An interesting development in Ocean County

Good Tuesday morning!

Congratulations on surviving a week without New Jersey Playbook. I hope you were able to endure the hardship.

Going through new PAC  filings during the traditionally slow week between Christmas and New Years, I found something interesting: A PAC called “United Ocean County.” It was founded in part by two women, Chanie Eichorn, a matchmaker from Lakewood, and Hadassah Burnstein, a Republican committeewoman from Jackson. They are married to two very politically-influential members of the community: Developer Mordechai Eichorn and Rabbi Mordechai Burnstein, who leads the Jackson Vaad.

Much has been written about thegrowing political influence of the local orthodox Jewish community and its expansion — often to the protest of non-Orthodox residents — to nearby parts of the county. This PAC, which estimates it will spend $200,000 in 2023, appears to be part of that. But one interesting point to me is who it hired as a consultant: GOP operative Eric Arpert, who ran Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign in 2021.

If you know Ocean County politics even a little, by this point you’re familiar with recently returned-to-power GOP Chair George Gilmore’s rivalry with Ciattarelli and his efforts on behalf of far-right GOP primary candidate Phil Rizzo in the 2021 gubernatorial primary. Arpert helped out with Sheriff Michael Mastronardy’s run against Gilmore for the chairmanship last summer.

Speaking of the Orthodox Jewish community, the reporter many of us non-Orthodox New Jerseyans in the media and elsewhere relied on for news of it — Shlomo Schorr — is leaving journalism to join the advocacy organization Agudath Israel of America. Hopefully someone else will eventually fill Schorr’s former role as an informational bridge between that community and the larger population.


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WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Newark at 10 a.m. for Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s swearing-in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Gabriela Mosquera, Andrea Katz, Hilary Chebra, Melanie Croce-Galis

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Hi Logan this is your billboard. We hope you like it.”— Weezer honoring the winner of the band’s pumpkin carving contest with a billboard on White Horse Turnpike

ABORTION — Boards approve insurance mandates for abortion effective Jan. 1, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: The Individual Health Coverage Program and Small Employer Health Benefits Program unanimously voted to approve the requirements without debate. The requirements are effective Jan. 1, 2023 and require insurers to cover abortion beyond instances of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the patient, although insurers can still include cost-sharing requirements to the procedure. Under abortion legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this year, the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, the Department of Banking and Insurance could mandate insurance coverage for abortion only if a study from the department found it was necessary. DOBI released a study the day before Thanksgiving finding that was the case, and quickly moved toward mandating insurance coverage.”

HEY AT LEAST WE CAN SEE WHERE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS LIVE…… WAIT, WHAT? — “O’Scanlon decries lack of transparency in allocating federal funds in NJ,” by NJ Spotlight News’ Rhonda Schaffler:The last legislative meeting of the year was held Friday as the Joint Budget Oversight Committee met to take a series of administrative votes. One member also voiced criticism of the appropriations process. Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said there should be more transparency, including an opportunity for public participation in funding decisions. Republicans have been calling for more transparency in New Jersey’s budget process and spending decisions on federal funds throughout this year. New Jersey received more than $6 billion through the federal American Rescue Plan Act and more than $1 billion remains unallocated. O’Scanlon said Friday that the process of spending federal money is a ‘secretive joke.’”

—Stile: “Lawmakers, guns and (property tax) money: The NJ political storylines to watch in 2023” 

—“Tolls are going up on N.J. highways, bridges and tunnels in 2023. Here’s how much and where

—“In renaming things, N.J. policymakers hope words will move minds” 

—“Sampson: ‘I respectfully request the Waterfront Commission to reconsider its decision’” 

FORTUNATE ONE  — “Hudson County’s newest congressman gears up for 118th Congress,” by The Jersey Journal’s Mark Koosau: “When the 118th Congress gets sworn in Tuesday, one of the 77 new freshman representatives who will take the oath of office will be Rob Menendez Jr., a Democrat who won the general election last month to represent the Hudson County-based 8th District of New Jersey. Ever since then, Menendez, Jersey City resident and son of Sen. Bob Menendez, has been gearing up for his newly elected role, heading to Washington, D.C., for orientation, hiring staff and winding down his other jobs such as his planned resignation from the Port Authority board and halting his career as an attorney. But the thing that the new congressman won’t be taking any chances on? Bagels, as he’s planning to bring some over from the district for his swearing in. ‘There’s no better food scene in the country than here in the 8th Congressional District,’ he said.”

