A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced legislation that would allow cities and towns to seek voter approval for a local tax to fund arts programs and organizations.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji says the tax would provide a recurring source of revenue for the arts in communities that decide to approve it.

“Take Jersey City in my home district, my hometown, we’ve got live-work spaces for artists, we’ve got zoning, we’ve got galleries. But we’ll never realize our true potential as an arts destination without a dedicated funding source. And this would allow that.”

Three months into his term in office, a Monmouth University poll finds New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is getting a positive rating from voters.

44 percent of New Jersey residents surveyed approve of the job Murphy is doing while 28 percent disapprove.

Poll director Patrick Murray says that’s a better rating than the previous two governors, Chris Christie and Jon Corzine, had at the same point of their terms.

The state Treasurer tried to convince them, but New Jersey lawmakers are reluctant to go along with the tax increases in Governor Phil Murphy’s state budget plan.

The proposed budget calls for about one-and-a-half billion in tax hikes including a surcharge on income over a million dollars and raising the sales tax back up to 7 percent.

Acting Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio says around $600 million of that would fund new spending.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Shaquille O’Neal already has a high-rise apartment building working in downtown Newark.  The 7-foot 1 retired basketball star calls it ‘Shaq Tower.’

“In 1992, me and my mother were visiting some relatives and my mother said to me, ‘I remember when this city used to be beautiful.  Somebody needs to come by and invest in this city and make it beautiful again.’ She gave me an elbow to the chest like I’m that somebody.”

O’Neal announced he’ll financially back another apartment project at 777 McCarter Highway near 2 Gateway Center.

Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey says he’s not sure why Governor Murphy’s proposed budget does not include money for the program he runs that helps former inmates get the documents and services they need to become productive citizens.

McGreevey told the Assembly Budget Committee he’s asking for $5 million to maintain and expand the program.

“We’re in the business of healing broken people, building families, and developing community. Some would state that reentry, we can’t afford it. I would say it’s a need not a want. We can’t afford not to do it.”

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would force train companies to be more transparent about the transport of crude oil and hazardous substances.

The measure is intended to help protect communities if there’s a derailment.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says Bakken oil that’s carried on trains contains chemicals that could make it explode during an accident. He’s also concerned a spill could endanger nearby water supplies.

Royston Scott /

In the early 1920’s, Sara Spencer Washington was travelling door to door selling her homemade Apex beauty products.

“Hair pomades, perfumes, pressing oils which led to hot combs and other devices for making yourself look beautiful.”

Apex became more than a line of hair and skin products, explains Royston Scott, who remembers hearing those around him always talking about “The Madame.”

Alexandra Hill / News

The city of Newark celebrated the opening of its new 6th precinct boosting its police presence in the city’s West Ward. The building that will now house the precinct was previously used for special operations. Mayor Ras Baraka says it will now act as a fully functioning precinct, something residents had been asking for, for decades.

Angels in America
Michael Bourne for WBGO

Theater Critic Michael Bourne is thrilled about the latest revival of Angels in America.

Click above to hear his review.

Gelbfish family
Jon Kalish for WBGO

There's a new museum in Brooklyn that looks at the Holocaust through the eyes of Orthodox Jews.

The Amud Aish Memorial Museum is staffed mostly by the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

Click above to hear Jon Kalish's report.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy traveled to the Asbury Park Middle School to sign an executive order that requires the state to keep the public informed about gun crimes.

Murphy says the order requires the state to issue monthly reports on gun crimes including the towns where they happened, the type of gun used, and the offense that was committed.

Ang Santos / WBGO

In 2014, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka received few endorsements from members of his political party.  Fast forward to his re-election campaign this year, almost every high-profile New Jersey democrat is giving Team Baraka their support.  That now includes US Senator Bob Menendez, also seeking another term later this year.


More young people in New Jersey might be able to vote in primary elections if a bill advancing in the legislature becomes law.


What’s called the ‘New Voter Empowerment Act’ would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they’d turn 18 by the general election.


New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow prison inmates to apply for student financial aid.

Highland Park resident Boris Franklin was in prison for 11 years and is now studying psychology at Rutgers. He started taking college courses while incarcerated and says education transformed a maximum-security prison into an institution of learning.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will hold public hearings around the state as it reviews the response of utility companies to recent nor'easters.

A state lawmaker wants to require that power providers be better prepared for future storms.

Senator Shirley Turner says her bill would establish standards for every utility in the state on emergency preparation and restoration of service after a major power outage.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Link London, Link NYC, now Link Newark.  The free Wi-Fi, phone call, device charging kiosks are a quality of life change for residents and visitors says Dan Doctoroff of Intersection, the company that supplies the technology.

