METS NEED TO REFOCUS ANGER ANDFIND ANSWERSTO POOR PLAY. STAPLETON, S-1 50 Cents MONDAY June 11, 2012
Mostly sunny, breezy in the p.m.
7 7 °/5 5 °
T -storm late in the afternoon
Sunday night’s Tony Awards celebrated the best of Broadway and sent a North Jersey performer home with the prize for best actress. Nina Arianda, a 27-year-old rising star from Clifton, won for her portrayal of a preternaturally talented actress determined to land the lead in a new play in the sexy “Venus in Fur.” “Once” was crowned best musical, and “Clybourne Park” won for best play. — Complete story on BL-1
Rowan staff cool on merger By PATRICIA ALEX
Expected to oppose Christie plan with vote
Rowan University generally has been viewed as one of the biggest winners in an evolving plan to reorganize public higher education in the state, but now even faculty and the professional staff of that school are expected this week to vote on a resolution opposing a bill that would set the changes in motion. “While claiming to improve governance structure for Rowan and RutgersCamden, this legislation will instead di-
minish the autonomy and potential growth of both universities,” states the resolution, which was circulated on Sunday. The resolution also raises concerns about political influence at the public universities in South Jersey, and its author says the bill does nothing to increase access or affordability at the state’s public colleges and universities. “It is time for our voices to be heard,”
Lights shine bright for local rising star
said Eric Milou, president of the faculty senate, on Sunday. He has scheduled a vote on the resolution for Friday. The reorganization plan — pushed by Governor Christie and sketched out in quickly drawn legislation introduced last week — has met with opposition from Rutgers and other constituencies, but seems to be pushing forward as the legislative season heads into its final frenzied weeks.
Christie set a July 1 deadline for a reorganization plan to be in place despite a lack of financial details, overall cost estimates or any funding commitments from the state. The governor has said the plan will enhance medical education and help attract research dollars to the state. There is a concern that the price tag could exceed $1 billion and that those See ROWAN Page A-10
Help on the home front National Guard event outlines aid for soldiers, families
Loyalists express concern about fall
Syrian opposition moves to realign Hobbled by disorganization and trying to appear more inclusive, Syria’s main opposition group chose a secular Kurd as its new leader Sunday. The opposition’s disarray has frustrated Western nations eager to dislodge President Bashar Assad. The lack of a cohesive front or a single address has hampered the efforts of those willing to support the rebels with cash and arms. Government forces shelled rebel-held cities and villages on Sunday, killing at least 38 in the rebellious Homs district, activists said. It was impossible to independently confirm the death toll. — Complete story on A-6
Health care ruling to raise questions No matter how the Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s health care law, the potential for a big mess looms. Because the legislation is so complicated, an orderly unwinding would prove difficult if it were overturned entirely or in part. Better Medicare prescription benefits, now saving hundreds of dollars for older people, would be suspended and so would preventive care with no co-payments, available to retirees and working families alike. And if the law is upheld, several states led by politicians opposed to the law are largely unprepared to carry out key requirements. While it’s unclear how the justices will rule, oral arguments did not go well for the Obama administration. The central issue is whether the government can require individuals to have health insurance and fine them if they don’t. — Complete story on A-5
Hearings to resume on controversial mall In just three years, one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land in North Jersey could be a bustling commercial center with big-box stores, a pedestrian-friendly corridor of boutiques and a 10-screen movie theater. Tonight, hearings on the application to build the Crossroads Town Center adjacent to the Sheraton Crossroads where Routes 17, 287 and 87 converge, will resume after a monthlong hiatus. The project has been about a decade in the making and shrouded in controversy over traffic, environmental and quality-oflife concerns. It’s among the most watched developments in North Jersey. — Complete story on L-1
www.northjersey.com ä Watch local news videos at northjersey.com/video.
Unity still elusive for New Jersey Democrats
TYSON TRISH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Guardsman Luis Vega of Lyndhurst playing with his 4-year-old daughter, Valentina, during Sunday’s Teaneck Armory event for his company, which is set to deploy to Afghanistan. By ZACH PATBERG STAFF WRITER
Returning from combat in Iraq in 2009, Army Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Standfast made a living folding flags for fallen soldiers. In addition to recent combat victims, he’s done funerals for World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans: Salute the coffin, stand for taps, then wrap the large cloth into a triangle and place it in the hands of the bereaved. “That was the hard part,” Standfast said. “Knowing who
to give it to.” These days, he’s offering more than flags. As concerns about war’s mental toll on U.S. troops escalates, advocates such as Standfast are providing a vast support network for deployed New Jersey soldiers and the families they leave behind. On Sunday, some 150 National Guard soldiers headed for a yearlong tour in Afghanistan were at the Teaneck Armory getting educated on everything from a psychiatric hotline to financial aid to coloring books for the kids.
