Sunday, August 31, 2008

Immigrants - Courier - Connolly Properties: LAC engages lawyers

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, August 31, 2008

Plainfield Hispanic-rights group hires lawyers in immigration suit


The Latin American Coalition, a city Hispanic-rights group, has retained attorneys from a prominent New York City-based civil-rights organization in response to a federal lawsuit that has the potential to turn the city into the epicenter of the national debate concerning illegal immigration.

The coalition retained the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which will work pro bono in opposing the Washington, D.C.,-based Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The institute previously supported anti-illegal immigration ordinances in Riverside and Hazelton, Pa., but both towns were ultimately forced to abandon them. The Defense and Education Fund played a pivotal role in one of those cases, when U.S. District Judge James M. Munley overturned the Hazelton ordinance by ruling it unconstitutional, and Riverside rescinded its ordinance when township officials said the town could not afford the legal costs of defending it.

The lawsuit was filed in June against defendants with Connolly Properties, a locally based real-estate investment and management company that oversees apartments here and in East Orange and Allentown, Pa. The plaintiffs in the case are Maribel DelRio-Mocci, a former leasing agent for Connolly, and two current tenants of Plainfield Connolly Properties, Linda Elliot and Robert Bolmer, who allege that the real-estate group has run and continues to run a scheme to lease rental units to undocumented residents. The plaintiffs contend this is done "through a pattern of encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States and harboring those aliens from official detection in knowing and/or reckless disregard of the fact that such aliens were present in the United States in violation of federal law," according to the language of the suit. Connolly, an official for which declined comment for this story, has until Sept. 15 to file a formal response with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Newark.

Setting legal precedent?

The lawsuit is unique in that it ranks among the first ever to cite RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) statutes, which the federal government has traditionally used mostly to fight organized crime, in order to declare Connolly as being tantamount to a criminal-harboring enterprise. The lawsuit also alleges multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act, claiming that Connolly agents deliberately segregate tenants by race and nation of origin in order to reduce the risk of illegal aliens being discovered by authorities.

Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Cesar Perales said the potential ramifications regarding the outcome of the suit are enormous.

"The civil rights implications are very clear, and they go well beyond Plainfield," Perales said. "If this concept that anyone who rents to undocumented people is harboring (criminals) ... and violating federal law, this is going to affect landlords and immigrants all over this country."

Immigration Reform Law Institute Staff Attorney Garrett Roe would not comment extensively on the specifics of the case but agreed that a powerful precedent could be set by its outcome.

"The ideal situation," Roe said, "is that small towns around the country that are dealing with the same problem (of illegal immigration), hopefully they're going to see this,and it will help them deal with such issues."

Along with RICO and Fair Housing Act violations, the lawsuit claims that illegal aliens were "encouraged or allowed to use false identity documents" by Connolly when applying for housing, along with claims that such tenants were not subject to the same maximum occupancy restrictions to which legal citizens were subject. The suit also claims that some legal citizens were falsely informed that no vacancies were available in certain buildings and goes on to cite substandard living conditions existing at some Connolly properties, specifically Plainfield's Central Avenue and Pingry Arms Apartment Complexes.

Tenants say conditions are bad

Two tenants with 25 years of combined residence at Pingry Arms independently claimed some of the allegations in the lawsuit are true, specifically echoing assertions that the demographics have changed and the conditions have deteriorated at the building rapidly since Connolly acquired the property almost directly across from City Hall on Crescent Avenue several years ago.

"They've (Connolly) been getting away with murder," said Troy Moyd, 68, and a resident at Pingry since 1995. "Since they got this place in the last four or five years, the place has been going downhill ever since. They don't believe in fixing anything."

Moyd cited water leaks in his bathroom and ceiling, mouse and roach infestations, and other factors, closely mirroring claims from Bolmer outlined in the lawsuit. Another tenant, who asked only to be identified by his first name, Roger, cited drug dealing and urination in the hallways.

Both men also said they believe Connolly is guilty of deliberately mistreating non-Hispanic tenants in order to homogenize the building by driving other tenants out, even claiming that some phone calls made for maintenance are answered by company employees who claim not to speak English.

However, Clarence McGhie, a retiree who lives in a Central Avenue residence just steps away from the Central Avenue Apartments, said he is not aware of any adverse effects to his neighborhood caused by the nearby Connolly property.

"We're talking about a complex that's maybe one-fifth of a mile from my house, and it's not like I'm ever looking over my shoulder to see who's coming and going," McGhie said. "I've lived here for almost three years and had no problems at all."

McGhie said he isn't sure just what to make of the lawsuit but said he did believe many area immigrants — legal or otherwise — are only looking to improve their lives.

