Sunday, February 27, 2005

Government Employment -- Part II

As a follow-up to my previous post, I wondered how New Jersey's public sector growth compared with population growth, so I dropped in on the Census Bureau. Here's what I found for each of the states mentioned.




pop growth 4/01-7/03

Annual rate





New York
















New Jersey




United States




Census Data

So, New Jersey's population didn't grow quite as quickly as MD, DE, or the country as a whole, but did exceed NY, PA, and CT. So far so good, NJ doesn't really stand out from the crowd. But then, compare the change in public sector employment to the change in population and a completely different story emerges:

% Change


Public Sector







New York
















New Jersey




United States




Even Pennsylvania, the only other state with public sector growth greater than population growth, kept it close. Each of the other states significantly improved their situations. Unfortunately, percentages don't give you a real feel for the numbers, as bad as they look above. Make sure you are seated with your seat belt fastened when you read this next table.



Public Sector







New York
















New Jersey




United States




On average we added one public sector employee for every 25 new Americans. Combined, the other states in our region added one public sector employee for every 235 new people (driven by the big reductions in CT and NY). Here in New Jersey, we added one public sector employee for every six new residents! By that standard, my family of six should have its very own public servant dedicated to our needs, full time. I haven't seen or heard from this person yet, but will be sure to post as soon as I do.

Government Employment

PropertyTaxNJ, in A Good Year For Government Employment, points out that government is the fastest growing sector of the New Jersey economy. The only level that shrank last year in our state was the federal government! The state added 7,500 jobs over the last year, and local schools and governments added another 8,800.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association Employment Watch report highlights the difference between New Jersey and her neighbors in government employment trends. Notice that Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware had a combined increase of 2,100 government jobs, while our increase was 17,200. Another interesting point: New Jersey accounted for 10% of national public sector employment change, growing at more than triple the nationwide rate.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association Employment Watch

According to a Sunday Star-Ledger article,
Some programs will be targeted for elimination, which will enable the state to cut hundreds of state positions. Officials say they should be able to achieve payroll cuts mostly through attrition rather than layoffs.
So the acting Governor intends to decrease payrolls by hundreds next year, after growing them by thousands last year. Thanks for nothing, Senator Codey.

School Construction Corp Cutting Costs

Enlighten-NewJersey reports on School Construction Corp's cost "cutting." According to a Newsday article, NJSCC has approved a budget of $34.6 million.

Let's put this in perspective. Assume that its workers are paid an even $20/hour and work normal 40-hour weeks. Factor in the cost of benefits and employer "contributions" to social security and it costs NJSCC just shy of $60,000 per employee. Apply this rate to the operating budget, and you come up with about 584 people on the company payroll.

There are 55 school districts covered by the full range of NJSCC services (30 Abbot districts and 25 receiving 55% or more in state aid), so each of these districts benefits from the services of about 10 state employees focused solely on the development and completion of construction projects.

Given that there are 168 projects currently under review, it would appear that these service "providers" have found plenty of work to keep themselves busy, and thus justifying their future employment. This is a self-licking ice cream cone. They will continue finding things to do with this money, which is supposed to go toward actual school construction. Instead, they spend it on things like making sure that all contractors have apprenticeship programs, employ the "correct" number of the appropriate groups of people, and producing such enlightening material as the Diversity Digest.

Stop by the NJSCC web site, and take a look at what your $34.6 million buys for you.

Temporary Absence

Sorry for the lack of postings the last few days -- I drove over 800 miles between Thursday morning and Saturday afternoon, with stops for both business and pleasure. Something with actual content will be up later today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Homework Assignment - Liberty

My third grade daughter brought an assignment home this week that's giving ME a hard time.

Think about what liberty means to you. Write a poem (in the shape of the Liberty Bell) in the space below, starting each line with the letters of the word liberty.


I'll post what I came up with in the comments. Your contributions are welcome.

