National Roundup 05-03: NJ Lawmakers Question Amtrak’s Scheduling Decisions for Repairs; Obamas Unveil Design of Presidential Center in Chicago;
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:
NJ Lawmakers Question Amtrak’s Scheduling Decisions for Penn Station Repairs: Lawmakers in New Jersey are questioning the wisdom of Amtrak’s planned track “outages” during Penn Station repairs scheduled for this summer after preliminary details of the plan surfaced on Monday.
Senator Bob Gordon called for the railway to conduct the repairs during the summer holidays instead of going through with two planned outages, one lasting 19 days and another for 25. A representative from Amtrak told Politico yesterday that the plans are still subject to change. The first outage would be from July 7 to July 25 and the second from August 4 to August 28, with the leaked plan predicting “significant impacts to service.” NJ Transit is also reviewing the plan.
\Assemblyman John McKeon, who is overseeing committee hearings into the Amtrak and NJ Transit derailments that sparked the coming rounds of repairs, also favors shifting the burden of closures to holiday travelers rather than everyday commuters. While holiday travelers could plan alternate routes, there are few alternative public transportation routes for commuters who come from as far away from New York as Trenton.
It is still unclear how many tracks would be affected by the outages, but Senator Loretta Weinberg said that she favors changes to the management structure of Penn Station so that details like that are subject to the input of officials at Amtrak, NJ Transit and the Long Island Railroad alike. [Observer]
Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish Chamber Expands to NYC: The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce has opened an office in New York City in a bid to expand its services — and its network — across the Hudson River.
Duvi Honig, the chamber’s founder and chief executive officer, said the region would benefit from cooperation that is rarely found among business groups and government agencies. “It strengthens New Jersey, it strengthens New York and it strengthens the bottom dollar of this circle,” Honig said.
The Lakewood-based chamber has more than 1,000 members and thousands more workers and entrepreneurs who have used its services. Its expansion could be timely. Honig said he has found the problems faced by Lakewood’s Orthodox community such as student debt and financial stress aren’t confined to one religion. The chamber’s expos and networking events are open to the public. The next stop is New York City, where Honig hopes to expand its reach once again. “The biggest challenge today is economic stability for every single family,” he said. [APP]
Obamas Unveil Design of Presidential Center in Chicago: Former first couple Barack and Michelle Obama on Wednesday offered the first look at the design of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park — a campus of three buildings highlighted by an eye-catching museum, whose height and splaying walls would make a bold architectural statement.
The museum, which will house exhibition space as well as education and meeting rooms, will be the tallest of the three structures. It will be clad in a light-colored stone and will serve as a “lantern” for the complex, though a news release did not specify its height. To its south would be the forum, which will house an auditorium, restaurant and public garden, and the library, which will contain a trove of documents, emails, photos and artifacts from Obama’s eight years in office.
Pathways will allow visitors to walk from the park to landscaped roofs above the library and forum, which would each be one-story tall. From the roofs, there will be views of Lake Michigan, the Jackson Park lagoon and an outdoor plaza that would connect the three buildings.
The former president painted a picture of a vibrant park around the center, where children would sled down newly created hills, where people would barbecue and where activity would spill over to nearby stores and restaurants. “This is just the beginning of a process, not the end,” he said. “It’s not just a single building. It’s more like a campus.” [Chicago Tribune]
Pritzker Launches First TV Ads in Dem Primary for Illinois Governor: Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker is launching the first television ads of the Democratic primary for Illinois governor. Pritzker’s campaign released a 60-second ad statewide Tuesday.
The introductory ad is aimed at helping voters get to know Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune who doesn’t have the name recognition of some of his rivals, especially outside of Chicago.
Other candidates who’ve said they’re seeking the Democratic nomination in March 2018 include businessman Chris Kennedy, state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar.
A group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association has been running ads featuring GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s seeking a second term. [AP]
Marco Rubio Reshapes Senate Staff: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced on Wednesday he was expanding his team, with new staffers and current ones getting promotions.
Rubio announced that Lauren Reamy, who had been his deputy legislative director, would take over as legislative director. Originally from Davie, Reamy had served Rubio as as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee. Before that, she worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and was legislative director for the Motion Pictures Association of America. She took over as deputy legislative director for Rubio at the end of last year.
Robert Zarate, who worked for U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and U.S. Rep Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., continues as Rubio’s senior foreign policy advisor, a post he held since the end of last year. Now he has additional responsibilities, being named to lead Rubio’s foreign policy team. Zarate had been Kirk’s national security advisor working on a number of issues, including Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile defenses.
Rubio also added to his communications team. Matt Wolking has been promoted to senior communications advisor and press secretary. Before working for Rubio, Wolking had been an executive producer for Laura Ingraham’s national talk radio show and had worked for then U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, communications team and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy’s, R-SC, House Select Committee on Benghazi. Olivia Perez-Cubas is back on Rubio’s team as communications director. She had worked in Rubio’s communications team and had worked for his presidential bid. [Sunshine State News]
El Al Launches Nonstop Flight To Miami: El Al Israel Airlines will begin nonstop flights between Tel Aviv and Miami in November. It will be El Al’s sixth route in North America; the others are New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto.
Miami International Airport had been in talks with Israel’s national airline since February 2016 in order to secure the route, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.
“In our efforts to make MIA a truly global gateway, Israel has always been one of our top strategic targets because of its unique and historically significant global location, and because of its deep cultural ties with Miami,” Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio Gonzalez said in a statement.
South Florida has a large Jewish population. [JTA]