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Archive for April, 2010

Federal judge denies Edison’s plea to dismiss police brutality case

Posted by edison1205 on April 29, 2010

A federal judge today handed Edison a setback in a police brutality lawsuit, denying motions by the township and four police officers to dismiss the case before trial.

The case involves a September 2007 incident where Edison resident Taleb Ahmed was arrested and allegedly beaten by township police officers.

The charges for obstructing justice and resisting arrest were later ‘no-billed’ by a grand jury.  In a January 2008 lawsuit, Ahmed accused the officers of falsely arresting him.  The police responded that even though the grand jury disagreed, and a witness at the scene said not to arrest him, they still had probable cause to arrest him because of two 911 calls.

Ahmed also claims that in executing the arrest, the police “violently attack[ed]” and beat him, which led to physical injuries.  The police say the injuries did not come from a beating but because the man “fell on his face” during a foot chase.

Finally, Ahmed claims that the township is responsible because of a “long history of deliberate indifference to prior police misconduct,” including evidence that only one police officer in the Township of Edison has been disciplined in the last five years, though the police department averages 25 complaints per year, including two complaints against the officer that allegedly beat him.

Ahmed also added that he had previously had a run-in with a township police lieutenant who threatened him at gunpoint.  The lieutenant pulled the gun on him, Ahmed says, because he was displeased that Ahmed was dating the lieutenant’s granddaughter.

Judge Garrett Brown, the chief federal judge in New Jersey, and a 1985 appointee of former president Ronald Reagan, released an opinion today denying the defense request to put an end to the case before trial.

The judge’s opinion, dated last Friday but only released today, says that a jury will have to decide whether there was probable cause to arrest Ahmed, and whether Ahmed’s injuries came from a beating or a fall.  He also said a jury will have to decide whether Edison’s internal affairs procedure is fair to citizens, or leads to “intentionally turning a blind eye to Police misconduct.”

Lastly, the judge said it was “clearly established law” that police cannot unjustifiably assault or injure a victim and that a jury will have to decide justification.

The plaintiff is represented by Marlboro attorney Nicholas Martino, while Richard Guss of Warren represents the township and the four officers who are named individually.

The case is Ahmed v. Township of Edison, No. 08-cv-0066.

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Edison school board election results 2010

Posted by edison1205 on April 20, 2010

EDISON SCHOOL BOARD RESULTS

Board of Education (Three 3-year terms)

Lori Bonderowitz 5743   √
Ralph Errico (incumbent) 4206
Veena Iyer 6377   √
Rosemary Meade (incumbent) 4119
Susan Scerbo (incumbent) 3974
Theresa E. Ward 6216   √

Budget referendum: tax levy of $ 189,739,782

YES  4,568

NO  7,366   √

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THE POLLS ARE OPEN!

Posted by edison1205 on April 20, 2010

It’s a beautiful day out, so please go and vote in today’s school election.  Polls are open from noon to 9pm.  There are six candidates running for three seats: Lori Bonderowitz, Ralph Errico, Veena Iyer, Rosemary Meade, Susan Scerbo, and Theresa E. Ward.

Also there is a referendum asking voters to approve a $189.7 million tax levy to fund next school year’s budget.

Our endorsements are in this post. Don”t forget to come back to The Edison Blog this evening for results, probably around 11:00 or later.

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Christie’s disrespect of Senator Buono

Posted by edison1205 on April 19, 2010

Not that it’s in any way surprising, but this article on Politicker shows the immense disrespect that Chris Christie has for our state senator, Barbara Buono.

Buono, you see, sat on Christie’s ‘red tape review committee.’  The Committee’s recommendations were more focused on enhancing executive authority and leaving the environment subject to abuse and pillage.  Understandably, Buono didn’t sign on to this.  The result?

The committee issued “unanimous” recommendations without Buono’s name.

The story linked above is worth a read.  This should help make clear who occupies the Governor’s Office, and what they think of the people of the 18th Legislative District.

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School Board endorsements: Meade, Iyer, no on the budget

Posted by edison1205 on April 19, 2010

The polls for the Board of Education election will be open from noon to 9pm tomorrow.  You can find your polling place here.  We will also have results for the election when they become available.

The budget crisis has not changed our overall assessment of the Edison schools and its administration first published in January: in general, our schools provide good return on the money spent on them, as evidenced by comparative tax rates and comparative test scores.  This does not change the fact that (1) school administrators have made some bone-headed decisions for which redress is appropriate; and (2) there are areas in which our students need to increase achievements.

Unfortunately, out of the field of six candidates, we only see two who merit our endorsement.  Incumbent Rosemary Meade has the intellect and experience to justify re-election.  While she has contributed to some of the aforementioned fiscal and administration issues, it’s clear that she can be responsive to the taxpayers when necessary, as evidenced by her rejection of the capital referendum for this election and her advocacy for changes to the school budget for next year.

