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March 7, 2019

The battle over S-2313, the plan to subsidize PSEG’s three nuclear reactors in New Jersey, could have state ratepayers shelling out $300 million annually over 10 years, for a grand total of $3 billion. With that sort of money in play, it’s not surprising that lobbyists coughed up $5.03 million in 2018 (up 3 percent over the prior year) to help influence the outcome, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Those in favor of the legislation shelled out $2.3 million all told. Big spenders included Public Service Enterprise Group ($1.5 million), First Energy/JCPL ($445,800), and Exelon ($337,070). Among the naysayers were AARP ($722,562), NJ Coalition for Fair Energy ($679,332), and NJ Petroleum Council ($595,444). Opponents spent a total of $2.8 million.

March 6, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 requires the state to allocate $4.1 billion to cover the debt payments that are needed to keep pace with all of New Jersey’s bonded debt. That represents more than 10 percent of total spending in the budget. Other major, fixed expenditures include $3.8 billion for the public-employee pension system and $2.7 billion to cover all employee and retiree healthcare obligations.

March 5, 2019

Businesses and interest groups with stakes in weed and wind were some of the biggest spenders among lobbyists in 2018. Medical marijuana and pro and con spending on legalization of recreational grass handed out $1,365,362 in 2018, up 313 percent from $330,935 the year before, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Noted Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, “Lobbying is a vital and fundamental part of democracy. Total dollars spent rise and fall each year. But there are always new issues driving lobbyists to persuade executive branch officials, and many times the public.”

Following a record year for spending in 2017, overall lobbying expenditures dipped 2.5 percent to $89.4 million in 2018, down from $92 million the year before.

The total for dollars spent is preliminary, since late-arriving reports and amendments are likely to increase that amount.

Spending on offshore wind also climbed noticeably after Gov. Phil Murphy signed S-3723, which set ambitious new goals for alternative energy production. One aim, to generate 3,500 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 3,500 homes — from offshore wind turbines set off a “deep sea goldrush.” Spending in this sector climbed 234 percent, to $874,679 in 2018, up from $261,664 in 2017.

Big spenders in offshore wind included Ørsted North America Inc, at $330,206, and NextEra Energy Resources, at $199,379.

March 4, 2019

Even if New Jersey’s state finances rest uncomfortably close to thin ice, plenty of its residents have fat billfolds. Indeed, the state can count 18 towns among the 100 wealthiest in the country, according to the Bloomberg Richest Places annual index. That’s second only to California (23) and well ahead of New York (13). Connecticut has five listed and Pennsylvania none.

Short Hills (average income, $367,491) is New Jersey’s highest entrant on the list. Other Garden State locations in the top 50 are Rumson, 19th (average income, $303,542); Upper Saddle River, 32nd ($271,700) and Upper Montclair — a neighborhood within Montclair — 39th ($263,035). North Caldwell, where Tony Soprano once stashed a lot of cash in his basement, comes it at 47th ($251,468); and Glen Ridge 49th ($248,698).

California has most towns on the list with locations in Silicon Valley dominating, naturally. For the third year in a row, the richest of the rich towns in the country is the Golden State’s Atherton (average income, $450,696), home to the Eric Schmidt of Google and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Six counties dominate the list. New Jersey’s Bergen County is among them, along with Westchester in New York, Fairfield in Connecticut, Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County in California, and Montgomery County, Maryland.

March 1, 2019

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to lower STD rates to where they were in the early 2000s; last year, the CDC announced $92.5 million in funding for state and city health departments to strengthen STD prevention and control programs.

A recent analysis found that the Garden State ranked 32nd among the states for the prevalence of STDs. (The overall rankings were figured by taking an average of a state’s individual rankings for gonorrhea, chlamydia, primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis, the most commonly diagnosed STDs that are monitored by the CDC.)

The states with the highest rate of STDs were Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, California and Nevada. At the other end of the scale, Vermont had the lowest rate, followed by Wyoming, New Hampshire, Idaho and Utah. The study used data from the CDC’s 2017 STD Surveillance Report, the most recent available.

