Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level: Caliguire Reply

Way back on May 9th, I asked each of the Republican candidates, via email, to answer a question about Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level. The first actual reply has finally come in, from Todd Caliguire. Here's what he had to say:


I am sorry that I have not had the opportunity to respond to you much sooner, but thank you for your May 9th email.

As for the contractor problem, my position is simple. I will not support no-bid professional contracts. I would like to see competitive and completely transparent contracting at all levels of government.

I regret that I cannot be more specific at this time but you may refer to the For a Better New Jersey Plan for additional information.

I appreciate your question and I hope that you will vote on June 7th.

Best wishes,

Caliguire deserves kudos for actually taking the time to respond, but missed the point of the question completely. Competitive and transparent contracting are a Good Thing™, but wouldn't keep a state contractor from abusing its position to run roughshod over a small township. (For those not following the Capital Academy issue, I've just posted a handy reference guide).

The Columns Handy Reference Guide

Here's a list of all my postings on the Columns in Delanco and Capital Academy's attempts to turn this beautiful old mansion into a "residential child care facility."


Upcoming Hearing: The Columns X


The Columns, Updated Again: IX


The Columns, Updated: VIII


Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level


The Columns, Yet Again: VII


Capital Academy Case Goes to Court: The Columns VI


Latest Capital Academy Update: The Columns V


New Jersey has an economic policy?


Capital Academy Update: The Columns IV


Agency for troubled boys center appeals decision: The Columns III


State rethinks housing for troubled kids: The Columns II


The Columns: Helping the "Children"

This issue is still simmering away, waiting for a hearing in front of Judge Sweeney on June 24th .

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

New Jersey Taxes

Over at The Bad Hair Blog , Fausta says that writing about New Jersey taxes can't generate an Instalanche. It'd be really cool if Glenn Reynolds would prove her wrong.

Call me skeptical

Just posted this comment on Matt Stoller's article describing the Corzine Care plan. What're the odds it stays posted?

So exactly where does the Senator propose acquiring the $3-4 billion dollars his program would cost each year? He claims a $15 million up front investment will deliver all of the needed capital to get it going. A 20,000% return on investment? From a government program?.
Anyone want to start a pool?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Getting the Money Out of Politics

NJ Conservative got me thinking about this with an interesting item on States Rights.

Much has been said in the last 30 years or so about getting "the money" out of politics, but it always seems to find its way into politicians' hands anyway.

A big contributor to the large cash flow in politics is the cost of campaigning. Take a look at the top 10 Senate races from 2004, for example (via Open Secrets):



South Dakota Senate



New York Senate



North Carolina Senate



Pennsylvania Senate



California Senate



Florida Senate



Washington Senate



Illinois Senate



Colorado Senate



Wisconsin Senate




South Dakota Senate



Pennsylvania Senate



North Carolina Senate



Florida Senate



California Senate



Washington Senate



New York Senate



Colorado Senate



Illinois Senate



Wisconsin Senate


That's almost $237 million dollars raised for just 10 races, the equivalent of over 20,000 minimum wage jobs.

There is a quick, easy, and simple solution that would completely eliminate the need for senatorial candidates to raise money like this, thereby fulfilling the wildest dreams of all the campaign finance reformers of the world. This solution would also realize the intent of our founding fathers, restoring power over the federal government to the states where it properly resides.

Repeal the 17th amendment, and restore the appointment of senators by the states. Senators should represent their states, and not be subject to the tides of public opinion like their counterparts in the House. Our federal government has been unbalanced for nearly a hundred years, and must be restored to its proper form.

The Loss of States Rights

NJ Conservative has a well-written piece today on Senators and the Loss of States Rights. I absolutely agree -- 1913 was a very bad year because of the passage of the 17th amendment, compunded by the 16th.

Repeal the 1913 amendments!

Corzine Care

Enlighten-NJ has a little tidbit today about Corzine Care, the provision of "universal access to health care" for pregnant women and children. I was going to post this in the comments, but it started getting too long.

The question at hand -- how dumb does Corzine think we are? He claims an upfront investment of $15 million will "solve" this "problem."

$15 million is just the seed money to rent office space for all the political hacks he'll appoint to administer the new program.