"I don't think it's a black-and-white issue or yes-and-no issue," McGhie said. "But a lot seem to be hard workers who may not be getting a fair deal."

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said while she is unaware of the specifics of the lawsuit, she will be keeping an eye on how it unfolds due to its potential to affect the city at large.

"My position, and the position of the city of Plainfield, is that we advocate equal rights for everyone and fair treatment of everyone, regardless of anyone's nationality or ethnic background," Robinson-Briggs said when asked what the city's policy on illegal immigration was. "And we are looking for any and all companies in Plainfield to be fair and equitable to all members of the community."

Company experiences huge growth

The lawsuit further alleges that Connolly was able to achieve much of its financial success — it cites the company as going from overseeing one six-unit building to operating nearly 2,000 units in 45 separate complexes during a 12-year span — due to the existence of the alleged scheme. The plaintiffs contend that Connolly "has been able to acquire extensive real-estate holdings in old and dilapidated apartment buildings, and to operate such holdings as a residential rental enterprise without investing funds correcting the ... dangerous conditions therein."

Connolly oversees at least 27 separate housing entities in Plainfield alone, according to the company's Web site, the vast majority of which are bunched in a narrow corridor spanning Seventh and Ninth streets between Spooner and Richmond avenues. The site includes photos of all 27 properties, advertising rental units ranging from one to three bedrooms and ranging in size from under 350 square feet to more than 1,500 square feet. The site also says Connolly was formed in 1996 "with the intention of making real-estate investment and ownership available to investors who may possess little or no expertise and may have limited capital for investment."

Carl Reed, broker owner for one of the city's most successful property-management firms, ERA Realty on Park Avenue, said he believes Connolly is anything but a criminal enterprise.

"I happen to know the quality of the property he (owner David Connolly) runs and manages, and they are in the top percentage of the properties in this city. He is by no means a slumlord," Reed said. "I would be honored to own some of the properties he owns; he's actually raised the real-estate values in Plainfield. And I believe most of the landlords in town feel the same way."

Reed went on to label the lawsuit as unfairly targeting one property-management company that only is mirroring what countless others do every day.

"I don't know why Connolly was singled out when a majority of landlords in this town probably have a similar situation (in renting to undocumented residents)," Reed said. "In a town that is struggling in an economic downturn, with a population that is such a melting pot, it's unfortunate."

Not all city real-estate officials echoed Reed's words, though. Jeannette Edghill, senior housing administrator for the Plainfield branch of Covenant Manor, a senior citizen apartment complex on East Front Street, said she believes Connolly properties within a block of her building are hotbeds for crime.

"I've had some question marks in my mind about this whole Connolly thing; all of a sudden they're owning all the realty in Plainfield," Edghill said. "Right across the street, there's a lot of drug-dealing going on in there. It's just constant crime."

Flor Gonzalez, director of the Latin American Coalition, said she believes the lawsuit threatens not only tenants of Connolly properties but the city's entire Latino community.

"If this lawsuit is successful, it will result in Latinos being denied the opportunity to obtain housing. It will make many landlords reluctant to rent to Latino tenants ... and have a chilling effect on all landlords," Gonzalez said. "We intend to defend our rights."

Gonzalez also said, in spite of being on the defensive, she was eager to embrace an opportunity to make a statement concerning Hispanic rights that could resound around the country.

"It's time for us to really try and make history," Gonzalez said, "to not allow this to go forward."

Mark Spivey can be reached at 908-707-3144 or

Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - Green calls for freeze on Solaris bonds

Published in the Courier News, Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 25, 2008

Assemblyman calls for freeze on funds
for Solaris upgrades at JFK Medical Center


State Assemblyman Jerry Green will ask the state Department of Health and Senior Services to put a hold on possible approval of nearly $170 million in bonds for Solaris Health System, the nonprofit parent company of the recently-closed Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield and JFK Medical Center in Edison.

It was first reported nearly three weeks ago that Solaris had requested a $169 million bond issue to pay for expansions and renovations at JFK and to refinance the debt of the two hospitals.

Green. D-22nd Dist., said he will ask that those funds be put in limbo until specific grievances regarding Muhlenberg's closure are directly addressed by the state.

"This is no longer people hollering that "I want to see Muhlenberg stay open,' " Green said yesterday. "Now the argument from the people in the community is...that they support the (Department of Health) Commissioner (Heather Howard) and the treasurer not moving forward with this bond issue until they get some questions answered."

State Department of Health and Senior Services spokesperson Dawn Thomas confirmed yesterday that Howard and state officials had scheduled a meeting with Green for Sept. 3 in Trenton, but would not comment on the nature of the meeting.

