New Jersey Real-Time News

    The governor is acting shady | Sheneman cartoon

    The governor is acting shady | Sheneman cartoon


    The governor is insisting on enforcing non-disclosure agreements, or gag orders, on the women accusing his campaign of wrongdoing. That's pretty gross. The scandal around the governor's handling of sexual assault...

    The governor is insisting on enforcing non-disclosure agreements, or gag orders, on the women accusing his campaign of wrongdoing. That's pretty gross.

    The scandal around the governor's handling of sexual assault allegations in his campaign continues to grow, mostly because he's letting it. Despite running on promises of transparency in government, the Murphy administration has proven to be incredibly tight lipped when it comes to addressing the incredibly serious accusations made by multiple women who worked for his campaign.

    The scandal continues to dog the governor and he's starting to get testy when he's questioned about it. The truth might go a long way toward getting people off his back.

    The governor is insisting on enforcing non-disclosure agreements, or gag orders, on the women accusing his campaign of wrongdoing. That's pretty gross. Not only did he not address the allegations when they were made, but his office helped promote the accused and stonewalled any attempts to learn what actually happened.

    His justification for this injustice is that if the victims were allowed to speak freely they might spill the recipe to the secret sauce that led him to a resounding victory in the election. Allow me to ruin it for them:

    You won because you were a rich guy willing to spend fat cash, and your opponent was a grapefruit taped to a mop. There are no brilliant political insights, no proprietary information that requires the level of security the governor is giving it. Your race was a gimme.

    Chris Christie, the least popular governor in the history of governors, is a Republican and you are a Democrat. People voted for you and they still don't know who you are. Give up the charade and let these women speak. 

     Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook. Get the latest updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com's newsletters.

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 18, 2019

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 18, 2019


    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption. Courtesy of New Beginnings Animal Rescue  New Beginnings Animal rescue in East Brunswick has announced that it will be closing its location at 706R Cranbury...

    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Courtesy of New Beginnings Animal Rescue 

    New Beginnings Animal rescue in East Brunswick has announced that it will be closing its location at 706R Cranbury Road.

    Barbara Keegan, New Beginnings president and shelter director, noted that the nonprofit group had been at the Cranbury Road location since February 2014 and will relocate to a yet-to-be-named space in the near future.

    "Without the overhead and expense of operating at this location we will be able to expand our areas of community outreach," said Keegan, "by stepping up our assistance with Trap/Neuter/Return programs, offering a community pet food bank for needy families and rescue groups and providing referral assistance for pet issues."

    Keegan pointed out that the rescue will not be leaving the current facility until every animal in its care is placed in a home. New Beginnings will continue to rescue animals, utilizing foster homes until a new location is opened.

    For more information and future updates, go to nbarnj.org.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Vintage photos of everyday items from the '60s and '70s you might have forgotten

    Vintage photos of everyday items from the '60s and '70s you might have forgotten


    We didn't even give them a second thought. I recall a point made in the 1970s that was meant to illustrate how quickly technology advanced in the 20th century - how someone who was 10 years old when man first...

    We didn't even give them a second thought.

    I recall a point made in the 1970s that was meant to illustrate how quickly technology advanced in the 20th century - how someone who was 10 years old when man first achieved powered flight watched man walk on the moon at age 76.

    The Texas Instruments TI30 calculator, introduced in 1976.Courtesy of Distejon 

    But, if you look at a 75-year stretch in any century since the 1700s, you'll see similar leaps for mankind. I'd argue that space flight, while amazing, doesn't necessarily supersede other advancements of humankind in industry, inventions or ideas.

    For example, on that spacecraft that landed on the moon, there was a guidance computer that had, according to consumereports.org, exactly 64 kilobytes of memory and a microprocessor speed of 0.043 megahertz. The latest iPhone can be purchased with 512 GIGAbytes of memory, and if my math is right, that's 536,870,912 kilobytes. Its microprocessor operates at 2.49 GIGAhertz and let's just say that's the difference between walking and the speed of light.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And that was in less than 50 years.

