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The leading candidates in New Jersey's governor's race outlined some of their priorities at a New Jersey Bankers Association conference.

Democrat Phil Murphy says small businesses need access to capital to grow and create jobs.

He says his proposed state-owned bank would invest money in community banks that would lend to businesses at favorable rates.

"The public bank will be there to ensure that more of the people and businesses who are qualified have access to the financial system. Right now, too many are left out."

Governor Christie commends Department of Children and Family employees
Phil Gregory

Governor Chris Christie is congratulating state employees for their work to move New Jersey closer to ending federal oversight of its child welfare system.

New Jersey Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake says the federal monitor finds the state has satisfied performance measures for reducing the caseloads of intake workers and completing case plans when a child enters out-of-home care.

Tony Meneses
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Playwright Tony Meneses feels right at home at Two River Theater in Red Bank.  He's excited about the world premiere of The Women Of Padilla.   Meneses was also the playwright of one of Two River's most adored shows Guadalupe in the Guest Room.

The Women of Padilla characters are linked by their marriages to eight brothers and their shared last name, Padilla.   The eight very different sisters-in-law connect through the power of food, faith, laughter and each other while their husbands are away at war.

The Lost CIty of Z
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

Film Critic Harlan Jacobson has three ways to embark on adventure at the movies.  Harlan reviews The Lost City of Z, Tommy's Honour and Graduation.

Kevin Kline
Michael Bourne for WBGO

WBGO Theater Critic Michael Bourne is not complaining about the abundance of plays and musicials on Broadway recently, especially when three stars have returned with outstanding performances.  Bourne loves his old friend and former college roommate Kevin Kline in Present Laughter as well as Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole in War Paint.

Ang Santos / WBGO

People were competing for video game supremacy by pumping quarters into arcades on boardwalks, laundromats, and their local VHS rental stores since the 1980’s.  And before that on a little old video game console called Atari.  But gamers making a real living playing them, that’s a different story.  Adam Fletcher is director of communications at The Coalition, the studio that develops content for the popular XBOX One title Gears of War 4.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Paul Henreid’s Victor Lazslo may be the most well liked foil in Hollywood history.  For Henreid’s daughter Monika, It’s the stubborn mindset of Bogey’s Rick Blaine that makes Laszlo the true hero of Casablanca.

New Jersey has sold the licenses of two public broadcast television stations for $332 million.

A battle is shaping up on what should be done with the proceeds.

Mike Rispoli is the campaign director for the Free Press Action Fund that's urging the money go to rebuild journalism at the local level in New Jersey.

A new trend has many of the campaign ads in the race for Governor of New Jersey going up online instead of airing on traditional media outlets.

Carl Golden was the press secretary for former Governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. He says it's cheaper to put campaign ads on social media and the internet, and they can be effective.

A national survey shows New Jersey hospitals have improved their quality of care.

The nonprofit health care watchdog organization Leapfrog Group ranks New Jersey 15th best for protecting patients from harm.

Communications director Erica Mobley says that's up from 22nd a year ago.

"What we've seen overall is an improvement in both the processes and procedures hospitals have in place to prevent errors and in the outcomes. So in things like infection rates, rates of blood clots, rates of air embolism, we've seen improvement across many hospitals."

A Farleigh Dickinson University poll finds that political views are distorting the ability of Americans to tell fact from fiction.

Although there's no evidence to support it, political science professor Dan Cassino says two-thirds of the New Jersey residents surveyed believe that President Donald Trump is not releasing his tax returns because they'd show he has close financial ties to political and business figures in Russia.

abyssinian.org

Cyrus Chestnut wrote 'Saga of the Cross' only a few months back, a new composition to be performed with The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir in Harlem.

“I teach at Howard University in Washington, DC of which there’s a great music program.  What stands out from the program is this vocal jazz group called ‘Afro Blue’ under the direction of Connaitre Miller.  So I’ve been hearing around the vocalists and hearing all of these vocal arrangements and all.  So it’s kind of gotten planted in the ear,” Chestnut said.

Legislation awaiting final approval in the New Jersey Senate is intended to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The measure would require all bills and regulations on sentencing to include a racial and ethnic impact statement outlining how the policies might affect minority populations.

Dianna Houenou with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey says it’s a smart policy to implement.

Governor Christie is not providing details on additional pension changes he'd like to see before leaving office.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo says lawmakers would like to hear more about the governor's idea of moving the state lottery into the pension system to reduce its unfunded liability.

He says that has to happen before there's any consideration of talking with public employee unions about more pension changes.

Alexandra Hill

New Jersey’s senior US Senator is calling on the Committee on Foreign Investment to review a potential majority Russian stake in one the country’s ten largest oil companies.

Senator Bob Menendez says the Venezuelan owned oil company Citgo is currently at risk of a Russian takeover. Its all due to the economic crisis in the country which could result in a default on its debt to Russia, leaving the oil giant, which owns 48 petroleum terminals in 20 states and nearly nine U.S. based oil pipelines, under Russian control.

A poll conducted for a coalition of child advocates finds that 85 percent of New Jersey residents believe the youth justice system should focus more on prevention and rehabilitation rather than incarceration and punishment.

