Sweeney Dems Support Christie Abuse of Power – Pipeline Retaliation Scheme
Senator Gill Invokes Christie’s Failure to Reappoint Supreme Court Justice Wallace
“ all of a sudden, we are expendable, no matter what our qualifications”
Commissioner Jackson (center, speaking) showed leadership and integrity. For that, Gov. Christie is seeking his replacement.
[2/26/15 – today’s Asbury Park Press editorial is even more critical than I am, superb, read the whole thing:
I put a photo of former Gov. Brendan Byrne at the top of my post yesterday - and one of former Gov. Florio at the bottom – for a reason: to signal that Gov. Christie’s nomination of Bob Barr for the Pinelands Commission was a test of whether the Democrats would honor that 40 year legacy or go along with Governor Christie’s retaliatory scheme.
Today, we feature a photo of Pinelands Commissioner Jackson - first posted on Jan. 11, 2014 - a thoughtful, independent, and principled man of courage and integrity.
I’m sad to say that the Christie-crat faction of the Democratic Senate- led by Senate President Sweeney who attended the hearing and was working the room pressuring Senators for support – were a total cowardly disgrace to that legacy.
Senator Nia Gill
I was thrilled by – and applauded – Senator Gill’s principled opposition and her strong words, which invoked Gov. Christie’s outrageous disrespectful insult in not re-appointing Supreme Court Justice Wallace:
This is not about Mr. Barr. But, if you want to make it about Mr. Barr and his qualifications, … it is clear that he is not qualified.
The larger issue here, is that we are doing here today what Gov. Christie did to Justice Wallace.
We are saying that Mr. Jackson is qualified, but Mr. Jackson is independent.
When he [Gov. Christie] did it to Justice Wallace, we stood together – He is removing the only African American to ever sit on the Commission.
And thereby removing any diversity or other voice to come to the table.
If we were principled enough to stand with Justice Wallace, then we should be principled enough today to stand and not let this go forward.
This is about power. This is about saying that if you disagree with Gov. Christie, you will be removed. [...]
As a party of diversity, we will not vote to replace a person who represents not only diversity, but, like Justice Wallace, represents excellence, represents that ability to make an independent judgement.
That’s what Mr. Jackson does , and for that, you are asking us to cast this vote to ensure his removal.
We would not have cast a vote for the removal of Justice Wallace and we should not cast a vote here today in support of Mr. Barr and against all the principles that we stand for. Thank you. (huge sustained applause)
I was pleased by Senator Weinberg’s refusal to go along with what she called Gov. Christie’s attempt to tell Commissioner Jackson to “sit down and shut up”:
We are sending a message today that if you stand up and do something that this Governor doesn’t approve of, you are replaced or told to sit down and shut up.
Vote was 7-4 – Republicans mindlessly supported the Gov., with the exception of Republican Senator Bateman, who emphasized that he took his advise and consent role very seriously and felt that the Pinelands Commission was set up as an independent Commission. Bateman said:
I view this as stacking the deck when you don’t get the result you want. … I feel that there is a heavy hand being played here…. I just feel that this is wrong. We’re crossing the line and doing a disservice to the integrity of the Pinelands Commission.
Chairman Scutari voted no, as did Democrats Gill, Weinberg (I could not hear how Stack voted).
I was disappointed by Environment Committee Chairman Smith’s abstention – not exactly a profile in courage.
Same thing for Senator Lesniak [***see update below], who was conveniently out of town and ducked a controversial vote that was mis-framed as IBEW union jobs versus special interest environmentalists. Lesniak’s absence allowed Senator Van Drew – champion of both the pipeline and Mr. Barr – to sit in and be the swing vote in favor of Barr.
Games like this should be seen as a disqualification for any Gubernatorial ambitions – by Sweeney and Lesniak.
Read the dirty politics and blow by blow in the Politicker NJ story.
The only good that could come out of today’s disgrace would be a split in the Democratic party, with progressive Democrats using this as a pivot point to take control of the party and reject the Christie-Crat intimidation and crony politics of Sweeney.
Former NJ Supreme Court Justice Wallace – not re-appointed by Christie, but now hard at work as Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards
Again, Senator Gill laid that eloquently and righteously right out on the line – what do Democrats stand for and who do they stand by?:
This is a very serious vote and I think it says a great deal about where we are as a party and what we stand for going forward.
It also says that there are some issues, where certain people – no matter what, no matter what qualifications they bring to the table – are expendable for larger political reasons – until they come back to your community and ask for your vote.
And that is what this also says to me.
We can either be fair weather friends, or we can be partners in a larger issue, in a larger struggle.
I see that they will come to our community for a vote, but when they have to vote for the principles upon which they espouse, then all of a sudden, we are expendable, no matter what our qualifications – be it Justice Wallace, or be it Mr. Jackson.
I will vote no..
Here’s my testimony in full: (I was speaking extemporaneously):
Good morning Mr Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity. My name is Bill Wolfe, I’m from Bordentown and I’m hear to oppose the nominee.
I want to make it clear at the outset that I think Mr. Barr is a fine man, that he’s done great public service, that he’s a good person.
What I say has nothing to do with Mr. Barr as an individual, other than, he comes to this committee in a large context.
Mr. Barr must be evaluated in context. That context is:
Mr. Barr is the Governor’s nominee.
This Governor has a pattern of retaliation and retribution when you cross his path.
This Governor has a policy of promoting gas in NJ, both at plants and through pipelines. His Energy Master Plan promotes that.
So you have a policy context that is very precise. And a we have a nominee that is selected to serve that agenda.
At the same time the candidate doesn’t have – what Tittel referred to as “intellectual curiosity” – but I would refer to as qualifications, experience, and knowledge, or even frankly interest throughout his life, on anything having to do with the Pinelands: history, cultural resources, natural resources, the Pinelands Management Plan – you name it.
I don’t think there’s anything in the record that shows he has qualifications – or even personal interest.
So, all this contextual baggage and Mr. Barr’s lack of qualifications put this committee on the spot: it’s now become a test of whether this committee will do the right thing on a non-partisan, non-ideoligical basis to preserve the integrity of the process, because the public expects the Judiciary Committee to advise and consent on the merits, not on the politics.
If you are inclined to vote in favor of this candidate, given his lack of qualifications and the context that I just touched upon – and I’d be glad to elaborate in much more detail – then I think you are putting your own Senate position and this Committee in public disrepute, because that’s how obvious everything that’s going on here is.
Therefore I would appeal to you to do the right thing. Don’t bend to the political arguments you may be hearing as to why this individual should be appointed.
And if you do favor his candidacy, then at least go on the record with some substantive explanation as to his qualifications and to some evidence you find in the record as to his qualifications.
Realize that your actions today will establish a new standard – whether a high standard or a low standard remains to be seen – on both the qualifications for a candidate and it will set a new standard for whether a Governor can retaliate against a sitting independent Commissioner for policy and political reasons.
I’d be glad to answer any of your questions – I’d love to enter into discussion with any of you if you have any differences with what I’ve had to say.
[***Update – I just got a note from a friend asking me to correct the harsh words on Senator Lesniak, claiming that Lesniak was with us on this, worked Committee members in our favor, and that he was innocently in Florida, that Sweeney took advantage of his absence and would not let Lesniak be seated today, even after he hurried to get back to NJ especially for this vote.
I find that an interesting story, but since I have no first hand knowledge of that, I will stick with what I wrote, which is my judgement based on what I do know, which obviously is not everything. Readers can judge for themselves if Lesnaik took a pass, or if Sweeney is even a bigger problem here. end update.]