Newark Mayor Addresses Flooding In City, Sewer System Complaints

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Murphy, after viewing storm damage, says N.J. needs new playbook for extreme weather

 Politico

09/02/2021 

A tornado ripped through Mullica Hill, N.J., destroying homes in its path.

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MULLICA HILL, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that New Jersey needs infrastructure capable of handling a more violent climate, as he warned of a “long road“ ahead to clean up damage throughout the state caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

Tornadoes tore through parts of South Jersey on Wednesday and major flooding spilled across the rest of the state during what the governor called “an extraordinary, sadly tragic, historic 24 hours in New Jersey.” Murphy said he had spoken with President Joe Biden and asked for a federal disaster declaration and heavy-duty trucks that could help the state recover.

Murphy has already declared a state of emergency for all of New Jersey amid obvious damage and ahead of a cleanup that is sure to be costly. The governor said during a late afternoon press conference in Hillsborough there have been at least 23 storm-related deaths in New Jersey. Several people died in their homes or apartment buildings during flash floods. But the storm’s full toll is yet unknown.

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Biden approves federal disaster declaration for N.J. after deadly Ida storms slam state

Published: Sep. 02, 2021

President Joe Biden late Thursday approved an emergency declaration for New Jersey to help cover the costs of cleaning up from the deadly remnants of Tropical Storm Ida, which killed at least 23 people in the state.

The declaration makes state and local governments eligible for federal assistance. The funding would be coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The action affects all 21 counties in the state.

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Murphy, our schools are less safe than a bar in New York | Editorial

Published: Sep. 02, 2021

Let a case study from California serve as a warning. An unvaccinated elementary school teacher thought she merely had allergies and took off her mask to read a book to students, nearly all of whom were too young to be vaccinated.

She tested positive for the highly contagious Delta variant two days later – as did half her class, mostly the kids sitting near the front, along with six students in another grade, and eight guardians and siblings. The outbreak affected a total of 26 people, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s no guarantee that the five-year-olds are going to wear their masks,” noted Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “Can we at least have the adults in the room act like adults, and be vaccinated?”

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Newark illegally spent $5M renovating ice rink by skipping bidding process, officials say

Published: Sep. 01, 2021

Newark violated the law when it spent more than $5 million of its own money to renovate a skating rink without opening up the project to bidders, state officials say.

The state comptroller released a report Wednesday claiming Newark skirted the required public bidding process and instead gave a $5.4 million private contract to a group associated with the New Jersey Devils. Such a move may have led taxpayers to spend more money on the project, and also could undermine public trust in government processes, the report said.

At issue is the Adopt-a-Park statute, which allows cities and towns to contract private companies to maintain or improve public parks. The catch: The project must come at no cost to the municipality.

But the comptroller’s office says Newark financed the entire renovation at the Sharpe James and Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation and Aquatic Center, issuing $5,225,000 in municipal bonds in 2017 and taking on debt to do so.

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State ponies up $267M in fed funds to pay for shots, weekly COVID-19 tests for NJ school staff

COLLEEN O'DEA, SENIOR WRITER AND PROJECTS EDITOR | SEPTEMBER 2, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Teacher Amanda O’Connor greets members of her first grade class in front of Christa McAuliffe School in Jersey City, April 29, 2021. Kindergarten through third-grade students are returning to their school buildings in Jersey City for their first time in over a year.

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New Jersey will provide schools $267 million in federal funds for COVID-19 diagnostic and screening tests after a state order requiring staff to either be vaccinated or get tested regularly.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said a COVID-19 screening protocol drafted in consultation with the local health department should be considered part of a broader strategy to keep students and staff safe during this year’s return to in-person instruction.

Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order mandating all students, staff and visitors wear masks in all schools. Last week, Murphy required all school staff who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 be subject to coronavirus testing at least once a week.

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Abortion is now a front-and-center issue in N.J. gubernatorial campaign

By David WildsteinSeptember 01 2021 

New Jersey Globe

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, left, and the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Phil Murphy.

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Gov. Phil Murphy said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block a Texas law outlawing most abortions after about six weeks into a pregnancy puts Roe v. Wade in jeopardy, but he declined to say if he would exercise his own constitutional authority to call the New Jersey Legislature back into session to act on a proposal to codify legal abortions into state law.

“It’s what we had anticipated could happen, and remember, the reproductive freedoms – I don’t want to get into politics — but the fact of the matter is protecting women’s health here, reproductive freedom in our state, is built on case law,” Murphy said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Murphy acknowledged that “all of that case law is in turn built on the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade.”

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Justice Department Settles with Newark Schools to Protect English Learner Students

By Insider NJ | September 1, 2021

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with Newark Public Schools to resolve the department’s investigation into the school district’s programs for its English learner students, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael A. Honig and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced today.

The agreement ends the district’s longstanding and common practice of removing students from English learner programs before they become fluent in English. The district has agreed to improve services for English learner students so they can access the same educational opportunities as other students in the Newark Public Schools.

The department’s multi-year investigation uncovered wide-ranging failures to properly serve students learning English. The department found that the district failed to hire and retain enough qualified teachers to support its program, resulting in limited instruction time for some students, and for others, no language services at all. The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey investigated under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

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End of ‘prison gerrymandering’ means changes to redistricting

COLLEEN O'DEA, SENIOR WRITER AND PROJECTS EDITOR | SEPTEMBER 1, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

Inmates are to be counted by their hometowns and not the location of their prison under the state’s new political redistricting laws.

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Before work can begin on redrawing New Jersey’s legislative and congressional districts based on the 2020 census counts, the state must do its own reapportioning of about 38,000 people incarcerated in correctional facilities.

This is the first time New Jersey is counting prisoners as residents of the communities where they were living and, presumably, plan to rejoin on release, rather than counting them as residents of where they are incarcerated for the constitutionally mandated process of creating districts of roughly equal numbers of residents to then elect representatives to the Legislature and Congress. New Jersey is now one of 13 states that passed laws ending the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Pennsylvania’s legislative redistricting commission voted to do so, as well.

A report released Monday by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank, explained the rationale behind the change. “With prison gerrymandering, communities where prisons and jails were built receive outsize representation based on their incarcerated population. Conversely, communities that have been disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration have had their populations artificially lowered by their incarcerated population, even though that population will inevitably require services, infrastructure, and representation upon their return,” the group wrote.

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Poll: Newark sees little or no progress on police reform, most residents say

By David WildsteinAugust 31 2021

New Jersey Globe

Dr. Martin Luther King in Newark on March 27, 1968. 

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Nearly one-quarter of Newark’s residents (23%) believe there has been no progress at all on police reform at all despite more than a year of national debate over the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released on Tuesday.

One-third of Brick City residents (33%) said “a little” progress has been made, while 27% acknowledge some progress, 7% say a lot, and 5% said there has been “a great deal” of progress on police reforms.    These views are shared almost identically by Newarkers of all races.

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