“This is a difficult kind of war for a lot of everyday people.”
KEN RUTH, THE NEW JERSEY VETERANS HELPLINE “We’re here if a veteran is in distress,” Ken Ruth of the New Jersey Veterans Helpline told the crowd of military police and their relatives at Sunday’s Yellow Ribbon consortium. “Anywhere from going to
Toll collectors appear headed for last exit Electronic alternatives explored on GSP By KAREN ROUSE STAFF WRITER
No coins. No cash. And no toll takers. That could be the scene on the Garden State Parkway as early as next summer, when the jobs of hundreds of toll collectors on the parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike could be axed. “It’s possible we will go to ‘all-electronic tolling’ at the end of the contract,” said Thomas Feeney, spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. Under a year-old agreement be-
tween the agency and its two toll collectors’ unions, all toll takers will lose their jobs by July 1, 2013. The agency, which operates the parkway and the turnpike, could hire a private firm to take over manual collection, or — in the case of the parkway — no longer accept cash. It’s not the first time a road free of toll collectors has been explored in the state. The South Jersey Transportation Authority is prepared to eliminate toll takers on its 47-mile Atlantic City Expressway if it receives approval from the governor’s office, spokesman Kevin See TOLLS Page A-10
jump off a bridge or ‘I can’t find my shoes this morning,’ it’s important to all the families that these people are here to serve you.” The convention-style event at the armory follows recent heightened attention over the mental strain soldiers bear after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as operations there wind down. Suicides among troops have spiked to an average of nearly one a day this year, the fastest pace in the last decade of war. See MILITARY Page A-10
No vehicle has to stop to pay toll. Customers without E-ZPass are mailed a bill based on license-plate information.
ä Savings from eliminating toll collector salaries. ä Improved mobility for drivers who no longer need to stop. ä Fewer emissions from cars idling in lines. ä Elimination of accidents that occur when cars try to merge after tollbooths.
ä The loss of toll revenue when violators are not caught. ä Incompatibility between the various account systems nationwide. For instance, the E-ZPass system is used by 24 agencies, most along the East Coast, but is different from Florida’s SunPass or Colorado’s EXpressToll pass. ä Agencies don’t have the ability to penalize out-of-state violators by withholding registrations. Sources: New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Port Authority of New York and TARIQ ZEHAWI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER New Jersey
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Bill Lavin, leader of a state firefighters union, stood on a sidewalk outside the State House last Thursday, defeated and disgusted with the “home team” — the New Jersey Democratic Party. Minutes earlier, the Senate Budget Committee had approved a bill — sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the state’s most powerful Democrat — that places new limits on disability payouts for retired public workers. Lavin pleaded with the Democratic-controlled committee to postpone the CHARLES vote. He was poSTILE litely ignored. POLITICAL Such a snub would have been STILE considered political blasphemy just two years ago. So now, Lavin lashed out with his own blasphemy — the possibility of endorsing Republican Governor Christie’s reelection. “At least you know where he comes from. He comes right at you,” said Lavin, president of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, which represents 5,000 firefighters and first-aid workers. “We would rather be slain by our enemies than our friends. It’s a pretense of friendship. “It’s a pretense of allies.” The complaint has been a common and growing refrain from the Democratic Party’s reliable roster of “home team” loyalists, including organized labor. It’s also among a growing list of high-anxiety issues looming on the horizon as Democrats struggle to keep New Jersey a “blue” bastion in the Age of See STILE Page A-10
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FROM PAGE ONE
A-10 THE RECORD
MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2012
Rowan: Staff could vote this week to oppose Rutgers merger From Page A-1 costs would be borne by those who pay tuition at Rutgers, the state university, which would absorb the debt-ridden University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey as part of the plan. In South Jersey, the Rutgers-Camden campus would be partnered with Rowan, a former teachers college in Glassboro, which is also heavily leveraged after a decade of expansion that includes construction of a medical school now under way in Camden. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, calls for the South Jersey pairing to be governed by a joint board that includes political appointees.
