Home > Uncategorized > The Political Geography of the Open Space Debate Is Baffling

The Political Geography of the Open Space Debate Is Baffling

The White Whale Breaches Again in Trenton


(Note: this is NOT my photo! – Sorry to not have made that clear)

[Update: 3/22/15 – The Philadelphia Inquirer gets the story exactly right, see: N.J. environment bill’s scope under debate ~~~ end update]

The White Whale breached briefly again today, this time before the Assembly Environment Committee. He was last spotted on March 9 in the Senate.

The debate is turning bitter and once again the Assembly has a very different take on Open Space than the Senate.

Once again, we entered the Hobbesian world of “all against all”, with non-profit conservation groups opposing the Assembly version of the Open Space implementation legislation.

Ahab’s gold doubloon nailed to the mast.

Who created this nasty dynamic?

Regardless, the Governor will determine the outcome through the budget process and or his veto powers.

  • Elimination of funding for Stewardship and non-profit groups spurs debate

Chairwoman Spencer pushed back hard against members of the Keep It Green coalition, who wailed like stuck pigs after reading a Committee substitute bill that provided no funds for non-profit groups or “stewardship”.

Tom Gilbert of the Keep It Green Coalition repeated his smear against state DEP parks and natural resource professionals as merely “cutting the grass”. Gilbert wants no “stewardship” funds to go to DEP staff.

Maybe Gilbert can explain how 17 million NJ visitors per year can visit State parks with no staff.

Why do these elite bastards hate State Parks? After stealing State parks’ entire capital budget and their lease and concession revenues via their open space White Whale, they are now going after staff operating funds.

Instead, Gilbert feels that stewardship money should be provided for funding the staff of well endowed elite non-profits to conduct logging on State lands or corporate greenscam projects. Frack that.

ALS’ lobbyist took strong offense to the pejorative perception that they were coming to Trenton with their hand held out.

This from the group that took a $1 million grant from DEP and then curiously went mute in terms of criticizing Governor Christie’s outrageously irresponsible abdication on the Barnegat Bay, or dismantling of DEP climate change and adaptation programs, or abandonment of Delaware Bayshore in Sandy recovery (something band aid horseshoe crab restoration projects won’t put a dent in), or Christie’s insane and reckless coastal rebuild plan in the wake of Sandy.

Money really does talk. And it buys silence too.

At one point, Spencer, noting that she had done a lot of research about the definition of “stewardship”, asked NJ Audubon’s lobbyist Kelly Mooj a point blank question: provide examples of “stewardship” projects and examples of what should not be considered stewardship.

For some reason, Mooj didn’t mention NJ Audubon’s “Corporate Stewardship Council”:

NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council

The Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) is a unique group of 19 New Jersey companies united behind a common goal of environmental sustainability and responsibility. Member companies include co-chairs PSEG and Mannington Mills, as well as Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, Atlantic City Electric, JCP&L, United Water, New Jersey American Water, New Jersey Natural Gas, Eagle Ridge Golf Club, Merck, Eastern Propane, South Jersey Gas, Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster, Covanta Energy, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, Pfizer and Pine Island Cranberry Company Inc. Ex-officio CSC members are the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Should public programs that benefit underserved and neglected urban areas be used to subside corporate greenscam by Verizon, J&J, Dupont et al?

I don’t think the voters approved of any of that.

  • Political Geography of open space funding

You don’t have to be a geography maven or GIS geek to consider the following overlay mapping exercise or mentally map these data layers:

  • the large majority of NJ’s population lives in urban and suburban towns
  • the large majority of the need for parks and open space is located in densely populated urban areas
  • most of NJ’s historic resources are located in urban areas
  • there are no farms in these communities, thus farmland preservation funds don’t go there
  • the urban areas not only have the greatest needs, they have been neglected historically
  • most of these areas are represented by Democrats who control the Legislature

So why would Democratic legislators support open space allocations schemes that send the lion’s share of open space public money to rural Republican districts while neglecting their own districts?

Earlier in the day, the Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the $225 million Exxon Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlement.

Jeff Tittel was the only person who connected the dots.

Tittel correctly reminded legislators that Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlement revenues were dedicated in the original version of the open space initiative and that Keep It Green opposed that and had the NRD revenues deleted from the final version of the Resolution that authorized the November open space ballot dedication.

Tittel also noted that members of KIG benefited from NRD revenues, and that influenced their selfish and shortsighted opposition to dedicating those funds to various open space programs.

I’ve written about that and called it one of the biggest blunders ever by the KIG Coalition.

White whale (watch!).

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