Good Monday morning!
Is our civic life somehow getting even dumber?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some hack who tut-tuts our politicians for not displaying the dignity and respect that their predecessors did. Politics has always been nasty. But I’m sensing a trend in which our political and business leaders are openly talking about fighting each other, and not even in a joking way.
First, Mark Zuckerberg challenged Elon Musk to a steel cage match. Late last week, Piers Morgan asked Chris Christie who would win if he and Donald Trump got into the ring together. Instead of dismissing the question as inane — something Christie often did when confronted with better questions from better journalists — Christie said “the guy’s 78 years old, I’d kick his ass.”
I doubt Christie really knows how to fight, despite his boardwalk ice cream cone tirade. I doubt Donald Trump can either, even though he’s shown some prowess at fake fighting. And while I’m sure Zuckerberg and Musk can hire the best private fitness and boxing trainers, they’re rich boys who went to fancy schools that make Christie’s alma mater of Livingston High School look tough. Maybe I should disclose here I also don’t know how to fight, but I’m afraid the only thing keeping some of you from attacking me over things I’ve written in this newsletter is my intimidating frame and cold stare.
As stupid as this all is, considering the last transfer of presidential power wasn’t peaceful, maybe our leaders should avoid violent rhetoric to prove how masculine they are?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” — Conspiracy theorist and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., offering one of many conspiracy theories that inevitably proved itself to be anti-Semitic.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Chris Durkin, Lloyd Naideck, Scott Devlin, Kaleem Shabazz, Cristobal Slobodzian
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Belvidere at 9 a.m. to tour storm damage, then in Trenton at 11:30 a.m. to sign maternal and infant health legislation.
CORBETT WILL GRAZE HIS SHEEP IN NEWARK TO GET GATEWAY CENTER A PROPERTY TAX BREAK — “More emails show Onyx pushed NJ Transit HQ deal well before agency sought bids,” by The Record’s Colleen Wilson: “NJ Transit’s chief of staff received an ‘unsolicited’ lease term sheet and layouts for two different board room options at 2 Gateway — the Newark building where the agency recently agreed to move its headquarters — more than four months before the agency began soliciting bids for new office space, according to newly obtained emails by NorthJersey.com. NJ Transit issued a request for proposals to find a new headquarters in the summer of 2022, seeking office space in Newark between 300,000 and 350,000 square feet, two sources have confirmed. But the emails, which include details about a potential lease and how to configure board rooms, were sent months before then, in January and March of 2022 …
“‘Corbett … denied that the tour of 2 Gateway was about a potential move, saying it was about the ‘governor’s master plan for Newark Penn Station’— a renovation plan being led by NJ Transit’s chief engineer Rich Schaefer, who was not on the tour, according to the emails. A source with knowledge of the tour told NorthJersey.com that it was not about redevelopment plans at Newark Penn Station. That source said the purpose of the tour was solely about a potential future move.”
CONTRETEMPS — “Staffing agencies fighting to kill New Jersey’s temp worker law,” by NJ Spotlight News’ Sophie Nieto-Munoz: “A federal judge is set to decide whether parts of a new law overhauling the temporary worker industry will get into effect as planned next month, or whether state business organizations and staffing agencies are right that it’s too vague to be implemented as they challenge its constitutionality in court. … The New Jersey Staffing Alliance, along with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the American Staffing Alliance, are arguing against most of the provisions scheduled to go into effect Aug. 5, in particular one that would require temporary staffers to receive pay and benefits equivalent to their full-time counterparts. The bill’s critics argue the legislation’s language is so vague it would leave staffing agencies in legal jeopardy.”
