Home > Uncategorized > Senate Dems Again Defer to Gov. Christie’s Complete Control of Sandy Rebuild

Senate Dems Again Defer to Gov. Christie’s Complete Control of Sandy Rebuild

Oversight Bills Do Not Provide A Legislative Role or Opportunity for The Public To Influence Coastal Rebuild Policy or In Setting Priorities on Use of Billions of Taxpayer Dollars 

Stunning Abdication of Legislative Role

[Update #2: Here’s something you won’t read in NJ press – but that AP reported in a national story:  NJ panel advances oversight of Sandy funds

At a brief hearing Thursday, one speaker, Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, asked lawmakers to consider not just requiring the state administration to report on spending, but also to offer a chance for public input on those decisions.

Lawmakers did not take up the suggestion.

[Update #1: The federal appropriations bill requires that NJ develop and submit a plan for the money. Here is the HUD block grant language. Where is that plan? Where is it? Where is it? Why can’t I see it! Here is what federal law requires:

        “That as a condition of eligibility for receipt of such funds, a grantee shall submit a plan to the Secretary detailing the proposed use of all funds, including criteria for eligibility and how the use of such funds will address long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas” – end update

The Senate State Government Committee released two important Sandy related bills today to create “Integrity monitors” (S2536 – Sweeney) and promote “transparency” (S2566 – Sarlo).

There was no testimony on the “integrity monitor” bill and I was the only person to testify on the “transparency” bill. Where the hell are coastal advocates, the environmental lobbyists, and the public interest community?

(You can listen to the testimony here).

I reminded the Committee that setting policy and priorities for the expenditure of taxpayer funds is a core legislative function.

I urged the Committee to amend the bill to strengthen the legislative role and provide a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in huge economic and land use decisions that will affect the future of the shore.

I urged the Committee to amend the bill to require either:

1)  the Gov. submit a proposed plan to the Legislature for the expenditure of monies to formalize and make transparent legislative consultation,

[Note: informal consultations between the Gov. and legislative leadership are ongoing, behind closed doors. Those negotiations require transparency as well.] or

2)  to establish a planning process to facilitate legislative oversight and public involvement in the priorities, policies, and plans for expenditure of taxpayer funds for shore rebuilding and natural resource protection.

I stressed the importance of consideration of climate change, sea level rise, and more intense storms in Sandy rebuild planning and funding decisions.

I advised the Committee that Gov. Christie stated that these were “esoteric” concerns that he had no time even to consider and that he felt that the public did not “give a damn about” them anyway.

I cited a series of technical flaws with the bill, including failure to specifically track uses of funds for natural resource protection, resilience, adaptation, climate change mitigation, and other specific policies and purposes set out in President Obama’s Executive Order and the Congressional appropriations bill (for law, see this).

I urged the Committee to drill down on these issues to make the transparency provisions meaningful and send a message to the Gov. that these objectives were important (this is particularly important given his rejection of them).

The Dems on the Committee were silent, but I got some pushback from Senator Thompson (R-12th), who defended the Gov. and took exception to any legislative incursion on the Gov.’s powers.

I can not imagine why progressive Democrats Senator Turner (D-Mercer) and Weinberg (D-Bergen) would sit back add raise no objections to things like Gov. Christie’s:

  • rejection of climate change science in rebuild decisions;
  • priority on business grants when thousands of mostly low and moderate income people remain homeless;
  • Rebuild Czar and consolidation of total control of decisions on more discretionary spending than the entire state budget; and
  • touts spending $215 million on rebuilding Rt. 35 on a barrier island, so that those big Escalade and BMW SUV’s can avoid pot holes on the way to their shore summer homes (while thousands remain homeless)

It is simply mind boggling that progressive Democrats would sit back and allow the Governor unilateral power to set policy, control billions of taxpayer dollars, and make these kind of bad decisions with no legislative role or public participation.

It remains a stunning abdication.

[End notepolitical intel: high level sources told us that “the FEMA maps are wrong” and confirmed our suspicion that Senate Dems are prepared to legislatively veto the DEP Emergency Rule that adopted the FEMA ABFE maps. A Resolution to kill that rule is being drafted as we speak.]

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. May 27th, 2015 at 03:53 | #1
  2. June 4th, 2015 at 04:58 | #2
You must be logged in to post a comment.