February 28, 2019

New Jersey’s high housing costs have helped land the state at the very bottom of another state-by-state analysis. This time, it’s a study that tries to determine the value of the time that people spend at home instead of at work or someplace else. Released by Porch.com, an online home-improvement marketplace, the study compared the amount of time people spend in their homes or rental units to the median incomes and monthly expenses for homeowners and renters in the same places. The study then compared data for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to come up with its “value of time” findings.

At the very bottom of the list of value that homeowners get for time they are spending at home was New Jersey (51st), which has median monthly homeowner expenses of $1,848, according to the study. At the other end of the value assessment was West Virginia, where median monthly homeowner expenses run $527.

With the median monthly rent running a little over $1,000, New Jersey renters did a bit better in the assessment of the value of their time spent at home, according to the study. They landed in 32nd place among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Renters in Nebraska, where the median monthly rent is $789, get the best value for their time spent at home.

February 27, 2019

Surveys of osprey nests conducted by a team of volunteers indicate that 2018 was another in a series of good years for the once endangered bird of prey in New Jersey.

According to the report of the 2018 Osprey Project in New Jersey, an effort involving both the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, the researchers documented 932 young birds, the highest number ever recorded in New Jersey.

A total of 589 nests were surveyed and outcomes were determined in 87 percent of them. The goal of the project is “monitor and manage the state population of breeding ospreys to ensure they remain stable in New Jersey.”

February 26, 2019

Only half of New Jerseyans think well of the state’s quality of life. Eleven percent rate it as excellent and another 39 percent rate it as good, while 32 percent say it merits only a fair grade and 17 percent rate it poorly. The results are from the latest Monmouth University Polling Institute’s update of the Garden State Quality of Life Index. The overall 50 percent rating is an all-time low. Last year’s overall rating was 54 percent and you’d have to go back to 1980 to find as low a result for this metric in opinion polls.

“Yikes!” Patrick Murray, director of the institute, said in a statement. “This is a huge warning sign for the state’s political leadership. If New Jerseyans aren’t confident that the situation will turn around, they will start voting with their feet,” he said. For the past decade the rating has tended to hover in the mid-60s. Before that, polls of residents’ enthusiasm for the state’s quality of life veered toward the 70s, even reaching as high as 84 percent in 1987. (What did they put in the water that year?)

The score fell hardest in the Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester counties), dropping 17 points from a +14 score last year to –3. The state’s urban core (Essex and Hudson counties) also registered a big drop, going from +8 last year to –1 in the current poll. And even though denizens of the affluent Central Hills area (Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset counties) gave the state the highest score on the index this year (+27), that’s still down seven points from last year (+34). The northern shore (Monmouth, Ocean counties) is the only region where the score has ticked up over the past year, from +18 to +21.

The institute created the index in 2010, based on five separate poll questions: overall opinion of the state as a place to live (which contributes half the index score), ratings of one’s hometown, local schools and local environment, along with feelings of safety in one’s own neighborhood.

Life in New Jersey clearly is giving a lot of us the blahs right now, but there’s a ray of light in the latest results. Two in three New Jerseyans (67 percent) rate their own town or city as an excellent (30 percent) or good (37 percent) place to live.

February 25, 2019

It may be hard to believes, but the Delaware River Basin provides habitat for 400 types of birds — everything from the black-belled whistling duck and the good old Canada goose to the latter’s deeper-throated cousin, the cackling goose, along with red knots, buffleheads, godwits and all manner of feathered creatures in between, from little to large. It’s also key habitat for 90 fish species.

Good news, then, that the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program received $6 million in funding as part of the fiscal year 2019 Interior Appropriations bill, a $1 million increase from last year. The funding will support local and state governments, and nonprofits, in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware that are implementing restoration and conservation projects to combat critical issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, and climate change.

Overdevelopment, stormwater runoff, flooding, stream erosion, and loss of wildlife habitat remain significant threats to the Delaware River Basin.

