Home > Uncategorized > Head of NJ State Parks Service Calls Damage From Open Space Diversion “Worse than Sandy”

Head of NJ State Parks Service Calls Damage From Open Space Diversion “Worse than Sandy”

KIG Open Space Campaign Built On Deception and Lies

The Shoes Begin To Drop

” the darkest day I have faced in my professional career”

Back on August 4, 2014, I warned: (see: Public Parks Funding Would Be Slashed To Pay for Open Space Program)

I find it almost incomprehensible that an issue of this magnitude could remain under the radar and not a matter of public debate.

The same day I urged that: (see: Initial Thoughts on the Open Space Vote):

KIG members should be asked the following questions by the press and their members and Foundation backers:

1) what are your plans for replacing the $32 million diverted from parks funding? Will you fight for that money to be restored in next year’s budget?

In an extraordinary move – unprecedented in my 30 year professional experience in NJ environmental affairs – yesterday, the Director of the State Parks Service publicly confirmed that warning.

Mark Texel wrote the following on KIG Facebook page on 11/5/14:

As the Director of the NJ State Park Service now coping with the reality that our entire Parks capital budget will be completely eliminated beginning July 1, 2015 as a result of the YES vote I can say this is the darkest day I have faced in my professional career. Worse than Superstorm Sandy. 440,000+ acres of preserved open space, 52 historic sites, 39 parks — used by 8 million visitors each year — all managed by my agency and now with no funding plan in place for stewardship beginning in just 7 months. This is not a bad reality TV show. This is New Jersey’s Inconvenient Truth hidden from voters throughout this campaign.

In addition to Mr. Texel’s correct observations about the devastating impacts on his State Parks capital budget, he failed to note that the financial problem caused by the open space diversion is even worse –

Texel also has a huge operating deficit as well because 18 parks management staff were funded by CBT and no longer are – that’s at least $1.8 million.

I hope the smug bastards at the Keep It Green Coalition (KIG) read that Texel quote over and over.

I hope they have nightmares about it.

I hope they are proud of the fact that they caused more harm to NJ’s state park system than Superstorm Sandy.

Heckofajob KIG! I’ve completely lost respect for everyone involved in this KIG sham.

The day AFTER the open space ballot question was approved by voters, the Star Ledger yesterday finally covered the substance – however superficially – of the debate on how the open space diversions would impact DEP environmental programs, see:

Had we had those stories before August, the Resolution would never have been approved by the Assembly.

With respect to State Parks cuts, the Ledger story actually toned down the criticism by Sam Pesin of Friends of Liberty State Park – here’s what Sam told his members:

The Friends board heard this past weekend from trusted people who are very involved in the state park service that passage of ballot measure 2 will take major funds away from Liberty State Park and other state parks, mainly giving them for open space in suburban and rural areas.

Land trust organizations and other environmentalists who don’t care about state parks or urban areas pushed for this ballot measure to support their mission. The legislation setting up the ballot measure was very deceiving.

That Ledger article has now spawned a raging debate – which should have occurred MONTHS ago when the Resolution was being considered by the Legislature – and, as the facts become known and the lies are exposed, recriminations are starting against the Keep It Green (KIG) Coalition for their deceptive campaign built on flat out lies.

We have tried to get the facts out, so I felt the need to share this story widely.

This spring, we were given assurances by Jeff Tittel that he had an agreement with Assembly leadership that the Assembly would not post the Open Space Resolution, and therefore it was dead.

Given that assurance, I didn’t break a sweat documenting how bad the Senate diversion deal was.

But back on August 4, after the Assembly held their emergency session and approved the measure allowing the question to appear on the November ballot, I immediately began a series of posts here, to get the word out on what the diversion deal would actually do.

For now, KIG members should be asked the following questions by the press and their members and Foundation backers:

1) what are your plans for replacing the $32 million diverted from parks funding? Will you fight for that money to be restored in next year’s budget?

2) now that you’ve not opposed Gov. Christie $1 billion plus in diversions and actively supported diversion of environmental funds for reasons not approved BY THE VOTERS (which is far worse than a diversion of legislatively appropriated money), how can you ever credibly oppose any future diversions of environmental funds?

3) now that you’ve accepted Gov. Christie’s austerity policy (no new revenues, no taxes, and no new debt) and refused to fight, to educate the public, and to conduct an open public campaign for the need for new revenues, how are you ever going to support funds for things like putting a price on carbon, gas tax, water tax, renewable energy, or financing multi-billion dollar water infrastructure deficits?

4) How can you look a kid from Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Camden, et al in the eye while you skim off 20% of that money for “Stewardship” schemes that include commercial logging of state lands, and maybe 10% more for your own salaries?

Today is a day that lives in infamy – I am ashamed to be even remotely associated with any of this.

Here’s the rest of them:

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  1. Mamacat
    November 6th, 2014 at 16:34 | #1

    Thanks for this Wolfe. Just sorry that the papers didn’t fully pick up on this prior to the vote. Having worked with most of KIG’s key members for almost 10 year, I am not the least bit surprised that they misled the public to move the ballot question. Their biggest problem, which you highlight, is their unwillingness to do the heavy lifting and their inability to develop advocates for their positions in the legislature or in the public sphere. If they did either they wouldn’t need to go this route on funding.

    If there has been one hallmark of the groups who lead KIG, it has been their willingness to cut deals and bargain away their own positions to move their issues forward at the expense of others. You have highlighted instances of this, and I saw it many times during the negotiations over the Highlands Act and Highlands RMP. They always seemed to start from a position of weakness and get half a loaf. The sell-out on this deal is breathtaking. They will try to remove their fingerprints before feigning outrage at the poor deal they cut for themselves.

    It is unbelievable to me that they had $750K-$900K for this campaign. Wealthy KIG groups have always cried poverty when smaller groups asked for help. The locals fought their battles without resources – aside from a pat on the back and a “good luck with that” from the big players. Of course the big guys were more than willing to show up for a photo op if the locals prevailed, or have a rally or press event in our neck of the woods if it made a better presentation for their issues.

    The whole thing is infuriating. So much more could have been done if these people had the least bit of integrity. I shudder to think how my local State Park will fare under this deal.

  2. November 6th, 2014 at 18:57 | #2

    @Mamacat

    Thanks for the comment.

    The blame game foundation has already been laid by Senator Smith and Jeff Tittel and the KIG talking points.

    They all will blame Christie for the cuts.

    I loath CHristie, but you can’t blame him for this.

    THis was done by KIG and Democrats. Period.

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