Sunday
Jul312016

NJ Herald continues its attack on reality

Let's be clear, the New Jersey Herald is not a non-profit entity representing Sussex County.  It is owned by the for-profit Quincy Media corporation of Quincy, Illinois.  It is mainly a broadcast company, owning radio and television stations throughout the mid-west.  The corporation's only holding on the east coast, one of two newspapers it owns, is the New Jersey Herald. 

 

This corporation makes its millions in profit off advertising revenues.  It is not the words written by the reporters or the news shows on radio or television that matter -- they simply get eyes on the page -- it is all those advertisements for vinyl siding, used cars, socks, and suppositories.  That is where the money is, let's be clear on that.  Let's also be clear that the Herald isn't published for the benefit of the community, it is published to make a profit by a for-profit corporation over 1,000 miles away.  The day it doesn't make money and they see no hope of it making money, it will be gone. 

 

The Herald is still pissed off at Senator Oroho for suggesting that property taxes could be reduced by not requiring state, county, and local governments to pay media corporations to place all those public legal notices and advertisements in the back of newspapers.  Governmental entities have their own websites on which they could publish all those notices and advertisements for free.  Forcing them to pay newspapers to do so appears redundant and it costs taxpayers millions in property tax revenues.  It's like a mandated direct government subsidy to the newspaper/advertising industry.

 

Has the Herald ever covered this subject?  Have they ever written about it?  This is millions in property tax revenue that could be saved.  Doesn't that at least warrant a discussion?  But instead of a mature, honest, above-board discussion about a way to save taxpayers' money and maybe use that money to cut property taxes, what we have instead is a hissy fit followed by the big hate.

 

So now the Herald is in hate mode.  Big hate.  They want to screw somebody, and to do so they will blatantly ignore the facts about an issue, and will fashion a narrative by selectively using the voices of others, while preventing some from being heard.  This is accomplished by publishing letters to the editor from people who are attacking the object of the newspaper's hatred, while not publishing others.  On the comments page, they permit some to post comments but not others.  Both the Herald staff and its attorney admit to doing this by applying selective "criteria" in determining who gets to post -- something unique to the Herald.

 

Sunday's Herald was a case in point.  The New Jersey Herald published the letters of three Oroho haters (Nathan Orr, Troy Orr, and Bob Klymaz) who often publish in the Herald.

 

One letter, by Assembly candidate Nathan Orr, takes aim at Watchdog itself and calls us "an anonymous blogger".  Now as every reader of this website knows, we are a collective and we print whatever is sent to us and withhold names only upon request.  We do so in keeping with the longstanding American tradition of anonymous speech.  Benjamin Franklin published his attacks against the establishment of the day, anonymously, and one of the central documents in our founding are the Federalist Papers, also written anonymously.  Indeed, no less than the United States Supreme Court has defended the right to publish anonymously.  In its 1995 decision in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, the Court ruled:

 

"Anonymity is a shield... It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular:  to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation."

 

Ask yourself this question:  What would have happened to the county worker who tipped us off about the unsafe work environment in its offices a couple years back?  We published, the Herald and others followed, and the situation was corrected.  If we had published the name, that employee would have been retaliated against and when the Herald reporter called, too scared to tell the truth.  The same goes for the scheme to sell the county dump and a dozen others.   

 

When citizens had information regarding the solar scam, it was Watchdog -- NOT the NJ Herald -- who brought their information to the FBI, the United States Justice Department, and Attorney General's office.  It was Watchdog -- NOT the NJ Herald -- that arranged those meetings. Where was the Herald? This website has protected the anonymity of dozens of whistleblowers.  Would candidate Orr have us turn whistleblowers over to be punished? 

 

Just last week, the NJ Herald was ignoring the upcoming solar presentation until we published and they followed in the nick of time to help make sure citizens turned out.  But where is the Herald's editorial about the NO-BID CONTRACT handed to the law firm that both George Graham and Gail Phoebus said should have been fired for their handling of the bailout?  There is none. 

