Focus on LaRue

May 9, 2008

A reader pointed us to this pr write-up about Rutgers vp Jeannine LaRue in an internal organ, Rutgers Focus.

We’ve expressed skepticism about how LaRue, a onetime deputy chief of staff for Gov. Corzine with no prior ties to Rutgers or to higher education for that matter, might earn her $250,000 pay in a job post that had been vacant since 1997. We explored this topic here, here, and here. Basic thrust of the argument is that we were puzzled by Rutgers’ commitment of some $589,000 to fund an office that apparently had not been needed in a decade.

Of course there is no direct tie but it interested us when last week another Corzine deputy chief of staff, Javier Inclan, resigned. Mr. Inclan testified in a corruption trial about passing envelopes stuffed with cash to Hudson County pols and, well, you have to read this stuff to grasp the quality of Corzine’s hires.

Back to Ms. LaRue and the FOCUS article. Indeed, we are touched that she is raising two grandchildren. We are stupefied that she has 17,000 contacts in her BlackBerry. But most of all we finished the article still uncertain exactly what Ms. LaRue does to earn her keep.

By all means, anybody in the know, please do tell us.


No $ for Art, Plenty for Football

May 3, 2008

Tell us what is right with this picture.  Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno writes that the Corzine budget may cut arts funding 100% in many cases — but then there is the case of Rutgers football, a money-losing enterprise that aspires to mediocrity and for it the checks are blank and John Q citizen is simply forced to sign.  Rutgers football loses upwards of $3 million every year and there is no end in sight.  Even President McCormick admits the likelihood of football turning a profit is slim to none: “We’re not doing this to make money,” McCormick told the Bergen Record.

Even if the reckless, cockamamie stadium expansion manages to happen, that won’t change a thing. Every dime brought in by the new seats would be needed to pay off the bonds sold to finance the project.

And then there are arts.  Last year, New Jersey awarded some $25 million to various arts groups and to fund municipal arts projects.  This is not money that is wasted.  $2 billion in economic activity resulted, per Di Ionno.

That all looks to end in Corzine’s austerity budget.

What economic good comes from Rutgers football?  Certainly it benefits Coach Schiano — now New Jersey’s highest paid public employee, on the basis of a lifetime losing record.  But who else is coming out a winner?

Not Rutgers students who, this fall, will see more classes cut and more teachers fired as Rutgers digests yet more cuts to academic budgets.

But still the money gushes on football.

Cui bono?

And so we wonder: what is right with this picture?

Quote of The Week: Get Out Of State Now!

April 8, 2008

New Jersey has the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in the country that in fact cut its appropriations to higher education over the last two years,” said Vice President for University Budgeting Nancy Winterbauer, according to reporting in the Targum.

This was at the recent BoG meeting to discuss the ramifications of the proposed $38 million cut in state funding to Rutgers.

Yet again we urge high school seniors who are deciding where to enroll in the fall: Get out of state.

Now…had Ms. Winterbauer used her minutes in front of the BoG to talk about plans for stopping the multi-million dollar waste of money on football and basketball and using those many millions to reduce the cutbacks Rutgers academics will suffer due to diminishing state support…we would have different advice for high school students.

She did not — the McCormick administration remains married to its quixotic and jock-sniffing pursuit of bigtime sports — so we do not.

Rutgers may in fact suffer even deeper cuts in academics because Gov. Corzine has said the worsening state economy is darkening the financial picture. The worse news is that New Jersey is looking at many years of economic woes with no real end in sight. That spells considerable pain for Rutgers — unless and until we have an administration that can persuasively advocate on behalf of the university’s academics. We know Dick McCormick can hit Corzine up for a few quid to fund a stadium expansion. Have you heard McCormick’s voice raised on behalf of more funding for academics?

Neither have we.

What’s holding you in New Jersey? Leave for your education, you won’t look back.

