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Christie Regulatory Czar Consolidates Power

Christie Government Of, By, and For the Corporations

[Update: 7/18/11 -  I missed the implications of this in my initial reading of this story. It is a pretty revealing (and incredibly stupid) statement (to a reporter), announcing a clear intent to act in an official governmental capacity to cut private back room deals, frustrate transparency and accountability, and exploit OPRA. This is an outrageous abuse of power and a shocking admission coming from Guadagno, who is a lawyer and should know better: 

“McDaniel stressed that the non-profit could accomplish what state officials could not.

The non-profit can “wine and dine” firms who may relocate to New Jersey, Guadagno said. 

Conversely, McDaniel is not copied on any e-mails, because that would make the non-profit subject to Open Public Records Act laws. “It becomes an OPRA issue,” Guadagno said.

“Best to stay away,” McDaniel added. But the group shares updates on developments in person. Guadagno also attends Choose New Jersey events.

This admission by Gudagno herself confirms precisely the abuses I wrote about last February, which bears repeating:

The Lt. Governor is given powers to work behind closed doors and block regulations  in a way that is sharply at odds with the due process, transparency, and public participation requirements of NJ’s Administrative Procedures Act. This unaccountable power literally invites abuse by private interests. The Lt. Governor is given powers to change decision standards and gut laws enacted by the Legislature that delegate powers to State Departments, like DEP, to protect the public’s interest in the environment, not necessarily promote the narrow private business interests of friends of the Governor. – end update]

Don’t say we didn’t warn you – early and often – about this long ago. See:

Lt. Gov. and Regulatory Czar, Kim Guadagno, takes the Oath of Office

Lt. Gov. and Regulatory Czar, Kim Guadagno, takes the Oath of Office

So we were disappointed but not surprised by today’s Star Ledger and Bergen Record coverage of an important story, about the next phase of Christie “Regulatory Czar” Lt. Governnor Guadagno’s power grab: Guadagno embraces new clout her office may get.

That news coverage may be too little too late, but it’s a huge improvement on reporting about Guadagno’s hurt feelings.

The story begins with this warning:

Unless the Legislature blocks the move, Guadagno — a Republican and the only lieutenant governor in the nation who also serves as a secretary of state — assumes broad powers over critical areas where businesses want advantages: planning and zoning guidelines, business retention programs, including possible tax incentives, and the struggle for balance between development and environmental rules.

On June 29, Governor Christie issued reorganization plans that move three key agencies — the Office of Smart Growth, the state Planning Commission and the Business Retention and Attraction Division — under Guadagno’s State Department.

The shift only adds to her growing stable of powers. Through executive orders issued last year by Christie, Guadagno already recommends pruning kinds of state regulation through her leadership of a Red Tape Commission.

So now Guadagno assumes statewide planning powers – for all functional and programmatic plans, including the NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan , and federally mandated NJ DOT’s Transportation Improvement Program and regional  MPO’s and NJ Transit/MPO plans.

This power includes various key DEP plans like the Water Quality Management Plan, the Water Supply Master Plan (and Action Plan), the Global Warming Response Act Plan, and maybe even NJ’s federally mandated Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan –  in addition to her Regulatory Czar role.

This must be blocked by the Democratically controlled Legislature and US EPA, as some of Guadagno’s powers violate federal environmental laws because DEP functional plans are federally mandated.

As is so typical, the land use planning community is out to lunch and reluctant or down right afraid to challenge Christie on policy grounds.

Worse, a Rutgers planning professor is supporting home rule! Yikes! What the hell was he thinking? Home rule is the bane of sound planning!

Many in the planning community who support the changes say they are watching the concentration of power in the executive branch. Some caution that the state’s clout should not be allowed to overshadow the ability of towns to govern their business growth.

“Municipalities are as critical partners in economic development as the state,” said Stuart Meck, director of the planning practice program at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School. “Anything that gets in the way of towns’ power to develop their own plans would be a step backward.”

And DEP’s head promoter of economic development has the belly laugh quote of the day:

As the lieutenant governor can intervene with towns, so developers may soon file objections to environmental regulations.

Michele Siekerka, the deputy commissioner at the DEP, interacts with the Business Action Center. She said developers often ask about a proposed rule allowing certain DEP regulations to be waived: “We expect that will come into effect in the fall,” she said.

“But that rule change will not be a tool to get around our state regulations.”


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