Two Cheers for Henry Hudson

By Marc Mappen

The 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River is coming up this fall, and there will be celebratory events in New Jersey and New York, states which share the lower part of the River as a boundary.  But the 400th anniversary hoopla will not be anywhere near as extravagant and extensive as it was at the 300th anniversary in 1909.  Back then, two weeks of activity were planned for New York state, including religious services, parades, school essay contests, poetry, dedication of parks and memorials, fireworks, and a “monster naval parade” of ships up and down the river.

Why has the enthusiasm faded?  Probably because the early European explorers of the New World are held in less regard these days than they once were. Americans have become more sensitive to the fate that befell the Native Americans after the European discovery.  Matter of fact the whole concept of “discovery” has fallen into disrepute, since the Americas were already populated by millions of Indians long before the Europeans arrived. To understand the Indian perspective on this, how would you feel if Martians invaders landed in a flying saucer, wiped out a major proportion of the human population by spreading disease, confiscated the land we live on, and proclaimed they had discovered planet Earth.

It is still possible to admire the boldness of Henry Hudson.  He was an experienced English sea captain who was hired by the Dutch East India Company to search for a seagoing shortcut to China.  Hudson’s ship was the Halve Maen (Dutch for Half Moon), and was manned by a crew of Dutch and English sailors.  The ship left Holland on April 4, 1609, and proceeded to the far northern reaches of Russia to search for a northeast passage.  But Hudson could find no such route, so he changed course and sailed to North America to see what he could discover. Sailing along the east coast, Captain Hudson and his crew briefly explored Delaware Bay, and then journeyed north up Jersey shore.  One of Hudson’s officers was Robert Juet, who kept a journal in which described the territory that would one day become New Jersey as “a very good Land to fall with and a pleasant Land to see.”  For those words, one 20th century historian credited Juet with being the first Jersey shore publicist.  The Half Moon then entered the vast New Jersey – New York harbor, where on September 3 the captain and his crew found a broad river heading north into the interior, which Hudson thought might lead to the long sought northwest passage.

The trip up and down this mighty river took a month.  Once again Hudson did not a find a passage to China because there was none to find.  The Half Moon did encounter Indians, with whom the crew offered beads, knives, and other kinds of cheap goods in exchange for tobacco, beans, corn, and the furry pelts of beavers and otters. But all was not well. Said Juet about the Indians:  “The people comming aboord, shewed us great friendship, but we could not trust them.”  One of Hudson’s crewmen exploring at a distance from the ship in a small boat was killed by an Indian arrow in the neck and buried on Sandy Hook.  Days later Indians in canoes and on shore fired arrows at the ship while the crew members shot back with muskets and the ship’s small cannon; about ten Indians were killed in this skirmish.  It was an early chapter in a saga of hostility that was to last for many generations to come.

When Hudson returned to Europe after more than half a year at sea, his Dutch masters were disappointed he had not discovered any shortcut to China.  But they saw an opportunity to establish a money making colony in North America fueled by the lucrative fur trade that provided hats and clothing for Europe.  Fifty-five years after Hudson’s voyage, the New Netherland colony was conquered by Great Britain and divided up into colonies, which as a result of the American Revolution of 1776 became states in the New American nation.  One of those states was our own New Jersey.

Hudson did not live to see any of this.  The year after exploring the river that bears his name he was once again sailing the ocean looking for a northwest passage, this time traveling up toward the Arctic fringe of North America.  Hudson, for all his admirable qualities had one fatal flaw — he was really mean to his crew.  This is a dangerous characteristic if you and your crew are on a small ship threading your way though icy waters with not enough food, thousands of miles away from European civilization.  They crew mutinied, seized their captain, and put him in a boat with those crew members who remained loyal to him.  Hudson was never heard from again and presumably perished of starvation or freezing.

It was a sad fate for the great seafarer Hudson, whose name is commemorated not only by the river he explored, but by a New Jersey county as well.

Dr. Marc Mappen is the executive director of the New Jersey Historical Commission and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of New Jersey.

Political Allies Don’t Always Sing in Tune

By Richard A. Lee

In a symphony orchestra, each musician has a specific role, but as a group they work in unison toward a common goal – to make beautiful music. If just one member of the orchestra decides to do things differently, the results can be disastrous.

The dynamics of symphony orchestras come to mind because of two recent events in which political allies appear to be singing from different song sheets.

