FAIR HAVEN: HALFACRE JOINS BEER DEALERS

mike halfacre 2007Former Fair Haven mayor Mike Halfacre, who left his job of three years as head of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division to join a law firm last May, is changing jobs again. He’s just been hired as executive director of the Beer Wholesalers Association of New Jersey. He’ll continue as “of counsel” to the Newark law firm of Genova Burns, working on select matters, he tells redbankgreen. (Archive photo from 2007. Click to enlarge)

FAIR HAVEN: HALFACRE QUITS ABC

halfacre-1-01-08Mike Halfacre in 2008. (Click to enlarge)

[Update: On June 30, 2015, the Newark law firm Genova Burns announced that Halfacre was joining it as counsel, doing work on commercial real estate and business transactions, and would be “available for consultation” to the firm’s craft beer, spirits and alcohol practice.]

By JOHN T. WARD

Former Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre has quit his job as head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, redbankgreen has confirmed.

Halfacre told redbankgreen that he will leave the agency – the unit of the Attorney General’s office that regulates liquor licenses – effective June 30 to return to the practice of law.

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SEA BRIGHT DROPS ‘UNWORKABLE’ FEMA FIX

Flip-flops over coverage of homeowner repair costs prompted town officials to withdraw from a pilot program, they said. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Frustrated by bureaucratic waffling, Sea Bright officials pulled the borough out of a federal program aimed at quickly getting residents back into their Hurricane Sandy-damaged homes Tuesday night.

Town officials cited indecision and flip-flops over what would be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Sheltering and Temporary Electric and Power, or STEP, program as the main the reasons for the withdrawal.

“The goal was to get the residents home,” said Mayor Dina Long. “We thought the STEP program would be very helpful in achieving that goal, but ultimately it turned out to be unworkable.”

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RED BANK: SCHOOL AID TO RISE 13 PERCENT

Red Bank Primary School. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

Red Bank schools will see a $339,000 increase in budgetary help from Trenton next year, the Christie Administration announced Thursday.

As part of what the state Department of Education called “the largest appropriation of K-12 education dollars in the state’s history,” the two-school Red Bank district will see an increase in state aid of 13 percent, to a total $2.7 million, in the 2013-2014 year, the agency said in a press release.

The entirety of the increase reflects “under-adequacy” funding, a new DOE category of aid designed “to benefit districts that are currently 10 percent or more below” what the state figures it costs to provide students an adequate education.

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SEA BRIGHT: CHRISTIE WINS DEM’S BACKING

Governor Chris Christie poses with Boondocks Fishery owner Kelly Ryan wearing lobster-claw headgear given out at the Red Bank restaurant. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Governor Chris Christie returned to Sea Bright Thursday to pick up an early re-election endorsement from Mayor Dina Long, who crossed party lines and called him a “hero to Sea Bright and all across the Jersey shore.”

Long  – a Democrat who once volunteered worked as a paid campaign staffer for governors Jim Florio and Jim McGreevey, presidential candidate Bill Bradley and then-Senator Jon Corzine – said her backing of the Republican incumbent had “nothing to do with” the qualifications, or gender, of presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Senator Barbara Buono.

“It’s about humanity,” she said.

Christie eagerly accepted the endorsement, calling it, “a powerful symbol of people crossing party lines and working together to get things fixed.”

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JERSEY OFFICIALS BLAST SANDY FUND CUTOFF

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long with Governor Chris Christie in Sea Bright on November 9. Both have joined in on bipartisan condemnation of inaction by the GOP-controlled House. (Click to enlarge)

State and local officials, including Republicans, are expressing outrage Wednesday over Congressional inaction, attributed to the GOP majority, on a $60.4 billion aid package for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

From the Star-Ledger’s NJ.com:

Gov. Chris Christie ripped into House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today for delaying a vote on billions in federal aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” said Christie at a press conference this afternoon.

Christie, who gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention last summer, said Congress traditionally puts politics aside for disaster relief but that House Republican leadership had put politics “before our oaths to serve our citizens.”

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SEA BRIGHT: COUNCIL WAIVES PERMIT FEES

Members of the borough council at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Amid complaints by residents about unresolved insurance claims and other rebuilding delays, the Sea Bright borough council rolled out several measures aimed at getting them back into their homes with less hassle and cost Tuesday night.

Among the moves: a moratorium on construction permit fees for all work related to Hurricane Sandy-related rebuilding and repairs.

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SEA BRIGHT: EATING, REFLECTING AND RISING

Chris Wood, as seen in a video, above, and Mayor Dina Long, below, at Saturday night’s event, which raised $130,000 for Sea Bright Rising. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

A hotel in Long Branch was transformed into a showcase of the area’s best culinary talents Saturday night, courtesy of the charity organization Sea Bright Rising and the generosity of local vendors and restaurant owners.

Complete with a live band, charity auction and a video showcasing the relief effort, the sold-out gala, dubbed “The Big Beach Bash,” raised almost $130,000 for Sea Bright’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, according to the charity group’s Facebook page.

But the real story of the event was perhaps best told by the restaurateurs and merchants whose tables lined the walls of the ballroom of the Ocean Place Resort and Spa. Many were Sea Bright business owners trying to help rebuild their broken beach community joined by owners from neighboring towns looking to lend a hand to friends in need.

Over the lively the noise and, redbankgreen spoke with some of these participating businesses, and here’s what they had to say:

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SEA BRIGHT: CHRISTIE TOUTS FOCUS ON BIZ

Joined by Mayor Dina Long and business owners, Governor Chris Christie unveiled a new cabinet-level office to focus on post-storm rebuilding efforts. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Governor Chris Christie came to Sea Bright Friday afternoon, making his second visit to the storm-ravaged community since Hurricane Sandy struck. But while his first visit was a gesture of support to the beachside borough, this trip was all business.

