Good Tuesday morning!
In case you’re not following the news out of Trenton, something deeply shocking happened during a city council meeting over the weekend. Something that will make you question not just the trustworthiness of New Jersey’s capital city’s elected officials, but human decency.
Of course I’m referring to the fact that someone recorded the city’s elected officials speaking during a meeting and sent it to the press.
“The call recording provided to the Trentonian, in its entirety, was recorded by an individual participating on that call, which is disturbing because they are supposed to be confidential,” Trenton City Clerk said in an email, according to The Trentonian.
Of course, had someone not recorded the call, we wouldn’t know the full extent of Councilwoman Robin Vaughn’s homophobic rant about the mayor and one of her council colleagues. The recording that has the biggest Democrats in the state calling for her resignation.
I do think there is another scandal here besides Vaughn’s words: That what was basically a city council meeting was supposedly confidential.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s the point.” — Gov. Phil Murphy, responding to state Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s criticism of him for using the word “knuckleheads” to refer to people who don’t abide by social distancing because it means a “stupid person”.
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Trenton for his daily press conference at 1 p.m. Media: MSNBC at 7 p.m., CNN at 9 p.m.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Venable’s Allison Foley
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER — 1,621 newly-diagnosed cases (a likely undercount because of a network malfunction) for a total of 128,269. 45 more deaths for a total of 7,910.
SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER! SCHOOL’S OUT FOR AN INDETERMINATE PERIOD MAYBE FOREVER WHO KNOWS? — Murphy orders New Jersey schools closed for rest of academic year, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that all public and private schools in the state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Murphy made the announcement at his daily briefing alongside state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet. The news was first reported by POLITICO. “This is a difficult decision and I know that many students, parents, and staff would like to be able to return to school,” Murphy said in the statement. “However, I have been unwavering on the message that we need to make decisions based on science, not emotion. And while New Jersey is making great strides in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, science tells us that at this point, we can’t safely re-open our schools.” Murphy first ordered all schools in the state closed on March 18 and said repeatedly that remote education would continue until at least May 15.
NEW DIRECTION NJ’S NEXT PROJECT? — Murphy pushes lawmakers for borrowing power as state’s finances crater amid pandemic, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is lifting an earlier executive order he signed that directed Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to deliver a $1.3 billion surplus by the end of the current fiscal year as the state stares down an economic disaster that could force “large-scale” cutbacks in the coming weeks. “Right now, it’s pouring. We’re on the brink of having to make very tough and, quite frankly, very unpalatable decisions,” Murphy said during his daily coronavirus press briefing on Monday. “We need to have these funds as a safeguard should direct federal assistance to our state fail to surface.” … Murphy, who’s repeatedly warned layoffs and other cuts to state services would be inevitable without flexible federal aid, also called on residents to tell lawmakers to support a measure that would allow the administration to use short-term borrowing to make up for widening revenue shortfalls formed by the coronavirus recession.”
GOVS — States were supposed to team up on reopening. It hasn’t gone as planned, by POLITICO’s Anna Gronewold: When seven northeastern states announced they would reopen their virus-shuttered economies in lockstep when the time was right, it was seen as a very-public flexing of local government muscle when Washington was trying to push responsibility onto individual states. But it turns out that the politics of reopening still very much recognize state lines. Four weeks later, it’s clear that a single set of marching orders is out of the question, even for small co-dependent states with porous borders. When it comes to how and when to reopen their economies, the collaborative approach is giving way to the individual needs of the coalition’s seven members. The idea, prompted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seemed simple and logical: The virus, as Cuomo said repeatedly, knows no borders. And so recovery ought to be borderless as well, so that one state’s reopening didn’t conflict with another’s continued lockdown.
