Home > Uncategorized > “Letter to Santa Christie” is A Dangerous Betrayal

“Letter to Santa Christie” is A Dangerous Betrayal

We all are familiar with the continuing public corruption scandals in NJ – perhaps not so familiar with far larger and more damaging private corporate corruption on Wall Street.

To be honest, in this post-modern age of skepticism (some say cynicism) and low expectations (some would say disillusion), perhaps all that is no big surprise and disappointment to many.

But, virtually no one is focused on a more insidious form of corruption – intellectual corruption and political cowardice – and in such high minded places, like the Dodge Foundation and NJ advocacy groups.

My head is exploding right now after just reading a Dodge product, in the form of a not so cute “Dear Santa” letter to Governor-elect Christie.

I find it obnoxious, dangerously politically naive, intellectually corrupt, and ethically bankrupt.

Harsh words? Yes. True? You decide.

The “Dear Santa” letter seeks to find “common ground”. The letter purports to be the product of 15 housing, transportation, environmental, and planning groups. It is intended to convey a “policy vision” and provide the incoming Christie Administration with a “policy platform”.

A Dodge blog post distributed the letter. That post rather arrogantly emphasized the intellectually high minded tone of the letter. This was not done as some genteel gesture, but specifically to attack and dismiss what Dodge views as the unseemly advocacy of some. In Dodge-speak:

I hope, too, that you take note of the tone of the letter. It is not a demand that the incoming Governor forsake his agenda for some righteous social and environmental agenda; rather, it is an invitation for the Governor-elect to call upon these resource and planning experts to help him meet his agenda and New Jersey’s challenges


We wouldn’t want to make any “demands” of our elected officials – that’s too democratic. The rabble must know their place! And of course we must always defer to “experts”, never be”righteous” in our pursuits, and always use a civil tone in addressing our elite betters (and wash our face and shine our shoes).

In terms of the stale content and vague policy elements of the so called “policy platform letter to Governor-elect Christie” – which took only “months” (and how much Dodge money?) to develop -  I feel compelled to note the following to inject just a little political reality into the lofty deliberations of the Dodge funded empire:

Affordable Housing – Governor Christie has pledged to “gut COAH” (while alleviating the constitutional municipal obligation and supporting low cost policies to transfer that obligation from the predominantly white suburbs to the predominantly black urban core). We all know that this advances the economic and political  interests of an exclusionary and racist elite suburban white constituency that has worked tirelessly for years to keep NJ’s poor and minority populations segregated in NJ’s urban ghetto’s. NJ is one of the most segregated states in the country – by income and race.

Transportation – Christie has sworn not to increase the gas tax -we all know that this is a reckless, ideologically driven, reflexive anti-tax policy which is virtually certain to bankrupt the NJ Transportation Trust Fund. How could you possibly look the other way on this issue?

EnvironmentChristie has promised to impose a moratorium on regulations, streamline bureaucracy, and eliminate red tape. We all know that those are code words for dismantling environmental programs under the pretext of promoting economic growth. His Transition Team is headed by an anti-environmental rural right wing zealot, (despite NJ’s glaring racial and income urban environmental health injustices); it is stacked with corporate types, and includes just one token “environmentalist” (who has a deep conflict of interest due to his organization’s political endorsement of Christie). The DEP Water Quality Management regulations cited in the letter are about to be killed legislatively. A extension of the Permit Extension  Act is pending as well.  To ignore those realities, while sending the Governor vague “policy vision” platitudes amounts to providing political cover and collaboration in ongoing attacks on the environment.

Common Ground – Christie promised to cut the income tax of NJ’s wealthiest – at a revenue loss of $1 billion at a time when the State is faced with a $4 billion structural budget deficit. Major education, health care, and social programs are being slashed. There can be no common ground when the wealthy are granted tax cuts while all others suffer.

It must be nice to issue such silly and sanctimonious edicts from the lofty and well fed offices of Dodge Foundation Morristown Offices.

But the rest of us are squarely facing and struggling to defeat an ugly reality from less vibrant locales.

In this economic and political context, progressive communities need to seek common ground in order to circle the wagons for the oncoming onslaught of the Christie Administration.

Grovelling and providing political cover not only betrays the progressive mission, but is a noxious form of self denial that undermines the very movement solidarity it purports to advance.

