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Sweeney Serves as Legislator-in-Residence At Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy

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Sweeney Serves as Legislator-in-Residence At Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy

For Immediate Release; with photos, captions on flickr

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Contact:         Maryjane Briant, News and Media Relations Director                              Galloway Township, NJ 08205                                        (609) 652-4593

Galloway, NJ – New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney completed two days as Legislator-in-Residence for the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton College.

The Legislator-in-Residence program is designed to bring New Jersey lawmakers to Stockton to engage with the students and faculty and to share their experiences as legislators.

“This was a great experience for me,” said Sen. Sweeney (D-3rd). “I already knew that Stockton College is a great school that provides a first-rate education and this gave me the opportunity to see it firsthand. I was able to interact with students, professors and school administrators, which gave us the opportunity to discuss issues of importance to us all, from Sandy recovery to college affordability, the needs of South Jersey, jobs and the economy.

“I want students to be able to continue to afford a college education and I want them to graduate into an economy that offers them goods jobs and a prosperous future. Everyone at Stockton wants that as well,” he said.

Sen. Sweeney spoke with students in the Introduction to Public Policy class with Dr. Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of Political Science, members of the Student Senate and other student leaders.

Sweeney also participated in discussions with Stockton experts including Dr. Stewart Farrell and Steven Howard of the Coastal Research Center; Dr. Darryl Greer of the Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance (HESIG) program; Dr. Israel Posner of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT); John Froonjian of the Stockton Polling Institute; and Sharon Schulman, CEO of External Affairs and Institutional Research for Stockton College.

Over the course of the program, the Hughes Center invites both Republicans and Democrats, and State Senators and members of the General Assembly.

Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-6th) was the Hughes Center’s first Legislator-in-Residence. Other legislators to serve include: Sen. Chris Connors (R-9th), New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34th), Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10th) and Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-9th). Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2nd) will be the Legislator-in-Residence for the Fall 2014 semester.

About the Hughes Center The William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy ( at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey serves as a catalyst for research, analysis and innovative policy solutions on the economic, social and cultural issues facing New Jersey. The Center is named for William J. Hughes, whose distinguished career includes service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ambassador to Panama and as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Stockton College. The Hughes Center can be found on Facebook at and can be followed on Twitter @hughescenter.

Lamenting the fate of newspapers: Opinion

                    The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper, said Thursday it is cutting 170 jobs, including 25 percent of the newsroom staff.                                             (Frances Micklow/The Star-Ledger)

By Carl Golden

First jobs — like first loves — are the ones most often and fondly remembered. Showing up in an office or a factory floor or behind a sales counter — nervous, a little scared — is recalled years later with affection and more than a little sentimentality.

It was a seminal moment of life, the passage from adolescence into the adult world. It was the start of accepting responsibility, answering for your own actions, and a fuller understanding that you controlled your future.

Mine was the newspaper business. When I walked into the newsroom of the Easton (Pa.) Express — a 17-year-old kid who’d graduated high school five days before — I knew this was where I belonged.

It was a cacophony of ringing telephones, shouted questions and orders, the clacking keys of dozens of typewriters, the hammering of teletype machines. Clouds of cigarette smoke clung to a ceiling permanently stained a sickly yellow by absorbing years of fumes. Empty coffee cartons and newspapers littered the floor. Beat-up wooden desks were shoved into a more or less orderly setup.

It was an electric atmosphere, so viscerally compelling that the tingling I felt then returns today, more than 50 years later, when I recall it.

It is, then, sad to witness the steady decline of newspapers, shoved closer to oblivion by the satanic machine I’m sitting in front of at this moment.

Another hammer blow fell last week when The Star-Ledger announced a 25 percent reduction in its newsroom staff — 40 reporters, editors, photographers and other staffers — and a consolidation of its operations to serve its print outlets and online sites.

The Ledger was on track to lose $19 million this year and is by no means the only paper clinging to existence. Shutdowns, layoffs, scaled-back publication schedules and labor concessions have become common occurrences industry-wide.

Paid circulation continues a downward spiral as consumers of news turn increasingly to the array of internet outlets, blogs, commentaries and opinion pieces available at the touch of a button. Advertising dollars have followed readers to the computer screen.

I spent 11 years in the newspaper business, first at the Easton Express and later at the Newark News, a proud and influential paper driven out of business in 1972 by mismanagement, a labor dispute and subsequent sale to a media company that had no intention of rescuing it.

Print journalism has been victimized like so many other seemingly invincible businesses by a competitive force it failed to foresee and fully appreciate and which fell upon it so rapidly and with such impact that recovery is problematic.

Those critics who claim insight but lack it tie the downfall of newspapers to an ideological bias, one that favors liberalism and a partisan left-wing agenda.

It is an absurd argument, ignoring the long history of newspapers thriving, their financial success growing steadily, while their editorial pages reflected a decided political tilt, left or right. They’ve been driven to the financial brink by turbulent market forces, dramatically changing reader habits and advertising dollars fleeing to other outlets.

Purchasers of space in newspapers to sell cars, houses or women’s foundation garments cared not whether the paper endorsed one candidate or another or supported a political agenda. It was good business. Now, other forms have become better and their money more wisely invested.

When I put my reporter’s career behind me, I did so with great regret. It was an exciting, fascinating, exhilarating life. In my basement, there are cardboard boxes containing scrapbooks filled with clips of stories I’d written in my years at two papers. They’re yellowed and crumbled at the edges, but dumping them into a recycling bin is unthinkable.

The late Tim Russert, an extraordinary newspaper and television reporter, once remarked to a colleague about their shared profession: “It’s great, isn’t it? And, tomorrow we get to do it all over again.”

