Monday, October 3, 2022

NJ Senator: Don't Be Bullied By 'Dimiwtted' NY Pol

New Jersey State Senator Declan O’Scanlon blasted a dimwitted proposal by a New York lawmaker that would charge every New Jersey driver entering New York City a $50 fee as punishment for pending legislation that would prohibit the NJMVC from helping other states enforce automated camera tickets on Garden State motorists.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon blasted a dimwitted proposal by a New York lawmaker that would charge every New Jersey driver entering New York City a $50 fee as punishment for pending legislation that would prohibit the NJMVC from helping other states enforce automated camera tickets on Garden State motorists. (

“New Jersey got rid of our red light camera program because we learned it was a scam that enriched corrupt tech companies at the expense of drivers without improving public safety,” said O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “Automated red light and speed camera systems are engineered to entrap drivers by shady operators that have been caught bribing politicians all over the country. The only way these systems make money is if proper yellow light and speed setting engineering criteria are ignored. Every competent, unbiased study of these systems demonstrates they have no overall safety benefit — and that’s the only measure that counts. Automated camera enforcement is a policing for profit racket that New Jersey rightfully banned. These camera systems have nothing to do with making roads safer and everything to do with making money. New Jersey doesn’t inflict these scams on our drivers or anyone else’s, and we should not be complicit in helping other states to perpetuate their automated injustice on New Jerseyans. The sooner all of these abusive programs end everywhere, the better.”

In June, the New Jersey Senate unanimously passed O’Scanlon’s “Automated Enforcement Inoculation Act,” which would shield New Jersey drivers from predatory fines for traffic violations captured by red light cameras and speed cameras in other states.

Under O’Scanlon’s legislation, S-460, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and other State entities would be prohibited from disclosing the personal information of New Jersey drivers to help another state impose or collect a fine for alleged violations captured by automated camera ticketing systems.

Out of fear that the Empire State might lose a stream of easy camera ticket revenues from out-of-state drivers, New York Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz introduced legislation in Albany that would charge New Jersey drivers, and those from other “uncooperative” states, a punitive $50 fee every time they enter New York City.

The proposed $50 fee would be in addition to existing bridge and tunnel tolls and a $23 congestion pricing toll that New York is considering charging drivers to enter much of lower and midtown Manhattan.

“I won’t let a dimwitted New York politician try to extort New Jersey into enforcing a corrupt automated ticket racket that preys on both his constituents and my own. And it should be noted that the folks most devastatingly impacted by these systems are the poor and middle-class workers,” added O’Scanlon. “I would warn Assemblyman Dinowitz that this escalating abuse of New Jersey workers by New York will give large employers even more incentive to open satellite offices in the Garden State. You’ll lose your precious corrupt ticket revenue and billions more in income tax payments to New Jersey, all while commercial vacancies in Manhattan climb even higher. New York has the most to lose by a long shot.”

WARNING: Don't Fall For This $400 Million Scam!

You know that New Jersey property taxes are already the highest in the nation. In Cherry Hill, payment was due at the end of August. And, if you’ve checked it out, you’ve noticed that more than half of your property taxes go to the local schools. More than half!  Furthermore, quarterly taxes will be due again in November!

The Cherry Hill School District has an operating budget exceeding $272 million per year. That comes to more than $26,000 per student. Yet the national average for private school tuition is less than half that — about $12,000 per student. 

So, the school district has plenty of money. They’re already collecting more of your property tax dollars than the county, the township, the fire district, the library and the open space fund combined! 

But that’s still not enough. Now, the schools are asking you to  cough up hundreds of millions more. 

Yes, they want you to approve a bond issue (basically a borrowing plan) of $363 million that they say they need for the schools. That will increase your property taxes by an average of $400 every year  for the next 20 years. And that’s without any other increases the school district will enact each and every year as history has shown the school budget grows annually. Check your annual tax bill. You’ll see that the budget and the taxes go up — not down — every year!

A few years ago Cherry Hill voters wisely turned down a similar school bond. But now the district is back for another try at an even higher price.