Similarly, newcomer Veena Iyer also merits your vote.  While experienced and tireless in her advocacy for kids and taxpayers, she also is the only candidate running  whose professional life is not closely connected with the education bureaucracy.  Her energy and diverse perspective will be a welcome addition to the Board.

We urge a no vote on the budget.  At this moment in time, too many people are out of work or earning less, while being taxed more through the repeal of property tax rebates and deductions.  And while the fault for the reduction in state aid and tax relief lies squarely at the feet of Republican Governor Chris Christie, we think that additional paring of expenses is needed this year in order to give taxpayers a fairer shake.

Some articles laying out the candidates’ background are here (Home News) and here (Sentinel).

Whether you agree with our recommendations or not, please turn out tomorrow (if you have not already voted by mail) and make sure your voice is heard.

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Recall Christie Q&A

Posted by edison1205 on April 14, 2010

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THE MOST RECENT UPDATE OF THIS INFORMATION.

Some people and groups are advocating for the recall of N.J. Governor Chris Christie.  Here are some questions and answers about this recall movement.

Q.        Why are people expressing interest in a recall of Christie?

A.        Particular motives vary, but there is a great deal of anti-Christie sentiment caused by his proposals for cuts to the education budget and other programs.

Q.        How much public support is there for a recall?

A.        That’s difficult to say. The most recent statewide poll says that 33% of the people approve of Christie’s performance, while 63% disapprove, but that doesn’t mean that all those people would support recall.

Looking at the Web, sentiment seems to be against Christie. For example, the largest anti-Christie Facebook group, “NJ Against Chris Christie” has 36,000 members, while the largest pro-Christie group, the “Governor Chris Christie Fan Page” has only 8,000.

Q.        Give me a quick overview of the recall process, please.

A.        Basically, after November 30, any 3 voters can organize themselves into a recall committee. They submit papers to the the secretary of state, Kim Guadagno (who is also the Lieutenant Governor), and if everything is in order, collection of signatures can begin soon afterward. Petitioners have 320 days to collect about 1.3 million signatures from registered voters. If the signatures are validated, an election is then held on Christie’s recall. If he loses, his term ends immediately and Guadagno (in her role as lieutenant governor) becomes Governor.

Q.        Let’s go through the mechanics of a recall in greater detail now.   How does the process begin?

A.        Initially, you have to remember that recall laws differ from state to state, and there are even variations depending on which office is at stake.

But the first step in any recall process in New Jersey is that a committee of 3 registered voters must file a notice of intention with the Secretary of State.

Q.        What is the earliest date that the notice of intention can be filed?

A.        Fifty days before the candidate’s first anniversary in office. For Christie, that’s November 30, 2010.  No signatures can be collected before that date, and no contributions for the recall committee can be solicited or collected before either (1) the statement of intention is filed or (2) in some circumstances, 30 days prior to that date.

Q.        How important is the membership of the recall committee?

A.        The members of the committee “represent the sponsors and signers of the recall petition in matters relating to the recall effort.” Therefore, these must be individuals with great personal integrity and moral stamina to see the process through. In fact, since signatures collected by one recall committee cannot be used by any other recall committee, it’s crucial that the committee members be organized in their work and irrevocably committed to the process.

Q.        What does the recall committee file with its statement of intention?

A.        Among other things, the recall committee can — but is not required to — file a 200 word statement that lays out its case as to why the person should be recalled. If they do so, the officeholder also gets a 200 word reply, all of which goes on the petition. Accordingly, the recall committee would need to make a strategic decision about whether to give reasons or not.

Q.        Once the Secretary of State approves the recall committee’s paperwork, what happens?

A.        Circulators go out and collect signatures from registered voters. Because Governor is a statewide office, circulators have 320 days.  State law indicates that while circulators may be paid, each circulator must be a registered voter of New Jersey and actually sign the petition.  Some court decisions in other states have invalidated similar restrictions on petition circulators there, so it’s an open question whether these restrictions are Constitutional.

Q.        How many signatures must be collected?

A.        25 percent of all registered voters in New Jersey. While this number fluctuates over time, there are about 5.2 million names on the list of registered voters, out of the 5.8 million adult citizens who are eligible to register. Therefore, there would need to be about 1.3 million valid signatures collected. Most petition drives collect an extra safety margin of about 30 percent, meaning organizers would have to get close to 1.6 million.

Q.        Yikes! That’s a lot of names.  Can they be from any part of the State?

A.        Yes.  Unlike some jurisdictions, NJ does not prescribe any geographical distribution for signatures.

Q.        Getting all those signatures seems like a lot of work. Is it really feasible to pull it off?

A.        It will be extremely difficult.  To understand the magnitude, New Jersey is divided up into about 6,400 election precincts averaging 800-850 voters each. Petitioners would need an average of 250 signatures from each such neighborhood.  Also, Christie got about 1.17 million votes in the 2009 election and Corzine got about 1.08 million. To be successful, petitioners would need more signatures than the number of votes either candidate received.  Put yet another way, if the recall proponents had 1,600 active canvassers, each one would be responsible for 1,000 unique names.  By any measure, it would be a massive undertaking.

