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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    The arbitration cap is the new political frisbee. Watch video

    Phil Murphy, who takes office in 13 days, has officially downgraded his position on the arbitration cap issue from strategic silence to disheartening dodge. 

    Fair or not, the legislative inaction on restoring a 2-percent limit on police and firefighter salary hikes puts this policy gorilla squarely in the lap of the governor-elect.

    And if this is his first governing test, he's failing.

    Let's review what we know about the cap that expired last week, inspiring the brave souls of our Legislature to run for cover: A task force report released in September showed that the 2-percent cap saved taxpayers $530 million between 2010 and 2015. It is a crucial tool for maintaining some restraint on bloated salaries, which will help reduce property taxes - an expense that is likely to balloon by the recent federal tax reforms.

    So renewing the cap and making it permanent should be a no-brainer, except for the fact that half the task force members opposed the findings of the September report. Those members happen to be union bosses appointed by lawmakers, who endorsed Murphy.

    A final report was due last week, and it was supposed to inspire the Legislature to restore the cap. But the task force hasn't met since September, and as assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth), an appointee of Gov. Christie, asserts, "This task force was never needed in the first place: This is 4th grade math. The report from September told the whole truth."

    Task force member Ed Donnelly, president of the firefighter's union, said his members have already done their part, and as proof, he said he hasn't had a meaningful raise in 17 years.

    New Jerseyans want our cops and firefighters to be well-compensated for their dangerous jobs, but the facts are these: They are already the highest paid in the country, and the arbitration cap doesn't limit the raises they can receive from their individual municipalities - towns can go beyond the 2-percent limit if they choose.

    Why won't Dems protect taxpayers and cap raises for highly paid police, firefighters? | Editorial

    Still, Murphy, who has had a year to stake out a position on this, offered this taffy-pull Wednesday: "I want to see the report," he said. "This is what drives people crazy, by the way. If you walk up to people in the street and say, 'Hey, can you believe there was a report mandated by law, and they just decided not to write the report?' No wonder people are cynical." 

    You can also walk up to people on the street and say, "Hey, can you believe the governor is supposed to keep towns from drowning in red ink by keeping property taxes and salaries under control so that services aren't slashed to pieces, and he just decided to punt?" 

    It's unclear what message the governor-elect was trying to impart, but his dodge implies a commitment to unions that he'll oppose the cap renewal.

    And it isn't entirely unfair for taxpayers to conclude that he won't stand up to labor when it comes time to tackle the tougher stuff, such as pension reform and health benefits.

    Yes, Murphy's first test was whether to uphold a proven mechanism that prevented an explosion in municipal budgets and ultimately property taxes. Its expiration could even lead to police and fire layoffs.

    It was also a test of his ability to influence the Legislature, which tanked again. We're holding out hope that this isn't the kind of leadership we'll get for the next four years, but it's off to a wobbly start. 

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    Be sure to bookmark and refresh this page as it'll be updated throughout the morning

    Several Monmouth County schools have announced they'll have delayed openings or will be closed on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 due to the snowstorm expected to sweep through the Garden State. 

    The following schools are closed or will open late Thursday. The list will be updated throughout the night Wednesday and on Thursday morning. 

    • Lincroft, Christian Brothers Academy, closed 

    If you know of any delays or closures not on this list, let us know in the comments.

    Justin Zaremba may be reached at jzaremba@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Making money off wintery white stuff isn't confined to snow removal..

    Although snow blowers have put plenty of kids out of business, there are still some industrious youngsters who trudge door-to-door through freshly fallen snow, shovels over their shoulders, looking to make a little money clearing people's walks and driveways.

    Many contractors who make the lion's share of their income when it's warm in New Jersey hook plows to their construction vehicles when the forecast calls for snow to make the most of the slow season. These guys work long hours to clear roads, driveways and parking lots so guys like me aren't snowed in. They earn every penny they make, I'd say.

    But making money off the wintery white stuff isn't confined to snow removal.

    I have written about the invention of the Flexible Flyer by Samuel Leeds Allen of Cinnaminson (click here). Once Allen began marketing his sled to toy stores around 1915, sales took off and he and his family made quite a bit of money for years to come. Just so you know, the family sold the S.L. Allen Co. in 1968; rights to the sled changed hands several times, and as of 2012, Flexible Flyers are mostly made in China and some are made in South Paris, Maine, by Paricon Inc.

