Good Tuesday morning!
Reaction to the video of a woman harassing Gov. Murphy and his family while they ate dinner outside last weekend has been overwhelmingly negative — for the heckler. That seemed to be the popular sentiment, save for that mendacious pundit the state’s largest radio station sees fit to give its best time slot.
Nobody was surprised that Murphy didn’t engage the woman, though the First Lady’s expression when the woman told her son to “go f___ yourself” suggests it took at least some restraint on her part.
I couldn’t help but think how that would have been handled by former Gov. Christie.
Christie built his national reputation around YouTube moments of him taking on critics and reporters at town hall meetings and press conferences. But it wasn’t all on purpose. In 2012, a passerby yelled something at him on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights — something almost certainly less hostile than the woman who confronted Murphy — and Christie, ice cream cone in hand, looked ready to brawl in a literal TMZ moment. “You’re a real big shot,” Christie, yelled as he walked toward the man. “You’re a real big shot shooting your mouth off.”
Murphy’s response was, by contrast, boring. At his press conference yesterday, he even called it an “unfortunate dining experience.” And I think that after eight years of Christie and three years of Murphy, people are responding well to that.
And just as Christie’s style presaged President Donald Trump’s, Murphy’s style might do the same for President-elect Joe Biden’s. Those of us who closely follow politics have been over-stimulated for years. Only now do we realize how nice boredom can be.
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER — 3,592 newly-reported cases for a total of 309,588. 11 more deaths for a total of 14,960 (and 1,812 probable deaths). 2,693 patients hospitalized with COVID, 537 in ICU.
WHERE’S MURPHY? In cyberspace for a police body camera bill signing ceremony at 11:15 a.m. Broadcast on Facebook Live. Media: CBS This Morning at 8 a.m., WBCS 880 at 8:30 a.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is exactly not the time to be going after each other. Let’s just all try to — The stress levels are overwhelming. I get it. We all live it ourselves. You’re out of a job. You’re out of work. Your business is bust. You’ve lost somebody. Who the heck could blame you for being stressed? But let’s not allow that to turn into dividing us even further…. I’ve been incredibly rewarded and humbled by the amount of Republicans who reached out to me last night.” — Gov. Murphy on his “unfortunate dining experience.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: University Hospital’s Mary Maples, NJ Young Dems President Fatima Heyward
PROGRAMMING NOTE: New Jersey Playbook will not publish on Thursday Nov. 26 and Friday Nov. 27. After the hiatus, I’ll be back on the normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 30.
LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN ON THE JOB — Cuomo sets off new feud over Gateway tunnel, by POLITICO’s Danielle Muoio: The top elected officials in New Jersey and the head of Amtrak are slamming a new report touted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that casts doubt on the need for the Gateway tunnel, a $13 billion rail project that would add new tracks under the Hudson River and had long been supported by leaders in both states. The skirmish comes just as political will appeared to be moving in favor of Gateway, with President-elect Joe Biden explicitly voicing support for the plan after it stalled for years under President Donald Trump. The new report, written by consulting firm London Bridge Associates and released on Monday afternoon, makes the case that the existing, century-old cross-Hudson tubes can be repaired over nights and weekends, without first building a new crossing. The proposed Gateway tunnel — the centerpiece of a $30 billion capital program to improve the Northeast Corridor — had been sold in part on the idea that such repairs would be impossible without interrupting service. Officials with NJ Transit and Amtrak on Monday questioned the report’s findings and, in statements to POLITICO, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker worried the report could kill the new tunnel entirely.