The special school bond election is scheduled for this Thursday, October 6 — not Tuesday and not in November when elections are usually held. Remember: Thursday, October 6. The school district is hoping you won’t even notice there’s an election this week. In fact, they're only making their budget approval pitch to parents of school age children. And they're conveniently leaving you out of the loop. Yes, this approach is sneaky and snarky. But this way they figure they’ll get their voters out to approve the budget while you focus on other things. Don’t let this happen!

Right now, runaway inflation is costing you an extra $340 a month — and that’s a conservative figure! What’s more, New Jersey already has the nation’s highest property taxes and is one of the most heavily taxed states. This is no time to raise your taxes!

Vote NO! on the school bond splurge! 

It’s your money. Tell the Cherry Hill schools to do a better job of managing it! After all, you’re working hard to do more with less. Why shouldn’t they?

Image by Eric Perlin for Pixabay. 

Italian American History Month: Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

Michael R. Pompeo was sworn in as the 70th Secretary of State on April 26, 2018, serving through 2020. He previously served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from January 2017 to April 2018.

Michael R. Pompeo, 70th Secretary of State

Prior to joining the Trump Administration,  Pompeo was serving in his fourth term as congressman from Kansas’ 4th District. He served on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the Energy and Commerce Committee and House Select Benghazi Committee.

Prior to his service in Congress, Pompeo founded Thayer Aerospace, where he served as CEO for more than a decade. He later became President of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturing, distribution, and service company.

Mike Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.

After leaving active duty, Pompeo graduated from Harvard Law School, having been an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Mike Pompeo was born on December 30, 1963, in Orange, California. He is married to Susan Pompeo and has one son, Nick. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Monday Morning: DO NOT MISS THIS, 9 AM!


Italian American Heritage Month: Giovanni Ribisi

Giovanni Ribisi

His full name is Antonio Giovanni Ribisi and he's an actor of extraordinary talents.

Known for his quirky characterizations, Giovanni Ribisi quickly amassed an impressive list of credits early in his career. In fact, he hit the scene like a bolt of lightening.

After building a solid reputation with guest spots on various popular series, Ribisi first made an impact with his portrayal of the bizarre yet lovable Frank, Jr. in several episodes of the hit sitcom "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004). Then, he became known for his supporting work in director Tom Hanks' dramedy "That Thing You Do!" (1996) and the lead role in Richard Linklater's indie offering, "SubUrbia" (1996). All of this quickly made him a young talent to watch. 

Ribisi stuck with the winning formula when he appeared alongside Hanks in Steven Spielberg's harrowing "Saving Private Ryan" (1999) then garnered acclaim as the star of the stock market drama, "Boiler Room" (2000). He frequently delivered unnerving performances as disturbed or outright unlikable characters in high-profile projects like "The Gift" (2000) and "Cold Mountain" (2003). 

And despite appearing in his fair share of big budget flops like "Flight of the Phoenix" (2004) and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (2004), Ribisi could always be depended upon to bring something just left-of-center to each character he played. By the turn of the decade, he had become one of the more sought after character actors, appearing in mainstream features like "Avatar" (2009), "The Rum Diary" (2011) and "Contraband" (2012). 

The talented Ribisi never fails to surprise audiences with characters that combined a mix of the better and baser elements of human nature, though not always in equal measure.

Ribisi was born in Los Angeles on December 17, 1974. His father, Al Ribisi, is a musician who had been the keyboard player in People! and his mother, Gay, is a manager of actors and writers.  He is the twin brother of actress Marissa Ribisi and the brother of voice actress Gina Ribisi.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Seventeen Governors: The NJ Execs I Have Known

The recent death of former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio (there's a Florio story ahead) and last year's hotly contested governor's race in the Garden State bring to mind the governors I've lived through and those I have known.

Growing up in a political family, I was aware of the politics of my home state from an early age and knew the name of the first governor I could identify, Alfred E. Driscoll. Governor Driscoll was the first governor to serve a four-year term under the 1947 constitution. Consequently, he served a total of seven years (three in his first term and four in his second) from 1947 to 1954. Prior to this New Jersey's governors were only eligible to serve one three-year term. Governor Driscoll was the man who envisioned and oversaw the building of the New Jersey Turnpike. It's because of him that we now know which exit of the state (I'm exit four) that we are from. Dirscoll was from my home county (Camden) and he would be the last governor from South Jersey until 1970.

