North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 2, 2020

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) issued guidance on ways to have a happy and safe holiday season, which includes being socially distant when taking pictures with Santa Claus at the mall. The guidance document included instructions for indoor holiday gatherings, virtual and outdoor visits with Santa, and measures for choirs and parades designed to celebrate the season. Additionally, the state reported 4,661 news cases and 90 confirmed deaths on Dec. 1.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer was part of a Congressional group from both houses and parties proposing a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that included enhanced unemployment benefits, help for small businesses, and aid for state and local governments. The proposal includes $228 billion in new forgivable loans for small businesses and clarified that the aid was not taxable, $120 billion for state and local governments, $180 billion in enhanced unemployment insurance benefits of $300 a week for 18 weeks, $92 billion for education and child care, and $45 billion for airlines, buses, Amtrak and public transportation systems such as NJ Transit. The bill does not not include a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

Britain gave emergency authorization to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, becoming the first Western country to allow mass inoculations against a disease that has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide. The government said 800,000 doses would be available by the second week of December for healthcare workers to begin administering. The New York Times

President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced his picks for economic team. Former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen is the nominee for Treasury secretary, Adewale Adeyemo would serve as Yallen’s top deputy and Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Princeton University labor economist Cecilia Rouse is the choice to be chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, with Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey serving as members of the council. The Wall Street Journal

Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence reversing a victory by President-elect Joe Biden. The Attorney General’s comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede .

In the last week, the GOP congressional candidates for the 5th and 11th Congressional Districts formally conceded. Rosemary Becchi, Republican candidate in New Jersey’s 11th congressional district, conceded on Nov. 25 to Rep. Mikie Sherrill, while Frank Pallotta accepted his defeat to Rep. Josh Gottheimer five days later.

State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe will step down from her post Jan. 15, 2021 and plans to retire from public service. During McCabe’s tenure, the department spearheaded New Jersey’s entry back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, ramped up the state’s vehicle electrification efforts, implemented the nation’s strongest standards to limit “forever chemicals” in water and closed state lands to bear hunting. PoliticoNJ

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz is pushing for the state Department of Education (NJDOE) to conduct a review of how student learning has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Ruiz’s legislation, NJDOE would be required to compile and report on student progress and break the data up into ethic, racial and socioeconomic categories. Other factors to be assessed include district size, grade and subject areas.

The $2 million in grants earmarked for small businesses in Newark impacted by COVID-19 will not go to stores that have disregarded a local 10-day lockdown recommendation, Mayor Ras Baraka said. The mayor asked non-essential businesses to remain closed from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4 to slow the spread of the virus. The city will award businesses grants based on different criteria since there will not be enough funds available for all, with one of the assessments will be compliance with the 10-day recommendation.

Jersey City is bringing back its off-duty jobs program for police officers after halting it two years ago following widespread corruption and a federal investigation resulting in a dozen arrests. Mayor Steve Fulop announced the city was resuming the program with a restructured format and more accountability, including officers being disqualified from the off-duty jobs program if they don’t wear the correct uniform to the assignment, talk on their cellphones instead of managing traffic, or commit other violations. The Jersey Journal

NJ Transit was granted eminent domain status by a Superior Court judge in Bergen County as it prepares to build a bus garage in Ridgefield Park. The agency will acquire a 56-acre property off Route 46 for a depot to store buses and repair them, including a new fleet of electric buses. Ridgefield Park officials wanted to develop the village’s last remaining vacant lot into a mixed-use, tax-revenue-generating residential area. The Record

Jersey City terminated the tax abatement for four of the six buildings within the Beacon Community. The move comes after the developer, Baldwin Asset Associates Urban Renewal Co., defaulted on its 2005 financial agreement with the city. It is the third tax abatement to be terminated for noncompliance by the Fulop administration.

Parsippany’s Lake Hiawatha district is receiving $4 million in improvements to attract diners and shoppers to the area. The money, from grants, will cover a variety of projects, including streetscaping, the purchase of open space off Knoll Road and nearly $3 million to expand and modernize the local branch of the Parsippany Library System. The Daily Record

A Vernon man accused of building an illegal seven-story dump on his property lost his bid to make the state pay for soil testing needed to determine the extent of contamination. A state Superior Court Judge rejected the motion and gave approval for the state to file a complaint against defendant Joseph Wallace’s daughter Mackenna Wallace. Wallace is accused of hiding his assets in his daughter’s name. However, the judge denied the state’s request to evict Wallace from his property. New Jersey Herald

An administrative law judge cleared two Ridgewood officials of ethics misconduct charges stemming from the development and posting of a 2016 video about a parking garage referendum. An initial decision ordered violation notices and fines issued by the state’s Local Finance Board against former Mayor Paul Arohnson and former Village Manager Roberta Sonenfeld overturned and dismissed in regards to three separate complaints filed alleging ethics code violations for using village funds to finance and appear in the video “urging residents to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum” for the proposed $11.5 million Hudson Street parking garage. The Record

And finally…The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will be held tonight. The New York Times

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