NJ TRANSIT nightmare will take years to fix — STRIKING WORKERS can now get unemployment benefits — MURPHY back from Hamptons weekend


By Matt Friedman (mfriedman@politico.com; @mattfriedmannj)

New Jerseyans don’t begrudge the governor for going on vacation. But they also don’t want to feel abandoned.

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Gov. Murphy watched as former Gov. Christie’s reputation in New Jersey deteriorated as he spent more and more time out of the state. Much of that was for his presidential run and the lead up to it. But his lavish overseas vacations paid for in part by a billionaire and a king, or his family vacation to Disney World during a blizzard, didn’t help.

But after returning Wednesday from an 11-day trip to Italy that took place as the state’s mass transit system broke down, Murphy just two days later left for a weekend in the Hamptons, where he attended a “super exclusive” fundraiser at a billionaire’s estate to raise money for Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

You know the event. Christie went and “busted a move” with Jamie Foxx back in 2014.

This one trip didn’t lead to much outcry, even as some towns faced severe flooding over the weekend. But if history is any guide and this becomes a pattern, it will.

WHERE’S MURPHY? No public schedule

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Jamestown Associates’ Larry Weitzner, Benson COS Sharon Shinkle-Gardner, Kennedy COS Kristin Ianco Yaeger

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Clearly, there are additional steps previous administrations could have taken, and Governor Murphy must be much more aggressive on this front as well.” — Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. — the closest any high-ranking New Jersey Republican has come to acknowledging the extent of NJ Transit’s degradation during the Christie administration

WHAT TRENTON MADE

RAIL TALE — “Sorry, angry NJ Transit riders: Broken agency could take years to fix,” by The Record’s Curtis Tate: “Until Murphy took office, the agency had made little progress on positive train control, a collision-avoidance system Congress required a decade ago. Under the administration of former Gov. Chris Christie, employee morale plummeted, at least among those who stayed. Meanwhile, Christie allies enjoyed promotions and pay increases while other salaries stayed flat … Earlier this year, it may have been easier to point fingers at Christie for the agency’s woes. But commuters have experienced a service meltdown over the past few weeks, with trains abruptly canceled due to shortages of personnel and equipment … Murphy held the news conference Thursday in Newark to quell rising anger from commuters and lawmakers. He promised the agency would communicate better, but could offer little short-term relief. ‘Notwithstanding his good motivations, the situation is almost impossible to deal with,’ said [Former Gov. Jim] Florio, who took office at the beginning of what many consider NJ Transit’s golden age. The agency flourished then, Florio said, with Shirley DeLibero as executive director. ‘I left a piece of my heart there,’ said DeLibero, who left the agency for Houston in 1999 and is now retired in Massachusetts. ‘I always worry about it.’” Read the report

—“Kean: Lifting residency requirements would help NJ Transit staffing issues,” by POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins: “State Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. believes lawmakers can help address problems at NJ Transit by lifting residency requirements for state officials, although state Senate President Steve Sweeney remains skeptical. The bus and rail agency, which has been forced to cancel dozens of trains in recent weeks because it did not have enough engineers to operate locomotives, has struggled to retain staff and failed to hire enough new train operators over the last decade. Kean said Friday that a law requiring that state employees live in New Jersey — unless they receive a waiver — has worsened recruiting efforts since it was enacted in 2011 under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Repealing it, he said, would allow the commuter agency to try to recruit already-trained engineers from other rail lines. ‘We should be making sure we open our doors to the best and brightest and do what we can do attract people to New Jersey,’ Kean said in a phone interview. ‘I think we’re still feeling the ramifications of that bad piece of legislation.’” Read the report

—”NJ Transit announces Monday cancellations on Sunday night — and adds to list on Monday” Read the report

—“Brown calls Atlantic City train shut down ‘unfair’ to county residents” Read the report

JUST LIKE THE 1947 FRAMERS INTENDED — “Is this Democrat (and not Phil Murphy) New Jersey’s ‘strongest political figure’?” by NJ Advance Media’s Matt Arco and Brent Johnson: “Traditionally, the state Senate president is the second-most powerful elected official in New Jersey — with only the governor out-ranking him. Stephen Sweeney is testing that pecking order. With the governor’s office now occupied by Phil Murphy, a political newcomer with whom he’s repeatedly clashed, Sweeney — now in his ninth year as the Senate’s leader — has spent the past few months asserting his strength. Sweeney derailed Murphy’s first state budget proposal this summer when he forced the governor to concede on his two biggest budget priorities. He scored a victory when he pushed through his massive overhaul of the state’s school funding formula. And on Thursday, Sweeney made arguably his boldest move yet when he unveiled a report from a panel of experts he convened who recommend major changes to the way the Garden State’s government operates — including reforming public-worker pensions, merging school districts, and creating more tolls.” Read the report

