Good Monday morning!
Correlation is not the same thing as causation. Politicians know that. But they tend to calculate that they have more to gain than to lose by reacting to troubling trends with an answer, even if they don’t have any evidence that it’s a good one. New Jersey has recently provided us with two high-profile examples.
New Jersey Democrats, reacting to what they see as a political vulnerability from some rising crimes, including car thefts, have begun walking back aspects of recent criminal justice reforms and returning to politics reminiscent of the “tough on crime” stuff of the 1990s. Only, the statistics that have been cited to tie rising car thefts to bail reform in New Jersey fall apart under the barest of scrutiny. Is there a link? I’m open to the possibility. It’s just that nobody’s demonstrated one. And today the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee is set to take up a bill that would upgrade the crime of assaulting a police officer and include a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. (The timing is coincidental but not ideal, as this hearing is scheduled to happens days after the release of a video showing Memphis officers who belonged to a unit formed in part to combat car theft beating Tyre Nichols, who later died).
We also face the lack of correlation/causation distinction with the increase in dead whales washing up on New Jersey beaches. This is happening as a company plans to build a major wind farm off the coast. But there’s no actual evidence that the preparations for the wind farm have led to the whale deaths. Just speculation based on timing. Nevertheless, the political discussion immediately went there. And people like Tucker Carlson — those who oppose wind energy for political or financial reasons or both — are exploiting it.
POLITICO’s Ry Rivard tackled this issue in a story this weekend. As Ry write “[B]ecause it isn’t clear why the whales are dying, the absence of evidence is being used as evidence of [federal government] regulatory absence.”
Read Ry’s story here.
I don’t dismiss the possibilities that bail reform led to some rise in crime or that the offshore wind project has something to do with whale deaths. I just want to see solid evidence before we let these political narratives take hold. Shouldn’t we all?
DAYS SINCE MURPHY REFUSED TO SAY WHETHER HIS WIFE’S NON-PROFIT SHOULD DISCLOSE DONORS: 359
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “‘Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the sense of acceptance of responsibility.” — U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan during the sentencing of a New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to assaulting Capitol Police on January 6.
WHERE’S MURPHY? In Trenton to sign a joint resolution at 10 a.m. recognizing “The Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Herb Conaway
CANTABIS — “New Jersey is planning for public marijuana lounges. But some are criticizing proposed restrictions,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Nick Vadala: “[D]raft rules … the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission released last week. They would allow marijuana dispensaries to have indoor or outdoor spaces where customers can smoke, vaporize, or eat cannabis products in a public setting, like a weed lounge version of a bar or restaurant. But not exactly. According to the proposed rules, cannabis consumption areas would be more restricted than their boozy counterparts. And it’s not entirely clear what they’ll look like, when they’ll open, or what exactly they’ll be able to offer patrons. ‘It’s hard for people to picture what a cannabis lounge under these rules looks like,’ said Chris Goldstein, regional organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. One restriction consumers have taken issue with is the proposed rules’ ban on consumption areas selling food or drink.”
WATER — “NJ families behind on water bills can’t get help because utilities won’t take federal aid,” by The Record’s Ashley Balcerzak: “Low- and middle-income families in New Jersey that need help with water and sewer bills are eligible for up to $5,000 to prevent their water service from being disconnected or to avoid a tax lien sale, under the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program, launched last March with federal stimulus funds. But fewer than 2,000 families had received benefits through December, according to Department of Community Affairs data. That’s in part because only 120 drinking water utilities out of more than 600 water systems currently participate in the program, according to an analysis by the environmental advocacy nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. More than 50 large drinking water utilities — those that serve at least 11,000 people, often in New Jersey’s poorest communities — have not signed on, the nonprofit found.”
SHERRILL STILL HAS MORE BALLS THAN GOTTHEIMER — “Ramping up for possible gubernatorial bid, Gottheimer picks national political operative as new chief of staff,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Signaling his interest in running for statewide office in New Jersey, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) has brought on a top Democratic strategist, Chelsea Brossard, to run his congressional office. A former regional political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Brossard led the efforts to elect Democratic House members in six western states. She managed digital persuasion campaigns for dozens of high-profile gubernatorial and congressional races across the U.S. during the 2020 midterms … The move by Gottheimer mirrors one by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), who hired a Democratic operative with national experience, Alex Ball, to serve as her chief of staff.”
—“Would cameras make group homes for disabled people safer? Debate rages over privacy”
—“Legislative fundraising by the numbers”
—“Should NJ farms be owned by foreign countries? Sen. Doug Steinhardt says no”
—“Lawmakers move to fight E-ZPass surprises”
—Lawmakers advance bill to boost small employer health insurance market amid concerns for older residents’ premiums
—“Booker says he’ll keep trying to pass weed legislation even with House Republicans in charge”
—POLITICO Podcast: Behind the RNC’s anti-Trump revolt with Bill Palatucci
KICKING OFF SPILLER’S 2025 GUBERNATORIAL BID — “Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller accused of retaliation by town’s CFO in court documents,” by The Record’s Julia Martin: “Montclair township Chief Financial Officer Padmaja Rao has filed a motion in Essex County Superior Court to add new information to her whistleblower complaint against Montclair and town manager Tim Stafford, in which she alleges hostile treatment and retaliation by Stafford. Among the new allegations filed on Tuesday are that, on several occasions, Mayor Sean Spiller approached council members ‘to discuss building a file of examples that could be used to pursue disciplinary action against Ms. Rao,’ according to Councilor Peter Yacobellis, who is quoted in the motion. This was an attempt to undermine and possibly fire Rao in retaliation for speaking up about issues of possible wrong doing by the council, according to the motion, and because Rao complained about Stafford’s allegedly abusive behavior to township’s Affirmative Action Officer Bruce Morgan.”