LEGISLATORS TO STIMULATE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY THROUGH CAMPAIGN ACCOUNTS — “Sweeney urges Murphy to open more N.J. businesses by Memorial Day,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jonathan D. Salant: “On Monday, he told The Star-Ledger editorial board that other businesses able to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines also should be allowed to begin operating again. ‘We’ve got to open by Memorial Day as many businesses as we can safely,’ said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. ‘The governor has done a very good job of flattening the curve,’ Sweeney said. ‘Now we have to start moving forward with the economy. There are other businesses that we’ve got to start opening up.’”
THE ESSENTIAL — “The first challenge of the day for these essential workers is getting to work,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “Despite the number of people working from home due to the coronavirus, there is still a vast army of essential workers commuting by bus, ranging from warehouse employees to front line medical staff. They are the invisible commuters, traveling before sunrise and at night. At 6 a.m., the remaining rush hour warriors wait at Newark Penn Station’s bus lanes. Many are warehouse workers, filling a blizzard of orders from people staying home. The coronavirus has dramatically changed their commute. Some riders said they budget three hours for their commute –almost a half a day’s work before they even punch in. It’s also changed how NJ Transit runs service, juggling between ridership that fell by more than 90%, social distancing and riders’ needs.”
EDUCATION — 90K New Jersey students still can’t access online learning, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: State Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said Monday that 90,000 students in New Jersey still do not have access to the internet or to devices to access online learning, even as Gov. Phil Murphy announced school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
PRISONS — “N.J. prisons have highest coronavirus death rate in the nation, new study shows,” by NJ Advance Media’s Blake Nelson: “New Jersey prisoners are dying from the coronavirus at a higher rate than those in any other prison system in the nation, according to state and federal data assembled by The Marshall Project.”
EAST ORANGE’S NAUGHTY BY NATURE TO SEEK O.P.P. LOAN — “Tracking PPP loans These NJ companies got federal COVID-19 business relief. Now some are returning it,” by NJBIZ’s Daniel J. Munoz: “At least two companies in New Jersey, both publicly traded, said they returned money they received under a federal small business loan program meant to offer a lifeline to businesses that have seen their revenues dry up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Newark-based IDT Domestic Telecom, which was initially awarded a $10 million loan, and Warren-based pharmaceutical company Aquestive Therapeutics, which got a $4.8 million PPP loan, both fully repaid the amounts. The program has fallen under public scrutiny over whether federal aid money – under the Paycheck Protection Program – went to well-financed companies that did not need it, rather than struggling Main Street, mom-and-pop shops.”
YEA OR NEIGH? — “New Jersey, leagues await word in sports betting suit,” by The AP: “The major sports leagues are waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their arguments on whether they have to pay millions to a New Jersey horse racing association over sports betting litigation. The leagues and the NCAA wrote to a judge last Friday saying settlement negotiations have stalled. Next week, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider whether to hear the dispute. In December, a split federal appeals court ruled in favor of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which had sued the leagues after the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting in 2018. The suit alleged the leagues owe Monmouth Park Racetrack a $3.4 million bond, plus interest, that the leagues put up in 2014 to secure losses that might be suffered during the month that a judge’s restraining order blocked the track from offering sports betting.”
WATCH FOR CHRISTIE TO TAKE A JOB ON THE FRONT LINES — “Chris Christie pushes to reopen country despite dire Covid-19 projections: ‘There are going to be deaths’,” by CNN’s Caroline Kelly: “Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that the country needs to reopen, despite separate key coronavirus models forecasting that thousands may die daily in the United States from Covid-19 and that more than 100,000 may die in total. ‘Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can — but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?’ Christie… told CNN’s Dana Bash on The Daily DC Podcast … Christie told Bash that ‘we’ve got to let some of these folks get back to work, because if we don’t, we’re going to destroy the American way of life in these families — and it will be years and years before we can recover.'”
THE FIRST SIGN OF SPRING IS A ROBIN’S RANT — “Gusciora seeks end to Vaughn ‘divisive and disruptive behavior’,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora says that he regrets interacting with embattled Councilwoman Robin Vaughn during a coronavirus briefing, but says he’s had enough of her divisive and hateful comments, ‘She has had a history of causing disruptions at Council meetings and attacking other decent people, based on their religion or ethnicity, who want to move our City forward,’ Gusciora said. “Vaughn has been relentless in her attacks of members of my administration and regular City workers trying to do their jobs. She is in violation of a court order for her to refrain from such conduct.” According to Gusciora, Vaughn was given a pass for anti-Semitic comments made last fall. “When is enough?” Gusciora asked.”
