National Roundup 01-09: Bomb Threats Prompt Evacuation of Jewish Community Centers in NJ, 4 Other States; Agriculture Commissioner Announces Launch of New Texas-Israel Trade Initiative
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
Less Ambitious Agenda Expected for Christie’s Final Year in Office: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, his national profile diminished and in-state popularity at an all-time low, will deliver his final state-of-the-state address Tuesday to a legislature already looking ahead to a new administration.
Mr. Christie, prevented by term limits from running for re-election and scheduled to depart office next January, promised in a November speech that he would “leave this job in exactly the same way I came into it: loudly.” But the Republican governor, who hasn’t secured a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration despite being one of his earliest backers, has lost much of the political capital he commanded until last year.
Few in New Jersey expect Mr. Christie to tackle ambitious policy issues during his final year as governor, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “There is very little expectation that we see the Chris Christie of 2010, the one who burst onto the scene, tried to grab state government by the throat and shake it into submission on the big issues of the day,” he said.
Mr. Palatucci said he expects Mr. Christie to spend much of his final year in office focused on improving treatment for drug addiction, an issue the governor discusses frequently in public. Ms. Weinberg, the Senate majority leader, said addiction is an important issue, but she hopes the governor also works with legislators on transportation funding, economic initiatives and education. [WSJ]
Bomb Threats Prompt Evacuation of Jewish Community Centers in New Jersey, 4 Other States: Authorities are investigating bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers in at least five states, including New Jersey, on Monday.
The JCC on Palisades in Tenafly sent out a text alert saying it received a bomb threat shortly after noon, and that it evacuated the entire building, including a preschool, senior center and adult daycare facility for people with disabilities, as a precaution. Parents of preschoolers were told to pick up their kids and all JCC programs were canceled for the day. The precise nature of the threat wasn’t clear, but the JCC said police were investigating. Similar phoned-in threats were reported Monday at religious centers in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee and South Carolina.
JCC MetroWest in West Orange sent an email to members about its enhanced security protocol, which includes moving its guard post to a more visible location, rotating guards on patrol and installing new, brighter lighting in the garage. “We know of NO immediate threat to our JCC, we have made these adjustments as part of our ongoing effort to consistently review our security program and put in place the recommendations of well qualified security professionals,” the email said. [NBC4]
CTA Lands $1.1 Billion Goodbye Grant From Obama: City Hall has received the parting gift it wanted from the Obama administration: just under $1.1 billion in federal grants to rebuild a key stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line north.
The city and U.S. Department of Transportation officials are scheduled to sign a contract tomorrow known as a full-funding grant agreement, committing the DOT’s Federal Transit Agency to provide $957 million in “core capacity” funds and another $125 million in anti-congestion money for the CTA’s Phase One Red/Purple Modernization project. The money will be matched with city property taxes collected by a special transit tax-increment financing district that the City Council in November unanimously voted to establish, covering property one half mile on either side of the Red Line from North Avenue to the city limits.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a phone interview, called the Red Line “the central nerve” of the CTA system. The federal money “means 6,000 (construction) jobs, and it means decades of neighborhood improvements,” he said. “Forty percent of the people who take the CTA take that line.” The money will go for new stations, signals, track and structures in a mile-long stretch from Lawrence Avenue to Bryn Mawr Avenue, as well as for a flyover or bypass separating Red and Brown line tracks just north of Belmont Avenue at a spot known as the Clark Junction. [Crains]
Jewish Couple Received Anti-Semitic Note After Hanging Black Lives Matter Flag: Jewish couple Sonya and Mikey Franklin also told BuzzFeed News their Rockville home was vandalized with toilet paper thrown around their trees and eggs thrown at the side of their car. “The purpose was to scare us, and they succeeded because we’re scared,” Mikey Franklin told BuzzFeed News. “Not that people will harm us, but that there are people that would do this in our very diverse area.”
The handwritten note, scribbled in a block-type handwriting, also included a yellow star of David and the word “Jude” (German for Jew), similar to the badges Nazis made Jewish people wear during the Holocaust.
The Rockville Police Department has received an incident report on the letter, spokesman Sgt. Christopher Peck told BuzzFeed News on Sunday. In an email, Lt. Brain Paul said the incident is being classified as a “possible hate crime and will be investigated as such.” Initially, Sgt. Peck said that the note Franklin allegedly received was not anti-Semitic. “There’s nothing in there that is referenced that is anti-Semitic,” Peck said, adding that he was unsure what the word “Jude” meant. [BuzzFeed]
Miami Beach JCC, Alper JCC Evacuated After Bomb Threats: The Miami Beach Jewish Community Center was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat Monday morning, shortly after another evacuation at the Alper JCC in southwest Miami-Dade.
Officials with the JCC at 4221 Pine Tree Drive said they called Miami Beach Police after receiving the threat. The building was evacuated and police went through and gave the all clear after nothing was found, officials said. Police said the threat had been received by telephone.
Minutes earlier, the Dave & Mary Alper JCC at 11155 Southwest 112th Avenue had been evacuated for another bomb threat. Footage showed dozens of students gathered in groups outside the center as police and fire officials responded. Miami-Dade Police said the Alper JCC also received the threat over the phone, and that staff evacuated the buildings out of an abundance of caution. A bomb squad was doing a security sweep, officials said. [NBC6]
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Announces Launch of New Texas-Israel Trade Initiative: Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced today that he has been invited to Israel to meet with regional and national officials, including Uri Ariel, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, to discuss vital agricultural issues, including trade and jobs. The trip will take place in March and the itinerary is still being finalized.
I am going to deliver the message to our trade partners in Israel that Texas is open for business and that we are looking forward to strengthening the bond between Texas and Israel,” Miller said. “Whether working on agricultural technology such as livestock genetics, finding solutions to our future water needs, increasing Texas exports or creating new jobs for both Texas and Israel, we have only scratched the surface of the ways we can work together,” Miller said.
Commissioner Miller’s visit kicks off a new Texas Department of Agriculture initiative to strengthen ties between the State of Texas and the Jewish state of Israel through trade and marketing opportunities. As a part of that initiative, Miller’s office is already working on discussions with Israeli companies to invest in production, distribution, and marketing centers in Texas. But the visit will not focus solely on economic or agricultural issues. He will also be visiting the Judaen and Samarian West bank settlements at the invitation of Yossi Dagan, Governor of Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council. [TXInsider]