AMY DEGINSOUR — “Was Amy DeGise drunk when she hit that bicyclist in Jersey City?” by The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran: “DeGise waited six hours before showing up at police headquarters. They had a recording of the crash, and saw her license plate, so they already knew it was her. But they didn’t go get her during those hours. Nor did they conduct any kind of sobriety test. Mayor Steve Fulop’s office says that’s standard procedure and reflects no favoritism at all. Hmmm. ‘That’s the number one speculation,’ says Kevin Bing, an activist who gathered petitions on the street and attended Wednesday’s meeting. ‘Were there drugs or alcohol in her system?’ I’m not saying the woman was intoxicated, mind you. She denies that, and there is no evidence of drugs or alcohol. Which is the point. If a drunk driver flees the scene, and then waits six hours, the liver and kidneys do their work destroying the evidence. And when police sit on their hands and let that happen, no one’s the wiser.‘It’s such ego and hubris,’ says Megan Carolan, who started the online petition. ‘Many people who signed the petition said that if this happened to them, they’d be in handcuffs.’”
—“Bicyclist involved in Jersey City hit-and-run by Councilwoman DeGise files $1M tort claim”
THE $3 BILLION MASTER BADER PLAN — “Blatstein Bader plans include school, a ‘clean and safe’ middle class environment,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Michelle Brunetti Post: “A $3 billion 10,000-unit housing proposal for Bader Field would give people a middle class community and keep successful people from leaving the city, according to developer Bart Blatstein. Blatstein’s proposed “Casa Mar” would also include a new K-12 private or charter school and a 100-room hotel, he said during an editorial board meeting with The Press of Atlantic City last week. “My job for 45 years is seeing what’s missing,” said Blatstein, owner of Tower Investments, the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and a $100 million indoor water park under construction that is slated to open this summer.”
LIVE STREAM WILL BE LIMITED TO 300 VIEWERS — “Will Sparta pull the plug on livestreaming school board meetings? Residents push back,” by The New Jersey Herald’s Kyle Morrell: “The Sparta Board of Education is exploring its options for livestreaming meetings after the board president proposed ending the practice in a cost-saving move at Thursday’s meeting. President Kurt Morris said the virtual recordings, which have been streamed on YouTube dating back to August 2020, are no longer necessary with the resumption of in-person meetings following the COVID-19 pandemic. The livestreams cost the district $8,000 last year, he said, mainly in overtime wages for staff members. “To spend $8,000 solely to livestream when we’re here in public, with everyone that’s here tonight, I just find that it’s a waste of money to continue spending this year after year after year when it can be used elsewhere,” Morris said. Morris put the motion up for a vote, but later withdrew it after board members sought to discuss the matter further … Sparta resident Frieda Lewis came directly from her job as an OB-GYN to speak out against Morris’ motion. She specifically took issue with his statement that, since meetings are scheduled months in advance, the public has plenty of time to make arrangements to attend in person.”
HERE I AM. ROCK YOU LIKE A TAYFUN — “The possibilities of Selen v. DeGroot II,” by InsiderNj’s Fred Snowflack: “Friends say Tayfun Selen doesn’t normally get mad at people and is not the type to hold a grudge. A prime example occurred last June when Selen lost a primary fight for the Republican nomination in CD-11. Having secured the endorsement of the Morris County organization, Selen was the favorite. But when things went awry, Selen was the first to congratulate the winner, Paul DeGroot. That story was presented during a Selen campaign kickoff/fundraiser Thursday night. This time around Selen is seeking reelection to the Morris County board of commissioners. And once again, he may be facing DeGroot, setting up a dual challenge of sorts – Selen has another chance to beat DeGroot and if things go bad again, another chance to be a gracious loser.”
RISKY BUS-INESS — “School bus driver charged with DWI after crashing into N.J. home, cops say,” by NJ Advance Media’s Chris Sheldon: “A school bus driver who crashed into a West Caldwell home Friday morning shortly after dropping students off at a local high school was charged with DWI and multiple other offenses, police said. Officers were called the Passaic Avenue home at 8:39 a.m.and found that the bus had left the road and crashed into the north side of the ranch-style home, according a statement from the West Caldwell Police Department. Anthony R. Stuckey, 37, Newark, was the only occupant of the bus as he had recently dropped off students at the West Caldwell Tech High School, authorities said.”
—“Dozens gather in Newark to demand justice for Tyre Nichols”
—Kelly: “Can this North Jersey town see through the smoke and mirrors of legal weed?”
—“Environmentalists seek to rein in ATVs amidst fears of damage to Gravelly Run”
—“Why Ocean County plans to spend $7.55 million on beach replenishment”
—“Franklin Borough fire chief suspended and accused of assaulting girlfriend, police say”
SYNAGOGUE ATTACK — “‘Proudly Jewish in light of rising hatred’ – Bloomfield Rabbi speaks after arson attempt,”by The Record’s Hannan Adely: “The rabbi of a Bloomfield synagogue targeted in an arson attack early Sunday said recent security upgrades, including a shatterproof barrier over glass, may have saved the house of worship from a worse fate after a man in a ski mask threw a Molotov cocktail at their front door. The masked man approached Temple Ner Tamid, lit the glass bottle and tossed it at the temple at 3:19 a.m., surveillance video from the temple revealed. The bottle broke, but didn’t cause damage, and the suspect then fled down the driveway … ‘People have been on heightened alert because of this and are feeling rightfully worried about the state of antisemitism because of how prevalent it has been lately,’ Katz said in an interview Sunday.”
—“Report: Nursing shortage in New Jersey looms”
—“A cyberattack on a N.J. hospital revealed serious vulnerabilities. More are coming”
—“135-year-old mystery solved? We may finally know Asbury Park’s East Coast surfing pioneer”