The New Jersey Press Association (NJPA) this morning released its formal list of winners in the 2019 Better Newspaper Contest, and we are proud to note that InsiderNJ won three awards.
For the second straight year, InsiderNJ columnist Jay Lassiter picked up a second place award (in the daily over 30K readers division), this time in the Responsible Journalism (Editorial Comment) category. Of Mr. Lassiter’s commentaries, the judges wrote, “He has an approachable writing style and takes on some serious subject matter.”
InsiderNJ columnist Fred Snowflack – also a past NJPA award winner – captured a third place prize, also in the Responsible Journalism (Editorial Comment) category.
InsiderNJ editor Max Pizarro – also a past NJPA award winner – won a second place award in the government writing category.
Among his award-winning pieces, Mr. Lassiter wrote about the aftermath of the tax incentive
“When scandal engulfed the NJ Economic Authority last week, the multiple, bombshell media reports read like something from The Sopranos: greed, coercion, corruption, exploitation, and a malignant brand of fidelity.
“Camden Democratic machine loyalists Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Louis Cappelli were quickly dispatched to defend the embattled NJEDA while ignoring troubling revelations about an organization that awards billions of dollars in tax subsides to firms aligned with George Norcross, the pater familias of South Jersey’s Democratic machine.”
He also wrote about the failure of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program here.
It’s tempting and easy to blame former Governor Chris Christie for everything that’s wrong with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Christie’s from the old school and was generous with contempt towards anyone who begged to differ.
Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine signed medical marijuana legislation into law with the clock winding down on his term. So it was left to Christie to implement and regulate a medical cannabis program he never wanted.
The result: the most expensive, impractical, over-regulated, over-taxed medical cannabis program in the nation. You might even call it mean-spirited and if you did, I won’t argue. I mean, we are talking about sick people here.
It’s Steve Sweeney’s fault that New Jersey’s medical cannabis program continues to fail its users. There’s a bill (A10/S10) to fix most of what ails NJ’s program. (learn about the ghastly details of NJ’s broken program here.)
And Sweeney’s “selective schadenfreude” here.
Mr. Snowflack, for his part, wondered if U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2) really knows what he’s doing.
“Despite differing with the Democrats on impeachment – a mega-issue to be sure – Van Drew has indeed voted the Democratic line since arriving in Washington. This raises a question about his political integrity. Is Van Drew suddenly going to adopt party-line Republican positions that he may not have had a week ago?”
In another piece, he urged Rutgers to put the university first.
“From what has been publicly disclosed, Schiano’s demands are excessive – a $4 million a year salary, high wages for his assistants, a private plane, stadium upgrades and a new training facility. While he may have backed off a bit on the private plane demand, let’s remember that the football stadium was upgraded not too long ago and that a new campus training facility constructed. Schiano reportedly wants another training center just for football, which presumably would spare football players the indignity of working out in the same space as, say, members of the baseball team.
“It’s hard to see why such extravagance is necessary at a public university.”
And in his third award-winning piece, Mr. Snowflack assessed the aftermath of a senate hearing where George Norcross III appeared to defend the tax incentive program that benefited his business interests. That was the same hearing where state police wrestled New Jersey Working Families Executive Director Sue Altman from the room.
From Mr. Snowflack’s piece:
“George Norcross on Monday called himself a “cheerleader” for Camden. That was one of those silly comments you hear all too often in politics, but this time, it made sense – at least to the Senate Committee hearing Norcross’ testimony.
“For reasons not readily apparent, the committee treated Norcross more like an innocent high school cheerleader than the political boss of South Jersey.
“In fact, just about the only time Sen. Bob Smith, the committee chair, displayed any toughness, it was directed at the audience. After initially instructing the overflow crowd in the committee room not to be too demonstrative, Smith moved to eject “the back row” after there were some boos of those testifying prior to Norcross. Sue Altman, the state director of Working Families Alliance, was not in the back row, but she was nevertheless forcibly removed out the side door of the statehouse annex.
“Her supporters chanted, ‘shame, shame’ as the incident unfolded.
“Clearly, this was an overreaction by Smith. There is nothing unusual about public reaction at a contentious hearing. It’s democracy you know.”
Pizarro won for a package of pieces he wrote on government.
The first piece compared Trenton government to the movies Goodfellas and On the Waterfront. On the Waterfront has a moral center. Goodfellas doesn’t. The Trenton insiders are starring in Goodfellas, while Murphy is still squirming in the moral universe of Waterfront.
From the piece:
“As establishment players in state politics treat every day like a new opportunity to pull of the Lufthansa heist and ridicule those in their midst whose wigs don’t come off, Gov. Phil Murphy’s allies hope their guy ultimately proves to possess qualities of a governmentally slow-witted but at last dashing plug ugly, like Terry Malloy in Waterfront, who leads the legislature into another work station and leaves a drenched and humiliated Norcross – played by Lee J. Cobb – vainly screaming for his toadies to get back to work.
“South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross III has his hooks in the legislature. People who look like thoughtful, discerning and independent-minded libs are actually, through a network of relationships fastened to South Jersey and its power center, on the payroll.
“Without influence over those votes, Murphy, in the words of one insider observing the budget debacle, is ‘just a progressive at a podium.’ Worse, by the reckoning of another statehouse veteran, he’s ‘Governor [Vinny] Prieto,’ a dig at the former speaker who tried to buck Norcross and invariably came up short of the votes required to buck the boss’ agenda.
“Yesterday, though, Murphy – out-hoisted on the backroom political front, relegated in one retelling to the part of the club owner bullied by Joe Pesci, offered the argument he’s down to on the 2020 $38 billion budget: a moral argument.”
The second piece, “Vortexing the Murphy-Norcross Theaters of NJ Politics,” dove into the waning days of the 2019 election cycle:
“Most legislators sat out last week’s Democratic State Committee in Atlantic City out of boredom, using the fight between Murphy and Norcross as an excuse to stay out of the crossfire. But those Democrats running in battleground districts, Andrzejczak and his team and the LD8 Democrats chief among them, stayed home to remain focused on their districts, while seizing on a chance to express silent scorn of the progressive wing of the party led by Murphy and featuring an impeachment-consumed main act: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With Norcross and Sweeney still dominating the Trenton inside game, no one interested in staying afloat at that power channel wanted to appear to be supplying Murphy or Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie with a body to make the place look more packed.”
The third piece, “An Epic (and Handy!) InsiderNJ Guide to the Weeh Ahead (Including 2020 Budget Drama),” examined the dynamics of a self-nullifying (or rather self-empowering and state-nullifying) NJ Democratic Party:
“The lawmakers who backed the interests of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3)/South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross III were there in the legislature precisely because they possessed a pliable quality that – in a pinch – submits to tyranny.
“They originally backed Murphy – essentially an unknown – not because of anything he said or did, but because they were told to back him, to protect their own 2017 reelection bids. If all 21 counties united behind the same candidate at the top of the ticket, they could present a united front against that always simmering and sometimes yammering thicket of voices out there uncontrolled by the machine.
“The great unwashed, yes – and the great unbought.”