New Jersey, Pennsylvania Really, Really Stink at Pension Funding

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New Jersey and Pennsylvania have America’s most-underfunded public employee pension systems, says a new report from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. In fact, the report suggests, the two states have fallen so short of making the annual required contributions to the funds that they’ve managed to separate themselves from the pack.

Political battles are being waged in both states over how best to deal with the underfunding — Chris Christie versus the teachers unions in New Jersey, while House Republicans in Pennsylvania say pension reform must be part of any budget deal with Gov. Tom Wolf — but the report traces the underfunding back to the flush days of the late 1990s. Read more »

Robert Marshall, Blind Faith’s Murderous Husband, Has Died

In this Dec. 13, 2007 file photo, inmate Robert O. Marshall speaks to the Associated Press in a lawyers conference room at the maximum security New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, N.J.  New Jersey's Department of Corrections said Robert O. Marshall died Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, at South Woods State Prison in southern New Jersey. He was 75. Marshall, a New Jersey insurance salesman, was convicted of plotting to kill his wife in a crime that inspired the bestselling book "Blind Faith" and a TV movie. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

In this Dec. 13, 2007 file photo, inmate Robert O. Marshall speaks to the Associated Press in a lawyers conference room at the maximum security New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, N.J. New Jersey’s Department of Corrections said Robert O. Marshall died Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, at South Woods State Prison in southern New Jersey. He was 75. Marshall, a New Jersey insurance salesman, was convicted of plotting to kill his wife in a crime that inspired the bestselling book “Blind Faith” and a TV movie. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Robert Marshall, the Toms River man who was convicted of killing his wife and became the subject of a book and TV movie about murder, has died in prison. He was 75.

Joe McGinnis wrote the book Blind Faith about the mystery surrounding Maria Marshall’s death. The book was turned into the 1990 NBC movie of the same name, with actor Robert Urich starring as Robert Marshall.

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Christie Faces New Federal Probe

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo | Mark Humphrey)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo | Mark Humphrey)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been targeted by a new federal probe, multiple outlets are reporting.

“Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as members of his administration, a man at the center of the investigation told ABC News. The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey has interviewed former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who claims he was fired because he objected to Christie officials dismissing indictments against political allies of the governor.”
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In South Jersey, District Instructs Families How to Opt Out of Testing

Via Shutterstock.

Via Shutterstock.

Haddon Township School District isn’t necessarily against PARCC, the highly controversial standardized education assessment that has been adopted by dozens of states nation-wide. But district officials are telling parents how their kids can get out of taking it. And parents opposed to the test are hailing it as a win.

In a letter dated January 26, 2015 (below), District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Ward outlined Haddon Township’s provisions for parents who wish their children to be exempt from the high-stakes exam, which has come under fire by education advocates in other states: Trisha Kocanda, a superintendent outside of Chicago, wrote an open letter on PARCC, which was later published in The Washington Post. In it, Kocanda said she was “wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.”

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Three Reasons Chris Christie Is the Wrong Man to Fix Atlantic City

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Atlantic City N.J., on Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Atlantic City N.J., on Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Here’s what stinks about New Jersey’s takeover of Atlantic City’s finances: Chris Christie hasn’t exactly proven himself extra-insightful about how to arrest the city’s decline.

Christie has doubled-down and then doubled-down again on projects and ideas that were clearly dubious, all in an attempt to extend Atlantic City’s shelf-life as a gambling mecca — and yet in the end he decided it was the city’s leaders who couldn’t be trusted with its financial future.

“I can’t wait any longer,” the governor said in announcing the takeover. “We need to take more aggressive action.”

Granted, there’s a lot of short-sightedness and blame to assign all around when we talk of Atlantic City’s stumbles. But Christie’s aggressive actions have been, taken as a whole, aggressively wrong.

Here are three reasons Chris Christie is the wrong man to fix Atlantic City:

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South Jersey Police Shooting Draws National Attention

Video of a South Jersey police-involved shooting has drawn national attention, becoming the latest flashpoint in the debate over policing practices.

