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  • Announcing a New Build with Purpose White Paper: Too Good to Be True: Lessons Learned on Solar Powering the Nonprofit Sector

    Posted on June 14th, 2012 lauren No comments

    We are pleased to share our findings from a new white paper of ours on solar powering the nonprofit sector.  As usual, we believe in being very practical when it comes to a facility or real estate project.  So along the way we learned that nonprofits can use these seven simple questions before pursuing a solar initiative and save themselves a great deal of time and effort.

    1. Do you have enough space for a large rooftop solar array? (If you want someone else to pay for it as an investor, make sure you have at least 20,000 SF).  Or do you have 20,000 square feet of space on the ground?
    2. Do you have a reasonable amount of sun on the roof?
    3. Is your roof older? Pitched or flat?
    4. Does your facility use a substantial amount of electricity?
    5. Do you own your facility?
    6. What is your risk profile? Is your organization willing to enter into a long-term electricity contract?
    7. Does your organization own multiple buildings with the same legal owner?


    For more information on whether solar is right for your nonprofit and how we can all make solar power more viable for the nonprofit sector, please visit:




  • CD WiRe (June 30-July 6)

    Posted on July 6th, 2011 Build with Purpose No comments

    1. What Might Young Professionals Want from Careers in Community Development?
    Do we know what young people in community development want and need?  “I honestly don’t know of that many young people in the field here, you’ve made me stop and think,” one association director from the Southeast noted. “We are a graying field,” said the head of a Mid-Atlantic region state CDC association. If CDCs are going to speak to the needs and interests of the new generation now trying to break into the sector, they will have to understand that the impetus of many young people in community development is more about building and strengthening community
    Read more…

    2. New Jersey’s Solar Ambitions Raise Difficult Land-Use Issues
    Home to more than 9,000 solar projects with a total capacity of more than 320 megawatts, New Jersey ranks second only to California in total installed solar capacity. Due to its much smaller land area, New Jersey has by far the most solar capacity per square mile of any state.  New Jersey’s Solar Advancement Act of 2010 calls for adding 4,000 megawatts of electricity output from solar by 2026, a 13-fold increase from today’s level. This goal could be met using an estimated 24 square miles of land or 300 million square feet of rooftop—or, most likely, a combination of the two.  Because of New Jersey’s small size, the effects of solar development on other land uses are more pressing than in other states.
    Read more…

    3. Governor Removes Funding for Transit Villages
    After being restored to the budget that was passed by the Legislature last week, funding for the Department of Transportation’s Transit Village program was removed from the FY 2012 spending plan signed by Governor Chris Christie on June 30.  The governor used his line-item veto power to eliminate funding for the program, along with a host of other items that had been included in the budget approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.  The Democrats’ proposal would not have increased spending to pay for the Transit Village program; rather, it included language that directed DOT Commissioner Jim Simpson to dedicate $1 million to the program from already allocated funds. The governor’s line-item veto struck this language from the budget.
    Read more…

    4. Social Entrepreneurship as Fetish
    How to thrive in turbulent times, improve organizational sustainability, and generate significant social impact are crucial questions currently confronting many nonprofit leaders and boards. There appears to be an answer within reach, and its formula is as simple as it is powerful: You and your agency need to become more entrepreneurial.  Over the last ten years, the fascination with and interest in social entrepreneurship seem to have grown exponentially. Today, this concept has positioned itself at the very heart of discussions about the future and evolution of the nonprofit sector, as a number of nonprofit executives have embraced social entrepreneurship as a model of management.
    Read more…

    5. Rising rent forces Jersey City charter school out of city-owned building
    Starting September, Jersey City’s Golden Door Charter School will have a new home.  Faculty and staff are currently vacating the school’s 50,000 square foot facility at 108 Ninth Street and Marin Boulevard, which housed the K-8 institution for 13 years and was built by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.  On Sept. 6, students will open the new school year at the former St. John the Baptist School and convent buildings at 3044 Kennedy Blvd.  This move has been in the pipeline for nearly two years, primarily because of rising rent.
    Read more…

    6. NJ Assembly approves 4 charter school bills
    The New Jersey Assembly has passed four pieces of legislation addressing how charter schools are created and operated.  Charter schools are funded by taxpayers but operate outside the regular public school system.  One bill passed Wednesday would require voters or school boards to sign off on new charter schools. Another would allow certain colleges to authorize them. Under current law, only the state can do that.
    Read more…

    7. How N.J. fumbled on gay marriage
    When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a same-sex marriage bill on June 24, many gays in New Jersey celebrated a hard-fought victory by their neighbors.  But that joy was tempered by bitterness and regret. New Jersey’s Democratic-majority Legislature missed an opportunity to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in January 2010, during the final days of Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s administration. His successor, Republican Chris Christie, opposes marriage rights for gays.  Last month, a Republican-majority Legislature sent a marriage equality bill to Cuomo, the man Christie calls his “soul mate.”
    Read more…

    8. Deal to Save NJ’s Xanadu Chips Away At Affordable Housing Near Urban Transit Centers
    In order to grant corporate tax incentives to resurrect New Jersey’s moribund Xanadu shopping complex, Governor Chris Christie needed the Democratically-controlled state legislature to follow through with legislation (pdf). The bill would grant at least $200 million in tax credits to a company to finish the stalled  project — now to be rebranded as American Dream Meadowlands.  And as WNYC’s Bob Hennelly reports, that is not all that the bill does.  Democrats used the opportunity to radically alter the state’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Act, which offers significant tax credits to developers undertaking residential construction near mass-transit in urban centers like Camden and Newark.
    Read more…

    9. New report From Coldwell Banker Says Affordable Housing is Available in NJ
    If you think finding an affordable home that fits your needs in New Jersey will be a difficult task, think again.  A new nationwide report released by Coldwell Banker Real Estate shows while home prices in the Garden State are robust, there are some surprises.  The report, called the Home Listing Report (HLR), compares the average home listing price of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom property listed on coldwellbanker.com between September 2010 and March 2011.  The HLR results reveal of the 156 New Jersey real estate markets, Newark led the list as the most affordable market in the state with an average of $170,427.
    Read more…

