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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Christie’

In the late 1960’s Governor Richard Hughes decided to do something once and for all about the media blackout in New Jersey. With Philly and New York paying scant attention to New Jersey issues and politics, Hughes helped create what is today New Jersey Network.

It was both a terrific and a flawed idea. On the one hand, New Jersey needs its own source of news and information. And having the profit motive taken out of the equation allowed NJN to focus on issues and substance rather than fluff and entertainment ( yes, even then people cared about celebrities although when they read glossy magazines I’m not sure they bothered to dog-ear the pages just to make sure they don’t miss anything as I’ve seen people do today with US Weekly and other mags ).

But there were also some mistakes which can be clearly understood now with the benefit of hindsight. To begin with the future of communications was all television back then. No one could predict how much that would change. Television isn’t going anywhere, but it’s impact as the dominant medium is clearly being diluted.

Moreover, by the State taking on the role of TV station, then failing to adapt as the media environment did, NJN was left languishing in some 1960’s vision of what the “media” is. So a fair argument can be made that New Jersey should never have gotten into the television biz to begin with.

But here is the problem: it did. And for the last 40 years, NJN has been almost fully funded by the State. So, when a decision was made to end that relationship, there were plenty of people who said ‘good idea.’ But to go from 40 years of State aid to zero State aid in a matter of six months has left some supporters of this station slightly puzzled about how that can work. Funding runs out here on January 1 which as you might imagine has created a bit of a panic within the building.

But lemme go back to the operative phrase hidden in my last paragraph about State support for 40 years, then going cold turkey ( get it? “turkey”…Thanksgiving. Duh ) in six months. Government systems are not designed to move quickly. Our Constitutional Republic form of Government which is replicated by the states is programmed to move deliberately and methodically. They were set up that way for a reason. It is my opinion that people are somewhat conservative by nature and don’t like huge changes from their government in short periods of time.

Like it or not…NJN is a branch of State Government, and the truth is, I have some problems with that. And I have also had some frustrations on a professional level working within that system. But as the bloated Titanic of this network heads for the metaphoric iceberg just understand that if the boat sinks, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

95% of all Public TV stations get some public funding, according to The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I’m all for making NJN one of the stations that doesn’t. But the current structure here may need a little more time to make that transition which is what the bi-partisan NJN Legislative Task Force concluded.

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In the movie “Citizen Kane” the newspaper magnate helped drive his own sales because of a high public profile that made news. But in real life, journalists never wanna become the story.

Well, the story lately is NJN which has put me in the awkward position of covering my colleagues and myself…including the issuance of layoff notices earlier this week. ( btw – our “pink slips” weren’t actually pink. That’s fascinating )

Administration officials and others tell me that they believe the best option is a takeover by WNET, Channel 13 in New York with Steve Adubato Jr. attached to the deal who would presumably oversee the content and ensure that the New Jersey-centric mandate continues. But here is the Governor’s number one stipulation – no more state funding. That means 130 employees will need to come off the state rolls.

basically, it all comes down to money. Without a stable source of funding, it’s going to be hard to make this work. Thirteen has it’s own financial issues. In fact ( as has been reported in this space ), Thirteen gets a grant from the State of New York each year. Last year it was $8.7 million. People in New York seem to have no problem with that. And it would put New Jersey in the odd position of no longer being subsidized by the taxpayers of New Jersey, but  subsidized instead partially by the taxpayers of New York? Hmmm. that sorta undermines the whole idea of having an independent media outlet that is not dominated by New York or Philly which is why NJN was set up in the first place.

Here is the bottom line: the world has changed. When I was growing up I thought the “the future” was gonna mean flying cars and Summer homes on the Moon. In fact, the major technological leaps have been in the field of communications rather than aviation. In other words, the media landscape has shifted dramatically from what it was 40 years ago when NJN was born. We need a new model for NJN. No question about it.

So can the Thirteen thing work? I am open minded, if not necessarily confident. Montclair State University is another possibility. They have expressed an interest in taking us over. But an Administration official tells me that does not comport with the Governor’s mandate to get us outta the state system.

The dynamic is as follows: When Democrats opted not to fight to restore funding for NJN for the full fiscal year it meant the dollars drying up January 1. So that puts them in a weaker negotiating position now on NJN than the Governor.  As one Democrat told me, they fear Christie will say to them it’s either this Thirteen plan or I’ll let it go dark. The Legislators can write a supplemental to keep us alive for a few more months…but Christie can simply veto that. And the front office folks say they are not extending a lifeline without a solid plan. See where this is headed?

I hope something gets figured out. Not only for personal reasons but because the NJN brand has been loyal to New Jersey for 40 years. It’s time for New Jersey to show some loyalty right back and keep the station alive, albeit in a  different incarnation.