Solaris' bond request was originally scheduled to go before the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority in Trenton on Thursday, Aug. 28, but company spokesman Steven Weiss said yesterday the date has been pushed back to sometime in September.

Green outlined a number of issues his task force planned to discuss with the commissioner, including a claim that state-mandated transportation service to other area hospitals offered to Plainfield residents by Solaris does not currently meet the department's standards and the fact that the company has refused to publicly release an asking price for prospective buyers of the 131-year-old hospital.

Another issue Green said he planned to discuss with state health officials is the existence of a potential buyer for Muhlenberg who has claimed massive delays in arranging a tour of the Plainfield campus. A person from within DBR Healthcare, a Philadelphia-based coalition of investors, said earlier this month that his group had been attempting to arrange an evaluation of the hospital grounds since April, but only received approval the Thursday before the hospital's closure.

Green said he is also seeking detailed documentation of Solaris' financial records, ranging from a 10-year revenue report down to a list of all the assets and property on the Plainfield campus and how much is owed on each by the company.

"The community needs to know, because over the last 130 years, the community has not only used this facility, but donated money to it," Green said. "We need to get a clear picture of exactly what Solaris paid for the property, but also what they owe on the property...they're asking the state to back these bonds, so there should be the ability for the state to ask these questions."

In response to the assemblyman's statements, Weiss claimed that Solaris' transportation services to the Plainfield community not only meet the state's requirements, but that the state has already confirmed as much.

"The Department of Health has sent people to look at our transportation to make sure we are meeting the requirements of the certificate of need (for closure)," Weiss said, "and they have been pleased with our efforts to not only comply, but exceed."

Weiss also said that Solaris is annually audited by a private firm and that the information stemming from those audits is available to the public on the company's Web site.

In response to Green's statement that the public is interested in knowing what collateral the company plans to offer in seeking approval of its loan, Weiss said that a working group will discuss the matter this week.

But Weiss said his company was not yet prepared to discuss what, if any, parts of the 17-acre Plainfield campus are currently up for sale, or to publicly issue any specific asking price.

"Solaris won't speculate on the price or the use of the campus in the future when, right now, we are putting all of our efforts into satisfying and exceeding the conditions set forth in the certificate of need (approval)," Weiss said. "The bottom line is, we're not there yet."

Solaris' original bond request called for $22.2 million in capital improvements, while the rest would go toward debt restructuring. The largest chunk of capital-improvement money was to go toward 59 additional inpatient beds at JFK, with other funds being used to expand the emergency room and renovate the cardiac catheterization lab and hyperbaric wound center.

Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who said Muhlenberg would be a key topic of discussion for a community forum to be held at 6:30 tonight by the city at Washington Community School, said the assemblyman has the city's support regarding his planned meeting with state officials.

"I'll tell you, this is a mutual request," Robinson-Briggs said yesterday regarding Green's stance. "We also want the state to please hold back on giving this loan to Solaris."

Mark Spivey can be reached at or 908-707-3144

Online story here. Archived here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Landlords - Herald News - Towns look for overcrowding, illegal apartments

Published in the Herald News, August 22, 2008

Landlords take heat on illegal dwellings
Towns start looking harder for lawbreakers


Paul Ramirez says that a hefty mortgage payment each month has forced him to rent out rooms in his Hope Avenue property, which he purchased two years ago in Passaic. (MICHAEL KARAS/Staff Photographer)
Passaic is cracking down on illegal dwellings, with inspectors hitting city streets day and night.

Clifton reports an uptick in the number of illegally rented attics and cellars. In January, North Haledon landlords of two-family houses will have to register tenants' names with the city.

For three municipalities, there are three different ways officials are taking a closer look at illegal dwellings. But the message is the same: Landlords, beware. Officials say they're intent on protecting tenants' safety.

Illegal dwellings often lack bathrooms or kitchens and create fire hazards by restricting tenants' access to exits.

In the event of a fire or accident, emergency personnel need to know just how many people are living in a home, and where, officials said.

Fires can start easily near boilers in cellars or from a hot plate. In August 2006, two Englewood men living in what officials said was an illegal basement dwelling died in a fire.

Aside from safety, illegal dwellings stretch municipal services, schools and strain infrastructure -- leaving residents in legal properties to pick up the tax and utility tabs.

In Passaic -- a starter community for new immigrants -- cash-hungry landlords have always rented attics and cellars without permits to people willing to squeeze into small spaces, officials said. But acting Mayor Gary Schaer, who took the helm in May, is intensifying the hunt.

It's part of the mayor's larger goal of improving the quality of life in the city, he said. In addition to checking for illegal apartments, inspectors issue summonses for property maintenance violations such as uncut lawns.

