National Roundup 04-06: Amid Controversy and Concerns, BMG Postpones Lakewood Shopping Village Application; Billionaire J.B. Pritzker Announces Run for Illinois Gov.
NJ Transit Demands Amtrak Take ‘Corrective Actions Now’ in Wake of Derailment: At a hastily called press conference in Newark, NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro said the train cars involved in Monday’s incident — the second at Penn Station in less than two weeks — had all passed inspections over the last six months and appeared to be in working order.
He strongly implied an issue with the tracks, which are owned and operated by Amtrak, may have been responsible for the incident, even as he said a cause remained under investigation.
“New Jersey Transit customers are beyond frustrated with the havoc that has been wreaked upon their lives,” Santoro said. “It is Amtrak’s responsibility to take immediate action and all corrective actions to resolve continuing problems at Penn Station New York for the sake of all of our customers of the region’s transit system. As a tenant, New Jersey Transit will take all measures to hold Amtrak accountable.”
The remarks come as NJ Transit has been trying to right its sagging reputation after last year’s fatal train crash in Hoboken, across the board fare increases and diminishing funding from the Statehouse in Trenton. The press conference came minutes after Gov. Chris Christie, who controls the agency, said he had ordered NJ Transit executives to “personally appear at stations throughout the agency’s system to discuss Monday’s derailment.” [Politico]
Amid Controversy and Concerns, BMG Postpones Lakewood Shopping Village Application: The leader of the town’s top yeshiva said Wednesday that a plan for a 187,000-square-foot shopping center, to be built by the yeshiva, was on hold indefinitely.
Rabbi Aaron Kotler, head of Beth Medrash Govoha, the country’s largest yeshiva, said he had heard a lot of concern from the Jewish community over the proposed shopping center, called Lakewood Shopping Village, planned for the intersection of Pine Street and Avenue of the States.
“We are sensitive to those concerns, which transcend Lakewood, and believe they are worthy of a broader discussion among all stakeholders,” Kotler said, adding that some yeshiva students were worried about “an increased focus on materialism in Lakewood.”
So BMG on Tuesday pulled the proposal from Lakewood’s planning board and has put the project on hold for the time being. Ally Morris, Lakewood’s planning board administrator, said the prosposal had been “postponed until further notice.” Lakewood Shopping Village was yanked from Tuesday’s planning board agenda just hours before a public hearing and vote were to be held. The retail development, proposed late last year, has faced strong resistance from Lakewood residents. Most have complained about traffic and over-development, but others have raised concerns about the yeshiva being involved in commercial development. [APP]
Rahm Emanuel Calls Donald Trump’s Attack on CPS ‘Fake News’: President Donald Trump’s surprise attack on Chicago Public Schools is “fake news,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday. Then he set out to prove it — by raising the bar for the city’s high school students.
Starting with the current freshman class, CPS will make “having a plan for post-secondary success” a graduation requirement. That means that, in order to graduate, members of the Class of 2020 and beyond will have to present a letter of acceptance, either to a four-year college, a community college, the military, or a trade. Without a “post-high school education plan,” they won’t graduate, he said.
It’s not yet known how the plans would be funded — or how CPS would enforce them given that state law doesn’t require them.
The mayor announced the new program at Malcolm X College, flanked by CPS students, teachers and graduates and in front of a banner bearing a new slogan: “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Billionaire J.B. Pritzker Announces Run for Illinois Governor: Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that he is launching a campaign to try to unseat Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, setting the stage for what could be one of the most expensive races of the 2018 election cycle.
Pritzker, an heir to his family’s Hyatt Hotel chain and investor who Forbes estimates is worth $3.4 billion, has the ability to self-finance a campaign that is expected to shatter the more than $100 million spent by the wealthy venture capitalist Rauner and former Democratic governor Pat Quinn in the 2014 race.
Pritzker, who served as co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the White House, will join a crowded Democratic field seeking the nomination that includes businessman Chris Kennedy, the son of late attorney general Robert F. Kennedy. Pritzker’s sister, Penny, served as Commerce secretary in President Obama’s administration. He also founded the Pritzker Group, a private investment firm, and the Chicago tech incubator 1871.
Pritzker formally announced his campaign in a rally on Chicago’s South Side surrounded by family and supporters, calling Rauner a “local partner” of President Trump. “You wanna know why I am running for governor?” Pritzker told supporters. “Everything we care about is under siege by Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner.” [USA Today]
Florida May Spend Money to Boost Security at Jewish Schools: Florida may help beef up security at Jewish day schools around the state.
House and Senate budget committees on Wednesday voted to set aside money for security in spending plans being drawn up by the Legislature. The amounts that legislators set aside range between $254,000 and $500,000.
Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican, says the money would go to pay for security upgrades at day schools now serving around 10,000 children. Budget documents say part of the funding go to fences and installing bullet proof glass.
Since Jan. 9, there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces, according to a report issued late last month by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that battles anti-Semitism. [News Observer]