THE NEW TAX HIKE ON THOSE MAKING OVER $5 MILLION WILL CERTAINLY CHANGE THIS — “The gap between the super rich and poor in all 21 N.J. counties, ranked,” by NJ Advance Media’s Carla Astudillo: “The rich keep getting richer in New Jersey and the poor aren’t keeping pace, new data shows. Income inequality in New Jersey, or the gap between the rich and poor, now ranks 12th-highest in the nation, according to the latest 2012-2016 Census data. It’s getting worse in 14 of the 21 counties, with the other seven remaining steady. The Census calculates income inequality using a measure called the Gini index, which assigns a value between 0, which would mean complete equality, and 1. The closer a score is to 1, the more wealth is concentrated among fewer people and the bigger the income inequality. As a state, New Jersey boasts a score of 0.4782. That’s slightly higher than the last five-year period, 2007 to 2011, measured by the Census, but lower than the national average of 0.4804 over the last 10 years.” Read the report

MANDATORY FUN — “Back to school bonus: Mandatory recess is now law in New Jersey,” by The Record’s Dustin Racioppi: “Students across New Jersey who think they have too much schoolwork may look forward to at least this when they return to class next month: Recess will be a requirement. Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed into law a measure making it mandatory that public schools give students through fifth grade a 20-minute recess each day. That recess should be ‘outdoors, if feasible,’ according to the bill, S-847. It is a bipartisan achievement. Lawmakers have attempted for several years to make mandatory recess law, but Republican former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it in 2016 because he thought it was a ‘stupid bill.’” Read the report

‘HEY HEY! HO HO! COULD YOU PLEASE USE DIRECT DEPOSIT FOR OUR UNEMPLOYMENT CHECKS?’ — “Murphy, signing 19 bills, gives striking workers unemployment benefits,” by POLITICO’s Katherine Landergan: ”Gov. Phil Murphy signed 19 bills into law on Friday, including one that will allow striking workers to collect state unemployment benefits. The measure, NJ A3861, which was opposed by business groups and backed by labor unions, is similar to legislation that was vetoed two years ago by then-Gov. Chris Christie. It was revived under the new, labor-friendly Democratic administration. Under the bill, if an employer refuses to comply with an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, workers would be immediately eligible for jobless benefits. If, however, it is determined an employer is not violating any agreements, but workers have decided to strike, the benefits would become available 30 days after the strike begins.” Read the report

ENERGY — Questions remain after state takes key step on offshore wind funding, by POLITICO’s Danielle Muoio: The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities took a big step on Friday when it published its rule proposal for funding offshore wind, but ratepayers and environmental advocates say the state still has a long way to go with the process. The rule outlines a framework for funding offshore wind projects, which will require collecting and distributing ratepayer-funded subsidies called Offshore Renewable Energy Credits. BPU officials have said the framework is critical for offshore wind developers to secure financing for the costly projects. The public can comment on the rule through Oct. 19 before the BPU votes on it. The proposal is just the first step in a long process to resurrect the placement of wind turbines off the Jersey Shore. The biggest question that remains is where the BPU will set its price for offshore wind. Read the report

EDUCATION — Murphy nominates education official ousted by Christie to state board seat, by POLITICO’s Linh Tat: Mark Biedron, the former state Board of Education president who vacated his seat last summer after then-Gov. Chris Christie chose not to re-appoint him, may soon be returning to the board. Gov. Phil Murphy, who took office in January, has nominated Biedron to serve a new term. He must first be confirmed by the state Senate. Christie’s decision to oust Biedron shocked many education advocates, particularly since it was Christie who tapped him to serve in the first place. Christie never explained why he chose not to renominate Biedron. The lack of an explanation fueled speculation at the time that the governor wanted to rid the board of members who had challenged his administration’s positions. Biedron, for example, had publicly questioned a recommendation by staff at the Department of Education to loosen certification requirements for charter school teachers. Read the report

—“Charter, vocational, small NJ schools top-heavy with administrators” Read the report