AMERISOURCEBERGEN NOT EVEN LOCATED IN BERGEN — “Feds accuse pharma giant of drug law violations that fed opioid epidemic,” by NJ Advance Media’s Kevin Shea: “The federal government alleges a suburban Philadelphia drug wholesaler violated laws for controlled substances for nearly a decade, allowing opioids to flow illegally into the wrong hands. Top Department of Justice officials highlighted the actions of five pharmacies around the country, two in New Jersey, to illustrate their accusations against AmerisourceBergen, a Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based, Fortune 500 company, and two of its subsidiaries. Federal authorities made their case in form of a civil lawsuit, saying the saying the company violated the Controlled Substances Act ‘hundreds of thousands of times,’ dating back to 2014 by failing to report … suspicious orders of opioids from pharmacies that the company knew were likely being diverted to illicit markets.’”

—”Conservatives threaten to withhold critical McCarthy support, hours before speaker vote

—Mulshine: “Air-travel delays are becoming an issue for wannabe presidential candidates

IF STUDIO FUDGES THE NUMBER OF JOBS CREATED IT WILL BE CALLED ‘LYIN’ GATE’  — “Lionsgate to get tax breaks for high-priced talent at big studio planned in Newark,” by NJ Advance Media’s Steve Strunsky: “Kevin Creech … strode up Freylinghuysen Avenue in Newark, where the rubble of a demolished housing complex was being cleared away for construction of 350,000-square-foot, $194 million film and television production complex that Lions Gate Films Corp. will lease. So when Creech heard that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority had made the California-based film distributor and production company eligible for millions of dollars in tax breaks, he hoped that locals looking for their own big break might get something in return. ‘If they’re doing it that way, we should at least be able to audition or something,’ said Creech … … Last week, the Economic Development Authority announced it had granted Lionsgate ‘studio partner’ status under the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act, allowing the company to seek tax credits for spending on ‘highly paid individuals like directors, producers, writers, and performers.’”

—“Netflix Studios Fort Monmouth: Details revealed on $850M plan to bring Hollywood to NJ” 

MORE PARKING PROBLEMS IN OCEAN COUNTY — “‘See you in court’: Jackson zoning board denies synagogue,” by The Asbury Park Press Mike Davis: “The township has spent the better part of the last two years settling lawsuits with developers, advocacy groups and even the federal government. But after denying plans for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue on Whitesville Road, it appears a new lawsuit is coming. ‘I guess we’ll see you in court,”’attorney Donna Jennings told zoning board members after the synagogue development, 26 Whitesville Road LLC, was denied on Dec. 21. Mordechai Hirsch first proposed the plan for a synagogue, with an accompanying mikvah, in March. At a zoning board hearing, residents and zoning board members alike criticized the project for not having enough parking and causing increased traffic.”  

ALSO, GEORGE ISN’T AT HOME  — “Believe It or Not, Ripley’s museum is closed,” by The AP: “The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum shut its doors Saturday after more than 26 years of tempting Boardwalk strollers with oddities including shrunken heads, mutant animals and models of unbelievably tall or small humans … Management previously said the museum was closing because its local franchisee is reaching the end of its agreement with Ripley’s. ‘They’re going to reimagine the space and come up with something new and fresh for the future,’ said Chris Connelly, the museum’s manager. The museum opened on the Boardwalk at New York Avenue on June 22, 1996, between the Bally’s and Resorts casinos.”

