Home > Uncategorized > Billionaire State Park Privatization Scheme Sheds Light On Prior Diversion of Hundreds of Millions Of Dollars Of Constitutionally Dedicated Park Maintenance Funds To Open Space

Billionaire State Park Privatization Scheme Sheds Light On Prior Diversion of Hundreds of Millions Of Dollars Of Constitutionally Dedicated Park Maintenance Funds To Open Space

The Theft Of State Parks Funding Has Become The Pretext For Privatization 

[Important Update below]

There has been swift public and press outrage over a stealth provision in the emergency COVID budget that mandates that DEP “shall” solicit privatization proposals for all State Parks, including the crown jewel Liberty State Park, where billionaire Paul Fireman is seeking to expand a golf course into LSP lands.

Yesterday, the NY Times ran a killer story, that amounts to a huge national embarrassment for NJ Gov. Murphy, see:

Today, the Star Ledger editorial board followed up to flat out condemn Gov. Murphy, Trenton legislators and lobbyists for billionaire’s, see:

  • Murphy and his golf cronies have Liberty State Park in their crosshairs.

    Today, the 21 acres of Caven Point is a sanctuary for migratory birds, a pristine place where New Jerseyans gather to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, the yellow-crowned night-heron, or the snowy owl.

    But because Gov. Murphy has decided to collaborate with plutocrats who believe that the public interest can be sold, this corner of Liberty State Park may soon be populated by — mirabile visu! —hideously-dressed millionaires clutching their 3-irons and whacking their double bogeys.

But, in contrast to other harsh coverage, NJ Spotlight ran a typically tepid piece of he said/she said bullshit, that provided a platform for Gov. Murphy’s office to spin, deny and dodge accountability for an egregious betrayal of the public.

It’s hard to know where to begin in correcting the spin, half truths and lies (by omission) in that Spotlight story, so let’s start from the totally misleading primary premise.

The sole justification for privatization and commercialization of State Parks is that current State budget revenues are inadequate to fund a huge deficit in State Parks maintenance.

Spotlight bemoans that fact with this bullshit lie:

The provision, buried in a 110-page bill that many lawmakers never noticed, is reigniting a long-running dispute over how the state can both maintain and invest in its extensive park system, which has suffered years of funding neglect, in the wake of recurring budget crises.

While it is correct that State Parks have a huge unfunded maintenance backlog and are not adequately funded by the State budget, the cause of the deficit has been ignored.

NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson knows why the deficit was caused. Tom knows that the voters of NJ approved an amendment to the NJ Constitution to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars to fund this maintenance deficit. He knows that his fellow foundation funded friends at the Keep It Green Coalition ran a $1 million PR campaign to dupe the public into stealing this money and diverting it to open space.

Tom knows all that.

But he not only fails to report it to explain the “years of funding neglect”, he outright intentionally misled readers about it.

So, let me be clear: The cause of the deficit is the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of previously Constitutionally dedicated State Parks maintenance money was stolen and diverted to the Open Space program, see:

NJ Spotlight outright lies about this, both by omission and commission.

First, they distort the funding deficit issue, by implying that it is caused by the huge revenue declines caused by COVID, and they do that right up front, at the outset, in the he said/she said sub-headline of the story:

Administration says ‘no,’ but paragraph buried in 110-page budget extension suggests that private developers could help counterbalance some COVID-19 deficits

The budget language says NOTHING about any objective to “counterbalance COVID-19 deficits”.

That was totally made up by Tom Johnson, and it was done for a reason.

That reason is: if the State Parks maintenance funding deficits were caused by COVID-19, then the real cause of the deficits remains obscured.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were widely known, it would expose his schlock reporting in failing to write about the impacts of the diversion of State Parks maintenance funding to the open space program.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were known, it would embarrass and humiliate and expose the venality of his friends in the Keep It Green Coalition, who successfully advocated for the diversion of Parks funding that has harmed the parks and become the justification of privatization.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then those huge NJ Foundations – Dodge, Fund For NJ, Wm. Penn – who funded the Keep It Green Coalition $1 million PR campaign to steal State Parks funding would be exposed as the elite frauds and hypocrites that they are – including their Neoliberal ideologies about elevating private and corporate interests over public goods, the public commons, and the public interest.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then the Governor and legislators would have no cover story and pretext to hide their efforts to reward their billionaire donors by privatizing public assets.

(of course, they could also raise taxes on the rich and corporations, but that option is not even on the table, which just proves that Murphy & his Dems are really Neoliberals.)

That’s what’s really going on here.

And that’s the danger of the corrupt self serving frauds who parade around under “Keep It Green” banners and faux notions of progressive public interest journalism. 

Let’s hope that their greedy over-reach triggers a backlash that results in the passage of the Liberty State park protection act, the abolition of privatization of all State Parks and State lands, and the defunding and public shaming of the elite hypocritical Foundations and faux “conservation” groups of the Keep It Green coalition.

[End Note: And if it wasn’t for the diligence of Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club – who has criticized prior Murphy privatization schemes and exposed this latest one – this may have passed under the radar. Kudos also to LSP champion Sam Pesin.

Also Note that all the Keep It Green Coalition groups I criticize above have done NOTHING on this issue or mumbled a word of criticism of Gov. Murphy. That silence speaks volumes. They are corrupt and in the tank for Murphy.]

[Update: Wow! A NJ reader just sent me this story, which illustrates that this privatization scheme was totally consistent with former Wall Streeter Gov. Murphy’s prior scheme to “monetize” “undervalued” State assets, including State Parks – here’s the story, reported by NJ Spotlight, but not by reporter Tom Johnson:

Like I said, this is worse than Christie’s park revenue/privatization schemes.

Failure to hold the Dems accountable to  betrayals and sellouts like this is what led to Trump.

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