The resolution drawn by the Rowan faculty says the joint board will delay decision making and “the interests and motivations” of its members will be open to question. Rowan’s administration and board generally have been open to the idea of restructuring but have not yet taken an official position on the Sweeney bill. They are set to meet this afternoon, said a spokesman, Joe Cardona.
The reorganization plan for the public universities was shaped, in good measure, by private meetings among Sweeney, Christie’s representatives and George Norcross, the powerful South Jersey polit-
ical boss — a booster of the Rowan medical school that would be bolstered by an affiliation with Rutgers. In North Jersey, leaders in Newark pushed for UMDNJ’s affiliation with the Rutgers campus in that city and got it in the final bill. Rutgers is sanguine about gaining a medical school and cancer institute at its flagship campus in Central Jersey. But it is balking at taking on the $600 million in debt of the medical schools and losing ties to its Newark and Camden campuses, which would be much more autonomous under the new plan. Rutgers governing boards last week voted on a set of principles that affirms their authority and control over the assets
of the university, which they say can’t be legislated away. Members of those boards plan to meet with legislators in coming weeks to try to hash out a compromise. Meanwhile, there are also growing concerns in North Jersey over the fate of University Hospital in Newark. The state’s largest charity-care hospital, which is now part of UMDNJ, would remain a teaching hospital for the medical schools absorbed by Rutgers but stand apart from the university in the restructuring.. Two North Jersey legislators issued a joint statement saying those concerns and others meant they couldn’t support the bill.
TYSON TRISH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
At the Teaneck Armory on Sunday, Sgt. Anthony Padin of Newark being trailed by Robert Adrian Yanez, 8, of Woodbridge as Padin instructed members of his unit that will deploy to Afghanistan following training this summer.
Military: Help for families
From Page A-1 In March, an Army staff sergeant stationed at a U.S. base in Kandahar allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians in a one-night shooting spree that sparked widespread debate over post-traumatic stress disorder among troops. “This is a difficult kind of war for a lot of everyday people,” Ruth said, noting that New Jersey has one of the lowest suicide rates among veterans. The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, run through the National Guard Bureau, holds such seminars when a military unit is about to be deployed and within months after the troops return, focusing heavily on mental and physical support.
Inside the Armory on Sunday, spouses, many of them pregnant, browsed dozens of tables strewn with pamphlets on employment rights, counseling and day care. Luis Vega, a 34-year-old with the National Guard’s 508 MP Unit, found a $500 grant to pay for swimming lessons for his young daughter while he’s away. “We want to make sure they’re taken care of,” the Lyndhurst resident said. “It makes it easier for us soldiers to know that.” Just as the troops know little about their mission when deployed, their families remain unsure about life when they’re gone. Parents and spouses are left shorthanded with child care and bills, even with the
various support networks. And staying in touch while overseas is a constant gamble. “We really don’t know what to expect,” said Kathy Hall of Middletown, whose 22-year-old son is leaving for training in July. “This is more for the camaraderie than anything — to know that you are not by yourself in this.” Chelsey Hernandez of Passaic will soon see both her husband and brother head to Afghanistan. For her, logistical burdens barely factor in to her list of worries. It’s not so much their leaving, she said — it’s the possibility of “not coming back.” Email: email@example.com
“We want to make sure they’re taken care of. It makes it easier for us soldiers to know that.” LUIS VEGA, LYNDHURST
“Serious questions remain, and an issue this critical to the state’s future cannot be forced through on an artificial deadline,” said Assembly Democrats Albert Coutinho and L. Grace Spencer, both from Newark. The pair warned that University Hospital could be doomed since it is now supported by UMDNJ, which has amassed considerable debt doing so. “Someone needs to explain how an institution that due to its safety net mission loses approximately $30 million a year can survive in the long term without a direct financial guarantee from the state,” the statement said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A telling sign of the party’s weakened state is the thin field of possible candidates for governor. Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County has signaled her interest, but she is not a member of the Sweeney circle and will have trouble galvanizing party support in South Jersey and Essex. Former Gov. Dick Codey has salted away a sizable campaign war chest but he, too, might have a tough time getting the party to coalesce around his candidacy — he has openly clashed with Norcross and DiVincenzo. Some party leaders downplay any jitters. Obama remains popular with New Jersey voters — he notched a 53 percent approval rating in a recent Quinnipiac University poll and a 10-point lead over Romney. Analysts don’t expect Obama’s popularity to plunge by November. Menendez may not be a household name, but he begins the race with a large fundraising advantage and a 10point lead in the polls against Joe Kyrillos, a lesser-known Republican state senator from Monmouth County. They also say Christie may be running out of time. The state constitution officially sets midnight, June 30, as the deadline to enact a state budget. But this year, it is also looming as an unofficial political deadline for Christie. His priority items — restructuring the higher-education system, tax cuts and tenure reform — will likely be shelved indefinitely if they aren’t enacted before lawmakers take off for the