Mary Coogan with Advocates for Children of New Jersey says young people who commit crimes should be should be held accountable, but believes community-based counseling and treatment are more effective than putting them in prison.  

The warm, sunny weather may be a welcome relief after all the cool rainy days recently. But it could cause problems for people with allergies.

Dr. Leonard Bielory, is an allergy specialist who tracks the pollen count in New Jersey. He says the release of tree pollen is intensifying now.

"Pollen is primed and pumping. We'll actually see about tenfold increase in pollen over the coming week. So even people mildly allergic will have intense allergy symptoms by the end of the week."

Alexandra Hill

In the wake of the numerous deaths of young black men at the hands of police, the rise of the black lives matter movement, and the mass incarceration epidemic, tensions have been at an all time high in recent years. A new program being launched in the city of Newark is working to change all that. The All Star Project’s Cops and Kids program is working to break the stereotypes that often lead to tension between young people and the police.

“Their cousins, their family members, fathers have been locked up before so it makes them have that negative outlook.”

Mildred Antenor
David Tallacksen for WBGO

WBGO commentator Mildred Antenor wants to know what's the next step for those who participated in the historic march one day after President Trump's inauguration in D.C.

Miss Saigon
Michael Bourne for WBGO

WBGO's Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews the new musical Amelie, musical revival Miss Saigon and play revival The Price.

Ang Santos / WBGO

  

Knights of New Jersey explores four essential parts of the Renaissance Faire.  Honor, Courage, Loyalty, and Turkey Legs.  Lots of Turkey Legs.  It does so through the comedic life of fictional Renaissance Faire performers Sir Robert of Arden Dale and his mostly trusty squire Tom.  Director Michael Hadley says Knights of New Jersey started with a visit to Medieval Times in East Rutherford.

“I thought, what would it be like to have that as your day job?  To actually punch a clock, swing a sword, and that got me thinking about that lifestyle,” said Hadley.

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

New Jersey lawmakers tried to get more details about Governor Christie's plan for a $300 million Statehouse renovation, but the state Treasurer didn't offer many specifics.

Senator Jeff Van Drew asked Treasurer Ford Scudder if the legislature will have to approve the renovation project.

"How does this work? Who authorizes this? Is it purely the executive branch that has the ability to do that?

"Senator, we're working with bond counsel through exactly what steps that needs to take and it's not a finalized process at this point in time."

NJ officials announce the start of the program.
Phil Gregory

After an 8 percent increase in fatal traffic accidents last year, New Jersey is expanding the program used to report aggressive driving so the public can alert police about distracted drivers.

State Attorney General Chris Porrino says anyone who notices a distracted driver can call #77 and report the model, make and license number of the vehicle. He hopes that will deter cellphone use and other driver distractions.

Bob Hurley
FloHoops

Word came this week that St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, NJ was closing at the end of the academic year.  That decision puts an end to one of the country's most successful and revered  high school basketball programs led by Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr. 

The Archdiocese of Newark has determined fundraising efforts would not be able to keep the doors open for another year.

Office of Legislative Services officials testify at Assembly Budget Committee hearing
Phil Gregory

The Christie administration says revenues in the budget year ending June 30th are expected to be $247 million below projections.

That's less than a one percent difference from the $233 million shortfall the Office of Legislative Services anticipates.

Legislative Budget Officer Frank Haines says revenue forecasts are not perfect, and the gap is not a signal of trouble ahead for the state's economy.

"We don't see a severe economic downturn coming. In fact we see modest economic growth coming for at least a few years, but the unexpected can happen."

State Treasurer Ford Scudder gives lawmakers some details of the plan.
Phil Gregory

In February, Governor Christie proposed using revenues from the New Jersey lottery to shore up the state's pension system. An administration official is now providing some details.

State Treasurer Ford Scudder says the lottery enterprise would be placed into the public employee pension system.

"You would still be buying the same lottery tickets. The retailer would still be getting their commission for sales. It would still be a division within Treasury. It would still be directed by the state Lottery Commission. It would just be owned by the pension system."

Four former New Jersey Governors are urging the state's Congressional delegation to defend environmental laws.

Republican Christie Whitman says the Trump administration's proposal to slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget would hurt environmental enforcement and scientific research on what's acceptable for human health.

Nearly 300 candidates are competing for a chance to run for the New Jersey legislature in the June Primary.

The 192 Assembly candidates are the most since 2001. The 88 seeking a Senate seat is the highest since 2003.

Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale says five Senators are retiring or seeking higher office.

"So you're seeing a lot of people want to take that shot because they're not sure when it's going to come around again."

Be prepared to pay more for gasoline.

The average price is 3 cents higher than a week ago.

Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, New Jersey, expects it'll keep going up.

"I don't want to alarm people, but this will be a month probably unlikely any month they've seen in the last 15 months in that you're probably going to see prices increase by 15 or 20 cents a gallon and it may even follow through into a strong May as well."

Phil Murphy arrives at NJ Division of Elections
Phil Gregory

Former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy has filed a record 43,000 petitions to get on the June primary ballot as a Democratic contender for Governor of New Jersey.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley says Murphy is the clear front runner for the Democratic nomination.

"He's trying a bit of shock and awe, I think, trying to demonstrate to anybody who might come out and offer in particular financial support to his competitors, that it is futile."

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