February 22, 2019

One in four children (25 percent) from needy families are likely to have cavities, a rate that’s more than twice that of higher-income households. That’s according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. That fact — blamed on a shortage of available dental services as well as economics — can have long-lasting consequences, as untreated dental disease can impair eating, sleeping, and the ability to function well at home and at school.

To help address the problem, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield NJ is re-funding the Kids Oral Health Program (KOHP) it created in 2016, providing a second round of grants totaling $500,000 to nonprofit organizations that bring dental care and education programs to those who otherwise would go without. The health insurer reports that 15,000 kids in 11 counties benefited from participation in school and community-based programs under the first round of funding. The new grants will benefit 13,500 children though eight programs operating in 10 counties.

February 21, 2019

Extending financial aid to undocumented students was one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign promises. And last May he signed legislation allowing “dreamers” (undocumented students who were brought to New Jersey as children) to apply for state financial aid, provided they meet certain criteria. Out of 1,209 applicants, 513 were granted aid for the 2018-2019 academic year. “The successes of these first 513 students, who are now attending county colleges, state colleges and universities, and independent institutions around the state, will have a positive impact on countless additional lives,” David J. Socolow, executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, said. The state aid amounted to $1.625 million.

February 20, 2019

The number of New Jersey residents who are alive today as a result of organ transplants continues to grow, with 678 of the life-saving procedures performed in the state last year, according to the NJ Sharing Network. Heart transplants alone were up 18 percent over 2017, to 79.

According to the Sharing Network, the federally designated organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissues in New Jersey, the steady rise in the state mirrors the national trend. The number of procedures performed in New Jersey is up 35 percent over the last six years, a period during which it has also set records each year across the country, with 36,500 procedures in the U.S. in 2018.

Of the life-saving transplants performed in New Jersey last year, 537 were made possible by donations from the deceased and an additional 141 came from living donors.

Nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are currently awaiting a life-saving transplant, a list that grows by three people each day.

A press release issued by the Sharing Network tells the story of one grateful recipient. Vernell Williams, a 50-year-old from Paterson who suffered from congestive heart failure, had waited months to receive a heart transplant and had nearly given up hope.

“The months that I spent in the hospital waiting for a new heart were the most challenging of my life. I’m an optimistic person, but I’d begun to think I was facing the end. That’s when I got the call — and Victor literally saved my life,” he said.

“Victor” was Victor Startek of Toms River, who passed away at the age of 27 and donated his heart and kidney. Startek had registered as an organ donor when he first got his New Jersey driver’s license. His mother, Deborah Martinez, and twin sister, Ashley Startek, said that knowing Victor had already made the decision was an enormous relief for them.

Victor was one of the nearly 40 percent of donors giving the gift of life in 2018 who had previously registered as a donor and made their wishes known to family and friends. This number also continues to grow. To find out how to register as an organ/tissue donor, visit the NJ Sharing Network.

February 19, 2019

Garden State grownups are lining up pretty solidly behind the push to legalize marijuana for personal use. According to the latest Monmouth University poll, 62 percent are good with the idea. By age, support stands at 81 percent among those 18 to 34 years old and at 56 percent for those ages 35 to 54, with a slight falloff (53 percent) for those 55 and older. Legalization gets the nod from most Democrats (72 percent) and independents (61 percent), but less than half of Republicans (47 percent) approve.

Enthusiasm falls off slightly when it comes to a legislative proposal to allow anyone over 21 to purchase small quantities of marijuana for their own use from state-licensed businesses: 50 percent are in favor, while 34 percent think it’s a bad idea. (Another 17 percent are unsure.)

Among those who favor legalization, 40 percent cite increased tax revenue and economic gains as key reasons for their support. Another 28 percent say prosecuting marijuana possession and jailing users wastes resources, while 21 percent say marijuana use is not harmful or at least no more so than alcohol. Some 14 percent cite medical benefits to using marijuana.

February 15, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker recently announced his bid to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2020. Already, he’s been making his case to voters in the all-important state of Iowa, where the first votes in that presidential cycle take place but he has some work to do on his home-state voters as well. According to the latest Monmouth Poll, 37 percent of New Jersey voters believe the Newark resident would make a good president while 42 percent say he would not.