Schundler Comments on Monmouth County Arrests

So far, Brett Schundler is the only Republican candidate with a web-published comment on the whole Monmouth County fiasco of February 22nd. Schundler warns that Republicans need to be careful about how they play the corruption card:

These events serve to highlight that if our political message in November is Republicans are honest and Democrats are corrupt, we will lose.

Schundler now calls for an elected attorney general and the elimination of pay-to-play. As I noted in my post on the candidates' government reform proposals, he had not previously called out the elected AG as an important change. It's good to see Schundler picking up on this proactively, but disappointing to see Forrester and Murphy just quietly slinking away from their endorsements by the alleged bribe-takers. I'd rather see a more vigorous denounciation of the whole mess by all of the Republican candidates.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Monmouth County Bribery Sting

I'm a little late weighing in on this, following up on posts by Patrick at Jerseystyle, Mike at Sluggo Needs a Nap, Roberto at Dynamobuzz and Jim at Parkway Rest Stop, plus wall-to-wall coverage at PoliticsNJ.

Patrick points out that some gubernatorial candidates might want to make "adjustments" in their endorsement lists. Both John Murphy and Doug Forrester are afflicted by this problem. It'll be an interesting test of their character and commitment to see how they handle the situation. According to PoliticsNJ, "Nineteen days ago, Merla endorsed Doug Forrester for Governor. The Forrester campaign removed Merla's endorsement from their website within minutes of the story breaking." Forrester has made no statement on his site about the issue. John Murphy was endorsed by Hazlet Mayor Paul Coughlin; Murphy's team has removed Coughlin's name from the summary list, but did not try to re-write history by changing their original announcement. Interestingly, the link to that press release says "Hazlet officials back Murphy! Deputy Mayor and Committeewomen the latest to endorse John Murphy for Governor," but the actual article leads off with Coughlin.

Roberto takes the prize for best line of the night:
"They only bagged three mayors because the limit is no more than three per season. If you catch more than three, you have to throw them back."

Mike gets a close second: "Good lord, if they're taking down 11 pols in Monmouth county, when they get to Hudson they're going to have to open up another Guantanamo."

Jim is just plain disgusted. "In this case, all the FBI had to do was give these political hacks just a tiny whiff of payoff money and they hit the bait like hungry sharks."

Some consensus seems to be building amongst the Jersey bloggers that pay-to-play reform at the state level is a waste of time in the face of all this corruption, but I don't think that's the case. Take a look at these two details from Chris Christie's press release.

Example 1:

Merla sought money from the CW to cover costs of a political fundraising picnic, in exchange for Merla authorizing public work for the CW. Then, between December 2003 and February 2004, the CW performed two jobs that had been awarded by Keyport Township, a bulkhead removal and tree chipping. Merla allegedly accepted another $2,500 from the CW for steering the bulkhead project as well as other cash payments in connection with other projects.

Example 2:
Zambrano allegedly accepted a total of $5,000 in cash from the CW at a Sept. 30, 2003 meeting with Zambrano at a Tinton Falls restaurant - $3,500 for Zambrano and $1,500 for DeLisa ($500 of DeLisa's payment was for the purchase of tickets to a DeLisa fundraiser)
It's clear that there is a relationship between the legal and illegal exchanges of funds. Some of the politicians appear to feel a sense of entitlement to whatever money they can squeeze. By allowing legal transfers (such as the probably-legal purchase of fundraiser tickets), it presents the opportunity to obscure or even to conduct illegal transactions. As I wrote here, pay-to-play has got to go at all levels of government.

The opportunity for these "legal" donors to receive contracts influenced by their beneficiaries is just plain dumb. The federal government just convicted a former Air Force procurement official, and the former CFO of Boeing for just these kinds of shenanigans. If all men are created equal, then we should apply the law to all public officials equally. Chris Christie took a big step in that direction this morning.