    As time flies by, it's easy to forget things that were matter-of-fact parts of our lives in the 1960s and 1970s, when Apollo missions were going to the moon with those teensy computers. Here's another installment of things that may have slipped from our memory ... and I don't know about you, but my memory isn't measured in giga, mega or kilobytes - it just bites.

    And here are links to other galleries you'll like.

    Vintage photos of things you may have forgotten about

    Vintage photos of things that have changed - for better or worse

    Vintage photos of how things have changed in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Who had the better night in El Paso: Donald Trump or Beto O'Rourke?

    Who had the better night in El Paso: Donald Trump or Beto O'Rourke?


    The president spent much of his rally poking fun at O'Rourke, claiming he had only drawn a few hundred supporters to Trump's tens of thousands. President Donald Trump and erstwhile Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke...

    The president spent much of his rally poking fun at O'Rourke, claiming he had only drawn a few hundred supporters to Trump's tens of thousands.

    President Donald Trump and erstwhile Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke held competing rallies in El Paso, with a potential government shutdown and the unfinished border wall looming in the background. Trump spent much of his rally poking fun at O'Rourke, erroneously claiming he had only drawn a few hundred supporters to Trump's tens of thousands. Yet, as his numbers were proven false -- again -- and his border wall plan was once again rejected, O'Rourke seemed to be more presidential. What do you think?

    PERSPECTIVES

    Throughout the rally, Trump referenced O'Rourke's counter-rally. Per NPR

    Trump seemed especially attuned to and plenty sensitive about the split-screen image of the rally O'Rourke, El Paso's former congressman, was holding outside in the heavily Democratic city. Exaggerating, as he's prone to do, about his crowd size, Trump claimed that O'Rourke had only drawn 200 or 300 to his protest while they had 35,000 people trying to get into his. "That may be the end of his presidential bid," Trump said, mocking O'Rourke as "a young man who's got very little going for himself except a great first name."

    However, Trump's claims were quickly proven incorrect. 

    El Paso police estimate a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 for the anti-Trump, anti-wall, pro-O'Rourke march and rally tonight.

    -- Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) February 12, 2019

    Trump's entire camp, including his son, poked fun at O'Rourke throughout the night. 

    Beto trying to counter-program @realdonaldtrump in his hometown and only drawing a few hundred people to Trump's 35,000 is a really bad look.

    Partial pic of the Trump overflow crowd below! #AnyQuestions pic.twitter.com/PKxkbcFNFO

    -- Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 12, 2019

    Many pundits said comparing Trump's swipes at O'Rourke with the El Paso native's focus on the good of the nation put the former Congressman in a much more positive light. Per Vanity Fair

    O'Rourke, meanwhile, came off sounding downright presidential. "With the eyes of the country upon us, all of us together are going to make our stand, here in one of the safest cities in the United States of America," O'Rourke told a roaring crowd. "Safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls. Secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect." After months of aimless ennui following his narrow loss to Ted Cruz in the midterms, the rally appeared to energize O'Rourke. "Yeah, I'm back in the mix," he told Politico before going onstage. "All of us right now have a responsibility to do all that we can, and this is me doing my best."

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 11, 2019

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 11, 2019


    Animals through New Jersey await adoption. Profile: Sammy's Hope Courtesy of Sammy's Hope  Sammy's Hope in Sayreville became a formal animal welfare organization in September 2010. The organization grew out of five...

    Animals through New Jersey await adoption.

    Profile: Sammy's Hope

    Courtesy of Sammy's Hope 

    Sammy's Hope in Sayreville became a formal animal welfare organization in September 2010. The organization grew out of five years of volunteer efforts at the Edison Animal Shelter by one of its co-founders, Elda Hubbard.

    Hubbard's focus and concern was on pit bulls, typically considered unadoptable and not made available to the public. With the permission of the municipality, she was able to facilitate adoptions for some of these dogs.