The first of these took place on Thursday at a Congressional hearing on deferred prosecution agreements. For New Jersey Democrats, the session conducted by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law provided an opportunity to score political points because the star witness was GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie and the agenda included questions regarding deferred prosecution agreements that took place while he was the state’s U.S. Attorney.

Not surprisingly, Republicans charged that the hearing was politically motivated (Christie labeled the session a political circus after he finished his testimony). Meanwhile, Democrats argued that the hearing was needed to determine whether deferred prosecution agreements require additional oversight, as proposed in legislation co-authored by two Democratic New Jersey congressmen. That’s not a bad argument – unless someone from your own party starts singing from a different song sheet.

And that’s more or less what happened when a member of the Obama Administration testified that deferred prosecution agreements – in their current form — have been an effective part of the federal government’s efforts to combat corporate fraud. He also warned that the proposed legislation would weaken those efforts. “The bill would impede the government’s enforcement efforts against corporate and financial frauds by limiting our discretion in appropriately prosecuting cases,” Gary Grindler, a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, told the committee.

Grindler is a seasoned attorney who supervises the Justice Department’s enforcement of anti-fraud laws, so his comments should not be taken lightly.  But in the context of New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, his testimony was ill-timed for Democrats, and Christie seized the opportunity quickly. “I agree with the Obama Administration, who think that what we did was completely appropriate,” he told politickernj after the hearing. “You heard the official from the Obama Justice Department say that they wouldn’t change a thing about what we did.”

Could the situation have been avoided?  In this case, if the White House knew that Grindler’s testimony was going to undercut an effort to tarnish Christie’s reputation, the administration could have warned New Jersey Democrats that the hearing might not be such a good idea and urged that they cancel or postpone the session. Or perhaps the White House could have had Grindler take a little more time to review the proposed legislation, so that he could tell the committee the Justice Department was still studying the proposal, instead of trashing it.

Closer to home, there was another disconnect – this one involving the election of a lieutenant governor for the first time in New Jersey history. According to the state Constitution, gubernatorial candidates have 30 days from the date they are nominated to select a lieutenant governor running mate. This generally was interpreted – by the candidates, the media and political experts – as 30 days from New Jersey’s June 2 primary election, which would have placed the deadline at July 2.  But it turns out that candidates do not officially become nominees until the primary election results are certified by the Secretary of State, and Nina Mitchell Wells, who serves as Secretary of State in Governor Corzine’s cabinet, did not certify the results until June 26, giving candidates until July 27 to select their running mates.

In the grand scheme of things, the extra 25 days may matter little in November, but it is puzzling that Wells did not clarify the deadline sooner.  As far back as April, news reports were indicating that the deadline was July 2, and it appears that both major candidates were operating under the same timetable.  Why not set the record straight sooner?

What these two episodes illustrate is just how difficult it is for a chief executive to keep tabs on every agency and every employee in his or her administration – something that President Obama discovered quickly when a passenger jet and an F-16 fighter plane were authorized — apparently without his knowledge — to fly over New York City for an unannounced photo op that rekindled fears of the 9/11 attacks.

Political campaigns face similar challenges. They must keep large numbers of people on message when the stakes are high, time is short, and egos are gigantic. No campaign is perfect. For all of its historic accomplishments, the Obama campaign still made its share of mistakes.

Successful campaigns manage to move past their missteps so they become mere blips on the radar screen. For unsuccessful campaigns, missteps can become emblematic of flawed and failed efforts — as in images of Michael Dukakis at the controls of a tank in his 1988 bid for the presidency. Here in New Jersey, it is unlikely that any of this year’s candidates for governor will run perfect campaigns immune from mistakes. But come November, how they handled those missteps could be what makes the difference between winning and losing.

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Sin and Conservatism

By Michael P. Riccards

We all know the vocalizations about the “culture wars,”a phrase that goes back to Bismarck in Germany and more recently to conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan. The implications today are that there are two blocks of people with very different views of the importance of the so called American social issues. There are the coastal liberals who support gays, abortion, feminism, pornography, and loose living. Posed against them are the heartland and southern conservatives who prize Christian fundamentalism, family values, and restricted government welfare.

The recent revelations in the family lives of so many conservative clergymen and conservative, usually Republican, politicians has added to the complexity of belief. This situation underscores the overall power of hypocrisy, especially when sexual behavior is involved. The usual answer is to deplore the pleasures of the flesh, and note the ever hovering presence of sin and the Great Deceiver.

But Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Business School and New York Times’ Charles M. Blow have given us a very different view of the culture battle field. Most recent studies show that divorce rates are highest in states that John McCain carried: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Only Nevada which went for Obama makes the top group. Liberal New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts are actually at the bottom of the list. So those who so vigorously support family values have real problems with long lasting monogamous relationships.

The federal government has been committed to the advocacy of chastity among teenagers, rather than sex education or the easy availability of condoms to the young. If only we would discourage premarital sex, then the strong urges of the young could be tamed, especially with the right curriculum. People committed to chastity and abstaining are showing their adherence to family values once again. The problem is that those urges and the lack of preventive measures mean very high teenage birthrates especially in conservative Republican states:

Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina. Only New Mexico and Nevada which were carried by Obama are in the high teenage pregnancy list. Liberal New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are among the lowest rates.

The Edelman study also explores which states have the highest subscriptions to on line pornographic sites. Once again the conservative, Republican states come out far ahead: Utah, Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota, Louisiana, West Virginal, Maine.  The states of Hawaii and Florida, both Obama territories, are also in that list. Once again liberal New Jersey is in the bottom group of users.

So it appears that there is a very different America behind closed doors. Our preachers preach about fire and brimstone, but we are rather permissive in our personal habits. We want the other person to be moral, straight laced, contained in their behavior. But we do not adhere to those restrictions in our personal lives. We cheer at the conservative meetings and political conventions and the supporters of family values, but neither they nor their adherents really exhibit such fidelity. It is not that those values are not to be respected; it is just that there probably should be more of an honest understanding of that area between what we do and what we truly believe. Sometimes, it appears that we are saying with St. Augustine—Lord, make me pure….but not right now.

It also should be clear that conservative clergymen and conservative politicians now use the morality card the same way that they used to play the anti-Communist card in the 1950s. It is simply a cynical ploy to win elections and garner votes, not a real commitment to the values of middle class America. Or maybe the values of middle class America have changed, and the states, once held in happy repression, are breaking out with a vengeance.

For NJ: Nothing Finer When Compared to Carolina

By Richard A. Lee

First it was New York, where bickering lawmakers have been unable to decide who is in charge of the State Senate. Now it’s South Carolina doing its part to make New Jersey look good in comparison to the other 49 states.

For this we can thank South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford whose whereabouts were a mystery for a few days. According to news reports:

  • Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, who is second in command, did not know where Sanford was, and she was not put in charge of the state during his absence.
  • The governor’s wife Jenny and their four children did not hear from him for several days, even on Father’s Day.
  • Calls placed to Sanford’s cell phone went straight to voice mail, and he did not respond to text messages.
  • The State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for the governor, was unable to reach Sanford.
  • Several days after the governor disappeared from public view, his spokesperson, Joel Sawyer, said he had not spoken with Sanford nor was he aware of any other staff member who had. Sawyer did note that the governor told his staff where he was going planned to check in, but said little else about his whereabouts.

The mystery surrounding the governor came to an end on Wednesday when he returned to work and announced that he had been in Argentina and had been having an affair with a woman from the South American country. Earlier in the week, Sanford’s staff had told reporters that he was been hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

We’ve had our share of well-known missing persons in New Jersey – from former State Senator and Assemblyman David Friedland who faked his death and vanished in 1985 after his conviction on racketeering charges, to Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy who was missing for nearly two weeks in 2007 in the aftermath of allegations about false claims in his military records.

But to the best of my knowledge, New Jersey has never had a governor go AWOL – not that some haven’t tried to escape the public spotlight from time to time.

Governor Whitman apparently was quite good at the practice, according to a lengthy Star-Ledger profile published during her 1997 re-election campaign. The story recounts tales of the governor climbing out of a window in her office, donning a wig and hat to sneak past State Troopers, and even dropping down into the moat and climbing over a stone wall to escape to a local pub during a national governors’ conference.

Living under a microscope cannot be fun, so it is no wonder that public figures relish their rare opportunities to enjoy the type of privacy that is afforded to the general public. President Obama recently said that’s one of the reasons he takes pleasure in playing golf. For six hours, he gets to feel normal, the president told Harry Smith on CBS’ Early Show. “There are a whole bunch of Secret Service guys, but they’re sort of in the woods,” he said. “It feels as if you you’re out of the container, and actually – I realize now – as close as you’re going to get to being outside of this place.”

