Update to New Jersey School Construction

The mismanaged School Construction Corp, the multi billion dollar state agency in New Jersey established by Governor James McGreevy to build new schools in poor neighborhoods has been dismantled. Yesterday, Governor Jon Corzine’s administration announced that the agency will be abolished and a new streamlined agency will be established to oversee construction in cooperation with local boards. The new agency will need the approval of the state legislature.

It is now becoming clear that one of the problems for the old agency was that they became very enmeshed in land purchases. One particular purchase which has caused considerable questioning is a land parcel in Passaic County which was owned by the family of a reputed mobster. Local officials had opposed the construction of an elementary school on this site, because of location issues, including proximity to a porn theater. But they were ignored. A financial and personal relationship between the seller and a member of the school board is being investigated by the Attorney General’s office.

Republicans and Democrats alike are in agreement that the old agency should go. Republicans are calling for a more thorough investigation of the financial dealings and purchases of the old agency before funding a new one. Corzine’s administration appears to agree with them. At present, contracts between the School Construction Corp and third parties are being scrutinized. The interim head of the SCC says that the problem was not that they were over budget – the problem was that there was no budget.

I hope that Governor Corzine and the Attorney General don’t let this one go. I’d really like to know where the money went, since I live in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the USA which enjoys some of the highest property tax rates around.

One of the ways that I personally cut costs in this expensive part of the country is to not have HBO as part of my cable package. I am a fan of the Sopranos TV show, but I have to wait until it is on DVD or until someone invites me to their house to see it. Of course, basic cable has local news, including the shenanigans in Trenton, the state capitol. If I keep watching this story, maybe I won’t have to wait so long to see what guys like Tony Soprano are really up to!

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