Newark has been distributing cases of bottled water for free, days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency urged city officials to do so. The EPA was responding to test results at three homes in the city that had turned up high lead levels in two of them even though the homeowners had been using filters designed to eliminate lead contamination.
The issue of lead contamination is not a new one for Newark. It had already embarked on a Lead Service Line Replacement Program to change out approximately 15,000 lead service lines — the lines that bring water from the street to homes. Since March, according to a report by the city, it has replaced over 700 lead service lines on private property. It has been doing so in partnership with the state, at a maximum cost to homeowners of $1,000 even though the actual cost could be far higher.
There is no deadline for homeowners to apply for replacement of the lead service line that goes to their home. They simply have to register to be included in the program at www.NewarkLeadServiceLine.com.
In answer to frequently asked questions about the lead issue in Newark, the city noted, “The reality is that the cost of updating water infrastructure falls disproportionately on America’s older cities — often low-income communities of color.”
New Jersey’s municipal courts could do with big improvements, 17 in all, according to a 38-member working group that has just released its recommendations.
Set up under the aegis of the state Supreme Court, the group is made up of representatives from all three branches of government.
The recommendations address the separation of sentencing practices from a municipality’s need for revenue, modifying the appointment and reappointment process for Municipal Court judges, and consolidating the state’s smaller courts.
The working group also recommended the introduction of legislation that would significantly reduce the usage of license suspensions for failure to pay; and provide for uniform caps on penalties and fines for lower-level offenses.
Other suggestions on the list: create a traffic ticket deferral program for drivers with minor traffic offenses who maintain a clean driving record for a specific period of time; provide financial credits for hours spent in clinical treatment related to an underlying offense; reduce certain surcharges and assessments imposed by the Motor Vehicle Commission.
The report also recommends the Legislature consider establishing additional financial incentives to encourage municipal courts to consolidate and, after a three-year period, mandate the regionalization of smaller municipal courts with fewer than 3,000 annual filings.
Who knew pet leasing was a thing? Cars, yes; heavy equipment, sure. But leasing a dog or a cat? Apparently, the practice has become common, promoted by some pet stores and breeders. When the lease is up, typically in three years, a final payment can still be due before ownership of the pet is transferred.
“Families looking to bring a pet into the home can easily fall in love with a dog or cat they can’t afford,” said Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Bergen), one of the prime sponsors of the bill. “Buyers end up signing a lease without understanding the fine print or knowing the total cost.”
That’s not going to happen here anymore. Gov. Phil Murphy enacted a law on Friday making New Jersey the sixth state to ban the practice. Specifically, the measure (A-4552), which had bipartisan support, bans cat and dog leasing except in cases where they are purebred and being used for breeding purposes or if the animals are specially trained to perform tasks like police K-9s and guide dogs.
“You’re not buying a dog, you are renting it,” Rooney said. “The lease can double or triple the cost, and with some dogs going as high as $5,000, it can add up fast. Families can suffer a serious financial hit, and if they miss a payment, the family pet can be repossessed.”
The law, which takes effect immediately, establishes a penalty up to $10,000 for leasing a dog or cat, and up to $30,000 for additional violations.
California, Nevada, New York, Indiana and Washington already have banned pet leasing.
Forty-two New Jersey food service employees are to receive nearly $111,000 in back pay following an investigation into wage violations by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The department’s Division of Wage & Hour Compliances got on the case after an employee filed a wage complaint against the employer, Thyme Food Services L.L.C., operating as Berry Creek Café in three locations: Moonachie, Secaucus, and Edison. The investigation found employees working at multiple locations but not being paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week, and some who were paid a portion of their wages off the books. A self-audit by the company showed it owed $110,603.38 to the underpaid workers, ranging from a high of $18,898.34 to a low of $15.
The issue of “wage theft” currently is very much in the department’s sights, with a new state law having just been signed this week. That law toughens penalties and includes potential jail time for employers who commit the worst offenses.
“When New Jersey workers are denied overtime or paid off the books, they are deprived of fair wages. Our society improves when employers play by the rules, and treat every employee fairly,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
As well as having to shell out the back pay, the company was assessed $11,060.34 in fees and $20,000 in penalties.
While New Jerseyans perceive women as being more emotional and men as more aggressive, other views on gender have evolved, with 80 percent believing women and men are equally smart, says a joint poll from Rutgers-Eagleton and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The majority of New Jersey residents also believe that the genders are equal in terms of capable management (74 percent), ethical behavior (67 percent), manipulative behavior (60 percent) and “people” skills (59 percent), in addition to other characteristics.