TOTALLY REASONABLE THAT AN ENTIRE POLICE FORCE EXISTS TO PATROL AN 11-MILE STRETCH OF ROAD — “Mail-order cocaine and a top cop’s arrest spark new calls to kill a police department,” by NJ Advance Media’s Ted Sherman: “Michael Coppola has been a firefighter, an EMT and a police officer. He was at ground zero during the terror attacks of 9/11. Now he is something he never could have imagined — he is a criminal defendant, in connection with an apparent sting operation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office that led to his arrest Thursday in a bizarre scheme to buy cocaine online. And at least one state legislator called the case against the 43-year-old chief of the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police yet one more reason for abolishing the police force he heads … His arrest came in the wake of seemingly increasing tensions between the small police department that is responsible for patrolling an 11-mile stretch of highway between the George Washington Bridge and the New York state line, as well as guarding the Palisades Interstate Park along the Hudson River.” Read the report

—“Parkway cops chief allegedly used company P.O. box in mail order cocaine scheme” Read the report

HOUSING — “Meet North Jersey’s 91-year-old fair housing champion,” by The Record’s Monsy Alvarado: “When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in 1968, Lee Porter, who had been battling housing discrimination in Bergen County for years, thought she would have to return to her career as a licensed X-ray technician. Instead, Porter, now 91, is still fighting for equal housing in New Jersey 50 years later as the executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey. ‘We are still hanging on in there; we are still fighting,’ she said in a recent interview in her office in Hackensack. ‘It makes me feel like a failure, because I felt we should have conquered this a long time ago. It should have been equal opportunity in housing within 25 years, and we are still fighting it.’” Read the report

CARTOON BREAK — “Taking your chances with NJ Transit” Read the report

TRUMP ERA

3D PRINTED GUN CRISIS MANUFACTURED WITH A 2D PRINTER — “Murphy’s AG calls 3D-printable guns Trump’s ‘manufactured crisis’,” by NJ Advance Media’s S.P. Sullivan: “As the debate over 3D-printable guns hit a fever pitch in July, President Donald Trump weighed in with a single, cryptic tweet. ‘I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,’ the president wrote on July 31. ‘Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!’ Nearly two weeks later, authorities from 22 states, including New Jersey, say the Trump administration hasn’t gotten any clearer about where it stands on do-it-yourself firearms. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Friday joined his colleagues in other states calling on the federal government to ban the online distribution of digital files allowing anyone with access to a three-dimensional printer and basic tools to manufacturer guns at home.” Read the report

YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW MANY TOWN HALLS WEBBER WILL HAVE IF HE WINS — “Pence comes to New Jersey,” by InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack: “Jay Webber is a clever guy — maybe. Webber, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 11th District, scheduled a fundraiser Friday with Vice President Mike Pence. This was a pricey affair. Tickets began at $1,000 but rose to $25,000 a couple if you wanted to take part in a ‘roundtable’ with Pence … The location for the luncheon fundraiser was not publicly released, although sources said it would take place at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Union County. But wait — Friday came and there was no fundraiser at Baltusrol … A group of would-be protesters said they were told by a golf course security guard that the event had been moved to Bedminster. This group of protesters adopts the red robes and hoods of characters in a ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ a television show set in an authoritative society where women must wear red cloaks and exist essentially just to bear children … The fundraiser turned out to be not in Bedminster either. What was going on? The Webber campaign, not surprisingly, did not respond to questions about the event. As it turned out, the fundraiser took place at a private home in Morris Township, which, at least, unlike the other presumed locales is in the 11th District. Attendees parked their cars at the Washington Valley Chapel on Kahdena Road and were driven to the site of the event.” Read the report

—“Abolish ICE’: How Republicans seized on a liberal rallying cry” Read the report

—“The Kushners needed a bailout for Jared’s bad bet in N.Y., but still have a full portfolio in Jersey” Read the report

LOCAL

NEWARK RENTERS TO ALSO RECEIVE POLICE ESCORTS TO BIRTHDAY PARTIES — “Renters getting evicted will soon get free lawyers in N.J. city,” by NJ Advance Media’s Karen Yi and Delaney Dryfoos: “Newark has taken the first step to codify into law its intent to provide low-income tenants facing eviction with free legal help. Citing the lack of affordable housing opportunities and “frivolous” eviction actions, the city plans to create a nonprofit that connects eligible tenants with legal representation in landlord-tenant court. ‘People need help and as a result, we are going to make sure that a nonprofit is created so this will be done the right way,’ Newark’s legal counsel Kenyatta Stewart said. About 78 percent of Newarkers are renters. And when faced with eviction, nine out of 10 don’t have an attorney, city officials said.” Read the report

—“People who don’t live in his city are helping pay top cop’s $200K salary” Read the report

—“School bus with children on board [from Baraka picnic] overturns on NJ Turnpike” Read the report

