Senator Sweeney Sells Out NJ’s “Exceptional Value” Streams and Rivers – Cuts Deal With Christie DEP To Avoid Veto

July 30th, 2016 No comments
Protest against Sweeney - Christie betrayal on pensions - ( 6/16/11)

Protest against Sweeney – Christie betrayal on pensions – (6/16/11)

So much for the “sanctity” of  New Jersey’s “purest waters”:

We as a legislature have consistently supported the sanctity of buffers for our C1 streams. These are the purest waters we have in the State of NJ.   ~~~ Bob Smith, Senate Environmental Committee Chairman (6/16/16 – vote to pass SCR 66).

Senator Ray Lesniak

Senator Ray Lesniak

Despite strong public commitments by Senate Environment Committee Chair Bob Smith and Senator Ray Lesniak to veto the Christie DEP rule at a Statehouse rally with environmentalists in June, Senate President Sweeney cut another political deal with the Christie administration to avoid a Legislative veto of Governor Christie’s DEP’s rules that rolled back protections and allow more development closer to NJ’s “exceptional value” “Category One” (C1) streams.

This most recent dirty deal is a huge sellout and will lead to more development along high quality streams and rivers, leading to more water pollution, more flooding, and more loss of some of the most ecologically valuable habitat. Period.

Even the Star Ledger Editorial Board – twice – urged Sweeney to veto the rules, see:

Will Sweeney protect our clean water from Christie’s bulldozers?

Sweeney’s rationale for the delay is that he’s trying to find a middle ground. He says he plans to meet with the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection to work out a compromise. “You have my commitment,” he said this week. “If we can’t fix this, on Aug. 1, we’ll pass it.”

From clean water rules to school funding, enough of Christie’s secrecy

So, enough. Not only should Sweeney stand up to the governor on stream and river protections, the Legislature should pass a similar resolution that overturns the rule changes on sewers and septic tanks, too. Christie officials shouldn’t get to conduct their policy negotiations behind closed doors. Time for a Legislative veto.

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The deal represents exactly the political Kabuki I warned about back in March:

The public and the [Senate Environment] Committee will be drowned in the weeds of a lengthy adoption – response to public comments document on the original proposal along with an entirely new and complex re-proposal document. This is a formula for political manipulation. It will take weeks to decipher the documents. Meanwhile, by the time the dust settles, the original proposal will be adopted into law and the Veto Resolution will have withered on the vine (faded into the budget debate) and the Legislature adjourned for the summer.

Senate President Sweeney has long opposed the C1 buffer program because he listens to the builders lobby – Back in 2007, then Senator Sweeney joined then Republican Senate President Bob Littell in attacking the C1 stream buffer program:

404. COMMENT: The proposed Category One designations would appear to be more about curbing development than enhancing water quality standards. Unfortunately, this new regulatory proposal tips the balance even more against the economic prosperity of the areas, district 24 and 3. (127, 221)  (source: DEP regulatory document)

The cover story for Sweeney’s political deal is an Administrative Order issued by DEP Commissioner Martin. Shamefully, Sweeney obviously coerced Senator Smith and made it appear that Smith is responsible for it.

Senator Smith must have had Sweeney’s gun pointed to his head. He should have resigned. As I wrote:

It is totally inappropriate [for Sweeney] to negotiate back room political compromises on regulatory protections (for an example of exactly how Sweeney abuses the process, see: “Political Pressure On DEP: How The Game Is Played”).

Talk about the blind leading the blind! (and Sweeney is expressing no confidence in Senate Environmental Committee Chairman Bob Smith, who has rigorously, openly, and fairly considered the DEP proposal and listened to hours of public testimony.)

If anyone took time to read the Administrative Order, they would see that DEP admits that they are weakening existing restrictions on development in the buffers. Here it is, hidden in plain sight:

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In case it’s not clear, let me repeat: the former rules (7:8-5.5(h), which were repealed) “limited or prohibited disturbance” within the 300 foot buffer – i.e. disturbance was limited in the 150 foot outer buffer and prohibited in the inner 150 foot buffer. But it was “allowed” under the stream encroachment rules.

The Martin Order is blatantly illegal – it seeks to enforce proposed new requirements in the “concurrent proposal” in existing permits on a case-by-case basis before that proposal is adopted.

DEP can not impose enforceable substantive regulatory requirements via Administrative Order. They must be adopted via rulemaking procedures, under very clear black letter law, court decisions, and fundamental doctrines of administrative and Constitutional law. It’s called “due process”.

