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Stomping Grounds: Covid report, Menendez, TikTok, and OPRA – New Jersey Globe

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Stomping Grounds: Covid report, Menendez, TikTok, and OPRA – New Jersey Globe


New Jerseyans aren’t always civil, but it’s still possible for a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican to have a rational and pleasant conversation about politics in the state.  Dan Bryan is a former senior advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy and is now the owner of his own public affairs firm, and chief strategist for Tammy Murphy’s Senate campaign, and Alex Wilkes is an attorney and former executive director of America Rising PAC who advises Republican candidates in New Jersey and across the nation, including the New Jersey GOP.  Dan and Alex are both experienced strategists who are currently in the room where high-level decisions are made.  They will get together weekly with New Jersey Globe editor David Wildstein to discuss politics and issues.

An independent report on New Jersey’s handling of the pandemic said that neither the state nor the federal government had an executable plan in place to handle the crisis and said New Jersey remains unready for another emergency.  There are 33 recommendations in the report.  Does this need to become a top-tier priority for the final year and a half of the Murphy administration?  And how closely should the governor’s office work with the legislature and local officials on this project?  

Alex Wilkes: This COVID report is essentially the document dump the Murphy Administration didn’t want anyone to see before the November elections in yet another calculated move to deprive voters of all the facts when making important decisions (Remember Ørsted, anyone?).

The proof of Murphy’s failures is in the number of people who met an untimely death as a result of the administration’s ineptitude – particularly as compared to similarly situated states, like Florida. Don’t take my word for it: look at the damning report from Joe Biden’s Department of Justice that described the despicable and constitutionally deficient conditions our veterans faced in Murphy’s state-run homes.

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Murphy learned nothing, and this report will not change that. How do we know? He named a building after the very woman who ignored whistleblowers in her own agency decrying the lack of PPE and protocols that would have kept people alive. They said explicitly: “people will die.” Murphy, in his own arrogance, will never admit that he was wrong then, so how can we expect him to take the appropriate steps going forward?

Dan Bryan: The report essentially showed what we knew all along: the Governor and his Administration did the best they could under extremely difficult circumstances.

We cannot forget the elephant in the room here: every state, including New Jersey, was essentially left to fend for themselves in the face of an unprecedented abdication of duty by Donald Trump’s administration. President Trump was far more concerned with the politics of the pandemic than with the federal government’s response. So what we got was a patchwork of inconsistent advice, resources doled out at a whim, and chaotic public messaging.

Could New Jersey have been better prepared? Of course, the Governor has said so many times himself. But let’s be fair: no one was prepared for this. When the pandemic hit, Governor Murphy and his administration worked tirelessly to save lives and provide sorely-needed leadership. The rest is all politics.

NBC News has reported that Bob Menendez might try to seek re-election as an independent. Even if he’s acquitted, could he really win enough votes to cause Democrats to lose this Senate seat?

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Dan: There is an extremely low probability that Senator Menendez makes it to the ballot in November, and an even lower probability that he would affect the general election in any real way.

Put it this way: in 2018, Senator Menendez, having just come off a corruption trial and with upside-down approval ratings, defeated a good self-funding Republican candidate by 12 points. I think we can safely call that the floor, or close to it. So do we think Senator Menendez, with approval ratings in the single digits and under multiple damning indictments, can register double digits in the polls, pulling solely and directly from the Democratic candidate?

It all seems like magical thinking to me. With Donald Trump leading the Republican ballot in a critical Presidential election, no Republican candidate, regardless of how good they are, will come within double digits of the Democratic candidate. Given that, Senator Menendez can certainly make some noise and make his presence felt, but he won’t have any real impact on the outcome of the election. New Jersey voters will send another Democrat to DC to take his place.

Alex: Weirder things have happened. Bob Menendez has nothing left to lose, and I think it’s dangerous to bet on his irrelevance 8 months out. Do I think he can engineer a successful sob story that fashions hiding cash and gold bars under the mattress as some quaint, misunderstood cultural difference? No. He already tried that in the Democratic primary and clearly failed.

