Some 99 percent of New Jersey schools offered arts programs to their students in 2015-2016, according to new census report, “Arts Ed Now: Every Child, Every School.” The report also indicates that the state is on the way to achieving “universal access” to arts education, with 99.4 percent of all students given the opportunity to take an arts class. Roughly 76 percent of those students (about 1 million) availed themselves of that opportunity.
How close is New Jersey to universal access? The census showed that only 26 schools statewide (serving 9,160 students) reported offering no arts instruction, a dramatic reduction from a decade ago when more than 77,000 students did not have access.
According to a new fact sheet from The Sentencing Project, African-American youth are over 30 times more likely to be detained or incarcerated by the police in New Jersey than their white counterparts.
New Jersey has the highest black/white disparity rate in the country, twice that of Wisconsin, which is in second place. It is a distinction that we would be better off without.
An earlier report from the project indicates that New Jersey also has the worst black/white disparity rate for adult incarceration in state prisons in the country. A black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult.
It’s the beginning of cranberry harvest season, which means it’s busy in the Pine Barrens. Most of New Jersey’s estimated 3,000 acres of cranberry farming takes place in a state-protected area in South Jersey.
New Jersey is third in the nation in cranberry production, after Massachusetts and Wisconsin. The fruit, which is only one of three — blueberries and concord grapes are the others — that can trace their origins to North America, has been cultivated in the Garden State since the mid-19th century. A New Jersey grower, along with two growers from Massachusetts, joined up in 1930 to create Ocean Spray, a farm cooperative. New Jersey’s leading grower today is the Haines family from Chatsworth, which farms 700 acres; the Haines family farm has been in operation since the late 19th century.
Cranberries are often harvested through a “wet” process in which the bogs are flooded with water — the cranberries are loosened from their vines and they float to the surface. This process is responsible for the beautiful red photographs that are taken of the cranberry harvest. But not all the cranberries on your grocery aisle are harvested this way. There is also a dry process of harvesting, which typically produces the bagged fruit which will soon flood the markets.
Precisely half of New Jersey voters say that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez should not be re-elected next year, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. The percentage of voters in favor of his re-election is a wan 20 percent, while 30 percent are undecided. Menendez (D-NJ) received a negative 31 percent – 49 percent job approval rating; that’s his lowest since February 2008, when he got a 30 percent – 31 percent rating.
Menendez currently is fighting for his reputation in a corruption trial in Newark that is expected to go on for several weeks. If that trial goes against him and he must leave the Senate, the poll found that the majority of New Jersey voters (68 percent) want the choice for his replacement to be left to the next governor, while 24 percent say that Gov. Chris Christie should make the appointment. The percentage of voters who think Christie should appoint himself to replace Menendez? Three percent.
The poll found voters disapprove of the job Christie is doing by 79 percent – 16 percent. That gives him the lowest approval rating of any governor in any state that Quinnipiac University has polled in more than 20 years. Even Republicans give him a strong thumbs-down: 61 percent – 35 percent.
Voters in the Garden State continue to disapprove strongly of the job President Donald Trump is doing (61 percent – 32 percent); but that’s an improvement on his June 14 disapproval rating (66 percent – 28 percent).
Democratic candidate for governor Phil Murphy has opened a towering 58 percent – 33 percent lead over Republican rival Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, according to yesterday’s Quinnipiac University poll.
Murphy leads Guadagno among likely voters of every party, gender, education, age, and racial group, except Republicans, who back Guadagno 78 percent – 16 percent; white voters with no college degree, who are divided 46 percent for Guadagno and 42 percent for Murphy; and white men who are split 46 percent for Murphy and 45 percent for Guadagno.
New Jersey voters have a 37 percent – 18 percent favorable opinion of Murphy; 43 percent said they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Guadagno gets a negative 25 percent – 33 percent rating, with 40 percent saying they haven’t heard enough to form an opinion.
For 47 percent of New Jersey voters, Guadagno’s role as lieutenant governor to Gov. Chris Christie has a negative impact on their opinion of her. Another 11 percent say it has a positive impact and 40 percent say it doesn’t matter.
Taxes are the most important issue among 30 percent of likely voters; 15 percent list the economy; 13 percent cite education; and 11 percent say healthcare.
In 2015, 81.6 percent of New Jersey households had broadband Internet connections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More New Jersey households have high-speed online access using a DSL service, cable modem, or other method than the national average of 76.7 percent. The highest rate was 84.5 percent in New Hampshire, while the lowest was 61 percent in Mississippi.