    10. Carmakers and White House Haggling Over Mileage Rules
    The Obama administration and the auto industry are locked in negotiations over new vehicle mileage and emissions standards that will have a profound effect on the cars Americans drive and the health of the auto industry over the next decade and beyond.  Depending on the stringency of the standard, the deal could also reduce global warming emissions by millions of tons a year and cut oil imports by billions of barrels over the life of the program, cornerstones of President Obama’s energy policy.  The administration is proposing regulations that will require new American cars and trucks to attain an average of as much as 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double the current level. That would require increases in fuel efficiency of nearly 5 percent a year from 2017 to 2025.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (June 16-22)

    Posted on June 22nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. Rail Stations Drive Demand
    As New Jersey slowly emerges from the economic downturn, its office market is beginning to transform into one concentrated around train stations.  Businesses have been leasing space in areas served by train stations at a higher rate than those only accessible by car, according to real-estate firms. The trend reflects demographic shifts and higher gasoline prices as well as changes in worker priorities.  For example, businesses are beginning to recognize that many employees care less about living in sprawling estates and more about living in diverse areas with restaurants and entertainment within walking distance.
    Click here to read more…

    2. When Eating Well Is a Matter of Where You Live
    America’s battle to lose weight and eat healthy has many fronts. There is the battle to get Americans to make better choices at restaurants. There is the battle to get them to shop smarter.  But for some people and some communities, the battle is about having access to healthy food. Some places may be swimming in Whole Foods Markets, but in others, places labeled food deserts, affordable nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by. And these food deserts are spread across Patchwork Nation, but very unevenly.
    Click here to read more…

    3. ‘Parent Trigger’ Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy
    In a bare-bones basement office in Buffalo, N.Y., Katie Campos, an education activist, is plotting a revolution. She and her minuscule staff of the advocacy group Buffalo ReformED are against incredible odds. In less than a week, they are trying to get a controversial law known as the “parent trigger” through the New York legislature. It’s a powerful nickname for game-changing legislation that would enable parents who could gather a majority at any persistently failing school to either fire the principal, fire 50% of the teachers, close the school or turn it into a charter school.
    Click here to read more…

    4. Solving the Real Estate Crisis with Parks
    Mike Messner, the investment fund manager, is the primary force behind the budding “Redfields to Greenfields” movement, which has been picked up by more than 10 major cities in the U.S. The basic idea is to turn toxic real estate into parks, elevating nearby property values, and turning a downward spiral of economic stagnation and disinvestment into a positive, self-reinforcing trend of new growth. As Messner noted in a conference he organized with City Parks Alliance on Capitol Hill, “parks and trees are great. I do like them. However, these are secondary to good investments.” And investing in transforming redfields into parks makes smart economic sense these days.  “The U.S. caused this real estate crisis with its housing policy. There were no down payment requirements, easy credit, and lots of capital moving into non-performing assets.” As a result, the federal government had to move in with $10 trillion investments and recovery programs (“real estate backstopping”) to hold off further economic decline. To counter this trend, surplus land must be redeveloped as green space. Cities large or small can use green spaces as an “economic multiplier” that not only creates green infrastructure but also helps developers get developing again.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Love thy neighbour. Gen Y embraces closeness of urban living
    Domesticity, and its accompanying architectural fantasy, have driven urban development since the mid-19th century and most intensely since the 1950s.  It’s the dream that allows us to imagine our most intimate familial relationships, those between ourselves, our partner and our children inside a particular architectural form. It’s almost always a single family dwelling, on a fenced block, separated from its neighbours with little collective amenity beyond sewage, roads and electricity. There’s a back yard, sometimes a dog — we see it on Backyard Blitz and other renovation shows.  It comes to us from Grand Designs as much from New Idea. The American version has a picket fence and pitched roof like a child’s drawing.
    Click here to read more…

    6. Mets to help fund new Sept. 11 charity program
    In a news conference Tuesday at Citi Field, the Mets and Tuesday’s Children announced that the team will help pay for The First Responder Alliance Mentoring Program, which will provide trained mentors for children whose parents died due to illness attributed to their time working at ground zero or Fresh Kills Landfill.  The Mets say it’s the third program they have helped fund for Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization committed to helping people affected by the 9/11 attacks and terrorism worldwide.”
    Click here to read more…

    7. Despite a report citing Camden’s school failings, N.J. has declined to act
    Despite Gov. Christie’s frequent calls for no delay in repairing New Jersey’s failing schools, the state for over a year has had the information and means to step in and provide increased help and oversight to improve Camden’s schools, but has not.  A report made through the state’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process last June found Camden failing in three of five performance areas – personnel, instruction and program, and governance. In the other two areas, operations and fiscal management, the scores were low enough to warrant correction. Under QSAC, the state could have sought to appoint “highly skilled professionals” to oversee the district’s problem areas as part of a “partial intervention.”
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Foreclosures stalled in NJ, statistics show
    Home foreclosure filings in New Jersey have dropped dramatically, according to the latest figures released by both the New Jersey Judiciary and Realty Trac, a nationwide firm that tracks foreclosure statistics.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that the good news may be short-lived.  The judiciary has been working since late last year to ensure that the foreclosure processes used by six major lenders in the state are proceeding fairly. This has created a backlog in the filing of new cases.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  NewBridge GED program helps N.J. high school dropouts chase their goals
    A year ago Brian Wells was a junior at Dover High School. He did not do his homework, talked back to his teachers and was constantly in detention. By the end of the year, the 18-year-old from Mine Hill had dropped out.  But earlier this month Wells walked proudly onto the stage of the Elks Lodge in Boonton to receive his high school diploma — and a surprise award. He was one of 42 former high school dropouts who succeeded in earning their GED as part of NewBridge Services’ 70001 Jobs Plus program, an alternative education initiative run by a nonprofit providing behavioral health and education services in Morris and Passaic counties. Now in its 27th year, the program helps struggling young men and women ages 16 to 21 turn their lives around.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  With Latest Energy Plan, New Jersey’s Solar Future Now Becomes Hazy
    A change in policy direction has cast doubts on the future success of the New Jersey solar market, which is currently the second largest in the U.S.  The state’s 2011 Energy Master Plan (EMP), which was recently released by the office of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., reiterates the state government’s support for the development of renewable energy and maintains an existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 22.5% renewables by 2021.  The plan also criticizes several facets of the state’s solar policy and makes recommendations for revisions that could jeopardize New Jersey’s leadership position in solar project development, according to some organizations.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (June 9-15)