Murphy administration squares off with hospital lobby over changes to property tax bill, by POLTICO’s Sam Sutton: New Jersey’s powerful hospital lobby is crying foul over amendments being sought by the Murphy administration on a long-gestating bill that would codify property tax exemptions for nonprofit hospital properties. The bill, NJ A1135 (20R), has pitted lawmakers and administration officials against two of Trenton‘s most powerful interest groups — nonprofit health systems and local governments. The proposed changes, which began circulating around the Statehouse roughly two weeks ago, would double the size of “community service contributions” nonprofit health systems would make in lieu of property taxes to municipalities, many of which are revenue-starved due the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
FROM 222 MASTROS TO 289 MASTROS — “How spending on NJ’s transportation projects this year quietly went from $2B to $2.6B,” by NJ Spotlight’s John Reitmeyer: “Murphy and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature added more than half a billion dollars to the line item for transportation projects for the current fiscal year with a little-noticed tweak that they approved in September, according to budget documents. The extra funding covers more than three dozen “shovel-ready” projects administered by the Department of Transportation, including bridge and road repairs, waterway dredging, and congestion-relief initiatives, among others, according to a list provided by the Murphy administration. The increase pushed the state’s annual appropriation for transportation investment to $2.6 billion, the most such spending for one year since the trust fund was reauthorized in 2016 … Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the timing of the increase, which comes just as Murphy is getting ready to run for reelection next year. They’re also calling out the Murphy administration after preliminary documents for an upcoming $1.5 billion bond sale that will raise more revenue for the transportation fund suggested principal payments won’t be required until 2035, meaning the bulk of the bill wouldn’t come due until long after Murphy leaves office.”
MURPHY TO APPOINT PANEL TO STUDY LACK OF PANEL APPOINTMENTS — “NJ council to combat bias at a ‘halt’ without action from state leaders,” by The Record’s Stacey Barchenger: “A state council that combats bias has been defunded for over a decade and many of its seats sit vacant, the result of neglect by New Jersey’s top three political leaders who have left the panel weak at a time when members say it is needed most. The Human Relations Council was formed in the late 1990s to make policy recommendations and serve as a bridge between civilians and authorities when there are concerns in communities across the state. It is the mothership offering guidance to smaller councils with the same mission in municipalities and counties. Often its work deals with issues related to criminal justice, such as evaluating body cameras or offering anti-bias training. But current and former members say the panel is not able to get its work done because of funding cuts and empty seats that are supposed to be filled by Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Of 21 appointments required by law, at least half are vacant.”
MIGHT AS WELL START DIALING NOW — “Can N.J. cope with a new flood of unemployment claims if coronavirus second wave closes businesses?” by NJ Advance Media’s Sophie Nieto Munoz: “Officials are warning of potential shutdowns amid the surge in coronavirus cases across the New Jersey, and that could lead to another bout of high unemployment. The Department of Labor, which faced sharp criticism for how it handled the huge wave of unemployment claims that followed the pandemic’s arrival in the spring, says it’s ready … Residents went months without payment as the Labor Department worked through the backlog, which at one point included more than 140,000 residents. Some with complex circumstances are still waiting. But Angela Delli-Santi, spokeswoman for the Labor Department, told NJ Advance Media she expects this time would be different, as the agency has made significant upgrades to the website and staffing improvements. ‘No state could have prepared for the onslaught of claims that deluged unemployment offices starting in mid-March. … We are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiencies and serve our customers more quickly and compassionately,’ she said.”
—“Former auditor: NJ Transit management ignored a host of problems, including bus concerns”
— “’I do not have hope this will turn out well’: Hospitals brace as NJ COVID second wave hits”
—“COVID vaccine: NJ plans to start inoculating health care workers in mid-December”
ON THE OTHER HAND IF THIS WAS THE 1840S NONE OF NJ’S THREE TOP ELECTED DEMS WOULD BE CONSIDERED WHITE — “NJ Democrats’ diversity demands clash with party bosses’ plans for Legislature,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Gov. Phil Murphy frequently cites with pride the diversity of his state, his cabinet and the state Democratic Party he leads. ‘Our diversity is what makes New Jersey great,’ he wrote in a tweet in March when the first wave of the coronavirus started its deadly climb. ‘It’s what makes us resilient. Those values — deeply embedded in our DNA — are what will get us through this.’ Yet, the Democratic Party’s five-member slate for the next Legislative redistricting commission — one Black male and four white people, including one woman — has sparked outcry from groups representing Latina and Black women and other progressives. Critics, some of whom are among the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituents, say the failure to name women of color to the panel reveals a state party organization that’s still in the grips of white male bosses whose sole interest in legislative redistricting is to protect their own political fiefs.”