WHY NOT JUST FIRE HIM FOR INCONTINENCE? — “Kenilworth ‘super pooper’ suspect: $48K payout, 5 months paid leave and no talking,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Alex Gecan: “How much does it take to get rid of a superintendent accused of illegal defecation at another school district’s athletic field? In Kenilworth, it could cost more than $100,000. It has already required a bilateral agreement not to unload any disparaging remarks. On top of Thomas W. Tramaglini’s five months of paid leave, Kenilworth Public Schools will pay him out for more than a month of unused vacation time and for early termination, according to a separation agreement between Tramaglini and the district. Tramagalini, 42, of Aberdeen was arrested early on the morning of May 1 and charged with public defecation, littering and lewdness. Holmdel police believe he relieved himself at the Holmdel High School track. School employees reported discovering human waste at or around the school track ‘on a daily basis,’ police said at the time.” Read the report

WHAT THE SHUCK? — “Uncertainty haunts Oyster Creek nuclear plant closing,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Michelle Brunetti Post: “For 50 years, the Oyster Creek Generating Station has towered over the Pine Barrens in what used to be a sleepy fishing village called Forked River. Some looked at the nuclear plant as they passed on Route 9 and saw hundreds of good jobs and tax ratables, its presence contributing $80 million a year to the local economy. Others saw a public health and environmental threat, a source of pollution that was slowly killing nearby Barnegat Bay. However they felt about the plant while in operation, people are now asking how the plant’s closing Sept. 17 and a years-long decommissioning process will affect their taxes, their quality of life, their health and the environment. But answers aren’t easy to find, since no one yet knows who will own the plant during decommissioning or how long it will take.” Read the report

HOPEFULLY CARS HAD WATERPROOF COATING — “Dealership’s cars swept away like bumper boats in flash flood,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jessica Beym: “Nearly a dozen cars from a dealership bounced off each other like a boardwalk game of bumper boats, as a flash flood overtook the Peckman River in Passaic County on Saturday evening. In a video posted to Facebook, taken from an overpass on Route 46, cars — some with their sticker prices still visible on the windshield — can be seen floating swiftly down the rushing brown waters as onlookers stood on the bridge and watched in shock.” Read the report

—“WATCH: N.J. cops rescue bride and groom from flooded car” Read the report

—“Garcia replaced as head of Newark’s Economic and Housing Development Department” Read the report

—“Funeral service scheduled for Passaic Councilwoman Zaida Polanco who died suddenly at 41” Read the report

—“’I’m white, you’re not’: West Milford district ignored racist bullying, suit says” Read the report

—“Brick voters must decide: School safety worth $12.5M?” Read the report

—“Business curfew plan for Paterson’s Union Avenue faces opposition on City Council” Read the report

—“Get ready for the Newton Lake dredging project in South Jersey | Kevin Riordan” Read the column

EVERYTHING ELSE

WILL DENNIS & JUDI TALK ABOUT THIS? — “Jenkinson’s suspends employee who kicked black girls out of aquarium gift shop,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Mike Davis: “The employee at the Jenkinson’s Aquarium gift shop who kicked out a group of young black girls has been suspended amid an internal investigation. In a statement, Jenkinson’s Pavilion said discrimination of any kind was not tolerated by the company, which owns and operates private beaches, boardwalk, amusement games and the aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach … Paterson resident Attiyya Barrett’s video of the [alleged] bias incident went viral shortly after she posted it on Friday afternoon. It began when a group of young girls from Princess to Queenz, Barrett’s outreach group which provides weekly field trips, mentoring seminars and tutoring, walked into the Jenkinson’s Aquarium gift shop. A woman who Barrett later identified as the store ‘owner’ kicked the girls out of the store, demanding they come back with a chaperone. When they did, the woman allegedly told the group they were ‘not welcome here.’ In the video Barrett posted, the woman says she didn’t know their chaperone — a 32-year-old woman, Barrett said — was an adult.” Read the report

—“Black girls from Paterson speak out after being tossed from Jersey Shore gift shop” Read the report

STOCKTON SCANDAL — “Suicidal Stockton U. student was raped by college counselor’s son: Lawsuit,” by The Trentonian’s Penny Ray: “Stockton University employees conspired to conceal a sexual assault allegedly committed by the son of a college counselor, according to a lawsuit that says the defendants knew the victim had survived a suicide attempt stemming from a previous sexual encounter. The bombshell civil lawsuit, submitted online Sunday afternoon, is the fifth one filed against Stockton University this summer by women who all claim their sex assault cases were not properly handled by college officials. The latest lawsuit outlines a culture of underage drinking and drug use by university students that resulted in the victim being raped on at least two separate occasions.” Read the report

—“Newark Archdiocese to audit files in alleged abuse cases, in wake of McCarrick scandal” Read the report

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