    The rescue's name came from one of the dogs in the shelter, Samson ("Sammy" for short), a large brindle pit bull/boxer mix that exemplified all of the good qualities of the often-misunderstood breed.

    Soon the rescue began taking in cats in addition to dogs. Among the things Sammy's Hope did to make life a little easier for the felines was to provide soft bedding, toys, consistent diets, grooming and play sessions.

    In the fall of 2014, the Sammy's Hope Board learned of an opportunity to lease space in an existing but unused shelter facility in Sayreville. Sammy's Hope Animal Welfare & Adoption Center (SHAWAC) had its grand opening on Feb. 26, 2015, and since then has been providing adoption services for shelter animals, helping to relieve overcrowded conditions at area municipal animal shelters.

    The animals in the care of Sammy's Hope receive medical care (including vaccinations, testing and spay/neuter surgery), and socialization and behavior training as needed. There is particular focus on animals that have been in shelters for especially long periods, those being overlooked for adoption for any number of reasons and those whose behaviors may be hindering their adoption. 

    It's the belief at Sammy's Hope that by offering more focused behavior support, frequent human and animal socialization, the chances and opportunities to place homeless dogs and cats in loving forever homes increase vastly.

    In 2018, Sammy's Hope placed 156 dogs and cats of various breeds in homes; some 532 animals have been placed since opening. The adoption center, located at 1400 Main St. in Sayreville, is open Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to sammyshope.org.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Cory Booker made it official | Sheneman cartoon

    Cory Booker made it official | Sheneman cartoon


    In the party writ large, Booker's progressive bona fides wouldn't be in question. Shocking exactly no one, earlier this week Cory Booker announced his intention to run for president in 2020. The fact that Booker...

    In the party writ large, Booker's progressive bona fides wouldn't be in question.

    Shocking exactly no one, earlier this week Cory Booker announced his intention to run for president in 2020. The fact that Booker would run was never in doubt. What is in doubt is where he fits in this current crop of Democratic candidates.

    In response to the electoral house cleaning of this past November, the myriad declared candidates for the democratic nomination have a noted progressive bent. There are position papers on medicare for all and green new deals being posted on candidate's websites with a furious regularity.

    Bucking the party's usual affinity for centrists, this year's gaggle of hopefuls are now being vetted on whether they are progressive enough. We have Donald Trump and his rank incompetence to thank for that. According to the latest spate of polling, the American people hate racist border walls, tax cuts for rich folks and having their health care taken away from them. That would seem to be a plus for the eventual democratic candidate.

    In the party writ large, Booker's progressive bona fides wouldn't be in question. He's long advocated for climate action and programs like baby bonds, but in the current environment his relationships with Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry will be an issue.

    Booker will, however, have to answer for his past, and present, cozy relationship with Wall Street. He's raised more campaign money from the financial sector than anyone but Mitch McConnell. In a campaign where a majority of candidates look set to eschew corporate dollars in favor of smaller donations, that's a bad look.

    Also at issue is his defense of the pharmaceutical industry and their stranglehold on the U.S. prescription drug market. He did them a big favor a while back by voting against a bill that would allow the import of cheaper prescription drugs from our neighbors. He offered some platitudes about drug safety and such but nobody with an ounce of sense thinks that's why he defected from the party on the bill.

    Booker is from New Jersey. The pharmaceutical industry is a major source of campaign money in New Jersey. Booker needs to come up with a better excuse or better yet, stop doing pharma's dirty work for them.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Vintage photos of famous faces in N.J.

    Vintage photos of famous faces in N.J.


    The well-known from well back. The concept of "celebrity" in the 21st century is drastically different from what it was mere decades ago. Considering it's not far-fetched for your neighbor to have a reality TV show,...

    The well-known from well back.