"The purpose here is not revenue enhancement. It's to put a clean, fresh face on the city," Schaer said.

Two inspectors take turns going out four nights a week, and twice a week during the day, said Angelo Pallotto, an inspector. That's up from roughly two nights a week in years past, and once every two months during the day.

The daytime inspections are carried out as part of the city's "Clean Sweeps" project, in which a team of a dozen other city inspectors, including fire, public works and health officials, pick several blocks to inspect during a three-hour period, rotating each week among the city's four wards. The city started "Clean Sweeps" once every two months in 2001 and now conducts them twice a week.

Pallotto said many landlords say they are unaware of the law. Offenders' common explanation is that when they bought the dwelling, their real estate agent or bank told them they could rent out every room, Pallotto said.

"When you buy the property, the bank says it's OK," said Paul Ramirez, 40, a landlord who also owns a mechanics shop. "You have to rent all the space you have."

He said he bought a single-family house on Hope Avenue two years ago and received a violation notice in June for renting the attic and cellar space illegally. He said it's impossible to pay his $5,000 mortgage without renting every room.

"How are you going to pay for a property for that much [monthly overhead]?" he asked. Ramirez's father, a signatory on papers for the house, pleaded guilty in municipal court Thursday to the offenses. The pair now owe the city roughly $2,000 in fines.

In Clifton, the economy, property taxes and the mortgage crisis have led to an increase in the number of illegal dwellings found in the city, local officials said. The city's six code enforcement inspectors found 70 illegal dwellings in Clifton from January to June, up from the 43 found during the same time last year, public records show.

"I think it's more of the mortgage crisis than anything else," Sam DeGrose, head of the city's code enforcement department. "There's a lot of foreclosures in town."

DeGrose said that as many homeowners refinance their adjustable mortgage rates, they are forced to find new ways to pay their mortgage every month.

"We found two-family houses where the owner moved to the basement and rented out the two apartments, just to pay the mortgage," DeGrose said.

Inspectors look for multiple doorbells, air-conditioning units in attics and cellars, multiple names of tenants on mailboxes and people moving in and out, said Mayor James Anzaldi. But tips from neighbors are the best indicator, he said.

In North Haledon, a town with relatively few renters, the borough hasn't had a problem with illegal housing, but wants to be proactive, said Mayor Randy George. Next year, the borough is undergoing a tax reassessment, the first in decades, and the city is taking advantage of the timing to begin a tenants' registry, George said.

Landlords of every two-family house will have to pay $50 annually to register names of tenants. North Haledon has 241 two-family houses, George said.

"It's a hot-button issue that we've been reading about in other towns, and we just want to make sure we're ahead of it," he said. "It's not for money but for public safety."

Thursday mornings in Passaic are landlords' day in court.

Outside the courtroom, Pallotto, the inspector, clutched files on 10 cases in which he'd testified. Seven were for illegal dwellings. His files contained photos. One showed an attic bedroom with an unmade bed near a tiny window that looked out onto a roof next door. In the room was a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear.

"A picture is worth a thousand words," Pallotto said.


Posted by Dominick on 08/25/08 12:18 AM:
I said it before and I'll say it again : If the towns are serious about cracking down on illegal dwellings, offer a reward for information. Clifton does this for people who inform about students illegally attending city schools and it has worked incredibly. By the way, Mayor George is full of it. It's always about the money with these crooks. How does paying $50 make the public safer?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

7th Congressional District - Wfd Leader - Stender, Lance to debate 9/16

Westfield Leader, 8/22/2008

Lance and Stender to
Debate September 16 in Scotch Plains

SCOTCH PLAINS – Two candidates vying for Congressional representation in the 7th District, Republican State Senator Leonard Lance (LD-23, Clinton) and Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender (LD-22, Fanwood) will debate for the first time at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey will host the debate at their offices, located at 1391 Martine Avenue in Scotch Plains.

The event will offer voters insight into critical issues, including key domestic and foreign policy questions. The race, to fill the seat vacated by retiring Republican Mike Ferguson, is likely to be one of the most closely watched in the country.

Organizations co-sponsoring this event include: American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League New Jersey, Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, JCC of Central New Jersey, Jewish Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, National Jewish Democratic Council, New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, Republican Jewish Coalition, Westfield Chapter of Hadassah, and The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring.

Cohen replacement - PolitckerNJ - Quijano wins narrowly, 87-82

PolitickerNJ - Wednesday, July 20, 2008

August 19, 2008 - 8:34pm

Quijano narrowly wins Cohen seat

By Matt Friedman

Category: LocalTags: Patricia Perkins-Auguste, Annette Quijano

MOUNTAINSIDE -- Attorney Annette Quijano came to the Union County Democratic Committee’s special election tonight as the party leaders’ favorite to replace former Assemblyman Neil Cohen in District 20, but Elizabeth Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste put up a serious fight.