    As noted on geek.com, "If you look at the 8,011,991th U.S. Patent, you will see the "Apparatus for Facilitating the Construction of a Snow Man/Woman," granted to inventor Ignacio Marc Asperas of Melville, N.Y. The patent was filed on Jan. 31, 2006, and was granted on Sept. 6, 2011.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And U.S. Patent #5,497,974A is for a "Geodesic Igloo Constructor," which, according to its abstract, consists of "a pair of molds or forms for constructing a geodesic igloo. One of the molds forms a hexagonal

    block of snow; the other, a pentagonal block. An icosahedron igloo with frequency 3 or 6 is constructed by shoveling snow into the molds, compacting such snow, and then carefully placing the compacted block of snow onto the igloo being constructed."

    This gallery is for those who make money when it snows, those who hop on a Flexible Flyer and enjoy it and even the folks who prefer to watch it fall from the comfort of their living room.

    Here's a gallery of winter scenes in New Jersey. And here are links to more galleries on the same theme.

    Vintage photos of N.J. in the wintertime

    More vintage photos of N.J. in the wintertime

    Vintage photos of winter in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The new girls basketball Top 20 has three new teams in and a new look near the top.


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    35 New Jersey high school wrestlers and four teams are in either the Intermat or Flowrestling national rankings this week


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    Who had the top performances from December?


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    The shooting on New Year's Eve in Long Branch has left a community reeling. Watch video

    The Snapchat photo came in to a group of friends at 11:40 p.m. on New Year's Eve and showed a familiar image: Brittany Kologi laying with her cat, Jill.

    Brittany was home with her family, spending time with them before heading back to college at Stockton University in Galloway to start her second semester later this month.  

    Just minutes after she sent the photo, Brittany and her parents, Steve and Linda Kologi, and a family friend were shot dead, authorities said.

    The mass shooting is one of the deadliest in New Jersey since at least 2013, according to Mass Shooting Tracker, an independent monitoring group that defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot. 

    17c_lindastevenbrittney.jpgLinda and Steven Kologi, at left, and their 18-year-old daughter, Brittany Kologi. (Go Fund Me)
     

    "This is a situation we don't often find ourselves in ... in Monmouth," said County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. "A quadruple homicide investigation. This is the first I've seen or heard of it and certainly the first I've participated in as prosecutor in Monmouth County."

    It all started minutes before midnight and the start of 2018 when authorities said Brittany's 16-year-old brother, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot four people at close range in different rooms of the house on Wall Street. He hit each person with several bullets, authorities said.

    The gun was legally owned by a family member who resided at the home, though authorities have not said who owned it.

    The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office identified the victims as Linda and Steven Kologi, their 18-year-old daughter, Brittany Kologi, and family friend Mary Schulz, 70. Another family friend, an unidentified woman in her 20s, fled the house when the shots began, along with the teen's grandfather, Adrian Kologi, and another family member.

    Authorities said the motive is not yet known and friends and families are asking the question: why?

    Interviews conducted by NJ Advance Media with neighbors, friends and colleagues show a close-knit family that was also working through financial struggles. But through the hardship, the Kologi's leaned on one another for support, according to one son.

    "My New Year's resolution is to be as great of a parent as my parents were to me," Steven Kologi Jr. wrote on Instagram. "Never once was I without a hot meal or a roof over my head. They made sure Christmas came every year even though they struggled financially. I cannot even describe the type of people they were so just believe me when I say how great they were."

    No place like home

    The Kologis identified strongly with Long Branch. Steve Sr. grew up in the town and graduated from the local high school. Friends and acquaintances said the family was active in the community and many knew their faces around town. They often hosted barbeques and always opened their home to their children's friends.

    Jalen Walls, an 18-year-old who attended high school with Brittany, said the Kologi house was a destination for group hangouts.

    "We would always go over there whenever we were home or around the neighborhood," Walls said. "You hear something like this. It is just crazy. I've walked through that door a lot of times."

    Steve Kologi Sr. and his sons were active in local baseball leagues. Steve Sr. was involved with the town's baseball league and coached dozens of people, even if his sons were not playing.

    But there was another side. Linda and Steve Kologi Sr. both struggled to find steady work, past employers and colleagues said. Linda Kologi in 2013 worked as a bus driver for the public schools in Long Branch, according to the city's board of education meeting minutes, and Steve Kologi Sr. worked at the U.S. Postal Service before moving to Kellogg Company in Cranbury to work in the warehouse.

    At Kellogg, Steve Sr. learned the ins and outs of the company's shipping and delivery service, said Roger Daniels, his manager. Work went so well for him that Steve Sr.  was eventually able to get his son hired, Steve Jr., Daniels said. 

