Entries in Bruce Scruton (4)


Democrats oppose reform to prevent future solar scams

At last night's NJ Herald debate, Democrat candidate for Freeholder Patrick Curreri came out squarely against the reform that would have prevented the solar program that ended in a $26 million debt for Sussex County Taxpayers.  Four Freeholder candidates held the debate in Newton this evening, Democrat Howard Zatkowsky was absent.

Democrat Curreri opposed the steps taken by neighboring Warren County which has established the requirement of voter approval for discretionary county bonding for projects such as the one that became the solar debacle in Sussex County.  The reform has been so successful in Warren County that the county has been able to cut property taxes there.  In contrast, Sussex County has had to raise its property taxes year after year.

Warren County passed the reform in a 2013 ordinance which requires voter approval for bonding that exceeds 2 percent of the annual appropriations of the county.  As Freeholder Herb Yardley said:  "This ordinance would provide a check on spending.  It would slow down the process of acquiring debt and it would force it out into the open to be debated publicly and then voted up or down."

The reform being proposed is one that is already used by local towns.  In 2017, Newton voters shot down a school bonding referendum.  The voters of Newton had the opportunity to take on $18 million at a cost to them and their families of $337 per household for the next 20 years.  They weighed the benefits with the costs and said NO.  This reform places county government under the same discipline.  It is a reform that expands transparency and democracy.

At the close of the debate, Curreri had the opportunity to correct his position on reform, but when asked by Herald reporter Bruce Scruton directly, he reiterated his opposition to no borrowing without the approval of the voters.  Curreri said he OPPOSED the reform on live video and to the crowd in Newton.


Phoebus flip-flops on Gas Tax Question

Speaking at a meeting in Newton Wednesday night, Assemblyperson Gail Phoebus executed an about-face on protecting gas tax revenue for transportation projects. 


When asked how she would vote on Ballot Question 2, Phoebus gave the old "my issues are your issues" response and told those present that she would vote whatever way they wanted her to vote.  Phoebus didn't mention that she had voted for Ballot Question 2 earlier this year, when it was discussed and debated for months on its way through the Legislature.


Was she awake during those legislative proceedings?  Was she playing video games on her iphone? 


Apparently Assemblyperson Phoebus scares easily.  A combination of Alt-Right "Red Shirts" led by Bill Spadea (who was tossed out of the GOP twenty years ago for attacking President Reagan and trying to set up a far-right alternative to the Republican Party) and far-left liberals like Democrat State Senator Ray "Lord of Ass" Lesniak (New Jersey's biggest proponent of left-liberal cultural values) are trying to defeat Ballot Question 2.


For Spadea, it is about power.  If he can derail the vote, he can build his new order movement and split the GOP.  For Lesniak, it is about giving the majority Democrats in the Legislature the power to take the money from the gas tax and use it to do things like replenish the funding for Planned Parenthood that Governor Christie took away.


According to the nationally-recognized, non-partisan organization ballotpedia, the purpose of Ballot Question 2 is easy to understand:


A "yes" vote supports this proposal to dedicate all revenue from gas taxes to transportation projects.

A "no" vote opposes this proposal, thus devoting the same levels of revenue to transportation projects.


The non-partisan organization ballotpedia.org provides the following details:


Amendment design

Question 2 would create a constitutional requirement that all revenue derived from taxes on motor fuels be deposited into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).[1] Currently, only 10.5 cents of the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is required to be deposited into the TTF.

Transportation Trust Fund

Question 2 would require all revenue from tax revenues on motor fuels to be deposited into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). The TTF was designed to fund the Department of Transportation and NJ Transit, which then use the revenue for transportation-related projects.[2] 


Phoebus has consistently voted against placing questions on the ballot that she opposes, so her opposition to a ballot question she strongly supported is a remarkable, although not unprecedented, flip-flop.


It will be remembered that as a Freeholder, Phoebus seconded sending a letter urging support for an increase in the gas tax to fund the Transportation Trust Fund and prevent a property tax increase.  She later voted against the gas tax increase and for the property tax hike.


As a candidate for the Assembly, Phoebus was less than honest when she denied voting to send the letter (she had seconded the motion and voted for it).  She also compounded that untruth by denying it on her campaign literature and website.  


Phoebus' latest flip-flop is even more remarkable because the Assemblyperson must be aware that her Democrat colleagues are itching to get their hands on the new revenues from the gas tax to send them to their urban districts.  During her talk Wednesday night, Phoebus expressed her strong support for mass transit and her wish to expand mass transit into Sussex County.


The Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project is almost completed but could end up being scrapped if the gas tax revenue that should rightfully go to transportation, ends up in the pockets of urban Democrat Party bosses.  The Andover Township council is pushing strongly for this expansion of mass transit in Sussex County and their efforts will be for naught if Ballot Question 2 is defeated.