    Posted on June 15th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Newark to open 4 high schools and 7 charter schools in less than 3 months, report says
    A controversial plan released Monday calls for creating four new high schools in Newark and opening or expanding seven charter schools inside existing city schools.  Newark Schools superintendent Cami Anderson said there are no plans to close any schools this fall, but five will be consolidated. Anderson will present the plan to the school advisory board Tuesday.  Anderson said the plan targets two priorities: giving Newark students and parents more options and making the district more fiscally efficient.
    Click here to read more…

    2. Google Scaling Solar, Commits $280 Million To Finance SolarCity Installations
    Google today announced a new partnership with SolarCity, committing $280 million from its coffers to finance SolarCity installations, namely solar rooftops for homes in North America.  The partnership brings Google employees a discount on residential solar installations and services from SolarCity. On a worldwide basis, according to the company’s last quarterly earnings report, Google employs about 26,300 full-time.  Earlier this month, SolarCity locked a commitment from U.S. Bancorp that put them past the $1 billion mark in terms of financing capacity. Google becomes the company’s seventh major financing partner.
    Click here to read more…

    3. How Car Dependency Turns Suburban Dreams into Foreclosure Nightmares
    According to an analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology of 2002 mortgage data, 250 people applied for mortgages every day in Chicago, and only 150 were approved. The top reason for rejecting the other 100? Applicants had too much credit tied up in car ownership.  And mortgage lenders have only gotten more skittish since then about overextended borrowers.  Transportation and housing are inextricably tied, but many people are slow to realize the full implications of this link. CNT President Scott Bernstein says that although lenders understand the link when it comes to rejecting applicants who are overextended on car payments, they don’t include transportation costs in their mortgage underwriting.
    Click here to read more…

    4. Federal Push May Restrict Welfare Checks
    South Dakota is one of a handful of states that sends a check each month directly to welfare recipients, meaning the state has no control over how recipients spend those dollars.  That’s a departure from how many states administer their programs, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Most states issue TANF benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, a system that allows the government to directly transfer benefits onto a card that can be used for food stamps, TANF, child support and other benefits.The electronic cards work like debit cards, allowing recipients to use them at ATMs. They also enable state governments to restrict where the cards may be used. Many states choose not to enact restrictions, but others do.
    Click here to read more…

    5. Christie’s plan would allow for-profit companies to run 5 failing N.J. public schools
    With the enthusiastic backing of powerful South Jersey Democrats, Gov. Chris Christie Thursday announced a five-year pilot program that would allow persistently failing schools to hand oversight to private education companies.  If legislation creating the project becomes law, the state will permit five troubled schools to be run by so-called school management organizations (SMOs), generally for-profit companies that have been brought in by cities across the country to oversee underperforming schools. School boards must apply to the Department of Education to participate, Christie said.
    Click here to read more…

    6. IRS Announces Loss of Charitable Status for 275,000 Non-Profits
    The Internal Revenue Service has taken away the tax-exempt status of 275,000 non-profit groups and organizations, after they failed to file the appropriate forms to maintain that status.  The move was made to help accuracy of non-profit meta records, as researchers use that data to determine the size of the non-profit sector in the United States.  The IRS believes that the majority of the groups that lost their tax-exempt status this week are no longer operational anyway, or many were simply impossible to contact.  Before 2006, non-profit groups with an annual gross income of less than $25,000 were not required to file every year to maintain their tax-exempt status,  In 2006, a federal law called the Pension Protection Act changed the rules to require all non-profits regardless of size and revenue to file the relevant paperwork every year in order to stay exempt from taxes.  Awareness of the new law was not widespread, however, and as of 2010 nearly 25% of all non-profit organizations in the US were facing a loss of their status due to non-compliance.  In response, the IRS extended the deadline to this year, and made stronger efforts to contact the groups in question to inform them of the change in the law.
    Click here to read more…

    7. In N.J., Tax Credit Sparks Development
    New Jersey’s controversial program to encourage development near rail hubs marks the latest in a series of initiatives by Trenton to control growth in a state well known for its troubled inner cities and suburban sprawl.  Some of these programs have been effective, resulting in development in more densely populated areas. On the other hand, New Jersey is still seeing development of open space that’s out of proportion with the increase in its population.  The urban transit hub tax credit—first passed by the state in 2007 and broadened in 2009—provides tax credits to developers or tenants located within a half-mile of a rail station in nine cities.
    Click here to read more…

    8. Will Urban-Loving Millennials Become Suburban Parents?
    Still, for all the buzzy talk of knowledge industry synergy and urban appeal, census figures show that UBS’s return would be bucking the demographic trends rather than reflecting them and that the suburbs, however unloved by tastemakers and academics, remain where the growth is.  Joel Kotkin , a writer who specializes in demographic issues, says that the 2010 census figures show that during the past decade just 8.6 percent of the population growth in metropolitan areas with more than a million people took place in city cores. The rest took place in the suburbs, which are home to more than 6 in 10 Americans.
    Click here to read more…

    9. Bayonne mayor plans to consolidate municipal operations
    Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith recently announced plans to scrap two of the city’s independent authorities and farm out many functions of the third.  Officials said the City Council at its Wednesday meeting will be asked to vote on resolutions asking the state Local Finance Board for authority to dissolve the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority and the Bayonne Parking Authority.  The city also wants to “out-source” operations of the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority.  Without providing details of how the change would save the city money, Smith said the restructuring will make government more efficient and accountable to the public and elected officials.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Are Charity Walks and Races Worth the Effort?
    Fun runs and walkathons have been a fund-raising hit for non-profits. But critics say too little of the money makes it to the finish line.  very year tens of millions of Americans ask friends to sponsor them in events ranging from 3-mile “fun runs” to 100-mile bike treks. And while it’s such a feel-good phenomenon that few pause to examine it, the once bush-league strategy has exploded into a high-profile funding source for some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits. The largest such event — the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life — raised more than $400 million last year. Meanwhile, the ever-growing movement includes tens of thousands of tiny “thons,” collecting for schools, hospitals and homeless shelters.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (May 19-25)

