News

Governor Christie signs the legislation at laborers union hall in Trenton
Phil Gregory

Just days after it received final legislative approval, a measure providing $400 million in gas tax revenues for transportation improvements this year has gotten Governor Chris Christie's OK.

Workers at the International Laborers Union hall in Trenton cheered as Christie signed the legislation designating $260 million for road and bridge repairs throughout the state.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto
Phil Gregory

Leading Democrats in the New Jersey legislature are thankful that Republicans in Congress were unable to muster the votes on a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto is relieved there won't be a change in federal funding for Medicaid.

"It's a great win for New Jersey. 500,000 residents have taken advantage of Medicaid expansion. Those people would have lost coverage. We couldn't afford to keep that. The state would have had to pick up the slack if they wanted to."

Bad Jews
George Street Playhouse for WBGO

Two of the stars of the George Street Playhouse production of Bad Jews are newcomers to the theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Alec Silberblatt and Amos VanderPoel also sat down with WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the show. 

The smash hit comedy Bad Jews is making its New Jersey premiere, directed by Jessica Stone.

Ang Santos / WBGO

It’s been over two months since Cardinal Joseph Tobin arrived in Newark. 

“It’s been wonderful, it’s challenging, it’s a bit like drinking from the firehose every day, but I’m happy to be here,” Tobin told WBGO.

The former Archbishop of Indianapolis says he’s still adjusting to life in Newark.  He admits he’s yet to visit the great landmarks and eateries nearby, but he makes time for one of his favorite hobbies.

Ang Santos / WBGO

During a 1963 poetry reading, Gwendolyn Brooks acknowledges a lack of recognition for her large body of work.

“I guess I better offer you ‘We Real Cool’. Most young people know me only by that poem,” Brooks said.  “But I would prefer it if the textbook compilers and the anthologists would assume that I’d written a few other poems.”

Fast forward fifty plus years, Dr. Brenda Greene from The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College says not much has changed.

Applause for "Come From Away" & "Significant Other"

Mar 24, 2017
Come From Away
Michael Bourne for WBGO

Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews the new musical Come From Away and the new play Significant Other.

Click above to hear Michael's thoughts on the two shows.

Should New York Raise the Age for Child Marriages?

Mar 24, 2017
Safia Mahjebin
Topher Forhecz for WBGO

The New York State legislature is considering raising the legal age of marriage from as young as 14-years-old to 17-years-old. Advocates say child marriages are forced and can lead to abuse.    Safia Mahjebin grew up in a Bangladeshi community in Brooklyn… She says the idea of marriage was always there.

"As far as a child has a memory I can remember marriage being in the air. If anyone in the community wanted good for me, they would say I hope you marry a doctor. I hope he takes care of you." 

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

A bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly would require criminal background checks for family day care providers and any adult living there.

Day care facilities that receive federal subsidies already perform the background checks.

Cynthia Rice with Advocates for Children of New Jersey says the measure to extend that requirement to all registered day care providers in the state is a logical bill that will protect kids.

road closed sign
Phil Gregory

The New Jersey Assembly has given final legislative approval to a measure that provides $400 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to expedite needed improvements.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto decided to post the bill for a vote after getting clarification that the $260 million that would be provided to the New Jersey Transportation Department would be used for  road and bridge repairs in all 21 of the state’s counties.

Kenny Baron, Paquito D’ Rivera, and Jimmy Heath headline the upcoming 7th Annual James Moody Jazz Scholarship of New Jersey benefit.

The James Moody Scholarship of New Jersey was born in paying tribute to the jazz great.  The scholarship is given to a college bound high school senior based on their grades, musical talent, and willingness to contribute to their community.  Linda Moody says without the help of friends and musicians; the scholarship wouldn’t be possible.  Jazz House Kids Founder Melissa Walker is one of them.

By the time trumpeter Lee Morgan was eighteen years old, he was a fully established talent on the jazz scene.  Touring with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band until they disbanded in 1958.  It didn’t take long for Lee Morgan to find more work, joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

“I had never heard anybody play trumpet like that before,” said Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin about Lee Morgan in an interview with WBGO.

Collin previously made a film about saxophonist Albert Ayler, explaining it was a taxing project that took many years to finish.

Lawmakers and homeowners say the measure would provide some relief for Sandy victims.
Phil Gregory

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to provide some protection for Superstorm Sandy victims told by the state they have to repay some grant money they received to rebuild.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora says residents acted in good faith when they accepted the grant money to rebuild from Sandy.

“They got undercut by their own insurance company and then they thought the government grants was a godsend. Unfortunately to find out the government, RREM, wants the money back. This is unconscionable.”

Major League Baseball Backs New Indie 'Landline'

Mar 23, 2017
Freestyle Digital Media

For all of Bruce Fretts' career, he has been writing about the entertainment industry, but for the first time in his life he will become apart of it. 

Landline, an independent film, that premieres April 4th, on Video On Demand, was written, directed, produced and stars Matthew Aaron. This will be Aaron's third independent film since 2015, but his first that has included a role for Fretts.

The National Black Writers Conference / The Center for Black Literature

In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection ‘Annie Allen’.  This year’s National Black Writers Conference in New York aims to shed light on Brooks, whose work is much deeper than what’s found in your average poetry anthology. 

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

The New Jersey Assembly could give final legislative approval tomorrow to a measure banning the state's public colleges from paying more than $10,000 to commencement and other speakers.

In recent years reality TV star Snookie, novelist Toni Morrison, and producer Spike Lee were among those paid more than that for speaking at New Jersey colleges.

