, especially when paired with other data points, the over-emphasis on such testing is a classic example of how state and federal mandates are threatening to completely bypass local control.
Word. Have a great week, everyone.
|Late Nights in Atlantic City: Buono Confirms Her Pick for Chair - Jason O'Donnell||
Why Jason O'Donnell? Well, I'll tell you why Jason O'Donnell. Jason is energetic, young, committed. Jason used to be a field person. [snip] Jason will do anything, will go to any lengths, to do what is right for the Democratic Party. He will unite the Democratic Party, along with Chairman Currie, myself and all of you - from north, to south, east to west.
It's tradition that the presumptive nominee gets to make this choice; it matters for solidarity, for agreed-on allocation of resources, for speaking as a unified voice behind the standard-bearer. Making this a year not to honor that tradition - when a woman is at the top of the ticket - would have left the state Dems with an awful optics situation (particularly after this) that might have angered the Democrats' bedrock constituency, women. It absolutely would have riled me.
As the buzz built behind O'Donnell, Christie loyalists in the party began issuing stink bombs in the press. Buono campaign chair Asw Bonnie Watson Coleman floated O'Donnell's name a week ago, followed by a string of oh-no-she-didn't sound bites from powerful Democrats not anxious to relinquish the reins. The loudest of these issued from party boss heaven in the north and the south; Senate President Steve Sweeney told Buono O'Donnell would divide the party, county chair Phil Thigpen in cobalt Essex said he'd support Buono's pick as long as it wasn't O'Donnell. Speaker Sheila Oliver had very specific concerns (and I hope her concerns were addressed).
Buono's pick tonight was absolutely defiant. State chairs are rarely acclaimed by everyone. But this decision was made in the face of considerable muscle-flexing, and standing against that is a risk I hope pays off. That said, I don't know all the stories of those who were willing to put aside difference and accommodate Buono's determination. I know that there were some. There was some quiet grace shown by some powerful Dems, some generosity, some class.
Speculation at Buono's late-night dessert reception, where O'Donnell was announced, was that the announcement was held off till way after dinner so that anybody still unhappy wouldn't even be in the room. And some people did peel off. But there was also a competing event, Democrats 2000's first big event with new president Jorge Santos (congratulations, Jorge), and not everybody knew O'Donnell would be announced that late.
The party was already in full swing, already loose, as a hoarse Passaic Chair John Currie (rumored in the running early on) announced Buono, who announced O'Donnell. In her remarks, Buono said "this room is the Democratic Party. Among those staying late to welcome the new chair, Loretta Weinberg, Frank Pallone, Watson Coleman, Troy Singleton, Morris Chair Lew Candura, Monmouth Chair Vin Gopal, and incoming Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop.
|Barbara Buono's Speech Tonight at Democratic State Conference||Barbara Buono is keynote speaker at tonight's dinner at the NJDSC 2013 state conference in Atlantic City. Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
It is good to be among Democratic friends and colleagues. Together, we have worked tirelessly to make New Jersey - my lifelong home - a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
And we cannot stop now.
The people of New Jersey need us - Democrats - the Party of a fair shot for every man and woman and child in this state - now more than ever.
Democrats, we're at a watershed moment in New Jersey.
If we stand on those principles upon which this party was founded, we will move forward. But we have to remember those principles. We have to remember why we became Democrats in the first place. We have to remember who we are.
We are the party of the New Deal and the New Frontier, the party of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
We are the party of FDR and JFK, the big dreamers who weren't afraid to shoot for the moon but never forgot those who struggle just to see the sun.
Fueled by compassion and emboldened by justice, we are the party that stands up for the working people who make our country strong.
That's who we are. And now is not the time to forget it.
Today in New Jersey a radical agenda - fueled by conservative ideology and funded by corporate interests - has those values - our values - under assault. And Governor Christie and Republicans in the Legislature are on the front lines.
While he should be thinking about what's in our best interest here in New Jersey, behind each and every decision Chris Christie makes is the goal of pandering to right-wing conservatives or fulfilling his own national ambitions.
How else can you explain that in New Jersey - a blue state, a progressive state, a state that hasn't sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate in four decades - teachers, police officers and firefighters - our heroes -are vilified?
There's no other way to explain how working folks fighting for fair representation at the bargaining table are portrayed as a drain on our system, how seniors are pitted against public workers and millionaires are put before the middle class.
Our working people, our children and our seniors - my parents always taught me to stand up and fight for them.
They're the reason I got involved in politics in the first place.
They're the reason I embraced the Democratic Party years ago.
But for Chris Christie, they are mere stepping stones on the road to Washington.
And, sadly, Republicans in the Legislature walk lock-step in his shadow.
Look at where that's gotten us over the last 3 and a half years -
We have a struggling economy - more than 400,000 people out of work, an unemployment rate among the highest in the nation.
Crippling property taxes - taxes 20 percent higher than they were at the start of this Administration - hurt our homeowners and crushing loan debt devastates our young people.
The Earned Income Tax Credit - the lifeline for the working poor trumpeted by the likes of Ronald Reagan - has been cut.
Funding for women's health centers? Totally eliminated.
Property tax rebates? Slashed.