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Is it take 3, or take 4 now on women’s health funding? I have sorta lost count. Christie knocked $7.5 million for women’s health funding outta the budget, and Dems ( particularly women legislators ) have been trying to get it restored ever since. They have gotten no help from their women counter-parts in the Republican caucus.

Well, now it appears as though the coalition is fraying in the Dem caucus as well. After the last override, advocates decided on a new approach. they would move some money around, but split the bills in two. One bill would restore the state’s portion, the other would once again go after federal matching funds that would otherwise be lost.

Senator Weinberg signed on for the first bill, and she approached Senators Ruiz and Gill for the second one. Both lawmakers agreed to sponsor it and had their names attached to it…until yesterday when they were mysteriously withdrawn.

So, what is going on here? I have sought the reason, but have not gotten it, which has left others to speculate. Some believe that once again we are seeing the Joe D-Essex County influence here. By now, the closeness of Gill and Ruiz to the Essex machine in terms of gainful employment have been well documented. We also know about the strong alliance between those Essex Dems and Christie. Could this be an attempt by the Governor to snub this issue out once and for all?

Possibly. And while it may not prevent a vote, the Governor can certainly flex his muscle and make sure that his allies in Essex don’t help the process along. Both bills are supposed to go before committee Monday.

Is this all idle speculation??? Enquiring Minds Want to Know!!!

Programming Note: Remember those National Enquirer ads? Ah, those were the early days before magazine tabloids came to be mandatory poolside reading for the younger set.

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So, it has been many years since I have heard people devoting this much time to talking about Marijuana. Of course when I hear it now at the State House it is in a very different context.

What to do about those Med Marijuana Regs. By statute, New Jersey needs to implement the law that passed in the lame-duck session before Christie took office. But it is the Christie Administration that is now charged with building New Jersey’s program.

Advocates for patients and supporters of the bill say the Department of Health and Senior Services has made the regulations too restrictive. For example, by insisting on a low THC content in the drug, forcing Physicians to wait two years before adding new ailments as eligible for treatment and having doctors verify that all other means of treatment have been exhausted before writing a script for medicinal pot. And don’t even get me started on the whole flap about the number of distribution centers ( dude, it’s like totally overwhelming!!! ).

So, clearly there are some who believe this is Christie himself being a bit of a Difficult-A-Saurus Rex ( which is not to be confused with Puff The Magic Dragon. He-he ).

The Dems will pass a resolution putting the regs under review. The Admin then has 30 days to re-write them. If they refuse, the legislature can invalidate the rules. Does anyone see where this is headed? Yep. You guessed it…Court, which probably suits the Christie Administration just fine.

Programming Note: “Incense and Peppermints” is that ridiculous late 60″s song by that even more ridiculously named group “Strawberry Alarm Clock.” Oddly enough, the lead singer, Ed King eventually left the group and joined Lynyrd Skynyrd, which couldn’t more exemplify southern ( non-psychedelic ) 70’s rock. Those crazy musicians!!!

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My alarm went off at 4 am. I snoozed. The alarm went off again ten minutes later. I snoozed again. But at 4:20, I rose.

I was on my way to Reading Pennsylvania Friday for the Chris Christie Road Show starring Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour and of course, the man of the hour – Chris Christie ( who btw, rolled up  in a private jet I watched land that taxied and came to a stop just a  few hundred feet from the event stage. Diplomatic parking indeed ).

So, you hearda these guys? Probably yes. That’s because Pawlenty and Barbour are the oft mentioned names among the Punditocracy as possible Presidential contenders in 2012. Today, in what was likely not an accident, Christie literally joined them. And I don’t just mean for the campaign tour.

The Fab Three will hit six states in two days for GOP gubernatorial candidates. Who wouldn’t want them as campaigners? These guys are literally the stars of the party which is in the midst of a nationwide comeback after stumbling off a cliff when the economy went bust two years ago. But as Hendrik Hertzberg acutely points out, it was Obama who was in office when the worst of this recession hit. And voters are about to let him know just how much it’s been hurting with these Mid-term elections.

So, give Christie his due. Right now the Republican party needs leadership, and he is very much filling that void by getting away from divisive social issues and bringing the GOP back to it’s core message: fiscal discipline.

But after delivering such strong soundbites ( I recall something about him saying “no” to the “Gods of the Republican party” ) that he is not seeking the nod in two years, will the NJ Gov be able to change his mind??? I suppose that is what makes this mystery tour so magical.

Programming Note: I feel a little bad about slamming  Emilio Estevez so hard the other day in light of this week’s developments. Please note, that I made those comments prior to his brother’s meltdown at the Plaza Hotel. After all, I would never step on someone’s head while they are down…like that dude at the Rand Paul rally.

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