On the other hand, the poll showed that residents perceive some stark gender differences in certain areas. Respondents deemed women as more compassionate (62 percent), emotional (63 percent) and better listeners (57 percent). Meanwhile, men were seen as more likely to be risktakers (50 percent) and more aggressive (56 percent).
New Jerseyans’ views both confirm and move beyond commonly held gender stereotypes, showing that some attitudes have changed and some have endured since Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU last asked about these traits in 2003.
“The endurance of gender trait stereotypes has consequences in the personal, professional, and political world,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “Perceiving differences in men’s and women’s capabilities and personalities can impact everything from interpersonal interactions and household duties to hiring practices and wages to who we elect to public office.”
Today is National Lighthouse Day, and if you live in New Jersey or are visiting for sun and fun, you don’t have just one good reason to visit these guardians of sailors and ships, you’ve got 11. That’s the state’s lighthouse tally, according to the page posted online by NJ.gov.
Before you get in the car, however, a few caveats. Not all New Jersey lighthouses fit the traditional profile of a tall, red-and-white-striped tower — though the Barnegat and Abescon lights come close.
The state also offers directions to these points of interest. We’ve got you covered other ways as well: Last summer NJ Spotlight published a list of the 10 tallest lighthouses in the state.
One last thing: If you’ve always had a hankering to be a lighthouse keeper, you’re out of luck. Automation is the rule of the day.
Many New Jersey college students are on summer break, and classes could be the last thing on their minds. But it’s a good bet plenty of them are thinking — or worrying — about their student loans. They’ve got plenty of company: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates there’s $1.5 trillion owed as of the first quarter of 2019.
They’ve also got some help: the Student Loan Task Force of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) has developed a borrower checklist to make students and parent know what they’re signing before they reach for the pen:
Know what you’re agreeing to, such as loan terms, payment options, interest rates, and fees.
Know your credit score and the factors that affect it. Investigate whether to refinance/consolidate with favorable terms.
Take advantage of a co-signer to secure the lowest rate possible.
Set a monthly budget and include your student loan payments as a line item.
Know your strengths; find a secondary/tertiary job in the growing “gig” economy.
When considering multiple loan offers, be sure to take into account the value of a fixed rate. While fixed rates may be higher than the comparable variable rate offers, variable rates are subject to change in the future.
Choose a lender with no prepayment penalties and take advantage of it — an extra $100 a month can save thousands of dollars in interest.
Borrow as little as possible to get through your education.
Research, research, research! Depending on the type and size of loan, job, lender, and state of residency, there may be tax strategies and/or loan-forgiveness programs to take advantage of.
Be thrifty now to live a debt-free life later.
“Yummy,” “juicy,” and “succulent” are not scientific names for New Jersey peaches, as far as we know, but they should be — something to which anyone who’s ever wiped peach juice from their chin can attest.
As bounteous as the Garden State’s peach harvest is — the state ranked third for the value of its harvest last year (41 million pounds of peaches on 4,100 acres for $46 million) — it’s still hard to credit that growers at 80 peach orchards in New Jersey produce more than 100 different types of peaches. But they do.
This is the height of peach season. On top of that, it’s National Peach Month. So, no excuses, go eat the peaches. Because, you know what they say: Peaches “contain health promoting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin.” Let us know if you get to taste all 100 types before the month is over.
University Hospital Newark’s Center for Advanced Liver Diseases and Transplantation was the first liver transplant center in New Jersey, opening in 1989. Today, it’s one of the busiest such facilities in the country. And recently it reached a milestone, successfully performing its 1,500th liver transplant.
“This is an exciting moment for the Center, and we are thankful for the organ donors and their families for the gift of life that made this possible,” said Dr. James V. Guarrera, program director of liver transplantation. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with the community around the benefits of transplantation and the life-saving importance of organ donation.”
The center works closely with NJ Sharing Network, a nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for those in need of a life-saving transplant.
According to John Keith, health promotions director of the American Lung Association, an estimated 6,070 New Jersey residents will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019.
Approximately 3,390 will succumb to the disease this year he noted.
As part of World Lung Cancer Day on August 1, the American Lung Association in New Jersey is highlighting recent advancements that will save more lives.
Lung cancer death rates in the United States have decreased 11.5 percent since 2013, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are excited to see that lung cancer deaths have decreased, but there is still so much more that we need to do to end this terrible disease,” said Keith. “Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, so we encourage everyone to educate themselves and their loved ones about risks, early detection and symptoms.”
To learn more about lung cancer or to volunteer or donate, visit Lung.org.
If you or a loved one have ever been sick you know how important reliably good hospital care can be. Indeed, we’ve reported heart attack patients treated at New Jersey hospitals with low hospital performance scores have a higher chance of having another heart attack.