Teachers and our public education system? Belittled.
And now a major push is underway to privatize public schools.
Women, families, seniors, the environment, healthcare... they've all become casualties in Chris Christie's New Jersey.
I've lived here my whole life. And Chris Christie's New Jersey - that's not the real New Jersey. That's not who we are.
But this system of shortchanging those with the least to fill the pockets of those with the most, it's led some folks to forget.
I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with constituents, with friends, with family convinced that the middle class is dead.
Let me tell you something - as long as this party exists, the middle class is not dead.
We are the torch bearers of the middle class.
And we won't let that flame die.
But this is the time for us to unite around our core values and ensure that our middle class does more than survive. Together, we must make sure our middle class thrives once again.
I know we can't do this on platitudes alone.
No, it will take a long-term, strategic investment in our state - building new industries, opening up educational opportunities to everyone, rewarding a hard day's work with equal pay and addressing the inequities in our tax system.
It won't be easy, but we can do it. We must do it.
Because we ARE the Democratic Party.
Now, I know there are divisions among us. I welcome and encourage the disagreements and spirited debates, inevitable within a party with such a wide array of beliefs. That diversity is the bedrock of democracy.
But for the sake of the people of New Jersey we cannot allow our differences to define the Democratic Party.
The stakes are far too high.
Though we may not agree on all issues, we cannot forget why we are Democrats.
It is because we believe that the father who takes three buses to get to his two jobs so that he can put a roof over his family's head deserves a living wage that increases with the cost of living.
It is because we believe that the single mother struggling to make it in the boardroom by day and the classroom at night deserves more than 78 cents for every dollar her male counterparts bring home.
It is because we know kids in Newark and Camden have the same potential as kids in Millburn and Mendham - and it's our duty to create the schools and communities that allow them to achieve goals beyond their wildest imagination.
It is because we know that - in some way or other - we're here because someone, at some time, believed it was important to stand up for us.
My fellow Democrats, for me, those aren't just words. That's my life.
See, my paternal grandparents - a man and woman who came to America from Italy speaking no English - settled in New Jersey for opportunity. My father, a high school dropout, was a Coast Guard veteran who worked every day as a union butcher until he died when I was a teenager.
It wasn't easy after I lost my dad.
But we had Social Security death benefits and Veterans benefits to help support our family. I had grants and loans - loans at zero percent interest - to get me through Montclair State - where, back then, tuition was affordable. When I lost everything in an apartment fire as a young adult, I had food stamps to help me get back up on my feet. I know what it's like to make a call to the welfare office.
I know that - contrary to what some may believe - a strong social safety net doesn't drag us down - it lifts us up. It lifted me up.
And we're here - as Democrats - because that's what we believe - that regardless of what they earn or where they live or who they love, the people of this state need a New Jersey where equality and opportunity exist for every resident. All they need is a hand up when they fall down. All the people of this state need is a chance.
And as your Governor, knowing that New Jersey was there for me, knowing that this state made me who I am, my first priority will be making sure everybody gets one.
But I know I can't do it alone.
We can't just hope for a New Jersey of opportunity. We can't just wish for a New Jersey where our public schools and public servants, our students and our middle class and working people across our state are a priority, where the public's wellbeing is more important than corporate welfare.
We can't just wait for it.
We have to work for it.
Our grassroots movement is strong and the new generation is crying out for a bold, united voice to put us back on a forward-looking path.
And we can do this come November.
But I'm going to need you all to talk to the folks back home.
Tell them that starting this November, we will no longer allow Chris Christie to put his ambitions before the people of New Jersey.
Tell them that the time of choosing shouting and showmanship over substance is over.
Tell them that the age of mistaking name-calling for consensus building is over.
And together, let's put New Jersey on the road to the land of hope and opportunity and equality we all remember.
|No, Dude. You're Not a Liberal||Mm hm. Promoted by Rosi
You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means.
Burlington City's Democratic mayor said he's still a bleeding heart liberal, but he's endorsing Governor Christie's re-election bid.
Really? A liberal?
You can still call yourself a Democrat, but, dude, you're no liberal.
|Christie's Latest YouTube Video Relegates Thousands of New Jerseyans to Second Class Citizenship||Governor Christie's latest publicly-funded campaign video is entitled "The Greatest Social Program in the World is A Job." This video is mind-boggling on so many levels.
As he is wont to do, Christie starts out the video with a lie. Well, not technically a lie, but an extremely misleading twist of words that conveys false information.
He says that under his administration, state taxes have not gone up. What he fails to mention is that due to his policies, property taxes have exploded. While these are strictly not state taxes, the rise in property taxes is inexorably linked to Christie's policies, and under his rule, fees and tolls have gone up also. There's no question that the tax burden on the middle class is directly attributable to Christie's right-wing agenda.
But that's not the worst aspect of this campaign commercial. By saying that "the greatest social program in the world is a job", Christie relegates thousands of New Jerseyans who receive some sort of assistance to second class citizenship.
