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Ramos to Zimmer: Call off police layoffs

Two days after her council majority voted against a non-binding rescind order for Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s plan to lay off 18 police officers, Zimmer was hand delivered a letter this morning from Assemblyman Ruben Ramos (D-Hoboken) telling her to pull the plug on the job cuts. Zimmer is in Trenton today and not in City Hall to receive the missive.

“There comes a time in every official’s life when some of the hardest decisions must be made. Often these decisions pit self-interest against providing for the greater good,” Ramos wrote. “I must commend you for your tough stance on this issue, as I know this is not a decision any executive wants to make.”

Health Insurers Seeking Rate Hikes Of More Than 20 Percent In Connecticut

Health insurers are asking for immediate rate hikes of more than 20 percent in Connecticut for some plans, citing rising medical costs and federal health reform laws as reasons.

Both issues — the new federal health care reform and rising medical costs — are significant drivers of the increases, according to filings by insurers with state regulators that were reviewed by The Courant.

It remains to be seen how much of the requests will be approved. Many people might not see an increase before Jan. 1, and these proposed changes would largely affect new business, mostly in the individual market.

But the overall price shift is the clearest indicator yet of what customers and employers can expect when health insurers submit proposed 2011 rates in late October and November. The current round of price requests launches a clash between insurers who say the increases are justified and consumer advocates and government officials who say the numbers are wildly inflated.

Aetna asked earlier this summer for an average 24.7 percent increase over last year for small-group HMO plans. State regulators approved an average increase of 18 percent for all of Aetna's small-group plans and 14.2 percent for large-group and middle-market plans, according to Aetna and an initial review of documents provided to The Courant by the state Insurance Department.

Gangster Government Stifles Criticism of Obamacare

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it's actually from a letter sent Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans -- the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.

Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the Obamacare law passed by Congress last March.

She acknowledges that many of the law's "key protections" take effect later this month and does not deny that these impose additional costs on insurers. But she says that "according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact ... will be minimal."

Well, that's reassuring. Er, except that if that's the conclusion of "some" industry and academic experts, it's presumably not the conclusion of all industry and academic experts, or the secretary would have said so.

I barracked Obamma

Silly ... Luke had been drinking!
A BRIT teen who sent an email to the White House calling President Obama a "p***k" has been banned from America FOR LIFE.

The furious FBI asked local cops to tell college student Luke Angel, 17, his drunken insult was "unacceptable". Luke yesterday admitted he fired off a single email criticising the US Government after seeing a TV programme about 9/11.

He said: "I don't remember exactly what I wrote as I was drunk. But I think I called Barack Obama a p***k. It was silly - the sort of thing you do when you're a teenager and have had a few."

Luke, of Silsoe, Beds, said it was "a bit extreme" for the FBI to act.

He added: "The police came and took my picture and told me I was banned from America forever. I don't really care but my parents aren't very happy."

Gov. Christie signs bill restricting public record fees to cost of copying

Fees charged by state and local governments to provide public documents to the public will be lowered across New Jersey under a bill signed into law yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The legislation prevents government agencies from charging residents more than the cost of copying to obtain public documents.

The bill was backed by Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

"This marks the end of a barrier that for far too long kept the public from having access to government," said ACLU-NJ Open Governance Project attorney Bobby Conner. "Now public records will be more available to everyone, not just those who can afford it."

New budget, same controversies, PBA floods council meeting in opposition of layoffs

Judging by Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, the city’s new six month budget, introduced by a narrow 5-4 vote by the majority allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, will be the fresh ground on which many familiar political battles will be fought in the next four weeks until its public hearing on Sept. 29.

A standing room only crowd of men and women in bright yellow t-shirts labeled “Stop the Zimmer Police Layoffs!” filled the council chambers. Their spokespersons warned the mayor’s plan to lay off 18 police officers and demote 19 others will expose Hoboken to a greater risk of crime, and was unwarranted when the budget is running a $10 million surplus even after $1.9 million is used for tax relief.

Through a jaded Lenz

Hoboken Councilman Michael Lenz is fighting for his all-important, majority-hinging 4th Ward seat in a November special.