 

It was left to Watchdog to point out this turnabout by Freeholder Director Graham, who is now the biggest cheerleader for the firm he wanted fired last year.  The Herald doesn't rock the boat with advertisers.

 

In his letter, candidate Nathan Orr makes much of the 11 percent he picked up in the 2015 Republican primary for Assembly, in which he edged out Marie Bilik for third place (Parker Space and Gail Phoebus won easily).  What candidate Orr doesn't realize, and any political scientist will tell him, is that in a highly contested, negative-filled primary like that was; one in which every candidate was being attacked -- except for Orr, who was being entirely ignored -- he served as a kind of "none-of-the-above" opt-out for voters.  People weren't so much voting for him, because he did nothing to communicate his message, as they were voting against everyone else.  In fact, Nathan Orr has tested so poorly in subsequent polling, that he is no longer tested at all.  It is a waste of a question because nobody knows him.  Sorry.

 

But that hasn't stopped Nathan Orr from giving us all the benefit of his "wisdom" on some very complicated issues.  Orr is fond of stating the obvious, such as "our Legislature should be decreasing taxes" and even more so of putting down others with snarky, juvenile comments.  Nathan Orr is Sussex County's Rachel Maddow.

 

Here are some questions for this candidate and public figure:  Have you worked out a detailed plan to solve any problem, even a little one?  Can you come up with even a minor reform and then follow it through:  Meet with your legislators, ask them to set up a meeting with the Department of Transportation, and show them your better way?  Have you ever gone down to Trenton to testify for or against a piece of legislation?  Any legislation?  Anything at all?  Do you get involved in the local government of your town?  On an economic development committee even?  Have you ever worked with a democratic body of any kind to learn how difficult it is to find agreement?

 

And while we're at it, let's pose those questions to the other letter writers who seem to have all the answers, but who somehow never show up to do any of the hard work to actually make it happen.  Frankly, the NJ Herald letters page is beginning to sound like a stream-of-consciousness play set in a bar. Everything is simpler looking through the bottom of beer glass.  "Come on Joe, let's have another, if we keep drinking like this we'll solve all of America's problems and the world's too!"

 

Nathan Orr is a particularly young version of an Ann Smulewicz type.  The comment pages of the Herald are full of this type:  People who are in politics but who lack the honesty to own up to it.  Instead, they push the idea that elected officials are some alien life form -- "bad", to their "good".  And corporations like Quincy Media exploit this to sell newspapers. 

 

They dehumanize fellow human beings so they can more easily urge others to destroy them.  So Steve Oroho, a neighbor, the football coach at Pope John, active in community organizations and charities, is portrayed as this evil alien being.  And they've done the same thing to farmer Parker Space, and military mom Alison Littell McHose, and businesswoman Gail Phoebus, and high school sports hero Gary Chiusano, and platoon leader Mike Strada, and businessman Jeff Parrott, and the list goes on and on.  All our neighbors, all people we know, all people who we can walk up and talk to anytime. 

 

The Nathan Orrs of the world don't talk to people, they talk at them.  They dehumanize them, turn them into "things" that need to be destroyed.  And corporations like Quincy Media exploit this to sell newspapers.  Maybe it's time we've learned more about the person behind the corporate label -- Mr. Ralph Oakley of Quincy, Illinois -- before allowing him to manipulate us into hating our neighbors?

Thursday
Jul282016

Senate candidate Mark Quick tossed from bar

There have been some competing Facebook stories regarding what happened at the bar of the Marquis Room at the Lafayette House Wednesday evening.  What is certain is that self-declared Senate candidate Mark D. Quick ended up being asked to leave, after being warned several times about his foul and aggressive language by a female bar manager.

The incident happened while, in another part of the building, Senator Steve Oroho was conducting a workshop with local elected officials aimed at coming up with ideas on how to address problems of waste and inefficiency in transportation related construction.  The meeting was targeted by people who, frankly, appeared to want to disrupt it. 

So it was a good thing that it was kept private and professional, with nobody playing to the cameras, and nobody having to contend with screaming and cursing and threats of violence.  After all, Sussex County isn't Afghanistan.  Nor should it be.