    "Steve Sr. was one of the most productive guys in the warehouse. He always wanted to learn and took coaching well," Daniels said. "He was one of those guys that never got involved in drama and never understood why people complained and didn't want to work hard."

    In August 2017 Kellogg closed dozens of warehouses, including the one in Cranbury and both Kologis lost their jobs, Daniels said.

    But their financial problems began earlier. In 2009, the family filed for bankruptcy, according to public records, and received a notice of foreclosure in August 2017, the Asbury Park Press reported. 

    At the time of the shooting, Linda and Steve Kologi resided in the home with their children, Steve Jr., Brittany and their youngest son, according to public records. 

    Jonathon Ruiz, Linda Kologi's oldest son, lived at the Long Branch house before buying a home in Toms River in May 2017, public records show. He owned a wireless technology business registered in Long Branch where Linda worked as an administrator, business filings show.

    Steve Jr. graduated from Long Branch High School and played football, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider said. Schneider said he used to see his grandfather, Adrian Kologi, and Mary Schulz at every game.

    Brittany also attended Long Branch High School. She graduated in June 2017 and was a freshman at Stockton University. Her friends described her as a "ray of sunshine" who was a leader on her school's softball team and was always there for her friends.

    "Brittany was the best person in high school," Alyssa Julian, a classmate of Brittany's, said. "Everyone loved her. She didn't deserve this." 

    Adrian Kologi owned a house about a 15-minute drive away in Oakhurst. His companion, Mary Schulz, was also killed in the shooting.

    "Mary was one of those people that could do ten things at once and do all of them well," said Catherine Lefurge, Schulz's sister from Connecticut. "She was truly an amazing person. It's been tough for the family"

    Schultz's brother Michael was a police officer with Long Branch for more than 30 years and recently retired, Schneider said. 

    "It has a profound impact on people when this happens," Schneider said earlier this week. "Yesterday, we had an open house at the firehouse. It was the major topic of conversation. It's very, very sad."

    Last day 

    On the morning of Dec. 31 around 8 a.m., Gary Patel walked through the below freezing weather to his small convenience store, Welsh Farms, across the street from the Kologi's house. He said he showed up earlier than normal for what he expected to be a busy day. 

    Across town, bars were preparing for New Year's Eve parties, promoting their events on social media.

    A few hours later, between customers coming in for coffee, newspapers, and small food items, Linda Kologi came into the store, Patel said. She bought a bottle of water and a lottery ticket.

    Steve Kologi Sr. frequented Flavo's liquor store three blocks down the street from the house, said Nick Patel, a cashier there.

    "He usually comes in about every other day after work and he always gets the same thing," Patel said, adding that the two often talked about work and family.

    On the morning of Dec. 31, Steve Kologi Sr. dropped by Flavo's and bought a six pack of Miller Light and a pack of Newport cigarettes.

    "It was like any other day," Patel said.

    Six hours later, Long Branch law enforcement said it received a 911 call from someone who eventually escaped the Kologi brick duplex druing the shooting. Within minutes, the police were there, Gramiccioni said.

    In a press conference Tuesday he said that the bodies of Brittany, Steve, Linda Kologi and Mary Schulz were "riddled" with gunshot wounds. The gun had been loaded with 15 7.62mm rounds at the time of the shooting, Gramiccioni said.

    "We think this was fairly sudden and quick," he added.

    Schneider said he received a text message at 1 a.m. about the shooting.

    "Multiple shooting on Wall Street. Four dead. Suspect in custody," read the text from Long Branch acting police Chief Jason Roebuck, according to Schneider.

    At 4 a.m., Roebuck texted him the last name of the victims: Kologi.

    "I texted him back, 'I know them,'" Schneider said.

    The suspect is in custody at the juvenile detention center in Middlesex County. He is charged with four counts of murder and weapons offenses.

    He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning, but the media was not allowed to attend because he is under 18. 

    A Monmouth County judge retained the suspect following his appearance Wednesday and issued a gag order prohibiting the parties' release of any additional information, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

    Just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, at a candlelight vigil in Franklin Lake Park in West Long Branch, hundreds of mourners gathered in below-freezing temperatures to honor the memory of the Kologi family members killed and Mary Schultz. 

    Janiyah Gilliard, a friend of Brittany Kologi since third grade, cracked a smile after fighting back tears as she discussed memories of Brittany making the entire science class laugh during one of their final days at Long Branch high in 2017. 