Quijano, 46, an assistant counsel to Gov. Corzine, bested Perkins-Auguste 87-82 in a vote by county committee members from the legislative district’s four towns: Elizabeth, Kenilworth, Roselle and Union. It’s the first time a minority will fill a seat in the district, which despite having a minority-majority population, has long been represented by three white men.

Quijano’s term begins immediately. She replaces former Assemblyman Neil Cohen, who resigned from his seat amid allegations that he possessed child pornography on his legislative office computer. She will have to run again against a Republican in November to hold the seat, although the district’s registration breakdown makes her a near shoe-in.

Perkins-Auguste and Quijano both gave speeches in front of the committee members, but although members were voting to send a new legislator to Trenton, the meeting was closed to the press and general public.

The controversy surrounding Cohen made the occasion a little more somber than it otherwise would have been for Quijano.

“I’m excited, but I’m not. I’m saddened because these are the circumstances,” said Quijano, who didn’t let the accusation against Cohen get in the way of what she saw as an altruistic legislative legacy.

“I always admired Neil for being such an advocate for the people, and I have, as I see it, big shoes to try to fill. I used to sit in his Assembly financial institution committee and I saw first-hand how he was an advocate for the people,” she said.

Quijano, whose name did not pop up in the initial field of candidates, said that she was approached by “a few people” about running for the position. Although she’s never run for a legislative seat before, Quijano said that she’s always wanted to fill one.

But with such a whirlwind candidacy, Quijano hadn’t yet outlined much of her legislative agenda.

“I’m going to represent people in my community. We’re going through a tough economic period and I want to make sure that seniors don’t have to decide between groceries and medication. I want to bring jobs back into the district,” she said.

In her speech to the committee members – provided in written form after the meeting – Quijano listed her experience as a past experience as a campaign volunteer, her work as the Clerk of the Union County Freeholder board, and her work in as an assistant counsel during the McGreevey, Codey and Corzine administrations. She said that she would work to improve schools, fight for aid for cities and stabilize property taxes.

There were actually two votes tonight—one to send a legislator to fill part of Cohen’s unexpired term, and one on who should get the party’s nomination for the November election. After her defeat on the first vote, Perkins-Auguste moved to make the second vote unanimous for Quijano.

Despite that gracious move, however, Perkins-Auguste, who’s African-American, was critical of Quijano, accusing her of using her Hispanic heritage as a campaign ploy in a district where Hispanics outnumber blacks.

“She stood up there and said she was Latino… Basically she race-baited, but she’s entitled to that. You use what you have to your advantage.” she said.

Among Perkins-Auguste's allies was Joseph Adair, a reverend and relocation officer from Elizabeth who used to run the local NAACP has long been the councilwoman's political ally.

While not a county committee member himself, Adair bussed in 25 members from Elizabeth to support Perkins-Auguste, who he said had a better record of public service than Quijano.

“I don’t even know who[Quijano] is. I’ve lived in Union County for 46 years. Never heard of her. I have a problem with that," he said.

Although the local party’s heavy hitters like State Sen. Ray Lesniak, Assemblyman/Democratic State Chairman Joe Cryan and County Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo remained officially neutral, Perkins-Auguste cast herself as the rebel candidate against the machine. She did, however, have Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage – a close Lesniak ally—behind her. Perkins-Auguste also expressed disappointment that committee members from Roselle went with Quijano instead of her.

“I went up against the machine, the political power brokers of the stat eof New Jersey. I lost by five votes. Ray Lesniak, Joe Cryan and Charlotte DeFilippo. People I have great respect for,” she said. “I believe in God and that’s who I get my direction from. I don’t believe in backroom politics. I believe in serving the people.”

Freeholder Director Angel Estrada, who took his name out of the mix for the seat after he found that “the numbers didn’t add up,” was forthright about the importance of the seat being filled by a person of Hispanic heritage.

“The 20th legislative district is a Latino district, no matter what anybody claims,” he said. “The reality is we need to start recognizing Latinos' contribution to our society in terms of the work we do every day.”

Quijano, however, disputed Perkins-Auguste’s claim that her ethnicity is what ultimately won her the seat.

“I can’t say it’s solely because I’m latino. If you saw a number of individuals here, they were from a lot of nationalities, and I want to represent all of the community.

Defilippo, meanwhile, played up the fact that the race for the seat came down to two women, showcasing what she said was an effort to recruit more women into local government.