Rueing LaRue

March 29, 2008

Friday’s post about onetime Corzine top aide Jeannine LaRue turned Rutgers vice president — with a delicious six-figure salary increase — caused at least one reader to spit on his keyboard. Wrote CreateNJ — from a Rutgers computer, incidentally: “How tacky…you put up the cartoon but talk about the tons of folks who wrote in refuting the cartoon and the fact that LaRue herself wrote a response which almost everybody…including folks who started the conversation…applauded her. I’m not a minority…but this is the most racist thing you guys have done…tacky….Btw…she is at Rutgers…has made her rounds with faculty, administrators, and deans…and is really rising to the challenge.”

Whoa, let’s have some applause. LaRue went on the payroll months ago and “she has made her rounds.” Some progress.

Frankly, we are clueless about what CreateNJ is trying to say in run-on thought after run-on thought. Probably all this inchoate mumbling was written in a moment of anger (tip: count to 10 before hitting “send,” it reduces embarrassment).

But we decided to review our thinking on LaRue — despite the Press of Atlantic City editorial denouncing her appointment.

And despite the op-ed written by onetime Rutgers board of trustees chairman Arthur Kamin who said, “one thing the state’s flagship teaching and research institution of higher education does not need is another lobbyist who was just hired at an unnecessary $250,000 annual salary.”

LaRue is lucky we are not the ones who grade her job performance. That’s because, in her first real test — the governor’s recent budget — she clearly came up short, at least in terms of persuading her presumed pal, Gov. Corzine. The Rutgers budget was cut 11.6%, whereas the across the board average cut for public higher education institutions was 10%

Rutgers fared worse than its public peers, despite LaRue’s past connections to Corzine.

As the Home News & Tribune wrote in an editorial, “the spending plan would be particularly hard on Rutgers University….All told, direct aid to Rutgers would plummet from $328.6 million in fiscal year 2008 to $290.6 million in fiscal year 2009, and that is a world of hurt.”

Of course it is unfair to put all this burden on LaRue — but right there is where her particular pedal should be hitting the metal. A highly paid Rutgers lobbyist ought to be getting the Rutgers case across in Trenton and, apparently, there is some static in her communications.

It’s not just us with questions about Ms. LaRue. As a Gannett newspaper reporter wrote, “Some have questioned some Rutgers appointments and lucrative salaries like that of Jeannine LaRue, who was hired as vice president of public affairs at a base salary of $250,000.”

We guess anytime a question is raised about how Rutgers spends its money, that must per se be “tacky” and “racist,” at least in the view of CreateNJ, writing on a Rutgers computer.

Incidentally, in a self-justifying wee note circulated by LaRue after her appointment triggered a flap, she noted, ” a friend of mine, CreateNJ”….

At least they have each other.

Indeed they do because who at is LaRue’s chief defender? You guessed it, CreateNJ.

She needs her defenders there, too. Noted Nbrefugee: “McCormick needs another useless employee as much as the average person needs herpes.”

But, curiously enough, we think we agree with CreateNJ about one thing. In a post that radiated frustration about all the anti-LaRue posts, CreateNJ wrote this: “Looking at the $1M investment for six years in a row to turn around the football team’s image as opposed to comments being made here about the University’s image at large, maybe they should have offered LaRue $1.2M instead of the measley $250K.” We think that is an attack on the continued waste of money on RU’s stumbling football presence (we admit to still not quite deciphering CreateNJ’s prose) — and, if so, bravo, CreateNJ. We are glad to agree with you about one thing.

Jeannine LaRue may be a waste of money…but we’ll take her in a heart-beat if we can shut down the ludicrous gusher of cash that props up Mulcahy’s follies. Write again, from that Rutgers computer, if you can offer us that deal.

Friday Funnies

March 28, 2008

Thank cartoonist Rob Tornoe for this Friday Funny

A little explanation might help elucidate the image. The woman in the sketch is Jeannine LaRue, onetime deputy chief of staff to Governor Corzine and now vice-president for public affairs for Rutgers. The appointment — wherein LaRue almost doubled her salary to $250,000 annually — was announced in December and was widely viewed as a quid pro quo for Corzine’s continued support for the reckless and cockamamie Rutgers Stadium expansion plan. Thus the text in the cartoon by Tornoe, the award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Press of Atlantic City; “Corzine’s check” refers to the $1 million contribution promised by the Governor.

