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Asking a Climate Question at a Christie Press Conference

 From Sandy Climate and “Strategic Retreat” Denial and News Blackout

To Headlines – in 24 Hours

*Christie Imposing Warped Priorities, Remains Clueless on Governing and Planning

Tank Man


[*Important Update below]

Governor Christie called on me at his press conference on Feb. 5 in Union Beach and I asked him this question:

“Governor: President Obama issued an Executive Order to coordinate the federal response to Sandy. It emphasizes the need to plan for future storm risk from climate change, extreme weather, and sea level rise. 

Similarly, yesterday, recognizing Sandy as a climate change wake up call, NY Gov. Cuomo pledged a $400 million program to buy out flood prone properties. 

Given that you have not engaged climate change, NJ’s open space fund is broke, and DEP has ignored multiple warnings from scientists and actually reduced the priority on coastal hazards in NJ coastal zone management program, do you think NJ is at a competitive disadvantage in receiving federal funds just approrpriated to the various federal agencies, who will review NJ’s rebuild plans subject to the Obama EO policies?  Question posed to Gov. Christie In Union Beach by Bill Wolfe, 2/5/13
Wolfe attended Christie’s event Tuesday and tried to ask the governor a follow-up question on that specific issue but was shot down by the governor, who said, “I’m not answering your question because you’re not in the press.”
Quickly followed by:

Rebuilding standards at Jersey Shore must reflect climate change, experts say 


A day after Governor Christie dismissed questions about whether climate change fueled superstorm Sandy, scientists maintained Wednesday that global warming and sea level rise must be taken into account when rebuilding the Jersey Shore. (Bergen Record 2/6/13)

Gov. Christie: New Jersey considering buying flood-prone neighborhoods


SEA BRIGHT — Gov. Chris Christie said today he wants the state to use a portion of the federal Sandy aid money coming to New Jersey to buy up whole neighborhoods prone to flooding. (Star Ledger 2/7/13)


I’d like to take credit for some of this abrupt change in the focus of the news, especially regarding the Governor’s failure to address climate change and “strategic retreat” in his single minded pursuit of Sandy rebuild (AKA “Rebuild Madness“), the Obama Executive Order (which has been completely ignored by NJ press), and the Cuomo comparison, which I’ve written extensively about (most recently, see this on Obama and this on Cuomo).

[this story got national attention via this Think Progress piece by national climate expert Joe Romm: Christie Has Time For Super Bowl But Not ‘Esoteric Question’ Of Whether Climate Change Fueled Superstorm Sandy]

But what really broke the news blackout and forced the Governor’s hand was NY Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, the President’s Inaugural remarks, and especially the NY Times’ Sunday page one story about Cuomo’s $400 million plan:  Cuomo Seeking Home Buyouts in Flood Zones

That just illustrates both the power of the NY Times to set the news agenda and the lap dog nature of the NJ press corps, who seem to be either incapable of asking complex questions, or just flat out cowed by and afraid of Christie.

Now if the story can stay in the news for more than a 24 hour news cycle, and not be driven out by Snooki or a snowstorm,  and the Trenton environmentalists can come out from either hiding under their desks or trolling for Open Space stewardship money, and the Democrats can grow a spine, then maybe we can have an adult discussion about developing a regional plan for the coast and make some progress in responding to climate change.

[Important Update - my good friend BC just sent me today’s Bergen Record article, which significantly alters the optimistic stuff implied above with respect to the Gov. possible embrace of a buyout program and “strategic retreat”.

Christie says he’s reluctant to buy out flood-prone homes without neighborhood consensus


Governor Christie said Thursday that he would be reluctant to use federal Sandy aid to buy out flood-prone homes unless whole neighborhoods come to a consensus on their own.

“If you’re going to do it, you need to buy out an entire neighborhood,” he said during a visit to the shore by President Obama’s point-person for Sandy rebuilding, Shaun Donovan. “Because if you buy two or three homes in the neighborhood that flood and you leave the other 15 or 20 or 40, you’re back in the same position in terms of paying for damage in the long haul.”

Christie’s comments, made a day after Donovan announced New Jersey would get $1.8 billion in Sandy aid, stand it contrast with a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to spend as much as $400 million for a voluntary buyout program that would target damaged, flood-prone homes in the most vulnerable coastal areas. Cuomo’s proposed program would offer homeowners pre-storm market value for their homes and keep the land undeveloped.

Christie has said he wants to use the first installment of Sandy aid for homeowner and small business grants to rebuild coastal communities — none for buyouts — and for an advertising campaign to get summer tourists back to the shore.

This confirms exactly what I suspected and have written about:

1) The Governor’s priorities are warped -

Business grants and advertising campaigns should be LAST in line for scarce dollars, not FIRST.

The Legislature must step in and redirect these priorities. ASAP!

People are still homeless and Governor Christie wants to provide business grants? Are you kidding me?

2)  The Governor is clueless about planning and governing

I don’t disagree with the Gov. that the best approach is a buyout of an entire neighborhood.

But these locations must be targeted, regional, and limited to certain highly vulnerable places.

But the Gov. wants neighborhoods to come to consensus on their own?

How are people supposed to be aware of risks and costs, and magically come together and forge a voluntary consensus on a neighborhood buyout?

Are they supposed to spontaneously meet at the local coffee shop , deli, or ginmill?

Government needs to take the lead and organize a planning process to allow this important dialogue to emerge. Government needs to not only establish this planning process, but structure and guide it within policy parameters and enforce it via regulations (use a carrot and stick, in the conventional vernacular).

Christie has no clue how to do this, because he knows nothing about planning, because he appointed a Czar and cares only about power and control, and because he hates government intervention in private markets.

The Legislature MUST step up and hold an intervention.

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