Home > Uncategorized > NJ Gov. Christie Slams Door Shut on Coastal and Climate Change Reforms In Wake of Sandy

NJ Gov. Christie Slams Door Shut on Coastal and Climate Change Reforms In Wake of Sandy

Appoints Corporate Crony As Czar to Oversee Redevelopment

No Lessons Learned – Business As Usual

Will The Legislature Allow Christie To Control The Whole Game?

(Is there a “Heck of a job Marc” in NJ’s future?)

The “debate” of whether and how to rebuild the shore is over before any real debate actually occured.

Let this be confirmation of the trite slogan: politics abhors a vacuum.

In the vacuum created by the absence of Legislative leadership and while the planning and environmental advocates were hiding under their desks (or worse: having secret meetings with their friends at DEP) and making no public demands on the Administration, Governor Christie just unilaterally acted.

According to the Bergen Record, in another vast executive over-reach, Christie has centralized control and appointed a corporate crony as Czar to oversee redevelopment:

Christie also announced the appointment of Marc Ferzan of Lawrenceville and the hiring of Witt Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based public safety and crisis management consulting firm, to work with him.

Ferzan will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating the state’s long-term recovery, while working with local governments and public and private partners, including Witt Associates.

“I’m naming Marc to this position because of the importance and urgency of the effort and my commitment to getting it done efficiently and effectively for the people of our state,” the governor said. […]

Ferzan said he planned to assemble a “core team” and would work with federal, state and local officials, charities, private industry, community organizations, volunteers and impacted community members to rebuild and develop mitigation strategies.

I have been writing here and working behind the scenes urging my colleagues to back a “strategic retreat” from the shore and to call for the formation of a Coastal Commission to oversee the public planning process.

As another “extreme weather” event,  Sandy illustrated the need to demand aggressive new climate change policies, including things like a phase out of in-state fossil power and imports; a moratorium on new pipeline and powerline construction; a carbon tax; accelerated wind and solar renewables; expansion of Clean Energy Funds; and massive public transportation and infrastructure investments.

None of that is likely to happen now –

(all of it was improbable, but it is certainly impossible without a demand, which is something that never emerged, despite numerous entreaties.

My guess is that this silence was no accident – now certain passive conservation groups can sit back and bask in the mitigation money likely to flow from the redevelopment boom.)

And I blame timid and visionless leaders of NJ ENGO’s (I’m willing to name names), a tabloid press corps, virtually no effort by the somnolent professional planning community, and a passive legislature.

The only question that remains is will Sweeney and Norcross sit back and take it?

(maybe Sweeney would get a burr under his saddle if US House Republicans proposed to eliminate prevailing wage and unions from the multi-billion $ federal bailout appropriation bill – something that is not beyond the pale, given the Katrina “Shock Doctrine” rollbacks and current “fiscal cliff” austerity politics. ) 

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  1. Bill Neil
    November 28th, 2012 at 15:55 | #1

    I would hope that at minimum we get the outlines of policy proposals from the confab of enviros that met this week, and they are made public. Given the political crosshatching of the groups, including key coastal ones, that may be too much to expect, perish the thought that they would turn into demands.

    More and more, Bill my thoughts go back to Donald Worster’s book “Dust Bowl,” and especially his beautifully and sensitively drawn portrait of the farmers who settled on the dryest portions of the Great Plains which turned into the dustbowl in the 1930’s. Railroads and real estate promoters had led them on, and cheap federal lands as well, close to the famous closing of the Western Frontier that we all heard about in high school civics. But what is most pertinent for matters unfolding at the Jersey Coast is Worster’s handling of the potent drive, the commercial frenzy is not too strong a term, that led to the ignoring of long standing and well established scientific knowledge of just how little rain could fall in these regions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas (and North and South Dakota). Hard as it is to believe, there was a notion, a belief even that “rain would follow the plow.” The tenacity of the farmers in clinging to their land even as it was blowing away from right beneath them…is the most powerful part of the book. They were capitalists first, and they ploughed without regard to the limits of nature on their region and on those soils, just as decades before in the 1870’s to 1880’s, an international ranching cattle bubble drove grazing beyond the supportable limits of the well adapted native prairie plants.

    Now today at the coast we have the same mythology of an economic engine at the coast, placed irregardless of the warnings of the Dery Bennetts and Orrin Pilkey’s, made often and public that they were living on the “side of an active volcano” – an analogy I use and my apologies if someone grabbed it first. The “game” at the coast, of realtors, developers, shore elected officials like the Mancini’s on Long Beach Island, has been to convince us that it is all just like the rest of suburbia, not like living on the side of an active volcano.

    When the predictable worst happens (go back to the 17th, 18th and 19th century historical records of storms that wrecked and rearranged a much less developed coastal NJ – talk about ignoring the past) the politicians declare it all an “Act of God” (which surely it was, but with the heavy hand of man and CO2 and wreckless building decisions long after we knew much better.)…It would all be easier to accept without all the lavish federal tax subsidies…and now, being blended into the 70-80 billion dollar requests for federal aid are the protection “remedies” – nary a consideration that I’ve heard so far as to the strategic retreat we are advocating, with nature remaking the maps that FEMA has done such a poor job of and without taking into account the realities of global warming.

    Add in the authoritarian shadings of Christie’s temperment, revealed, as you write in the nature of the missing public process, his credentials on the Republican Right which can portray what we are asking for as more bureacracy and red tape, add in his Springsteen Jersey Shore nostalgia that so many in Jersey can relate too, and you have one big ball of political momentum to do it just as before, no questions asked, risking future lives and spending vast sums to defend the indefensible risky locations- all in the face of a science that says it’s only going to get worse and you will never be able, sandpumped defense and all, stop the next big one from wreaking it all again.

    But there it goes unless we can separate a generous and forgiving emergency relief policy from the question of how and where to rebuild. Since these astounding sums – the federal bill for Katrina and Sandy combined are going to approach if not top $200 billion, at the time when Christie’s Party and too many mainstream dems are set to grind the poor – there is no other way to describe the reality – to protect some of the foolish and yes dangerous building practices of the more affluent parts of our society – and do it all behind the magic curtain – well, its just too much to swallow, it’s outrageous even as we can understand why its unfolding.

  2. Bill Neil
    November 28th, 2012 at 17:06 | #2

    Bill, the absence of public processes and transparency reminds me of an article that ran just a short time ago (Nov. 14th) at Naked Capitalism, written by Harry Shearer, about the lessons for New Jersey from Katrina:

    Among the comments was one by a Mantaloking NJ resident who toured that hard hit area by boat, and he reported that the new inlet that had been scoured by Sandy – the one near the causeway bridge from the mainland, had already been filled in by the ACOE – no public debate that he was aware of. Now the additional interesting, if not fascinating thing about this inlet, is that he raised the question as to whether it might not be capable of improving the terrible and getting worse water quality in Barnegat Bay; I don’t know enough to say yes or no, but here’s a good example of possibilities foreclosed by quick “executive?” action. Perhaps there were excellent public safety reasons – like further damage to the bridge from the mainland – perhaps not. But I remind your readers how hard it was for me and even a state coastal geologist to get information back in the early 1990’s about the extent of the damage to the Sea Bright Sea Wall. Hey, who the hell are we to ask questions like this? Oh, I forgot, we’ll be paying for it…When I think of how hard it is to get the public interest a hearing in matters like this,and then think of the success of billionaire Pete Peterson in peddaling his Social Security cutting nonsense…Well, let’s see how all this plays out…

  1. December 11th, 2012 at 14:04 | #1
  2. March 13th, 2014 at 12:28 | #2
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