Chris Christie and the latest Port Authority scam: Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
on March 03, 2014

Gov. Chris Christie, left, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo now are alleged to have engineered a phony toll hike drama in 2011 by ordering oversized toll and fare increases that allowed the cooperating politicians to score political points with commuters by order the increases be scaled back. (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, right, at the 9/11 Memorial during ceremony marking the 12th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. David Handschuh/New York Daily News)


Gov. Chris Christie has another Port Authority scam to explain, this time over the killer toll hikes at the Hudson River crossings that he approved in the summer of 2011.

At the time, the governor expressed shock that the Port Authority would dare to propose roughly doubling the tolls over a few years.

Now we learn it was all an act. According to six people who worked at the Port Authority that summer, Christie knew about the toll hikes in advance. In a tawdry bit of political theater, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got the Port Authority to inflate its initial request so they could trim it down to size and appear to be champions of hard-pressed commuters.

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Majority of New Jerseyans support sending Booker to Senate for full term, poll finds

By PolitickerNJ Staff | March 3rd, 2014


A new poll finds a majority of Garden State residents are in favor of giving freshman N.J. Sen. Cory Booker (D) a full term in Washington D.C.

According to a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll, Booker enjoys a 47 percent approval rating from New Jersey residents compared to just 20 percent who disapprove. Fifty-five percent of voters say Booker should be re-elected in November, according to the poll.

New Jersey voters are just getting to know Cory Booker as their Senator and generally giving him positive reviews,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  “They feel they have seen enough to say he deserves a full term.”

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U.S. Rep. Payne Jr. ponders backing Jeffries in Newark mayoral race, sources say

By Mark Bonamo | March 3rd, 2014


NEWARK - As the Newark mayoral race comes closer to the May 13 municipal election, the voice of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), the scion of one of Newark's most powerful political families, has yet to be officially heard. Yet several Democratic sources have told that has had serious discussions with the campaign of former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries about a potential endorsement, a move that would have repercussions for this year's election and beyond.

"It's a power thing. Why should [Payne Jr.] give [Baraka] more power?" said an Essex County Democratic political operative who requested anonymity. "If you want to centralize control in the South Ward, why would you want to have to fight with Baraka as mayor, when you can have a closer ally with Jeffries, who would not be coming after your base?"  

Payne Jr.'s decision, if he ultimately decides to jump into the 2014 mayoral race, should be seen in the context of Newark's political history. In the aftermath of the 1967 riot, African-Americans achieved political dominance in Newark with the victory of Ken Gibson in the 1970 mayoral election. During the following decades, the Payne family, led by the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Sr., built a strong political base in Newark's South Ward. At the same time, the Baraka family, led by the late poet and activist Amiri Baraka, constructed an overlapping foundation of grass-roots political and cultural support based in the same neighborhood.

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Newark mayor's race: William Payne considering city council race if it helps Jeffries

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on February 27, 2014

William Payne, pictured in this file photo, is considering a run for city council


NEWARK — In another potential game-changer for the Newark city election, William Payne, patriarch of the longstanding Newark political dynasty, said tonight he would consider running for city council on Shavar Jeffries' ticket if it would help the mayoral candidate win in May.

"If being part of his team would (help Jeffries) then absolutely," Payne, 81, told The Star-Ledger when asked if he was considering a run. "I'm working to make sure that Shavar Jeffries gets elected as mayor and whatever I can do to help that I'm going to do. I really believe very deeply in his campaign and what he's about. He's uniquely qualified for the job."

Payne's brother, Rep. Donald Payne Sr., served Newark for decades in Congress before he died in 2012. But William Payne is a Newark legend in his own right, having served as the first black district leader in Newark's North Ward, a state assemblyman, and his brother's closest confidante.

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Fired Sandy-Aid Contractor Collected $32.7 Million – and Demands $18.4M More

Colleen O'Dea | February 27, 2014



The Superstorm Sandy housing grant manager quietly terminated by New Jersey last December billed the state for $51 million -- 75 percent of the total contract amount -- in just the first seven months of its work, according to new documents released yesterday.

