Guns & Gays – Important, but Certainly Not Everything Dems Need to Focus On
[Update 5/15/13: it’s no longer “zero” media – Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight wrote a good story: Bill Would Enforce Environmental Justice, Keep Polluters out of Poor Urban Areas
I testified in support of the bill and promised to provide the Committee relevant documents to rebut misleading and inaccurate testimony by Hal Bozarth from the Chemsistry Council. I will write on that later today. end update]
Of course I am a longtime supporter of stronger gun safety laws and proponent of GLBT equality and civil rights.
Still, this post is very likely to piss off my friends in those communities and be perceived as resentment of the fact that environmental issues are not on anyone’s radar, but let me be blunt: the current dominant focus by Democrats on guns and gays, while the right thing to do and in some ways politically effective in challenging Gov. Christie, is missing huge opportunities, and raising issues of political strategy, focus, timing, and coordination.
Jobs, living wages, global warming, urban neglect, and Governor Christie’s attacks on public education, the middle class, protections of the environment and public health, and affordable housing should be the central issues focus of Gubernatorial Candidate Senator Barbara Buono’s campaign and the policy agenda of Democrats who control the Legislature.
Governor Christie’s record is terrible on these bread and butter issues that resonate with NJ voters – and he is hugely vulnerable on ALL of them.
I may be missing things, but from my perspective, those issues need to get more focused and substantive attention.
Democrats need to get much, much better, and not just on coordinating message, but on the substance of policy, effective criticism of the Christie Administration – particularly the timing of events.
Let me give just one example of what was and what could have been.
Yesterday, Assemblywoman Spencer, Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, posted extremely important and long overdue “environmental justice” legislation (see A3836).
For the first time, the bill would put teeth in the empty rhetoric that Governors and DEP have been allowed to get away with for years.
Despite years of studies, activism, and litigation – including the fact DEP themselves, almost 4 years ago, issued a Report that found statistically significant correlations between race and poverty and 9 indicators of pollution and public health health (see: DEP Discovers Discrimination – Dumps Environmental Justice Issue in Christie’s Lap), in New Jersey, EJ issues have been ignored in the DEP regulatory arena and little progress made.
The EJ issue is not only morally compelling, but passage of the Spencer EJ bill could have concrete and positive impacts on the daily lives of thousands of predominantly poor and minority residents, who bear disproportionate health burdens from pollution.
Powerful testimony was offered by longtime urban EJ community activists and a religious leader – they have been ignored by Governor Christie and made little progress on their issues before the DEP.
This was their moment!
It could have and should have been leveraged and magnified – and used to contrast progressive Democratic values with the ideological and pro-corporate Christie agenda.
Imagine the response if former EPA Administrator Jackson – who has won awards for her leadership on environmental justice - and Corey Booker – a nationally prominent black urban leader – along with a couple of hundred activists, cameras rolling and press in tow, held a State House press conference prior to Spencer’s hearing and then later testified in support of her bill!
Instead, Senate Dems focused on a gun bill and Buono and Booker did an gun safety event at a Newark Baptist Church, which got great press – all while Chairwoman Spencer – who is from Newark – had zero media coverage of her EJ bill, which didn’t even have the votes to leave a democratically controlled committee.
So, the EJ bill was a blown opportunity. It didn’t have to be that way. Let’s hope Spencer gets more support next time the bill gets heard in her Committee.
And that’s not the only recent example of political malpractice I could cite.
We just passed 400 ppm, a milestone that could been used as a millstone around Christie’s neck, given his climate change policy and clean energy fund diversions. Instead, we’ve got crickets from Dems on the climate change issue.
Dems can and must do better.