Good Friday morning!
Saturday marks 20 years since 9/11. Like you — unless you’re under 24 or so — I’ll never forget where I was that day. But my story is insignificant, especially compared to the 700+ New Jersey families who lost loved ones that day, so I won’t retell it here.
Here’s some some Jersey-centric articles looking back at that day and how it changed us:
NJ Advance Media examines the way that morning changed us with an in-depth piece that begins with the perspective of the New Jersey Air National Guard’s “Jersey Devils.”
The Record explains how some of the hijackers lived “in plain sight” in North Jersey ahead of the attack.
The Asbury Park Press tells the story of a now-27-year-old Navy sailor who lost his dad that day.
And ABC 7 interviews three members of New Jersey’s Task Force 1 who searched the rubble.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been creep up, stabilize, creep up, stabilize, all summer.” Dr. John Bonamo of RWJBarnabas Health on New Jersey’s coronavirus cases
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In West Caldwell for a 10:30 a.m. Essex County College groundbreaking ceremony. Then in Bloomfield for an 11:30 a.m. gun control campaign event.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Murphy spox Mahen Gunaratna, EDA Chief of Staff Jorge Santos, PhillyVoice’s Lexie Norcross, Attorney Nick Repici, Bloustein student Ian Allen
LOOKING FORWARD TO ATTACK MAILERS FEATURING 18-YEAR-OLD CANDIDATES’ BAD REPORT CARDS — Covid turning New Jersey’s nonpartisan school boards into political lightning rods, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: School board meetings throughout New Jersey are becoming political battlegrounds, as parents and community members wage war over Covid mitigation strategies, curriculum decisions and ideological beliefs. But many board members and education advocates say the outrage is misplaced. School boards, they say, are supposed to be nonpartisan bodies comprised of unpaid volunteers tasked with sorting through wonky budget documents and working to understand bureaucratic systems. “People think we have more power than we have. They want us to solve problems we can’t solve,” Darcie Cimarusti, a member of the Highland Park Board of Education, said in an interview. “Everything is just heightened so much now because of Covid. The whole world is at a fever pitch, so are school boards.”
A LITERAL FIRING OFFENSE — “Case of Jersey City cop highlights lack of police transparency,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Dana DiFilippo: “The party’s host got mad at a guest packing leftovers into a cooler to take home. The host threw tomatoes at him — and then went and grabbed a shotgun. ‘Today is your day’ he shouted at a few guests as they scurried away. Then he turned the gun in their direction and fired. No one was injured in the August 2019 incident at Michael Timmins’ home in Sussex County. State police responded, charging Timmins with terroristic threats and possession of weapons for unlawful purposes, which are both typically felony offenses, records show … But two years later, Timmins’ position suggests just the opposite: that the system failed. Timmins is a police lieutenant in Jersey City Police Department. The details of his 2019 gun arrest are known only because documents including their details became part of the public record — obtained by the New Jersey Monitor — as exculpatory material prosecutors provided in an unrelated murder case. Timmins’ department has worked hard to hide the incident, writing recently in a state-mandated disclosure only that Timmins ‘negligently discharged a firearm while off duty and on his personal property.’ That disclosure left out all other details, including that he’d had six to eight beers beforehand … Police watchdogs suspect Timmins is just one of countless law enforcement officers statewide whose misbehavior has gone unnoticed — and therefore possibly unchecked — because state law protects the secrecy of police discipline records.”
MURPHY FORCING CIATTARELLI TO TILT AT WINDMILLS — New South Jersey port project seen as key to burgeoning offshore wind industry, by POLITICO’s Ry Rivard and Katherine Landergan: In the shadows of the state’s two remaining nuclear power plants, New Jersey officials on Thursday broke ground on a $250 million port that will serve what they hope will become a massive offshore wind industry. The wind port along the Delaware River in South Jersey is meant to serve as a hub for offshore wind construction as scores of turbines will be planted on the ocean floor in coming years and eventually power millions of homes along the East Coast. The port is taxpayer-backed and perhaps one of the largest economic development opportunities in Salem County since the nuclear plants started up in the 1970s. The port will also serve as a test of whether New Jersey can beat out other East Coast states to become the home of offshore wind manufacturing, a race that includes competitors like New York and Virginia.