summer. And then, they will be less likely to cooperate as the fall gives way to the 2013 governor’s race. Some Democrats privately say this may be a big opportunity to unite as a party and to deny Christie some of his big-ticket items. And some of that resistance may already be taking root. Christie’s push to change tenure rules and expand charter schools has stalled. The complicated and costly higher education restructuring has only been introduced and, despite Norcross’s advocacy, there are growing signs that it might not be enacted in time to meet Christie’s publicly declared July 1 deadline. The sputtering economy has forced his administration to scale back its revenue forecasts. He has already backed away from his promised across-the-board income tax cut and is now voicing support for a plan more in line with the tax-credit proposal for homeowners pushed by Sweeney. But Assembly Democrats, who have advanced their own plan that includes a surcharge on millionaires, have so far resisted Sweeney’s approach. Christie, who is adamantly opposed to the surcharge, has opened a fierce public attack, likening them to a “skunk at the garden party” during a town hall visit to Lyndhurst last week. So far, Assembly leaders show no sign of budging. “We see, at this point in time, a governor back on his heels,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is also chairman of the state Democratic Party. Yet, the question remains: How far will the “home team” unify to try to knock Christie out of office? Or will it unify at all? Lavin has his doubts. “This is a dysfunctional party,” he said.
From Page A-1 Christie. Consider this tale of woe: New Jersey Democrats will soon lose a representative in Congress; they couldn’t even manage to avert a nasty fight between two incumbents for the 9th District seat in their primary last week. They’ve had trouble parlaying control of the Legislature into a fundraising advantage. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez remains largely an unknown figure as he heads into his reelection bid this fall. And some worry privately that the historic Obama headwinds of the 2008 presidential election will barely muster a wisp of help for down-ballot candidates in November. The party is also undergoing an identity crisis. It’s divided between deal-making centrists like Sweeney — driven by his own ambitions for higher office and willing, at times, to collaborate with Christie — and a frustrated and increasingly restive liberal wing, which believes Sweeney and his band of “Christiecrats” have turned the party into a doormat for the governor’s march to the national stage. At stake is not just protecting a partisan balance in state government. A unified Democratic Party is about the only way to answer a conservative wave that could affect everything from environmental regulations to affordable housing programs to education funding in the state. “We are heading for a crossroads,’’ Lavin said. This party with its split identity is also split on how to run against Christie next year, assuming he does not join a possible Mitt Romney administration as a vice president or in some other post. The internal debate boils down to this: Should the Democrats mobilize a united front against Christie’s agenda, refusing to support anything that violates their core principles or base supporters? Or should they continue to compromise with Christie on bread-and-butter issues that enjoy broad, bipartisan support, like pension and health-benefit changes, tax cuts and tougher tenure standards for teachers? Sweeney, often mentioned as a possible U.S. Senate candidate in 2014, certainly is in the latter camp. He argues that he and Christie simply agree on certain issues, and that he advocated reductions in public employee health benefits several years before Christie was elected. “The Senate president was elected to represent the taxpayers,’’ said Chris Donnelly, Sweeney’s spokesman. “He makes no apology for looking out for their interests and not the special interests.” But critics say that rhetoric masks the raw politics behind the alliance. Democratic Party barons — South Jersey’s George Norcross, a childhood friend of Sweeney, and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., a personal friend of Christie — control a crucial bloc of votes in both houses. It is that bloc that pushed through compromises that have infuriated the party’s liberals, particularly last year’s landmark bill requiring public employees to pay substantially more for their health and pension benefits. Email: email@example.com
Tolls: State considering electronic-only collection on GSP
From Page A-1 Raymond said. That agency eliminated 32 toll collector jobs and began outsourcing the service in January. The governor’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry about those plans. With a cashless system, payments are collected from customers through membership accounts like E-ZPass or a “pay-byplate” method that relies on cameras to photograph the license plates of non-account holders and mail them a bill. Cashless systems have been an industry focus for about five years, said Peter Samuel, editor of TollRoadsNews.com, a Marylandbased website. They’re already in place in about a quarter of the 40 to 50 major road agencies across the nation. For example, the cashless system is used on Colorado’s E-470 and the Dallas North Tollway. And the Pennsylvania Turnpike concluded, following a year-long study, that cashless tolls would save its motorists in drive time and operations costs. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted in 2010 to replace its then-
13-year-old collection system with one that can accommodate allelectronic collections. John O’Hern, deputy executive director of the Turnpike Authority, said the agency is conducting an “informal review of all-electronic tolling,” which he called “the wave of the future.” But O’Hern said it is moving cautiously, watching its counterparts across the country because a major issue is “leakage, the tolls you don’t recover” when out-of-state or nonE-ZPass drivers use the road, but fail to mail in a toll payment after they are billed.