The incident took place in Bridgeton, south of Philadelphia.

“The video is from December 30th when two police officers pulled over two men in a car,” 6ABC reports. “Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley ordered 36-year-old Jerame Reid not to move before Reid appears to push his way out of the passenger side door. The video appears to show Reid with his hands in front of him as he stands to get out of the car and is shot and killed by the officers.”

“I’m going to shoot you,” Days shouted in the video,  the Associated Press reported. “You’re going to be f—ing dead. If you reach for something, you’re going to be f—ing dead.”

In a statement, Cumberland County prosecutors have said “during the course of the stop a handgun was revealed and later recovered.” According to the South Jersey Times, “Police have not said who the gun belonged to. The video appears to show Days removing a silver object from the car.”

The video was made public after open-records requests by area newspapers. The New York Daily News reports: “The Bridgeton Police Department released a statement Tuesday expressing it was upset over the video’s release, calling it unprofessional and uncompassionate ‘out of respect for the family.'”

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Poll: N.J. Voters Don’t Think Chris Christie Would Be a Very Good President

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Chris Christie is having a hard time hanging onto the support of his home state as he considers a run for the presidency.

“Nearly three in five registered voters in New Jersey do not think their governor, Republican Chris Christie, would make a good U.S. president, according to a poll released on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Overall, 57 percent of the registered voters polled said they did not think Christie, who prides himself on his blunt, sometimes combative, speaking style, would make a good president. That included nearly a third of registered Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.”
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Christie Raises Cash, But Jersey GOP Is Poor

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Chris Christie knows how to raise cash. But that’s turning out to be of little help to the New Jersey GOP, whose coffers have been depleted by legal fees spent during Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal.

“The net worth of the New Jersey Republican Party is at its lowest point in years as it covers legal bills connected to the George Washington Bridge investigation, according to campaign reports disclosed Tuesday,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The New Jersey Republican State Committee had a net worth of $25,818 at the end of last year, excluding its federal campaign account and when accounting for $527,731 in debt, the bulk of it related to bridge-related legal expenses. That is down from $399,863 in net worth at the conclusion of 2013 and $152,920 at the end of 2012, past reports show.”

That poor state of affairs isn’t due to a lack of fundraising prowess. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association during the 2014 election cycle, Christie reportedly raised more than $106 million — although the group spent more than that, $130 million, in an all-out effort to win races.
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Camden to Begin Demolition of Blighted Buildings

Blighted housing in Camden is being marked for destruction. | Google Street View

Blighted housing in Camden is being marked for destruction. | Google Street View

Sometimes you’ve got to tear down before you can build. That’s partly the idea behind Camden’s demolition program — starting today — that aims to knock down 600 blighted buildings in the next 18 months.

CBS Philly reports:

These are not fixer-uppers. They’re what Camden County Congressman Donald Norcross calls “the worst of the worst” — structurally deficient properties that drug dealers take over.

“They break into them, they live there, they conduct their business in there under the safeguard of nobody seeing them,” Norcross says. “Thus, they turn into these crime factories.”

The first phase targets 62 homes in the city’s Whitman Park neighborhood.
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Chris Christie Says He “Knew Nothing About” Jerry Jones Deal With Port Authority

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The Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, so we’re now officially done with stories about Jerry Jones and Chris Christie.

Ha ha, of course not! The story of the Cowboys owner and the team’s No. 1 fan will go on forever.

Here’s the latest: Christie says he “knew nothing about” a deal that gave a firm partially owned by Jones the contract to operate the observation deck at One World Trade Center.

“When Legends Hospitality got the contract [in March 2013], I knew nothing about it,” Christie said. “I didn’t know him. I had no relationship with him. Nor did I have any influence or knowledge of who was going to run the concessions at World Trade Center One, nor quite frankly, do I care. That was a New York issue. That’s a building in New York. I don’t deal with those issues.” The Port Authority awarded the contract to Legends Hospitality.

But, as David Sirota reports at the International Business Times, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a joint press release praising the selection of Legends Hospitality to run the observation deck.

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