My health insurance costs me $30/week. My employer picks up the rest, probably something significantly more than that, but let's just use $30/week as a starting point.

Making health insurance available to 776,000 people at $15/week (half my cost) would run up a tab of $11,640,000 per week, or $605,280,000 per year.

Now, back to the question of my cost vs. actual cost. Let's assume that my employer is paying 80% of the actual cost of my health insurance. That mean the total cost is $150/week. If Corzine Care pays half the actual cost, then the weekly expense incurred by the government will be $58.2 million, or $3.03 billion per year.

We cannot allow this to pass. The only way to stop it is to defeat Corzine.

Yet another ad at PoliticsNJ

PoliticsNJ has a habit of running candidate advertisements in place of their normal entry page. The latest is from gubernatorial candidate Bob Schroeder.

Schroeder's message in this advertisement is muddled at best. A chalk outline of Forrester, and a burning outline of Schundler, with sirens and police radio chatter in the background? What was the communications staff thinking? Oh, I know -- "we don't have a prayer, so let's bring down everyone else with us!"

As if that wasn't bad enough, the transition into the Battle Hymn of the Republic is quite jarring. Are you marching off to war, Mr. Schroeder? Against whom? Given the images showing what a nice regular family guy you are, you'd have been better off with something like this music.

Monday, May 23, 2005

4" Is Large*

I just received the following email from the Murphy for Governor campaign. Given that I'm home sick with something my little incubators kids brought home from school, it made my day.

Date: Monday, May 23, 2005

Dear Friends,

We have several large 4"x4" John Murphy signs left in the office. If you know a high traffic area where we can place one, please let us know.

Thank you,

The Murphy Team

I just can't think of any high traffic areas that could sustain a sign that large.

* I will probably regret this post title at some point in my life, but not today.

Upcoming Hearing: The Columns X

A hearing in the Capital Academy case has been scheduled before Judge Sweeney during the week of June 20th. Attorneys will argue the three remaining points decided against Capital Academy during the Joint Land Use Board hearing in January:

1. Has the 1999 variance allowing for an assisted living facility expired?
2. Is the non-conforming use proposed by Capital Academy similar enough to the previous use to be allowed?
3. Is the institution proposed by Capital Academy permitted in a residential (R-1) zone?

All these lawyers cost money. The township's attorneys don't work for chicken feed, but I believe the taxpayers consider it money well spent in defense of our town.

The citizens' group joining the case, Delanco Citizens Alliance, relies on donations. If you can help out, please contact me for details.

Note to fellow bloggers: I'm considering setting up a tip jar to support this cause. Pros/Cons?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Columns, Updated Again: IX

My last update on the Columns was just a couple of days ago, but I've learned a lot more in the last 24 hours. Senator Allen's office put me in touch with another Delanco resident who has been birddogging this issue since day 1, and he filled in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge base. He is building a well-documented, thorough case study on how behind-the-scenes politics happen and what concerned citizens can do to keep the politicians from running roughshod over us.

During our conversation, he raised some very interesting questions concerning the current situation, wherein the Capital Academy "children" have been doing yardwork on the Columns' grounds.
Given that this activity is happening between the hours of 9 and 2 on weekdays, what is their school status that would allow them to be outside working?
Are they marked absent from school? If so, what reason has been given by their legal custodian [Capital Academy]?
Are they marked as present? What kind of school program would allow them to be off doing yard work on private property when they should be in class? Is this work considered educational by their school district?
Maybe it's a field trip. If so, did the field trip have approval from their district?

These questions, along with many others, deserve answers. I'm beginning to think that they deserve to be answered in front of a jury.

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Enlighten-New Jersey just posted the first edition of the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, and has a kind word about nearly every blogger in the state. What a great idea!

One blogger I noticed missing was NJ Politiko. He appears to have gone dark. Hope everything's OK over there on the dark left side of the NJ blogging aisle.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

South Jersey Gubernatorial Debate

On Monday, Doug Forrester and Bret Schundler will appear on WPHT 1210 AM with Michael Smerconish in the 8:00 hour. Smerconish has asked New Jersey residents to forward any questions they would like asked via his web site.