And even though he has incumbency, administration support, and financial acumen to spare, he doesn't have 622 absentee ballots before Labor Day.

His opponent, Tim Occhipinti, a newcomer who inherited the betrayed legion of disgraced mayor Peter Cammarano, does. The absentee push in Hoboken - especially since state law loosened restrictions - has notoriously been a slimy, underbelly maneuver that takes advantage of elderly, infirmed, and unwitting participants.

In other instances $35 to $50 ususally does the job, local operatives have admitted.

Imam in mosque debate has history of tenant troubles

The Muslim cleric at the center of the proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero is also a New Jersey landlord who got more than $2 million in public financing to renovate low-income apartments and has been beset for years by tenant complaints and financial problems.

Imam Feisal A. Rauf won support for his Hudson County projects from powerful politicians, among them Robert C. Janiszewski, the disgraced former county executive. He also was awarded grants from Union City when U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez was mayor.

The proposed $100 million development two blocks north of Ground Zero has sparked a firestorm of emotions.  Menendez recently added his name to the list of prominent supporters, which includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Rauf forged ties with Fred Daibes, the prominent waterfront developer and bank chairman. Additionally, Rauf is a onetime business ally of a Daibes associate who sued the imam for alleged mortgage fraud. The 2008 suit was quietly settled in June.

The revelations about Rauf, who lives in North Bergen, add another dimension to the public profile of a man both lauded as a builder of bridges between diverse religions and cultures and vilified as being insensitive to the survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack by proposing a mosque near the World Trade Center site.

Best known as the religious face of the controversial proposal, called Park51, Rauf, the revelations show, has had some success navigating the realm of secular power — in this case the rough-and-tumble world of Hudson County government.

Dear Patients: Vote to Repeal ObamaCare, Don't believe Democrats who promise to fix the bill once they're re-elected

Facing a nationwide backlash, Democratic congressional candidates have a new message for voters: We know you don't like ObamaCare, so we'll fix it.

This was the line offered by Democrat Mark Critz, who won a special election in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district after expressing opposition to the law and promising to mend it—but not to repeal it. As a doctor I know something about unexpected recoveries, and this latest attempt to rescue ObamaCare from repeal needs to be taken seriously.

For Democrats who voted for ObamaCare, this tactic is an escape route, a chance to distance themselves from the president with a vague promise to fix health-care reform in the next Congress.

To counter this election-year ruse, my colleagues and I at Docs4PatientCare are enlisting thousands of doctors in an unorthodox and unprecedented action. Our patients have always expected a certain standard of care from their doctors, which includes providing them with pertinent information that may affect their quality of life. Because the issue this election is so stark—literally life and death for millions of Americans in the years ahead—we are this week posting a "Dear Patient" letter in our waiting rooms.

Something old from new Hoboken

Appointed to Mayor Dawn Zimmer's ward seat when she took over as mayor, Hoboken Councilman Michael Lenz is running in a special election for the 4th Ward in November.

This won't be his first run at the seat.

In 2001, Lenz was campaign manager for David Roberts's mayoral run.

Shortly following Roberts election win – he was the reform candidate that beat soon-to-be-indicted Mayor Anthony Russo – Lenz was bartering for a job and threatening to run in the 4th, according to one eyewitness. It's a storyline that Lenz disputes and condemns as backtracking into a political ghostland as the campaign accelerates with typical Hoboken viciousness toward Election Day.

Perry Belfiore was another integral part of Team Roberts, and it's mostly his memory at work in reconstructing Lenz's moves on the 2001 political terrain. These days, Belfiore's backing Lenz's opponent in the 4th, Tim Occhipinti.

Belfiore recalls the job-or-else threats that Lenz pushed in 2001, and another job push he made in 2002, stylistics that clash with Lenz's prominent placement as the local brains behind Zimmer's reformer image. It’s that image Lenz's allies intend to burnish in the face of Occhipinti, once a dedicated ally of Mayor Peter Cammarano, who after pleading guilty to taking bribes is on his way to jail.