IT DOES AID AN EGG SANDWICH — “Op-Ed: Grease from pork does not aid good governing,” by Linda Stamato for NJ Spotlight News: “Discredited for a time when the abuses became so flagrant in New Jersey, pork is back with a flourish. Included in the final budget for 2024 is $700 million in new funding for Democratic state lawmakers’ home-district projects. … The new spending was added during the final weeks of closed-door negotiations between Murphy and top legislative leaders — all before copies of the 277-page budget bill were posted for public review on the Legislature’s website … The legislators do this maneuvering out of sight, and, this time, permitted no public testimony. Given the haste, with the budget deadline close at hand, stakeholders and most state lawmakers had very little time to review the pork and weigh in on it or argue for other priorities, if, of course, they cared to do so. What we do know so far, though, is that among the earmarks are these: $3 million in funding for a skating rink and recreation center in East Brunswick, $7.5 million for a park in Newark, $10 million for ‘parks and trails’ in Camden and $4 million for a public marina in Woodbridge, not to mention $500,000 for a dog park in Rahway.”
BIAS CRIMES — “Vandals strike twice at N.J. cafe that flies pride banners,” by NJ Advance Media’s Richard Cowen: “Vandals struck twice this week at a cafe in West Orange, smashing windows and splattering paint on two gay pride banners that hang in the front of the building, police said. Harper’s Cafe on South Valley Road was closed on Friday while the owner cleaned up after two nights of vandalism. There were fresh sheets of plywood on the front door, and paint smears across the front window, which had been shattered by a brick on Thursday night. … West Orange Deputy Chief Michael Keigher said police are treating the incidents as bias crimes.”
MURPHY CONSIDERS BID IN THE YEAR 2525, IF MAN IS STILL ALIVE — “Murphy isn’t running for president in 2024. But what about 2028?” by NJ Advance Media’s Brent Johnson: “Gov. Phil Murphy spent Friday morning wrapping up a large national conference that he helped host in Atlantic City, attended by 20 of his fellow governors and hundreds of other political staffers and officials from across the U.S. So as he spoke at a news conference capping the 115th annual National Governors Association meeting, held at the Hard Rock hotel and casino, it seemed like an appropriate time to ask him: While he’s not running for president in 2024, having backed President Joe Biden for re-election, could Murphy still launch a bid for the White House down the road? Maybe in 2028? “I’m where I’ve been. I’m 1,000% behind the president,” the 65-year-old New Jersey governor said. But what about future presidential races? ‘I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow,’ he said with a laugh. So Murphy is not ruling out a 2028 presidential bid? He simply laughed at the third attempt at the question.”
JOEY BONY — “Celebrating Bordentown’s French connections at the estate of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte,” by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Kevin Riordan: ”The mayors of a small city in New Jersey and a little village near Paris marked Bastille Day Friday at the former estate of a historical figure who called both places home. The celebration outside City Hall in Bordentown, Burlington County, also showcased the new state park at Point Breeze, where the international diplomat Joseph Bonaparte — Napoleon’s older brother — built an estate modeled on the one he left behind in Mortefontaine, France. … ‘It’s easy to see why Joseph Bonaparte wanted to be here,’ Bordentown Mayor Jennifer Sciortino told the audience. ‘It’s stunning.’ … The event, featuring speeches in English and French, as well as the national anthems and flags of both countries, was held in a pavilion surrounded by a verdant landscape on the Bordentown Bluffs overlooking the confluence of Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River. Warehouse and condominium developers had been vying for the site three years earlier.”
HACKENSACK — “Two dead in shooting at Hackensack nursing facility,” by The Record’s Joshua Jongsma: “Two elderly people were found dead in an apparent shooting at a Hackensack nursing facility Saturday morning, officials said. Police responded to a 911 call from the CareOne at Wellington facility on Union Street at 8:51 a.m. and found Patricia Zaccario, 73, and Michael Zaccario, 76, dead of apparent gunshot wounds, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. They were later identified as residents of Wood-Ridge. Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse Jr. said it was ‘his understanding’ the two deceased were married and that the man shot the woman before shooting himself.”