ERISTOFF CALLS IT, UH, OFF — “Eristoff won’t run for Mercer County executive,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Former State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff has decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Mercer County Executive Eristoff, who had been viewed by many Republicans as the strongest possible challenger for the post, told the New Jersey Globe today that he ‘has decided not to run.’ The decision by Eristoff, a former New York city councilman who moved to Princeton twelve years ago to become state treasurer, comes as Democrats are preparing for a significant primary fight between five-term incumbent Brian Hughes and Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton).”

—“Absecon, NJ Democrat switches sides: Republicans take majority” 

R.I.P. — “Sandy Greenberg, Englewood’s first female mayor, dies at 93” 

—Snowflack: “Local media’s uphill battle” 

—“Passaic County didn’t have far to look for a new administrator. See who’s stepping in [Matt Jordan]” 

—“Sources: Hoboken Councilwoman-at-Large Jabbour frontrunner to be next council president” 

—“Mayor Reed Gusciora and Four City Council members sworn in” 

—“After losing by one vote, Ward seeks recount in Trenton race” 

—“The (ongoing!) public service story of West New York’s Albio Sires

—“Treated as a ‘public health’ issue, Newark violent crime fell 6% in 2022” 

PAULSBORO —  “Giant offshore wind turbines take shape as NJ turns on major manufacturing plant,” by Climate Central’s Nathan Kensinger and John Upton: “Before Chris Maldonado could hire a team to fabricate the colossal steel towers that will hold clean wind energy turbines aloft off the Jersey Shore, he needed to build a worksite big enough for the job. During two years as a project manager for a German wind energy supplier EEW, Maldonado has overseen the transformation of a gritty industrial waterfront in Paulsboro, a small township in South Jersey. It’s being turned into a factory serving the offshore wind energy industry. EEW is developing the facility for its client, Danish energy company Ørsted, with $250 million in funding from the state government. The factory being built here is the largest offshore wind manufacturing plant in the U.S., according to its developers and Gov. Phil Murphy. This week, it is receiving and offloading the components from Europe needed to begin assembly”

SCALLOP PRICES TOP GAS PRICES, PROPERTY TAXES AS NEW JERSEYANS’ TOP ECONOMIC CONCERN —  “Should NJ’s fishing community be compensated for offshore wind losses?” by The Asbury Park Press’ Amanda Ogglesby: “Scallops and clams are likely to get more expensive to harvest off New Jersey, as commercial fishing vessels will soon have to compete for ocean space against offshore wind energy companies. Earlier this month, New Jersey announced it would join eight other states that are seeking a regional approach to compensate fishing communities for the impending losses. ‘Are we going to be allowed to fish inside of them (the wind turbine fields)?’ asked scallop fleet owner and Barnegat Light Mayor Kirk O. Larson. “’Why did (the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) put a wind farm right inside of a scallop area, the most productive scallop area pretty much on the East Coast, not counting Georges Bank (a shallow area of ocean off Cape Cod).’”

—“Offshore wind company with NJ project seeks slowdown on Mass. wind farm due to global economic conditions” 

THE GRASS IS JUST AS GREEN ON THE OTHER SIDE — “Now you can legally buy recreational cannabis in New York,” by The New York Times’ Ashley Southall and Westley Parnell: “The sales on Thursday at a dispensary operated by Housing Works, a nonprofit that supports people living with H.I.V. and AIDS, marked the state’s pivot from decades of criminalizing marijuana to the start of a sanctioned industry projected to generate $4 billion over the next five years. The state passed a first-of-its kind law in March 2021 that gave priority to people adversely affected by enforcement of marijuana laws for early business opportunities in the new industry. But the rollout has been slow, and until Thursday, consumers had no way to purchase products legally despite an abundance of illicit shops and vendors. The mood inside the dispensary, Housing Works Cannabis Co., on Broadway and East 8th Street, was festive and triumphant.”

—Lassiter: “Cannabis in New Jersey. The opposite of equity

—“From slave mines in Monmouth to plantations in Jersey City, report details N.J.’s slavery history”  

—“4 takeaways from new census data on population change in Pennsylvania and New Jersey]” 

—“Court: Kean University students can’t get COVID tuition refunds” 

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