There are countless examples of how funds raised for one purpose are misused for another.  The diversion of fees from the state's 9-1-1 program would not be happening if there was a Ballot Question 2 protecting how it should be spent.


Ballot Question 2 is the only way we can make sure that the revenue raised from the gas tax is spent in the way it was intended to be spent -- on transportation projects like roads and bridges and the Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project.  Sadly, Gail Phoebus is missing on this when it counts.


The Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project is doomed without a YES vote on Ballot Question 2.


Update:  In this morning's New Jersey Herald, Assemblywoman Phoebus denies knowing in January 2016 that there were negotiations on-going that included a gas tax increase.  This is, of course, less than honest.  In November of 2014, then Freeholder Phoebus seconded a motion by the Freeholder Board to send a letter in support of an increase in the gas tax. 


The Minutes of the Freeholder Board meeting, including Phoebus' motion and her vote to send the letter, can be accessed below:




According to New Jersey Herald (November 25, 2014) reporter Bruce Scruton, Phoebus and her Freeholder colleagues clearly understood the need for a gas tax increase:


“I never thought I'd be in favor of increasing taxes."


"They do need to cut some costs down there, but the roads and bridges need to be funded.”


"Most of the ideas being considered by the state Legislature are on some form of tax or 'assessment,' whether from raising the state's gasoline tax, a sales tax on gasoline or possibly an assessment on the suppliers."


In the light of Phoebus' vote in November 2014 and these comments, Phoebus' comments today in the Herald appear to be willfully misleading.


Eskilson memo shows Crabb lied

On Sunday, April 12, 2014, the New Jersey Herald gave Freeholder Director Phil Crabb an entire page (over 1,800 words) in which to give his version of the events that led to the Sussex County Freeholder Board being convinced that the "Morris Model" solar program  was a good idea that deserved the County's support. 

Crabb wrote that on February 10, 2011, there was a "committee" formed of two Freeholders and "the county administrator, county chief financial officer and county budget director, along with Morris County counsels John Inglesino and Stephen Pearlman of the law firm Inglesino & Pearlman."  According to Crabb, this "committee" (Crabb's word for it) "met to discuss Sussex County's possible participation" in the "Morris Model" solar program.

There is no record of such a "committee" ever being created . 

The New Jersey Herald was well aware of this, as is Freeholder Director Crabb.  In a memo to the Freeholders from County Administrator John Eskilson, dated February 22, 2011, Eskilson wrote:

Bruce Scruton placed his usual Freeholder Agenda call earlier this afternoon. 

Eskilson then details, for the Freeholders (including Crabb) the information he provided the Herald's Scruton:

RESOLUTION J. Agreement with Morris County Improvement Authority to establish Sussex County solar energy initiative...  Capital Projects Committee and Budget Committee have discussed and are considering establishing pool of seed $ in 2011 Capital Budget. First step will be to conduct educational meetings for municipalities and school boards sometime in March.  Projects could conceivably be bid by late 3d quarter/early 4th  quarter 2011.

That is right.  In the usual and customary way, there were two standing committees of the Freeholder Board that discussed this with the lawyers from Morris County and not, as Crabb wrote, a special "committee" composed of 7 people.  That is what they call, a lie. 

And it's a lie by someone who knew the truth but lied anyway.  That liar is Phil Crabb.

Freeholder Director Phil Crabb brags about how cozy he is with New Jersey Herald reporter Bruce Scruton.  They play cards together, according to Crabb.  So we have to ask, did this cozy relationship play a role in the Herald's failure to catch Crabb's lie?

After Eskilson's discussion with Scruton, on the morning of the vote by the Freeholder Board (February 23, 2011), the Herald published this story by Scruton:

NEWTON – Sussex County is signing an agreement with Morris County that will give local county municipalities and school boards access to the Morris County Improvement Authority’s buying power for solar projects.

Under the agreement, which the Board of Chosen Freeholders will vote on today, towns and schools can get a feasibility study of their facilities done for about $5,000 and by the end of the year could have a project ready for bid, according to Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson.

He said a series of seminars for municipalities and school officials will be held in Sussex County over the next few weeks. Localities interested in sending representatives can contact his office.

The freeholder meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at the County Administrative Center, 1 Spring St.

The authority has already done 19 facilities in Morris County, which are producing 3.2 megawatts of power at a cost of about 10.6 cents per kilowatt hour.

The agreement will allow the Sussex County agencies to work directly with consultants, engineers and bond counsel already contracted to Morris County, Eskilson said.  

There are various state and federal programs which encourage development of solar energy production, such as energy production credits which, in some cases, can then be converted directly into cash.  

Scruton's report on the planned solar program was a less detailed version of Eskilson's spin.  It certainly lacked scrutiny.