Outside the meeting, about 20 members of the public had gathered to support "funding the TTF" (Transportation Trust Fund) or to oppose "the gas tax" (presumably A-12, which has nothing to do with Senator Oroho anyway).  Many of those who supported TTF funding worked on construction projects that had now stopped, so they in-effect, are laid-off from their jobs and not earning for their families.  Their opponents were led by former Green Party Assembly-candidate Ken Collins and his wife and supporters, plus former Reform Party Assembly-candidate Mark Quick and his fishing buddy Doug Thomas.

Political operative Bill Winkler stopped by the meeting but was informed that it was a closed session, where upon he went outside and found his friend Mark Quick hollering at the dozen or so members of the public who had shown up in support of funding the Transportation Trust Fund.  Mark was wearing a Space-Phoebus for Assembly tee-shirt, an act of commonality with Winkler, who managed successful political campaigns for both Republican Assemblyman Parker Space (in 2010, 2013, and 2015) and Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus (in 2012 and 2015).  Quick and Winkler travelled together to Atlantic City in February 2015 for Assemblyman Jon Bramnick's two-day statewide event.

Quick and Winkler had a chat.  Now as anyone who knows Quick knows, a "chat" with Mark Quick consists mainly of him talking very loudly in a kind of sustained rant.  From time to time, Quick will also mention how he wants to "shoot" or otherwise "kill" someone but, it must be added, when asked about this he insists that his use of these and similar words are simply metaphorical and part of his colorful charm.

As it was very hot outside in the sun, Winkler -- a somewhat fat, older man with a rapidly reddening bald pate -- suggested going to the public bar for a beer.  On the way in the pair said hello to Rob Jennings, reporter for the New Jersey Herald.  At the bar, they were joined by a friend of Winkler's who roasts coffee in his hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania.  The two Pennsylvanians asked for Stella, while Quick opted for a powerful 7% beer aged in Jack Daniels whiskey kegs.

Quick announced that he was running for State Senate against Steve Oroho, and that he had the support of Parker and Jill Space.  When Winkler said that was nonsense (Oroho, Space, and Phoebus share a legislative office and staff), Quick insisted that the state committeewoman and recent delegate to the national convention was a big supporter, along with many local elected officials.  To be fair, anyone familiar with Quick is all too familiar with these kinds of boasts.

After the second beer, Winkler suggested they eat, but Quick wasn't hungry.  By then the bar manager had told him to quiet down a couple times, at one point, playfully splashing water on them from a glass, with her fingers.  Doug Thomas had joined them, and the talk had turned to fishing and the superior taste of river caught cat fish to those farm-raised.  There was a brief argument between Quick and the coffee roaster about pulling cat fish out of the river near Yardley, which the coffee roaster advised against on account of it being down-river from the Lambertville sewage plant.  Quick even got into it with his fishing buddy, when Thomas and Winkler spoke highly of Steve Lonegan, and Quick strongly disagreed.

Then Kelly Ann Hart appeared, said hello, and Quick got very loud about Hart's cousin, Roseann Salinitri, president of a local Tea Party group.  Quick doesn't like Mrs. Salanitri very much and the same goes, apparently, for Ann Kievit, Hart's mother, the widow of the late Mayor of Hardyston.  Quick called the women in Hart's family, "fat asses" for some reason.  He started yelling and it escalated into contact, that could have been the result of Quick tumbling from his bar stool.  At this point the bar manager told him that he had to leave and Doug Thomas quickly took him outside.  In fairness to Quick, he was drinking strong beer, his body-weight is certainly not Winkler's, he should have eaten, alcohol diminishes the hearing (which in Quick's case isn't good in the first place), but he was certainly not at his best for losing control and for talking very rudely to a woman. 

Winkler and the coffee roaster finished their beers.  It was now after 8 PM, the workshop ended, so the two, with Hart went to the other end of the Lafayette House to find that the meeting was winding down.  The doors were now unmanned, so Winkler and the coffee roaster snuck in the back. 