    The concept of "celebrity" in the 21st century is drastically different from what it was mere decades ago. Considering it's not far-fetched for your neighbor to have a reality TV show, Andy Warhol wasn't far off when he said in 1968: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

    In a 2016 article in Psychology Today, Jill Neimark noted that "Fame ain't what it used to be. Celebrities are borne aloft on images marketed, sold, and disseminated with a rapidity and cunning unimagined by the heroes of old, and then just as quickly cast aside." She quotes Leo Braudy, professor of English at the University of Southern California and author of "The Frenzy of Renown": "We're in the Kleenex phase of fame. We see so much of people, and in all branches of the media. We blow our nose on every new star that happens to come along and then dispose of them."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    So, perhaps social media bears much of the blame. Fame, once rooted in accomplishment, is now often measured in "likes." Multiple Tony-Award nominee Kelli O'Hara might have summed it up best in the fewest words: "I don't want to be famous for being famous."

    Here's a gallery of photos of well-known people from the past in New Jersey. And here are links to similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of famous folks from N.J.

    Vintage photos of celebrities when they were young in N.J.

    More vintage photos of celebs from N.J. when they were young

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 4, 2019

    N.J. pets in need: Feb. 4, 2019


    Animals throughout New Jersey await adoption. Profiles: Kimmy's Safe Haven Rescue Courtesy of Kimmy's Safe Haven  Kimmy's Safe Haven Rescue is a nonprofit organization located in Little Egg Harbor Township. Kim...

    Animals throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Profiles: Kimmy's Safe Haven Rescue

    Courtesy of Kimmy's Safe Haven 

    Kimmy's Safe Haven Rescue is a nonprofit organization located in Little Egg Harbor Township. Kim Brown started fostering and volunteering with rescues in 2013. She quickly fell in love, adopting her first two fosters and continued to foster others.

    In 2015 she lost her younger brother to suicide; Matthew had suffered from bipolar disorder. "I needed something to help me deal with the loss of my brother," she said, and found her calling in helping animals that were suffering locally.

    Kimmy's Safe Haven particularly focuses on abused, neglected, abandoned and feral animals. "We currently have roughly 80 animals in our rescue," said Brown. "Some have been with us a short time and others a long time due to health issues and special needs. Many of these animals would not stand a chance without the rescue and they all carry a special place in her heart."

    For more information on the nonprofit, go to kimmyssafehavenrescue.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Chris Christie is finished | Sheneman cartoon

    Chris Christie is finished | Sheneman cartoon


    Since most autobiographies are vanity projects by their very nature, you'd think Christie would come off looking better in a book he wrote. Our beloved former governor is back. Sure, it's not like he ever left, but...

    Since most autobiographies are vanity projects by their very nature, you'd think Christie would come off looking better in a book he wrote.

    Our beloved former governor is back. Sure, it's not like he ever left, but still...HE"S BACK!

    Chris Christie has hit the airwaves to promote the book deal he's been dying to cash in on for so long. The former governor has crafted an exciting tell all about his fleeting time as an insider in the Trump administration. A quick scan of the cover will show you that New Jersey gets fourth billing behind Trump, Jared and Steve Bannon. That seems pretty on brand.

    Chris Christie doesn't write very much about his time as governor of New Jersey because he wasn't much of a governor. His book is much like his terms as the state's chief executive, full of petty grudges, national political aspirations and little time for his home state.

    It's filled with anecdotes about how he was bested by the dim son of a real estate magnate/felon, how Steve Bannon was mean to him and, of course, that time he bravely confronted a heckler on the boardwalk while flanked by a full state police security detail. 

    Most autobiographies are vanity projects by their very nature. You'd think Christie would come off looking better in a book he wrote, but I guess you have to work with the material you're given.

    I can't imagine the market for this book. Who is reading this besides hardcore political junkies and Tom Moran? Maybe it's one of those deals where a prominent politician puts out a book and a PAC buys a few thousand copies to hand out at conferences. Either way, congrats to the governor on getting paid.

     Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

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    Vintage N.J. photos of bars and taverns

    Vintage N.J. photos of bars and taverns


    The first brewery in New Jersey was established in what is now Hoboken in the 1640s. Do you like beer? More specifically, are you a fan of the lesser known varieties? If so, you're in the right state. According to...