“The home state sentiment isn’t quite ‘Run Cory, Run.’ But when you take into account how the last big presidential campaign rubbed many New Jerseyans the wrong way, it’s a decent endorsement for Booker,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Ah, yes, it will be a while before New Jerseyans forget the last presidential campaign to originate here, that of former Gov. Chris Christie. At its launch in 2015, 69 percent of residents said Christie would not make a good president versus 27 percent who said he had the right stuff for the Oval Office.

“Booker has become better known to his constituents over the past two years, but his presidential bid and elevated national profile may have worn off some of the sheen. Part of the problem could be that New Jerseyans haven’t fully recovered from Christie’s run four years ago,” Murray said.

Booker is still in positive territory when it comes to New Jersey residents’ views of him as a U.S. senator (48 percent say he’s doing a good job, 36 percent say he’s not, 16 percent have no opinion). Among registered voters, the split is 48 percent approve, 38 percent disapprove. Just nine months ago, his approve-disapprove rating was 54 percent to 31 percent.

Would Booker be able to serve effectively as a senator while on the presidential campaign trail? Thirty-four percent of residents believe so, but 58 percent say he could not do both effectively. And 43 percent say Booker should resign his seat now that he’s running, although 50 percent say there’s no need for that.

Probably the best news in this poll for New Jersey’s junior senator is that nearly four in 10 New Jerseyans believe that he has a good chance of either becoming president (15 percent) or at least winning his party’s nomination (22 percent). Twenty-eight percent think he’s a long shot to become the Democratic nominee and 26 percent say he hasn’t got a hope.

February 14, 2019

Sweets for the sweet is all well and good, but is the Garden State over the top when it comes to Valentine’s Day candy? According to CandyStore.com, New Jerseyans buy an average of 57,764 pounds of candy conversation hearts when Cupid lets his arrows fly. M&MS are not far behind, at 52,393 pounds, while heart-shaped boxes of chocolates weigh in at 38,520 pounds. (Figures are for 11-year weighted averages for sales between January 1 and February 14.)

But there’s a sad side to New Jersey’s sweet tooth: The state’s favorite confection — Sweethearts candy conversation hearts — can’t be had for love or money. The manufacturer shuttered its factories in 2018. It’s not likely that gummy bears will do in a pinch.

February 13, 2019

Just over a year in office, Gov. Phil Murphy appears to be settling in to “meh” territory when it comes to New Jersey’s view of him overall. While the latest Monmouth University Poll found strong support for one of Murphy’s big issues, the recently enacted minimum-wage hike (66 percent approve, 29 percent oppose), it gauged public opinion as more negative than positive on whether his agenda has done much for property-tax payers and the middle class, and agnostic on the governor’s pledge to create a “fair economy” for poorer residents.

The results show that Murphy isn’t exactly lighting it up in New Jerseyans’ performance assessments. The poll found that 43 percent of New Jersey adults approve of the job Murphy is doing as governor, a figure that has hardly budged from his April 2018 rating (44 percent). More worrying for the governor and his team may be that his disapproval rating has spiked from last year’s 28 percent to 40 percent. At the same point in their terms, his two immediate predecessors, Chris Christie and Jim McGreevey, had better approve-disapprove ratings.

“Murphy started his term with greater public goodwill than his recent predecessors, but he has now fallen behind them,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The most troubling result may be the large number of his fellow Democrats who continue to take a wait-and-see attitude. It seems he has yet to score a defining win with his base despite spending a significant amount of energy pushing a progressive agenda.”

One of the major issues for the Murphy administration has been the hiring of someone who was accused of rape while working on the governor’s 2017 campaign. It led to the formation of a select legislative committee whose enquiries are ongoing. Could that controversy have affected the governor’s poll numbers? “The legislature’s focus on this situation certainly hasn’t helped the governor’s standing, but I’m not convinced this is the primary reason for Murphy’s rising negatives. The public seems to be a little hazy on his core aims and he has yet to sew up base support among his fellow Democrats,” said Murray.