Curious activity

Three consecutive hits on this post this morning. No referring link. Could someone actually be e-mailing my stuff about? The thought boggles the mind.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Pay-to-Play Reform

In the Burlington County Times this morning, I read with great interest about the latest "reform" bill before the legislature (Both sides bicker over pay-to-play ( It seems only Democrats are supporting the current bill in the Senate, but not all of them. According to our local Senators, banning contract awards of greater then $17,500 for contributors to state parties and gubernatorial candidates is insufficient, and should be extended to all levels of government.
I agree wholeheartedly. An incremental approach to this reform simply invites further abuse of the system. As was made abundantly clear during the very short campaign to sew up the Democratic nomination for Governor, the real power in New Jersey resides at the county level. If we cannot prevent these corrupt practices across the board, then the money will simply flow through the unrestricted offices.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Capital Academy Update: The Columns IV

For those who have been following my Capital Academy postings, I have an update. One of my (very few) readers was considering a home purchase in Delanco, and dropped me a line to learn more about the issue. The local papers had been silent on the issue for a few weeks, with the most recent article in the Burlington County Times on February 1st (as I noted here).
In a fit of citizen-journalism, my correspondent called Judge Sweeney's office and learned that Capital Academy's appeal is scheduled for a hearing on April 4th. The hearing doesn't yet show up on the public docket, which only includes the next four weeks, so it seems we have scooped the Times. Thanks for the help!
I'm going to attempt to arrange my schedule to attend this hearing. Hopefully, I'll be able to get something published before the Times on that as well.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Taxing us to death

Roberto at DynamoBuzz notes the acting Governor's run at property tax rebates, and follows up with another tax hike that hasn't hit my local paper yet:

the Bergen Record reports that Codey is looking to extend the 6% sales tax to goods and services that are currently tax free. Stuff like fees charged by professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants, health club memberships and haircuts are not taxable, at least not yet. NOTE TO CODEY: Don't pull a Florio and tax tiolet paper. It took the democrat party almost 10 years to recover from that one.

He also notes that Codey has placed a "ban" on out of state travel and "frozen" hiring. These supposed spending cuts will save peanuts, and only until the bureaucrats in Trenton find a way to circumvent them. Check out the state's vacancy announcement site, where as of this post there are 97 openings, 27 of them posted this week!
Among the critical needs are Social Workers, Housing Assistance Field Rep, Medical Records Administrators, Mental Health Program Coordinator, Laboratory Technicians, and a Real Estate Appraiser. Most interesting is the vacancy for the Amistad Commission Executive Director (Posting # STA-2004-012), which pays $80-95,000 (based on experience) for someone who
Provides leadership to the Amistad Commission, insuring that the provisions of the legislation establishing the Commission and plans developed by the Commission are successfully implemented. Develops proposals for approval by Commission; translate proposals into programs and activities. Plans and organizes all meetings of the Commission and its committees. Maintains official records and files. Hires and supervises Commission staff, both full and part-time, as well asconsultants. Serves as principal contact between the Commission and its constituencies.
As a position in and of itself, I can see the need for an executive director to keep a commission on track, but what really kills me is one of the job requirements:
Five (5) years of progressively responsible administrative and/or education job experience.
Since when is someone with five years experience worth that kind of cash? This is just one example showing New Jersey has a serious problem with prioritizing and controlling its spending. It is a drunken sailor on shore leave after six months at sea. The shore patrol needs to come along and put the sailor in the tank.

Corzine Not For New Jersey Taxpayers

Enlighten-NewJersey has an extensive piece detailing Senator Corzine's recent positions on federal taxation and spending. Their bottom line:

Apparently Senator Corzine believes the people of New Jersey need federal tax cuts the least, the facts prove otherwise. Thank God New Jersey has a friend in the Whitehouse.

Bravo, Enlighten!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

State versus Local Taxation

First, the local part. In Delanco, our school board is trying to pass a bond referendum to pay for an expansion of our elementary and middle schools. The special election on March 8th attempts to deal with the projected growth of the district from new construction. According to the board (as reported by Todd McHale of the Burlington County Times in Delanco board hits road to sway voters, February 14th), the $10 million referendum would cost the average homeowner approximately $77 the first year, rising to about $121 in 2007. This sounds like a reasonable investment in the education of our children, given that it translates to a monthly increase of about $6 per month for those of us who pay taxes through mortgage escrow accounts.