STUDENTS MUST LEARN HOW TO CONVERT DOLLARS TO MASTROS — “N.J. schools will require a new graduation test starting this spring,” by NJ Advance Media’s Adam Clark: “New Jersey schools will administer a new mandatory graduation exam this spring for high school juniors, beginning with the Class of 2023. The state Board of Education approved the 11th grade exam — the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment — which will test students in English and math as a graduation requirement. The computer-based exam, authorized Wednesday at a state board meeting, is aligned with the standards for 10th grade English, Algebra I and Geometry, Department of Education spokesman Shaheed Morris said. Students are required to take the test, and only those who fail will be allowed to meet the graduation requirement through alternative assessments or a portfolio appeal process, according to the state.”
SENATOR-SELECT — Polistina won’t pursue court action in fight over swear-in, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: The fight over whether Republican Vince Polistina gets to officially be sworn in as state senator for New Jersey’s 2nd Legislative District before the November election appears to be over. Senate Democrats and the Office of Legislative Services have refused to recognize Polistina’s swearing-in by a retired state Superior Court judge two weeks ago. On Thursday, Polistina, a municipal engineer and former assemblymember in the 2nd District, said he does not plan to take the dispute to court. “The recourse would be going to court for an order to show cause. We talked about that with the people I have working with me,” Polistina said in a phone interview. “We’re now seven-and-a half, eight weeks out [until the election]. I just don’t know that’s a viable option at this point.”
SDELAY — SDA talks make slow progress as New Jersey schools face storm damage, by Carly: The remnants of Hurricane Ida set several New Jersey schools back in their reopening efforts, compounding underlying structural issues with flooding, mold and significant water damage caused by the storm. But Gov. Phil Murphy signaled Thursday that talks between his office and the Legislature about funding the Schools Development Authority — the body tasked with managing school construction for many of the state’s neediest districts — are still only at a simmer. “I haven’t thought about [the SDA] in the context of Ida. But listen, schools were damaged, there’s no question about it,” Murphy said at an unrelated event in Lower Alloways Creek. “We’ve had very good conversations with the Senate President [Steve Sweeney], [Assembly] Speaker [Craig Coughlin] and their teams, and getting that resolved in a way that makes sense is something we’re all committed to.”
R.I.P. — “Bob Hollenbeck, former six-term assemblyman dies at 89,” by New Jersey Globes David Wildstein: “Robert P. Hollenbeck, a genial South Bergen Democrat who served six terms in the New Jersey State Assembly in the 1970s and 1980s before becoming a casualty of Gov. Tom Kean’s coattails a dozen years later, died on September 5. He was 89. During his tenure in the legislature, Hollenbeck was the sponsor of the New Jersey Homestead Act, the state Water Supply Master Plan and a law that permitted right turns at red lights. He was a former Assembly Environment Committee chairman and shepherded the Dune and Shorefront Protection Act through the lower hour in 1981.”
DOES NJ 101.5 HAVE MORE THAN 100 EMPLOYEES? — “Biden announces new vaccine mandates that could cover 100 million Americans,” by CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins: “President Joe Biden on Thursday imposed stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in a sweeping attempt to contain the latest surge of Covid-19. The new requirements could apply to as many as 100 million Americans — close to two-thirds of the American workforce — and amount to Biden’s strongest push yet to require vaccines for much of the country. ‘We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,’ Biden said … At the center of Biden’s new plan is directing the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week, an expansive step the President took after consultation with administration health officials and lawyers. Companies could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee if they don’t comply.”