    Posted on May 25th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  NJ farmers pioneer new spaces, new technologies
    To find farming’s newest frontiers in New Jersey, don’t look for a pasture down a country lane.  The cutting-edge farms of the 21st century are smack in the centers of densely populated cities. They are in high-tech greenhouses where once-exotic, now in-demand produce grows in long-settled neighborhoods.  These farms also sit in the heart of the state’s farm belt, looking more like industrial parks lined with glass and metal structures that pop with the colors of greens and berries and cherry tomatoes within.
    Click here to read more…

    2. Volunteers Erect Playground At Charter School
    Area volunteers, Foresters fraternal benefit society and the non-profit KaBOOM! came together Saturday, May 21 at the Greater Brunswick Charter School to build a community playground.  The project, which was completed in just under six hours, was erected by more than 300 volunteers and 100 children at the school on Joyce Kilmer Avenue.  Aside from the actual playground, the volunteers installed shade structures, a sand box, picnic tables, an outdoor classroom, a basketball hoop, a compost bin, planters and garden plots as well as a mural and other necessary components.
    Click here to read more…

    3. For Charter School Bills — an Easy Time in Committee, a Harder Time in the Senate
    Four bills that would revamp how charter schools are reviewed and approved in New Jersey won easy passage yesterday in a key Assembly committee.  Yet the prospect of most of those bills ever becoming law – especially the one that would require local approval of all new charters — is far from assured, as even their supporters admit.  The chief obstacle: Gov. Chris Christie, who has made it abundantly clear that he will block any bill that slows down the spread of charter schools. But even Democratic votes, in particular the Senate and its leadership, remain open questions.
    Click here to read more…

    4. Poor N.J. districts must receive $500M more in school funding, state Supreme Court rules
    In a widely anticipated decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the state to spend an additional $500 million on public education in poor districts next year.  The complex decision does not boost funding statewide, as education advocates had requested, and may avoid creating a gaping hole in a proposed budget of $29.4 billion. The 3-2 ruling, however, revealed sharp disagreements among the five justices who heard the case and issued a total of four opinions.  Justices could have ordered up to $1.7 billion in additional statewide education spending.
    Click here to read more…

    5. An Outcry in Chelsea Over a 12-Story Shelter
    At an art opening in Chelsea last week, Erick Magangi stood next to the oil painting that he considered his best work. “I was trying to do an examination of the real world and the exotic world,” Mr. Magangi said, gesturing toward the work, an abstract with softly blended horizontal panels of beige and gray.  His round face was beaming under a fisherman’s cap. “It takes me back many years,” he said, “to when I used to step outside the house to watch the lake rise and fall.”  Mr. Magangi, who grew up in Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria, hopes to soon put down roots in Chelsea, a couple of blocks from where his work is on display. He is not moving to one of the neighborhood’s luxury high-rises or town houses, but to a towering homeless shelter in a renovated building on 25th Street that is scheduled to open within a month.
    Click here to read more…

    6. As America Ages, A Push To Make Streets Safer
    America is aging — a fact that advocates are pushing Congress to consider as it takes up a new transportation bill. Their goal is more safety for older Americans, on both roads and sidewalks.Pedestrians and cyclists are already far more likely to be hit by cars in the United States than those in some European cities. Add to that the coming tide of older Americans who use walking canes and wheelchairs, and some warn that a road safety crisis looms.
    Click here to read more…

    7. Three Bergen County sites among top threatened historic places
    A train station, a palatial mansion and the former home of freed slaves are now listed among the state’s 10 most endangered historic places.  The three Bergen County buildings — the Waldwick Railroad Station, Atwood-Blauvelt Mansion in Oradell and Zabriskie Tenant House in Paramus — were highlighted by the nonprofit advocacy group Preservation New Jersey Wednesday during the announcement of its 17th annual endangered list. b The list is compiled from nominations submitted by the public. Selections are made based on the historical significance or architecture, the urgency of the threat and the likelihood that being on the list will help preservation.
    Click here to read more…

    8. New Jersey Transportation Budget Eliminates Smart Growth
    The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), a nonprofit dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, released a new analysis of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) proposed Capital Program for the fiscal year 2012. According to the analysis, the capital program dedicates its largest share of spending—44 percent—to maintenance and repair projects, and it allocates a higher percentage than it has in the last decade—11 percent—to highway and bridge expansion programs. The agency allocated 8.9 percent for road expansion in 2011 and 3.6 percent in 2009. Since 2004, road expansion spending remained near 5 percent of the agency’s budget.
    Click here to read more…

    9. NJ Businessmen, mayors: Keep urban enterprise
    Politicians and business owners are raising the alarm about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to shut down a 28-year-old urban development program.  Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy says his community was in decline 25 years ago but became the state’s economic engine thanks to the Urban Enterprise Zone program. Healy and others testified Thursday before the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.  The UEZ program encourages growth in designated areas through tax breaks, incentives and grants. Businesses can charge half the regular sales tax, and some revenues are returned to towns.
    Click here to read more…

    10. Census shows more moved out of NJ than into state
    Nearly 190,000 residents fled New Jersey for other states in 2009, accelerating a trend that has seen tens of thousands leave the Garden State in the past decade.  In 2009, an estimated 136,212 people moved into New Jersey, while 189,956 moved away. That’s a net loss of 53,744, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau migration report released Monday.  The census bureau did not break down the specific reasons people gave for leaving the state. Nationally, nearly 44 percent said they moved for housing-related reasons, such as the desire to live in a new or better home.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (May 5-11)