Some groups of township residents don’t wish to pay for this necessary expansion. This is the fourth time the board has asked the township taxpayers to fund the project. Narrowly defeated on the first attempt, the margin of defeat has grown each time. Many in town believe that the repeated defeats are due to the residents of Newton'’s Landing, a recently constructed development. McHale says,

[A]t Newton's Landing, a 250-unit age-restricted development, the road show wasn't a hit. Three dozen residents grilled [district superintendent Joe] Miller and [board member Phil] Jenkins for more than two hours about the project and complained that they are already paying too much in taxes.

Now, for the state bit. Joe Donohue of the Star-Ledger reports (Tax rebate may face trim, says governor, February 16) that acting Governor Codey plans to "save" $800 million by rolling back property tax rebates.

In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, Codey said middle-class homeowners who were eligible last year for a maximum $800 rebate may end up with checks of $300 or less. He said seniors and disabled people would see their maximum rebate drop from $1,200 to $800. The acting governor will propose his budget March 1.

Why does the acting Governor have to go after this $800 million? To cover part of a $4 BILLION budget shortfall created by additional proposed spending on other “priorities,” like $380 million for stem cell research.

For those who are angry with the Delanco (or any other town for that matter) school board, consider the impact on your tax situation driven by the board compared to that created by the state. Delanco asks for your help, while the state will simply take the money away from you. Redirect your anger toward Trenton, as that is where the problem lies. Our township children must be educated in appropriate facilities, but there is no driving need for the state to do many of the things it proposes. Call your Assemblymen, fax your Senator, write the Governor to tell them to keep their hands out of your pockets; and please, come out to vote YES on March 8th so that our kids have the school facilities they need.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

2005 NJ Gubernatorial Election Outcomes

Possible outcomes:

1. Republican candidate wins election, Corzine goes back to his Senate seat and runs for re-election in 2006, effectively unupposed. What is the likelihood that the Republican candidate has enough of a coat-tail to get some control in the state legislature?
2. Corzine wins election. Whom does he appoint to his now-vacant Senate seat?
3. Republican leading significantly in the September polls due to some unforseen scandal, and Dems (using the Toricelli rule) replace Corzine on the ticket. Whom do they pick?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, February 14, 2005


I'd love to post something full of political insight right now, but there just isn't time -- 24 starts in half an hour!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

GOP Candidates For NJ Governor Respond To The Record

Enlighten has the scoop on how each candidate has responded to the following questions from The Record:
1. Why are you the best candidate?
2. What do you think is the state's most pressing problem and what would you do to address it?
3. What would your first executive order be?
4. What would you do to combat high property taxes?
5. How would you balance the budget? Which, if any, taxes would you raise? Which, if any, spending would you cut?
6. How would you replenish the Transportation Trust Fund?
7. What would you do to improve state government's image in terms of ethics and campaign financing?
8. What would you do to end the bitter partisan fighting in New Jersey and the nation?

1. I haven't included Todd Caligurie in my previous postings. I really should go back and correct that oversight.
2. Bob Schroeder manages to work his "Saving NJ Seniors" plan into four of the eight responses.
3. Neither Steve Lonegan nor John Murphy specifically said, "no tax increases" in response to question five. I believe that's what they meant, but it could be open to interpretation.
Overall, I found this format somewhat disappointing. The questions didn't really lend themselves to distinguishing between Republicans. They did, however, set up the contrast between the eventual Republican candidate and Senator Corzine. Doug Forrester was the only one to seize that opportunity. In his response to the transportation trust fund question, he says:
Sens. Corzine and Lautenberg have failed to ensure that New Jersey gets its fair share of transportation funding. As governor, I will fight for the federal dollars we deserve while making sure that our funds are being used to pave roads rather then line the pockets of politically connected contractors.
Given the lack of real distinction between the candidates on these (and many other) questions, the race is going to hinge on two things:
1. Can you communicate your vision in a manner that will bring out the moderates / independents in June, and keep them through November?
2. Do you have the political will and capital means to compete with Senator Corzine?

