Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Bit of Royalty in New Jersey

Maybe it’s because of the extensive coverage of the royal wedding, but don’t be surprised if some New Jerseyans are thinking that their state is becoming more and more like a monarchy every day.

The state’s constitution already makes whoever is sitting in the New Jersey Governor’s Office one of the most powerful governors in the nation. Other than the lieutenant governor (a position that was not even created until 2005), the governor is the only statewide, non-federal, official elected by voters. In many other states, attorney generals, comptrollers and other cabinet-level officials are elected positions. In New Jersey, the governor gets to appoint his or her cabinet members, as well as judges, county prosecutors and a host of other officials.

The New Jersey governor also has line-item veto authority, which allows him or her to delete part of a bill passed by the legislature that involves spending – a provision that has been coveted not just by other governors, but also by occupants of the Oval Office.

Into this scenario comes Chris Christie, New Jersey’s 55th governor. Continue reading

Who Really Are the Most Influential People in the World?

For a state that finds itself as the punch line of too many jokes, Time magazine’s recent list of the 100 most influential people in the world offers New Jerseyans some badly needed ammunition to counter the laughs that people have at our state’s expense.

Governor Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker made the list, as did Newark native Ray Chambers, who has worked hard to revitalize the city and now is focused on eradicating malaria; former N.J. Environmental Commissioner Lisa Jackson, who now heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and punk rock pioneer Patti Smith, who grew up in Deptford Township. Not a bad showing for a list that includes just 100 people from all over the world.

More telling, however, is Continue reading

Christie Walks A Dangerous Line with Comments on Weinberg

Governor Christie’s suggestion to reporters that they take the bat out on State Senator Loretta Weinberg because she is collecting a taxpayer-funded pension in addition to her salary as a legislator probably won’t change too many people’s opinions about New Jersey’s GOP governor.

His supporters are likely to back him faithfully, as they have done throughout his term as the state’s chief executive. And they’ll probably take some shots at the media for good measure.

Meanwhile, Christie’s opponents will cite his comments as further proof that Christie is arrogant, mean-spirited, cruel, and bad for New Jersey.

The real significance of Christie’s comments, however, involves his long-term political future. True, the man has become extremely popular, largely because he displays a demeanor that resonates with today’s citizenry.

But if he harbors any ambition for higher office, Christie needs to start thinking a little more carefully before he speaks, even if that is not his style.

This week, he’s telling reporters to take a bat out on a 76-year old widow. Earlier this month, he strongly implied that Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman was responsible for a young man’s murder because he allegedly was murdered by a man let out of jail early under terms of a bill she authored. Last year, he got in trouble for comments he made after New Jersey missed out on $400 million in federal over education funds – which prompted the Obama Administration to release a video showing that Christie’s charges were not accurate.

So far, the ramifications of such comments have been minimal. In fact, they may have even boosted Christie’s popularity. However, he is walking on a dangerous high wire. The line between being outspoken and unacceptable is a thin one, and the list of people whose careers ended abruptly because they crossed that line — even just once —  is a long one.

And it could someday become one person longer if Chris Christie continues to make the type of comments he made this week.

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Learning A Lesson from Newsweek’s Story on Gabrielle Giffords

Newsweek has an excellent story about Gabrielle Giffords that also provides a lesson for those who sometimes are reluctant to open up to the media.

In this case, it would have been understandable if Giffords’s husband, staff and medical team had declined interviews and opted to keep matters private.

Instead, they spoke honestly and openly, and the result is a story that let’s us know what is happening with Giffords — based not on conjecture and/or second-hand or anonymous sources, but rather on information provided by those directly involved in the Congresswomen’s recovery.

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A Singer and a Governor Travel a Thunderous Road

Having spent many years as a reporter, I think it’s great that Bruce Springsteen wrote a letter to the Asbury Park Press in response to a news article. In fact, I think it’s great whenever a journalist writes a story that moves someone enough to write a letter to the editor.

In this case, however, the commotion that followed Springsteen’s correspondence was a bit too much, even for a letter penned by a rock’n’roll superstar.

Lost amid the brouhaha that ensued was Continue reading

Redistricting Revisited

The immediate impact of New Jersey’s new legislative map has been to produce a flurry of activity among members of the State Senate and Assembly.

Legislators are retiring, moving out of their hometowns, shifting their election campaigns from the Assembly to the Senate (and vice versa), and trying to win a game of political musical chairs that is being played in districts that now have more incumbents than open seats.

For the most part, the dust will settle by April 11, the filing deadline for this fall’s elections. But maybe we should not be so quick to relegate the contentious issue of redistricting to the backburner for another decade. Why not take some time now – while redistricting and all its flaws and shortcomings are still fresh in our minds – to see how the process can be improved for the next round of legislative map-making? Continue reading

A Few Thoughts on the Late John Adler

I can’t say that I knew John Adler well, but since I follow New Jersey government and politics, I was well aware of his activities as a State Senator and U.S. Congressman. His death at age 51 is a tragedy – not only for those who knew him much better than I did, but also for the New Jerseyans he served as an elected official.

The reaction to his passing – from both Democrats and Republicans – is sincere and provides a badly needed reminder that, even in today’s world of partisanship and polarization, a sense of camaraderie and decency still remains.

The one personal memory I have of John Adler took place late in 2008 when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the Hall Institute trustees had been nominated to the State Board of Education, and I sat in on the session to make certain everything ran smoothly, and for our purposes, it did.

But I also had an opportunity to watch Adler deal with a variety of more controversial nominations. He conducted the hearing with class, and he treated everyone fairly, whether the speaker was a powerful attorney, a sitting judge, an influential state official or just an average citizen with a gripe. In fact, he took great care to ensure that the average citizens at the hearing — those not familiar with the Legislature’s role in the nomination process — understood the processes and procedures, so that they would leave Trenton knowing that their state representatives had listened to them.

My brief encounter with John Adler is consistent with what those who knew him better have been saying in the wake of his passing. Rest in peace, Mr. Congressman.

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