Obama’s point is well taken. Everyone, including presidents, needs a break every now and then.  And every public figure also has a personal life and the issues that come with it. But presidents, governors, mayors and other elected officials also have obligations to the people they serve – and that means taking proper steps and following proper procedures. We shouldn’t stand for anything less in New Jersey – and neither should the citizens of South Carolina or any other state in the union.

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NJSTARS and NJSTARS II – Keeping the Best and Brightest in New Jersey

By E. Michael Angulo, Esq.

New Jersey has a strong commitment to educational excellence.  Few states can compare with New Jersey in terms of the amount of resources devoted to high quality public education.  A highly educated populace is essential if New Jersey is going to sustain a robust workforce ready to compete in the global economy.

To this end, Governor Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature have supported the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II program to ensure that our best and brightest students, regardless of economic circumstances, are able to pursue their higher education in New Jersey.

First established in June 2004, the NJSTARS program covers tuition and approved fees for attendance at a New Jersey community college for students graduating in the top 15 percent of their high school class.   NJSTARS recognizes the importance of acquiring an education beyond the high school level, the need to produce and retain a well-trained and educated workforce, and the ability of the State’s community colleges to strengthen the State’s economy.  Since 2004, nearly $35 million has been awarded under the program.

In an effort to encourage and assist NJSTARS students to obtain their four-year degree in State, in 2006, the NJSTARS II program was created.  The NJSTARS II program allows NJSTARS students graduating with at least a 3.25 grade point average (GPA) from their community college to continue their education at a four-year public college in New Jersey.  To date, over $8.7 million in NJSTARS II scholarships have been awarded.  Under NJSTARS II, awards are based on tuition; however, for students receiving a Tuition Aid Grant, the award is based on tuition and approved fees.  Award amounts are also based on the student’s GPA. Students with a GPA between 3.25 and 3.50 can receive up to $6,000 per year and those who have GPAs greater than a 3.5 can receive up to $7,000 per year.

To address the unprecedented growth of the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, in 2008, the programs were modified to enhance eligibility requirements and to make the program fiscally sustainable particularly in the face of the State’s difficult budget situation.  The changes to the NJSTARS program include:

  • Covering up to 18 credits per semester for those students who choose to accelerate their degree program
  • No longer funding remedial course work
  • Requiring students to pass an academic placement exam
  • Imposing a income cap of $250,000 on families

Changes to NJSTARS II includes:

  • Applying a tiered scholarship amount based on GPA
  • Limiting the obligation of participating State and public colleges to 50% of the NJSTARS II scholarship
  • Imposing a $250,000 family impose cap

Analysis of NJSTARS students shows their performance, as measured by grade point average and the number of degree credits earned, is higher than other full-time students at New Jersey institutions.  NJSTARS scholars also show a higher retention rate than their peers.  Most importantly, the majority of these high achieving students are expected to remain in New Jersey after graduation, sustaining our highly educated workforce, and investing in the State.  Through programs like NJSTARS and NJSTARS II, New Jersey is in a strong position to compete globally in the 21st century.

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E. Michael Angulo, Esq., is Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority Since 1959, the Authority, which administers the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, has delivered over $18 billion in state and federal financial aid for more than 1 million students.  Annually, HESAA presents workshops, training programs and other outreach events to thousands of students, parents, guidance counselors and financial aid professionals in an effort to help them understand the benefits of higher education in New Jersey and the resources available to make that education affordable.

Police Abuse and the Mentally Ill: An Unacceptable Consequence of Limited Training

By Salvatore Pizzuro

The recent beating of Ronnie Holloway, a mentally ill adult male, by Passaic Police Officer Joseph R Rios III, has brought attention to a long-existing problem. Quite often, mentally ill people, because of communication barriers that may exist as a result of their disability, become the victims of police abuse. In some cases, the abuse leads to injury and death.

Ronnie Holloway was simply walking through his home neighborhood, in Passaic, New Jersey. A surveillance video tape showed Holloway standing outside Lawrence’s Grill and Bar. A police car pulled up and Holloway was asked by a female officer to zip up his sweatshirt. Holloway complied, yet he was subject to a savage beating by Officer John Rios III with fists and a police baton, before being thrown into a police car and taken into custody.