U.S. News & World Report has just issued its list of top-ranked hospitals in New Jersey for 2019-2020. The state’s largest health network, Hackensack Meridian Health, has four hospitals on the list. They are: Hackensack University Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center. Those hospitals are also ranked as high-performing on a national level in several areas of care including cancer care, geriatrics, neurosurgery, orthopedics and urology.
U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide in nine procedures and conditions. Worryingly, fewer than a third of all hospitals received any high-performing rating at all, and only 57 earned a strong rating in all nine areas examined.
What do we New Jerseyans see when we look in the mirror in the morning? We ask, only because skincare specialist has been the fastest growing job in the state over the past decade, with a 230 percent increase. That’s according to a new study by COMMERCIAL Café, the real-estate blog.
Nationwide, the greatest growth was in personal care aide jobs (up 251 percent over the past 10 years). But there were also many more human resources specialists; that was the fastest growing job in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Virginia, and Maine.
Meanwhile, it appears New Yorkers need attention to their extremities; the fastest growing job there in the past decade was manicurist/pedicurist.
The arts and culture sector in New Jersey contributes a not too shabby $22.1 billion to the state’s economy, representing 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. To put that in context, the construction sector contributes $22.4 billion, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. There were 19,264 arts-related businesses in the state employing 80,233 people, a 2017 report by Americans for the Arts stated.
“Art, in all its varied forms, is important to New Jerseyans. It ultimately shines a light on all aspects of society by lifting our spirits, beautifying communities, and attracting visitors,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way.
Last week, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded more than $15.7 million in grants to 700 arts organizations, projects and artists throughout the state.
The state’s economy remained mired at the rear of the national pack in the first quarter of this year, with a 1.8 percent growth in real gross domestic product, according to statistics released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The lackluster expansion in the key economic measure — the change in the market value of goods and services produced by labor and property in a state — landed New Jersey in 48th position, behind such states as Mississippi (1.9 percent), Idaho (2.7) and Kentucky (2.5). The rate of growth in the Garden State also fell well short of its neighbors, New York (3.8), Pennsylvania (2.9) and Delaware (3.9).
Only Maryland (also 1.8) and Hawaii (1.2) had slower growth than New Jersey. At the top end of the spectrum was West Virginia, where the measure was up a robust 5.2 percent, and Texas, up 5.1 percent. Nationally, GDP increased by 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
The news for New Jersey is a continuation of a troubling trend. Its growth for all of 2018 was measured at 2 percent, well shy of the national rate of a 2.9-percent rise in GDP.
The number of enrollees in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program has tripled since Gov. Phil Murphy took office; the current total stands at 51,000. At the same time, the number of participating physicians has doubled to 1,000.
The top five medical conditions among patients who have qualified for the program are chronic pain due to musculoskeletal disorders (28.9 percent), anxiety (23.8 percent), intractable skeletal spasticity (15.3 percent), PTSD (7.9 percent), and severe or chronic pain due to cancer or HIV (5.6 percent). Program reforms also allow patients to get treatment for opioid-use disorder in concert with medication-assisted treatment.
The Department of Health is currently seeking new applicants to operate up to 24 additional alternative treatment centers (ATCs): up to eight in the northern region of the state, up to eight in the central region, up to seven in the southern region, and one “at-large” to be determined during the award process.
Three types of permits/endorsements will be available for ATCs: cultivating, dispensing, and vertically integrated.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded a total of $12.7 million to locations across New Jersey for community revitalization and affordable housing.
Union County will see the biggest allocation of federal dollars, with more than $6 million combined under three programs administered by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development.
Camden County will see a total award of $3.6 million, and Atlantic City $1.6 million.
The funding was announced yesterday in a joint release issued by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker. The grant programs are targeted in part at redeveloping struggling neighborhoods and expanding access to affordable housing.
As New Jersey’s workplaces grow more diverse, offensive comments about race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation are on the decline, according to the fourth annual New Jersey State of Diversity Survey, commissioned by Taft Communications and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA).
That’s partly a matter of training. The 2019 poll reveals that the number of respondents who have never had any form of training focusing on the value of diversity and cultural awareness at their workplace has decreased to 28 percent — down from 47 percent in 2016.
The number of people who interact daily with someone of a different race or ethnicity increased to 89 percent in 2019 — up from 83 percent in 2016. This number is significantly lower outside the workplace, however, where only 67 percent interact with someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2019, though that percentage has climbed from 59 percent in 2016.
The survey was conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. Complete results are available online.