Getting noticed

One of the surprising things about starting out as a blogger is being noticed by others. I can't imagine standing up at the local equivalent of "Speaker's Corner" and having people say nice things to others about me. Maybe it's the semi-permanance of this medium that allows for such a phenomenon.
The latest kind soul to take such notice resides at Coffeegrounds. The author there (who's name I have yet to discover) actually likes my template, which is kind of scary. The content of Coffeegrounds appears to have much rational thought, which is also scary, but now I have someone else to link with.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Given Bob Schroeder’s reaction to the Burlington County endorsement process, I decided to do a little digging and see what endorsements had actually been handed out. My primary source: each candidate’s web site press releases


One endorsement

Most prominent so far: non-binding Essex County straw poll


11 announced endorsements

Most prominent so far: Frank LoBiondo



Most prominent so far: N/A


Murphy posts a convenient endorsements page on his site. Looks like he’s got Morris County pretty much sewn up.

Most prominent so far: Rodney Frelinghuysen


Two endorsement press releases, one with a fairly long list of District 39 officials.

Most prominent so far: John Rooney & Charlotte Vandervalk (Dist 39 Assembly)


None listed.

Most prominent so far: N/A

Endorsements are a way for the candidates to show that others feel they are qualified and deserving of the nomination. By gaining an affiliation with a known, local politician, the candidates believe that these endorsements open doors to volunteer organizations and potential contributors within communities where they are unknown.

Endorsements don’t sway my opinion one way or the other. I prefer to judge candidates based on what they say, and how they act in public. Simple things like responding to requests for information show that a candidate is interested in discussing my concerns. Who likes them is rather low on my priority list.

Candidate claims endorsement process is a sham

Bob Schroeder has decided not to pursue the Burlington County Republican Party's endorsement.

Robert Schroeder, a wealthy businessman from Bergen County, this week alleged that the outcome of the screening committee's meeting is predetermined.
County Republican leadership has already decided to support Douglas Forrester for governor, a Schroeder spokesman asserted.
Citing "word of mouth" and "very reliable information," Schroeder spokesman Brock McCleary alleged that Forrester has struck a deal with Burlington County GOP Chairman Mike Warner to win the coveted endorsement from one of the state's most powerful Republican organizations.
"I don't want to allege anything nefarious about it, but it's been rumored and reported for days," McCleary said.
The endorsement committee is meeting today (February 12th) at the Riverton Country Club, and will give each candidate 20 minutes to present their cases. Forrester, Schundler, Murphy, an Lonegan will each attend the meeting. Burlington County Republicans have denied Schroeder's allegation.
"Many of our folks have expressed sentiment for endorsing Mr. Forrester," [county GOP executive director Sean] Kennedy said in a prepared statement. "But the fact is chairman Warner has not made any deal to award the (endorsement) to Forrester and Doug is not the only candidate that has impressed our organization."

Schroeder has a press release here. His spokesman, Mark Vogel, says
“I urge all Republicans to demand a democratic procedure where rank-and-file Republican County Committee members are not excluded and robbed of the opportunity to vote for the gubernatorial candidate of their choice.”
By bowing out, it would appear that Schroeder is effectively quitting the race. Each county GOP has the right to decide not only to whom, but how it will give its endorsements. Schroeder apparently believes that he should dictate process to the counties -- not a good sign from one who would be Governor.

Interestingly, Paul DiGaetano has also canceled his appearance, without comment from his campaign. I asked a few days ago whether he was still in the race, and I think this answers the question.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Patrick highlights the case of one Robert Codey, brother of our acting Governor. It seems that Robert suddenly has received a significant raise in pay, and is now eligible to retire with an annual pension $36,000 higher than what he would have otherwise received.

