Van Drew must want nuke plants’ campaign cash; Fear N.J. pension push from school guards | Feedback

The 2011 Fukushima generating plant disaster in Japan made the dangers of nuclear power very clear. Many European and Asian leaders reacted responsibly by accelerating their countries’ phase-out of nuclear power.

But some U.S. leaders apparently care more about money from related industries than the dangers of nukes. Three Democratic state senators –  Stephen Sweeney of Gloucester County, Bob Smith of Middlesex County and Jeff Van Drew of Cape May County — are examples. All are primary sponsors of S877, the main nuclear subsidy bill.

The legislation subsidizes the continued operation of outmoded nuclear plants with a surcharge that raises your electricity bill. S877 and an identical Assembly bill (A2850) have been approved by committees, and stand ready for a final vote in each house.

“The bill forces New Jersey ratepayers to subsidize energy in other states, stretching all the way to Chicago,” as Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran wrote recently. “This bill puts the entire burden on New Jersey.”

So why the rush, and why are only Democrats supporting it? The answer is political.

Van Drew entered the 2018 race for the 2nd Congressional District seat last November. For years, he declined to run against Republican incumbent Rep. Frank LoBiondo. But, with LoBiondo retiring and creating an open seat, Van Drew’s chances are better.

An earlier version of the state subsidy bill failed in December, after its introduction in the last days of a lame-duck Legislature. Now, conservative Democrats who support Van Drew want to pass the new bill as soon as possible.

If they succeed, Van Drew can expect generous campaign contributions from electric utilities “all the way to Chicago” and beyond. He’ll need that money for a contested June primary as well as for November, because much of his support comes from party insiders, not the Democrats’ base.

This explains both the partisanship and the Democratic establishment’s sense of urgency.

R. Baker, Mantua Township

Fear N.J. pension push from school guards

I think the Vineland Board of Education has the right idea if it decides to use armed security for our schools, as one board member has proposed. In the current deadly climate of mass school shootings, the safety of our students is paramount. 

I believe that armed security works. A few years ago, I recall that a local movie theater hired armed security from a private company in response to a problem with local youth gangs. This security was utilized during the theater’s peak business hours, and I haven’t heard of a problem since. If it can work for a movie theater, it can work for our pubic schools. 

However, I am concerned with the idea of hiring armed security from a pool of retired municipal, county and state law-enforcement officers. Being state employees, I fear that if hired, they will demand pensions on top of the ones they are already drawing from. Even Vineland school board member Tom Ulrich, a retired Vineland police captain who proposed the armed-security idea, has continued a second public job as an adjunct professor after qualifying for his police pension. 

Although some specific special officer programs restrict further pension eligibility, hiring retired police officers for the schools could prove to be very costly for Vineland residents already overburdened with high property taxes. Unfortunately, nobody in this world works for free anymore. Even our local volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel, since 1998, have received taxpayer-funded LOSAP (Length of Service Award) payments into 401(k)-type accounts.

The Vineland Board of Education should hammer out this problem before they proceed with posting armed security in our schools. 

George I. Anderson, Vineland

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