Of course Rutgers president Dick McCormick has frequently — vociferously — denied that the state university is just another public trough where Trenton insiders swill. But, then again, he has never explained how he can reconcile that lofty statement of principle with the presence on the Rutgers-Camden payroll of NJ state senator Wayne Bryant, since indicted by the federal government for corruption and fraud.

Or with the presence on the payroll of Ms. LaRue, who assumed a post that had been vacant since 1997. As the Press of Atlantic City said in an editorial, “it’s hard to convince parents and students that state funding cuts may translate into higher tuitions when Rutgers University still has the money to hire people like Jeannine F. LaRue…to a $250,000-a-year lobbying job….Fact is, until Rutgers gets rid of this expensive political job – and pares down the rest of its stable of high-priced lobbyists and schmoozers – it shouldn’t raise tuition a dime.”

We guess this Friday’s laugh is on us.


That tidbit only leaves you wanting a real guffaw?

Writing on the Rivals message board, a poster named Rufanpops — who apparently read and thus quoted our advice to high school students to go out of state for their higher education unless they wanted to spend time at a football factory — tacked this up the other day (italics quote us, bold is Rufanpops):

“Unless your dream is to paint your body red, drink beer until you are comatose, and yell obscenities at opposing teams on football game days”

that was exactly what i wanted out of college….i wish that’s what was happening 10 years ago

As a stand-alone remark, that is pretty funny. But last week a poster with that same name (and who claims to work in the Rutgers ticket office) left a comment on this blog. His comment to end all comments: “i find it odd that you would claim that anything that you read on a rivals message board is fact.”


Memo to NJ High Schoolers: Get Out of State!

March 24, 2008

Football, si, education, no! That is the emphatic message out of the Corzine administration to New Jersey high school students.

Money for Rutgers football is abundant — its annual budget has ballooned to almost $16 million (the head coach salary’s alone is about $1.8 million). The grievous injury to this profound insult to scholarship at the university was the Rutgers Board of Governor’s approval of a $100+ million stadium expansion plan, despite an avalanche of facts and logic that showed the plan was reckless and cockamamie.

But, for education and scholarship, New Jersey funding for higher education is dropping fast.

Case in point: Budget cuts expected to be approved will slash a paltry scholarship program for top New Jersey high schoolers who elect to attend a community college. The current scenario is to save a whopping $2.5 million by making students in families with incomes over $100,000 ineligible. Granted, $100,000 sounds like big dough but this is one of the country’s richest states — almost all two income state employee families, for instance, earn well over $100,000. And grinding glass in this wound is that the $2.5 million is a bagatelle in the context of New Jersey’s bloated $33 billion budget — but the money ripped out of the hands of these students and their families just might make a big difference.

What’s not to expect, however. The 2006 New Jersey budget cut funding for the state’s Outstanding Scholars program, which rewarded the very best high schoolers with scholarships for choosing to attend a university in state. Maximum award was $7500; peak year funding saw $14 million go to these students. Every penny was slashed out of the 2006 budget and none has been restored.

Of course there’s also the wholesale cutting of higher education in the new draft state budget. About $78 million was slashed by Gov. Corzine, with every public college and university taking a hit. Rutgers, the school with money to burn on football, is suffering a $38 million cut and that means less money for education (fewer classes, fewer teachers, no money to maintain the campuses).

Gov. Corzine, meantime, is so gungho football he has personally vowed to help raise a $30 million donation to fund a sliver of the stadium expansion. He also promised to pony up $1 million of his own money — in stark contrast to his determination to slash funding for academic scholarships.

High schoolers: what part of this message from Trenton aren’t you getting? Unless your dream is to paint your body red, drink beer until you are comatose, and yell obscenities at opposing teams on football game days, just get out of town for your higher education.

If you are deciding right now about where you will go to college in September, take heed. Funding for New Jersey higher education will only worsen. The New Jersey budget crisis will only deepen next year and the year after. This is a longterm structural imbalance (NJ owes too much money on too little income). There is no financial magic wand that, waved by Trenton, will turn things right in the state’s colleges. Read these words carefully: get out of state and don’t look back.