Assemblyman John DiMaio questions whether that's the best use of college funds.

Alexandra Hill

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivered his third annual State Of The City address earlier this week. Baraka focused his speech on changing perceptions about New Jersey’s largest city, as a city plagued by violence and poverty, to a place of growth and innovation.

So far three of the candidates who want to be New Jersey's next Governor have raised enough money to qualify for matching funds.

After gubernatorial candidates meet the threshold of raising and spending $430,000 to qualify for the state program, they can get two dollars in public matching funds for every private dollar they raise.

There's a $4 million limit on public funds for a primary election campaign and a $9.3 million cap for the general election.

Jeff Brindle is executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Rutgers-Newark / The Institute of Jazz Studies

Respected jazz world personalities will be in Newark to celebrate Ella’s life and work. Tad Hershorn with the Institute of Jazz Studies Rutgers-Newark says a number of guests worked with the First Lady of Song.

“One is Richard Lyons of New York.  He was a west coast player when he was her musical director for three months in 1956.  Mike Wofford based in San Diego was her last accompanist for the remaining three years of her career,” said Hershorn.

Hershorn believes even the biggest fans will learn something new about her music.

Nonprofit group leaders attend event where Governor Christie announces the grant program.
Phil Gregory

The state of New Jersey is making a million dollars in grants available for non-profit and religious institutions in nine counties to improve their security.

Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Salem, and Warren counties have not been eligible for federal grants to enhance security.

Governor Christie says recent threats at Jewish Community Centers around the state show the need to protect every area vulnerable to possible attacks.

Governor's office entrance
Phil Gregory

Former Saturday Night Live comedian Joe Piscopo says he won’t be a Republican candidate, but he could run as an independent in New Jersey's race for Governor.

Political analysts aren't giving him much chance to win.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley says it's nearly impossible for independent candidates to do well in New Jersey elections because they don't have the party organization or money to attract support.

Women in Media - Newark
Pamela Morgan

Women in Media-Newark will hold its eighth annual International Film Festival March 28th through April 6th in celebration of Women’s History Month. Working in conjunction with Rutgers University–Newark, its major partner, Pamela Morgan's WIM-N will host the film festival over nine days at six venues. All events are free and open to the public.  Two of the film makers came to WBGO to talk about the festival and their respective projects.

Mike Egenton and Sara Bluhm oppose the legislation.
Phil Gregory

New Jersey lawmakers are trying again to get the state back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Governor Christie pulled the state out of the program in 2011, saying it was an ineffective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. He vetoed previous bills to force the state to resume participation.

Sara Bluhm with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association told lawmakers the state doesn't need to get back in.

Senator Dick Codey uses a smart thermostat to control the temperature in his home.
Phil Gregory

New Jersey lawmakers are considering several bills to encourage homeowners to use smart thermostats that allow homeowners to adjust heating and cooling through an app on their phones.

One of the measures urges the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to set a goal of equipping half a million homes with smart thermostats by the year 2023.

Kenneth Esser with Public Service Electric and Gas says those devices could help customers save money.

“We’re estimating it will provide about a 13 percent energy savings on heating bills and 16 percent on cooling bills.”

Pulitzer-Prize winning New York City newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin died Sunday morning from complications of pneumonia. He was 88 years old, and his death was confirmed by his physician, William Cole.

Breslin was the tabloid voice of the little guy, famous for celebrating gritty New York City characters in newspaper columns, as well as several books of fiction and non-fiction, Often these characters lived in the less glamorous boroughs outside Manhattan. But Breslin was also a character in his own right.

Willie Reale
Allan Wolper for WBGO

Willie Reale is the Co-Executive producer of Billions, the Showtime hit series on Wall Street chicanery, and the former supervising producer of Blue Bloods, the CBS cops drama. He won an Academy Award nomination for writing the lyrics to the movie, Dream Girls.

Reale’s 52nd Street Project that created theater projects for inner city children won him a MacArthur Fellowship.

Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak
Phil Gregory

Legislation proposed by some New Jersey lawmakers would replace roadside memorials for fatal car crash victims with state-approved signs.

The bill that’s awaiting action in the legislature would require family members to apply to the Department of Transportation for a sign with information about the victim that would be erected at the crash site.

Assemblyman Bruce Land says the displays family members put up can be a safety hazard.

Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak
Phil Gregory

Convicted criminals can't serve on New Jersey school boards. Now lawmakers want to prevent them from getting on the ballot in the first place.

Assemblyman Jay Webber says his bill would require school board candidates to certify when they file their nominating petitions that they have no criminal record that would make them ineligible to hold the office.

Newark Today

Mar 17, 2017

On this months edition of Newark Today we are joined by Mayor Ras Baraka and Archange Antoine, Executive Director of immigrant advocacy group Faith in NJ, to talk about the debate over immigration and how it is affecting sanctuary cities like Newark. 

Lawmakers and advocates urge more funding for testing and remediation.
Phil Gregory

New Jersey is being urged to do more to reduce lead levels in schools and homes.

Environment New Jersey gives the state a grade of C-minus for its efforts to deal with the lead problem.

The group’s director Doug O’Malley says New Jersey’s rating is better than many other states because it acknowledges it has a lead problem and is testing the drinking water in schools.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer
Phil Gregory

New Jersey's Assembly has approved a measure to add another exclusion to the state law that puts a 2 percent cap on local property tax increases.

The law already allows towns to exceed the cap to raise revenue for pensions, health care, debt, and emergencies.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer says the measure he sponsored would include an exemption for the matching funds towns must provide to get state and federal grants.

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