Can he make a case that Biden’s Department of Justice unfairly targets its political enemies? Another candidate is doing so very successfully. He’d have to bring the goods to back it up, of course, but the thing people might like even less than Bob Menendez right now is Washington.

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I think in the very least it makes it interesting – maybe even significant – particularly if he can use the skeletons he has left after saving his son to really turn New Jersey politics upside down.

We haven’t seen a lot of policy differences between Tammy Murphy and Tammy Kim, but they’re on different sides on banning TikTok from American app stores.  In the House, the bill had broad bipartisan support, but here were are, debating it in New Jersey. Is this an issue in the Senate race, or just a one-and-done news story?

Alex: Just looking in the prism of the New Jersey senate race (as opposed to the broader debate), I think this actually is a meaningful point of contention in a contest that presents few policy differences between the candidates.

Tammy Murphy’s angle is one of the “concerned mom,” and there are plenty of suburban, college-educated moms in the Democratic caucus who are concerned about the undue influence social media giants like TikTok have on their kids. They see their kids scrolling like zombies. They see the bullying. They see the safety hazards. They see their teenage girls coming to them with extreme body image concerns and pushing them to buy hundreds of dollars of skin care products from carefully curated product placement among influencers. A lot of them are fed up and feel powerless.

Do I think this wins a primary? Probably not, but it does give Tammy Murphy a leg to stand on.

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Dan: Alex is right — parents are seriously concerned not only about how much time their children are spending on social media and how it affects them, but also about their data falling in the wrong hands. I don’t know a single parent *not* concerned about these issues.

It’s important to remember that this bill doesn’t ban TikTok – it bans its current ownership, ByteDance, and gives them six months to find a buyer. If nothing happens, yes, they would be banned from App stores in the United States.

Andy Kim gave Tammy Murphy two gifts on this issue. One, he skipped yet another critical vote, bringing his absenteeism to over 40% in 2024. And two, he stated that he would have opposed the bill, isolating him from the entirety of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation and putting him alongside President Trump and Matt Gaetz. Even Andy Kim’s favorite Senator, John Fetterman, strongly endorsed the bill!

If you follow New Jersey politics on social media, you couldn’t miss the story of the week: a bill to disarm the Open Public Records Act.  Did Speaker Craig Coughlin do the right thing by putting the brakes on a controversial, fast-tracked bill?  And is this an issue that average, not politically active voters, will care about in June and November 2025?

Dan: I was glad to see the bill held for further revisions and discussions. The Legislature was responsive to voices from the public and advocates, as they should have been.

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Alex: First, like the Elections Transparency Act, this thing is only dead until it isn’t.

Democrats have ruthlessly been consolidating their power over the last few years, and they are just waiting for the right time to resurrect it. My bet is on some warm weekend where legislators and reporters want to be down the shore and hanging out in open state parks – not stuck in Trenton.

Second, unless there are consequences for voting for it, this will not become a marquee issue for voters in upcoming elections. We know that won’t happen, so the Globe and everyone else can go ahead and pre-write their obituary for the upcoming death of OPRA.



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Wildfire burning in Wharton State Forest

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Wildfire burning in Wharton State Forest


This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Crews are on the scene of a wildfire burning in New Jersey’s Wharton State Forest.

It started Wednesday morning and is burning in Waterford Township, Camden County and Shamong Twp., Burlington County.

Chopper video showed a large plume of smoke rising up from the forest.

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These are the top high schools in New Jersey in 2024, report says. Is yours on the list?

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These are the top high schools in New Jersey in 2024, report says. Is yours on the list?


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U.S. News and World Report recently released its rankings of high schools in 2024, nationally and by state.

Eight New Jersey high schools made the list of the 100 best high schools in the United States in 2024.

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The highest New Jersey school on the list is High Technology High School in Lincroft which came it at No. 24 with a 100% graduation rate, a 100 score for college readiness, and an enrollment of 285 students.