How will they be able to afford retirement? That’s the Number One financial concern for New Jerseyans. More than one quarter of respondents (27.2 percent) to the most recent Kearny Bank Personal Finances Poll said it’s their most pressing financial worry. Other issues whose financial consequences loom over respondents are the cost of healthcare (17.4 percent), housing (12.8 percent), and daily expenses/inability to save (12.6 percent). A significant percentage (16.7 percent) listed the catch-all “other” — which incorporates a range of issues. Rounding out the survey were the cost of education (10.7 percent) and transportation (2.7 percent).
While retirement is the biggest concern overall, the biggest financial concern for those in the 65+ age group is the cost of healthcare (33.3 percent). For those in the 18-34 age range, housing is the main issue (20.4 percent).
“With most respondents expressing concern about ability to retire, and our youngest adult residents unsure about finding affordable housing, a worrisome synergy appears to be at play,” said Eric Kesselman, 1st vice president/director of marketing for Kearny Bank. “Our state needs to effectively address the needs of those leaving the workforce, as well as those just entering it, or there could be decidedly negative economic repercussions,” he said.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation, named for one of three civil-rights activists slain in Mississippi in 1964, has won a $350,000 grant to support its efforts to encourage civic engagement among the young.
The grant, made by the Teaneck-based Puffin Foundation, will be dispersed over the next two years and will be used in part to increase youth voting rates, particularly among young people of color.
“The 2018 Midterm Election saw record-breaking levels of youth voting. Unfortunately, in order to have a real impact on elections, they will need to increase their voting capacity even more. This is made even harder by increasing Jim Crow-like voter suppression tactics that are spreading like a contagious virus across the country,” said Maxim Thorne, managing director of AGF. “Now more than ever, training and empowering the next generation of civic leaders are critical to the survival of our democracy.”
AGF’s programs focus on the personal and professional development of more than 130 young activists. Its Vote Everywhere network spans 25 states and Washington, D.C., and has a permanent presence in 59 colleges and universities. Some activists continue to work with the AGF after graduation by applying for the Puffin Democracy Fellowship, named after the Puffin Foundation.
According to the latest quarterly reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the two major state parties and four legislative leadership committees have $2.1 million in cash reserves to spend on the fall elections.
The races will decide 80 Assembly seats and one state Senate seat in the 1st Legislative District.
The current total is four percent less than 2015, the most recent time the Assembly was the only legislative house on the ballot. But if the 2015 figure is adjusted for inflation, the gap widens to 11 percent.
“A dollar today has less buying power than four years ago,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director. “So it isn’t good news for party leaders that the combined cash on hand of the Big Six is the lowest in more than a decade for an election year.”
Through June 30, Democrats have raised and spent about twice as much as Republicans and have more than twice the cash reserve. Democrats have controlled both legislative houses since 2001.
State parties and legislative leadership committees are required to report financial activity to the commission on a quarterly basis. The reports are available on ELEC’s website.
The persistence and prevalence of New Jersey’s opioid-drug problem are starkly evident in a newly released poll, which shows 4 percent of those surveyed say they or a family member had abused painkillers in the past year, a figure that translates into 350,000 residents of the Garden State.
The joint Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 1,250 adults also shows that virtually all of those surveyed view opioid abuse as a significant issue for New Jersey, with 67 percent terming it a “very” serious problem and 28 percent a “somewhat” serious problem. These numbers have changed little since Rutgers-Eagleton last polled about the severity of the epidemic in June of 2018.
“Addressing opioid misuse and addiction is a defining public health challenge of our time,” said Joel C. Cantor, distinguished professor and director of the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy, which collaborated in the survey. “The large number of adults using more opioids than prescribed, or using drugs not prescribed for them, raises serious challenges for doctors and other prescribers to assure proper use of these powerful medicines.”
The survey also shows that people see abuse of painkillers as a local issue, with roughly three in four terming it a serious problem in their own community.
One in four respondents said they or a family member had taken prescription painkillers in the last year. And 2 percent said they or a family member had sought treatment for drug addiction.
Mercer County is first among all counties in the Garden State when it comes to women’s political representation, based on city council, freeholder, and mayoral positions. That’s according to the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Twenty-eight women serve on city councils in Mercer County. That’s an increase of three seats over last year. Women make up 41 percent of 68 council members in the county. (Women hold 837 city council seats in the state, or just 27 percent of all 3,126 city council seats statewide.)
The top five counties for women’s representation on city councils are Mercer (41 percent), Hudson (36 percent), Camden (32 percent), Somerset (32 percent), and Essex (32 percent). No county in the state has gender parity in city councils. Two counties, Somerset and Bergen, saw double-digit increases in women city councilors this year. But in five counties — Union, Burlington, Cape May, Salem, and Cumberland — the number of women on city councils dropped. Salem County is the lowest-ranked county for women office holders. It went from 13th place last year, having lost women mayors, council members, and freeholders. Cumberland is the lowest-ranking county for women’s representation on city councils.