SO MAYBE THERE WILL BE A CHANCE TO MAKE THE REDISTRICTING COMMISISON MORE DIVERSE — “NJ Attorney General’s probe seeks records connected to Democratic power broker,” by The Record’s Terrence T. McDonald: “An investigation by New Jersey’s attorney general into public health brokerage contracts and potential pay-to-play violations in Bergen County is widening as investigators probe Plainfield’s work with a firm run by a Democratic power broker out of Middlesex County, NorthJersey.com has learned. Plainfield received a subpoena from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office on Aug. 5 seeking contracts and related documents to be reviewed by a state grand jury, just five days after the office subpoenaed Bergen County for similar records. The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Record and NorthJersey.com, demands the Union County city hand over a host of documents going back to 2015 related to its employee health insurance broker. The subpoena does not name the firm, but Plainfield’s broker is Acrisure. The Michigan-based company has a number of New Jersey subsidiaries, including Reliance Insurance Group, which handles Plainfield’s contract. Reliance is owned by Gary Taffet, the Middlesex County power broker … Taffet was just named him to a commission overseeing legislative redistricting in 2021”
—Lassiter: “NJ state Democrats’ gutless redistricting picks”
—“NJ lawmakers push for in-person early voting by 2021. County election officials fear it’s not doable”
—“Drivers licenses will now be mailed to you after MVC issues new security features”
—“Many fell through cracks during COVID crisis. Here’s how to fix it, disability leaders say”
—“The last victim: Korean War vet stricken with COVID languished for months at NJ veterans home”
MURPHYS ALWAYS LISTEN TO MURPHYS — Murphy, in letter to GSA chief, demands movement on Biden transition, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli sent a letter to the Trump administration official who has refused to sign off on processes that would allow President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration to transition, saying the delay is harming the state’s ability to combat the pandemic. With Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca having released data indicating their Covid-19 vaccines are more than 90 percent effective, state officials are hoping to vaccinate as many as 4.7 million residents within six months. As many as 460,000 doses could be arriving in the Garden State by year’s end. Vaccine distribution will be a massive endeavor that will rely on both public and private resources, including state, local and federal agencies.
SEE?— Trump lets administration begin Biden transition, by POLITICO’s Matthew Choi: More than two weeks after clinching electoral victory, President-elect Joe Biden can finally start his formal transition to the White House. The General Services Administration formally acknowledged Biden as the apparent winner of the 2020 presidential election, allowing his team to get working on the logistics of the transition, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Monday evening. By law, the president-elect cannot access federal transition funds or contact federal agencies to plan staffing until the GSA recognizes him as the electoral winner.
NJ GOP AND TRUMP: YOU’LL ALWAYS HAVE THAT TIME YOU LOST MOST OF YOUR CONGRESSIONAL SEATS — GOP state senator says it’s time for Republicans to move on from Trump, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: A moderate New Jersey Republican who could face a tough reelection next year says it’s time for his party to acknowledge the obvious: Joe Biden is going to be president. State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) said President Donald Trump has produced no evidence of the voter fraud he claims was rampant in this month’s election, and that New Jersey Republicans should not act as if he has. “If you have evidence, provide it. But apparently there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that there was voter fraud,” Bateman said in a phone interview Monday. “So I think for the good of the country, it’s time he acknowledges that Biden won the election and moves on. It’s a disservice to our country at this point.” (After this article was published, I heard back from GOP state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, who acknowledged it was over).
—“Ex-consultant files FEC Complaint against Becchi”
—Tittel: “Joe Biden is the environmental champion New Jersey needs. Here’s why”
SHOCKINGLY, IT TURNS OUT MONEY CAN INFLUENCE HUDSON COUNTY DEMOCRATS’ CHOICES — “Hudson County Democratic officials poised to reverse course and renew ICE contract,” by WNYC’s Matt Katz: “Democratic officials in Hudson County, NJ, are poised to reverse their 2018 decision to stop detaining immigrants at the county jail, and are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a new contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under public pressure, Hudson County freeholders and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, all Democrats, decided two years ago to end a multimillion-dollar contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the end of 2020. But the officials are now changing course, scheduling meetings on Monday and Tuesday to vote to renew the detention contract. At last week’s freeholder meeting, dozens of residents from this Democratic and diverse county spoke against holding immigrants at the jail … Hudson County collects significant revenue from the ICE contract: $120 per jailed immigrant, per day.”