Mr. Codey is 55. Given a life expectancy of 79 years, the taxpayers of New Jersey have just been stuck with an additional liability of $864,000 that will directly benefit the acting Governor's immediate family.

Patrick's comment:

I sincerely hope that no evidence is turned up here to show Dick is responsible for his brother's raise.
I don't believe that evidence is necessary. The appearance of impropriety alone should have been enough, whether or not the acting Governor had anything to do with this decision. The people of New Jersey should not be paying for large gifts to those close to their unelected leaders.

UPDATE (2/12): roberto over at DynamoBuzz has a slightly different angle, but with a similar result. I hadn't noticed some facts he points out
  • Codey's transfer occured October 1st, before his brother took over as acting Governor. Of course, it was also well after it became apparent that Dick Codey would replace McGreevey.
  • Apparently New Jersey government employees with 30 years of service retire at 70% of their highest annual salary (see here). Contrast this with US Military retirement -- men and women who lay their lives on the line in defense of our way of life. They are entitled to 75% after 30 years, but this is calculated based on an average of their highest three years. High Year Tenure rules also limit the number of military members who can actually finish 30 years.
Sounds to me that Codey's getting a much better deal than a hero like Marine LtGen Jim Mattis. Is that the right thing to do?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Codey is tempted to tax deposits in 401(k) plans

The Star-Ledger's article about acting Governor Codey's new taxes shows just how far the Democrats will go to steal every last cent the taxpayers earn. In the latest proposal, deductions to 401(K) plans would no longer be deductible from income. Thus, the state would tax the money once when it was first earned, and again when it was withdrawn during retirement.

Trying to justify their theft, unnamed "officials" said

Some states, including Pennsylvania, already tax 401(K) contributions as they are made.
Well guess what, "officials" -- the "But Tommy down the street does it!" defense didn't work when I was a kid, and it's not going to work now.

The official said contributions to other retirement plans, such as IRAs, Keough Plans, teacher retirement accounts and deferred compensation accounts are already subject to the state taxation.
"It's not a tax increase. It is consistency. All (retirement) plans should be treated the same," the official said.

OK, let's try this one more time. If you aren't taxing it now, and you propose to tax it later, then that's an INCREASE.

And in yet another bold move to stick it to the people of New Jersey:
Lawmakers in 1996 restored a system that allows residents to deduct property tax bills of up to $10,000. The plan under consideration would eliminate those deductions for wealthier residents -- perhaps those earning more than $250,000.

By the convoluted math of state "officials," this means pretty much everyone. Look at the so-called "millionaire's tax" McGreevey pushed on us last year, where $500,000 in income was defined as a millionaire. Now according to this article, Codey wants to extend the tax rate hike down to couples making $150k or individuals making $75k. Following the math here, ($1M -> $500k -> $75k), the property tax deduction proposed will end up affecting everyone with an income above $18,750 -- about $9 / hr assuming full time employment.

This state needs a governor and legislature to instill fiscal discipline in the government on the spending side. The constant resort to increasing tax rates and taxable items will only drive more and more people from the state. Remember that when you go to the polls for the primary in June and the general election in November.

Republican Campaign News

Here's the latest release from each of the GOP Gubernatorial nomination campaigns:

