Havana is locked in a bygone era, somewhere in the vicinity of 1959, as if the Castro revolution had only occurred yesterday.
Vintage cars serve as taxis rumbling along cobblestone streets. Classic cars run on diesel, a smell permeating the city. Cuban women are colorfully dressed, like Carmen Miranda or the Chiquita Banana lady, aggressively selling Cuban cigars to unwitting tourists in Old Havana Square.
Across the bay stands the foreboding ancient Morro Castle, a fortress built to guard the city. Public thoroughfares decorated with Russian-constructed missiles serve as a chilling reminder of how close the U.S. once came to nuclear war during the showdown between Khrushchev and Kennedy.
Governor Chris Christie came charging into Trenton pledging to turn it upside down in 2010. He made a left turn onto the Boulevard of Compromise in 2011, cruised the boulevard through 2012 and rode the waves of Sandy through 2013. Now he’s hit a dead end on the bridgegate to nowhere.
The message of the FY 2015 Budget Address is ‘No Change.” Christie warned of the looming crisis we sent him to Trenton to fix and offered no solutions. No reductions in government. An increase in spending. Christie lamented that he couldn’t spend more because of commitments made to people who are no longer working and to repay money that has already been spent.
Christie meekly suggested that more pension and benefit reforms are necessary in order to grow the state government. State Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “We’re not doing it.”
Democrat Governor Jim Florio was the first to use the pension fund as a fall-back piggy bank in a time of crisis, Save Jerseyans.
In 1992, facing a budget shortfall, Florio pushed through the Pension Revaluation Act with unanimous support in the legislature, reducing taxpayer contributions to the public retirement plans by $1.5 billion.
This scheme was accomplished through the financial deception of introducing a more optimistic method of evaluating pension system investments. The end result was to make the retirement plans’ finances “look far rosier” than they really were, by lifting the projected rate of return on the fund’s investments to 8.75% from 7%.
Let the games begin: Governor Chris Christie will propose a budget on Tuesday afternoon with a smaller pension payment than Senate President Steve Sweeney said he’s willing to accept to avoid a government shutdown, Save Jerseyans,
According to pre-released excerpts, the Governor’s FY 2015 budget proposal includes a $2.25 billion payment towards New Jersey’s chronically underfunded pension system, a payment which Christie plans to point out “is nearly the equivalent of the total payments made in the ten years before we arrived by five different governors.”
Senate President Steve “Sandy Hook is Fair Game” Sweeney has been in full grandstanding mode in recent days, ruling out tax cuts completely while his Assembly counterpart pitches new taxes (thanks for nothing, Steve!) and threatening to shutter state government (ironic much?) if Governor Christie refuses to raise the state’s pension contribution from $1.7 billion in the FY 2014 budget to $2.4 billion pursuant to the politicians’ 3-year-old pension overhaul agreement; whether the $150 million difference is a deal-breaker remains to be seen.
Why is it that the politicians who want to impose the most rules and regulations on the rest of us also seem the least willing to follow the rules themselves? Arrogance? Ideology? Some combination of the two? I’ve always suspected so. I call it the “Animal Farm” principle.
Some pigs are just more equal than others, right?
Check out what a New York City TV reporter found one of our region’s biggest pigs (Mayor Bill De Blasio) doing only hours after proposing a “safe streets initiative” for the Big Apple:
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Brick Mayor John Ducey celebrated the end of the Township’s red light camera program yesterday by posing for one last image for American Traffic Solutions’ computers in Arizona to process.
Fulfilling a campaign promise made during his race for mayor last fall, on February 6 Ducey announced the results of his study of Brick’s RLC results showing that the cameras actually increased traffic accidents over the three year program and refused to renew the contract of ATS, the Arizona company that administered the program and kept roughly half of the fine monies collected. The contract expired at midnight today.
O’Scanlon, New Jersey’s leading critic of the RLC program praised Ducey for protecting Brick’s motorists from the dangerous rippoffs and called on the leaders of the twenty-four New Jersey municipalities that still have the cameras to do the same thing: “One down, 24 to go!” O’Scanlon declared.
Salem County NJDOT road crews prepare to combat a winter storm. (Photo credit: @GovChristie)
New Jersey got smacked with another few inches of snow last night, Save Jerseyans, as you’re already painfully aware. One more good snow and I might qualify for an arm transplant.
We’re heading into a “warm up” period over the next several days (temperatures in the 40s and 50s), but then it’s right back into the lower temps next week and, surprise surprise, a strong a possibility of additional accumulating white powder. And NOT the kind that President Obama used recreationally as a younger man.
More snow is en route to the Garden State on Tuesday, Save Jerseyans, but thanks to an archaic quirk of federal law, we may be going into it without sufficient road salt.
The real question is whether partisan politics is entering into the equation, too…
Long story short,a shipment of salt is stuck at a Maine seaport because of the 94-year old Merchant Marine Act of 1920 or “Jones Act” which demands, in part, that all goods moved between U.S. ports be transported by way of United States flag ships that were both built in the United States and owned, staffed, and operated by American citizens and permanent residents:
That’s what Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) estimates based upon last week’s Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, Save Jerseyans, which concluded that the United States could see 2.5 million fewer jobs by 2024 than it otherwise would’ve without Obamacare.
Citing accident statistics reporting an increase in accidentsat the three red light camera intersections in his Township, Brick Mayor John Ducey announced this afternoon that he is not renewing American Traffic Solutions’s contract.
Brick’s red light camera program terminates effective February 18, 2014 and equipment is to be removed by February 24.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, New Jersey’s most prominent opponent of the red light camera program was on hand to congratulate Ducey, the residents of Brick, and New Jersey motorists who drive in Brick.
“When I was running for Mayor, one of the most frequent sources of frustrations of the people I spoke to was the red light cameras. I promised to review our red light camera program and remove them if that review didn’t convince me that they were making our roads safer,” said Mayor Ducey. “I have kept that promise. After conducting that review, I am not convinced that the benefit is safety and not revenue. At the end of the day, the statistics I was shown did not convince me that these cameras are making intersections safer. The strongest argument for keeping the lights is for the revenue they generate and I feel strongly that government should not be balancing budgets through punitive measures,” As a result I am not renewing the red light camera contract which is effectively ending red light cameras in Brick Township.”
Ducey noted an increase in accidents at each of the three Brick intersections that have RCLs between 2012 and 2013, the 2013 data is not completely reported yet.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said today that he is asking U.S Attorney Paul Fishman to open criminal investigations into the municipal clients of Redflex Traffic Systems, an Arizona based red light camera company, due to legal claims by a former executive that the company routinely bribed municipal officials in 13 states, including New Jersey, in order to obtain the lucrative contracts to operate camera systems that issue summonses for red light infractions.
Additionally, O’Scanlon is writing to Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski to ask that the committee open an investigation into New Jersey’s red light camera program in light of the recent bribery allegations and scientific proof commissioned by O’Scanlon that red light cameras are a detriment to public safety that are rigged to cheat motorists.