At a news conference in the borough firehouse, Christie stood in front of a signs from local businesses including Bain’s Hardware, Woody’s Oceanfront Grille and Sea Bright Pizza to announce and lay out plans to help businesses that were affected by the hurricane. These include, he said, the creation of a new cabinet-level position – the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding – and the formation of a business impact assessment group, designed to aid businesses on a personal level.

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BIDDING THE MAYOR FAREWELL

It’s official, apparently, if the sign outside Fair Haven Borough Hall has the weight of officialdom. The expected resignation of Mike Halfacre as the borough’s mayor, that is, to take a job in the Christie Administration. But neither the borough administrator nor the clerk was available Wednesday morning to say if Halfacre had submitted a formal resignation, and Halfacre did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [Update, 10:35 a.m.: Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande confirms that Halfacre submitted his resignation letter Tuesday, effective immediately.] (Click to enlarge)

PRESS: HALFACRE NOW HAS CHRISTIE NOD

The mayor, seen below in his biking gear, was a no-show Monday night and his nameplate sat on a shelf behind the council dais. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

He’s yet to resign, but the Asbury Park Press says Fair Haven’s Mayor Mike Halfacre now has been formally named to a post in the Christie Administration that will require him to step down from his elected post.

Halfacre, who apparently jumped the gun last week by announcing his new job as head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Facebook before his appointment was made official by the governor’s office, did not appear at Monday night’s meeting of the borough council.

Borough officials who appeared not to know of the latest Press report told redbankgreen on the condition of anonymity that Trenton had asked Halfacre to “lie low and not do anything mayoral” while his appointment was being finalized.

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PRESS BACKPEDALS ON NEW HALFACRE JOB

Original headline: “Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre to head NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control”

New one: “Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre considered for Alcoholic Beverage Control post”

Uh-oh. Somebody might need a drink.

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LOCAL POLS SPAR OVER CHRISTIE REMARK

Menna, below, calls Christie’s “going down” remark “classless.”

Was Governor Chris Christie making an allusion to oral sex when he sharply responded to protesters at a campaign rally for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire Monday? Or are his critics reading too much into his words?

On his Facebook page, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, calls Christie’s use of the term “going down” “crass and sexist.”

But at least two Republican friends of the mayor – Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre and former Red Bank Councilwoman Grace Cangemi – take issue with that assessment in comments posted below Menna’s.

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MORANA: “WE’RE NOT GETTING ANYTHING”

IMG_6290While dedicated funding will pay for an expansion of the pre-K program, nearly all of the remaining state aid would be passed through to the Red Bank Charter School, Morana says.

The news from Trenton had Red Bank school officials elated, disappointed and “confused” all at once yesterday.

Elated because the state allotment of funds to schools under Governor Chris Christie’s austerity plan will put enough money into the district for an expansion of its highly regarded pilot pre-kindergarten program.

But baffled and deeply let down because, as it stands, the borough will net just $24,000 for all other needs, after deducting funds the two-school district is obligated to pass-through to the Red Bank Charter School.

Against a proposed $19.9 million spending plan, the state’s contribution is barely perceptible, says Superintendent Laura Morana.

“We’re not getting anything at all,” she told redbankgreen yesterday. It’s so perplexing to local officials that they are pressing the Christie administration for an explanation.

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WAR OF WORDS: RED BANK DEMS v. BECK & CO.

beck-010310-41dupont-election2009-2State Senator Jennifer Beck’s refusal to back Red Bank’s request for special treatment in Trenton has drawn fire from local Democrats led by Councilman Mike Dupont.

Red Bank’s all-Democrat council wanted local legislators in their corner recently when they appealed to new Governor Chris Christie for special consideration as he sharpened his budget-cutting knives.

But state Senator Jennifer Beck and her two 12th-district Assembly colleagues, Caroline Casagrande and Declan O’Scanlon, all Republicans like Christie, said quite publicly that borough officials haven’t done enough to merit special treatment in Trenton.

That did not sit well at borough hall. Yesterday, the council Dems (not including Mayor Pasquale Menna) went on the offensive with a letter sent to the GOP three and circulated to reporters.

“You refuse to advocate for the residents of Red Bank with the newly elected Governor to mitigate the hardship Red Bank is experiencing due to the high number of non-profit and tax exempt organizations in our Borough,” says the letter, signed by Councilman Mike DuPont, with apparent endorsement (but no signatures) of councilmembers Art Murphy, Sharon Lee, Kathy Horgan, Juania Lewis and Ed Zipprich.

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MORANA TO CHRISTIE: LOOK BEFORE YOU CUT

img_9861072309Superintendent Laura Morana in her office in July.

Red Bank schools Superintendent Laura Morana is urging Governor-elect Chris Christie get a up-close look at the district’s pre-kindergarten program before taking a scalpel to the state budget, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The district is one of only five statewide participating in a pilot program to establish early education curricula outside of the 31 economically troubled so-called ‘Abbott‘ districts. Red Bank got $2 million from the state Department of Education for an expansion of its program to 165 students this year, from 15 three-year-olds last year, and Morana had hoped to increase enrollment to 225 next September, the Press reports.

During his campaign to replace Gov. Jon Corzine as the state’s chief executive, Christie derided pre-k programs as state-funded babysitting, the Press says. But Red Bank’s program has been won positive reviews from researchers at Harvard, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities for its benefits in boosting academic achievements in early school years, Morana says.

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