Doug Forrester, 2/9/05, touts his latest endorsement from Monmouth County Freeholder Rob Clifton. 23 releases this year, just about every other day.
Steve Lonegan, 2/4/05, takes a swipe at acting Governor Codey's plans to tax us into oblivion. 13 releases since the beginning of the year, every three days on average.
John Murphy, 2/1/05, reports the endorsement of the majority of the Sussex County Freeholders and the Sheriff, and also puts out a prediction by strategist David Murray that Murphy will move up big by Valentine's Day. According to Murray, "Many Republicans are waiting for a third candidate to emerge from the pack. That candidate will be John Murphy.” I don't think playing for third place is going to work. Murphy has posted seven press releases (and a blog posting) this year, just over once a week.
Paul DiGaetano, 12/15/04, reports his success in the non-binding Essex County straw poll. His main page still carries his candidacy announcement as Breaking News. No updates in nearly two months -- is DiGaetano still in the race?
Robert Schroeder, 1/31/05, jumps all over acting Governor on the occasion of his announcement that Corzine will be unopposed. Three releases this year, an average of one every other week.
Bret Schundler, 1/30/05, also comments about the Codey announcement. Surprisingly, he also only has 3 releases for the year, but he also maintains a blog and posts about every other week. Another note, I had trouble browsing Schundler's site using Firefox, but it seemed to work OK in IE.

So, it looks like five of the six candidates are alive and well, with one operating in a press vacuum. Not surprisingly, the best funded candidate is also the most active. In addition to his regular press releases, Forrester has been all over the radio airwaves with his message. Schundler's site has a transcript and audio for his first radio spot, but I haven't run across it on the air yet.

Commonwealth Conservative notices New Jersey

Over at the Commonwealth Conservative, John Behan says:

The New Jersey GOP has made some strides in recent years, but the deck is stacked up there unlike what we face here in the Old Dominion. If you know of any other New Jersey center-right blogs, let me know. We’re fighting the same fight this year.

John, we here in New Jersey appreciate (and need) all the help we can get, as Enlighten-NJ pointed out in your comments.

Some of the other blogs covering the race here in Jersey:
Jerseystyle, where Patrick covers a lot of ground and politics is a major topic;
DynamoBuzz, where roberto describes himself as "right-wing conservative with a touch of libertarian;"
PoliticsNJ, a five-year veteran with extensive news and opinion coverage, and links to everyone in the world. His Power List is a very useful tool.

And finally, some crazy fool who uses his name backwards as a blog address occasionally has a rational thought.

Quinnipiac University | Polling Results

In a poll released January 26th, Quinnipiac found Doug Forrester and Bret Schundler tied in the Republican primary:

Forrester 32%
Schundler 32
DK/NA 29

This is a significant change from their poll on November 17, 2004, when Forrester was at 19% and Schundler 34%. It would appear that Forrester's non-stop radio campaign is paying off. I'm looking forward to the next poll, after Schundler gets his own communications machinery running.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Union (again)

The Diplomad sees George W. Bush as The Risk Taker.

He gambled his Presidency on removing the Taliban, crushing Al Qaeda, and moving Afghanistan towards democracy. On the Palestinian question, he could have followed the failed policies of the past: schmooze with Arafat, give him money, pretend that he didn't control the "radical" elements, consult with the EU, keep sending special envoys hither and yon, etc. No. Bush cut off Arafat, refused to deal with the Palestinian authority until they held free elections, and now we have a chance, more than ever before, for a solution.

I agree that Bush has taken risks, but they haven't been the risks of the gambler. As I said in my earlier post, these are the risks of a venture capitalist. He took his available capital after 9/11 and invested it in freeing Afghanistan from the Taliban. That investment paid off with a nice profit, and left Bush with the seed capital to free Iraq. Now, it's time to diversify his investment, so President Bush is seeking other markets. Some are adjacent to his current investments, like Egypt and Syria, while his current large risk is in Social Security.
Let's hope that the President's strategy is correct, and that this latest investment of political capital will pay us all a very nice dividend for a long time to come.

Blogger in Need of Help

In Cruel Lessons: BestBuyDigital, Jason Williscroft relates the story of how BestBuyDigital treated him like crap. I've fought this same battle with online "retailers" before, but that was back in the day before blogging. Now, there's a powerful tool available to put the losers out of our misery. Post often to spread the word about these sorry excuses for businessmen.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union

All I can say is, "Wow!"