Contractor Hammerman and Gainer Inc., which the state had hired to manage programs to provide nearly $800 million in federal grants to people with homes damaged by Sandy, is seeking another $18.4 million in payments plus interest from the state and has filed for arbitration to get it, according to public documents obtained from the state Department of Treasury and released by Fair Share Housing Center of Cherry Hill. So far, the documents indicate that the state has paid HGI about $32.7 million of the $51.2 million it billed beginning last May.

And that's just for work done through Dec. 6, when the parties agreed to terminate the three-year, $67.7 million contract. Because the state allowed HGI to keep working through Jan. 20, the company wrote in its request for arbitration that it "reserves the right to amend its demand to include claims for amounts" incurred during those six weeks. At the time of the termination, the state had agreed to pay HGI $10.5 million toward its unpaid balance for work already done and toward the work that would be done during the transition period.

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Jeffries rolls out Newark mayoral race council slate, senior policy platform

By Mark Bonamo | February 26th, 2014


NEWARK - Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries, flanked by his newly-announced council slate, rolled out his plans to help Brick City's seniors on Wednesday.

"Currently in the city of Newark, we operate without the benefit of our Office on Aging. For us, this is absolutely unacceptable," Jeffries said to a crowd of about 50 people at the Essex Plaza, a seniors-only building on Broad Street. "Under our administration, the Office on Aging will be reorganized, expanded and renamed as the Office of Senior Services. [The office] will aggressively pursue public and private funding to increase senior citizen programs and services."

Jeffries proceeded to outline his senior policy plan, which includes the creation of a central office unit designed to develop and coordinate senior services throughout the city. The city will operate full-day senior citizen centers Monday through Friday, improve transportation for senior citizens and the physically challenged, and facilitate contact with the federal, state, county and local public and private agencies involved with senior welfare, according to the Jeffries plan.

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Newark mayoral candidates spar over ACLU report on police stop-frisk policy

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on February 25, 2014

Shavar Jeffries, left, is now essentially in a two-way race with South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka to be the next mayor of Newark.


NEWARK — Candidates in Newark's mayoral race took shots at the city police department as well as each other in the wake of a report issued Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey indicating police officers disproportionately "stop and frisk" black residents.

South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and former assistant state Attornery General Shavar Jeffries, the main contenders in the May 13 battle for City Hall, both said the report showed that police officers need to focus less on race and more on criminal behavior.

"The top line data is troubling," Jeffries said. "It suggests that there are some things we have to look at in terms of making sure that our police are being targeted and effective in terms of who we question. When you have limited police resources it's even that much more important."

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Former Assemblyman Payne endorses Jeffries in Newark mayoral race

By Mark Bonamo | February 24th, 2014


NEWARK - Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff and former Assemblyman William Payne endorsed Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries on Monday and has agreed to serve as campaign co-chairperson.

"Shavar Jeffries is a man of extraordinary integrity who is a dedicated and qualified public servant," said Payne in a prepared statement issued by the Jeffries campaign. "He has a genuine commitment to serve the city of Newark and our people."

Payne, the uncle of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10) and a member of one of Newark's most prominent political families, cited Jeffries' background and experience as reasons for backing Jeffries instead of the other major mayoral candidate, South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka.

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Newark mayoral candidate Jeffries rolls out education plan, bashes Baraka and Anderson

By Mark Bonamo | February 22nd, 2014


NEWARK - Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries unveiled his education plan on Saturday, hoping to gain traction on a critical campaign issue in his battle with South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka.

One central theme of Jeffries' seven-point plan to improve the state's largest public school system was a call for a return to local control, which was combined with criticism for state-appointed Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson.

"Our superintendent, unfortunately, has in recent times run roughshod over our community's fundamental interests," Jeffries said to a crowd of more than 100 supporters assembled at his Central Ward headquarters. "She has not shown enough respect for community values, and in so doing has caused so many in our community to feel as if their voice does not count. I say this as a father of two: no one is ever going to do anything that's going to affect my babies without coming to talk to me."

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The Jeffries/Sharif School

By PolitickerNJ Staff | February 21st, 2014

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Newark insider regarded what he said was mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries’ rough week and made an observation about the contest.

It’s tough to win citywide in Newark without having first run citywide at least once, the source said.

A former candidate for mayor, Baraka (endorsements this week by the Laborers and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop) has done that, and as such has a leg up on the competition, insisted the source.

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