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On The Death of Open Space

Open Space Debacle – Preliminary Results Now Final

A Tough Love Statement to my friends at KIG

[Update below]

I recently wrote a preliminary coroner’s report as a post mortem on the presumed death of the open space sales tax Resolution.

But the brain dead corpse was put on life support, while the legislative doctors frantically sought life saving amendments.

But despite those efforts, the corpse expired at 5 pm last night, prompting this coroner’s statement to the “Keep it Green” (KIG) Coalition parents:

On The Death of Open Space

It is unfortunate that a [41] 51 year old program has died.

The program died as a result of un-natural causes.

I will characterize the cause of death a result of political malpractice driven by selfishness, cowardice, compromised integrity, poor judgement, lack of analytical skills, and the narrow and elite  perspective of the KIG parents.

This was a needless and premature death.

Before the parents can be licensed to pursue another Open Space child, the following non-negotiable mandatory conditions shall be met:

1. New Money

Due to a structural budget deficit, and billions of dollars of unmet social, infrastructure, and environmental needs, any initiative must generate new revenues.

2. Urban Equity

Allocation of funding must be equitable and address urban needs and environmental injustices.

3. Linkage to Climate Change Policy

The land preservation program must be subordinate to and integrated with climate change policy. There are multiple inter-connections, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this note (and “forest stewardship” as currently conceived does not include them).

4. Planning and Regulatory Reform

The open space program must be based upon and implement a land use plan and regulatory policy.

In addition to the serious problems with the sales tax as the financing mechanism, it does not pass the straight face test simultaneously to be promoting development everywhere (including in high hazard shore locations just wiped out by Sandy) with every financial subsidy, regional planning, and regulatory dismantling conceivable and then to argue we need taxpayer dollars to purchase at risk flood prone properties.

It makes no sense for DEP to relax stream buffer and wetlands protections and promote new water and sewer infrastructure to serve new development in environmentally sensitive lands by mapping those lands in sewer service areas (thereby dramatically driving up land values), or by over-allocating water supply – and then say we need to preserve environmentally sensitive lands with taxpayer dollars.

These are just a few egregious illustrations of the contradictions that must be resolved – there are more flaws, including things like land appraisal value methodology.

I say not one more taxpayer dollar to land purchase until the regional planning (i.e. Highlands, Pinelands, and a New Coastal Commission); the DEP program planning; and DEP regulatory tools are restored and invigorated.

This would include enforceable reforms so the local home rule ratables chase is restricted from driving up land values and acquisition costs through zoning lands for development that should be preserved.

5. Political Credibility

There must be an effort to speak truth to power and hold politicians, government officials, corporations, and institutions accountable for their actions, regardless of their political power or ability to provide favors to the KIG coalition members.

And this specifically includes a requirement that they hold this Gov. accountable for the horrible planning and regulatory policy he has imposed that totally undermines sound policy.


The KIG coalition will have no credibility unless and until they advocate for a balanced land preservation, regulation, and planning framework that meets ALL of the above conditions. 

[Update – this KIG statement, blaming republican Senators NOT Gov. Christie, is a perfect example of a total lack of political credibility: NJ KEEP IT GREEN DISAPPOINTED IN SENATE REPUBLICANS’ FLIP-FLOPPING ON OPEN SPACE BILL

The Senators were responding to extreme pressure, threats, and arm twisting by Gov. Christie.

KIG is protecting Christie by exclusively blaming Senate Republicans.

KIG does not even MENTION Gov. Christie, despite his political threats and his failure to honor the promise he made during the 2009 campaign to establish a dedicated funding source.

That bullshit must stop.

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