The meeting broke up a few minutes later.  Time enough for Winkler and Andover Committeeman Jack Burke to engage in a bear hug and have their picture taken together for the benefit of mutual friend Tom Walsh.  They were joined by Lou Crescitelli, chief of staff for Assemblyman Space and Assemblywoman Phoebus, who was the reason for Winkler's visit in the first place.

Wednesday
Jul272016

Has the NJ Herald become part of the story?

The New Jersey Herald has become a very dodgy newspaper.  It suppresses stories as a favor to major advertisers, as in the case of the Sussex Community College, and directly steps into campaigns to rearrange the "balance" or place a "thumb on the scale." 

The Herald doesn't follow a story, it sets a narrative and then writes the story to fit -- even if it's like putting a square peg into a round hole.  To ensure that its reporters stick to the narrative, it plays them off against each other for plum assignments.  The goal is to please the boss and you do that by screwing whoever he happens to have a hard on for.  And you can always tell who the boss has a hard on for. 

Lately, the man the Herald dreams about screwing is Senator Steve Oroho.  And not just because he's the only legislator in Sussex County who doesn't have a business that advertises with the Herald.  The Herald wants to be a political party boss, wants to pick winners and losers in politics, wants its butt kissed by candidates and office holders.

The Herald likes drama -- and when there is no drama they assign a reporter to manufacture it.  And that means stepping directly into campaigns and taking part, favoring one side over another. 

Here are a few instances when a Herald reporter has directly got involved in a political campaign, looking to destroy one side in favor of another.  It is a simple story -- one that can be told in just three text messages:

(1) Hey guys, I'm writing such slanted shit on behalf of your campaign, that if I keep it up, somebody is going to notice.

------ SMS ------

From: XXXXXXXXXX

Received: Apr 14, 2015 4:21 PM

I need to talk to you about XXXXXXXXXXXX. Simply put, there's no way I can retain my credibility as a journalist if I don't, in some way, address XXXXXX's reasons for voting to do the original solar project in 2011 without seeking voter approval then. If I don't, people will come to see me as a shill for the XXXXXXXXX campaign, and I can't have that happen.

(2) Hey guys, the candidates' debate is coming up.  How about it if the Herald lets your campaign choose which questions we ask your opponents?

------ SMS ------

From: XXXXXXXXXX

Received: May 18, 2015 4:11 PM

BTW, we're still trying to come up with a specific question for XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX. The list if questions is being finalized tonight. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

(3) Hey guys, I know the primary is over, but shouldn't we totally destroy your opponent so that he can't try a comeback in 2016?

------ SMS ------

From: XXXXXXXXXX

Received: Aug 1, 2015 1:21 PM

Do you know anything about a sexual harassment lawsuit or some such thing being filed against XXXXXXXXXX several years ago back when he was XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX?...XXXXX had mentioned something about it to me a while back, said she believes it was settled. I'd sure love to get my hands on it, though.

This is not journalism.  It is waging a political campaign.

Leaked Emails: Politico’s Ken Vogel Filed Story with DNC Before His Own Editors.  Like Hillary and the DNC, Sussex County has its own media corruption problem.

Tuesday
Jul262016

Questions on Solar for Wed. night Freeholder mtg.

Here is what Freeholder George Graham said in 2015 about the people who he intends to give a no-bid contract to at Wednesday night's Freeholder Board meeting:

 

"It's all the same people that dug the hole, and every time I ask for a clear, third-party fresh set of eyes, they throw in somebody else that appears out of the past. How many times can you recycle the same names? Are they protecting specific people, or are they protecting the county?” (NJ Herald, March 28, 2015)

 

This is what then Freeholder (now Assemblywoman) Gail Phoebus said:

 

"Mr. Weinstein had clear conflicts of interest. Far from recommending ‘independent' counsel to guide us through a complex negotiation, you led us to the partner of the attorney who shares responsibility with you for failing to obtain a performance bond... All of this raises serious questions.  (While) Mr. Weinstein negotiated the solar project settlement and rendered advice to the freeholder board, whose interests was he serving”? (NJ Herald, March 28, 2015)

