Home > Uncategorized > When A Retirement Tribute Becomes A Smear – Tom Johnson Shows His True Colors

When A Retirement Tribute Becomes A Smear – Tom Johnson Shows His True Colors


Wolfe and Tittel In  Hopewell, NJ During Merrill Lynch Development Battle (2000)

Longtime Sierra Club NJ Chapter Director Jeff Tittel just announced his retirement after 23 years at Sierra and over 50 years as an environmental and progressive activist.

I met Jeff in the mid 1990’s, worked with him for 7+ years at Sierra, and am proud to say he was and still is my good friend. No qualifications. Period.

So, to put it as mildly as I can, I nearly puked upon just now reading Tom Johnson’s “tribute” at NJ Spotlight (it further sickens me to post a link to that rag, which has grossly betrayed its founding promise).

Tom’s “tribute” contrasts sharply with all the other media stories I read, who respectfully and unconditionally praise Tittel as an effective and bold leader, see:

Tom Johnson is a bitter old passive aggressive coward and he always has been.

The quote he gave to Mike Catania is an unforgivable outrage.

TJ allowed Catania to dismiss Tittel as a “gadfly”:

“I think that, if Jeff didn’t exist, we would have had to invent him,’’ Catania said. “Glib, quick with a quotable quote, and frequently annoying even to his colleagues in the environmental community. As an environmental gadfly he played an important role in numerous environmental issues over the course of many years.’’

Yes, Tittel “annoyed” the Catania crowd. He not only “annoyed” them, he shamed them.

As a result, that blood money soaked Duke Foundation man Mike Catania bad mouthed, undermined, disparaged, and stabbed Jeff Tittel in the back for years.

But Tom Johnson went even further and sunk his own knife in Tittel’s back:

Pugnacious when needed, Tittel’s style often embroiled him in disputes with officials and lawmakers, polluters and environmental allies, particularly when the two sides differed on tactics to achieve their goals. The latter battles contributed to a fracturing of the environmental community, which some argued has hindered their effectiveness.

What the hell kind of journalism is that? There is no mention of the “battles” that allegedly “fractured” the environmental community – and to cover this personal opinion and smear, the coward Tom Johnson deploys the disgraceful tactic of “some argued”.

No doubt that smear came from Mike Catania.

What kind of tribute is that?

For the record, it was the compromised and corrupt and cowardly Catania Crowd that “fractured” the environmental community and undermined its effectiveness, not Tittel.

Tittel was a constant – almost daily – and very visible reminder of how weak, compromised, cowardly, corrupt and ineffective corporate Catania and his conservation friends were.

These folks not only were jealous of Tittel’s political power and influence that flowed from his ability to generate press and frame issues, but they loathed his style, his politics, and even his person.

It sickens me to note that I personally witnessed an anti-semitic verbal smear on Tittel, and from the then “leader” of NJ’s conservation community. It happened during an Environmental Summit meeting of the entire community. Of course, I immediately expressed outrage and challenged the “leader” who spoke those words. I joined Tittel in the “to be marginalized” camp.

Catania and his Foundation friends (Chris Daggett, Candy Ashmun, et al) were actually so apoplectic about Tittel’s media and political  influence that they schemed strategies and formed entire new organizations and sham coalitions to undermine and defeat him.

Among other things, that’s where the  faux groups and coalitions like NJ League of Conservation Voters, Keep It Green, and Rethink NJ Energy came from – a challenge to Tittel’s influence. That whole enterprise has metastasized into what I now call The Green Mafia.

NJ LCV was quickly backed up by Dodge and Wm. Penn Foundation Big Money. And I mean BIG MONEY (over $100 million for Neoliberal, voluntary, market based programs to undermine government and Clean Water Act regulatory mandates).

They used Foundation money to make that happen. Their objective was to manufacture an alternative voice and corporate compromise strategy to marginalize Tittel.

During this same period, they blackballed and defunded me (I have that first hand from someone in the Foundation room).

And I’m glad to say that it didn’t work.

Jeff is my friend.

Not only did we work our asses off together, but we had many good times and Jeff was very generous in buying me many beers!

Screen Shot 2021-04-06 at 2.27.42 PM

Camden EJ activist press conference – Tittel (L) – Wolfe criticizes Corzine policy on schools on toxic waste sites (2008?)

We traveled not only NJ but much of the western US together – amazingly Jeff always knew the local lay of the land!

He knew everything from good bars and restaurants to the history of Congressional races, from northern California to Big Sur, from Aspen to Santa Fe, from Vernon NJ to Cape May.

We almost died driving all night from Santa Fe to Aspen through a snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains.

Jeff showed me spectacular trails, watering holes (bars), and swimming holes in the Highlands.

The Highlands Act was the creation of Jeff, Gov. McGreevey’s staffer Curtis Fisher and myself. We actually had to fight DEP Commissioner Campbell to make it happen.

Tittel gave me an education in everything from geography, politics, history, and activism – I’ve never known anyone who comes close to his grasp of concrete and significant local knowledge. No one.

Jeff’s partner Barb is a professional planner with accomplishments of her own. She always engaged and enlightened our discussions and educated me on many State Plan and planning issues.

I will never forget the night we were all partying and fairly wasted in a Lambertville bar when DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell showed up at 2 am! I worked for Campbell at the time and was hanging with Tittel and an environmental crew. Campbell immediately accused me of betraying him and blasted me for creating his problems (he had just returned from a meeting with K Hovnanian legal, corporate and lobbying people who were attacking him for his Category One waters program).

You gotta give it to Tittel – he goes out in a blaze of glory with a press release – the same tactics he used so successfully for decades.

One of the few things I disagreed with and argued with Jeff about was his loyalty to Corzine DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. I think it took him far too long to put his personal relationship with her in the background and criticize her policies. I also think Tittel exaggerated his praise for the toothless 2007 Global Warming Response Act.

The only regret I have is that in 1999 he didn’t agree with me to go to Seattle for the “Battle In Seattle” after we both attended the Sierra Club’s State Chapter retreat at lovely Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula.

And the only good thing in Tom’s story was that he used it destroy Dave Pringle:

David Pringle, the longtime campaign director for Clean Water Action, worked closely with Tittel for most of the past two decades. That ended with the election of former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. The Sierra Club endorsed former DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett, who was running as an independent, while Pringle’s group, then called the New Jersey Environmental Federation, backed Christie.

But again, Tom was probably doing that out of his own bitter right wing Neoliberal views – or at the instigation again of Mike Catania.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.