But Chris Christie has acted aggressively against, and inflicted damage upon, local schools, transit riders, college students, property tax rebate recipients, seniors, people with disabilities, and others.  The damage to the middle class has been substantial, and many feel it’s necessary for citizens to respond with the best legal means available: recall.

Q.        Is there any group that has the knowledge and geographic breadth to pull off such a large undertaking?

A.        Since New Jersey does not have statewide I&R, and no credible group has attempted a recall of a statewide officeholder, there are basically no people here with both knowledge of New Jersey and the knowledge of how to pull off a statewide petitioning campaign.  There are professionals from states that have I&R like California and Florida who could be engaged to help.  But the Democratic Party is very anemic in certain parts of the State, so another group that has true statewide reach, along with the motivation to do this, would be necessary.

Q.        Did you have such a group in mind?

A.        The only such group I can think of is the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

Q.        Assuming all the signatures ultimately get collected, what happens then?

A.        The signatures are turned in and checked for validity by the appropriate official. If validated, the official then schedules a recall election for a certain date according to a legal formula that takes into account when the petition was validated, and whether the petition sought the option of a special recall election.

Q.        At the election, what happens?

A.        The only recall-related question on the ballot will be whether the Governor should be recalled.  A majority (50 percent plus 1) is required to win the recall.  Unlike the procedure for local and county recalls in New Jersey or procedures in other states, there is no simultaneous election for a successor.  Rather, if the recall is successful, the Lieutenant Governor immediately becomes Governor.

Q.        Where can I find more information?

A.        You can read the recall statutes at N.J.S.A. 19:27A-1 to -18.  They can be found at www.njleg.state.nj.us, clicking on “statutes,” and entering the number of the law you want to look for, in quotes.

UPDATED APRIL 29, 2010

UPDATED 2X MAY 20, 2010

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Meta diary

Posted by edison1205 on April 3, 2010

The writers and the researchers who work on this site began it on January 1, 2010.  We have just exceeded 5,000 page views, and it’s an achievement of which we’re proud.

The record visits per day came on January 27 (265 visits), as we were the primary online source for people seeking information about about the outcome of the school referendum.

After our home page, the next most popular page (with about 800 hits) is our “Edison and the Law” page where we discuss lawsuits by or against the township and the board of education.  Going forward, we will announce on the main page whenever we have updates to it, because people seem to miss the juicy scoops we post there, stuff that is often missed by the mainstream media.

The next most popular page is the contracts page, where we give people the actual links to public employee contracts in Edison.  Nearly 300 readers have availed themselves of the contracts there, so they can learn for themselves what the contracts say, rather than relying on people misinterpreting them out of ignorance or to provide ‘political’ spin.  Being able to spread the word in this way is something we’re especially proud of, and it’s something we’re going to continue.  I was considering having summaries of the most-discussed key paragraphs in each.  Time will tell whether we can find the resources to do that.

Finally, the search terms also teach us about what people are looking for when they find us.  Lots of people are searching for lawsuit info, and lots are searching for budget info.  While we provide links to all the relevant budgets, it’s clear that we should be doing a better job in describing what’s in the budgets, as there is a great hunger for that information.  Again, as with a fuller exegisis of the contracts, we’ll try and find the time to do that.

Most of all, this is a big thank you to our readers; it gives us great pleasure to see that every day, we have at least several dozen hits here of people looking to inform themselves.  We are most grateful for that.

If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions for improvements, please leave a comment below (you can do so anonymously) or send an email to [theedisonblog] [at] [gmail] [dot] [com].

– the Edison1205 editorial team.

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Reminders about voting deadlines

Posted by edison1205 on April 2, 2010

Two important items of secular business for everyone today:

Monday, April 12 is the deadline to file petitions to run as party nominee (Democrat or Republican) for various offices, including Member of Congress, freeholder, clerk, sheriff, and the unexpired term on the township council.  (Candidates wanting to run as independents for these offices have until June to file their petitions).  Petitions are due by 4pm that day.  This page will show you the number of signatures you need.

Tuesday, April 13 is the deadline to file a mailed request for an absentee ballot for the school election.  The clerk has to receive the application by that day, if mailed; otherwise, you can file an application in person up until 3pm on April 19.  The application for mail in ballot is here in English and aqui en Español.

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Board of Education proposal

Posted by edison1205 on April 1, 2010

As I did not stay at the BOE meeting until 4am, and am too tired to do analysis right now, I’ll simply refer you to some links about the proposed budget that the BOE will be asking the voters to approve.

Home News, Edison board boosts taxes, balks at teachers’ pay-freeze, benefits proposal

Ledger, After marathon hearing, Edison school board cuts 131 jobs, hikes taxes

Sentinel, Board restores positions, driving up tax increase

And some commentary by a fellow taxpayer.

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