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.
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:
Atlantic County Economic Alliance Fundraiser: Ventnor Says No–The much ballyhooed Atlantic County Economic Alliance is getting early cold shoulders as they reach out for financial participation with many towns still chewing on the recommended investment of one dollar per resident. The Ventnor Board of Commissioners wasted no time with that request, declining to send about $10,000 to the County initiative. Margate, Ventnor & Downbeach BUZZ
Atlantic County Executive Addresses Major Budget Issues at Freeholder Meeting–Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson told the public and the Board of Chosen Freeholders on Tuesday that this year’s budget is one of the most complicated the county has seen. In his annual report to the freeholders, Levinson said there are three major issues complicating the process and two of them have to do with Atlantic City. Press of Atlantic City
Christie Vows To Continue Newspaper Paper Bill Fight–Gov. Chris Christie has reignited his feud with the newspaper industry. In a letter to state lawmakers, Christie on Tuesday again challenged how much money newspapers receive from publishing legal fees following a proposal last year to allow government agencies to publish those on their websites instead of in newspapers. Press of Atlantic City
NJ Transit Resumes Atlantic City Service After Bridge Repair–New Jersey Transit resumed service on its Atlantic City Line on Tuesday, a day after it was suspended because a bridge was stuck in the open position. www.wave3.com
Birth Rates at All-Time Low as Women Choose to Not Have Kids–The national birth rate, or fertility rate, declined to a record 62.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 in 2015, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlantic County’s fertility rate among women in the same age range in 2014 was below the national average while rates in Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties stayed above 67.5, according to New Jersey State Health Assessment Data. Press of Atlantic City
Annual Count of New Jersey’s Homeless Persons Set for Wednesday–Teams of volunteers will spread out across New Jersey on Wednesday for an annual count to try to determine the number of homeless people in the state. Press of Atlantic City
McDonald’s Raises Almost $9,000 For Covenant House–Thanks to a day’s worth of coffee sales, the Greater Philadelphia Region’s Southern New Jersey McDonald’s restaurants donated $8,980 to Covenant House New Jersey. Local McDonald’s in Southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey donated all their coffee sales from Sept. 29, which was National Coffee Day. Press of Atlantic City
Meet the Temple Guy Giving Donald Trump–Themed Tours in AC–Levi Fox knows a thing or two about the Jersey Shore. A lifelong Somers Point resident, the 36-year-old Temple PhD student and lecturer has worked as a tour guide at both Lucy the Elephant (“My best summer job ever!”) and the James Candy Factory, as well as along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, where he used to give Nucky Johnson–themed tours back when Boardwalk Empire was all the rage. Philadelphia Magazine
Kellyanne Conway Allegedly Punched a Man Repeatedly During an Inaugural Ball–Donald Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway earned her boss' trust by rescuing his campaign and helping him win the White House. Over the weekend she also proved that she can throw a punch or two. Press of Atlantic City
N.J. Bill Opposing Federal Flounder Proposals Passes Unanimously–A bill calling on the federal government to halt proposed summer flounder restrictions passed the state Assembly in a unanimous vote earlier this week. The resolution, introduced last week by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, urges the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reconsider plans to slash this year’s flounder harvest by 40 percent. Press of Atlantic City
NJ Pipeline Plan Do-Over?–As jobs-versus-environment clashes go, few issues have been as hard fought and generated as much passion in New Jersey as a proposal to run a natural gas pipeline through federally protected woods atop some of the nation's purest drinking water. With a new administration in power in Washington that is more receptive to fossil-fuel energy projects, the fate of the Pinelands pipeline is sure to be closely watched by national energy and environmental groups. NBC 10 Philadelphia
GoFundMe account to help family of 16-year-old electrocution victim–A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family of an Egg Harbor Township teen pay for his funeral expenses. Oscar David Torres, 16, died Saturday morning, after he was electrocuted at his home on Seagull Drive in the township’s Farmington section. BreakingAC
See Jersey Shore beach erosion damage from nor’easter–Officials in Jersey Shore towns up and down the coast woke up to a familiar sight early Tuesday after a nasty nor'easter churned up the coast: eroded beaches. NJ.com
End of an era: Fire code violations force Riverboat Club to vacate longtime headquarters in Ocean City–OCEAN CITY — Terry Grau recalls tales of old as he shows off the “old girl.” Shore News Today
Proposed capital plan would tackle infrastructure and raise local tax, Ocean City officials say–OCEAN CITY — Before city officials on Tuesday night presented its plan for capital spending in 2017 and beyond, Mayor Jay Gillian called it a bold one. Shore News Today
Inauguration tears down wall between Trump backer, LoBiondo–WILDWOOD – The coordinator for the Trump campaign in Cape May County, who cut Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s name off campaign signs, had to reach out to the congressman for tickets to the Trump inauguration. Shore News Today
Tensions erupt at natural gas pipeline hearing–PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the proposed South Jersey Gas natural gas pipeline spent hours waiting their turn to speak Tuesday — some outside in the rain — during a special Pinelands Commission meeting. Press of Atlantic City