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News Desert Jersey

Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital: Matt Friedman's must-read briefing on the Garden State's important news of the day
Oct 04, 2023 View in browser

By Matt Friedman

Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

For the first time in the nation’s history, the U.S. House ousted its speaker. Now on to New Jersey politics.

News 12 NJ laid off eight people Monday, including several reporters. That includes Alex Zdan, whose aggressive questions were just what was needed in the New Jersey press corps. Alex was the only reporter there who regularly covered state and local New Jersey politics. “I am grateful for my time at News 12, the people I worked alongside of, and having a platform to present an unbiased picture of the beguiling fiasco that is New Jersey politics. All good things may come to an end, but I know even better opportunities lay ahead,” Zdan said in a statement,.

I would have reported this in yesterday’s edition, but I wanted more time to reach out to News 12 and those affected. News 12 plans to have anchor Eric Landskroner take over Zdan’s duties hosting “Power & Politics.” Here’s the statement from Janet Meahan, spokesperson for News 12 parent company Altice.

“News 12 is committed to its mission of connecting viewers to the hyperlocal, award-winning news they care about across the many platforms on which they consume content. As part of this mission, we are investing in more in-community reporting and events, creating content for streaming platforms, and making a user-friendly hub for all things local. We are proud of News 12’s history and look forward to continuing to be the go-to source of news for new and loyal viewers across all channels, platforms, and mediums.”

Ugh. Media industry statements that couch layoffs as some kind of turning point to new “investments” have always annoyed me. I know the industry’s tough. But we’re supposed to cut through BS. Cuts are cuts, not investments. There will be less reporting, not more.

This is particularly troubling, as it comes a month before the state legislative elections. And it follows layoffs at different outlets of hard-working reporters who have all made big contributions to New Jersey political coverage over the years, even decades: Michael Symons from NJ 101.5, Elise Young from Bloomberg and Jonathan Salant from NJ Advance Media.

But I guess since political corruption is on the decline there’s less need for the public to be informed about what's happening in government.

TIPS? FEEDBACK? Email me at [email protected].

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “One thing our opponents used to talk about is that they kept saying sex ed would cause abortion, masturbation, homosexuality and bestiality. Those were the issues that kept coming up that parents were opposed to back in the late ’70s, early ’80s. I think the whole idea of fear that education is going to be destructive, not constructive, that still runs through the arguments.”  — Susie Wilson, a former State Board of Education member who pushed for sex education

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Bill Matsikoudis, Robin Walton, Mike Mullen

WHERE’S MURPHY? — No public schedule


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:

We at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are deeply disappointed with United Steel Workers 4-200's extreme action to strike. No one benefits from the strike, least of all our nurses. The union should consider the impact it is having on them and their families. Multiple attempts to prevent the strike were rejected, including accepting the union's demands and offering arbitration. RWJUH is already among the highest-staffed hospitals in the state, and our nurses are currently the highest-paid in New Jersey.


VETERANS HOMES — SCI: Veterans homes saw ‘massive absenteeism’ from staff at start of pandemic, by POLITICO’s Danial Han: State-run veterans homes in Menlo Park and Paramus were severely understaffed at the start of the pandemic, according to a new report from state investigators. The findings from the State Commission of Investigation released Tuesday described “massive absenteeism” from staff at the start of the pandemic and poor communication between state agencies — to the detriment of veterans living at the facilities. When comparing call-outs of employees during the first week of March 2020 to mid-April, the report found a 100 percent increase from Paramus and a 480 percent increase at the Menlo Park facility. … The SCI recommended the governor’s office and state Legislature consider moving the state-run veterans homes out of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and into a “newly created Cabinet-level agency or commission” made to oversee the homes — a proposal which some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for.

TALCO TUESDAY — “Court tosses $223.8 million verdict against J&J in talc cancer case,” by Reuters’ Brendan Pierson: “New Jersey appeals court on Tuesday threw out a $223.8 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) that a jury had awarded to four plaintiffs who claimed they developed cancer from being exposed to asbestos in the company's talc powder products. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division found that a lower court judge should not have allowed some of the scientific expert testimony the plaintiffs presented to jurors at trial. J&J Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas said in a statement that the decision ‘resoundingly rejects ... the 'junk science' advanced by purported 'experts' paid by the mass tort asbestos bar.’ The company again said that its talc products are safe and do not contain asbestos. … The jury in the case had ordered the company to pay $37.2 million in compensatory damages and $750 million in punitive damages, though that amount was automatically reduced to $186.5 million under state law.”

