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Let's not rush St. Mary deal

The first reality check in the struggle to save St. Mary Hospital is at hand. It is the ordinance now before the City Council which, if approved, will put the full faith and credit of the City of Hoboken in a guarantee of a $52 million bond issue in support of the hospital. The language in the ordinance is astoundingly clear: "the City shall be unconditionally and irrevocably obligated to pay the principal of and interest on the (bond) and the City shall be unconditionally and irrevocably obligated to levy ad valorem taxes upon all the taxable property within the City for the payment thereof." (Ordinance for The Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority Bonding, Section 1)

MENENDEZ: Now that he's in, Menendez says he's out

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez stands today on the political mountaintop, fresh from his victory in the fall election and finally in the office he's sought since he was a teenager living a Union City tenement.

But his emotions are not what you might expect.

He is bitter about the last election. He is vowing to divorce himself from the daily tussle of Hudson County politics.

And he's telling his daughter, a Harvard University graduate who is considering a career in politics, to find another profession.

"I'm disillusioned with politics," Menendez says. "This election magnified my distaste for the process."

Noted engineer is indicted as part of corruption probe

The founder of a prominent engineering firm that has become one of the state's biggest government contractors was indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges yesterday.

The charges against Howard Schoor, 67, of Colts Neck stem from a long-running federal investigation into corruption in Monmouth County that has snared two dozen public officials.

The firm Schoor founded in 1968, Schoor DePalma, has been involved in high-profile projects in the public and private sector and has showered New Jersey politicians with millions of dollars in campaign cash over the years. The firm's engineers have been involved with everything from the Asbury Park waterfront redevelopment to Jersey Gardens mall and the Turnpike's Interchange 13A.

Lynch: Letters to judge support Lynch

Friends and family. Democrats and Republicans. Names that appear often in the newspaper and names that rarely would. What these people have in common is their support for John A. Lynch Jr., who will be sentenced Tuesday in federal court for mail fraud and income-tax evasion.

Crediting Lynch with everything from the revival of the city of New Brunswick and authorship of 160 state laws to assisting a sick woman that allowed her family "to find joy that Christmas knowing she would be in good hands" — the writers of 172 letters urged U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chester to show compassion.

Under sentencing guidelines, the 68-year-old Lynch faces a probable sentence of between 33 and 41 months, and fines of between $7,500 and $75,000.

Menendez: Ex-Menendez fund-raiser called to testify in probe

Federal authorities have subpoenaed U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's former campaign fund-raiser to testify before a federal grand jury, raising the prospect that their investigation into one of his personal real estate deals may be expanding into other areas.

Dannielle Leigh, 32, of Hoboken, was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Newark late last month but has not yet made an appearance, according to her attorney, Remi Spencer.

State report details child education cost

A new state report has laid out in intricate detail how much it should cost to educate a child in New Jersey, from the price of the average teacher to that of textbooks and supplies.

The 98-page report released yesterday is at the center of Gov. Jon Corzine's plan to revamp the state's school funding formula to better match the needs of individual students, as opposed to those of districts as a whole.

Using data from 2004-05, the report set a total base per-pupil amount of $7,367 for K-8 districts and $8,496 in K-12 district.

Public financing on local level. Lawrence councilman suggests using taxes for election campaigns

If Councilman Greg Puliti can translate his vision into law, Lawrence may be the first town in New Jersey to use taxpayer dollars to finance municipal election campaigns. But such an ordinance would need to clear significant hurdles, attorneys say.

Funding an election campaign would cost taxpayers about $5,000 per candidate, Puliti estimated. In a typical election involving six candidates, the cost to the township for the campaigns would be $30,000. That equals 1/10th of 1 percent of the $37 million municipal budget, he said.

In 2004, Lawrence was one of more than two dozen towns across the state to adopt its own anti-pay-to-play laws. They are meant to constrict the money flow from contractors to candidates and political parties.

NONPROFIT CLUBS GET BREAK. Lawmakers moving to repeal sales tax on health club fees

TRENTON — State lawmakers moved Monday to cut taxes on nonprofit health clubs, parking in municipal or county facilities, plastic surgery and initiation fees for public and private clubs, such as swimming pools, gymnasiums and golf courses.

The changes — which would reverse recent increases — would save taxpayers an estimated $70 million, according to the state Department of the Treasury. But they also eat into the revenue Gov. Corzine has said is needed to help put state finances in order.

Removing the sales tax on nonprofit gyms, such as YMCAs or community fitness centers, will undo what some lawmakers said was an unintended consequence of broadening the state's 7 percent sales tax earlier this year.

Ed board member gets ethics reprimand

HOBOKEN - The former president of the city's Board of Education has been reprimanded by the state for voting to promote his brother and for voting for a contract for Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, whom he serves as an aide.

Carmelo Garcia, who is still on the board, was reprimanded by state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy last week at the recommendation of the state Ethics Commission. It is unclear what, if any, practical consequence the reprimand has.

Democrats say Corzine turnabout threatens reform. Codey, Roberts insist lawmakers felt duped

Gov. Jon Corzine's abrupt refusal to support legislation trimming public employee benefits makes it less likely the Legislature can muster the votes to adopt other controversial measures aimed at reining in property taxes, top lawmakers said yesterday.

"It certainly makes the climate a lot harder," Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said during a joint appearance with Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) before The Star-Ledger editorial board yesterday. "Some attitudes and opinions have changed."