My questions for the candidates:

1. Delanco Township (in Burlington County) has been in a running battle to prevent a state contractor (Restorative Programming, Inc.) from locating a group home for teenage offenders in our residentially zoned area. What do you see as the proper role for a governor in a matter such as this? Why?
2. The Internet has made communication to your elected representatives simpler and faster. Given that your staff can't be bothered to answer (or even acknowledge) questions submitted through your web sites and email, how can the citizens of New Jersey expect you to be responsive to their needs?

Updated 9/21: Both the Forrester and Schundler campaigns have been in touch and promised answers to question 1. I'm looking forward to their responses. Don't have high hopes on question 2, however.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Columns, Updated: VIII

After my last item on the Columns, I contacted Senator Dianne Allen and Assemblymen Jack Conners and Herb Conaway via email to solicit their help in clarifying the situation.

No word back from the Assemblymen, but Senator Allen's office has been very helpful. Jenny [whose last name I won't attempt to misspell], the senator's legislative aide, has called twice to follow up and left detailed voice mails each time. Here's what she found out:

  • Judge Sweeney's ruling and the land use board's decision do not prevent Capital Academy from bringing their "boys" in to maintain the property.
  • The township code enforcement officer reports that no inspections of the building have been conducted, and thus no certificate of occupancy can been issued. It would therefore be unlawful for anyone to be housed in the building, but not for them to work on or around it. The code enforcement officer did tell her he thought it was a good thing for the property to be maintained.
I can't believe there's a business case for busing these kids in to cut the grass. Their current housing situation in Mercer County puts them 25 miles away, meaning an hour round trip minimum for at least two employees, plus the time required to supervise the kids as they cut the grass. The only way it makes sense is if Capital Academy expects a bigger payoff at the end, and is investing the time and energy of putting those kids on the grounds so they can make a claim later.
It's important to keep the pressure up, and ensure this business doesn't locate in our residential neighborhood. There are several ways to do so:
  • Keep talking to your legislators, the township committee, and any other official who will listen.
  • Drive, walk, or ride by the Columns every day, and question what you see happening. I go by every morning on the way to work.
  • Help pay the legal bills from the last set of hearings. Contact me if you need specifics. The last time I spoke to the folks who engaged Mr. Germano's capable services, he was still owed a significant chunk of money.
Keep your eyes open, Delanco.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Enlightened Politics

Enlighten - New Jersey had conversation with a senior citizen today. It so beautifully captures the essence of Jersey politics, it must be linked, read, and treasured for all eternity. The questions are wonderful all by themselves:

SC: What’s a Surrogate?

SC: Well, my ballot asks that I vote for one Surrogate. So who would this person be a substitute for?

SC: So you don’t know what a Surrogate is either, do you honey?

SC: Why do they want me to vote for one male and one female for State Committee? Seems rather silly. One male and one female. What if I wanted to vote for two females?

SC: Well, they’ve already picked everybody, except Governor. Why do they want people to vote if they’ve already picked all the winners? Vote for one and they give you one name, vote for two and they give you two names. Even for the State Committee male and female. Somebody’s already made all the choices. What’s the point of asking people to vote?

Go check it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Political Leanings

via Sluggo:

Your Political Profile

Overall: 90% Conservative, 10% Liberal
Social Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

Hmmm, only 90/10....must go back and see which one I got wrong.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level - DiGaetano Response

It appears that Mr. DiGaetano's team still hasn't fixed their Internet communication problems. Here's the response I got:

Permanent Failure: 550_:_User_unknown
Delivery last attempted at Tue, 10 May 2005 03:36:21 -0000

Given that I've corresponded with staff at DiGaetano's campaign in the past on similar problems, I'm calling this strike three. This campaign is not serious.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level - Lonegan Response

Three attempts to deliver my request to Steve Lonegan have failed.

MailEnable: Message could not be delivered to some recipients.
The following recipient(s) could not be reached:

[SMTP:steve@lonegan.com]: Remote SMTP Server Returned: 553 rejected due to spam, contact 480-505-8877 (dnsbl.sorbs.net)

Could be strike one for Mr. Lonegan. Kind of surprising, as he has been responsive in the past. Hopefully, he will stop by and read this, but if his server is rejecting something as simple as an email from a potential constituent, he is not well served.
A little more digging shows that dnsbl.sorbs.net lists any dynamic IP as a potential source of spam. This is probably not a good choice for someone who would want to receive email from individual voters.
A little follow-up in the morning should get this fixed.

