Hudson County towns could move non-partisan elections to November

Hudson County municipalities could get a chance to move non-partisan elections from May to November. Jersey City and Hoboken councilmen plan to introduce ordinances that would move the May non-partisan elections in those cities to November.

The Assembly approved a measure that would allow such a move yesterday sending it to the governor's desk to be signed into law. The Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 10. The Assembly voted 49 to 25 with two abstentions.

Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero indicted

Federal authorities indicted Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero and the party’s chief counsel, Dennis Oury, today.

A federal grand jury returned an eight-count indictment accusing Ferriero and Oury, who was fired as the Bergenfield borough attorney in January, of conspiracy to commit fraud against the borough and mail fraud.

“I am done being surprised in this job,” U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said. “We’ve had these conversations before about others we’ve prosecuted ... for some reason, greed and power seem to corrupt them and overcome what otherwise might be good sense and good decision-making.”

The indictment charges that in December 2001, Ferriero and Oury conceived of a plan to form a company called Government Grants Consulting LLC that would be paid by Bergen County towns to assist them in obtaining state and local grant monies. According to the indictment, Ferriero indicated that Government Grants would be successful because he could use his “influence” to help the municipalities “get a better result.”

New Jerseyans bear heaviest state, local tax burden in nation

New Jersey taxpayers bear the heaviest state and local tax burden in the country for the third year in a row, according to a report released Wednesday by a fiscal policy organization in Washington D.C.

The Tax Foundation found the state's residents paid 11.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The national average is 9.7 percent.

Taxpayers in New York and Connecticut aren't far behind. Residents in those states pay 11.7 percent and 11.1 percent of their income to state and local taxes respectively.

They are the only three states where taxpayers give up more than 11 percent of their income in state-local taxes, according to the report.

Feisty councilman wasn't the butt of goof, Norwegian comics claim

Feisty councilman wasn't the butt of goof, Norwegian comics claim

Pia Haraldsen
Producers of the Norwegian entertainment show that sent a comedian to interview Staten Island Councilman James Oddo about next year's presidential election did not mean to offend him or take advantage of his known habit of speaking his mind, the television network said earlier today.

Yeah, right.

In a profanity-laced tirade, Oddo recently threw Pia Haraldsen and her camera crew out of his City Hall office after she asked him about Hillary Clinton's chances in the race because of "that embarrassing situation with the cigar" and whether Barack Obama can run for president because he's African-American.

Court finds ordinance open to referendum

Supreme Court of New Jersey
Supreme Court Justices
Top row, L to R: Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto; Justice Barry T. Albin; Justice John E. Wallace, Jr.; Justice Helen E. Hoens; Front row, L to R: Justice Virginia Long; Chief Justice Stuart Rabner; Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.

A New Jersey Supreme Court's ruling will be felt around the state because it is likely to give voters more opportunities to overthrow ordinances they oppose with properly certified petitions, officials say.

The ruling affects the 125 municipalities governed by the Faulkner Act, which includes all major cities such as Trenton and large urban and suburban areas like Hamilton and New Brunswick.  Hoboken is also governed by the Faulkner Act.

In 39 years of case law rulings, state courts have made a distinction between municipal ordinances that are administrative in nature and ones that are legislative.

Legislative ordinances that addressed more permanent issues were subject to voter referendum, but administrative ordinances that addressed more temporary or general issues were exempted from referendums.

Yesterday's high court ruling cleared that up, saying there was no distinction, and reverted to state statutes that say, "the voters shall also have the power of referendum which is the power to approve or reject at the polls any ordinance submitted by the council to the voters or any ordinance passed by the council, against which a referendum petition has been filed. ..." 

N.J. voting machines face twin challenge. A lawyer calls them uncertified. A professor calls them easy to rig

The electronic voting machines used in most of New Jersey were never properly inspected as state law demands, according to a new legal claim filed by voter rights activists. Had the machines been tested, they would have proved to be a hacker's dream, the activists say.

This week Newark attorney Penny Venetis, representing a coalition of plaintiffs, will ask a judge in Trenton to decommission machines used by 18 of the state's 21 counties.

Similar models of the computerized touch-screen machines made by an Oakland, Calif., company, Sequoia, are currently being tested by a Princeton University computer scientist, who says they easily could be rigged to throw an election.

Venetis filed legal papers Friday claiming the state never certified some 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines as secure or reliable as required by law.

Politicians double-dip to earn 6-digit paychecks. Social Security paychecks? Fuggedaboutit.

A large number of Hudson County pols are bankrolling a career in public life into cozy, taxpayer funded retirement plans thanks to spreading themselves out in a number of different jobs, according to The Jersey Journal's review of state pension records.

The Journal review shows that 13 elected officials in Hudson County earn six-figure salaries - and a host of others below that threshold - through a combination of different public jobs, including two pols who rank third and fifth in the state when it comes to prolific pension takers.

Democrate Representative Charles Rangel calls for the draft

WASHINGTON - Americans would have to sign up for a military draft after turning 18 under a bill the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Charles Rangel, says he will introduce next year.

Rangel, Democrate-N.Y., said yesterday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

Plans would promote merging towns to save money

The rough outlines of some of the plans intended to chip away at New Jersey's property tax burden became clearer Wednesday as lawmakers discussed bills that would promote merging towns and consolidating government.

Much of the focus remained on a proposal being pushed by Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth, to create a special commission that would recommend municipal mergers, but a key lawmaker called for a tweak that could alter the bill's impact.

Retiree health care may overwhelm gov'ts

The bill is coming due for years of generous benefits bestowed upon the nation's public employees, and it's a stunner: hundreds of billions of dollars over the next three decades, threatening some local governments with bankruptcy and all but guaranteeing cuts in services like education and public safety.

This staggering burden is coming to light because of new accounting rules issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board. They require public agencies to disclose the future cost of health care and other benefits — such as dental, vision and life insurance — promised alongside traditional pensions to the nation's estimated 24.5 million active and retired state and local public employees.