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Back Then: An Unofficial History of NJ 101.5

So here we were, in 1990, back then,with this groundbreaking new idea. Let’s run a radio station totally dedicated to New Jersey, its people, its politics, its idiosyncrasies.

Young Joe Cutter
Young Joe Cutter (Townsquar Media NJ)

My good friend and longtime colleague Jim Gearhart, remembers that once we decided to talk to New Jersey about New Jersey back then, we were still thrashing around for something to catch a spark. That spark came along in 1990. That’s when veteran South Jersey Democratic Congressman Jim Florio took office as Governor of New Jersey. And as Jim Gearhart says, Florio provided the spark we needed with a series of proposals for the 1991 state budget that would raise taxes in New Jersey a whopping total of 2.8-billion dollars, to band-aid over a projected state budget deficit of three-billion dollars.

Jim reminds me that our purpose and our mission, all over the lot up to that point back then, became crystalized with Florio’s proposed tax hikes on everything…including toilet paper!

We started railing against the Governor, you started listening back then, and as Jackie Gleason used to say, “away we go!”

With Jim Gearhart protesting the tax hikes in the morning and John Kobylt and Ken Champou double-teaming Florio on the radio every afternoon, interest in what we were doing began to quickly soar, to the point that we started getting a lot of national attention. I will tell you more about some of that later.

Anyway, I am working in the newsroom one afternoon back then while John and Ken are once again screaming on the air about the Governor. The phone rings. When I answered, this guy says, “hi, my name is John Budzash, and I want to talk to John and Ken about organizing a protest where we all link hands across the state to protest all of these Florio tax hikes.” I gave John, who later co-founded, “Hands Across New Jersey,” the call-in number. He called John and Ken, and the movement started to take wings. It was the first time anyone talked to John Budzash at New Jersey 101.5 back then, but it certainly would not be the last.

On that same afternoon back then, and not long after the Budzash call, a woman rang up the newsroom and I again picked it up. “Hi, my name is Pat Ralston, and I agree with that guy John about a protest across New Jersey, and I want to help him organize it”. And so “Hands Across New Jersey’s” other co-founder jumped into the fray.

I witnessed the birth of, “Hands Across New Jersey,” which turned out to be a very vocal and potent voice back then against the Florio Administration and its tax increases.

And it all started with a couple of phone calls one afternoon, back then.

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