As a youngster, the governor who made the greatest impression on me was Governor Robert B. Meyner. Bob Meyner looked, acted and spoke like a governor. He was a distinguished man who harbored national ambitions. But he seemed to squander his opportunity in 1960 when he insisted on being New Jersey's favorite son choice at the Democratic National Convention even as the JFK train was leaving the station. He garnered a mere 41 delegate votes at the convention. Meyner served two terms but attempted a comeback in 1969 when he was the Democrat nominee for governor once again. I supported him and remember greeting him at a rally at the old, iconic Hawaiian Cottage in Cherry Hill where we wore leis and campaign buttons that declared: "I'm A Meyner Bird". It was not to be. Collingswod's Bill Cahill was elected governor.

As Meyner approached the end of his second term in 1961, it was widely expected that New Jersey would end eight years of Democrat rule and turn to a Republican. The GOP candidate was former US Labor Secretary James Mitchell. Mitchell was far better known and more highly thought of than the Democrat's choice, Richard J. Hughes, an obscure superior court judge who seemed to come out of
nowhere to garner his party's nomination. In an exceptionally close race, Hughes won the general election with less than 50.4 percent of the vote. Nobody expected much of the guy. But Dick Hughes turned out to be a shrewd politician with extraordinary people skills. A modest, highly-approachable man, he had no affectations whatsoever. He wore thick horned-rim glasses, always appeared a bit rumpled and knew (and remembered) thousands of New Jerseyans on a first-name basis. Hughes was a close friend of President Lyndon B. Johnson and was one of three final candidates considered by Vice President (and presidential nominee) Hubert Humphrey to be the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1968. Later when he was Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and I worked for the state bar association I got to know Hughes quite well and interviewed him for the state bar newspaper. He was always fair-minded, personable and scrupulously honest. He remains one of my favorite governors and a beloved New Jersey figure.

Back to Cahill. Call it the luck of the Irish. Cahill had the good fortune of being the GOP nominee after 16 years of Democrat governors. Though he was from South Jersey, I didn't know Bill Cahill. He was our congressman and seemed to be a likable person but this was 1969 and how could I possibly support somebody who was part of the same party that embraced Richard Nixon? Disenchanted with LBJ in 1968, I was a liberal, anti-war Democrat who supported Gene McCarthy for president. Yes, I was young and idealistic and Bill Cahill (even though he was a moderate-to-liberal Republican) seemed to be too much a part of the old order. When Cahill was unexpectedly defeated for a second term in his own party primary, he became the first of three New Jersey governors in my lifetime to be rejected by the voters after only one term.

After the GOP dumped Governor Cahill and nominated conservative Jersey shore Congressman Charlie Sandman in 1973, it seemed inevitable that the Democrats would step back into power. Though many sought the Democrat nomination, party bosses settled on a seasoned former prosecutor, Brendan Byrne. Byrne's trajectory closely followed that of Dick Hughes. A superior court judge, Byrne had never held elected office. In the era of Watergate, the Democrats marketed Byrne as a squeaky clean champion of integrity. But Byrne was an insider from the get-go. He was a tactician who operated with a wry (and sometimes sly) sense of humor. Now, here's my Brendan Byrne story: At a bar association convention I presented the governor with the first copy of the association's new newspaper, The Advocate. The publication was my baby. I labored over it for months, almost single-handedly brought it into being and was very proud of The Advocate.  As I handed the first edition to Governor Byrne he said: "Thank you, Dan. I'm going to read this tonight at bedtime when I have my milk and cookies." That was Brendan Byrne!