    Posted on May 11th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.   CDBG Cuts Whack Cities and Nonprofits
    But one of the bigger cuts in the FY2011 budget deal was the 16 percent lopped off the Community Development Block Grant program, certainly less than the 62 percent extraction that House Republicans had proposed, but big nonetheless. Now that cities have to deal with their CDBG budgets, the cascading impacts of the Washington budget deal are hitting home. Communities along the North Shore of Boston admit to “scrambling” to deal with the cuts.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  The $100 million school that could remake Harlem
    It’s a $100 million holistic Harlem complex meant to combine the latest research on how to provide the best education to kids in poor communities, which means going beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.  The state-of-the-art school — with 60% of construction costs shouldered by city taxpayers — will include a community center, recreation rooms and even a health clinic.  The Promise Academy Charter School, on the grounds of the St. Nicholas Houses, could change the lives not just of the 1,300 kids enrolled in K-12, but of a neighborhood where 42% of families live below the poverty line.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Realtors and Private Developers Oppose Affordable Housing Finance Strategy
    It is a debate between former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros – currently with an affordable housing builder called CityView – and the National Association of Realtors, the American Land Title Association, and other members of the Coalition to Stop Wall Street Home Resale Fees.  The idea in question is private transfer frees on the sales of new homes, dubbed “capital recovery fees” on Freehold’s website. The notion is reasonably simple. A homebuilder – for-profit or nonprofit – would create a covenant that goes along with the homes that are constructed. Each time a home is sold with one of these covenants, the buyer would pay a 1 percent fee back to the builder. A portion of that fee might be used to pay for infrastructure costs associated with the development and a portion would go to the developer, in the case of a nonprofit developer, for its general operations.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Advocates praise N.J. plan to provide housing for hundreds of developmentally disabled people
    A state plan to use affordable-housing dollars to move 600 developmentally disabled people into renovated homes over the next two years earned praise Tuesday from advocates, who called it a step toward alleviating a severe housing shortage.  The action follows a Star-Ledger report last month that found 8,000 people are on a state waiting list for homes and services. Of those, 4,800 are considered priorities, and some have been waiting for more than a decade.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Energy Efficiency Programs Benefit New Jersey Hospitals
    State’s biggest utility is pushing customers that use large amounts of energy to cut costs by conserving gas and electricity.  As a top hospital executive at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Vince Costantino had a long list of items backing up on his capital budget to-do list: a new roof for one of its buildings, replacement windows, new cooling towers, and on and on.  With the backing of the state’s biggest electric and gas utility, Raritan Bay was able to launch a $3.4 million project, which has helped cut electric bills at its Perth Amboy facility by $300,000 to $400,000 a year.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  When others are grabbing their land:  Evidence is piling up against acquisitions of farmland in poor countries
    The farmers of Makeni, in central Sierra Leone, signed the contract with their thumbs. In exchange for promises of 2,000 jobs, and reassurances that the bolis (swamps where rice is grown) would not be drained, they approved a deal granting a Swiss company a 50-year lease on 40,000 hectares of land to grow biofuels for Europe. Three years later 50 new jobs exist, irrigation has damaged the bolis and such development as there has been has come “at the social, environmental and economic expense of local communities”, says Elisa Da Vià of Cornell University.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  Toys ‘R’ Us to install North America’s largest rooftop solar power system
    Toys “R” Us is installing the largest rooftop solar power installation in North America at its distribution center in Flanders, N.J. Staging for the system is currently underway and construction will conclude this summer. Upon completion, the 5.38 megawatt on-site solar array will occupy 869,294 sq. ft. It is estimated to generate 72% of the electrical needs for the Toys “R” Us facility, which is the largest of the chain’s 10 DCs and covers over 1.5 million sq. ft., in addition to the roof, which spans 32 acres.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Borough Council, community members discuss Dinky
    The Borough Council, community residents and University representatives met at the Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the University’s requested zoning for the proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood, the future of the Dinky train and the memorandum of understanding released last week as a result of negotiations between the Borough and the University.  Several members of the community group Save the Dinky made presentations in favor of preserving the Dinky in its current location.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  First DOE Job Postings Hint at Restructuring to Come
    They are just advertisements at this point, but the first job postings for senior New Jersey education department positions are giving some of the first looks at acting Commissioner Chris Cerf’s expected reorganization of the department.  Advertisements went online this week for three positions, all new titles, with some new roles as well: Assistant Commissioner – Chief Academic Office, Assistant Commissioner – Chief Innovation Office, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnership.  Neither Cerf nor his spokesman would comment on the jobs this week. State Board of Education (BOE) President Arcelio Aponte said he received notice of the postings yesterday and was glad to see Cerf moving on filling critical posts in his leadership.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  NJ Expands School Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program
    As part of an effort to improve the health of children by providing access to nutritious meals in schools, New Jersey has received funding to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the 2011-2012 school year.  New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher announced that 143 schools in 16 counties have been chosen to participate in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded program for the next school year, which provides students with fresh produce during the school day. Presently, 101 schools are participating in the program for the current school year.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (March 3-9)

