Daily Archives: November 14, 2011

Senator Lautenberg, Congressman Pallone Call for Action to Eliminate Sudden Infant Death, Stillbirth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 14, 2011
New Brunswick, NJ –Senator Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Monday stood with advocates, doctors and parents who have been affected by either a sudden infant death or stillbirth to call for action on legislation that would have a significant impact finding the causes, raising awareness about and preventing deaths that leave so many families with more questions than answers.
“There is no greater tragedy than when a parent loses a child – but when that child is an infant, the pain is unbearable,” said Senator Lautenberg, “This bill will improve the way we collect data about these deaths so that researchers have the information they need, and it will provide families with the information and support they deserve. It’s time to finally unravel the mysteries behind these deaths.”
Every year, there are more than 25,000 stillbirths in the United States. Many of these deaths are the result of birth defects, infections, umbilical cord problems, and chronic conditions of the mother. However, there is no known cause for as many as half of all stillbirths, leaving many parents without explanations for their loss.
“No parent should have to endure the pain of losing a child, especially without knowing why that child was taken from them so soon,” said Pallone. “Our legislation works for a better chance at life for our nation’s children and works to answer the questions parents face after they lose a child unexpectedly.”

There are more than 4,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths each year and another 200 children between the ages 1 and 4 die without any obvious cause. Additional tragedies could be prevented if there were a better understanding of the deaths.
At the event, which took place at UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Pallone and Lautenberg stood with parents who have experienced a loss due to a sudden unexplained infant death as well as leaders in the medical profession from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the SIDS Center of New Jersey who are on the forefront of preventing these deaths in children.
Lautenberg and Pallone Monday introduced legislation that will contribute significantly to better understanding the causes of these conditions. The Stillbirth and SUID Prevention, Education, and Awareness Act would:
  • Expand current data collection activities to identify the causes of stillbirth and ways to prevent it in the future;
  • Create a national public awareness and education campaign to educate women about the risk factors for stillbirth, educate women about the importance of prenatal care, and educate parents and caregivers about known SUID risk factors;
  • Expand support services, such as grief counseling, for families who have experienced a stillbirth or SUID loss;
  • Encourage states and local entities to complete scene investigations and autopsies to help determine causes of SUIDs;
  • Expand child death review programs to review the circumstances surrounding infant and child deaths;
  • Establish a national database to track SUID deaths and identify risk factors.

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Filed under Congressman Frank Pallone, press release, risk factors, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome, SUIDS, US. Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Meet Gov. Christie’s Million-Dollar Triple-Dipper

Meet the Governor’s Million-Dollar Triple-Dipper

CHRISTIE’S ‘RETIRED’ BUDGET GURU POCKETS $1M IN PUBLIC PAYOUTS

One of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s key advisers has received three golden parachutes from taxpayers during the past nine years.

Cabinet Secretary Louis C. Goetting IV raked home $1.1 million from two severance payouts and an early retirement deal. In addition, Goetting collects $219,000 a year from the state – a $130,000 salary plus $89,000 in pension payments.

Christie hired Goetting (pronounced “getting”) in 2010 as a budget guru to help trim the cost of government. But Goetting resembles a problem, not a solution, according to a New Jersey Watchdog analysis of his employment history. Prior to joining Christie’s senior staff:

Goetting received $190,000 plus perks when forced to resign as executive vice president of Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County, effective June 2009.

Goetting collected $180,000 in severance pay after he resigned as a vice president at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, effective Jan. 1, 2003,

That same day, Goetting “retired” as a state employee at age 51, taking advantage of a state Early Retirement Incentive Program. From that pension, he receives 89,000 a year.

So far, Goetting has triple-dipped roughly $1.1 million from public coffers. He has collected $734,000 in early retirement checks from the state in addition to $370,000 in payouts from Brookdale and UMDNJ. And that doesn’t count his pay from the governor’s office.

Goetting’s good fortune illustrates weaknesses in Christie’s pension reforms, which the governor has called his “biggest governmental victory.” In addition, Christie has publicly opposed severance deals similar to the ones Goetting has gotten.

For the full story, click here or visit www.njwatchdog.org. New Jersey Watchdog’s Mark Lagerkvist can be contacted at Mark@Lagerkvist.net.

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Filed under Brookdale Community College, double dipping, Gov. Chris Christie, Louis C. Goetting, Mark Lagerkvist, New Jersey Watchdog, UMDNJ

Highlights From The Sewerage Authority Board Meeting Of November 10, 2011.

by guest blogger Linda Baum

I attended my first Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) board meeting on Thursday night, November 10th. I got there about ten minutes early. There was a conversation going on that promptly ended. The moment I walked in, Pat Parkinson jumped up to introduce himself and get my name. I felt set upon. I shook his hand because he caught me off guard, but gave him only my first name. It took him about a minute to run out of the room to inquire, and I heard my full name mentioned in the hall by someone I didn’t see, and who didn’t see me, when I walked in. So I had to wonder how that person knew who I was. The front gate took a long time to open when I arrived, so it appears someone is watching. In fact, the gate remained closed for so long that I thought I had come to the wrong place and had begun to back up to leave when it finally opened.

Chairperson Chantal Bouw also came over to introduce herself and get my name — she wasn’t there for the Parkinson maneuver. At that point I was annoyed and admit I was impolite.