Though they called him "one term Byrne" (especially after he oversaw enactment of the state income tax) Byrne managed to be re-elected and served through 1981. But by then Ronald Reagan was president, the GOP was resurgent and the Republicans saw an opportunity. That's where Tom Kean came in. Though he lost in a bid to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee four years earlier, this time Kean was ready. But it was very tricky. This was New Jersey, after all. So Kean had to run to the left of most of the Reagan-ignited GOP but to the right of his liberal opponent, Democrat Congressman Jim Florio. It turned out to be the closest New Jersey gubernatorial election ever with Kean besting Florio by 1,797 votes. Kean became such an accomplished governor (so charming, so adept, so polished, so appealing) that he was re-elcted by the largest margin ever. I'm proud to say that I attended both Kean victory celebrations and counted myself among Governor Kean's earliest and most loyal supporters. He remains a personal favorite.

And now we see a pattern here. Kean tries once and fails but later becomes governor. And then Jim Florio tries once and fails (by the skin of his teeth) and later goes on to succeed Kean in 1989. Since Florio represented Camden and became a huge success in South Jersey, I knew him fairly well -- not that anyone knew Jim Florio very well, because he always remained somewhat distant and inscrutable. But I did some work for him when he first ran for the State Assembly and later when he sought and won a seat in Congress. Florio was a cautious, centrist Democrat who moved a bit too far, too fast after he was elected governor. During the election campaign, Florio reportedly said: "You can write this statement down: 'Florio feels there is no need for new taxes.'" But after assuming office he faced a three billion dollar budget deficit and attempted to enact the largest, across-the-board tax increase in state history. That triggered a mammoth taxpayer revolt fueled by an emerging statewide talk radio station. This all proved to be the undoing of this promising politico who suddenly seemed to be in way over his head. It was a sad thing to watch. But, then again: Why in hell did he ever propose a tax on toilet paper, among other things?

This opened the door for the first woman governor, the GOP's Christine Todd Whitman. Like Tom Kean (but unlike Hughes, Cahill or Florio) Whitman arrived with a genuine pedigree. Both her father and her mother came from prominent, well-heeled political families and both were active in Republican politics. Even though he was battered by the tax revolt, Christie Whitman faced a tough battle against Jim Florio in 1993. She had to prove she could endure the rough and tumble of New Jersey street politics and relate to real, everyday Jersey taxpayers. It was onetime Reagan advisor and noted political guru Lyn Nofzinger who turned Whitman's campaign around and put her on the right track. He packaged a more accessible Whitman by putting her on a bus and having her visit New Jersey diners, transit stations, roadside markets and workplaces. The more people got to know her, the more they liked her. I liked her a lot and I felt a special pride as my daughter and I cheered her on throughout two campaigns and on two long, raucous election nights which resulted in a slim victories both in 1993 and 1997.

After Governor Whitman left office near the end of her second term to become the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush, four "fill-in" acting governors served out the remaining year of her second term. This was before New Jersey had a Lieutenant Governor and since these acting governors were never actually elected to that office, we'll skip over them.

And now we come to a somewhat sordid chapter in New Jersey's history -- the brief reign of a central Jersey wunderkind, Jim McGreevey. Like Florio and Kean, McGreevey ran for governor before (taking on Governor Whitman) and failed. I didn't know McGreevey but I knew people who did know him very well. They greatly admired him. He was a driven, highly-charged guy who seemed groomed for politics his whole life. And, he could be quite a charmer. McGreevey followed an all-too-typical liberal Democrat pattern. He came into office whining about a massive budget deficit and quickly raised taxes on the heels of that. What's the point of going over McGreevey's fall from grace? Everybody knows the story. It made national, even international, news. But actually, his coming out appeared to be a sort of ruse, hiding something far worse -- an alleged pattern of bribes and corruption. Democrats knew they had a real problem on their hands with this guy, so Dem bosses quietly pressured him to leave -- and leave promptly. He was succeeded by a likable chap, Senate President Dick Codey who served as Acting Governor for about a year. Codey had a folksy appeal and might have made a very good governor had he actually sought election in his own right, but that was not to be. Senator Jon Corzine decided that he wanted to be governor instead. And Corzine had the money to make it happen.