“I think were both were very articulate, but Annette has a depth of government experience,” she said.

Update: Below is the response from Union County Republican Chairman Phil Morin.

"Tonight, the Union County Democratic machine had an opportunity to fill a disgraced former assemblyman's seat with a fresh face of change. Instead, party insiders have selected someone who represents more of the same. Instead of choosing someone who will change the culture of corruption in Trenton, they have chosen someone who is inextricably linked with the failed policies of the Corzine and McGreevey administrations. Undoubtedly, the newest member of the Trenton aristocracy will be a loyal footsoldier who will blindly vote for higher property taxes, bigger government and sweetheart deals for connected insiders.

It is hard to believe that someone who has served as legal counsel for Governor Corzine and undoubtedly advised him on initiatives such as the ill-fated toll tax plan to the latest COAH tax legislative disaster will be any different than her predecessor, who was more concerned with sparing a vicious dog's life than reducing the financial pressures on the overtaxed citizens of the 20th District.

Address :


Lesniak? DeFillippo? Cryan?
posted by Mr. Democrat

Was Quijano the candidate of Lesniak? I hadn't seen that reported anywhere.

Very close race. Makes it seem like the Bosses aren't in solid control (unless they just didn't have a preference between the two).
08/19/08 8:46 pm


Phil Morin -A stand up guy offers good insights and interesting

posted by KathyCallahan

analysis of the -same old same old unispired and entirely predictable machine.
08/20/08 7:44 am


They are in control, the bosses

posted by bitaryo

Remember the meeting was closed to the press and the public. What is reported is stage managed.

Still can't figure out why it is a Latino district with only a 24% share of the population.
08/20/08 7:52 am

Address :

Muhlenberg - Westfield Leader - Closing hikes UC unemployment

Westfield Leader, 8/13/2008

Muhlenberg Closing Adds
To Unemployment Hike in Union County

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

AREA – As of August 6, 300 Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center employees did not have jobs. This comes at a time when Union County’s unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent in June (latest available), 1.1 percent higher than the average rate for 2007. Comparing it to the national and state average for June, Union County has slightly more out-of-work employees.

Tom Casey, vice president of public relations for Solaris Health Systems, said to The Westfield Leader July 31, “We found positions for roughly 650 employees mainly at JFK Medical.” Some, he said, have taken jobs at Solaris’ nursing facilities and other health service centers in Middlesex County.

He said 450 employees had resigned prior to the letter Nancy Fiamingo, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Muhlenberg, submitted to workers July 29, notifying them of the date the hospital would close. Of those who resigned, some took jobs at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth as mental health and psychology professionals, some went on to jobs elsewhere, and some retired. John Oatis, Fanwood volunteer rescue squad president, told The Leader that most of the doctors have moved from Muhlenberg.

Last Thursday, approximately 15 patients remained at Muhlenberg, and the hospital planned to move them the following day, according to Barbara Germinder, a volunteer at the medical center. Thursday was the last day for all volunteers. She said she did not have another volunteer post lined up yet but planned to find a position after the end of the year, once the holidays pass. The hospital halls were virtually empty, no one was sitting in the waiting room on the third floor, and three nurses manned the nursing station on the third floor last Thursday afternoon.

Most employees of the Plainfield medical center come from Union, Somerset and Middlesex counties, according to Mr. Casey. He did not have information about the number of displaced employees from each town or city. Of the people unemployed due to the closing of Muhlenberg are a mix of professional staff, including secretaries, clerks, clinical staff and service workers, such as food service and housekeeping. About five employees of Muhlenberg were asked to comment, last Thursday, on their career plan once the hospital closes, but no one wished to talk to the press. Administration declined to speak to the press as well.

A severance package was offered to those who did not take a job in the Solaris health system. Mr. Casey would not disclose specific details of the package but said the severance is in correlation with their position’s rate of pay and length of service to Muhlenberg. In compliance with state law, employees and their eligible dependents are entitled to receive medical coverage through COBRA, paid by the beneficiary. Mr. Casey did not have cost information. According to the state’s Division of Pension and Benefits website, the COBRA monthly payment is the “full group rate plus a 2 percent administration fee.”

Of the 650 people who stayed with Solaris, 200 to 250 employees will be on-site at Muhlenberg’s satellite emergency department to provide services. Diagnostic imaging, lab employees, dialysis, home care and medical records are also on the premises. The school of nursing adjacent to the hospital is unchanged at 300-plus students per year, according to Mr. Casey. The students will continue to attend classroom lectures and rotate through other acute-care facilities, including JFK and Overlook hospitals.

