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An Open Letter to Members of the NJ Conservation Community

Open Space Ballot Question Would Divert Clean Water, Parks, Toxic Site Cleanup Funding

Membership Should Demand Groups Withdraw Support for Ballot Question

[Update and correction below]

My good friend Bill Potter has a superb Op-Ed running over at NJ Spotlight today. I strongly recommend that you go and read the whole thing, see:

Bill is a gentleman and scholar who appeals to our better angels –  so, with no pretense to any of that, let me make a few additional observations on his piece.

First, Bill makes one small error that I feel obligated to correct for the record, having testified in opposition to the Open Space Resolution as it worked its way through the Legislature and written about it several times here, most recently, see:

Sierra Club was not the only environmental group to oppose the measure – PEER did from the beginning.

[10/3/14 correction – a reader just sent me a note to advise that Sierra Club supports the Ballot. Sorry for that error. I incorrectly interpreted Jeff Tittel’s testimony. But I am fairly sure he opposed it initially and raised concerns at the end.]

Second, Bill, in his singular focus on water quality program cuts, left out a few important impacts.

In addition to deep cuts in DEP water quality programs, the Open Space initiative would:(see OLS fiscal note)

  • cut $32 million currently dedicated in 2006 specifically to address the $400 million State parks maintenance backlog [see update below for a detailed explanation by a DEP employee];
  • cut $29  million currently dedicated to toxic site cleanup programs, likely resulting in significant layoffs in DEP’s site remediation program.

Last, there needs to be accountability for those who have produced what Bill correctly describes as this  classic “rob Peter to pay Paul” scheme.

The primary target should be the member groups of the Keep It Green (KIG) coalition.

I urge the membership of these groups to do the following things between now and November:

1) contact your professional staff, get all the facts, and ask why you were not told – or fully briefed – about all this;

2) demand that your groups publicly withdraw their support for this ballot question;

3) demand the resignation of your paid professional leadership.

Only such strong measures can generate the kind of public awareness necessary to defeat this ballot question.

Please, read Bill’s Op-Ed; then read the OLS Fiscal Note, then think; and then take action upon these poor decisions – before its too late.

[Update: My friend Scott Olson formatted and forwarded this link to a letter from a DEP employee opposing the ballot question due to negative impacts on parks funding, see:

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