Noose found in Dennis Collins Park
A rope tied in the shape of a noose was found hanging from a tree at Dennis Collins Park on the morning of April 19, according to Bayonne police. The noose was removed within a few hours, no suspects were detained, and the incident remains under investigation. Police said the incident was not being investigated as a hate crime.
The noose can be a symbol of public lynchings, in which a person (most often a person of color) is killed in retaliation for an alleged offense without a fair and legal trial. Historically, and recently, nooses have been found outside places where people of color live and/or work. It’s the third time in the last three months that a noose was found in North Jersey. In February, a noose was found at the American Dream construction site in the Meadowlands. In 2017, a black hospital employee found a noose in his work area. Nooses have been found outside historically black high schools, and in 2017, outside the African-American History and Culture Museum.
Dennis Collins Park is across the street from a housing complex where many people of color live.
Costco refunds for bad gas
Costco Wholesale started issuing refunds last week to customers who, between March 6 and 18, bought premium gas from the company’s new Goldsborough Drive location that contained a higher-than-normal dose of detergent additive. Putting gas with too much detergent additive in a fuel tank can result in mechanical issues in cars, but the additives are necessary to prevent buildup of carbon deposits in injectors, intake valves, and combustion chamber surfaces. Detergents have been legally required as a gas additive since 1996.
Refunds will be mailed to all affected customers Costco identified. In a statement, Costco said that affected drivers may have experienced rough engine starts, idling, or other performance issues, and that there is little chance of the detergents causing long-term mechanical problems.
Data shows school districts pile up debt building schools
The NJ public school system carries less debt than other states, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Still, the $1 billion the state spends every year to pay off the bonds to finance school buildings is equal to about a quarter of the state’s total debt service, according to an analysis from NJ Spotlight.
NJ averages $5,100 per student, which is roughly 60 percent of the nationwide average of $8,900 per student. Some districts account for much more of the debt than the rest of the state: 23 districts spent more than $20,000 per student. Bayonne is not one of them. The Bayonne school district is slightly under the national average, at about $8,200 per student for a total of $80.1 million, as of the end of the 2016 school year.
The mayor and board of education have been talking about the need for a new school in Bayonne. This would require more debt and funding from the state, which could help servicing that debt. For vocational schools that fund Abbott Districts (which include Jersey City, Union City, West New York, and Hoboken), the state can provide up to 90 percent of debt service. Such is the case for the $150 million High Tech High School in Secaucus.
Crooks posing as immigration officers, police warn
In an alleged crime that Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said “puts unnecessary fear in our immigrant community,” two brothers from Parlin posed as immigration officers to rob a man in Newark, according to Newark Patch. Police said that around 1:30 a.m. on April 15, they cut off the victim’s car at an intersection: they jumped out of their car, and ordered the victim out of his car.
Public defender fee raised from $50 to $200
The Bayonne City Council passed an ordinance on April 17 raising the public defender fee from $50 to $200, the maximum allowed by state statute. A public defender fee can be charged to a defendant who does not have enough money to pay for a lawyer. Public officials defended raising the fee by pointing out that whether a defendant pays a fee is, and has always been, left to the discretion of the judge.
Public defender fees are part of a national conversation about equalizing criminal risk across racial and economic divides. Many in the criminal justice community view public defender fees as a violation of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees legal representation to every person accused of a crime, including those unable to pay. In practice, though, indigent clients often pay attorney’s fees, particularly in the lower courts.
Legal groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Bar Association warn that higher public defender fees can deter the accused from seeking counsel in the first place. Without counsel, defendants are much more likely to be imprisoned or jailed, an outcome that state and local governments in New Jersey have taken significant steps to mitigate in recent years. Jersey City, and many others across the country, have taken the opposite route by eliminating the fee entirely.
NJ approves controversial $300m nuclear bailout
Last week, in what the New Jersey Sierra Club’s director called “the biggest sellout of the ratepayers and the environment in state history,” the state Board of Public Utilities approved a plan to subsidize three nuclear plants run by PSEG. Despite board staff members finding the private corporation’s plants to be “financially viable,” as ProPublica reports, the regulators voted 4-1 to give it $300 million per year. The move will cost $35 to $45 a year for most household customers, and an average of $570,000 for large businesses. Other states have awarded millions of dollars in similar subsidies.
NJ ranks dead last for pay gap: Latinas vs. white men
According to recently released data from the National Women’s Law Center, NJ has the widest wage gap for Latinas, who are paid only $0.42 for every dollar paid to white men. Our neighbors aren’t much better: New York pays Latinas on average $.56; Pennsylvania, $0.57. For Black women, that number is only $.57. Though Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act last year, NJ ranks near the bottom for Black women (42nd) and white women (42nd), and below the nationwide average for Native American women (36th), yet it ranks 6th for Asian women.