Ronnie Holloway spent the night in a jail cell, with no medical attention paid to his injuries. Worse still, a short list of offenses were fabricated and levied against the disabled adult in order to justify the arrest.

The world would have learned little more about this had it not been discovered that a surveillance video tape from a camera outside Lawrence’s Grill and Bar had recorded the entire incident. Holloway was simply standing on the street corner, committed no evident crime, and did not resist arrest. Clearly, there appeared to be no justification for the policeman’s actions.

Ronnie Holloway does not have a criminal record and is not a threat to society. He is a citizen with a significant disability who became an assault victim. The very people who were worn to protect him became his oppressors.

The incident occurred on May 29, 2009. Since June 5, 2009, the video has been shown around the world. Perhaps more significant than the beating itself is the action of fabricating charges against Holloway, including intent to purchase drugs and resisting arrest. This, in itself, is a serious criminal action, requiring the most complete prosecution of the law against those who helped to facilitate the fabrication.

The victimization of the mentally ill continues. According to Eugene O’Donnell of Newsweek:

From coast to coast, mentally ill people, without reliable access to the costly on-demand care they need, are left to fend for themselves. In the aftermath of the movement in the 1970s to close large mental asylums, many of today’s mentally ill are left to their own devices; they are often homeless and without full-time advocates. With government unable or unwilling to properly serve this population, the criminal-justice system is left to pick up the slack.

Contrary to what many assume, the mentally ill are most often the victimized, not the victimizers. A 2005 study by researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University suggested that persons with serious mental illnesses are 11 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime, with perhaps as many as 1 million crimes committed against those with serious mental-health issues each year.

But relying on the police to address the problem has too often resulted in tragedy, not only on the mean streets of big cities but in quieter places as well. (Newsweek Web Exclusive, July 31, 2008).

The influence of a civilian disability, whether developmental, intellectual, physical, or behavioral, on police behavior during a crisis intervention, has been studied by psychologists, legal experts, and civil rights activists, for decades. A result of this examination was the creation of the “Memphis Model”, a crisis intervention plan by a police agency that has garnered nationwide attention.

The model was initially created because, during emergency situations, police would encounter behavior or communication barriers among people with disabilities that could not be correctly interpreted. The Model was created to enable the Memphis, Tennessee Police to train a Crisis Intervention Team to react properly to people with mental illness during emergency responses.

New Jersey State Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D., 36th Legislative District) sponsored Legislation that will similarly serve citizens with Autism and other disabilities. The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee released this legislation that has since been passed by both the Senate and Assembly and has become law. Assemblyman Scalera sponsored the bill to establish an autism awareness training course for emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters.

According to Scalera:

Although New Jersey is a national leader in providing care and support for those with autism, it is essential that our first-responder network is sufficiently trained to recognize autism and how to handle individuals who have this disorder.

This new law will require the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to create a mandatory autism awareness training course and curriculum. Individuals currently certified as emergency medical technicians would be required to complete a continuing education course in autism recognition and response techniques, and prospective emergency medical technicians would be required to complete the DHSS administered course prior to being certified.

Asemblyman Scalera also points out that:

New Jersey’s police officers and firefighters need the tools and training to understand and help individuals with autism. This autism awareness program will make police officers and firefighters better professionals.

The legislative measure will require currently employed police officers and firefighters, along with volunteers, to complete a continuing education course in autism recognition and response. The Division of Fire Safety and the Police Training Commission will also be required to implement the DHSS training course curriculum as part of the training of police recruits and firefighters.

The aforementioned Memphis Model has been used to train Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) to recognize a special population that needs special care, treatment, and service. According to the Memphis Model:

Traditional police methods, misinformation, and a lack of sensitivity cause fear and frustration for consumers and their families. Too often, officers’ respond to crisis calls where they felt at a disadvantage or were placed in a no-win situation.

Unfortunately, it is usually after a tragedy that police departments look for change. As a proactive program, CIT acts as a model committed to preventing tragic situations and finding “win-win” solutions for all persons concerned.

By offering an immediate humane and calm approach, CIT officers reduce the likelihood of physical confrontations and enhance better patient care. As such, the CIT program is a beginning for the necessary adjustment that law enforcement must make from a traditional police response to a more humane treatment of individuals with mental illness.