 

Solar activist Harvey Roseff has followed this issue for some time.  Below is taken from what he publicly posted today.  Roseff first provides some background before he asks specific questions:

In 2011, Sussex County was one of three counties (with Morris and Somerset) recruited into a solar program by the Morris County Improvement Authority (and its equivalent in Somerset County).  The MCIA facilitated a solar program that had local government units contract directly with a developer for solar power.  Some believed it was for low cost solar power.  What they were not told was that Somerset County's rate in the same program was 4.1cents/kwH, while Sussex County's rate was 9.35cents/kwH (both escalate similarly each year).  So the Freeholders allowed Sussex County taxpayers to be taken from the start.

Sussex County guaranteed the developer bonds, the developer promised self financed equity of $7,800,000 and referred to its $30,000,000 solar fund to confirm its financial stability.

The developer, Sunlight corporation, A SINGLE BIDDER, was about to miss its first bond/lease payment in 2012/3.  This was a FIRST bond payment. Where was Sunlight's skin in the game?  The private money was a mirage.

Sussex County and local governments then changed the solar project special purpose entity contracts (which also impacts bonding) -- allowing the developer to raid previously protected taxpayer construction funds to hide that Sussex County taxpayers had been baited and switched.  It turned out Sussex County had contracted with hollow shell companies.  Taxpayer protections were ripped away, yet taxpayers had done no wrong.  Where was County management?  The SEC? Our Archer & Greiner bond counsel?  County counsel?  MCIA counsel?  MCIA?

Some may say the project strife in 2012-4 was caused by awful preparatory engineering.  One of the key engineering companies was Birdsall, then enmeshed elsewhere in a huge pay-to-play scandal encompassing large parts of New Jersey. Birdsall was associated with Sussex County's bond counsel, who is still on the county payroll.  This same law firm gave a political contribution of $2000 to Freeholder Director Graham for the June 2016 primary election.

Sussex County was never found in Court to be at fault.  It was the developer, Sunlight corporation, who lost in arbitration to its former "partner", the contractor Mastec corporation.  Sussex County won, all the way through to the NJ Supreme Court.  But even after Sussex County won every case, the county's legal team, its Freeholders, and administrators allowed the bill to go to the taxpayers of Sussex County.  Why?

Sunlight corporation was found to be at fault primarily because it allowed too many changes to the solar program's engineering and siting.  This happened again in 2015/16.  Are we once again paying for the same shoddy program management and engineering?

Mastec corporation now had a problem to collect from Sunlight corporation.  Mastec discovered, as Sussex County and local governments did in 2013, that Sunlight's promise of $7.8million and a $30million "solar fund" was, well, it wasn't there.  Sussex County negotiated the contracts -- where was the money and why did it escape unnoticed? 

So after years of solar program strife, County then hired a special counsel for settlement negotiations from the same firm responsible for oversight of the original deal.

Sussex County agreed to bailout the private corporations involved by raiding our "Homestead" piggy bank for $7million.  We capped Sunlight's maintenance costs for the rest of the 15 year program.  Sussex taxpayers assumed Sunlight's project risk.  The public was told "only" $7million more, but there was a hidden $3million risk -- Sussex County had guaranteed a new 1 year loan from Mastec to the hollow shell of Sunlight.

Nobody in county government can seem to produce the Freeholder Resolution that guaranteed this loan.  Sussex County can't provide the Mastec - Sunlight loan agreement. 

 

How do you guarantee a loan without seeing it?

 

Then, in May 2015, when Sussex County issued a bond to pay this "guarantee" on the 1 year loan between Sunlight and Mastec, the County didn't declare in the Resolution that there was a loan default by Sunlight. 

 

HOW CAN THE COUNTY PAY OFF A LOAN GUARANTEE WITHOUT DECLARING THE BORROWER IS IN DEFAULT AND STATING THIS IN THE BOND RESOLUTION?

The same law firm that is set to receive the no-bid contract this evening, negotiated this bailout, and was bond counsel.  While Freeholder Director Graham has publicly proclaimed he wants "new eyes" at tomorrow's Freeholder Board meeting he will bring back the same old set of eyes. 

