Public Safety Workers Rally in Trenton, Montclair Teachers Protest Aide Outsourcing and More
This week's top news from around New Jersey
Thousands of unionized police and firefighters rallied at the statehouse Thursday against layoffs and Gov. Chris Christie's plan to have them contribute more to health and pension plans. Throngs of public safety workers from across the state delivered a loud message to Christie, pointing to a 2009 campaign promise that police and firefighter pensions would not be changed.
“The new normal in New Jersey is New Jersey has a crime problem," New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Anthony Wieners said, using a play on Christie's "new normal" budget message. "We are here to deliver a message in one loud, unified voice, that enough is enough."
Carrying signs with messages such as "Educate Don't Outsource," about two dozen teachers—as well as a smattering of students—protested the outsourcing of aides outside Montclair High School early Friday morning. In a protest organized by the Montclair Education Association, teachers said many of their aides had worked with the same students for years.
Members of the statewide TownStats database project met at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation headquarters in Morristown on Wednesday to discuss how the initiative's website works, its benefits and what they anticipate it will become going forward.
All 566 New Jersey muncipalities have current statistical data available, with 54 budgets from 2010 online, including Middetown Township in Monmouth County, Middle Township in Cape May County, Elizabeth and Summit in Union County, Hoboken in Hudson County and Montclairand Newark in Essex County.
On Friday, U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced that the East Orange Fire Department was awarded $1,883,951 in federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program.
“This critical federal funding will provide the East Orange Fire Department with the staffing it needs to help make sure enough firefighters are at work protecting local families and neighborhoods,” said Lautenberg, vice chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee that funds the SAFER grant program.
In response to a question by Sen. Lautenberg on Wednesday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano said the House of Representatives budget for fiscal year 2011 "is not a good budget for security." Lautenberg, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said at the subcommittee's hearing that he will work to protect homeland security funding from cuts.
Napolitano told Lautenberg that proposed cuts "will have impacts on things like protecting the critical infrastructure along that mile in New Jersey through reductions in grants, through reductions in our personnel. And if that budget becomes the basis for the [fiscal year 2012] budget then I think the Congress needs to understand, and I think my job is to help it understand, that in all likelihood will have a security impact.”
On Friday, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced a project to replace the South Summit Avenue bridge deck above all lanes of Interstate 80 and over the southbound lanes of Route 17 in Hackensack. The $4.8 million federally funded project will replace the existing, structurally deficient bridge deck, resurface the bridge approaches, install a new signal on the ramp from Route 17 northbound to South Summit Avenue and install new sidewalks, lighting and guiderail.
A board of planning volunteers came up with three alternatives to the current design of Observer Highway during a community meeting in Hoboken on Thursday. The project—which will attempt to change the road to "Observer Boulevard" and offer space for pedestrians, cyclists and parking—is being suppored by $2 million in federal funding.
Police officers Marcin Kapka, Steven Martinez and John Tango, along with firefighter Lou Cerchio, were honored by the American Legion in Westfield on Wednesday evening for valor and community service. Cerchio risked his life to rescue two people from drowning while off duty, Tango was recognized for his work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Kapka and Martinez were cited for their efforts to arrest a carjacker with a loaded machine gun.
Last July, Kapka and Martinez chased 19-year-old Denzel Wright of Newark from Westfield on to Rt. 22 and arrested him after he crashed his stolen Dodge Neon into a Burger King.