The City of Memphis lists some of the benefits of the CIT Model:

• Crisis response is immediate
• Arrests and use of force has decreased
• Underserved consumers are identified by officers and provided with care
• Patient violence and use of restraints in the ER has decreased
• Officers are better trained and educated in verbal de-escalation techniques
• Officer’s injuries during crisis events have declined
• Officer recognition and appreciation by the community has increased
• Less “victimless” crime arrests
• Decrease in liability for health care issues in the jail
• Cost savings

Many similarities exist between the goals of Assemblyman Scalera’s Training for First Responders in New Jersey and those of the Memphis Model. Perhaps the most important similarity may be that effective communication techniques should be utilized by law enforcement, fire, and other agencies when attempting to apply crisis intervention at a site where the civilians are compromised by limited communication because of a disability.

Regarding the Ronnie Holloway case, all too often when similar incidents have occurred in the past, there have been efforts by local officials to “cover it up and hide the facts”. Hopefully, the widely released video has prevented this from happening. Nevertheless, the criminal action of fabricating charges against Holloway must be prosecuted. This is not only important to Holloway and all people with mental illness; it is required to protect every private citizen from such abuse.

A New York State of Mind Could Impact NJ

By Richard A. Lee

When I worked in the Governor’s Office, one of the strategies we employed during difficult budgetary times was to show that things were even worse in other parts of the country.

One year, I authored an op-ed article pointing out that Arkansas was eliminating scholarships to state colleges, Arizona was closing parks, Maine was raising its gas tax, and Kansas was doubling franchise fees for companies conducting business in the state.

On paper, demonstrating that the grass is not always greener on the other side sounded like a good strategy. But in practice, its impact was minimal. No matter what draconian actions were being taken elsewhere, New Jerseyans were not about to forget about taxes and fees, cutbacks in programs and services, and the use of one-shot revenue sources to balance the budget.

But things could be different this year thanks to our neighbors to the north.

In case you haven’t been following the adventures of the New York State Senate over the past week or so, lawmakers in the Empire State have engaged in a bizarre series of activities that make politics in New Jersey look good by comparison. As former New York mayor Edward Koch told The New York Times. “I believe it’s not only disgraceful, but it makes New York look like a banana republic.”

Democrats held a 32-30 majority in the New York Senate until June 8 when two of their members joined with the 30 Republicans to form a new majority. But before the new majority could vote to elect one of its members to lead the Senate, Democrats abruptly adjourned the session. Republicans then argued that the session was not properly adjourned and proceeded to elect a new Senate President and Majority Leader. Meanwhile, Democrats maintained that the vote was illegal and that they still held the leadership posts.

The new Republican-led coalition attempted to conduct business, but was unable to do so because the bills that required action had been locked in a desk by Democratic lawmakers.  In addition, Democrats asked Governor David Paterson to change the locks on the Senate chamber (a request that was denied), and one of the Democratic Senators who had joined with the Republicans to form the new majority returned to the Democratic caucus, creating a 31-31 deadlock among the 62 members in the upper House.

So why might this situation be a more effective tool for New Jersey strategists than the drastic fiscal steps that other states were taking several years ago?

To paraphrase Dorothy: it’s because this isn’t Kansas anymore. It’s one thing to run off a list of tax hikes and funding cuts from unfamiliar states that many New Jerseyans may never visit, let alone take the time to scrutinize their budgets. It’s much different when the action is taking place closer to home. Not only do we share a border with New York, we also share a media market. With all respect to the news organizations and journalists in our state, the truth is large numbers of New Jerseyans obtain their news from New York television, which has given extensive coverage to the battle over leadership of the New York Senate – as have New York newspapers and radio, which also have sizeable audiences in the Garden State.

All of this creates an opportunity for Governor Jon Corzine and the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Legislature as they put the finishing touches on this year’s state budget. Given the current fiscal climate, the budget may not offer much in the way of good news, but it will look much better in the context of what is transpiring in New York State. New Jersey Democrats can rightfully argue that – even if citizens are unhappy with components of the budget – at least they made tough decisions and managed to enact a budget on time, in difficult economic times, and without the bedlam taking place in our neighboring state, where legislators cannot even agree on who is in charge.

Of course, New Jersey Republicans can just as easily point to 2006 when Democrats were unable to come to agreement on the budget before the June 30 Constitutional deadline, leading to a shutdown of state government. But that was three years ago, and people’s memories are short – even shorter when the images of the chaos in New York are being emblazoned in their minds by the New York-based media organization from which many of our residents obtain their news and information.

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