    Posted on March 9th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  North Jersey non-profits see donations starting to recover from the recession
    The recession has been over officially for more than a year and a half, and the positive effects of a recovering economy have begun to show up in the fund-raising efforts of North Jersey non-profits.  Many report donations rising since early 2010, although most say they’re nowhere near the contribution totals that were flowing in before the economy turned sour in December 2007.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  N.J. being sued over charter school secrecy
    Seeking a glimpse into the increasingly secretive world of New Jersey education, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state Department of Education seeking the names of “volunteers” who reviewed 50 applications for new charter schools.  The ACLU filed suit on behalf of the Newark-based Education Law Center, a frequent legal opponent of the department. The dispute not only raises issues about public access to government records, but the department’s unusual move of adding unidentified third parties to its regulatory process.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Christie’s Budget Would Increase Money for Jersey City Charter Schools, Helping to Bridge Funding Gaps
    Jersey City’s charter schools would receive extra money to help bridge several funding gaps under the proposed budget that Gov. Chris Christie unveiled last week. The spending plan calls for a 50-percent increase in charter school funding statewide, and a Department of Education official says Jersey City’s charters would receive more than $1 million in new funding under the plan, which is still subject to legislative approval.  The money is a “lifeline,” says Shelley Skinner, the director of development for Learning Community Charter School and a member of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Another link to affordable housing in New Jersey
    Gov. Chris Christie sent an important message when he conditionally vetoed a bill to amend the state’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit law. It is a message that could help bring clarity to the debate over how New Jersey should go about ensuring housing opportunities for all residents, including those of low and moderate incomes.  In his conditional veto, Christie suggested reducing the requirement for low- and moderate-income homes in urban mixed-use projects, especially in cities that already have a substantial amount of such housing or where the market is not strong enough to support it.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Bill Would Benefit Solar Installers That Buy Panels in New Jersey
    The solar industry is thriving in New Jersey, with hundreds of firms, many of them installing solar systems in homes and businesses. In fact, there’s so much activity that the state is second behind only California in the number of solar installations.  But the state also is hoping to attract manufacturing jobs to local factories as a way to create the blue-collar, middle-class jobs that will help drive a new green economy. In an attempt to make that happen, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee yesterday approved a bill that would make it more attractive for solar businesses to buy equipment made in New Jersey.  The bill (A-2042) would give firms that buy solar panels manufactured in the state a slightly easier way to accrue solar renewable energy certificates.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  The World’s 10 Tallest Towers Under Construction
    Earlier this week the Architectural Record posted a slideshow of the tallest buildings going up around the world. Tall new buildings are great for cities,  because they immediately bestow serenity and greenery upon their surroundings, whilst sparkling in the eternal sunlight. The list of the ten tallest under construction comes via the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.  One out of the 10 is in the US.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  China to Ramp Up Cheap-Housing Push
    China targeted total spending of nearly $200 billion this year for the construction of subsidized housing, as the government steps up a campaign to address widespread complaints over the lack of affordable housing while also maintaining construction activity that has driven economic growth in China and abroad.  The 1.3 trillion yuan ($198 billion) goal for spending on subsidized housing represents a two-thirds increase from the roughly 780 billion yuan for 2010. Only a portion of those sums comes from spending by central and local governments, with the rest coming from bank credit and corporate investment.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  It’s all yours: 50 years of Green Acres open space
    New Jersey’s Green Acres Program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. This highly successful program is the longest continuously running, state-supported open space program in the nation — a testament to the foresight of those who established it and to countless New Jersey voters who voted yes for open space preservation in the face of aggressive development, rising property taxes and a roller coaster economy.  In the 1950s, this state we’re in was a vastly different place. Land and parks seemed plentiful. But then-Gov. Robert B. Meyner grew concerned about the pace of development in the Garden State. His administration drafted legislation authorizing the sale of $60 million in bonds to fund open space preservation. In the November 1960 election — at the same time John F. Kennedy became president — nearly 60 percent of voters said yes.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  N.J. advocates urge Senate budget committee to allocate more funds for residents with disabilities
    New Jerseyans with disabilities need increased funding for after-school care, job shops and supportive housing, advocates told the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.  Gov. Christie’s proposed $29.4 billion budget mostly would maintain spending levels in such areas. Advocates said they were grateful for the gesture, but pointed out that funding reduced in past years was never restored.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Driving’s Back Up … Or Is It?
    Recent data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that driving patterns, measured by Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), are back to their highest level since 2007. That’s true. Unlike Western Europe and parts of Asia, the U.S. is a growing country.  We’ve added over 29 million people since 2000, and 7 million people since 2007 alone. So one would expect driving to increase, too. What is interesting to note is that combining the growth in VMT and population shows a per capita driving rate that is not growing and, in fact, is pretty much at the same level as it was in 2000.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (February 17-23)

    Posted on February 23rd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  MIT grad’s invention turns brewery waste into fuel
    The MIT-trained mechanical engineer has invented a patented device that turns brewery waste into natural gas that is used to fuel the brewing process.  The anaerobic methane digester, installed last year at Magic Hat Brewing Co. in Vermont, extracts energy from spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process — and it processes the plant’s wastewater. That saves the brewer on waste disposal and natural gas purchasing.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  Veterans Journal: VA and HUD issue first-ever report on homeless veterans
    For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among veterans.  According to their assessment, nearly 76,000 American veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009, the latest year for which reliable statistics are available, while roughly 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Guam’s first charter school opening in August
    The Mayors Council of Guam received an update from the National Institute for Direct Instruction, which is set to open the island’s first charter school next school year. Come August, the island will see its first charter school.  Project director Donna Dwiggins says the charter school will be opened to students from kindergarten through 7th grade and will include a literacy academy for students coming out of 8th grade who are not academically ready for high school. Dwiggins spoke with island mayors this morning with hopes to go out into the villages to spread the word about the new charter school.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Newark school plan would clear space for charters, shift scores of students
    Newark school officials are considering a plan to move out, or consolidate, several of the city’s public schools to make space for 11 charter schools in a massive reshuffling that could affect thousands of students, according to a document obtained by The Star-Ledger.  The complex proposal drawn up by an outside consulting firm was handed out to a group of Newark school principals at a hastily called meeting at the district’s headquarters Friday, according to sources who attended the gathering. The group was told some of the changes could be in place by September.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  New York City To Put QR Codes On All Building Permits By 2013
    New York City’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the use of Quick Response or QR codes (which are something like a smartphone-readable barcode) on building permits, to provide New Yorkers with easy access to information related to buildings and construction sites throughout the city.  Smartphone users who scan a QR code on a construction permit in New York, according to a press release from the mayor’s office, will get “details about the ongoing project – including the approved scope of work, identities of the property owner and job applicant, other approved projects associated with the permit, [and] complaints and violations related to the location.”
    Click here to read more…

    6.  World’s Most Liveable Cities: 2011 Economist Intelligence Unit Report
    Based on a combination of environment, health care, culture and infrastructure, Vancouver topped the list of the world’s most liveable cities for the fifth straight year, according to a new report.  As Reuters is reporting, the 2010 Winter Olympics host scored a whopping 98 percent in the 2011 Liveability Ranking and Overview by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has ranked the Canadian west coast city at the top since 2007. Canada dominated the top 10 spots along with Australia, with Melbourne surpassing Vienna, Austria as the world’s second most liveable city.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  ‘Reskinning’ Gives World’s Old Urban Buildings Energy-Saving Facelifts
    The term “reskinning” may sound like a word straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality it means retrofitting the exteriors of aging buildings with energy-saving facelifts, and the practice is taking off — especially in Canada and Europe.  Ron Dembo, a former computer science professor at Yale University who founded the Toronto-based carbon software company Zerofootprint, coined the term in 2009. His inspiration came in part from being steeped in data on carbon pollution management.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Head of HUD Gives One Condition to Future Grants: Sustainability
    Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), knows a lot about big-city housing rehabilitation and construction issues. After all, he was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s housing commissioner for four years before joining the Obama administration.   But to tap into his core passions when it comes to real estate, talk to him about the decades-long disconnects between American housing locational decisions and jobs, transportation, and smart energy policies.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  Christie budget to cut $540M from Medicaid funds, transfer participants into managed care
    Calling Medicaid spending “out of control,” Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday proposed cutting $540 million from the massive health insurance program for the poor, though he did not say from where more than half the cuts would come.  In his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday, Christie said that in the short term, the state would save $240 million by transferring 121,000 low-income senior citizens and disabled people who now receive Medicaid into a managed care program, cutting state reimbursement to nursing homes, and rooting out fraud.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Americans Want Transportation Projects, But Not Their Costs
    Rockefeller Foundation survey: Americans rank transportation needs high but don’t want to pay the costs.  Upkeep of roads, bridges and transit systems is a high priority to an overwhelming margin of Americans, but by an even greater margin they don’t want to pay more for it, according to a survey that will be released this week.  With the Obama administration’s budget, House Republicans embarked on an effort to reduce spending by$100 billion and a long-term transportation bill stalled in Congress, 78 percent of those surveyed say private investors should be tapped to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (February 3-9)