    The first brewery in New Jersey was established in what is now Hoboken in the 1640s.

    Do you like beer? More specifically, are you a fan of the lesser known varieties? If so, you're in the right state.

    According to newjerseycraftbeer.com, as of Jan. 2019 there are 100 microbreweries and 18 brewpubs in a state known more for its tomatoes than its hops.

    A microbrewery, for the sake of this list, is a beer producer not marketed on a national or major regional level.

    In New Jersey, microbreweries stretch from one end of the state to the other. The beer lover could find a microbrewery in each of the state's 21 counties. They range from Angry Erik Brewing in Sussex County to Cold Spring Brewery in Cape May. The brewpubs - a drinking establishment with its own attached brewery - can also be found from one end of the state to the other.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey.

    Beer is foaming over in New Jersey; in addition to these 118 establishments, the site lists 27 "soon-to-be-approved startups" and 19 more in the early stages of development.

    Here's a gallery of photos where people from the past could grab a cold one or other adult beverages to wet one's whistle. And here are links to similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of bars and taverns in NJ

    Vintage photos of taverns and bars in N.J.

    Vintage photos of bars and watering holes in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Brendan Gill: I didn't hire Al Alvarez either | Moran

    Brendan Gill: I didn't hire Al Alvarez either | Moran


    How did Alvarez get a $140,000 job if no one hired him? For weeks, Murphy's senior people have all denied it. Can't the governor get an answer? Brendan Gill wants to be clear about one thing: It wasn't him. He is not...

    How did Alvarez get a $140,000 job if no one hired him? For weeks, Murphy's senior people have all denied it. Can't the governor get an answer?

    Brendan Gill wants to be clear about one thing: It wasn't him.

    He is not the guy who was behind the decision to hire Al Alvarez to a senior job in the Murphy administration after Katie Brennan accused Alvarez of sexually assaulting her. The rumors, he says, are dead wrong.

    "I had no communication with anyone to encourage the hiring of Alvarez," said Gill, who was Murphy's campaign manager, and serves as a freeholder in Essex County. "I was not involved in the transition or hiring practices of the administration."

    So, the mystery lives. It is amazing to me that no one in the Murphy administration has stepped up and admitted to this mistake. And it's even more amazing that the governor allows the question to drag on, week after week.

    "This is so silly," says Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the co-chair of the committee. "All the governor has to do is tell us."

    Maybe he doesn't know. But if that's the case, why hasn't he called all his people into a big conference room and pounded his fist on the table, demanding to know?

    Instead, we heard a parade of Murphy's senior people swear oaths before the Legislative committee investigating this case, and claim that it wasn't them, leaving legislators exasperated.

    In Trenton, on the sidelines of the committee hearing, Gill is the chief suspect. But when I ask those spreading the rumor to show me Gill's fingerprints, they come up empty.

    So, on Monday, I called Gill and asked. He wasn't pleased. He thought I should have some hard evidence before even asking the question. I explained that I spend half my life chasing rumors, and that half of them turn out to be true. It's what we journalists do, or at least part of it.

    I was surprised that Gill was so sweeping in his denial. He says he wasn't involved in hiring generally, which might make him the first campaign manager in history to win an election and claim none of the patronage spoils.

    Maybe that made him nervous, because he added on one small caveat: He said that if someone had called and asked him about Alvarez, he might have said that Alvarez performed well during the campaign, when he worked to fortify support among Latino voters.

    "I don't remember anyone doing that specifically," Gill said. "Someone may have called me. I don't want to say 'no' for sure. I don't remember."

    Another slap in the face for Katie Brennan |Moran

    I asked Weinberg, who has heard the rumors, too, if the committee intended to call Gill to testify. "Not at the moment," she said.

    Hmmm.

    In the meantime, Alvarez has now been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by two county prosecutors, in Hudson and Middlesex. Maybe that will encourage whoever did hire him to come out of hiding, someday.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    N.J. pets in need: Jan. 28, 2019

    N.J. pets in need: Jan. 28, 2019


    Some of the many homeless animals in New Jersey awaiting adoption. Profile: Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society Courtesy of Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue  Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society in Milltown describes...