Senator Bob Smith

Senator Bob Smith

Even if the Order were enforceable – which it’s not – the provisions – taken from the “concurrent proposal” – still allow development inside the 150 buffer of C1 streams. That was supposed to be Smith’s bottom line and strongest reason for finding the DEP rule inconsistent with legislative intent. For details on that, and flaws in the “concurrent proposal” see:

If DEP were serious in trying to avoid a “takings” challenge to the prior “prohibition” in the storm water rules and absolutely minimize buffer disturbance, they would have put the strict takings “hardship waver” from the Highlands rules (NJAC 7:38-6.4)  in the “concurrent proposal” and Order. Instead, DEP made the previous “hardship waiver” in the stream encroachment program EASIER to get.

The Administrative Order actually makes the status quo WORSE:

1. The Order claims that NJ DEP’s “best management practices” satisfy ALL water quality compliance obligations under the federal Clean Water Act. That is a false and dangerous statement that EPA would never sign off on. But, because EPA has no review authority over State DEP Orders, they won’t weigh in on the issue.

2. The Order claims that NJ State Flood Hazard Act “riparian zone” requirements satisfy all federal Clean Water Act water quality requirements – again that is false.

Examples: EPA would never sign off on a broad statewide claim that DEP could allow a FHA permitted riparian zone disturbance to destroy an “existing use” (e.g. wood turtle) of aquatic dependent life. DEP already enforced the wood turtle existing use issue in the the Milligan Farms Pulte Home case. EPA also would not issue a blanket approval DEP to issue a FHA permit that lowered water quality without conducting a site specific antidegradation review.

Shamefully, now that he cut the dirty deal, Sweeney is running for cover and running away from it.

Sweeney made Senator Smith take the heat for the deal he forced.

According to the NJ Spotlight story, Smith supported the deal:

“What we were trying to achieve with a legal and constitutional challenge has now been achieved through negotiation,’’ Smith said. He argued, in a press release by partisan staff, that the changes to the regulations and the administrative order signed by the DEP commissioner are “equal to the protections that were in place before the rule changes were made.’’

But Tom Johnson, a veteran reporter, knew that was bullshit and noted the release was issued “by partisan staff” – that’s code for Senate Democrats, or Sweeney.

We are not fooled by the bullshit either and will hold Sweeney accountable.

Let’s hope that certain Senators can grow a spine and sustain a veto the DEP Highlands septic density standards rollback.

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Democrats Go All In For Hillary’s Military Madness

July 28th, 2016 No comments

USA! USA! USA!

Dems USA!

And after the wars are over
And the body count is finally filed
I hope that The Man discovers
What’s driving the people wild ~~~ “Military Madness” Graham Nash

I thought I was done with this, but just hit the on-line CSPAN coverage and saw this madness.

In case you weren’t watching, this group literally marched on to the stage to a snare drum –

The USA! chants began and continued throughout the rantings of a US Marine 4 Star General military zealot.

To our enemies, we will pursue you, as only America can.

You will Fear us.

And to ISIS, we will defeat you.

Madness. Read  ‘Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War,’ by Mark Danner

These drone are not butterflies

These drone are not butterflies

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DNC – Clinton Wrap-up: No Room Under the Tent for Dissent or Activists

July 28th, 2016 No comments
Bernie Sanders March, (Philadelphia, PA, 7/24/16)

Bernie Sanders March, (Philadelphia, PA, 7/24/16)

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love ~~~ “Somebody to Love” Jefferson Airplane

The picture and the music above say it a lot better than I can in words.

The photo about sums up my feelings – elder legacy and all that jive – it is so loaded with meaning, that it is my favorite shot of the Bernie March and the contrast with the DNC Convention as a whole – from the accordion player to the concept of a moral obligation to future generations.

Old Man take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you ~~~ “Old Man” Neil Young

I could write a book about the multiple themes, values, and issues depicted, but will leave all that to the viewer and reader.

We spent this week wading into deep waters, trying to capture some meaning from the TeeVee show that the DNC Convention really is.

Be on my side, or be on your side, baby
There is no reason for you to hide …

This much madness
is too much sorrow
It’s impossible
to make it today. ~~~ “Down By The River” Neil Young

To me, the bottom line is that, first of all, the Democratic Party is incapable of reform – change will only come from Movement politics and civil disobedience that exerts pressure and creates a crisis outside the formal party structure and electoral and governing processes. Think Mario Savio or Dr. King’s idea of “creative tension”. Dr. King wrote:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

Second, Bernie Sanders was just not the man for the enormous burden he had to bear.

He did a great job, but catalyzed a movement and political dynamic he was totally unprepared to manage, and he was up against a powerful and corrupt Clinton machine. But still,  he did not have to collapse the way he did, and could have used the power he had far more effectively.