    Posted on February 9th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Donors Demand a Bigger Voice in Catholic Schools
    Private philanthropists have changed the face of public education over the last decade, underwriting the rise of charter schools and promoting remedies that rely heavily on student testing and teacher evaluation.  But with much less fanfare, wealthy donors have begun playing a parallel role in the country’s next-largest educational network: Roman Catholic schools.  In New York — as in Boston, Baltimore and Chicago — shrinking enrollment and rising school deficits in recent years have deepened the church’s dependence on its cadres of longtime benefactors. Donors have responded generously, but many who were once content to write checks and attend student pageants are now asking to see school budgets, student reading scores and principals’ job evaluations.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  N.J. School Report Card data shows average per-pupil spending increased statewide, dropped in urban districts
    Per-pupil spending in New Jersey increased by an average 6.5 percent in 2009-10 from the previous year, but dropped in Newark and other urban districts, according to the state’s annual School Report Card data being released today.  But acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf questioned the reliability of the state’s own data, saying some non-instructional areas, such as transportation and health benefits, should be included when comparing districts. If those costs were included, he said, per-pupil spending would be higher.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  EPA Recognizes Four Communities’ Efforts to Improve Health Through Sustainability
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized four communities that are helping reduce air pollution and improve people’s health and overall quality of life through smart growth neighborhoods. These are communities designed with the principle of reducing commutes and environmental harm.  These four communities are receiving EPA’s Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging awards due to their commitment to active lifestyles. Residents of all abilities and ages are able to stay active with each community’s extensive walking and biking options. Communities that are creative in their growth design not only protect the environment by reducing air pollution and reducing water contaminants, but also foster economic vitality and enhance quality of life.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Recession Caused First-Ever Decline in Child Support Payments
    Total funds collected for U.S. child-support programs failed to increase during fiscal year 2009 for the first time since Congress created an enforcement arm for such collections in 1975, according to a study released this week by the Government Accountability Office.  Overall collections declined by 2.1 percent from the previous fiscal year, including the first-ever drop in collections automatically withheld from wages, long the primary source of child-support payments. The enforcement program, administered at the state level and overseen by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, collected about $26 billion in child support payments during fiscal 2009 on behalf of some 17 million children, almost one-quarter of the nation’s kids. The average amount of child support collected per case dropped 3 percent to $1,670, the first decline since 1994.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  School-based child-parent center yields high economic benefits
    The Child-Parent Center (CPC) early education program is a large-scale, federally funded intervention providing services for disadvantaged 3- to 9-year-olds in Chicago. A new cost-benefit analysis of the program has found that benefits exceeded costs in a number of areas, including increased earnings and savings.  The longitudinal analysis appears in the January/February issue of Child Development, the journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.  “Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society. The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing preschool access to high-quality preschool is an efficient use of public resources.”
    Click here to read more…

    6.  In United Kingdom, ‘Government Gives Go-Ahead to First Eight ‘Free Schools’’
    According to the Guardian, the United Kingdom’s first eight ‘free schools,’ inspired by American charter schools, have been approved by Education Secretary Michael Gove. More than 400 parents and teachers were addressed Saturday by U.S. charter school experts at a conference on free schools. Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City education department, said: “Charter schools have given thousands of underprivileged children across America a better start in life.” Josephine Baker, executive director, District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, explained that at charter schools, “teachers are at the table when decisions are made, not because they are members of a union but because they bring to that table a certain kind of expertise. Charter schools have annual contracts, there is no such thing as tenure. Some people are willing to exchange that for the opportunity to be part of the collaborative process.” So far, 250 groups have applied to set up British free schools.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  Should Milwaukee Sell Empty Public School Buildings?
    According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a bill proposed by Wisconsin state Senator Alberta Darling and state Representative Mark Honadel would encourage the city of Milwaukee to sell or lease any school district property that has been vacant for at least eighteen consecutive months. Under current Milwaukee city law, the school district has ultimate control over selling or leasing school property even though the city technically owns the property. Milwaukee Public Schools officials have refused to sell 27 empty school buildings to charter schools, arguing that district enrollment will decline further. “We have to get these kids educated,” Honadel said. “There should be no roadblocks.” Honadel pointed out that a business would gladly sell a closed factory or store to a competitor if it could then better compete in its other locations.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  N.J. senators, Amtrak official to announce new commuter train tunnel project across the Hudson
    Amtrak’s top executive and New Jersey’s two U.S. senators Monday are expected to announce an alternative to the Hudson River commuter-train tunnel that was killed by Gov. Chris Christie in October.  The “Gateway” tunnel proposed by Amtrak would largely follow the same footprint as the canceled nine-mile Access to the Region’s Core tunnel from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street, representatives for U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez said tonight.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  N.J. Sen. Lesniak to introduce new affordable housing legislation
    Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) will withdraw an affordable housing reform bill that was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie last week and introduce a new bill, Lesniak announced today.  The bill, S1, would have abolished the Council on Affordable Housing. The governor sent the legislation back to the legislature because the bill was significantly changed from its form when it was introduced.  Christie has said he would have supported the bill in its original form, but the measure was revised several times before reaching his desk.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Obesity has doubled since 1980, major global analysis of risk factors reveals
    Study shows western high-income countries have achieved impressive progress in lowering hypertension and cholesterol.  The worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, according to a major study on how three important heart disease risk factors have changed across the world over the last three decades. The study, published today in three papers in the Lancet, looked at all available global data to assess how body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol changed between 1980 and 2008.  The study shows that in 2008, more than one in ten of the world’s adult population was obese, with women more likely to be obese than men. An estimated 205 million men and 297 million adult women were obese – a total of more than half a billion adults worldwide.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (Jan.27- Feb.2)