—@DanielMunoz: “NJDOL tells me there are 4,646 NJ businesses w/ at least 100 employees, totaling nearly 1.4M NJ workers that would be affected by Biden’s order. There are some asterisks in the data – if there’s an NJ company w/ multiple locations of at least 100 employees, each site would be counted separately.”
IF ONLY HE HAD ANOTHER RAIL TUNNEL TO CANCEL — Christie steps out of Trump’s shadow — and stokes 2024 buzz, by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is launching a comeback tour as he considers whether to mount a 2024 presidential bid that could put him on a collision course with Donald Trump. The former governor is set to deliver a Thursday evening speech at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. — a traditional waystation for GOP presidential aspirants — as part of a speaker series the organization is hosting that focuses on the future of the Republican Party. The high-profile appearance comes as Christie intensifies his political activities ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, with a book on the way, a new perch helping the GOP raise money, and plans to help the party flip control of the House next year.
—Snowflack: “Mehta eager for Scrap with Kean (and Malinowski!)”
VIRTUAL INSANITY — “School can’t open in time due to mold, and N.J. rejects plan to go virtual,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jackie Roman: “Students attending Walter M. Schirra Elementary School were unable to begin the academic year along with the rest of their peers in Old Bridge Township Public School District on Thursday after the discovery of mold forced officials to temporarily postpone instruction. The problem was discovered a week ago and although remediation efforts were underway, an air quality assessment conducted on Tuesday determined the building did not meet the standards for educational occupancy and would need more time before opening to students. The administration believes the mold was a result of accumulated damage from a very wet August and filed an emergency request with the New Jersey Department of Education to provide virtual instruction for the displaced students, but that was denied. As of mid-afternoon Thursday, the district couldn’t provide a firm date of return but indicated to NJ Advance Media they hoped to get the ‘all clear’ by Monday.”
JAMEL HOLLEY’S JOB PROSPECTS FURTHER LIMITED — “Passaic County to employees: Prove you’re vaccinated or get weekly test,” by The Record’s David M. Zimmer: “Passaic County workers must soon prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit weekly test results if they want to remain employed. The policy approved by the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday will go into effect on Oct. 1, nearly three weeks prior to a similar state mandate and months before federal employees will have to provide their own proof of vaccination.”
NOW HOW WILL STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO TOSS BEER? — “Neptune schools begin new year without beer-tossing vice principal,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Joe Strupp: “Neptune Township Schools began the new term without the beer-tossing vice principal who got into a transphobic confrontation with four patrons at a restaurant last spring, sparking an ongoing legal battle. When students returned to the Monmouth County district this week, Michael Smurro was not on campus at Neptune Middle School. He has been placed on unpaid leave, according to district officials.”
R.I.P. — “Family of 3 that built a new life in N.J. among victims killed in violent Ida flooding at apartment complex,” by NJ Advance MEdia’s Rodrigo Torrejon: “No matter what happened, Rosa Espinal would be by her husband Jose Torres’ side. If it meant immigrating from the Dominican Republic to the United States to try to build a better life for their family, she’d be there. Through factory jobs and bodega gigs, she’d be there. Even when their daughter Margarita Torres offered to take her on vacation to her homeland, she’d be there. Sometime between the night of Sept. 1 and the morning of Sept. 2, Jose Torres, 74, and Rosa Espinal, 72, who’d been together for 46 years, died in their apartment in Oakwood Plaza, in Elizabeth. Their 38-year-old son Jose Torres Jr., died with them. A neighbor, Shakia Garrett, 33, also died. The Elizabeth River that abuts Oakwood Plaza overflowed and tore through the complex with terrifying force, said Duteche Aine, Margarita’s husband, who was on the phone with his family while their ground floor apartment flooded. Their apartment was overwhelmed, filling with gallons upon gallons of water, he said. The couple and their son, who was visiting his parents, scrambled atop a counter to keep above the rising flood water, but were unable to escape, he said.”