The President was clear, and to the point tonight on everything. You could see that he very much wanted to get through the minor "applause" moments, and tried to blow through a couple of them. The meat of this speech was more powerful than any I have seen him give, and delivered on the promise of the Inaugural Address two weeks ago.

On the domestic agenda, he didn't just ask the Congress for a bunch of programs. He threw down several gauntlets. His demand for a vote on his judges, his renewed support for an amendment to support traditional marriage, and his Social Security reform agenda will all challenge the legislative branch over the next Congress.

The brightest moment was his call to democracy, country by country, across the Middle East. The successful elections in Iraq have bought him much political capital, both in DC and around the world. His willingness to invest that capital will yield even more over time. President Bush, I think, is the first to successfully apply the principles of venture capital to the international diplomacy arena. Bravo!

New Jersey Governor's Race -- Education

Maintaining or improving education for our children is a pretty important issue at the local level. Since all politics is local, I would expect that the Republican candidates for governor would have something to say about it. Here’s what I found:

Paul DiGaetano says that he “has a record of bringing home record amounts of dollars for the classrooms in his district” and that “local schools need to get a fairer share of the tax dollars being sent to Trenton.” He then says he “will continue in his tradition as a budget hawk, insisting that spending on education focus on the classroom” while he will “remain a leading advocate for our best teachers, making sure they have the resources to do their job effectively.”

This policy statement doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a gubernatorial candidate, but would sound great for an assemblyman.

Doug Forrester doesn’t have a specific education policy statement on his web site, but in his candidacy announcement he cites “an excellent education for every child” as part of the American Dream. I’ve asked for his thoughts on how to achieve this vision, and will publish the response when I receive it.

Steve Lonegan says “quality is not achieved simply by throwing vast sums of money into a system that is hardly a model of efficiency.” He follows up with this: “The key is to return teachers and teaching to the ranks of a profession – rather than the industrial-style union mentality that prevails today.” He offers a 10-point plan to improve our state’s educational system:

1. Vouchers for students in failing districts

2. Equal per-pupil aid for every district

3. Return control to local decision-makers

4. Prohibit school employees from sitting on school boards

5. Move board elections to November to increase voter participation

6. Cap budget increases

7. End construction project labor agreements

8. Count student population monthly instead of annually

9. Enforce voter rejection of capital projects

10. Expand outsourcing of support services

John Murphy doesn’t have anything to say about education on his site. I even did a Google Search and came up empty. I contacted him via the web form on the site, and will publish his response when I receive it.

Like Murphy, Bob Schroeder doesn’t spell out any specifics on education on his site. I only found two references to the term:

1. In his web contact form, a drop-box has a list of topics to select from, and includes education. (I used the form to ask what he thinks. When he responds, I will post it here.)

2. In an article about a fundraiser speech (May 5, 2004): “After applause subsided, Schroeder proposed changes in property tax, health care, auto insurance, education, transportation and tolls.”

It’d be nice to have the transcript of that speech – we might learn something from it.

Bret Schundler has not stated a position on education, but does claim a record of improving it as mayor of Jersey City. His site reprints a NY Times article from 1994 that states his top priority was “turning Jersey City's schools, which the state took over five years ago [i.e., in 1989], into a national model with a system of education vouchers.” His biography page claims “effective innovations in education” in his 2nd and 3rd terms as mayor.

Like the other candidates who have not yet published any specifics on education, I’ve asked via email and will post the response.

I expect the governor to communicate a vision for education, set priorities that lead to achieving his vision, and hold people accountable for delivering results. Spending more money that we don’t have will not solve any problems. It looks like Steve Lonegan has given a lot of thought to education reform. Doug Forrester has a good one-liner vision so far, and Bob Schroeder had a plan about 9 months ago but doesn't currently publish it on the web. We'll have to wait and see what, if anything, Bret Schundler and John Murphy have to say.

This topic is intimately linked with tax reform, since most of the cost of local government is sunk into the education of our children. My next installment will cover the candidates’ positions on taxes. That’s going to be a LONG post, so give me a few days.