It’s not enough to simply have access to a computer today, the report notes. A high-speed connection is necessary to get all the benefits from the Internet, whether it’s for students researching a school paper, an unemployed adult searching for jobs, or anyone seeking to stay in touch with friends and family.
“More and more, access to computers and broadband Internet opens the door to a variety of opportunities,” the report states. “Access to computers and a broadband Internet subscription has become increasingly important to Americans in carrying out their day-to-day lives.”
In July, Hunterdon County had the lowest unemployment rate, 3.7 percent, in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. jobless rate is 4.6 percent.
Besides Hunterdon, New Jersey had the next four counties with the lowest unemployment rates: Morris (3.8 percent), Somerset (4.0 percent), Bergen (4.1 percent), and Monmouth ( 4.2 percent).
According to the bureau’s Chief Regional Economist Martin Kohli, 17 of the 25 counties in the metropolitan area had jobless rates at or below the U.S. average. Rates in 18 of those counties declined over the past year, with the largest declines occurring in New Jersey.
According to the recent report, “Household Food Security in the United States 2016,” 11.1 percent of New Jersey’s 3,367,000 households are defined as having low or very-low food security.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which just published the report, says that households with low food security report multiple problems buying food and indicate reduced diet quality, but those with very-low food security eat less and sometimes go hungry.
The report also indicates that across the country specific households and ethnic groups exhibit higher rates of food insecurity than the national average of 12.3 percent, including:
All households with children (16.5 percent)
Households with children under age 6 (16.6 percent)
Households with children headed by a single woman (31.6 percent) or a single man (21.7 percent) and other households with children (22.2 percent)
Women living alone (13.9 percent) and men living alone (14.3 percent)
Households headed by black non-Hispanics (22.5 percent) and Hispanics (18.5 percent)
Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (31.6 percent).
One of the world’s largest cargo ships, the T. Roosevelt, had no trouble clearing the recently elevated Bayonne Bridge to sail into channels maintained by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The T. Roosevelt has a maximum capacity of 14,414 TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units); each TEU is equal to a standard 20-foot shipping container — 20 feet long, 8 feet tall. The largest ship that could pass under the Bayonne Bridge would be 18,000 TEUs.
The clearance of the Bayonne Bridge was recently raised from 151 feet to 215 feet, the same height as the nearby Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Before the elevation, the largest ship that could pass under the Bayonne Bridge was 9,400 TEUs.
To put the size of the T. Roosevelt in perspective, it is four times bigger than the Statue of Liberty and four times longer than an American football field. Only days earlier, the ship became the largest ever to head through the newly expanded Panama Canal on its way to the East Coast from Asia.
New Jersey has been awarded more than $66 million in Homeland Security grants. The funding, which applies through fiscal year 2017, is for a range of “preparedness” programs including state and urban security, emergency security, and the security of ports, transit systems, and intercity bus systems.
“These federal dollars will be used to help improve our state’s readiness to… protect our communities against a potential attack or major disaster,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th), a longtime advocate of the Homeland Security Preparedness Grant programs.
The grants include $20,034,000 to the Jersey City/Newark area for an urban area security initiative. The state received $8,337,000 for a state homeland security program and $8,370,698 in an emergency management performance grant. Beneficiaries of the transit security grant program were: New Jersey Transit, $16,323,464; the Delaware River Port Authority, $3,1775,909; and, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, $2,300,000.
The adult obesity rate in New Jersey is 27.4 percent, the 14th lowest in the nation, according to the 14th annual “State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America” report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). But adult obesity rates in the Garden State — and elsewhere — continue to climb, albeit very slowly. In 2015, New Jersey’s adult obesity rate was 26.9 percent; in 2011, it was 23.7 percent.
What’s more, the good news is not unalloyed: Adult obesity rates have striking racial and ethnic inequities — with rates above 40 percent for blacks in 15 states, and at or above 35 percent among Latinos in nine states compared with rates above 35 percent among whites in one state. New Jersey's adult obesity rate is 37.2 percent for blacks, 31.4 percent for Latinos, and 25.4 percent for whites.
West Virginia had the highest rate of adult obesity (37.7 percent); Colorado, the lowest (22.3 percent).
Obese individuals are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, dementia, and a number of other health issues. Children who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. And the longer children are overweight or obese, the more likely they are to remain so into adulthood.