    Some of the many homeless animals in New Jersey awaiting adoption.

    Profile: Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society

    Courtesy of Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue 

    Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society in Milltown describes its mission as "providing a safe and peaceful haven for homeless, abandoned or abused animals. We will help decrease the number of cats and dogs being destroyed in kill shelters through the work of our foster, spay/neuter, trap-neuter-return, and education programs."

    The rescue group was founded In 2010 by sisters Christie and Michelle Arlotta after, as they put it, "10 years of envisioning helping animals in some way." Christie Arlotta left a career as an engineer to start the rescue while Michelle has continued her professional photography while also working with her sister.

    With the support of volunteers and donors, the group maintains an adoption center at 39 S. Main St. in Milltown, hosts adoption events at pet supply stores and educational and support events including spay/neuter and microchip clinics while continuing to rescue cats and dogs.

    The nonprofit group will hold a fundraising event, "Paws for Celebration," on April 6 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Pierre's of South Brunswick, 582 Georges Road in Monmouth Junction. Tickets are $65 per person which includes a vegetarian dinner and silent auction, a gift bag and custom wine glass. For more information and tickets, go to karmacatzendog.org/support/pfc/.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

    Old parking tickets now only a memory | Quigley

    Old parking tickets now only a memory | Quigley


    I was appalled, and so were many of my Democratic colleagues.   Walk down Memory Lane with me, back to 1997, when New Jersey's Administrative Office of the Courts promised to do something Chief Justice Stuart Rabner...

    I was appalled, and so were many of my Democratic colleagues.

     

    Walk down Memory Lane with me, back to 1997, when New Jersey's Administrative Office of the Courts promised to do something Chief Justice Stuart Rabner did this month.

    I was a second-term assemblywoman ready to head out to a community meeting in Kearny when I got a call from my aide saying I'd have to drive because his license was suspended. I picked him up and as we headed along Route 7, he said that when he'd gone to renew his license, the DMV (now the MVC) told him his license had been suspended because of three outstanding parking tickets from 1989.

    At first, I thought that was funny, so I mentioned it during my talk. Afterward, three people told me they'd recently been suspended, too, for old parking tickets. That seemed more than a coincidence.

    Next day at work I asked around. Seems everybody knew somebody with the same problem. All cases were recent and in no instance did anyone have a decade-old receipt, cashed check or other proof of payment.

    Later that week, I talked to my Trenton colleagues and learned they'd almost all received similar constituent complaints.

    In some cases, drivers had never even been in towns where parking tickets were received. In other cases, it wasn't their license number or vehicle.

    Obviously, something bad was going on.

    After a little digging, I learned several large municipalities had engaged the same consulting firm to help them find new ways of raising money. The consultant recommended they check old files for unprocessed parking tickets. And they found plenty. Boxes. Cartons.

    Jersey City, Newark, Hackensack, Camden and Atlantic City officials thought they'd found gold mines.

    They immediately notified DMV to suspend licenses of all identified motorists, going back 20 years. DMV officials were thrilled, too.

    Suspended drivers were required to pay not only original fines, but also additional charges for non-payment along with interest, and then another $50 to have their licenses restored. DMV said close to one million people were affected.

    I was appalled, and so were many of my Democratic colleagues. I quickly introduced legislation requiring all municipalities to process parking tickets within three years or lose the opportunity to do so. The bill also required DMV to send certified letters to motorists prior to suspension.

    Reluctantly, DMV officials backed the overall concept but balked at the cost of certified mail so there was only weak support from them. When news of the new bill went out, my office was swamped with letters and calls from outraged motorists, and I was invited all over the state to give talks and interviews about the bill.

    But it went nowhere.

    As a relatively inexperienced legislator when Democrats were in the minority in Trenton, I couldn't generate enough interest from legislative leadership. Most Republicans were from suburban or rural areas and hadn't been affected by the suspension blitz.