With the governor and legislators still differing over the coming months’ expected tax revenues, at least taxes from one source seem to be going in only one direction — up. And that source is the gaming industry, which took in $23.8 million in total taxes for June 2019, according to filings with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
New Jersey’s total gaming revenue for June was $283.8 million, compared to $233.6 million in June 2018, which reflects a 21.5 percent increase. For the year-to-date, total gaming revenue was $1.59 billion through June 2019 compared to $1.26 billion in the prior period, an increase of 26.2 percent.
New Jersey millennials have the fourth largest credit card debt in the United States, with an average balance of $5,288, according to new research from Experian, the credit reporting company.
In addition, the state’s millennials have an average FICO score of 684 and average total debt of $81,700, according to the company’s data for the first three months of 2019. (Millennials are deemed to be those born between 1981 and 1996.)
Overall, millennials in the U.S. carried an average of $4,712 in credit card debt per borrower, and while that’s less than the national average of $5,474, the demographic has seen one of the largest increases in the past year.
Last, as millennials age, their credit card debt increases: At age 23, they carried an average balance of $2,288, while at age 38, the average balance was $6,675, the research found.
The state has boosted the tax on gasoline by more than 27 cents a gallon since 2016 to help fuel improvements to New Jersey’s roads, bridges, and tunnels. But fully a third of those responding to a joint survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 say their ride has gotten a lot rougher, noting that quality and safety have declined. What’s more, almost 40 percent indicate their cars have been damaged by potholes and other problems. About half (53 perfect) did not experience similar damage.
There’s not much of a bright side to this survey. Sixteen percent say the quality of the state’s roads, bridges, and tunnels has improved, and fifteen percent believe safety is better today. Around half say quality (47 percent) and safety (50 percent) remain the same.
“Recently the American Society of Civil Engineers gave New Jersey infrastructure a grade of D, and it is clear to the public that improvements aren’t happening,” said Gregory Lalevee, business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825.
Almost three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents rate the state’s roads, bridges, and tunnels as highly important to the local economy. At the same time, 63 percent believe the government is not doing enough to maintain them.
When it comes to paying for improvements to roads, bridges, and tunnels, few are OK with the state raising more money. Instead, 83 percent believe legislators should do a better job spending what they already have.
Crime rates tend to increase during summer. Thus, “Operation Summer in the City 2,” a New Jersey anti-violence initiative involving more than 15 federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies between June 10 and June 14. Focused on Camden and Atlantic City, it managed to nab 75 fugitives, including more than two dozen documented Bloods and Crips gang members. A similar operation last year targeted fugitives in Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, as well as Camden. Among those arrested this time around were two men wanted for murder.
Fifty-six of the arrests were in the Camden area, 16 in the Atlantic City area; three arrests were made in other states on warrants issued in South Jersey.
Blueberries were the No. 1 crop in New Jersey for 2018, with a production value of more than $62 million. All told, farmers in the Garden State harvested 44 million pounds of blueberries on 9,000 acres last year.
New Jersey annually ranks in the top six in the United States for blueberry production.
During the peak of blueberry season, which lasts through the end of July, production can reach 250,000-300,000 crates per day.
Blueberries are low in calories and high in nutrients and are known as the “King of Anti-Oxidants.”
Purists may prefer to eat their blueberries by the handful or swirled in a bowl of yogurt or folded into pancakes. But why stop there? The Jersey Fresh website has recipes for blueberry and sweet potato oatmeal bars, blueberry pizza with lemons, and blueberry monkey bread — among other tasty treats. If you’d like to get a feel for what it takes to load 250,000 crates in a day, they also feature an interactive tool that lets you find the closest pick-your-own-farms.
And if a blueberry martini sounds like just the thing, you should be able to find a recipe online in short order.
New Jersey’s four highest-paying counties — Somerset, Morris, Hudson, and Mercer — ranked among the nation’s top 25, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nine of New Jersey’s large counties reported average weekly wages above the $1,144 national average in the fourth quarter of 2018. Average weekly wages in Morris and Somerset counties exceeded $1,600.
In addition, Mercer County’s wage growth ranked 13th among the 349 largest counties nationwide. Essex County (4.2 percent) was the only other large county with a wage gain that exceeded the national average. For its part, Atlantic County had the largest rate of employment growth among the Garden State’s largest counties, up 4.6 percent.