As for the public's eyes, Roseff hopes Sussex taxpayers get a thorough, detailed presentation from the County.  Roseff claims that the County has ignored teh state's Open Public Records Act.  The County even denied "previously released" financial forecasta and the raw data to back them up. 

Documents like SREC certificates earned, in inventory and sales contracts; federal 1603 applications, audits, bank statements, lease payments, bond payments, ... have all been denied for two months.  

So here are some questions, posed by Harvey Roseff, but limited because some information has been withheld legally or illegally.  The questions are:

1. Why is the same law firm, responsible for the solar mess, getting a no-bid contract? Is it the $2,000 political donation? Where are our managers?

2. For months, why does county government not release documents that OPRA says must be released?

3. Where is the $375,000 security for tearing down the solar farms at the end of their life? Is it supposed to be in "Account # 156291009" named the "Restoration Security Fund"?  It was ridiculously small to begin with, however, did Sussex County allow Sunlight corporation to yet again use funds that were meant to protect the taxpayer?

4. Who was responsible for the accounting and when did these errors occur?  Please detail how the loss zoomed from $900,000 in 2015 to $2,600,000 in 2016. The county government passed this loss to residents in our property taxes, yet in 2016 the program is the same half built program it has been for years with only an additional ~ $423,000 in debt payments.  Sussex County Freeholders refused to discuss this at the budget meeting, please detail the $2.6million loss in 2016.


5. Did Sunlight corporation install "net metering" and how are these cash flows accounted for?  In the program documents provided to Harvey Roseff, he curiously couldn't find mention of "net metering", but he has been told by those at high levels, that net-metering is in place.  If so, in which Trustee bank account is this money placed?  Has this money been going to the taxpayer?

6. Who pays anew for Sunlight corporation's 2015/16 management failures? Sunlight promised a December 2015 build-out to gain its taxpayer bailout. With the bailout, we paid for Sunlight's business mistakes and failures in the past. Sunlight once again failed, after being able to prepare for this build-out moment for 3 years.  Remember, they are the "solar experts" with the $30million solar fund. 

Is the taxpayer being compensated for the approximate $120,000/month cost for Sunlight's failure to deliver on its promises in the bailout?

7. Freeholder Rose has publicly stated that Jingoli corporation has no real authority.  When did the Freeholder Board vote on Jingoli corporation to replace our contracted party in project discussions?  Who in county government approved that the interloper should be Jingoli?

8. Taxpayers provided an immediate bailout to Sunlight in 2015, while Sunlight promised future performance.  Who is paying for Sunlight's new failures? There were 3 years to determine correct sites, inspect for strong roofs, establish power studies.  What are the numbers?

a. Will Sunlight meet the solar program's contracted for power generation target? If not, who pays for 15 years of revenue shortages?

b. Does Sunlight bear the cost of the 2015-16 years of constantly changing, wasteful solar program management and engineering?

c. Who ultimately pays for Sunlight's new "owner's rep", Jingoli? 

d. Where are the Restoration security funds?  What account?

e. Are there net-metering fund flows to Sunlight?  Is this proper as the taxpayer has been paying for Sunlight bond payment defaults since 2013 (Consents 1, 2 and 3)?

Tuesday
Jul262016

No-bid contract up at Wednesday Freeholder meeting

The forces who gave us the $80 million rip-off known as the solar scam have pulled-off another brilliant maneuver.  While orchestrating a hate campaign against Senator Steve Oroho -- and getting their dupes in the media and local government to focus on that -- they are bringing back the same lawyers who last year then-Freeholder (now Assemblywoman) Gail Phoebus said should have been fired for their mishandling of the solar project.

Instead of exposing this no-bid scheme, the NJ Herald has placed a media blackout on the Freeholder meeting -- scheduled for 6pm on Wednesday, July 27th -- and instead of reminding people to attend, suggested that they crash a private meeting being held miles away at the same time.

Below are the agenda items that the taxpayers of Sussex County should pay very close attention to: