North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 18, 2021

OPINION: In Celebrating MLK, Focus On the Light of Good News Ahead. In his last speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” We are choosing to see the stars in the darkness that have overtaken our world since March 4, 2020, with a new era of leadership set to begin in Washington this week and the increasing expansion of a COVID-19 vaccine. Both sides will need to work together to bring us to a better place, drowning out the ugly rhetoric and extinguishing the violence of extremism through the power of persuasion and common sense from our fellow citizens.

Sen. Cory Booker said the Senate needs to conduct an impeachment trial of President Donald Trump even though the president will leave office Jan. 20. “I believe it is constitutionally dangerous not to proceed,” said Booker on NBC’s Meet the Press Jan. 17. “We just had a president of the United States try to undermine the peaceful transition of power, tried to challenge a fair and free election. And him and his agents from the moments before, from his son to his lawyer, whipping up a crowd to go attack the Capitol. So I believe fundamentally the Senate has an obligation to act.”

Trenton was quiet on the day officials worried the city would be overrun with pro-Trump protesters after the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Only a handful of protesters materialized in front of the Statehouse on State Street Jan. 17, where police gathered on streets that were shut down as officials anticipated a large gathering. They each left quickly when they saw there was no substantial protest. “We’re all breathing a collective sigh of relief. We’ve noticed there’s more skateboarders than protesters,” quipped Trenton Mayor Reed Guscioras. The Daily Record

New Jersey state offices will close their doors on Inauguration Day Jan. 20, with state employees working remotely in anticipation of possible unrest in Trenton. “We felt that was the right thing to do given the level of tension right now in the country,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 15, with State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan adding, “We just thought to help us facilitate any security response measures, the fewer folks in and around Trenton the better.” PoliticoNJ

U.S. defense officials are worried about an insider attack from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said officials are conscious of the potential threat, and has warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches. So far, no evidence of any threats have been discovered, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues.

A New Jersey naval contractor is facing multiple charges after he told an informant he participated in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, entered the building and “encouraged” other rioters to advance on the building, according to a criminal complaint. Colts Neck resident Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was charged with unlawfully entering restricted grounds, obstructing a law enforcement officer, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, demonstrating in a Capitol building, and obstructing government business. News12 New Jersey

As New Jersey expanded those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the places to receive them, the issue of supply is a major concern for Gov. Phil Murphy. “We just need the supply from the feds to meet that demand, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are ready but they are not,” said Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 15. “We saw some stories…that there was a little bit of a I don’t know what you’d call it, hide the pea, we were all going left and it turns out we should have been going right. But it looks like the feds have already blown through the vaunted Strategic Reserve.”

Hackensack public schools, which have been all-virtual since October 2020, will finally reopen on Jan. 25 under a hybrid model. Students who participate will learn in person for half the day with the remainder of the day at home learning virtually. Students will be split into an “A” group and a “B” group, with “A” days on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, and “B”  days Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons. The Record

Dover students will continue remote learning until the end of March despite projects finalized to accommodate their return to in-person learning. The school’s superintendent reported building preparations for the return to in-person instruction were finalized and in place to keep students safe. But after county reports of more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 in town since the start of the year, school officials decided to keep students virtual until the end of March. The Daily Record

Wayne schools will not open for in-person instruction for at least another month, as the number of staff and students infected by COVID-19 continues to climb. The Board of Education voted to delay that action until Feb. 11, when trustees will give further consideration to their reopening plan. School officials say they will closely monitor the outbreak and, if it is practical, bring classes back for live instruction before that date. The Record

Students in Paramus are set to return to a hybrid learning schedule after a month and a half of fully remote learning. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the school district will begin transitioning back to a mixed online and in-person learning schedule on Jan. 19. Students have been attending classes fully remote since Nov. 30, 2020. The Record

GOP Assemblyman Brian Bergen recently questioned placing smokers in front of teachers from the newly announced list of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. “I am appalled that the Murphy administration would prioritize people who make the life choice to smoke cigarettes to receive the vaccine before our teachers and daycare employees on the front lines every day,” said Bergen (R-25).

A Morris County Superior Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Republicans there from holding a Jan. 16 convention where they planned a vote to adopt an organizational line after two former GOP freeholder filed a suit Jan. 15. Former GOP Freeholders David Scapicchio and John Sette, who chaired the county Republican organization for 17 years, filed a suit seeking to block the convention, claiming it wasn’t properly noticed and violated the committee’s bylaws. New Jersey Globe

The retirement of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has set off a battle for her seat between Assemblymembers: Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson. In stating that much more work still remains to help advance true equality for women, Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle argued the 37th Legislative District would be best served by someone with the same level of passion and commitment. Assemblyman Johnson announced his plan to succeed Weinberg as well, launching his bid to be the first Black State Senator from Bergen County.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission plans to start issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants who aren’t legal residents on May 1. Applicants for the new licenses—called standard licenses, as opposed to those that are REAL ID-compliant—will be required to show identification worth six points in the MVC’s document list, as done for traditional licenses, an address as well as will let them qualify by signing an affidavit if they lack an IRS identification number or letter from the Social Security Administration.

A State Superior Court judge ordered the mayor’s son in Paramus to amend a civil rights lawsuit with additional information or risk dismissal of the complaint against the borough. The judge’s order stated the court “cannot find even a suggestion of a claim against the borough as a municipal entity or a basis to hold it liable on the basis of vicarious liability,” giving Vincent LaBarbiera 30 days to add amendments to the complaint, which names the borough and three Republican council members—Joseph Vartolone, Jeanne Weber and Chris DiPiazza—individually.  The Record

The Biden administration is reportedly tapping two financial regulators from the Obama administration to oversee key departments that had loosened their grip of the industry under President  Donald Trump. Gary Gensler, who led the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014, will be President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, while Rohit Chopra, the former assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been chosen to run that agency. The New York Times

And finally…Inauguration Day means Zoom watch parties, not bus rides to Washington for N.J. residents celebrating.

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