Governing, Planning, and Democracy Have Become a Mere “Quarrel” That Might “Slow Down” The Rebuild Madness
Democrats Roll Over – No Objections To Gov. Christie’s Approach to Rebuild
[Update #2 - 2/4/13 – today’s NY Times page one – Cuomo gets it on climate change, coastal vulnerability, extreme weather, land use planning – Christie still in denial: Cuomo Seeking Home Buyouts in Flood Zones
Update #1: Read this Star Ledger bombshell on AshBritt corruption - it’s just a small taste of what’s coming down the pike in the Multi-Billion $ Sandy Rebuild Madness. The Legislature should impose a moratorium until a transparent planning process can inject some accountability. end]
The Bergen Record ran a story today on the Sandy rebuild process, see: Katrina quarrels provide key lesson for NJ on Sandy aid
Obviously, it was difficult for me to get past that headline, seeing the dripping disdain for democracy it revealed.
But it actually started out pretty good, with an appropriate framing of the issue:
What’s at stake is the priorities for rebuilding,” said Reilly Morse, the policy director at the Mississippi Center for Justice, a civil rights organization that provided legal assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims. “It’s how much money goes to whom, when.”
Since the establishment of policy, priorities, and allocation of taxpayer money are core functions of the Legislative branch of government, I assumed the story would drill down on what that meant for NJ going forward.
Boy, was I wrong.
Instead, readers are told that this is a secret process (“being worked out behind the scenes“) controlled exclusively by Governor Christie and reflecting the Governor’s priorities:
As in the Gulf Coast, New Jersey and other states hit by Sandy will have a hand in deciding where their portion of the block grant money goes and making sure it is well spent. How that is done is being worked out behind the scenes and will be released in the coming weeks, officials say.
Governor Christie said at a town-hall-style meeting in mid-January that he wanted to spend the block grants on “everything from helping to fill gaps for people who need to rebuild their homes” to “folks who need rental assistance” to “business grants, not loans, but grants to small businesses up and down New Jersey who need a grant to get their business reopened.” He has also said he wants to use federal money to elevate structures vulnerable to flooding.
Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said Friday that the state is developing programs to distribute its share of the money, as it works with federal agencies to determine how much of the $16 billion New Jersey will get and what strings will be attached. But he added that it was too early to discuss details.
Holy shit! Not only is the Gov. locked into Rebuild Madness, but at a time when people are homeless, the Gov. wants business GRANTS?
Drewniak confirms exactly what is going on, gives the public the middle finger, and sticks a big stick in the Legislature’s eye - surely the Democrats in the legislature will be all over that, right?
Given this provocation, I figured they would strongly criticize the Governor’s approach, especially after The Record again framed the issue correctly with this quote:
It’s not clear yet when or how much input the public and others will have in New Jersey.
“I think that the government needs to hear the voices of its people and of its constituents,” said Jan Opper, a disaster consultant and a former associate deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “It needs to inform them what it plans to do and why they plan to do it. Hear the commentary and criticism and be strong enough and wise enough to make an appropriate decision. There needs to be balance.”
Ah, “hear the voices of the people” and “criticism” to “inform plans” and make “appropriate decisions”. Wow, what a great set up quote.
So, what do the Democrats do?
Roll over – capitulate – fold – throw in the towel – and run away as fast as they can:
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said she did not believe New Jersey legislators would have any say in how the block money is spent. But she added, “There should be a discussion going on that doesn’t slow down the process, but a discussion that makes sure the process is appropriate.”
No say? No legislative role? Terrified that democracy, public involvement, and good regional planning might “slow down the [rebuild] process”?
You gotta be fucking kidding me. How pathetic.
I fired off this note to Weinberg and the Record reporter:
Your story is a perfect illustration of why NJ needs a rebuild plan.
A Coastal Commission could be the institution to develop consensus on priorities and develop that plan, with an open, transparent, participatory planning process, based on science and risk management and planning principles.
That’s called democracy and good government – and I am deeply disappointed that that is perceived at the Record as a mere “quarrel” – nothing to see here, move on.
I am simply shocked that Senator Weinberg has no problem with the Gov.’s lack of a rebuild plan and his efforts to assert exclusive executive power via his Rebuild Czar.
I don’t agree with the Governor’s rebuild priorities and I’m not alone – the legislature needs to do its job.
BTW, what ever became of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Sandy oversight hearings?
That process was supposed to develop a legislative package.
I’m sure I’ll get no response from Weinberg. With “leadership” like that …..