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Open Space Debacle Reveals Gov. Christie As Dictator

If Christie Can Control The Senate on a Ballot Q, What Can’t He Do?

That’s why the Gov. abuse of power was so extreme – this was not the typical Trenton political mud wrestling – it was about Constitutional powers and the role of the people. ~~~ Bill Wolfe

[Update below]

Thankfully, in a refreshing breath of fresh air that suggests NJ media retains a sense of professionalism, news and editorial judgements are holding Gov. Christie accountable for his behind the scenes maneuvers to kill the open space funding Resolution to authorize a ballot question to fund the open space program via dedication of $200 million per year of the sales tax revenue.

Star Ledger:

But four years after taking office and promising to keep the open space program going, Christie has offered nothing, nada, zilch in the way of ideas to get it done. He has to quit the name-calling and come up with something better. Otherwise, the joke is on us for believing he was serious about this issue at all.

Morris Daily Record:

Christie’s hypocrisy in this case is blatant and undeniable

Unfortunately, while critical of the Gov.’s policy position, they fail to grasp and are missing the larger meaning of the Gov.’s actions.

The best words they could muster to describe this gross abuse of power was “messy political machinations”  and “exasperating”:

Bergen Record:

One problem was that some Republicans who previously had backed the measure voted either no or not at all. That was apparently because of a strong lobbying effort by the governor, who was against the proposal.

Put aside the messy political machinations that kept the question off the ballot. This was still a bad idea.

Morris Daily Record:

Exasperating too was the supposed change of heart by some Republicans who had previously supported the measure, but were told by Gov. Christie this time around to back off. And, like good little subservient soldiers, they bowed to Christie’s wishes.

This is way past “messy” and “exasperating – it is deeply troubling.

If Christie can threaten, intimidate and force democratically elected Senators to reverse their votes in support of the extremely popular Open Space program, at a time when advocates and the entire press corps are closely following the vote, just think what he can do behind the scenes or on lower profile issues, made by bureaucracies (i.e. DEP) or appointed bodies (like the Highlands Council or Pinelands Commission) that are not as transparent as a televised Senate vote.

The Senate was considering a Resolution to  authorize a voter ballot question to amend the Constitution.

Constitutionally, the Gov. has no role at all in this process – the Gov.’s signature is NOT required as it is in enactment of legislation.

The Legislature alone controls the process and decides whether to pose the question. And the question is fundamentally a democratic exercise of power, as the voters decide the outcome.

That’s why the Gov. abuse of power was so extreme – this was not the typical Trenton political mud wrestling – it was about Constitutional powers and the role of the people.

The Gov.’s actions were reprehensible and prove that he is an out of control tyrant.

Gov. Christie has made a mockery of democracy, the so called independent branch of government known as the Legislature, and the Constitutional ideas of separation of powers and checks and balances.

That’s the real meaning and significance of the Open Space debacle.

Adding insult to injury, Christie goes into demagogic attack mode, calling Senator Smith “a joke”.

The day before, from the Senate floor, the Star Ledger reports that Senator Smith spoke out against the Governor’s threats and intimidation:

Nine Republicans who had supported an earlier and more costly version of the measure in June did not support the resolution today. Smith said Christie’s staff pressured those senators to back off.

“Over the weekend, the governor’s office called every Republican senator and threatened them with their lives — their political lives — and they’re off the votes,” Smith said this morning.

According to NJ Spotlight, shore Republicans linked the open space vote with funding for shore rebuilding – suggesting that Gov. Christie threatened them will the millions of dollars he unilaterally controls.

NJ Spotlight reports:

Three Jersey Shore lawmakers yesterday questioned in a press release whether the dedication of the sales tax revenues would jeopardize efforts to rebuild along the coast. All three, Singer, Hozapfel, and Connors, supported the initial sales tax dedication.

How bad does it have to get?

The Gov. is clearly out of control and must be stopped.

And if Christie can so blatantly abuse his powers – so brazenly and openly – what can’t he do?

Who will stand up and call the Tyrant out and say enough is enough?

[End note – I opposed the sales tax diversion and have written about that here several times. There is No hypocrisy in opposing the merits of the financing mechanisms, but still opposing the Gov.’s abuse of power to kill it.]

[Update:  We are now in the theater of the absurd.

Two days after Monday’s humiliating defeat, engineered by Gov. Christie’s opposition and threats to Republican Senators, when the issue if effectively procedurally dead this year, NJ Audubon and the Highlands Coaltion (and likely other KIG members) pretend that al never happened and issued an “Action Alert” urging members to CONTACT THE ASSEMBLY!

NJ Assembly Must Vote Now for Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation!Contact Assembly Leadership and Your Members Today!

The New Jersey Senate passed a measure (SCR160) Monday July 29 to sustainably fund open space, farmland and historic preservation well into New Jersey’s future.  While the Senate has approved two bills this summer to continue these vital programs, the Assembly has failed to act.

Whomever drafted and issued that Action Alert out is either:

1) grossly incompetent, and simply does not understand that the matter is dead for this year and no Assembly vote is required this summer; or

2) knows exactly what they are doing and is intentionally a) deceiving their members and the public;  b) avoiding criticizing the Governor; and c) intentionally avoiding a strategic discussion about how to proceed in the wake of this debacle.

Obviously, the Senate simple majority vote did not satisfy the super-majority vote required. Therefore, no Assembly vote is required in a special summer session.

Audubon’s failure to note that  fact is disgraceful.

Audubon’s failure to say anything publicly about the Gov.’s action to derail the Senate vote is disgraceful.

But, worse than that political disgrace, what is really going substantively is even worse.

At this point, there are two options going forward:

1) go back to the drawing board and start over again next Legislative session; or

2) enact the Resolution by simple majorities in both houses for two consecutive years and put the measure on the ballot in 2014.

Audubon does not want any public discussion of option #1.

Audubon also does not want to embarrass their friend, Gov. Christie.

Audubon is on the same wavelength as DEP, who is downplaying the significance of the Senate vote to protect the Gov.

DEP already spinning and doing damage control  by saying there is enough money to keep the program. AC Press story:

Dedicated funding for New Jersey’s open space program may have lost a battle Monday, but the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday there still is enough money in the program to fund projects for another year. […]

Monday’s vote in the Senate means that amendment will not head to voters in November, even if the state Assembly were to pass the bill by a super majority.

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