NJ Media - NY Observer - Ledger, Record, Gannett Woes

Published in the New York Observer, Wednesday, August 12, 2008

Welcome to New Jersey, Media Wasteland
What if a big juicy scandal happens
and there’s no one to cover it?

by John Koblin | August 12, 2008
This article was published in the August 18, 2008, edition of The New York Observer.

Is New Jersey really that uninteresting?

Since the start of summer, The New York Times emptied out its two New Jersey bureaus in Trenton and Newark; in June, The Record of Bergen County announced it would shut down its headquarters and its reporters would be homeless; in July, The Star Ledger announced that it was cutting about a third of its newsroom, and its owners said they would consider selling the paper.

It’s becoming reasonable to wonder if, at this rate, there will be anyone left to cover the state soon.

“Can you cover the big stories that really mean something to people—how taxes are spent, projections for jobs, stuff you just need to know if you live here—if you have too few journalists?” said Frank Scandale, the editor of The Record. “That’s a concern I have now as a journalist and as a citizen of New Jersey.”

As usual, it all comes down to money. The Record’s publisher said it would save $2.4 million per year by shutting down its Hackensack home; Donald Newhouse, president of Advance Publications, which owns The Ledger, said the paper is losing $30 million to $40 million and needs to cut 200 jobs in order to stay afloat; The Times eliminated its bureaus amid larger job cuts.

So what caused the problems?

“The Ledger has been very badly hit by the real estate downturn,” said Mr. Newhouse in a phone interview with Off the Record. “New Jersey was a very strong real estate economy, but it soured. It is much more serious in New Jersey than in any of the other markets that we are publishing in.”

But even if the housing market is crashing, that’s cyclical. Those things don’t last. Newsday, the Long Island daily newspaper, is battered by the same things that are affecting Jersey papers, and yet it makes money—last year it had an operating cash flow of $88 million, according to its publisher, and it sold for $650 million in July.

Like Newsday, The Ledger caters, in theory, to a populous, affluent market rich in potential advertisers.

And yet it would be a stretch to imagine that The Ledger could be sold for anything like that number, since it loses so much money. (Mr. Newhouse declined to discuss precise financials.)

One reason The Ledger, or The Record for that matter, could never be the Newsday of New Jersey is simply that there’s competition.

“Those papers aren’t surrounded by water, which, believe me, helps Newsday a lot,” said John Morton, a newspaper-industry analyst. “It sort of insulates the Long Island market and Newsday owns Long Island. New Jersey, in the overall market, is one of the most highly competitive markets in the country. If you look at a map and see how many daily newspapers are in that part of New Jersey, it’s astounding.”

There are 18 daily newspapers in the state that are members of the New Jersey Publishers Association, a trade organization. A retrenchment, in retrospect, was only a matter of time.

It’s been grim.

“It almost happened overnight,” said State Senate President, former governor, and all-around Jersey cheerleader Richard Codey.

The smaller papers haven’t fared much better than the big ones. Gannett, whose stock price recently hit an 18-year-low, eliminated 55 jobs this year at four of its six Jersey papers including the Asbury Park Press, the Home News Tribune in East Brunswick, the Courier News in Bridgewater and the Daily Record in Parsippany. This came just weeks after it extracted 83 buyouts from the Press, the Home News Tribune, the Courier News, the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill and the Daily Journal in Vineland. The Record’s sister paper, the Herald News, recently collapsed its sports department into the Record’s since it wasn’t sustainable to run both independently. The Ledger’s sister paper, the Trenton Times, is absorbing 25 buyouts.

But Mr. Codey seemed particularly shocked at the rapid dissolution of The Times’ presence on the other side of the river.

Shortly after The Times announced it would cut 100 jobs earlier this year, the paper began to unroll plans to remove reporters from its Newark and Trenton bureaus. Ever since The Times eliminated most of the original content for its Sunday New Jersey section two years ago in favor of consolidated material shared by all its regional supplements, its presence in the state has been dropping. Now, it’s pretty much all gone.

“Fortunately, when I was governor, The Times did really good stuff,” said Mr. Codey. “I miss it. Now I go to the metro section and when I see a Jersey story, I go, ‘Whoa! This is unbelievable—a story!’”

In a July Q&A with Times metro editor Joe Sexton, a reader asked why the paper had abandoned the state. Mr. Sexton wrote: “Dude, ouch! But Jersey? Love Jersey.”

He said that The Times was leaving behind David Kocieniewski, an accomplished reporter who is well regarded by the masthead. He added that The Times was indeed planning to “concentrate more on New York City,” but pledged that the paper would continue to send reporters to Jersey to cover “major news” and trends on the regular metro beats. Also: Peter Applebome’s twice-weekly “Our Towns” column.

