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CORZINE LITE DRAWS OVERFLOW CROWD

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What might have been a session with Gov. Jon Corzine turned out, because of his recent accident, to be an event with somewhat lesser star “wattage.”

But a town hall meeting led in Corzine’s absence by state Treasurer Bradley Abelow still drew an overflow crowd to Red Bank Borough Hall last night, according to stories in today’s Star-Ledger and Asbury Park Press.

From the Ledger:

How many Cabinet members does it take to fill in for Gov. Jon Corzine?

At least six, judging by last night’s town hall meeting in Red Bank, where state Treasurer Brad ley Abelow and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin led a team of Corzine administration officials in fielding an hour of questions from a standing-room-only crowd of 150 area residents.

The council chamber, in which the meeting was held, seats 60, and those who couldn’t find standing room along the walls were forced to listen from the hallway.

Among the Cabinet members and other officials present was Red Bank resident and state Commerce Commissioner Virginia Bauer.

Also from the Ledger:

While Senate President Richard Codey has been filling in as acting governor, top cabinet members and staff have been tapped to serve as Corzine’s proxies at events like the Question-and-Answer formatted town hall meetings. As many as four more meetings are on the schedule before lawmakers forward Corzine a $33 billion state budget in June.

While not all of the cabinet officers have the same political wattage as the governor, who drew 450 people to the Eastampton event [the night before his April 12 accident], they do offer New Jerseyans the most direct pipeline to the governor’s thinking.

“The governor views these events as we do — an opportunity to listen, as much as it is a chance to sell,” Abelow said after the meeting. “That’s their greatest value. He wants to make sure we’re engaged in listening.”

Both the Ledger and Press include a sampling of questions from the public on topics ranging from education funding to property tax rebates to plans for the resuse of Fort Monmouth.

From the Press:

Tom Mahedy of Wall was one of two people to ask about state studies of how to reuse Fort Monmouth. Mahedy wanted to know if a $23,000 state study promoting reusues of the base by military contractors could include promoting contractors doing research and development of reusable energy sources.

That study is to be done with a third of the funds coming from the state and two-thirds from the private sector, said Virginia Bauer, Secretary of the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission. It will be done only if private industry provides the matching funds to the state money, she said.

But afterward Mahedy said that wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

“She skirted the issue,” he said. “Instead of research and development that promotes war, I’m looking for research and development for clean renewable energy.”

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