The poll found that only four in ten New Jerseyans (41 percent) have heard anything about the legislative hearings. And Republicans (61 percent) are more likely than Democrats (37 percent) or independents (37 percent) to be paying attention to them. Of those who have been paying attention, 68 percent believe the administration mishandled the hiring versus 12 percent who believe the hiring was handled properly based on what was known at the time. The big unknown in the case remains exactly who authorized the hiring; on that point, 51 percent think that the Murphy administration is trying to cover something up, while 34 percent think the administration is really unsure about how the hiring occurred.

It’s true that Democrats are largely positive about how Murphy is governing (66 percent approve; 9 percent disapprove) but, as Murray noted, a sizable cohort of them (25 percent) say they still have no opinion of how he’s doing after his first year.

Among Republicans, the jury is in, with somewhat predictable results: 11 percent approve, 85 percent disapprove. He did better with GOP supporters last year (17 percent approved, 59 percent disapproved).

And the governor is losing ground among independents, holding a net negative rating (39 percent approve, and 43 percent disapprove). That’s a switch from last April (41 percent approved, and 33 percent disapproved).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 8 to 10, 2019 with 604 New Jersey adults. The results have a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

February 12, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy has made it clear that he’s committed to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, and he has the numbers to back up that promise: 23,629 people have been added since he announced the expansion early in 2018, bringing the total number of enrollees to 40,652 as of yesterday.

The number of doctors and caregivers involved in the program also continues to climb: 380 doctors have come aboard, bringing the total to 893. And 853 new caregivers have signed on, for a total of 1,689.

February 11, 2019

Bald eagles had all but vanished from New Jersey not so long ago. In fact, David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, said, “…we only had one nest in all of New Jersey as recently as the 1980s, and it wasn’t even a successful nest.” Now, 200 pairs and more nest in the Garden State.

“It’s an incredible recovery and it’s really a testament to a number of different factors,” Wheeler told NJTV News. “First, of course, was getting rid of DDT as a widely used agriculture pesticide … but also it was really a testament to smarter laws about cleaning up our waters” and “to the work of scientists and volunteers.”

There’s a lot of excitement over the fact that two pairs now call Mercer County home. And a series of public programs to highlight the presence of the raptors has launched. “For understandable reasons we are very protective of the eagles’ nest. We want to make sure that they thrive, and they continue to feel safe... So all viewing by the public will be from a distance greater than 1,000 feet from the nest,” said Anthony Cucchi, superintendent of Parks for the Mercer County Park Commission.

February 8, 2019

In the past year, thousands of New Jersey workers lost their jobs when Toys ‘R’ Us and Sears stores closed. A bill approved Thursday by the state Senate Commerce committee seeks to soften the blow of such mass layoffs, in part by lengthening the warning large employers must give threatened workers, from 60 days to 90. The bill would also mandate severance pay when 50 or more workers are laid off by a company.

“We want businesses to come to New Jersey. We want businesses to stay in New Jersey. We also need to make sure that they are working together and protecting the rights of their employees,” said Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), who along with Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), sponsored what’s being called the “Toys ‘R’ Us” bill.

As lawmakers talked about ways to better protect workers, some employees shared stories of their layoffs at a press conference in Trenton. “I got eight weeks of severance after 35 years of dedicated service,” said former Sears employee Bruce Miller. “Within two weeks of my severance running out I lost the house that I had owned since 1995 when it was foreclosed on by the bank.”

February 7, 2019

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been allocated $2 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get as many as 80 older diesel trucks that service port authority facilities off the road. The EPA has targeted short-haul trucks — from model year 2006 to be replaced with cleaner, newer models (no older than 2013). The $2 million will be divided into grants of a maximum of $25,000, giving truckers up to 50 percent of the cost to scrap and replace each vehicle.

It’s salutary to be told by the EPA that getting just 80 old short-haulers off the road would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (by 49.5 tons), carbon monoxide (16.5 tons) and fine particulates (2.15 tons) annually.