As for who introduced John Inglesino and Stephen Pearlman to the Sussex County Freeholder Board, now that is another lie on the part of Freeholder Director Crabb.  This is what Crabb wrote in the Herald on Sunday, April 12, 2015:

In early 2011, the county freeholders were approached by the Morris County Improvement Authority to consider participating in the next rollout of its highly successful renewable energy program to local schools and government agencies.

The concept, called the “Morris Model,” was held up nationally as an example of how to produce renewable energy through public-private partnerships. It was the second project of its kind and the previous one was hailed as a success.

Actually, the guy who ran Phil Crabb's 2014 re-election effort was responsible for bringing the lawyers who were pitching the "Morris Model" into Sussex County.  Here is an email from that guy to County Administrator John Eskilson. Note the date.

----- Original Message -----
From: Rich Zeoli <rich@rzcimpact.com>
To: Eskilson, John
Sent: Thu Nov 04 07:38:47 2010
Subject: Re: Solar Leasing Agreement

I s/w with John Inglesino last night.  He also has some involvement in the solar realm now and closing on a project for Somerset County next week.  I think would be good to also meet with him.  He can come by Wed morning as well, around 9am if we want to do a one-two punch on this subject and reschedule whatever budget meeting we had at 9.  We could move that meeting to after the 10:30 solar meeting if that works.

It looks like Freeholder Director Crabb has some explaining to do.





Democrat is calling the shots on solar settlement

Why is a Democrat calling the shots on the push to settle the SunLight solar scheme? 

Why is this Democrat insisting that the people of Sussex County shut up and do as they are told -- without knowing the cost they will have to pay?

That Democrat is south Jersey lawyer David Weinstein of the Archer Greiner law firm.  Weinstein is County Administrator John Eskilson's "special solar counsel".

Weinstein was Democrat Municipal Chairman in Burlington County and is a Member of the Burlington County Democrat Committee.  He's run for office and was a big supporter of Governor Jon Corzine and President Obama.

Weinstein is ideologically committed to the idea of using solar power to replace traditional sources of energy.  Unfortunately, solar power hasn't been able to work as a significant source of energy without massive infusions of government support and taxpayers' money.  This suits the Democrats just fine.

On Friday, Bruce Scruton of the Herald reported that Freeholder Director Phil Crabb wanted to let the people of Sussex County know all the details of the proposed settlement to the solar scheme before the Freeholders voted on it:

Earlier this week, Crabb said he would recommend to his fellow board members that the intricacies of any possible solution be made public for full discussion before the board takes a vote on accepting or rejecting the proposal. The board would need to take a separate vote to allow what was discussed in executive session to be made public.

Freeholder Director Crabb -- as the leader of the elected Freeholder Board, the man who is supposed to be in charge -- was told "NO" by Democrat Weinstein and was made to go before the media to retract his earlier statement.  On Sunday, Bruce Scruton of the Herald reported:

 Freeholder Director Phil Crabb, who called for a full airing of the details earlier last week, said he was told by the county's special counsel that the settlement could still fall apart, so talking about details would be premature before Wednesday's meeting.

Reporting in the Herald, Scruton wrote:

David Weinstein, of the firm Archer Greiner and special counsel for the solar project, cautioned Freeholder Director Phil Crabb that many documents which the freeholders discussed during Thursday's session are still subject to negotiations and could be changed, and advised the board to withhold full documents from the public.

Weinstein isn't telling the truth.  He knows that the deal has already been finalized by SunLight General Capital and Power Partners MasTec.  The people have a right to see the details.  

The next line from the Herald story tells you who is really in charge (hint: it's not the Freeholder Board the people voted for):

He (Weinstein) and County Administrator John Eskilson discussed how the information can be released and said they should have a working framework put together by midday today.

Let's be clear.  These two are the bosses.  The Freeholder Board is make-believe.  Its Director is a panty waist.  The voters are only there to have someone to shake down.  The message is: You will be told only what we want you to know, when we want you to know it.

In today's Herald, Democrat Weinstein was doubling down.  Bruce Scruton told the story of how a political operator from south Jersey wasn't going to allow the people of Sussex County to know the details of the bill they are going to have to pay:   

However, David Weinstein of Archer Greiner, special counsel for the solar project, said details and documents should not be released since the deal is not done until the board votes.

Under the framework of the settlement, which Weinstein said could be discussed, the cost to county taxpayers is estimated to be $6.5 million over the next 13 years with most of that money being paid out of the county budget in the first years.

Who the hell does Weinstein think he is?

The reason this wheeler-dealer lawyer is blinding the people until it's too late is that he doesn't want us to have the knowledge to decide for ourselves on whether or not it's a good deal until after the deal is done.  Then we'll just have to bend over, shut up, and pay.