MEDICAID —“N.J. disabled workers say law promising to help double-taxes them. They blame Murphy admin,” by NJ Advance Media’s Susan K. Livio: “Their most pressing concern is a state Department of Human Services rule requiring people enrolled in the NJ WorkAbility program to pay $165 a month in premiums if they earn more than $74,000 and $989 if their annual earnings exceed $220,000 to stay on Medicaid. State officials predict the longstanding NJ Workability program, now used by 7,000 people who pay no premiums, will quadruple in enrollment by 2027, with half of all newcomers earning at least $74,000, when premiums kick in, according to Human Services documents. Premiums are needed to offset this level of growth they estimate will cost taxpayers $350 million by 2027, based on past reimbursements. Advocates who once heralded the new law as a huge step toward enabling people with disabilities earn their worth believe state officials don’t understand what it’s like to be a disabled working professional. They say they won’t use Medicaid to cover doctors’ visits, hospital stays or prescription drugs because they will receive better insurance coverage through their jobs. [Colleen] Roche said she needs Medicaid to pay for her wheelchair and other equipment, and for personal assistants, who help people with mobility limitations get out of bed, bathe, dress and prepare meals.”

MR. SCUTARI: TEAR DOWN THAT GREWAL —  “Republicans push for probe of NJ attorney general’s office,” by NJ Spotlight News’ David Cruz: “The fallout from the indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez continues to spread, with attention turning to allegations involving the state attorney general’s office. In the indictment of Menendez (D-NJ), federal prosecutors allege he tried to pressure the office in order to influence the outcome of a criminal prosecution against Fred Daibes, a prominent developer who is now a co-defendant alongside the senator. Former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal led the office at the time of the alleged pressure. More than a dozen Republican state senators on Tuesday called on Democratic leadership in Trenton to open an independent investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s no secret that the indictment alleges Senator Menendez tried to use his elected office as a means to pressure our State Attorney General to influence the outcome of a criminal prosecution,” state Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) said in a statement. ‘We are respectfully requesting that we retain special counsel and subpoena power to ensure that the Office was not, and has not, been compromised by the influence peddling of Senator Menendez.’”


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


CHURCH & STATE  — “New Jersey shouldn’t make political candidates swear to God, lawsuit says,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Sophie Nieto Munoz: “A New Jersey man who claims he can’t run for public office because he refuses to swear an oath to God is suing the state over the mandatory religious vow. James Tosone argues that requiring political candidates to take a religious oath is a violation of the First and 14th Amendments because it bars citizens who are unable to swear ‘so help me God’ from the ballot, according to the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton. Tosone says this requirement effectively bars New Jersey residents who have no religious affiliation from running for public office.”

—“With New Jersey Legislature on ballot, candidates debate parents’ rights”

—“Stop next week’s bear hunt, 2 wildlife conservationists plead | Opinion” 

—“The big five eye higher office” 

—Steinberg: “NJGOP legislative campaign 2023: The driver is the (electric) car” 


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:

Biden's Beltway

PROBLEM SOLVING — “Republicans considering quitting bipartisan group after Democrats voted to oust McCarthy,” by CNN’s Melanie Zanona: “Republicans on the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are considering quitting the group ‘en masse’ after Democratic members voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker, a GOP member said. The potential blow-up of the group is just the latest sign of the fallout and fury following the historic removal of the speaker. … Centrist Democrats on the Problem Solvers Caucus informed their Republican colleagues in the group that they would not be saving McCarthy earlier Tuesday, according to multiple sources. It was one of McCarthy’s last potential lines of defense to try to keep his position.”

HE’LL ALWAYS HAVE ISLAND BEACH STATE PARK — “New Hampshire debate watchers have a message for Chris Christie: Get off the island - Poll,” by USA Today: “New Hampshire voters have a blunt message for Chris Christie. Get off the island. In an exclusive USA TODAY/Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll in New Hampshire, 41% of likely Republican primary voters who watched last week's debate cited the former New Jersey governor as the winner, or rather than loser, in a question of which of the seven participants should drop out of the presidential race first. Former vice president Mike Pence was a distant second, at 17%. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum was named by 16% and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy by 11%. That's particularly bad news for Christie, who has centered his campaign in New Hampshire.”

—RNC warns Christie and Ramaswamy not to hold joint Fox News segment

—“Menendez will introduce federal judge nominee at confirmation hearing” 


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:

We at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are deeply disappointed with United Steel Workers 4-200's extreme action to strike. No one benefits from the strike, least of all our nurses. The union should consider the impact it is having on them and their families. Multiple attempts to prevent the strike were rejected, including accepting the union's demands and offering arbitration. RWJUH is already among the highest-staffed hospitals in the state, and our nurses are currently the highest-paid in New Jersey. Our top priority is our patients. We remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering the highest-quality care in the safest environment. We want to reassure our patients, their families, and our community that we continue to care without interruption. We remain fully open and continue to deliver the high-quality care they deserve.


LAST NAME CHECKS OUT — “This Paterson principal was transferred to another high school. He hasn't shown up to work,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Prominent Paterson principal Zatiti Moody has not reported for work at his new assignment, taking extended sick leave after he was transferred in August to John F. Kennedy High School. Moody’s school district attendance record says he will remain on sick time at least until the end of November. District officials have not given any explanation for transferring Moody at the end of the summer from an alternative education high school named after his father, Alonza Tambua Moody Academy, to Kennedy. The head of the union that represents Paterson principals said Moody and others who were transferred were blindsided by the moves. Some city education officials had been upset when Moody took a public stand in May and spoke out at a school board meeting against the district’s decision to fire an instructional aide at the alternative school following a tussle with a student.”

UNHOLY UNION — “Cop’s lawsuit alleges corruption, harassment, misconduct in N.J. town’s police department,” by NJ Advance Media’s Anthony G. Attrino: “A veteran police officer in Union County has filed a lawsuit alleging rampant and widespread sexual harassment, corruption, and misconduct within the ranks of the Union Township Police Department. The 47-year-old officer claims she has been harassed and humiliated since having a relationship in early 2014 with a fellow officer who lied about his marital status. She broke off the relationship, but he continued to pursue her – until she called his wife, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 14. After the woman ended her relationship with the first officer, a second one identified in the suit as a detective lieutenant, began expressing his romantic interest … No action was taken by the director or the township, according to the suit …In November 2021, she was assigned to supervise the evidence and property unit. While working in the unit, she became aware that the deputy chief had two officers and civilian employees move a snow blower from the property room to his parents’ house ‘for personal use in case there was a storm,' the suit alleges. “

2.9 MASTROS — “Jersey Shore towns raked in more than $26 million in parking fees in 2022,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Amanda Oglesby: “Don't forget to feed the meter at Jersey Shore beaches this year. Parking, like so many other things, has become more expensive in many Shore towns since the return of post-pandemic tourism. Visitors to Jersey Shore towns paid nearly $26.5 million — up $2.6 million from the previous year — to towns in 2022 for the privilege of parking near the ocean, the Asbury Park Press found from analyzing municipal revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic and mandatory shutdowns caused parking revenue to plunge in 2020, but municipal officials reported seeing parking meter collections rebound in 2021 and 2022 as tourism returned to more normal levels.”

PLEASE RENAME IT ‘THE BOB MENENDEZ ALLEGEDLY IN EXCHANGE PLACE’ — “Jersey City’s Exchange Place neighborhood finds a new equilibrium in a post-COVID world,” by The Jersey Journal’s Mark Koosau: “A year-long project to revitalize a Hudson River waterfront plaza in the Exchange Place neighborhood — a fresh layer of pavers, carefully manicured greenery and a playground — will be officially unveiled Wednesday. The new family-friendly plaza with a town square vibe will be a key cog in an Exchange Place that has undergone a slow but steady transformation over the past 15 years. Sure, there is the suit-and-tie and pencil-skirt crowd at places like the Merrill Lynch building, but with $1,500 Dunhill briefcases vying for sidewalk space with $2,000 Junama strollers on Hudson Street, this is not your uncle’s Exchange Place any more.”

I REALLY DON’T CAREN DO YOU? —The Republican-led Atlantic County Commissioner board failed to pass a resolution on Tuesday asking the state to rescind “sanctuary state” policies. The resolution failed to receive a second after County Commissioner James A. Bertino made a motion to vote on it. The failed resolution comes as the Biden administration suggested housing migrants at the Atlantic City International Airport — a proposal that received bipartisan pushback from local officials. Had the resolution been voted on, it would have also caused Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick — who is the Democratic candidate for state Senate in the competitive second legislative district — to vote on the hot button issue (she has come out against migrants at the airport but voted against a resolution in 2019 opposing Atlantic County becoming a sanctuary county). Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson — who strongly supported the resolution — said he was “disappointed and astonished” by the resolution’s failure and gave his opinion as to why it failed.

“What happened today was the Freeholders were overwhelmed and with the exception of [Bertino] they couldn't stand up to the crowd,” Levinson said, referring to immigrant activists who showed up in opposition to the resolution. “I would like if the Freeholders decide to get backbones and put it back up again for a vote,” he added.— Daniel Han

—“Palisades Park police officers turn their backs to mayor during borough mold discussion” 

—“Atlantic City to name renovated City Hall courtyard after late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver” 

—“[North Wildwood] scrambles to add emergency bulkhead as waves breach dunes” 

—“Bhalla polling in Hoboken, asking about favorability in council & D-8 congressional races” 


Enter the “room where it happens”, where global power players shape policy and politics, with Power Play. POLITICO’s brand-new podcast will host conversations with the leaders and power players shaping the biggest ideas and driving the global conversations, moderated by award-winning journalist Anne McElvoy. Sign up today to be notified of new episodes – click here.


LONG READ – “Who killed the Fudge King?” 

—“Tinder app let scammers swipe my photos, N.J. woman says in class action suit”

—“Honoring Black cowboy traditions unites this NJ horse trail riding group” 

R.I.P. — “Beloved one-eyed seal dies at N.J. aquarium” 

CORRECTION: I decided to change a sentence for yesterday’s edition in the middle of writing it but neglected delete one of the words, leading to incorrect arithmetic. Democrats have requested more absentee ballots than Republicans and unaffiliated combined, but not twice as much. I swear that I do understand basic arithmetic, even if not very much beyond it.


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