A few local North Jersey schools that made the national top 100 include Bergen County Academies in Hackensack which landed in spot 63 with a 99% graduation rate, a score of 95.7 college readiness, and an enrollment of 1,116 students.

Also from Bergen County is Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro which has an enrollment of 675, a 100% graduation rate, and a 93.3 college readiness score. Bergen County Technical High School was ranked at 90 nationally.

To put together its lists of best high schools around the country U.S. News and World Report considers six factors including college readiness (30%), state assessment proficiency (20%), state assessment performance (20%), underserved student performance (10%), college curriculum breadth (10%), and graduation rate (10%).

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The 10 best public high schools in New Jersey

These are the 10 best public high schools in New Jersey in 2024 per U.S. News and World Report.

High Technology High School in Lincroft

  • National ranking: No. 24
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 100
  • Enrollment: 285

Edison Academy Magnet School in Edison

  • National ranking: No. 42
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 93.8
  • Enrollment: 175

Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health in Woodbridge

  • National ranking: No. 58
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 97.6
  • Enrollment: 286

Bergen County Academies in Hackensack

  • National ranking: No. 62
  • Graduation rate: 99%
  • College readiness: 95.7
  • Enrollment: 1,116

Biotechnology High School in Freehold

  • National ranking: No. 72
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 98.4
  • Enrollment: 317

Dr. Ronald E. McNair High School in Jersey City

  • National ranking: No. 79
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 88.0
  • Enrollment: 701

Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro

  • National ranking: No. 90
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 93.3
  • Enrollment: 675

Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains

  • National ranking: No. 95
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 86.6
  • Enrollment: 303

Academy for Information Technology in Scotch Plains

  • National ranking: No. 111
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 88.5
  • Enrollment: 297

Academy for Allied Health Sciences in Scotch Plains

  • National ranking: No. 193
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • College readiness: 74.1
  • Enrollment: 303

The 40 top public high schools in New Jersey

These are the rest of the top 40 public high schools in New Jersey per U.S. News and World Report.

  • Glen Ridge High School: Glen Ridge, No. 198 nationally
  • Marine Academy of Science and Technology: Highlands, No. 207 nationally
  • Stem Innovation Academy of the Oranges: South Orange, No. 253 nationally
  • Hunterdon Central Regional High School: Flemington, No. 258 nationally
  • West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South: West Windsor, No. 313 nationally
  • Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health and Science: Neptune, No. 323 nationally
  • West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North: Plainsboro, No. 339 nationally
  • Union County Tech: Scotch Plains, No. 346 nationally
  • Millburn High School: Millburn, No. 358 nationally
  • Livingston High School: Livingston, No. 405 nationally
  • Chatham High School: Chatham, No. 424 nationally
  • Diana C. Lobosco Stem Academy: Wayne, No. 427 nationally
  • Elizabeth High School: Elizabeth, No. 436 nationally
  • Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest: Demarest, No. 440 nationally
  • Ridge High School: Basking Ridge, No. 454 nationally
  • Central Jersey College Prep Charter School: Somerset, No. 498 nationally
  • John P. Stevens High School: Edison, No. 522 nationally
  • Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering: Passaic, No. 545 nationally
  • Summit Senior High School: Summit, No. 549 nationally
  • Montgomery High School: Skillman, No. 556 nationally
  • Tenafly High School: Tenafly, No. 597 nationally
  • Infinity Institute: Jersey City, No. 603 nationally
  • Princeton High School: Princeton, No. 617 nationally
  • Communications High School: Wall, No. 645 nationally
  • Northern Highlands Regional High School: Allendale, No. 693 nationally
  • Mountain Lakes High School: Mountain Lakes, No. 732 nationally
  • Ridgewood High School: Ridgewood, No. 764 nationally
  • Thomas Edison Energysmart Charter School: Somerset, No. 786 nationally
  • Science Park High School: Newark, No. 851 nationally
  • Westfield Senior High School: Westfield, No. 863 nationally



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NJ Transit is nearly $1 billion short. Taxing corporations like Amazon, Tesla could fix that.