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  1. Bill Wolfe
    January 11th, 2010 at 12:12 | #1

    A comment by Mike King – posted here for readers not on Highland listserve:

    Bill Wolfe and others:

    Wonderful that Smart Growth (as seen in the Dodge 15 vision to the governor-elect) has been embraced in concept
    by the entire spectrum. Unfortunately, it largely accepts growth to go on just as before, without real change to the
    status quo. I’m taking some comfort, however, that New Jersey Future and the Middlesex Planning group (Diane
    Brake) are not signatories and therefore hoping that this letter to the governor-elect is the first step in a civil outreach,
    not the last. They could ratchet up their points, if not included in the dialogue. Dave Pringle can’t be the only one at
    the table representing these views and he too will bolt, if the new governor doesn’t deliver, despite having supported
    him, or at least I hope so.

    These groups are by nature “insiders”. Even if things go as badly, as you predict, because of low expectations of the
    new governor, chances are they’ll still be working from the inside, for that is their comfort zone. The link in your
    original (Dec 22) posting entitled “Stale Content” does indeed show that in the twelve years since Govenor Whitman’s
    second term, the smart growth concept remains steeped in the same platitudes. Yet, the prospect then, of enforcing
    the State Plan had the NJ Builder’s Association testifying, in 1998, against moving the State Planning Commission
    from Treasury to the DCA, while endorsed by the Sierra Club and the Highlands Coalition. A united group think, from
    these 15 groups might prevent, such topsy turvy efforts.

    I’d be more encouraged about the chances of appealing to the new governor, if the signatories were more honest to
    themselves about our poor chances of preserving a substantial amount of the remaining farmland and forests, by
    continuing to rely only on “willing sellers”, vying for the limited State funding. A Highlands type Act for all farmland
    assessed properties is tantamount with preventing expanding infrastructure (as in the WQMP), and forcing growth into
    already developed areas. Otherwise, the vision in the Dodge letter -the one we all embrace -cannot be brought to
    fruition and reduces the vision to a trite platitude. If we can’t get protection of PA 4 and 5 in the State Plan, by
    enforcing the State Plan, let’s look to alternative approaches that complement the new WQMP, by putting farmland off
    limits to development.

    As to the possible gutting of COAH: In the Mt Laurel court cases, the judges found that municipalities had to offer
    housing opportunity to those less fortunate. We’ve seen how that concept has been captured by those who would
    find the “remedy” in giant inclusionary developments. Personally, I’ve always believed the court took the wrong tact
    and I think you are repeating it, by suggesting that segregation would be furthered by forcing all such growth into the
    city and instead spread it all over the countryside. The best way to confront the segregation in our cities is by
    providing housing opportunities for rich and poor alike, in our cities.

    Because of the Mt Laurel court orders and the State constitution, no NJ governor will be able to “gut” COAH and
    redirect all COAH to the inner city, without also stopping growth in the environs. That’s why the allegation that the
    governor-elect would gut COAH, sounds like a positive step, by forcing the growth genie back in bottle, to the degree
    possible. We have ‘clean water’ as our mantra in our battle to stop the development of more of the Highlands. The
    collateral benefits include habitat protection for our native species. Yet, crucial to communicate to the governor elect
    is that sprawl hemorrhages public funds into a bottomless pit. So knowing this, any true fiscal conservative should
    embrace real smart growth.

    Mike King, Coordinator
    REALsmart, The League for Real Smart Growth
    (a committee of the Phillipsburg Riverview Organization)

    > ——-Original Message——-
    > From: bill_wolfe@comcast.net
    > To: njhighlands@lists.northbyram.org
    > Subject: Re: [njhighlands] Letter to Santa Christie is a Dangerous Betrayal
    > Sent: 30 Dec ’09 17:09
    > Thanks Mike – always appreciate your views.
    > But I think you missed my primary concerns with the “Dodge 15 letter”:
    > First, we are way past the point of platitudes and visions, particularly
    > of the “insider” variety.
    > Second, the Gov. elect has taken strong public positions that are in
    > direct contradiction to the substantive programmatic elements of the vision
    > – so how can one honestly “invite” the Gov. elect to consider the vision
    > without any mention of those contradictions? Is that honest? Does it inform
    > public debate, or frustrate it?
    > Wolfe

  1. January 24th, 2010 at 12:29 | #1
  2. January 29th, 2010 at 13:32 | #2
  3. February 14th, 2010 at 14:04 | #3
  4. March 27th, 2011 at 05:50 | #4
  5. June 12th, 2011 at 12:06 | #5
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