POTENTIAL RFK JR. RUNNING MATE SPOTTED IN HOBOKEN — “Was NJ resident’s comments anti-Semitic? She’s getting criticized by city officials,” by NJ 101.5’s Dan Alexander: Mayor Ravi Bhalla denounced anti-Semitic comments made at Wednesday’s meeting by a resident during the public comment section directed at member Phil Cohen. Resident Melissa Blanco first angrily addressed the meeting about a canopy of trees on 11th Street that was never replaced. She then began talking about an earlier vote approving Scott Pennington as a Municipal Court Judge and Benjamin Choi as Chief Judge of the Municipal Court following the retirement of former Chief Judge Cataldo Fazio. They are respectively the first African-American and Asian-American in those positions. Blanco called the diversity ‘a bunch of baloney’ and that Cataldo was a competent judge. ‘It’s about as diverse as all the people who were plucked out a synagogue and all the synagogues that run the City of Hoboken,’ Blanco said, adding that she has problems with one of the judicial nominees who is involved in a legal case of her own.”
VIGILANTE JUSTICE — “Gloucester GOP county chair election will be in 2024, judge decides,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “A Superior Court judge won’t order Gloucester County Republicans to hold an election for county chair this year, a ruling that allows the incumbent, Jacci Vigilante, to remain in office at least until next summer. The judge, Benjamin Telsey, said the party has inconsistent bylaws for county chair elections: one that establishes a two-year term and another that explicitly requires county chair elections to be held in the year following county committee contests. Vigilante was elected in 2021, and the county committee ran this year.”
NOT NICE NEWS DESPITE THE SOURCE— “More than a dozen roads in Warren County, NJ closed after flooding; transportation services cancelled Monday,” by 69 News: “More than a dozen roads are closed in Warren County, New Jersey Sunday, as officials advised residents to stay home if possible after storms brought heavy rain and flooding to the area. Route 46 is closed and detoured in both directions east of Ramseyburg Road following landslide in Knowlton Township, and numerous county and local roads also are washed out or flooded, according to a news release from the county.”
JERSEY CONNECTION — “N.J.’s long, mysterious ties to Long Island serial killing case,” by NJ Advance Media’s Anthony G. Attrino: “It was a frightening and frantic 911 call that alerted investigators on Long Island that Shannan Gilbert, a 23 year old from Jersey City, believed she was in danger. “Please stop it. What are you going to do to me?” she said during the call early on May 1, 2010, as a police operator asks her location. Gilbert, a prostitute, was driven to Long Island to meet with a client. Then something went terribly wrong and Gilbert ran from the home. She knocked on several doors and spoke with two homeowners as she fled. That was the last time she was seen alive. … On Friday, police announced the arrest of Rex Heuermann, an architect who lived in Massapequa Park, across the bay from Gilgo Beach. Heuermann is facing three murder charges, but none of those involve the death of Gilbert. Authorities have raised questions as to whether her death is actually connected to the other killings, other than by location.”
NEW JERSEY DRIVE — “Maybe it’s true: NJ drivers may be safer than those in PA or New York,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Joe Mason: “[A] new study by the Research Team at ConsumerAffairs found the most deadly cities for drivers shows that Newark has the worst drivers in the state, but they only come in at 140 in the nation for U.S. crash scores … In the tri-state area, New Jersey has the best drivers. New Jersey has an average crash score of 12.907, Pennsylvania 13.357 and New York is 18.17. The worst cities in Pennsylvania are Philadelphia (186), Pittsburgh (201) and Allentown (224.) In New York, Rochester comes in at 23, Syracuse is 124, Buffalo is 164, Yonkers comes in at 255 and New York is 296.”
STILL SOME JUICE LEFT IN THE ORANGE — “Norcross adds Christie to slate for bank takeover,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “A group headed by Democratic powerbroker George E. Norcross III to take control of the Philadelphia-based Republic First Bancorp has added former First Lady Mary Pat Christie to their slate of candidates for seats on the company’s board of directors. Christie, whose husband is seeking the Republican nomination for president, will run with Gregory Braca and Daniel Hilferty. Despite coming from different political parties Norcross and Chris Christie were close political allies during his two terms as governor of New Jersey.”