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NJ Transit is nearly $1 billion short. Taxing corporations like Amazon, Tesla could fix that.



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Public transit is not just a way to get around — it’s the backbone of New Jersey’s economy. Across the state, millions of residents rely on NJ Transit buses and trains for their daily commutes, medical appointments, shopping trips, and cherished family moments.

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During my 30 years serving in the state Legislature, I heard from countless constituents who shared their stories about the pivotal role that reliable bus and train service plays in their lives. 

From parents who rely on the morning bus to get their kids to school on time to workers whose job prospects hinge on catching the right train, the reliability of bus and train service can be the difference between a smooth, productive day and one filled with frustration and setbacks.

Yet, despite NJ Transit’s importance to families and the state, the future of the agency is in jeopardy with a nearly $1 billion budget deficit projected for next year, even after the agency voted to raise fares by 15%. This budget crisis is unprecedented in its size and scope, but it was also entirely predictable.

Fortunately, Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed Corporate Transit Fee offers a ray of hope. This fee targets the biggest and wealthiest corporations, ensuring that those with annual profits exceeding $10 million contribute their fair share to NJ Transit. 

Taxing corporations is the fairest way to fix NJ Transit

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NJ Transit price hike: What to know about rates going up on July 1

NJ Transit’s board unanimously approved a fare increase of 15% on July 1 and 3% every year after that.

The agency has never had a dedicated source of state funding, and it stands as the only major transit agency in the country without one. Instead, its operating budget is cobbled together year after year, relying on high fares, tax dollars diverted from other state programs, and the agency’s own capital fund meant for new and improved physical infrastructure. 

Creating a dedicated funding source from the Corporate Transit Fee presents a fair and common-sense solution that will benefit commuters and businesses alike. The fee is targeted and only applies to profits, not revenue, so the few corporations that pay it remain wildly profitable. 

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And because the fee is collected on profits earned in New Jersey, not just on companies headquartered here, it is primarily paid by large multinational corporations and retailers that will continue to do business here. This will not stop companies like Tesla from selling cars in New Jersey, nor will it stop big retailers like Amazon from delivering packages here.

The corporations that pay this fee will also directly benefit from a reliable, state-wide transit system and the access it provides to New Jersey’s highly-educated workforce and customer base.

Opinion: Businesses will leave NJ if they face more corporate taxes — even to bail out NJ Transit

We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past

I fought for years to find permanent dedicated funding for NJ Transit but, each time, short-sighted thinking led the state’s leaders to adopt temporary solutions. Years of underfunding and expiring federal pandemic aid have now left the agency facing an existential fiscal crisis. Without new state funding, the agency will have to make catastrophic service cuts and even more fare hikes, leaving commuters stranded and doing untold damage to the state’s economy.

And this isn’t theoretical. My constituents experienced this first hand throughout the Christie administration when their fares were increased and service was cut, leading to riders paying more for worse service where delays, cancellations, and overcrowding became the new norm.

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Now, lawmakers are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past instead of learning from them. NJ Transit has already approved a 15% fare hike to take effect this summer, putting transit out of reach for low-income riders without fixing the agency’s budget shortfall. 

With New Jersey ranking second in the nation in the percentage of commuters using public transit, it behooves the most profitable corporations to pay their fair share for this critical infrastructure that they benefit from. 

Reliable mass transit is a necessary part of New Jersey’s economy. It means reliable access to job opportunities, customers, education, health care, and more. Reliable service even benefits those who drive by keeping hundreds of thousands of cars off the road, reducing both traffic and air pollution.

New Jersey and its commuters deserve a world-class transit system. Asking the world’s biggest corporations to help pay for it is a no-brainer.

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Loretta Weinberg is the former state Senate Majority Leader and represented parts of Bergen County in the New Jersey Legislature from 1992 to 2022.



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