“People saving money on their data plans as they go down to the corner and download movies.  While waiting for the bus they download their music.  It’s really saved tens of millions of dollars for people on their data plans,” Doctoroff said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says Link will be placed in every one of the city’s five wards.

As New Jersey lawmakers hold hearings on Governor Murphy’s state budget plan, there are indications they’ll be making some changes in his proposed school funding.

Amy Jablonski is a school board member in Chesterfield. She says the state aid Murphy’s budget provides for that Burlington County school district is a punch to the gut.

Trees are blossoming later than usual this season, and that's given allergy sufferers a break. That respite is about to end.

Dr. Leonard Bielory is an allergy specialist who tracks the pollen count in New Jersey. He says colder than normal weather in March has delayed the release of tree pollen, but it will soon be intense.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's proposed state budget includes $100 million to combat the opioid epidemic.

Murphy says $56 million would be used for drug prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

"We know that coordinated approaches that bring together treatment including access to medication assisted treatment and peer-based recovery coaching can be highly effective."

The Governor says $31 million would be used to attack social risk factors that can lead to relapse.

A Monmouth University poll finds that three-quarters of the American public believe that the mainstream media reports fake news.

Poll director Patrick Murray says only 25 percent of those surveyed believe the term ‘fake news’ applies only to stories where the facts are wrong.

“One of the problems is fake news can be all sorts of things to people. A majority of folks said that fake news was the editorial decisions that the mainstream media made in terms of the kinds of stories they wanted to tell.”

Jon Kalish / WBGO

For much of the 20th Century some public libraries in New York had apartments on the premises for custodians who needed to keep the coal furnaces running 24/7. A new play has opened by a woman who grew up in one of these apartments. You can hear a report from WBGO’s Jon Kalish above.

Ang Santos:  For Devin first, this is based on a true story.  How did you get your hands on it?

Devin Hume:  I moved to Colorado when I was nineteen.  The first job I had in Colorado was painting a mortuary for two morticians.  I got to know those guys.  Soon after that I went to film school and studies cinematography.  Anytime it was time to make a film I would go back to that town.

AS:  These people you worked for were the people in this film?

More than two billion Christians around the world are marking what they feel is the most important week in human history.  Holy week. It started with Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. The last supper with his disciples is known as Holy Thursday.  The following day, Good Friday, Jesus was crucified and then according to Christian gospels rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Cardinal Timothy Dolan says these are not only impactful historic events to Christians centered around Jesus, but they have meaning in our lives today.

Politics is always in the news, and from time to time is also on the stage.  So says theatre critic Michael Bourne.  Click above to hear his review on the WBGO Journal.  

When you think of France, sure you think of cheese and berets, baguettes and love--or at least adultery--and what else? Wine. You think of the Bordeaux you can’t afford, snapped up by those pesky Russian oligarchs and Chinese financiers. Or the Rhones that are earthy, or the Rosés that, while not fine wines are runaway must-have now on the American Left and Right Coasts to augment their Mediterranean diets.

For second consecutive year March was colder than February in the region.

It's only the fourth time that’s happened since 1895.  

The movements of the jet stream are responsible for the switch in the usual weather pattern.

New Jersey state climatologist Dave Robinson says the March chill has kept trees and plants from blooming and that may be welcome news for people with allergies.

"But I've seen it in the past where things are delayed until the end of the second week of April and then everything bursts out at once."

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to prohibit kids under the age of 12 from participating in organized tackle football games.

Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle says New York and several other states have proposed similar laws.

“I actually cringe, I get nervous, when I see young kids as young as six years old, we’re talking about, playing and banging their heads.”

Huttle says it’s dangerous for children to be exposed to constant blows to the head at the age when their brain is forming.

Hearings on Governor Phil Murphy's state budget plan are underway.

Even some of his fellow Democrats have reservations about the $1.6 billion in tax increases he's recommending.

Assembly Budget Committee chairwoman Eliana Pintor-Marin says lawmakers will examine the potential impact of the tax increases.

"They all are concerning. We're going to take a careful look at exactly what those are and how much money they do produce and what type of families we're raising those taxes on."

Alexandra Hill / News

New Jersey’s largest city today passed a pivotal piece of legislation to add additional protections for public employees who are victims of sexual harassment.  

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, is spearheaded by Central Ward Councilwoman and Mayoral candidate Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. It prohibits sexual harassment of city employees by their fellow co-workers, management, union representatives, volunteers or vendors for the city. 

After ordering a 60-day review of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, Governor Phil Murphy is making changes to expand it dramatically.

Murphy says bureaucratic conditions have stifled the eight-year-old program's ability to help.

"The days of making residents jump through hoops are coming to an end. We will have a medical marijuana program that is compassionate, that is progressive, and that at long last meets the needs of patients."