New Jersey has $1B to get the lead out of its water. Let’s use the money wisely. | Opinion

Published: Dec. 26, 2021

By Doug O’Malley and Greg Lalevee

Environmentalist Doug O'Malley and Greg Lavelee, of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, say we saw in Newark, which replaced 22,000 lead water lines in record time, how complicated this work can be. Thankfully, the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure legislation will provide New Jersey with $1 billion over five years to get the lead lines replaced.

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The signing of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package last month was a historic step forward to invest and repair our nation’s infrastructure — from our roads, bridges and rail lines to investing in broadband and modernizing our electric grid to repairing our water infrastructure. This long-delayed legislation rightfully received the full support of every member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation.

The package included a $15 billion down payment to replace lead service lines across the nation and it also includes $200 million to help stop contamination of schools’ drinking water, which is pervasive. These investments should be the start of the action we need to take to repair the pipes that serve us daily with our drinking water.

The infrastructure package’s components to replace lead service lines borrowed heavily from the bipartisan Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) Get the Lead Out Act (H.R. 3300) bill which provides the roadmap — and funding — for the full replacement of all lead service lines.

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Census Bureau says N.J. losing population at a faster clip than most other states

Published: Dec. 24, 2021

New Jersey lost more people over the last year than all but seven other states as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll, new U.S. Census Bureau estimates show.

The bureau estimated that the state’s population dropped by 12,613 people between July 2020 and July 2021. And even the July 2020 figures were below official census numbers that put the state’s population at 9,288,994, defying estimates and enabling New Jersey to retain all of its 12 congressional districts.

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N.J. jail to pause in-person and attorney visits due to COVID surge

Published: Dec. 24, 2021

Starting Monday, the Essex County Jail in Newark will pause in-person visits amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the county and state.

The policy is meant as a precautionary step due to the latest omicron wave, said Essex County Chief of Staff, Phil B. Alagia, who oversees the county’s Department of Corrections.

As of Friday, 101 officers and 28 inmates have tested positive for COVID at the Essex County Correctional Facility, according to county spokesman Anthony Puglisi. The jail has a total of 700 officers and about 2,300 inmates, he said.

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In major settlement, N.J. agrees to pay $52.9M to families over COVID deaths in state’s hard-hit veterans homes

Published: Dec. 23, 2021

The state of New Jersey, which was accused of gross negligence and incompetence over its handling of the COVID outbreak in the state-run veterans homes, has agreed to pay nearly $53 million to the families of 119 residents whose deaths were attributed to the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.

An administration official, who confirmed the wide-ranging settlement on background, said the families on average will receive $445,000, based on arbitration proceedings.

“Cases settle for a variety of reasons. The families of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have gone through so much,” said the official. “This settlement will hopefully allow them to move forward without years of protracted and uncertain litigation.”

Two of the veterans homes — one in Menlo Park and a second in Paramus — reported some of the highest COVID-related death tolls in the nation. The coronavirus claimed the lives of more than 200 residents as the virus swept through the buildings, prompting the state to send in emergency assistance from the Veterans Administration and the National Guard.

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Newark will require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, theaters

Published: Dec. 23, 2021

The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city announced Thursday that he will sign an executive order next week that will require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for anyone five years of age and older to enter many establishments including restaurants, bars, theaters and concert and sporting venues.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a statement that he will sign the executive order on Monday and that it will start by requiring anyone attending public New Year’s Eve events and parties to show proof of vaccination.

By Jan. 10, anyone entering a facility or business must show proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose and be fully vaccinated three weeks later, the mayor said.

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Demand for emergency food climbs as prices jump, COVID-19 surges again

JON HURDLE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER | DECEMBER 24, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

Matthew Veltz, left, helps a client load her shopping bag at a food distribution event in Newark on Dec. 22.

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On a windswept street in Newark’s West Ward, Robert Clark waited patiently outside a food pantry to fill his shopping cart with free groceries that he hoped would enable him and his family to feed themselves over the Christmas holiday.

Clark, 60, lost his job as a carpenter when the pandemic hit in March 2020 and said he has had brief spells of work since then but no steady employment for the past seven months.

“Jobs are plentiful but a lot of people don’t want to hire,” he said. “You got to show your COVID shot. Here in Jersey, it’s not like it used to be.”

Demand for food assistance skyrocketed when the pandemic hit almost two years ago, and shows no sign of letting up, said Tanya Veltz, president of the nonprofit that runs the pantry, Tree House Cares. She said it’s a combination of factors, from a new surge in COVID-19 cases, still-pervasive unemployment and, most recently, fast-rising food prices.

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Newark Schools Superintendent Tells Teachers, Students to Prep for Potential Shift to Remote Learning After Winter Break

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Democrats prevail in New Jersey redistricting with map that could sacrifice Malinowski

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Democrats prevailed Wednesday in the state’s congressional redistricting process, convincing a tiebreaker to side with their proposed map over the one submitted by Republicans.

While a victory for Democrats, who have dominated the state’s House delegation since midway through the Trump administration despite working under a map drawn by Republicans, they still made a sacrifice that could make it more difficult for the party to hold its slim majority in Congress.

Barring a massive wave election for either side, Democrats’ 10-2 majority in the New Jersey delegation is likely to shrink to 9-3 under the new map. That’s because the state’s 7th District, represented by Rep. Tom Malinowski, will shed Democratic areas to the benefit of three other previously-vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

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Menendez’s Son Prepares to Run for His Father’s Old House Seat

Robert Menendez Jr., 36, has told political leaders he intends to run for a House seat being vacated by Representative Albio Sires, a Democrat from West New York, N.J.
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Robert Menendez Jr., the 36-year-old son of New Jersey’s senior United States senator, has told political leaders that he will run for Congress to replace Representative Albio Sires, who announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election.

If elected, Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, and his father, Senator Robert Menendez, the 67-year-old chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, would be likely to serve together in Washington.

The younger Mr. Menendez is a practicing lawyer who would be making his first run for public office, and he is expected to face challengers from the left in the Democratic stronghold that includes heavily urban parts of Hudson, Essex and Union Counties. He did not return calls or emails.

But even before Mr. Sires confirmed that he intended to step down when his term ends next year, powerful political leaders had already begun to coalesce support behind Mr. Menendez.

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No deal on congressional redistricting, setting up vote on Wednesday

David WildsteinDecember 21 2021

New Jersey Globe

Former Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. 

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There will be no deal between Republicans and Democrats on the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission, setting up a possible, if not likely, vote on a map on Wednesday.

That means a vote between the two maps, with former state Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace acting as the tiebreaker.

Wallace has set up a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma, keeping the two parties in separate rooms as he offered feedback on their proposals without ever allowing the two parties to exchange maps.

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