The original purpose of Labor Day — to celebrate the American union movement — is far from the minds of most New Jerseyans on the unofficial last day of summer. But it’s interesting to note that in 2016, 16.1 percent of those employed in New Jersey belonged to a labor union.
That number has been steadily declining in the past 10 years, with the exception of a slight jump from 2015’s 15.4 percent 2016’s 16.1 percent. That translates into 644,000 union workers.
Still, the number of union workers in New Jersey is significantly higher than in most states. In 2016, the average for the country was just a bit over 10 percent. The highest rate of union employment is in New York, with 25.2 percent of workers represented by unions.
Although breast cancer survival rates have been increasing in New Jersey and throughout the country, every year approximately 1,300 women in the state die of the disease. About 7,200 women in New Jersey are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.
Carolyn Choate of New Hampshire has survived breast cancer. To help raise awareness — and $500,000 for research into the disease — she is making a 300-mile “River of Life” kayak journey along the Delaware River from Port Jervis, NY to Baltimore, MD to pay tribute to cancer survivors. She also wants to honor Dr. Angela Brodie, a pioneer in the discovery and development of aromatase inhibitors, which are central to the treatment of estrogen-driven breast cancer, the most common form of the disease in postmenopausal women.
Choate began the journey with her daughter on August 10, making stops along the way to highlight what different communities are doing to fight cancer. As part of the journey, they will stop in Trenton today where Choate will meet Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett — and highlight the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, a vital tool in researching and tracking cancer trends. They will be at the Trenton Public Boat Ramp, 1601 Lamberton Road, at 3 p.m.
All across New Jersey kids will be heading back to school next month, and the state Department of Health wants to make sure they have everything they need: pens and pencils, notebooks, backpacks — and — up-to-date vaccinations.
Childhood vaccines protect against 14 serious diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Hib, hepatitis B, and pneumococcal disease. They also help prevent diseases from being spread in the classroom and childcare centers. What’s more, some childhood vaccinations wear off over time, so booster shots will be needed to fully protect children from tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and other serious diseases.
Information about vaccines, inoculation schedules for all age groups, and the availability of free vaccinations for poor children can be found on the CDC website.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
Breastfeeding numbers continue to rise in the Garden State. According to the 2017 Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 15.6 percent increase — over the previous year — among mothers still breastfeeding at 12 months. The numbers rose 13.8 percent among mothers exclusively breastfeeding at three months, and they were up 12.4 percent among mothers still breastfeeding at 6 months.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and the New Jersey Department of Health is celebrating the continued improvement in breastfeeding numbers in the state. “The best food for a baby’s first year of life is breast milk,” said Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. “For infants, breastfeeding helps prevent hunger, increases nourishment and protects against obesity. For mothers, breastfeeding can be a satisfying and empowering experience, which should be supported by employers, the healthcare system, and the community,” Bennett said. Breastfeeding leads to a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes in mothers, as well as a lower risk of certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
You can find information and resources on breastfeeding here.
In 2013, New Jersey set up the Blue Acres Program to buy — at pre-storm value — homes that had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The program, which is run by the Department of Environmental Protection, was later expanded to include homes in places that may not have been directly impacted by Sandy but are prone to repetitive flooding.
Yesterday, the DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced a milestone for Blue Acres — its 600th buyout. The property, bought for $390,000, is on Columbia Street in New Milford, Bergen County, close to the Hackensack River. Eighteen other New Milford homes have been bought out under the program.
After Blue Acres buys a house, it’s demolished and the land permanently preserved as open space for recreation and/or conservation. The goal is to buy clusters of homes to provide areas that will absorb flood waters.
Blue Acres has bought out houses in 14 municipalities: Sayreville, South River, Woodbridge, Old Bridge and East Brunswick in Middlesex County; Manville in Somerset County; Pompton Lakes in Passaic County; Newark in Essex County; Rahway and Linden in Union County; Lawrence and Downe in Cumberland County; New Milford in Bergen County; and Ocean in Monmouth County.
Never one to do things by halves, New Jersey has both a state vegetable and a state fruit, the tomato and the blueberry. Actually, to the literalists out there it has two state fruits, since the tomato, as all aggies know, is also a fruit — the edible fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, which belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae, as Wikipedia so elegantly puts it. The species originated in Central and South America.
Blueberries were first cultivated in Whitesbog, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The crop earned the state a $79.5 million production value in 2014, the last year for which data is available.