    There'd been a lot of interest in the media, however, and the Administrative Office of the Courts in Trenton took notice. That office, under the direction of the chief justice, manages all courts in the state.

    After some negotiations, they agreed to wipe out all parking tickets older than three years. They could do that with a single click on their computer -- but only if I would withdraw the bill and leave the matter to them.

    I did. And they did. But it seems that over the next 22 years, unprocessed tickets and other small issues began piling up again. A week ago, Justice Rabner ordered all old minor offenses wiped off the books. You may never know you were in that pile, but be grateful anyway.

    A former assemblywoman from Jersey City, Joan Quigley is the president and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.

    Submit guest columns at letters to the editor at jjletters@jjournal.com.

    In Trenton, a bold move towards cleaner elections. Seriously. | Moran

    In Trenton, a bold move towards cleaner elections. Seriously. | Moran


    After years of delay, a bill to force disclosure of secret donations to dark money funds is on a fast track for approval. A rare political moment has arrived, as the Legislature moves to demand that secret donors...

    After years of delay, a bill to force disclosure of secret donations to dark money funds is on a fast track for approval.

    A rare political moment has arrived, as the Legislature moves to demand that secret donors who bankroll elections in New Jersey step forward from the shadows and identify themselves. A strong bill to require full disclosure recently won unanimous approval from a Senate committee, and Gov. Phil Murphy says he fully supports it.

    The finish line is in sight. The question now is whether the Assembly will get on board, and at this stage, Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, is the last big player to join the fight. The companion bill in the Assembly, which has languished for two years, hasn't moved an inch yet.

    The bill does nothing to limit giant donations from monied special interest groups, like public worker unions and real estate developers. The courts have blocked those efforts on free speech grounds, most infamously with the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case.

    But there is no legal barrier to forcing disclosure. The only barrier is political. Donors who want to preserve their outsized influence have conspired with venal politicians in both parties to block reform.

    Leaving this dark money option in place renders other election laws meaningless. It allows special interest group to sidestep limits on donations. It allows lawyers and engineers who have contracts with state and local governments to evade pay-to-play restrictions. And it keeps the rest of us in dark, unable to see who is pulling the strings in the back rooms where deals are struck.

    Murphy has been a big phony on this, posing as a reformer while taking full advantage of the secrecy. His senior advisors started a dark money fund soon after he was elected, and Murphy himself solicited money for it and appeared in TV ads the group produced. The group, led by Brendan Gill, promised to reveal its donors at the end of 2018, and then broke that promise. Murphy says he wants them to release the names, but it's a kabuki dance. He has kept all the advisors who run the fund close.

    Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, is equally tainted. He received a secret donation of $55,000 from PSEG a few months after he pushed through a shameless bill to grant PSEG up to $300 million a year in subsidies for its nuclear plant. It was discovered only became PSEG sent the check to the wrong fund, one that requires disclosure. Consider that the Sweeney Surcharge on your electric bill.

    Both men are atoning for these sins by supporting the bill. Here's hoping that Coughlin joins them soon.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Another slap in the face for Katie Brennan | Moran

    Another slap in the face for Katie Brennan | Moran


    Prosecutors in Middlesex failed to interview key witnesses, and asked Brennan only one question: How much did she drink on the night in question? I was one of the naive fools who felt relieved when Attorney General...

    Prosecutors in Middlesex failed to interview key witnesses, and asked Brennan only one question: How much did she drink on the night in question?

    I was one of the naive fools who felt relieved when Attorney General Gurbir Grewal moved the rape case against Al Alvarez to Middlesex County for a second look in October, after Hudson County decided against pressing charges.

    A fresh look made great sense, given revelations that the Hudson County Prosecutor, Esther Suarez, had profound conflicts of interest in the case. She had known Alvarez since 2003. And during the investigation, she was on the short list to be Gov. Phil Murphy's next attorney general, while Alvarez was a senior advisor to the governor's campaign.