Gubernatorial Influence at the Local Level

My latest post on the Columns inspired me to dash off a quick email to each Republican candidate for governor. Here's what I asked:

I have a request for each of the Republican candidates, in order to help me make a more informed decision in the primary next month.

Delanco Township (in Burlington County) has been in a running battle to prevent a state contractor (Restorative Programming, Inc.) from locating a group home for teenage offenders in our residentially zoned area. My latest blog posting on the subject is below for your reference.

The question is, what do you see as the proper role for a governor in a matter such as this? Why?

I'd like to use your responses as subject matter for my readers, so if you would get back to me quickly I would greatly appreciate it.

This could be fun. One of the seven candidates has already taken himself out of the running for a satisfactory response by not posting an email address on his web site. Whether and how well each of the others responds will have some influence on my vote in June. I hope you will consider this in your own deliberations as well.

The Columns, Yet Again: VII

My wife walks by the Columns every day with two of our boys (ages 5 and 3), while the other kids are in school. Last week, she noticed some young (i.e., teenage) boys out in front of the Columns, cutting the grass. She figured that Capital Academy was bringing them in to maintain the property, but today, talking to a friend at our daughter's softball practice, she found out that the boys are apparently living in the Columns. The friend has seen the buses come to pick up the boys and bring them to BCIT. She has the license numbers of the buses. (I haven't spoken to her myself about this, so I don't have permission to give out her name).

Am I concerned? You bet. During this morning's walk, my wife saw the "boys" out on the Columns property, and someone who looked like a security guard moved to position himself between my son and the "boy." If these "boys" are in need of such close supervision, then they do not belong in a residential area.

Through due process, the company has been denied their proposed use of the facility, which was inconsistent with both prior use and zoning. Last I heard, neither the township nor Judge Sweeney had vacated the Joint Land Use Board's decision to deny Capital Academy's proposed use. If what appears to be happening really is happening, then it seems to me that someone is in contempt of court, if not in criminal violation of the law.

I would expect the press to be all over a story like this, given the township's position and previous reactions. There hasn't been a word since Judge Sweeney's decision in early April.

Previous posts on this subject are available here.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Marquee Feature

Enlighten-NJ shares an Interesting Marquee photograph this morning, and asks where it was taken.

This is one of the best gags so far this year. Too bad it's likely to be a photoshop job.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Strange Behavior

So, I start my normal blog scan this evening in the usual way - middle click the bookmark folder for Jersey political blogs and open them all in tabs. As I start reading the Bad Hair Blog, Fausta's latest is interrupted by my computer apparently going nuts. It's nearly impossible to read when your computer speakers keep saying "robble robble robble, robble" at random intervals.

OK, let's scan through the rest and find the culprit. Probably some goofy blogad, although I don't remember any of them having sound before now.

The Prop is holding forth on income taxes, education funding and the like. Good stuff, but no sound effects.

Patrick says "You're Dumb" and temporarily loses his socks, but is otherwise quiet.

Sluggo's mouth is making funny noises, but his web site isn't.

Atypically, Enlighten NJ is silent today. Not causing a ruckus in my speakers, either.

Jim is unimpressed with the runaway bride story, yawning but not making funny noises.

Aha, here's the culprit. PoliticsNJ is running a Democratic State Committee advertisement. Kind of a cute ad, using South Park-like animation to make the point that the Republicans candidates are having a sometimes heated debate, while Tom Wilson is trying to get the party unified behind the eventual candidate. Apparently, the Dems are trying to contrast the Republicans' very (small d) democratic process with their own, in which the guy with the most money buys up all the influence in the state party and forces out otherwise viable candidates like the sitting governor.

In their usual fashion, PoliticsNJ gives over the site's front page to the ad, and you must click through it to reach actual content. Unless, of course, you want to follow the link and avoid the ad. I'd recommend checking out the ad, though. It's a classic example of Democrats projecting their own worst traits onto the Republicans.