But the numbers speak for themselves. The dozen or so reporters and editors that The Times had covering the state two years ago are gone, farmed out to cover areas still of interest to the paper. David Chen, the former Trenton bureau chief, is the New York City Hall bureau chief; Andrew Jacobs, who covered Cory Booker in Newark, is now in Beijing; Newark reporter and published poet Tina Kelley is, according to an internal memo sent out by Mr. Sexton, “spending more and more of her reporting life online, busting rhymes here and there along the way.”

The cost-saving measures that The Times has taken in Jersey, however, aren’t much more dramatic than what The Record has done. In order to stay afloat, the Hackensack-based daily is actually shutting down its offices and sending reporters onto the streets.

“We have two counties we focus on—primarily Bergen and Passaic—so our reporters will be in these counties and they’ll be running around with their cell phone, a laptop, a camera, and he’ll be writing a story in the lobby of a building and he can shoot and file a picture,” said Mr. Scandale, the editor of the paper.

The Record will keep a small office in West Paterson, but Mr. Scandale said the vast majority of its reporters wouldn’t have office space there, and only some editors would have some.

“People will be coming in and out all day long,” he said. “They can touch base, or not come in for three or four days because there’s no need to.”

Job cuts notwithstanding, The Ledger, under the leadership of Jim Willse, is acting with relative restraint.

It has always been regarded as a good-paying place to work—interns are paid $700 a week, according to one source—and Mr. Willse raised the salaries company-wide. In addition, The Ledger still generates stories out of fully formed suburban bureaus. As a result, it is a good editorial product, but it is expensive to produce.

That, with the combination of the loss in real estate advertising, seems to have taken its toll on the paper.

“It is a perfect storm of economic problems,” said Mr. Newhouse. “It is a very bad year, there’s no question about it. I don’t think there were any forecasts that would predict how serious the downturn would be.”

The Ledger will do it the old-fashioned way: job cuts. The paper will cut 200 non-unionized employees, and one newsroom source anticipates that will mean about 100 newsroom jobs—a little less than a third of the newsroom’s body count of roughly 350. In the course of announcing the cuts, Advance Publications said in a memo that if the cuts couldn’t be achieved, they would consider selling the paper. (Observer publisher Jared Kushner was cited in news reports as a potential buyer.)

Mr. Scandale is confident that The Record will remain a good paper, even without a newsroom. But when asked what the general decline means for the state, and if things will actually get far worse than they are right now, he didn’t offer much.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It remains to be seen.”

Online story here. Archived here.

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Street cams - McClatchy - Catch speeders and raise cash

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Muhlenberg - Westfield Leader - Colvins' letter on finances

Westfield Leader, August 7, 2008

Letter of Revs. Jim and Sarah Colvin

Taxpayers Pay for Questionable
Hospital Closings in New Jersey

Thanks for your coverage of Muhlenberg.

The only entities who benefit from the closing of a hospital are the large corporations that close them. Gov. Jon Corzine must be pleased that his friends at the top of the economic food chain benefit so handsomely. Catholic Health East of Pa. will receive $252 million in low cost bonds issued by the state as it takes over St. Michel’s in Newark, and the issuer may well be Corzine’s alma mater, Goldman Sachs. (Goldman Sachs is listed as a possible issuer in the NJ Hospitals and Facilities Authority bulletin). For the first six years, we taxpayers will shell out $8.8 million per year, then theoretically the company will take over payments, although we remain on the hook for the duration.

Solaris Health Systems, who declared Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center insolvent and convinced Corzine and his Health Commissioner, Heather Howard, to close this essential urban hospital, will benefit greatly from the closing. At first, Solaris applied for $70 million to close Muhlenberg. Now the number has magically increased to $160 million — an astonishing figure that could be used to maintain the hospital for another ten years! We taxpayers have a right to see just what the $160 million is intended to do.

Instead, Solaris is trying to cash in at the expense of state taxpayers and at the same time selling off as much of the property as possible. (It is valued at over $90 million.) Solaris must be drooling in wait of the day when they can shut down all operations in Plainfield and cash in to support bloated executive salaries. CEO John McGee makes $652,000 on the books and who knows how much from his other business dealings partnering with local politicians.

Corzine should be held accountable for these amoral shenanigans that end up endangering people by depriving them of healthcare. Not surprisingly, most of them are located in poor urban areas with large minority populations.

We pray for the day when Corzine holds no public office and Solaris is out of the healthcare business — and for the day when healthcare is seen as a human right rather than a source of profit for the few.

Revs. James and Sarah Colvin
United Church of Christ, Plainfield

Monday, August 04, 2008

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.