For those reporters at The Star-Ledger and their colleagues throughout the business, I hope they get to enjoy their tomorrows. Like I did.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Opinion: A culture of political retribution?

Opinion: A culture of political retribution?

April 4, 2014, 4:05 PM    Last updated: Friday, April 4, 2014, 4:05 PM
The Record
Governor Christie

Governor Christie

Carl Golden, a press aide to former Govs. Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

AS GOVERNOR Christie struggles to pull himself out from under the dark cloud of Bridgegate, attention has turned to one of the several tangential elements of the scandal: Did the administration create and nurture a culture in which political retribution was not only encouraged but celebrated?

The governor established his administration’s kick-’em-when-they’re-down-and-hit’em-when-they-try-to-get-up tone early on by laying into the leadership of the New Jersey Education Association, characterizing them as a greedy cadre of people whose only interest was in winning higher salaries and more favorable fringe benefits for their members at taxpayer expense.

He returned to the theme time and again and expanded it to include public employee unions, citing them as primarily responsible for high state and local taxes. He took on everybody and seemingly relished his public brawls with legislators, school administrators, bureaucrats, independent authorities, local officials and reporters.

He made frequent use of jokes and sarcasm to put down opponents and to dismiss pertinent and legitimate questions on policy matters.

Signature criticism

His liberal use of the term “idiot” to describe critics or those with whom he had lost patience quickly became his signature. He bluntly challenged those he felt asked impertinent questions, and who can forget the great ice-cream-cone confrontation on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, a situation which could have turned ugly, indeed, if not for the intercession of his staff and security detail.

He was brash and straightforward, and his what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality won national recognition for him. He referred repeatedly to his “Jersey attitude,” a mindset that warned opponents that if they pushed with one hand, he’d push back with both hands.

The attention he attracted and the acclaim he drew as a refreshing politician unafraid of butting heads or throwing rhetorical haymakers was not lost on those who surrounded him.

The swagger, the supreme self-confidence, the willingness to defy accepted political protocol created a lasting impression. Some who accompanied him to Trenton following his 2009 election and others who joined later took their cue from the man they served.

A largely inexperienced, politically immature individual thrust into such a politically charged environment and given a position of considerable responsibility can easily assume a self- importance dangerously out of proportion to reality. It is a seductive and bedazzling atmosphere. It is being admitted to an inner circle shared by few others, creating the belief that the rules governing the behavior of others don’t apply here; it is behavior that is an expected part of an elevated status and immune from repercussion.

Kelly’s role

Bridget Anne Kelly, who stands accused of setting in motion the chain of events now known as Bridgegate, seems to fit that profile.

If the internal review carried out by the administration-retained attorneys is to be believed, she and she alone abused the power of her position as the governor’s deputy chief of staff to order the closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, creating a massive traffic jam and eventually exploding into a major scandal that has inflicted severe damage on Christie’s reputation and standing, nationally as well as in New Jersey.

Given her steadfast refusal to talk publicly about her role and her assertion of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, her motives and any doubts she may have had about her involvement in the lane closures remain unknown.

Did she, for instance, simply carry out orders from her superiors despite her misgivings or, as the investigative report contends, concoct the scheme on her own and conspire to carry it out with David Wildstein, a Christie-approved high-level staffer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A willing participant

The email communications between Kelly and Wildstein certainly suggest she was a willing participant, but was her eagerness reflective of an intrinsic culture in which meting out punishment to perceived political enemies was routine and accepted?

Or was she a rogue underling embarking on an ego-driven power trip in an effort to prove her political sagacity and impress those around her? Her “time for some traffic troubles in Fort Lee” email to Wildstein, for instance, and her snarky observations about the plight of people stuck for hours in the bridge traffic smacks of the worst sort of self-absorbed arrogance.

There is no doubt any more that seeking political advantage was a constant concern in the Christie administration, particularly as he ramped up his reelection effort in 2013.

A historic victory was the goal, one which proved beyond question that Christie was a Republican who could appeal across party, ethnic and gender lines and achieve a resounding victory in a normally heavily Democratic state. It was designed as well to elevate him to the top tier of potential Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

Toward that end, the campaign undertook a major offensive to gather as many endorsements from Democratic leaders — local mayors, legislators, county officials — as possible. Establishing a good working relationship with the governor’s office could pay handsome dividends in the future for them and an endorsement statement was a relatively easy call, particularly since the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate was written off from the outset.

Conversely, a refusal to support the governor could result in some level of punishment and, with the many weapons at the governor’s disposal, retribution could take the form of withholding state aid, delaying action on urgent requests, or seeing to it that the paperwork approving an appointment to a job disappeared in the bureaucracy.

Sending a message to the mayor of Fort Lee that his refusal to join his party colleagues in endorsing the governor fits easily into a payback mindset.

While the credibility of the investigators’ report has been, and will continue to be, called into question, its finding that Kelly was singularly responsible for the traffic tie-up and that there was no evidence uncovered that Christie or others on his staff possessed pre-knowledge of the closure scheme, has been put to effective use by the governor as an objective exoneration of him and his administration.

The cost of the scandal

The scandal has cost Christie dearly, however. He has suffered steep declines in polls in virtually every category of job performance, trustworthiness, honesty and leadership. He’s no longer atop the list of potential Republican presidential candidates, having fallen into third or fourth place in preference polls.

Kelly has paid an even greater price, publicly vilified by Christie as a lying and stupid betrayer of his confidence, not to mention the humiliation she’s suffered by the exposure of her private life in embarrassing, unflattering terms in the investigative report.

It is a fearsome cost, indeed, if her actions were those of someone caught up in a culture not of her own making but one which captured her with its illusions of power and political immortality.

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