PATERSON — “Ballot mailing sparks accusations in Paterson’s 2nd Ward,” by The Record’s Joe Malinconico: “In the bitter battle for Paterson’s 2nd Ward City Council seat, last week’s delivery of vote-by-mail ballots triggered allegations that campaign workers are stealing ballots from mailboxes. Former Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman is accusing incumbent Shahin Khalique’s supporters of targeting homes of the challenger’s likely supporters in an election that will be conducted entirely through mail-in votes because of the coronavirus. As “proof,” Akhtaruzzaman’s campaign is citing a video taken by one of his strongest backers, Kobir Ahmed, a member of the Paterson Planning Board.”
R.I.P. — “‘An outstanding educator’: Paterson Eastside High School principal dies,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Gerald Glisson, who was principal of Paterson’s Eastside High School complex for the past three years, died on Sunday. Glisson, who was in his 40s, was hospitalized recently and had tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple people who knew him. A soft-spoken man who played football at Delaware State University, Glisson also served as the principal of Paterson’s Great Falls Academy for one year and was the city school district’s athletic director from 2010 to 2014. He attained his doctorate degree last year.”
R.I.P. — “Former Passaic mayor Samuel ‘Sammy’ Rivera, who went to prison for bribery, dies at 73,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Sammy Rivera, who led the city of Passaic as mayor from 2001 until his arrest in 2007, died at age 73, current Mayor Hector Lora said on Friday … Rivera sits in the center of a long line of Passaic mayors whose careers came to an end in handcuffs rather than with a gold watch. In 2008, Rivera was sent to prison for 21 months for accepting a $5,000 bribe. He was among 11 public officials statewide arrested after an undercover probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office dubbed Operation Broken Boards.”
A FORMER AFFAIRS — “Hoboken council to vote on public official salary cuts, axing Office of Constituent Affairs,” by Hudson County View’s John Heinis: “The ordinance they have proposed would temporarily reduce the salaries of all council members, the mayor, and city directors by 10 percent from the time the local legislation takes effect through the end of the year. A separate piece of legislation, sponsored by 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos and 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, would eliminate the Office of Constituent Affairs. In 2009, an independent and nonpartisan state appointed fiscal monitor referred to the division as ‘a luxury department.’”
—L.A. Parker: “Trenton political adult swim delivers”
OPENING DATE T.B.-D — “This hospital was at the center of NJ’s last great epidemics. Now, it’s slated for housing,” by The Record’s Richard Cowen: “This hospital was at the center of NJ’s last great epidemics. Now, itIf buildings could talk, then Soho Hospital in Belleville would describe what it feels like to be alone. Set high on a hill and far removed from the cars that whiz by on Franklin Avenue, the Soho is a big, empty reminder of the days when infectious diseases like tuberculosis, polio and typhoid spread unchecked, with no treatments to stop them. Isolating the sick in a hospital was considered the best, if not the only, option.s slated for housing … Built for $240,000, the original hospital complex was much simpler than the grand Art Deco building that opened on the property in 1932 and is now being converted into luxury apartments.”
NEW MGMT — “MGM Resorts shakeup brings new president and CFO to Borgata,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Scott Cronick: “While the longterm effects of COVD-19 remain uncertain, the short-term effects are obviously devastating, including a major shakeup at MGM Resorts International that has ramifications at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, including a new property president. Out is Chief Operating Officer and President Marcus Glover, who took the reins of the most successful casino in Atlantic City shortly after MGM fully acquired Borgata in 2016. In as president is Melonie Johnson, who moves to Atlantic City from her former position as president and COO of MGM National Harbor in Maryland.”