Pipeline Protest, Prieto Plan, Mac and Cheese – Wednesday’s Roundup

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Pinelands Protest
Local residents and representatives from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and environmental groups packed yesterday’s hearing on a proposed gas pipeline that would run through the protected forest area. The turnout was so impressive that about 100 people were left standing outside the hearing, in the bitter cold and rain yesterday. What’s going on? NJ Spotlight has the best in-depth story from the day, which gives a lot of the political history to the proposal too. There are parallels with the Atlantic City takeover, since it boils down to a state organization (in this case, the Pinelands Commission with some commissioners directly appointed by the governor) in a battle with local representatives. The issue has also gone to court. Coincidentally (or not) South Jersey Industries (the parent of South Jersey Gas) is one of the consortium of companies involved in the pipeline. That company is also a beneficiary of the state’s multi-million-dollar Economic Development Authority-backed project to move SJI’s headquarters 30 miles from Folsom, Atlantic County, to Atlantic City, Atlantic County.

Prieto Proposal
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has introduced a proposal to charge Atlantic City hotels a temporary (two-year) fee of $2 per day for each occupied room for two years. All proceeds from the surcharge would go toward the city’s public-safety services. “I will not stand idle and allow police and firefighter layoffs to harm public safety for residents while also hurting the public’s ability to feel confident about visiting the city,” Prieto said in a statement. It is hard to see how much support there will be for the proposal. On the one hand, the state is pushing for aggressive cuts to Atlantic City’s fire and police staff that would put both residents and city visitors at risk, experts say. But the takeover law gave the state the power to break Atlantic City unions. And the hotel lobby – being, in fact, the casino lobby – is a powerful one (we wrote about that here). Read Christian Hetrick’s story for The Press of Atlantic City which includes all the details you need about how deep the proposed cuts to fire and police staff might be.

Mac and Cheese
Atlantic County Freeholder John Carman probably should have expected some backlash after his comments about the women’s march over the weekend (he asked whether the women would be home in time to make dinner). He refused to apologize at the meeting, saying – again – it was a joke and he was “blessed” to be surrounded by strong women who understood it was a joke. Women at the meeting, who also clearly got the joke, brought him some mac and cheese for his dinner and another showed him some takeout menus. The women walked out when Carman started talking about how they couldn’t take a joke. You can watch Amy Rosenberg’s video of the meeting here. Carman’s term expires this year (here’s his official profile) and the women interviewed by Rosenberg outside the meeting said they were committed to removing him in the election. Read the full story here.

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The rest of today’s headlines include news that local McDonalds’ restaurants have given $9,000 (from one day’s worth of coffee sales!) to Covenant House, Christie returning to his fight with New Jersey print newspapers, and a photo roundup of the beach erosion after the recent storm. All that and more below:

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