“Pollution from diesel engines is linked to asthma, respiratory problems, heart attacks and is especially dangerous to children and the elderly,” EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez, said. “Reducing air pollution from diesel engines has enormous health benefits that translates directly into fewer hospitalizations and less missed days of work and school. Replacing old dirty trucks with newer ones makes a significant difference in areas around Port Authority facilities.”

Let’s not think too hard about what all the other old trucks continue to emit after the 80 are scrapped.

February 6, 2019

We don’t know how they do it, but we’ve to thank the state Department of Environmental Protection for keeping track of waste in New Jersey. Apparently, the Garden State generated 22.6 million tons of solid waste in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. That included municipal waste as well as construction debris and other types of non-municipal waste. Of the total collected, 61 percent was recycled (13.9 million tons) and 8.7 million tons disposed of.

Municipal solid waste accounted for a big chunk (9.7 million tons) of the overall amount. Of the municipal waste, 4.26 million tons went for recycling. That put the municipal recycling rate (44 percent) well above the national average (34 percent) but shy of the state’s goal (50 percent). The DEP last month announced $14 million in grants to encourage municipal recycling.

February 5, 2019

2018 was a big-money year for both Democratic and Republican county parties in New Jersey. Helped greatly by $1.1 million in contributions from federal candidates in last year’s elections, they had their best federal election year — financially speaking — since 2008. This is according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Combined, the Democratic and Republican committees raised $9.7 million and spent $9 million.

Bob Hugin, the Republican Senate candidate, was responsible for most of the largesse, accounting for $806,210 in contributions and for rental reimbursement to GOP county parties. That translates to 71 percent of the $1.1 million.

“As we’ve seen in the past, self-financed candidates often share their wealth with county organizations. It helps win support for their candidacies while creating valuable allies during the election,” commented Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director. While Hugin’s contributions were a big deal for the GOP county parties, they were a drop in the bucket in his overall personal spending on the failed attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez; Hugin spent $36,831,210 on that endeavor.

February 4, 2019

The dastardly polar vortex was identified as the cause of the record-setting cold temperatures across swaths of the country last week. To be precise, the culprit was a mere “lobe of the stratospheric polar vortex,” explained Dr. Jeff Masters in a blog post on www.wunderground.com. The freeze in the Midwest — it was -56 degrees in Cotton, Minnesota early Thursday — makes last week’s lows in New Jersey seem positively balmy and nothing compared to the lowest temperature ever recorded in the Garden State, which was -34 degrees Fahrenheit on January 5, 1904 in River Vale. This coldest community is in Bergen County at the eastern edge of the Pascack Valley.

February 1, 2019

It’s hard to get unanimous agreement on anything in the State House in these fractious times. But Assembly members managed it Thursday, voting 75-0 for a measure that would establish the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail; it would highlight some of the New Jersey native’s favorite dining spots in the Garden State. The measure would specifically include the 10 eaties Bourdain visited in 2015 for the “Parts Unknown” television series.

Bourdain, who was born in Leonia, Bergen County started as a dishwasher at a clam shack in Provincetown, Massachusetts and went on to become the head chef in the Rainbow Room and Les Halles. He became famous with “Kitchen Confidential,” his no-holds-barred portrait of a chef’s life, before making the popular television programs “No Reservation” and “Parts Unknown.”

“There’s no question that Anthony’s road to fame was not an easy one,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester), one of the measure’s sponsors. But, he noted, “Even after international fame, he never forgot his Jersey roots. Each episode, Bourdain brought his homegrown wit, charm and sense of humanity to his viewers. He became a New Jersey food icon.”

“Not only will designating a food trail in Anthony Bourdain’s honor commemorate the love he always expressed for his home state … but it will also bring increased awareness to the plight of those with depression and other mental health issues,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). Bourdain died last June by suicide.

The 10 dining places Bourdain visited for “Parts Unknown” in 2015 and that are to feature on the food trail are: Kubel’s in Barnegat Light; Hiram’s Roadstand in Fort Lee; Knife and Fork in Atlantic City; Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City; Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City; Tony and Ruth Steaks in Camden; Donkey’s Place in Camden; Lucille’s Country Cooking in Barnegat; Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park and James’ Salt Water Taffy in Atlantic City.