When it was time for public comments at the end of the meeting, I said that never before had I attended a public meeting and had so many people in a tizzy to know who I was. I said that it was a public meeting and I was a member of the public and expected to just come in and sit down. Ms. Bouw said they rarely had visitors and wanted to make the public feel welcome and part of the process. I said a better way to do that (besides leaving the gate open!) is to make more information accessible easily and at no cost, and mentioned all the information they could be providing via email and on their website like the Town does — financial documents, agendas, resolutions, etc. (And by the way, even the documents the town offers are just the tip of the iceberg.) Parkinson said that people are welcome to come in during office hours and review documents, and I said no they aren’t because not everyone is free during the day and some people are disabled and can’t easily make the trip.

I also said TOMSA’s copy fees are unreasonably high and further deter people from obtaining the information. (Per their OPRA form, the first 10 pages will cost you a hefty $7.50, and 100 pages will cost you $32.50. Compare that to the Town’s charges for paper copies, for which 100 pages would cost you $5 for letter size or $7 for legal. However the Town typically emails material at no charge. TOMSA does not.)

Parkinson said that they are a small operation and that copy fees are to offset their costs. I can’t recall if I mentioned the $750K surplus gifted to the town over the last two years, which shows TOMSA doesn’t need the additional source of revenue. Parkinson said that most people are not interested in financial documents, anyway. The fact is he has no way of knowing that — maybe they just don’t want to pay the $50 bucks for them! I said it didn’t matter how many people were interested in the information, that TOMSA is a public entity and should be providing it. Then someone whom I believe may be their attorney stated they are in full compliance with the Open Public Records Act. (A very Brian Nelson-esque comment.) I said the Act didn’t preclude them from providing information and wasn’t meant to be a guide as to what they should be providing.

There was no notebook with copies of resolutions and ordinances for me to look through like there is at Town Committee meetings. There should be that at least since TOMSA doesn’t list the documents on their website. This is something else they could do to make “the public feel welcome and part of the process”, as Ms. Bouw put it.

They were all pleasant at first but started to steel themselves during my comments. Parkinson finally launched into talking points that reminded me of what we hear at Town Committee meetings. He offered familiar comparisons about operating at lower cost than other towns. I let it slide but next time may point out the $750K surplus and excess benefits, without which operating costs would be much less. He also said something about providing services they don’t charge for, like timely response when a resident is having a problem. I said those aren’t free services, that residents already pay fees for that.

There was mention that the solar bids are due December 1st from the County. Currently, TOMSA is paying about 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, which includes the delivery charge.

Aside from the professionals in attendance, board members there were Chantal Bouw, Emil Wrede, Tom Stokes, and Charles Rogers. Absent were Joan Smith and James Hinckley.

I learned that Emil Wrede and Joan Smith are actually alternate members, even though Joan Smith is listed as Secretary/Treasurer on the TOMSA website and Emil Wrede is listed as Commissioner. There is no mention of their “alternate” status. According to Ms. Bouw, the TOMSA board is actually a five-member board that currently has one empty seat that was vacated by Cliff Raisch earlier this year.

It will be interesting to see if that empty seat is filled because any new board appointee would not receive pension and medical benefits, which were stripped per a 2009 Town ordinance. That ordinance also “grandfathered in” those benefits for existing board members, whose compensation was never meant to include them.

When I had no more comments, Ms. Bouw stated that business was concluded and that there would be no executive session. No one said otherwise. Yet, with the exception of two staffers, no one was leaving and they were clearly waiting for me to leave. I did, only to realize afterwards that there was no formal vote to close the public meeting in line with Robert’s Rules of Order. And today I noticed that the last page of the meeting agenda does list an executive session as the last item.

I was in my car but hadn’t left yet when I realized I should pick up a copy of the OPRA form before going because it’s not on the TOMSA website. I went back in to find the conference room door closed. So, was that an executive session or a continuation of the public meeting, which was never formally closed? And will there be minutes for that non-public discussion, I wonder?

A woman was in the office when I came back in and she provided me the OPRA form. Per quick glance at it, I saw no information for submitting it other than a street address, so asked for the fax number. I asked a few other questions about the process, but the woman said she didn’t know and that Mr. Parkinson was the person to ask. She then went into the conference room to let them know I was there.

Parkinson came running out, happy to help. As long as I had the opportunity, I pointed out to him that the fees listed on the OPRA form were much higher than what he quoted during the meeting – the starting price is 75 cents per page, not the 25 cents he quoted. He said he didn’t know those details exactly. That struck me as insincere. The policy has been the same for years, and there has been plenty of criticism of TOMSA’s fees and overly burdensome records request process, enough that he should be well familiar with all the rules. He’s the executive director, so he set the policy, didn’t he?

What’s interesting to note is that Mr. Parkinson made a habit that evening of rushing over to help. In one instance, as two TOMSA staffers were leaving at the end of the public portion of the meeting, I stopped them to ask their names. In a flash, Parkinson was between us, offering to help. It was ridiculous. He was clearly running interference. I think the question is, why did he feel the need to?

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Filed under guest blogger, Linda Baum, Meeting Minutes, OPRA requests, TOMSA