    "She's very energetic, artsy and was always smiling," Gilliard said. "She just lit up the entire room."

    She loved cats, Gilliard said, and you couldn't pull her away from them. So when the Snapchat photo from Brittany came in of her laying next to her cat, Gilliard said it wasn't a surprise.

    And then, like every photo on Snapchat, it vanished.

    Erin Banco may be reached at ebanco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinBanco. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Want to see the 'bomb cyclone' from the warmth of your home?

    If you're heeding officials' advice to stay indoors today as a blizzard packing a foot of snow cyclone bombs the Jersey Shore, you can still see the winds whipping down the boardwalk.

    A camera from TheSurfersView.com shows the gusty, whiteout conditions in Belmar.

    Traffic is nearly non-existent on many Shore roads, except for emergency vehicles and snow plows

    Gov. Chris Christie has issued a state of emergency declaration for Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties. Another beach camera from TheSurfersView.com shows blowing snow and rough waves in Seaside Heights.

    Forecasters expect snow will lighten by mid-afternoon before tapering off and ending in the evening.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    A look at preliminary snowfall totals across New Jersey, county by county, during the blizzard of January 2018.


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    Be sure to bookmark and refresh this page as it'll be updated throughout the morning.

    Monmouth County schools are starting to announce they'll be closed or have delayed openings on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, due to the blizzard that's swept through the Garden State

    Parts of Monmouth County received nearly 10 inches of snow as of 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, according to unofficial snow totals from the National Weather Service.

    The following list will be updated as more closings and delayed openings are announced Thursday night and Friday morning.

    CLOSED 

    • Belmar Elementary School
    • Bradley Beach Elementary
    • Brielle
    • Colts Neck
    • Eatontown
    • Farmingdale
    • Freehold Borough School District
    • Freehold Regional School District
    • Freehold Township School District
    • Hazlet
    • Highlands Elementary
    • Holmdel
    • Howell
    • Keansburg
    • Keyport
    • Little Silver
    • Manalapan-Englishtown Regional
    • Marlboro
    • Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District
    • Middletown
    • Millstone
    • Monmouth Beach
    • Monmouth County Vocational School District
    • Monmouth Regional High School
    • Neptune City (Woodrow Wilson School)
    • Neptune Township
    • Ocean Township
    • Oceanport
    • Red Bank
    • Red Bank Regional
    • Red Bank Catholic High School
    • Rumson
    • Shore Regional High School
    • Shrewsbury
    • Spring Lake Heights
    • St. John Vianney High School
    • Tinton Falls
    • Union Beach
    • Upper Freehold
    • Wall Township
    • West Long Branch

    If you know of any delays or closures not on this list, let us know in the comments.

    Justin Zaremba may be reached at jzaremba@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Gov. Chris Christie's order specifically targets Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. Watch video

    Gov. Chris Christie has now declared a state of emergency throughout New Jersey as a blizzard continues to pummel the state Thursday. 

    The governor had declared a state of emergency in four counties Thursday morning: Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean.

    Now Christie has expanded the order to include the entire state -- but specifically the four coastal counties listed above, as well as Burlington County. 

    Those areas have been the hardest hit by the storm. 

    When will the snow end in N.J.?

    The order authorizes state emergency management officials to coordinate response and recovery efforts with county and local officials and government agencies. 

    It also allows authorities to direct traffic and close roads for protection; to remove parked or abandoned vehicles from roadways; to evacuate people for emergency reasons; and to shelter people in need of help.

    Plus, declaring a state of emergency allows states to qualify for federal funds for immediate response and recovery.

    The storm is expected to drop as much as 18 inches of snow along the Jersey Shore and up to a foot in other places. It has also produced heavy wind gusts, low visibility, and large snow drifts. 

    Snowfall totals around N.J.

    Christie has urged motorists to stay off the roads, though drivers will not be ticketed specifically for driving in the conditions.

    The governor closed all state offices Thursday. The state Legislature has also canceled its voting sessions for the day.

    Find out more about the state's emergency plans at www.ready.nj.gov.

    The state Department of Transportation is updating road conditions at www.511NJ.org.

    Read Christie's full order here.

    NJ Advance Media staff writer S.P. Sullivan contributed to this report.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    Ready or not, another brutal blast of Arctic air is sweeping into New Jersey.

    First came the snow -- a lot of it. Now comes the next phase of this brutal winter season: Another blast of bone-chilling Arctic air.

    If you haven't already felt the biting cold temperatures as you were clearing snow from your car on Thursday afternoon, you will very soon. Temperatures will drop down into the single digits across most of New Jersey Thursday night and plummet close to zero -- below zero in some places -- by Saturday morning.