That makes the humble blueberry a significant cash crop. Tomatoes (the other state fruit, remember?) earned $52.2 million in 2015. The Garden State ranks No. 7 in the nation for tomato production.
In 2003, fourth graders at Veteran's Memorial Elementary School in Brick campaigned (successfully) to make the blueberry the official state fruit.
That begs the obvious question, how did a fruit wind up the state vegetable? In 2005, members of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved a measure designating the Jersey tomato as the official state vegetable. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic in a car that seems to be seizing in the heat, you’ll probably empathize with those whose vehicles actually have gone on fire. Such was the case for the owners of 2,476 passenger vehicles in New Jersey in 2015, accounting for the vast majority (77 percent) of vehicle fires in the state that year. The remainder were in road freight or transport vehicles (10 percent), mobile property (9 percent), off-road vehicles or heavy equipment (3 percent), and water vehicles (1 percent). In the passenger-vehicle fires, the principal cause was “unintentional” (905 instances), followed by undetermined causes and failure of equipment or heat source (424). Forty passenger-vehicle fires were “intentional.” The data comes from “Fire in New Jersey 2015,” a statistical analysis of fire and emergency incidents in the Garden State, a report produced by the Division of Fire Safety in the state Department of Community Affairs.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that New Jersey, along with 31 other states and the District of Columbia, has settled with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. concerning a data breach that compromised the personal information of more than a million consumers.
The 2012 data breach resulted in the loss of Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit-scoring information, and other personal data belonging to 1.27 million consumers.
The settlement calls on Nationwide to make a total payment of $5.5 million to the participating states.
The Garden State is stuck in the middle (24) among the 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to the quality of its healthcare. That’s where WalletHub, the personal finances website, ranked New Jersey after analyzing a range of healthcare issues nationwide, including cost, insurance, cancer rates, Medicare acceptance, infant mortality, physicians per capita, and hospital beds per capita.
New Jersey didn’t figure among the top five or bottom five in any category. It ranked 12th for outcomes, 29th for cost, and 39th for access. Making up the top five in the overall rankings were Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. The bottom five were North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Noting that the cost and quality of healthcare can vary widely from state to state, WalletHub pointed out that the average American now spends “nearly $10,000 per year on personal health care,” a figure that is predicted to go in only one direction over time — upward.
This is National Farmers Market Week, and as part of it, New Jersey’s Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett and Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher are promoting two programs that help farmers to sell their produce while also giving needy families and seniors access to healthy food. Those are the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market nutrition programs, which allow eligible participants to trade farmers market nutrition checks for fresh fruits and vegetables.
The problem, Bennett said, is that last year “only 66 percent of WIC Farmers Market vouchers were redeemed” in New Jersey. “We must do better,” she said, noting that the 2016 redemption rate means that “$301,843 worth of fresh produce that could have provided nutritious meals for needy children and families was returned to the federal government.”
New Jersey gets mixed reviews in the most recent edition of “How Do You Measure Up: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality published annually by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
The Garden State scores a green (following best practices) in four of nine categories: cigarette tax rates, smoke-free laws, increased access to Medicaid, and funding for breast and cervical cancer early detection programs. It earns a yellow (“moderate movement toward benchmark”) in one category: access to palliative care. It’s in the red for three: Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services, restrictions on use of indoor tanning devices, and pain policy. And it’s in the black for one: funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, because New Jersey has allocated less than 1 percent of CDC recommendations.
“This 15th edition of the report shows just how far we’ve come in the last decade and a half passing policies proven to reduce suffering and death from cancer. But now is certainly not the time to rest on our laurels,” said Brian Shott, ACS CAN New Jersey government relations director.
“This year alone in New Jersey almost 52,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer," he continued. "We owe it to them and everyone at risk of developing the disease, to do what we know works to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment.”
The New Jersey Poison Center at Rutgers Medical School, has issued a warning about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms, after 15 cases of poisoning have been reported during the past 10 days. “Picking and eating wild mushrooms can be a dangerous game,” Dr. Diane Calello, medical director of the center, said. “Even those who think they can identify a toxic mushroom can be fooled,” Calello added.
Several of the reported cases of poisoning resulted in hospitalizations with potentially life-threatening consequences, the center reported. Symptoms of poisoning can include intense vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.