Take, for example, my friends Mike and Kathy Pollock. Mike wrote about his wife's illness, his battles with the medical-industrial complex, and how Christie's policies have made their already difficult lives even more difficult. Mike is the embodiment of the American Dream - the owner of a mom and pop hardware store in rural New Jersey. But that dream took a terrible turn when Kathy developed a debilitating illness and was written off by her doctors. Through Mike's tenacious efforts, Kathy is alive today. Christie has severely cut the social programs that help Kathy, and those programs are denigrated by Christie by this video.
And if jobs are the greatest social program as Christie espouses, then why has he cut jobs across the state throughout his reign? He's cut teachers' jobs. He's cut tens of thousands of construction jobs with his cancellation of a much-needed tunnel which would facilitate New Jerseyans to get to well-paying jobs. He's cut thousands of green jobs with his Koch Brothers anti-environmental policy.
If jobs are his priority, why did he veto the minimum wage? Does he endorse the fact that families on the minimum wage are still living in poverty? Again, his "Jobs are the Greatest Social Program" mantra is insulting and mean-spirited.
There are thousands of New Jersey citizens like Mike and Kathy. Working hard to survive, but either fully or partially reliant on a social safety net. The vast majority would like to work, but for one reason or another, either can't or still need assistance. None of them are second-class citizens.
Christie's mentor, George W Bush, proved conclusively that "trickle-down" economics do not create jobs - quite the opposite. But Christie never learned that lesson and that's hurting all of us. Yet he continues to espouse these lies on the public dime. There hasn't been a more insidious institutional propaganda machine since the KGB.
|Our Unemployment: A Sow's Ear Not A Silk Purse||Our governor yesterday crowed over the fact that New Jersey unemployment decreased in April from 9.0% to 8.7%. However, NJ remains unchanged from last month in having the 7th highest unemployment rate among all states. Should we be boasting that 43 other states are doing better than us? Not an enviable position.
Our April level of 8.7% is 1.2% above the national level of 7.5%. Furthermore our rate compares unfavorably to Connecticut: 8.0%, Delaware: 7.2%, New York: 7.8% and Pennsylvania: 7.6%. So regionally we have the highest unemployment and nationally there are only 6 states worse off than us. Not much to write home about. And not much of a basis for an incumbent governor to bolster his campaign, although we know he is famous for turning a sow's ear into a silk purse.
Other facts to ponder:
A further thought on priorities: The governor continues to pursue his quest of income tax reduction yet his recent bond prospectus reveals uncertainty as to whether the State will be able to meet its future pension obligations. Yes, we probably can afford to decrease our income taxes based on property taxes paid, but only if there is additional revenue from a millionaire's surcharge. As the matter remains now the governor is happy to sacrifice the state's future ability to pay into the pension plan in exchange for a tax reduction in his election year.
|Wait. What? FBI Investigation Moves To Who Set Up Menendez||promoted by Rosi
They could have just read Blue Jersey, but the FBI has moved on from investigating NJ Senator Bob Menendez for corruption to seeking the folks who tried to sway an election by smearing him.
Months after the FBI began probing allegations against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), investigators are looking at whether someone set out to smear him while he was running for reelection last year and then ascending to his new post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to four people briefed on the inquiry.
This is the second election in a row for Menendez where the federal government has been manipulated into investigating the Senator for partisan reasons.
And now there's this:
[T]he inquiry into the prostitution allegations has come up dry, producing no corroborative evidence, say four people briefed on the probe. ...
In this case, the allegations against Menendez appear to be about Senate votes and subsidies, with fellow Cuban-Americans Alfy and Pepe Fanjul -- big political donors and friendly with Menendez -- pissed off that Menendez voted to end sugar subsidies last year. The Fanjul brothers deny any involvement, but ...
[L]ast June, the Fanjuls were disappointed by Menendez after he voted with the majority of his Senate colleagues to end the Agriculture Department's long-running subsidy program for domestic sugar. Not long after the vote, Alfy Fanjul called Menendez to register his unhappiness, according to two people familiar with their conversation.
What's amazing to me is that anonymous allegations that a Senator had legal and consensual sex is a major scandal that could change US foreign policy, but an actual attempt to bring down a sitting Senator in line for the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee generates yawns.
That's our lovely media.
|Chris Christie ♥ Georgia||promoted by Rosi
From Chris Christie's Facebook page: this photo of the Governor greeting Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili at the State House.
Which of the following is true?
A. Christie is confused, and thinks Saakashvili controls Georgia's 16 Electoral Votes
B. Christie is using a publicly-funded state house photographer to establish his foreign policy creds for the 2016 Presidential election.
C. Saakashvili and Christie are making a deal to import Georgian labor for Sandy cleanup in exchange for a large contribution to the Christie re-election campaign.
D. Saakashvili is replacing Michael Aron as the state's premier political reporter.
|TGIF News Roundup & Open Thread for May 17, 2013||Sex-crazed cicadas: what's the bug-to-person ratio?
Swarmageddon: How to emotionally survive.
Everything You Need to Know About the Impending Cicada Sex Invasion: including a really ugly map of New Jersey, and a sound file of cicadas singing in Princeton.
FBI now seeking source of prostitution, corruption allegations against Menendez
Lautenberg returns to DC
Our Transportation Commissioner Should Be Decommissioned