Good Thursday morning!
You’ve may have already read some of my rants about the slow but steady chipping away at government transparency in New Jersey. Daniel’s Law, while its intent is understandable, has been burdensome to records keepers, leading them to over-redact public records. And politicians have followed its lead in an effort to shield their own addresses from public disclosure. It’s gotten to the point where state lawmakers and local officials do not even need to disclose whether they own homes and second homes, let alone their addresses.
Now, a case in New Brunswick is moving the problems with Daniel’s Law beyond bureaucratic headaches.
According to NJ Advance Media, Charlie Kratovil, an activist, gadfly (I don’t mean that in a bad way) and newspaper publisher from New Brunswick, allegedly found records through an OPRA request that show the city’s police director is registered to vote in Cape May County. Kratovil showed councilmembers copies of Anthony Caputo’s voter profile, which included his address.
Caputo then sent Kratovil a cease-and-desist letter, citing Daniel’s Law, which could lead to fines and damages. Now the ACLU has joined Kratovil’s cause, and it is suing to make it clear that Kratovil’s newspaper can publish articles that include information about his residence.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Believe it or not, I am basically a simple country dentist – but I do know my dentistry.” — U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd Dist.) during a House Oversight Committee hearing
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Steve Stirling, Josh Dawsey, Medinah Muhammad, Sarah E. Jones, Harrison Ford, Dave Strahan
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Atlantic City for the NGA meeting
THE QUICK WORK OF STATE GOVERNMENT — New Jersey panel takes key step toward mandating sale of ‘smart guns’, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: An obscure state commission took a key step last month toward requiring the sale of smart guns — which only fire from authorized users — in New Jersey, the Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday. The Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission approved “performance standards and qualifying criteria” that personalized hand guns — colloquially referred to as smart guns — must meet. Establishing the performance standards and qualifying criteria is a key step towards mandating the sale of smart guns in the state. State law requires that the criteria be established to set up a roster of eligible smart guns; once that is created, firearm retailers in the state will be required to sell at least one of the smart guns on the roster. By law, the commission was supposed to establish the criteria within a year of organizing (it has been meeting since January 2022).
COUGHLIN, SCUTARI, MURPHY AND STAYNJ: THREE MEN AND A MAYBE — “Craig Coughlin has a StayNJ windfall to sell to seniors. Will it ever pay off?,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “No one will ever accuse Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin of being a high-powered salesman. The soft-spoken Middlesex County lawyer talks in a reassuring monotone, with his sentences sometimes falling off into a murmur. … Coughlin is closer in style and tone to ‘Blue Bloods’ actor Tom Selleck, peddling reverse mortgages on cable TV with a reassuring, basset-hound look. … Yet the state’s third-most-powerful Democrat has already started what is expected to be a long summer and fall campaign to sell the new StayNJ tax credit program as the great savior of New Jersey homeowners who are 65 and older. ‘The StayNJ program cuts seniors’ property taxes in half,’ Coughlin proclaims in a video segment posted by the Assembly Democrats on Twitter. And as if emulating Selleck’s soft sell, Coughlin asserts that the generous credit will ‘mean the ability for people to stay in New Jersey. It also means if they’re able to pay their taxes, they’ll have a little more disposable income.’”
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY ‚— “Lawsuits could delay the start of New Jersey’s first offshore wind power project,” by The AP’s Wayne Parry:”A tangle of litigation could delay the start of New Jersey’s first offshore wind energy project, as developer Orsted is suing governments to stop delaying necessary permits, and citizens groups try to halt the project altogether. The latest in a fast-growing thicket of litigation came July 3 when Danish wind power developer Orsted sued Cape May County, alleging the government is dragging its feet in issuing a road permit needed to do test work along the route a power cable would run. The company is also suing the city of Ocean City over similar delays to the project.”
THE ONE TIME SPADEA RAN IN A GENERAL ELECTION HE LOST BY 20 POINTS — “The king of Spadea,” by InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack: “Jack Ciattarelli by all objective accounts ran a good campaign for governor in 2021, losing in a very ‘blue’ state by just 3 points or so. Spadea was not impressed. He doesn’t consider the margin close and added that if Ciattarelli won, he would have made things worse. Just like he said Chris Christie did. And don’t even mention Christie Whitman. In fact, when Spadea did, the crowd groaned, which is something he says happens every time he says Whitman’s name. Rhetoric has its place, but so do facts. We are going back a number of years, but let’s not forget that both Whitman and Christie were elected twice as governor. Those on the Republican right in New Jersey – think recently of the likes of Steve Lonegan, Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh – have been elected statewide to nothing. Expect Spadea to be undaunted and to push ahead.”
REPORT CARD — “New racial justice group gives New Jersey lawmakers middling marks,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Nikita Biryukov: “A new advocacy group is giving New Jersey lawmakers an average grade on racial justice and middling marks to many Democratic lawmakers, saying that few bills that would help the state’s Black communities saw so much as a committee vote in the Legislature. Just 8% of the Legislature’s 120 members received an A grade from the group — the New Jersey Black Empowerment Coalition Action Network — while 25% received Ds. Even the chair of the Legislature’s black caucus, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic), was not spared. The group handed Sumter a C overall, and an F for her support of education initiatives.”