It was more a failure of leadership than vision or moral scruple. I think Chris Hedges was unnecessarily harsh in his personal criticism – Bernie was not a “useful idiot” –  but Hedges is essentially right about squandering the historical moment and the implications going forward.

Third and finally – and I really hope I am proven dead wrong about this – I think the Democrats, by nominating Hillary Clinton, have virtually assured that Trump is the next President.

There seems to be overwhelming evidence to support those conclusions – my notes don’t begin to scratch the surface, particularly of the DNC/Clinton sabotage of the Sanders campaign or the series of insults that went down inside the convention itself – but I think I document some of that evidence in the series of posts, with photos and music:

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes

Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation. ~~~ “Woodstock” Joni Mitchell

These drone are not butterflies

These drones are not butterflies

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DNC – Everybody Knows

July 28th, 2016 No comments

Wall Street Elites Emerge From The Shadows

Elites look down on Sanders March (Philadelphia, 7/24/16)

Elites look down on Sanders March (Philadelphia, 7/24/16)

When the Wall Street Elite Zombies are so egregious that they get called out on the front page of the New York Times:

After Lying Low, Deep-Pocketed Clinton Donors Return to the Fore

then EVERYBODY KNOWS:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows  ~~~ “Everybody Knows” (Leonard Cohen – Listen)

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DNC in Philly Day 3 – Loathing and Dissipation At FDR Park “Philly Awakening”

July 27th, 2016 No comments

Restrained mood and dwindling number of protesters reflect deep disappointments

Loathing For All Things Clinton and DNC

FDR1

Horror grips us as we watch you die
All we can do is echo your anguished cries
Stare as all human feelings die
We are leaving, you don’t need us ~~~ “Wooden Ships” (Crosby Stills & Nash – 1968)

[Update: 7/28/16 – hahahaha! I just learned that at exactly the same time I was sweating my balls off on my bicycle in the heat down at FDR Park looking for activists and ideas, the “Socialist Convergence” was meeting in downtown Philly with a panel that included Chris Hedges and Jill Stein – watch panel discussion  Viva La Revolution!~~~ end update]

I made it to FDR Park on Sunday with the Bernie March, but got food poisoning and had to hit the road. I was still wiped out on Monday and on Tuesday I did a Jill Stein event across from City Hall at the JFK Boulevard plaza site.

So today, after stopping by City Hall and finding no protests, I finally got back to that place to see how the hard core Bernie folks were holding up in their Occupy style encampment, called the “Philly Awakening”. The FDR Park is just across the street from the DNC Convention site at the Wells Fargo Center.

My first impression – politics aside – was how absolutely lovely the FDR Park is:

FDR2

FDR4

The second was the overwhelming police security perimeter and the third was all those SEPTA buses parked in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center doing absolutely nothing.

As I toured the park, I saw 3 or 4 small pockets of neatly maintained encampments, maybe 25-30 tents at each site, and a general ambiance of joyful engagement with zero police presence.

FDR5

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I had a few conversations with the activists, mostly about why Clinton and the Democrats were so bad and corrupt – and a muted, largely unstated, but deep disappointment in Bernie’s fold.

"madness is that way"

“madness is that way”

If my dog had better behavior, I would have loved to have camped there and enjoyed lengthy conversations with the young folks there.

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The people I spoke to were all politically astute and had no use for traditional party politics and corruption.

Their values were virtually the opposite of traditional politics: they demanded open, honest, compassionate communications and a commitment to altruism and saving the world from various catastrophe’s. But the issues were somewhat quirky (anti-GMO and vaccine views were dominant)

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The mostly young folks – although I spoke with a few fellow geezers – seemed to have similar values to the Hippies I felt an allegiance to growing up, but seemed more sophisticated and politically aware.

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A Bernie Sanders delegate from California spoke to the small crowd and explained all the dirty tricks, threats, and convention floor efforts to stop the Bernie delegates from protests, displaying signs, or booing.

At around 3 pm, a concert began, and I was told that Jill Stein was scheduled to speak –

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But by 4 pm there was no mention of Stein, so after a long day and 20 miles on the bike, so I headed north for the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden and the NJT Riverline.

I left with a profound sadness that I still can’t shake right now as I write this. This camper’s signs pretty much sum it up, politically:

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FDR6

ps – I could be completely wrong in my assessment of dissipation and low participation, but not in the feeling of disappointment. I visited in the afternoon of a sweltering day, so people may have been elsewhere. Still, I don’t think so. But on the ride out, I did notice several folks headed down Broad Street towards the park, so maybe it will rock tonight.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading in the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had ~~~ “California” Joni Mitchell

[Update #2 – 7/28/16 – Looks like things did rock last night]

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