The center warned that online mushroom identification sites can be falsely reassuring. People in doubt can call the NJ Poison Center (1-800-222-1222), which will arrange for an expert to identify the mushroom and give advice depending on the identification. It helps, the center noted, if people take a digital photograph of the mushroom(s) next to an object such as a coin or ruler, to give a sense of scale.
The center warned that “time is of the essence... If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing, difficult to wake up, etc., call 911.”
Law enforcement officials collected close to 5,000 deadly weapons last weekend in a gun buyback in Newark, Camden, and Trenton. That cache represents more weapons than ever were collected across the state in a single year through arrests and seizures.
“…the gun numbers tell only part of the story,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “From what I observed – and I spent time at all three locations – there was a very positive conversation around each of these buyback events. Communities were working together.”
The weapons collected included 1,973 handguns, 1,142 shotguns, 1,025 rifles, and 129 assault weapons. People were paid $100 for turning in a rifle or shotgun, $120 for a handgun or revolver, and $200 for an assault weapon, up to a maximum of $600 per person. The buybacks took place at the Antioch Baptist Church in Camden, the Friendship Baptist Church in Trenton, and the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark. Forfeiture monies ($481,620) seized by law enforcement from criminals, street gangs, drug-dealers, and other offenders funded the buybacks.
The money raised this year by county organizations for the November elections is $3.6 million, which is 35 percent higher than in 2013, the last time the governor and the entire Legislature were up for re-election. Despite the rise, the sum is still 55 percent lower than the record of $7.9 million set in 2003.
Jeff Brindle, executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), said a key reason for the jump this year is a one-time influx of funds from the Democratic Governors Association aimed at giving Democratic county organizations a boost in a gubernatorial year. The DGA has pumped $415,000 into 14 county parties this year; ten of its donations were the maximum $37,000 that counties can accept in a year. The Republican Governors Association has not donated so far this year.
The county party with the most cash on hand is Passaic (D), with $523,947. Bergen, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, and Union counties also had cash on hand of more than $100,000.
More than three-quarters of New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as a good (40 percent) or excellent (37 percent) place to live, according to the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s latest Garden State Quality of Life Index. The overall rating (77 percent) is a numerical high for that question going back through 40 years of statewide polls.
However, while residents rate their local communities as good or great places to live, they are not as upbeat about the state as a whole. The poll found that six in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is an excellent (15 percent) or good (44 percent) place to live. But 28 percent believe it is only fair and 13 percent rate it as a poor place to call home. The resultant overall 59-percent positive rating dips below last year’s mark (62 percent). Indeed, this is only the fourth time the overall positive number has gone below 60 percent in state opinion polls going back to 1980.
“New Jerseyans aren’t overly optimistic about the state as whole, so they seem to be turning to their local communities for reasons to value the Garden State as their home,” said Patrick Murray, director of the polling institute. “Anchoring themselves to their neighborhoods may help stem the tide of folks currently leaving the state, but I’m not sure this is sustainable in the long term,” he said.
Hot weather does not mean more work for firefighters, at least according to “Fire in New Jersey 2015,” issued by the Division of Fire Safety. Of the 27,409 fires in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, 3,790 occurred in May and 3008 in April, while the fewest fires (1,653) occurred in December.
The report includes stats on all types of fires. Structural fires were by far the most common (15,514), followed by natural vegetation — or wildland — fires (5,175) and vehicle fires (3,221). There were only 35 cultivated crop fires.
Sometimes it feels as if New Jersey will never get clear of the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, but a recent announcement by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker should help put the superstorm that much further behind us. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded $15,667,201.79 to reimburse the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYJ) for 90 percent of the cost to repair key facilities and equipment damaged by the extreme storm.
New Jersey ranks as the second most affordable state for families looking for a nanny to take care of their children and the fifth most affordable state for those looking to place their children in a daycare center. This is according to the “Cost of Care Survey 2017” by Care.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for finding and managing family care.
The cost of taking care of children has a profound effect on family life and finances. Care.com found that 52 percent of parents believe they spend too much on childcare and 40 percent say the cost issue has caused tension in their relationship. It’s hardly surprising, then, that almost half of parents (47 percent) wish the United States subsidized childcare costs as some other countries do.
The survey also found that 32 percent of families spend 20 percent or more of their income on childcare. It found that the cost of care in centers ranged from $6,605 to $20,209 a year. The annual cost of a nanny — caring for one child — ranged from $27,019 to $32,677.