    But I was dead wrong to feel relieved. Because Middlesex prosecutors did not conduct a fresh investigation into Katie Brennan's charge of rape after all. They didn't start from scratch. They relied heavily on the investigative work done in Hudson instead.

    What sense does that make? If the conflicts in Hudson raised doubts about the integrity of the investigation, why would Middlesex rely on their work? How could that possibly reassure Brennan, or the public, that she was getting a fair shake?

    Investigators in Middlesex did not bother to talk to Brennan's husband, who she called immediately after Alvarez left her apartment. They did not talk to her close friend, who rushed over to hold her hand while her husband flew back from a business trip abroad. How could they assess Brennan's credibility without taking those basic steps?

    And while they did invite Brennan in to tell her story, they asked only one question, according to her lawyer, Alan Zegas, who was present.

    "They asked her how much she had been drinking," he said. "And they took few, if any, notes."

    I don't know what happened that night, and the truth is no one but Alvarez and Brennan know for sure. He says it was consensual, she says it wasn't, and there is apparently no forensic evidence to break that tie.

    And so far, no one has presented evidence showing that Suarez meddled in the investigation. Grewal exonerated her, and the chief assistant supervising rape cases, John Mulkeen, says he made the decision against filing charges on his own.

    But neither Mulkeen nor Grewal would comment when asked if Suarez knew about the investigation. That's curious. Grewal's exoneration letter skips around that question, and Mulkeen refused to discuss it, even though he freely discussed the points that reflected well on his boss.

    Suarez says she knew nothing of the investigation, but many people find that hard to believe, including members of the Legislature's investigative committee. They have asked for e-mails from three specific dates in April and May of 2017, just as the investigation began. Suarez has refused to hand them over. Several sources said those e-mails discussed evidence in the case and were sent to Suarez. A subpoena is likely, so we'll probably find out more.

    In the meantime, Suarez seems to be preparing an ignorance defense: "My role is not to read documents and files all day long," she said when asked about the e-mails by Craig McCarthy of NJ Advance Media. "I have to trust that other people are doing what they need to do."

    Think about Brennan, having to wonder whether Suarez knew, whether Hudson's investigation was tainted, and why Middlesex wouldn't talk to her husband and best friend to help assess her credibility. Imagine what it felt like to her when she read a press release from Middlesex saying they found "no credible evidence" of rape.

    This is exactly why ethics laws talk about avoiding the "appearance" of a conflict. The appearance itself raises doubts that no victim should have to endure.

    If Grewal's purpose was to remove suspicions, then he should have insisted that Middlesex conduct a fresh investigation of its own, from the top. He left that up to Middlesex prosecutors, and he won't explain why. Middlesex won't discuss the case either.

    Grewal is a star in the Murphy administration, for good reason. But he's blowing this assignment. The Legislature needs to ask him if he knew about the e-mails that were reportedly sent to Suarez, and if so, why he exonerated her.

    While they're at it, they could ask him why Middlesex ignored the protocols on rape investigations he issued just a few months ago. "It is vital that prosecutors explain to victims - in a respectful and compassionate way - that sometimes criminal charges are simply not viable, and that a prosecutor can decline to charge a sexual assault case for a variety of reasons unrelated to the victim's credibility," the directive says.

    Middlesex sent an e-mail to Brennan's attorney, and issued a press release saying they found no credible evidence of rape, a message that suggests they believe Brennan was lying, even without doing the legwork needed to assess her credibility. Respectful and compassionate? Not so much.

    Facing scandal and fiscal crisis, Murphy's challenges deepen | Moran

    I can't second guess the final decision of prosecutors in Hudson or in Middlesex. Rape charges are notoriously difficult to prove, and discussing the evidence in public would be monstrously unfair to Alvarez, who deserves the presumption of innocence.

    But we can conclude this: New Jersey's criminal justice system mistreated Brennan from start to finish, just as Murphy's senior aides mistreated her. That's bound to discourage women who are raped from coming forward. And that's a tragedy.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.