    And that's the regular air temperature, folks -- the worse news comes with the wind-chill. 

    If you weigh in the wind chill, your skin will feel like it's been exposed to temperatures as cold as 10 to 20 degrees below zero, forecasters say.

    "We will be getting dangerously cold conditions starting tonight," said Sarah Johnson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's regional forecast office in New Jersey.

    Because of the frigid temperatures, coupled with wind gusts that can get as high as 40 to 45 mph Thursday night, the weather service has issued a wind chill advisory for many parts of the region.

    The advisory will be in effect from 1 a.m. Friday through noon on Saturday.

    The thermometer at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the primary climate stations in New Jersey, is expected to dip down to 9 degrees Thursday night, will rise only up to 14 degrees on Friday and 12 degrees on Saturday, and drop as low as 2 to 5 degrees on those two nights. In a word: brrrrr. 

    Forecasters say the wind chill will make it feel as cold as zero to 10 degrees below zero Thursday night, and 5 to 15 below zero Friday night into Saturday morning.

    Even Atlantic City, much further south, is expected to cope with temperatures as low as 5 degrees the next few nights and wind chills ranging from 6 to 12 degrees below zero, the National Weather Service said.

    Lingering snow

    Forecasters say the remaining bands of snow from Thursday's massive coastal storm are expected to move away from New Jersey by 6 or 7 p.m., but strong wind gusts are expected to continue into late Thursday night.

    That can result in snow blowing onto roads that have already been cleared, and it also poses the risk of fallen tree branches knocking out power, the weather service said.

    Some areas of New Jersey were blanketed Thursday with as much as a foot of snow, and a few places got buried under as much as 16 to 17 inches, according to preliminary snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service.

    So far, the Cape May Court House section of Middle Township in Cape May County has reported the most snow -- 17 inches on the ground as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Among the other places coping with heavy snow accumulations are Bayville in Ocean County and Margate in Atlantic County, both of which reported 16 inches of snow.

    Snowfall totals have been considerably lower in northern and western sections of the Garden State.

    Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LensReality or like him on Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Chief said a gesture was completely misinterpreted

    An innocent gesture in one corner of the Internet can take on a much more sinister significance in other reaches of the online universe.  

    That, says a Monmouth County police chief, is exactly what happened when his department posted a picture to Facebook Thursday showing an officer using a hand sign sometimes associated with white supremacism.

    The Matawan Police Department's Facebook page is intentionally playful, says Chief Jason D. Gallo. Last month, for instance, the department posted a tongue-in-cheek warning reminding residents of some streets that they don't have "diplomatic immunity" from parking regulations.

    "We try to keep it very cool, very lighthearted," Gallo said.

    In that vein, a picture of some officers posted during Thursday's blizzard included a caption jokingly referring to them as "specially trained 'cuddlers'" who can be called upon to assist if residents lose heat.

    Gallo decided to remove the post, however, after a commenter focused on a hand gesture used by one of the officers, an upside-down "OK" symbol that is considered code by members of the white power movement.

    But the gesture can also have a much more benign significance, referring to the circle game. Similar to "punch buggy," the circle game is a playground contest in which the loser usually gets a sock in the arm. That, Gallo said, was the officer's meaning. 

    "The circle game, that kids play in school," Gallo said. "Someone tried to say it was something racial. It's just ridiculous."

    "Unfortunately something nice turned into us being in the news," added Gallo, who fielded calls from multiple media outlets. "That's why a lot of departments are not on social media."

    Paul Milo may be reached at pmilo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@PaulMilo2. Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     


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    Blizzard? Nor'easter? Bomb cyclone? A look at what made New Jersey's quick-hitting storm special and how the Garden State may have gotten off easy.


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    NJ.com looks at noteworthy items, news and events in its first edition of wrestling hot takes for 2018


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    The latest hot takes from New Jersey basketball


    0 0

    See what happened this week in girls basketball across New Jersey.


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    Phil Murphy, Bob Menendez and Frank Pallone lead press conference to swiftly establish opposition to Trump's offshore drilling plan.

    One day after the Trump administration moved to increase offshore drilling, New Jersey legislators, including senators and the governor-elect, forcefully expressed their opposition to the action.

    "It may be the coldest day outside but I am hot as hell about this new drilling plan," Senator Bob Menendez said at a press conference at McLoone's Pier House in Long Branch on a frigid Friday morning.