EX PARTE IN THE USA — “Judge faces disciplinary action for ex parte conversations with prosecutors, police,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “A part-time Lawrence municipal court judge who prosecuted Jesse Timmendequas for the brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1997, is now facing an ethics complaint for allegedly holding multiple ex parte conversations, for close relationships with local police officers, and for a ‘propensity to use profanity’ connected to his ‘inability to operate his laptop.’ Lewis J. Korngut, 63, is accused of speaking with the municipal prosecutor outside the presence of the defendant’s attorney in 2022 – and in one case, discussed the facts of the case with a police officer, according to a complaint released [Tuesday] by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.”
DON’T BANK ON IT — “Is new social-impact fund first step to NJ public bank?” by NJ Spotlight News’ John Reitmeyer: “Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers have set aside $20 million for a state-run Social Impact Investment Fund to advance what they are deeming “socially beneficial projects” in communities across the state. The new fund will use both public and private investment dollars to advance affordable-housing developments, certain infrastructure-improvement projects, and the construction and maintenance of early childhood education centers, according to a law signed by Murphy late last month. … It could also help lay the groundwork for the eventual establishment of a public bank in New Jersey, something that Murphy, a second-term Democrat, first called for as a candidate in 2017.”
NJ DOWN ON DECARBONIZATION, UP ON DECARBOXYLATION — “BPU pulls decarbonization proposal from agenda — but big questions remain,” by ROI-NJ’s Tom Bergeron: “A contentious and controversial proposal that seemingly directs electric utilities to begin to decarbonize the building sector was pulled Wednesday by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities from the agenda of the board’s only meeting in July. The questions around the proposal, however, remain. The two biggest: When will the proposal go for a vote (the next meeting of the BPU is Aug. 16)? Does the BPU even have the authority to pass such a proposal?”
VAN DREW THREATENS WRAY WITH ROOT CANAL — “FBI Director Chris Wray defends the ‘real FBI’ against criticism from Van Drew, House GOP,” by The AP: “In testy exchanges with Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, including U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, Wray rejected the GOP assertion that the bureau was favoring the Biden family and said the notion that the bureau was involved the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was ‘ludicrous.’Referring to his own background, he said the idea that he harbors bias against conservatives is “insane.” “The work the men and women of the FBI do to protect the American people goes way beyond one or two investigations that seem to capture all the headlines,” said Wray, a registered Republican whom Trump nominated to lead the FBI after firing James Comey in 2017.”
THE PARENTAL RIGHT — “Parental rights candidates are rattling NJ school boards. Meetings have been tempestuous,” by The Record’s Mary Ann Koruth: “A wave of conservative school board members who campaigned on the parental rights platform in the last two election cycles are now making their presence felt in suburban New Jersey’s school districts. Elected in 2021 and 2022 as part of a political backlash to COVID-era school shutdowns and masking policies, these candidates campaigned on a promise to inject parental influence into how public schools are run and to push back on state mandates and what they consider ‘woke’ curricula. Now, with large enough numbers on school boards, they’re delivering on that promise. Television-worthy scenes from the dramatic to the rowdy played out all spring in crowded North Jersey auditoriums as school board members on either side of the ideological divide argued on the dais in hourslong meetings, while superintendents watched in silence. … The biggest impact of this trend is that it undermines trust in teachers — driving them to leave districts in the middle of a teacher shortage, say teachers who often show up in large numbers and plead with the boards at these meetings. ‘Teachers are leaving the field at a record pace,’ said Laura Rieder, a social studies teacher of 17 years at Ridge High School in Bernards Township, speaking at an April board meeting.”
ARTHUR TREACHEROUS — “Arthur Barclay, Camden council candidate, charged after motor-vehicle accident,” by The Courier-Post’s Jim Walsh: “The Attorney General’s Office has taken over the prosecution of a Camden city council candidate accused of striking a pedestrian with his car. The agency gave no reason for the action involving Arthur Barclay, a Democrat who’s also accused of driving with a suspended license at the time of the July 1 incident. … Barclay was charged in Camden municipal court with causing serious injury while driving with a suspended license. … Barclay is seeking elected office for the first time since his resignation from the state Assembly in June 2018, which followed an allegation that he had punched a woman in her face.”
NURSING A GRUDGE — “RWJ New Brunswick nurses vote to strike, reject hospital’s settlement offer,” by MyCentralJersey’s Cheryl Makin: “Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) have voted to authorize a strike after rejecting the hospital’s latest proposal for a new contract. On Tuesday, RWJUH management received a 10-day notice that a strike has been authorized. Both sides can continue to negotiate during that period. The union and RWJUH were back at the bargaining table Tuesday for 14 hours into early Wednesday without an agreement. The nurses, who are working on an expired contract, serve in the ICU and Emergency Room as well as other hospital units. According to the union, negotiations between the nurses and hospital over the past three months have failed.”
NJ FECOPHILIA TOURIST INDUSTRY DEVASTATED — “Water quality alerts lifted at 13 New Jersey beaches,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Amanda Oglesby: “Thirteen Jersey Shore beaches were declared safe for swimming on Wednesday after having high counts of fecal coliform, or bacteria that live in the intestines of animals, discovered earlier in the week. Fecal coliform frequently do not make people sick on their own, but health agencies use them as an indicator that other harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites may be present in water.”
CORRECTION: I know the mayor of Paterson’s first name is Andre and not Andrew. But sometimes my fingers wander, and yesterday in this newsletter they typed “Andrew Sayegh” against my will. They actually did it again while I was writing this correction, but I caught them. I will now train my fingers by repeatedly typing his name: Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre Andre. That should do it.