    Posted on February 2nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Report finds lower insurance premiums, more choices in 2014 for families, businesses under Affordable Care Act
    New HHS report shows some families can save up to $14,900 annually, tax credits will save small businesses $6 billion over two years.  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a new report showing how much families and businesses can save on health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs under the Affordable Care Act in 2014 – each year, a low-income family of four could save up to $14,900 and businesses will benefit from the savings and tax credits in the new law.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  Education and the State of the Union: a perennial favorite
    It’s a safe bet President Obama will dwell on education Tuesday night in his second State of the Union address. (His speech to Congress in February 2009 was not, technically, a SOTU.) And his goal is plain: Administration officials have made clear in recent weeks that the president will push this year for a bipartisan rewrite of the 2002 federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.  But if Obama is looking for something new to say–a new theme, a new rhetorical flourish, even a new proposal–it may be somewhat difficult. Presidents talk up education every year. Usually It offers them a respite from passages that deal with war, terrorism or polarizing domestic subjects such as taxes and health care. Here is a review of what’s been said on the subject in annual presidential speeches since 2000.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Gangs have presence in 254 towns, in every county in N.J., survey shows
    Street gangs in New Jersey have a foothold in almost half of the state’s municipalities and reach across all 21 counties, according to a State Police report released yesterday.  But the reality of gang activity, however grim, does not mirror widely held misconceptions about gang life, according to the report and interviews with law enforcement experts.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Specialization or Segregation? NJ’s First Charter School for Autistic Children Already Faces Challenges
    Approved last week, the Forest Hill Charter School in Newark has received much attention as New Jersey’s first charter devoted entirely to students with autism. It was singled out by Gov. Chris Christie as part of a new generation of autonomous schools.  A look at its winning 150-page application shows how it will change the way charters have operated here for the past 15 years, including a $55,000 tuition per child that puts it tops among all charter schools.  Still, for all its lofty goals, the school faces a host of challenges and questions before it will open in 2012, as planned. Its chief founder conceded there remain questions in how it will be paid for, and even where it will be located. Some have asked how it was even approved under current law.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  At most N.J. colleges, freshmen have less than 50 percent chance of graduating in 4 years
    Nearly every freshman starts college with the intention of walking out four years later with a degree.  But at most New Jersey colleges and universities, freshmen have a less than 50-percent chance of earning a bachelor’s degree within four years, according to a Star-Ledger analysis of graduation data from more than two dozen campuses around the state.  Four-year graduation rates ranged from 90 percent at Princeton University to a mere 6 percent at New Jersey City University in 2008, the latest available numbers gathered by the federal Department of Education. Several of the state’s largest public universities — including Kean, Montclair State and William Paterson — reported less than a third of their full-time freshmen completed a bachelor’s degree within four years.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  State announces $3.2 million in Clean Water Grants
    The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Christie’s administration announced the awarding of $3.2 million in grants on Thursday that will fund six nonpoint source pollution control projects throughout the state of New Jersey.  These grants include a $1 million award for the nonprofit American Littoral Society and will be earmarked for the group’s continuing efforts to target and curb pollution runoff into Barnegat Bay.  These project grants are funded by the Department of Environmental Protection’s federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Grant Program and will help fund programs designed to reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollution entering the state’s waters, which would help protect and restore water quality in watersheds that are in desperate need of revitalization.
    Click here to read more…

    7. Hundreds of volunteers count N.J. homeless in fifth annual survey
    The streets were dark as Sgt. Jeffrey Plum of the Plainfield Police Department led a dozen volunteers in their pre-dawn search for homeless people.  They checked train stations, behind Supremo Food Market and inside U-Haul vans and trucks where the homeless in Plainfield are known to sleep under blankets.  Around 4:45 a.m. the group found 19 people inside a foreclosed old Victorian home on East Sixth Street. They asked survey questions and offered social services, but all 19 adults refused help, Plum said.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  New bill would give urban communities easier access to fresh produce
    Why go to find fresh, affordable produce when it can come to you?  Under a new bill sponsored by Legislation Assemblyman Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture would establish a statewide mobile farmer’s market and fresh produce voucher program called “The New Jersey Fresh Mobiles Initiative” to help low-income families gain access to healthier foods.  “We’re known as ‘The Garden State,’ yet in many urban communities, it is next to impossible for low-income families to purchase fresh produce,” said Wilson in a statement.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  A Diaspora of Artists
    In ordinary times, in the ordinary places of North America, emerging artists come and go like the passing seasons. If you’re a talented young video artist, say, living in Dubuque and gaining regional attention, or if you’re an edgy photographer who has won a big grant award in Baltimore, what you do, nine times out of ten, is move away. You take your potentially fleeting cultural capital and attempt to parlay it into a big-time career by going to the Big City. For most, this means escaping to New York, but it can also mean (if your art is more media-driven) going to L.A. or, if you’re more intrepid and enterprising, Berlin or London. For years, the story of most smaller-market art communities—such as Minneapolis, Vancouver, Seattle (on and off), Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, Portland, etc.—has often been more about who has left the scene than who remains behind.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Once Popular, Car Pools Go the Way of Hitchhiking
    Remember the 1970s? Watergate, disco, oil embargoes and, of course, car-pooling. Many big companies organized group rides for their employees, and roughly one in four Americans who drove to work shared a ride with others.  But now far more people are driving alone, as companies have spread out, Americans are wealthier and cars have become cheaper to own. The percentage of workers who car-pool has dropped by almost half since 1980, the first time the Census Bureau started systematically tracking the numbers, according to new data from the bureau.  The sharp decline has confounded efforts by urban planners, who over the years have tried to encourage the practice by setting aside highway lanes for car-poolers, as well as offering incentives like discounted parking.
    Click here to read more…