    Trump may put oil drilling rigs off N.J. beaches

    The press conference was held in reaction to an Interior Department announcement yesterday proposing that nearly all federal waters, from Alaska to Florida, be opened up for potential offshore drilling.

    "What the President announced yesterday was nothing less than dropping a ticking time bomb off our coast," Governor-elect Phil Murphy said.

    New Jersey has long fought against drilling off of the shore, with opponents contending that such action would threaten a shore economy that supports 500,000 jobs and which state officials say generates $44 billion annually with industries from commercial fishing to tourism. Murphy promised to continue opposing offshore drilling in Trenton, while Menendez and Congressman Frank Pallone pledged to fight the proposal in Congress.

    The last major offshore oil spill to affect New Jersey was in 2004, when an oil tanker struck an anchor in the Delaware River and spilled 265,000 gallons of oil.

    Incoming First Lady Tammy Murphy warned that the "Syringe Tide" of the late 1980's --- a hazardous waste disaster that forced New Jersey beaches to close when medical waste and garbage washed ashore --- would pale in comparison to the effects of an oil spill on the shore.

    Pallone said that the risk of drilling in the Atlantic was not worth the risk, because previous explorations for oil reserves had turned up little.

    "There isn't even that much proven reserves out there," Pallone said.

    The Obama administration previously banned offshore drilling in the Atlantic through 2022.

    "We've won before and we can win again," said Doug O'Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey. "The reason why we're going to win is that the science is on our side, and the public is on our side."

    The Trump administration's plan must first go through a public comment period, and a public hearing on the proposal has been scheduled for Feb. 14 in Trenton. The politicians, and the environmental advocates joining them, urged New Jerseyans to attend and make their voices heard.

    "It's a very romantic opportunity, I promise you," said Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

    Michael Sol Warren may be reached at mwarren@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Whiteout conditions on Thursday, blue skies on Friday


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    Zacche, 61, pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

    TRENTON -- Phil Zacche, a Jersey City cop for 38 years who rose to the rank of police chief in 2014, admitted in federal court today to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the Jersey City Housing Authority.

    Zacche, 61, pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds in the fifth-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton this afternoon.

    The charge comes with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a potential $250,000 fine. As part of Zacche's plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit $24,700.

    Zacche becomes the 10th person who has pleaded guilty in a wide-ranging federal probe of the Jersey City police department focused on cops who improperly took money related to the off-duty jobs program.

    This latest black eye for the city's police department comes the same day it is mourning the loss of 49-year-old Lt. Christopher Robateau, who was struck and killed by a vehicle on the Turnpike on his way to work. 

    Zacche is the first to admit accepting money from a public agency instead of a private company. Others have said they either took money from companies without performing the work they were hired to do or accepted bribes from other cops in exchange for approving fraudulent pay vouchers.

    Zacche admitted charging the JCHA for as much as $31,700 for work not performed after the agency hired him as security at the Marion Gardens public-housing complex between 2010 and 2014, prior to him becoming chief.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna said in court today that federal prosecutors have phone records that would prove Zacche was "nowhere close" to Marion Gardens when he claimed to be working there.

    Zacche spoke only briefly during today's 30-minute court hearing, largely responding to yes-or-no questions from Wolfson. He declined to comment afterward.

    "He made a decision that he regrets," said his attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo. "We believe his years of service are not reflected in what happened here today."

    It's not clear what federal prosecutors' sentencing recommendation will be. Iacullo said that is still being worked out.

    Rumors of Zacche's implication in the federal probe have been swirling in September. He retired as police chief abruptly in June. Mayor Steve Fulop appointed his replacement, Michael Kelly, on Wednesday.

    Zacche was once commander of the city's north police district, where Juan Romaniello, the first cop to plead guilty in the off-duty bribery scheme, once worked. Romaniello, who died in July before he could be sentenced, was in charge of assigning off-duty jobs to officers out of the north district.

    The city is taking credit for forwarding the allegations against Zacche to prosecutors in 2015.

    "We have zero tolerance for corruption or misconduct and today's actions speak to this," said city spokeswoman Kim Scalcione. "We will continue to work with the federal authorities to root out corruption."

    Zacche was the second man Fulop appointed police chief after he became mayor in July 2013. He abruptly demoted the first, Robert Cowan, an action that led Cowan to level a host of accusations of political malfeasance directed at Fulop and James Shea, the city's public-safety director.

    Zacche is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9. The first of the other eight officers scheduled to be setenced in the bribery scheme is set to appear in court on Jan. 25.

    Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.


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