—“Majority of Jersey City Council calls on freeholders to vote down ICE contract”
NONINA’S NOT IN THE PARK — “No more Nanina’s: Montclair mayor says fundraising event changed to virtual format,” by Baristanet’s Liz George: “Friedman [Playbook author’s note: That’s me!] questioned Spiller about holding an in-person event during a pandemic, especially given the union’s COVID stance. Friedman says Spiller told him that the tent will not be closed on all sides and would comport with all guidelines. On Monday, Spiller said the event would not take place in person after all. ‘I agreed to support Progress in Action’s efforts to raise funds for the benefit of Montclair both through direct charitable work and advocacy. This includes providing funding for community organizations like Toni’s Kitchen, particularly as far too many families are facing hunger this holiday season. While they had shared that the event was originally planned to take place outdoors in compliance with all COVID-19 safety protocols, I have been informed that given current conditions they will be moving it to a virtual format. I am pleased to support their work during this challenging time for many of our families,’ says Spiller.”
—“Hudson County should end the horror of ICE detainment. Don’t renew the contract. | Opinion”
PERTH OH BOY — “Middlesex election officials possible Perth Amboy voter fraud to attorney general,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “The Middlesex County Board of Elections has referred at least five allegations of voter fraud in the Perth Amboy non-partisan mayoral election to the attorney general’s office, the New Jersey Globe has learned In those cases, individuals indicated that they had either received cure letters when they had not yet voted, or claimed they had not received their ballots. ‘The Board received and further that the signatures present on the mail-in ballots in our possession is not their own and distinctly different from their official signature,’ said Thomas Lynch, the administrator of the Board of Elections, in a letter to law enforcement obtained by the NJ Globe. According to Lynch, all five voters live in Perth Amboy … A video circulating in Perth Amboy shows Marilou Villacis, a former city council candidate, allegedly removing ballots from a mailbox. She is accompanied by Junior Iglesia, a school board member and a city council candidate on a slate backed by Mayor Wilda Diaz.”
REVOQUE — “Grewal seeks to revoke Roque medical license over alleged improper opioid prescriptions,” by New Jersey Globe’s Nikita Biryukov: “Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office announced complaints against former West New York Mayor Felix Roque and three other physicians for allegedly writing off-label prescriptions of a high-powered opioid after receiving payments from the drug’s manufacturer. Roque and physicians Serge Menkin, Kieran Slevin and Mukaram Gazi are alleged to have improperly prescribed Subsys, a fentanyl sprat approved only for certain cancer patients with opioid tolerances, after each receiving more than $50,000 from the firm.”
—“Ocean County freeholders hold up $13 million in open space, recreation funding”
R.I.P. — “[Somerset] Sheriff’s officer who died on duty was 20-year veteran”
—“Republican in [Clinton] election files for recount after losing by 3 votes”
THANK YOU, PROSECUTORS, FOR THE MUCH-NEEDED EXPLAINER — “Feds: Philly-South Jersey Mafia targeted ‘criminal rackets’ in Atlantic City,” by The Courier-POst’s Jim Walsh: “A federal indictment accuses 15 men of taking part in crimes on behalf of the South Jersey-Philadelphia Mafia. The defendants, including several South Jersey residents, are accused of dealing drugs and engaging in loansharking and bookmaking, the indictment claims. Mob members and associates peddled heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and oxycodone pills, it alleges … The indictment includes a history of the local Mafia, also known as La Cosa Nostra, or ‘our thing.’ The region’s mob ‘is based in South Philadelphia and has historically had a substantial presence in southern New Jersey, particularly Atlantic City,’ it notes.”