January 31, 2019

Just over one-fourth of New Jersey adults (27 percent) responding to a Rutgers Center for State Health Policy poll reported having “a great deal” of stress in the previous month, while 44 percent reported “some stress.” As for high stress, it turns out we mirrored the national rate (26 percent). However, far fewer people nationally reported experiencing “some stress” in the previous month than New Jersey residents. Stress, of course, can make a big difference to people’s health and well-being, particularly chronic stress.

You’re not going to get a Nobel for figuring out the greatest source of stress for the New Jerseyans. Yes, that would be not having enough money to pay bills; 22 percent of respondents felt the weight of that worry. This was closely followed by those who were stressed out by not having enough time (21 percent). Job-related stress (18 percent) came after that — both at-work stress and the stress caused by looking for a job. Other sources of stress were family members (15 percent), family member health (15 percent), and personal health (11 percent).

The breakdown by income is intriguing. While high-income respondents reported the highest levels of “some stress,” middle-income respondents reported the highest levels of “a great deal” of stress, perhaps underlining the financial strain on many in the middle class.

January 30, 2019

The subject of immigration policy has become an incandescent element of political debate in the United States, with no sign of a cooling off; witness the recent partial shutdown of the federal government. Now for some interesting numbers from WalletHub, the credit rating and financial advice website. It compared the economic impact of foreign-born populations on the 50 states and the District of Columbia, using 20 key indicators, such as median household income of the foreign-born population and jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses. New Jersey ranked third overall with a total score of 70.56, after California (77.01) and New York (74.62). The bottom three states were Mississippi (13.19), Wyoming (15.11) and South Dakota (15.74).

New Jersey’s ranking for the different indicators is also illuminating. It ranked first for percent of foreign-born STEM workers out of total workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), second for the percent of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses out of total jobs, and fourth for the median household income of its foreign-born population.

January 29, 2019

Last year, 9,303 men, women and children, in 6,982 households across New Jersey were noted as homeless by NJCounts. That was an increase of 771 (9 percent) from 2017. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates a sheltered count each year and an unsheltered count every other year in states.) The 2018 count concluded that 1,288 people were chronically homeless, a 17.9 percent increase over 2017. The count also revealed racial disparities in the homeless population. Blacks or African-Americans made up 48.1 percent of the homeless last year while they were 12.7 percent of the state’s general population.

The count helps “to better understand the depth and breadth of the need for housing resources throughout New Jersey” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates, which directed the latest count, NJCounts 2019 on January 23. During NJCounts, volunteers seek out homeless residents in shelters and transitional housing programs, in vacant buildings, under bridges, in the woods and at other locations.

January 28, 2019

Looks like you’d have to travel a long way in New Jersey before you’d find someone to disagree with the notion of funding programs to help people care for sick or disabled family members. An overwhelming percent of New Jerseyans (92 percent) supported the provision of such programs, according to a poll by the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy. Almost as many (86 percent) of poll respondents favored requiring employers to pay for at least five days a year of sick leave for all workers. And there was very strong support too for funding pre-kindergarten classes for all low-income schoolchildren (82 percent). There was less — but still robust — support for increasing childcare funding for families who can’t afford it (76 percent). The same percent supported increasing paid family leave from six weeks to 12 weeks for childbirth or a sick family member for workers in businesses with more than 20 employees.

January 25, 2019

The plot thickens. Some studies — never mind late-night comics — rate New Jersey drivers poorly. You’ve heard the jokes.

But now comes evidence that whatever we’re doing on all our clogged highways, at all those challenging roundabouts and toll plazas, we’re doing it quite well. Using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 traffic fatality data and U.S. Census estimates, the home security website safesmartliving.com ranked the safest and most dangerous states to drive in. Result? New Jersey ranked as the fourth safest state in 2017. The top three were New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Connecticut ranked eighth safest and Pennsylvania 12th. Mississippi ranked as the most dangerous, followed by Wyoming and South Carolina. California had the most traffic fatalities (3,602) in 2017 and Vermont had the fewest (69).

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