He said the Turnpike Authority has various obligations, including debt payments, and maintenance and special reserve funds to maintain. “We have to protect our revenue,” he said. Still, he added, there are great cost savings from going cashless — for example, toll plazas don’t have to be heated and cooled. The potential loss of revenue is why electronic tolls are being considered only for the parkway but not for the turnpike, at least not
within the next few years, Feeney said. The higher percentage of commercial and out-of-state traffic on the turnpike — particularly truckers who pay higher tolls — puts more revenue at risk, he said. O’Hern said passenger vehicles make up 98.4 percent of vehicles on the parkway and 87 percent on the turnpike. However, commercial vehicles on the turnpike generate 35 percent of the revenue, he said, compared with 4 percent on the parkway. Turnpike tolls generated $673 million last year, while the parkway brought in $276 million. “The big issue on the turnpike is the volume of out-of-state traffic and our ability to collect from somebody who is not a New Jersey resident,” said Feeney Neil Gray, spokesman for the International Bridge Toll and Tunnel Association, which is holding its “Summit on All-Electronic Toll Collection” in Atlanta next month, said most major agencies already have an electronic tag system like E-ZPass, and are gradually “looking downstream where there are no toll plazas at all. You either have a transponder or are billed by
mail.” “The main advantage is you don’t have to pay for toll collectors and all their expenses and benefits,” he said. The North Texas Tollway Authority, which operates the Dallas North Tollway, tore down its booths and switched to an automated toll collection system in 2010, said spokesman Michael Rey. He said a major accident that took out a tollbooth and caused massive backups hastened that move. Jo Snell, spokeswoman for the E470 Public Highway Authority in Colorado, said the agency mails a bill for all non-account holders, even those with international tags, who drive the 47-mile road. “We’re able to take a picture of the license plate, find the registration through the department of motor vehicles … and send them a bill.” Cash collections — both toll collectors and coin baskets — were eliminated three years ago, when about 70 percent of the road users had accounts. “You have to get the money picked up and take it to the
bank,” Snell said. She said the cost of searching the license plates of out-of-state drivers or non-account holders is still cheaper than paying people to man booths. Snell said E470 bought new cameras that capture the front and rear license plates.
Making better time
Additional benefit and workrule changes will result in a $20 million savings by the end of the year, O’Hern said. The leader of the turnpike tollcollectors’ union said members are upset about the cuts, but preparing for them. “We tell people that they should be planning for it to be their last year,” said Franceline Ehret, president of Local 194 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. “We don’t want people to be caught offguard.” She said the union had about 350 toll collectors a year ago, but now has just under 200. Many retired or switched to maintenance jobs. There are 142 on the parkway, according to Feeney. Samuel said keeping toll collectors another year allows the agency to transition into a fully cashless system, but the reprieve will be temporary. “I think toll collector jobs are doomed,” he said. “They are pretty expensive to support.”
Now, with the road that leads to Denver International Airport going completely cashless, all drivers can travel continuously at highway speed. There are no booths and fewer accidents, Snell said. “A majority of our accidents in the old days occurred after the booth because you had to slow down,” then try to merge again. Until it makes the switch, the Turnpike Authority has taken steps to cut toll-collector costs. The agreement with the turnpike and parkway toll-collectors’ unions called for salaries of existing fulltime toll collectors to drop in two stages from a high of $64,500, to $49,500 by July 1. New full-time toll collectors will be paid $12 an hour, about $25,000 a year. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org