Of all the New Jersey governors in my lifetime, no one appeared to be more ill-suited to the job than Jon Corzine. Born in Illinois and groomed as a bond-trader and bank executive, his career didn't really start to take off till he arrived at Goldman Sachs in 1976. By the time Corzine left the legendary Wall Street firm he had cashed in to the tune of $400 million. He could have done anything he wanted but, curiously, he decided to enter politics. Being elected to the United States Senate was not enough, however. So, Corzine repackaged himself as a super-executive and financial whiz who, as governor. could finally -- finally! -- solve the Garden State's financial problems and save us all a ton of dough. Well, it didn't work. We ran out of money again and Corzine stubbornly forced a government shutdown to win a one-percent increase in the state sales tax from six to seven percent. And of course property taxes simply continued to rise. Corzine proved to be an awkward leader who simply lacked people skills. His controversial toll hike plan (dubbed monetization) was the final straw. Corzine became the third Democrat governor in 20 years to serve just one term (or less) when he was defeated in 2009.

I knew the minute I met Chris Christie in early 2009 that he had the makings of a great leader. It was obvious to me that he had the political skills and know how of Dick Hughes and the insight of Tom Kean or Brendan Byrne. He was a person who could actually get things done -- and not just day-to-day things but big, meaningful things. Christie combined a common touch with a super-sharp intellect and dogged determination. On top of that, he proved to be a compelling speaker, a formidable debater and a shrewd political infighter. But he seemed to lack the discipline of Byrne, Hughes and Whitman or the charm of Kean. He could be (and has been) impatient, abrupt, dismissive and maddeningly unpredictable. On top of all that, he's highly theatrical. Which are just some of the reasons why he's never, ever dull and why I find him some appealing. What a contrast to his predecessor! Over the past eight years, I've written so much about Christie (here and elsewhere) that there's not much else to say. He's been an immensely consequential governor. That fact stands, no matter what you may think of him or his time in office. I look upon him as the most vivid New Jersey political personality in my lifetime and someone who I'm proud to know him and proud to have avidly supported from the very beginning. And, if you're thinking of counting Chris Christie out, you'd better think again. His time as a public figure is far from over. Stay tuned!

Now, Phil Murphy is the 56th Governor of New Jersey. He's 17th governor in my lifetime and I wish I could find something nice to say about this rather weird looking, snaggle-toothed guy. But, he just comes across as as a relentlessly provocative, nasty fella. He seems to go out of his way to antagonize people and, at this point he appears to be the least worthy of recognition here. 

For the record, here's a quick summary:

Most fascinating: Christie
Most genuine: Hughes
Most welll-bred: Whitman
Most charming: Kean
Most distinguished: Meyner
Most witty: Byrne

Squandered opportunity: Corzine, McGreevey, Cahill

Most polarizing: Murphy

Intriguing might-have-been: Codey

My personal favorites: Christie, Kean, Hughes

Italian American Heritage Month: 31 Bios!

October is Italian American Heritage Month.

Every day this month we will celebrate the culture, heritage and personalities that define our rich, vibrant, irrepressible Italian American community -- a community that has contributed so much to this country.

And we will do this by spotlighting a different notable Italian American every single day. 31 great stories for 31 days! We being with Peter Mole:

Peter Mole

Sicilian-born Peter (Pietro) Mole arrived in the United States in 1897 at the age of six. Mole studied engineering in college and joined the staff of General Electric Company, where he helped develop a searchlight, among other devices. In 1923, Mole moved to California and accepted a position at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM).
At that time, the carbon arc lamp was the industry standard. After Eastman Kodak introduced Panchromatic black-and-white film, which was sensitive to the various hues of the color spectrum, Mole developed the first color temperature compatible incandescent tungsten lamp. In addition to being quieter, which was increasingly important following the advent of sound in motion pictures, the lamp provided softer, more natural light.
In 1927, Mole cofounded the Mole-Richardson Company and began manufacturing a variety of specialized studio lights, which forever changed the face of Hollywood. Later that year, Mole and his company won three Academy Awards for technical achievement. During World War II, Mole devised and manufactured military searchlights, aircraft landing lights, and a classified tank with a strobe light, for which he was honored by the State Department. Today, Mole-Richardson remains one of the most trusted names in the industry.