Home > Uncategorized > What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Memorial Dedications Deserve Respect & Solemn Reflection, Not Smiles And Blue Jeans

Florio’s Legacy Celebrated Just Hours Before It Was Betrayed

Florio LIbrary Copy

[Update below – see especially Update #2]

Reader Warning: We’ve literally been losing sleep over this, so we lance the boil. For readers who are triggered by conflict; or who view criticism of black and brown people as racist, or criticism of women as misogynist, or view criticism in general as an ad hominem form of “symbolic  violence“; or who view all legacy white heteronormative male created and dominated institutions as inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, and unjust; please just hit the delete button now. Be forewarned: this is not a “safe space”.

Before I begin, I’ll put my biased cards on the table.

I strongly opposed Gov. Murphy’s nomination of Laura Matos to the Pinelands Commission (she now serves as Chair). It is my opinion that she lacks substantive subject matter expertise or experience; that she is a highly partisan Trenton political operative beholden and loyal to Gov. Murphy; that she would elevate political loyalty above her duty to preserve the Pinelands; and that her appointment was based upon identity politics and “diversity” objectives that have zero science and public policy relevance to the Pinelands (e.g. as Gov. Murphy’s office explicitly stated publicly in defending the nominations: Matos and McCurry were selected to bring “diversity” to the Commission).

Here’s how Gov. Murphy’s press office justified and defended the Gov.’s nominations (source: Michael Zhadanovsky, Deputy Press Secretary:

After collaborative talks this afternoon with Pinelands advocates, we are moving forward with two nominees to the Pinelands Commission. The Governor is committed to diversifying the Commission and ensuring that its actions promote environmental justice and accountability to those most impacted by its decisions.

The later objections stem from my beliefs that government service is not an opportunity for crony appointments and symbolic political gestures, and that policy substance and qualifications take precedence over individual identity. There are plenty of well qualified and independent black, latino/a, and women who could serve on the Commission. Chris Hedges explains:

W.E.B. Du Bois argued that white society feared educated Blacks far more than they feared Black criminals.

“They can deal with crime by chain-gang and lynch law, or at least they think they can, but the South can conceive neither machinery nor place for the educated, self-reliant, self-assertive black man,” he wrote.

Those, like Du Bois, who was blacklisted and driven into exile, who pull the veil from our eyes are especially targeted by the state. Rosa Luxemberg. Eugene V. Debs. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King. Noam Chomsky. Ralph Nader. Cornel West. Julian Assange. Alice Walker. They speak a truth the powerful and the rich do not want heard. They, like Bynum, help us find our song.

I predicted Matos would be a loyal Murphy lackey and not a defender of the Pinelands.

I was not alone in those views.

The moderate outlet NJ Spotlight provided harsh coverage:

A former Pinelands Commissioner wrote a critical Op-Ed:

And the Star Ledger editorial board excoriated the Gov.’s nominations as “a craven power play”, a “brazen” attempt to “gut the Commission during lame duck”, and a “scheme” that was similar to the “bullying” by Gov. Christie.

Now, to the merits – beginning with the photo above (and subsequent press release).

A man’s life, death, and legacy is a serious thing.

A ceremony dedicating public space to a man’s legacy is a solemn moment that must exude dignity and somber reflection.

The photo above does not attain those basic standards of decency.

The photo op, the smiles, and the blue jeans are totally inappropriate (that goes for Commissioner Avery too).

(“the queen effects the behavior of all the bees“)

Shortly after this photo was taken, Ms. Matos Chaired a meeting of the Pinelands Commission, at which the Commission passed a Resolution lauding Florio’s legacy.

This was the first Commission meeting I’ve viewed with Matos presiding as Chair. Sadly, my objections to her nomination have just been validated. Let me briefly explain how.

I was appalled by her numerous totally inappropriate outbursts of giggling. Watch the whole 2 plus hours and count them if you think I exaggerate.

In contrast with the photo and Ms. Matos’ repeated giggling, the Resolution the Commission adopted was excellent: it was substantive and dignified.

But worst of all, just moments after Matos and the Commission recognized Florio’s Pinelands legacy, they betrayed it by approving DEP’s massive fatally flawed 1,300 acre forest clearcut and 13 miles “firebreak” plan that would cut and remove 2.4 MILLION trees!

On top of all that, in an extremely revealing move, when Matos opened the public comment period after the Commission approved that forest massacre, she allowed less than 1 minute for people watching on line to call in. She then noted that there were no calls, quickly closed the comment period and rapidly moved on to other business.

But moments later, staff had to interrupt and advise Matos that there were 2 callers on the line, forcing her to awkwardly re-open the comment period. She got caught rushing the close of comment!

And then, again revealingly, after 2 Commissioners agreed with some of my public comments – including the deficiencies in the CMP regarding climate and forest management, the lack of Staff expertise, and the denial of the OPRA request and “secret” meeting with DEP – Matos defended the indefensible.

Like I said: she is an unqualified partisan political hack that is loyal to Gov. Murphy in spite of duties to preserve the Pinelands, and she has no clue about how her actions impact the marvelous Pinelands forests and ecosystems.

[Update 1: And for those who buy the diversity argument, what have Ms. Matos and Mr. McCurry done to implement diversity objectives?  Is there a “diversity” agenda in policy? Are there funded programs to bring poor black and hispanic kids from Camden, Trenton, and Atlantic City into the Pinelands to experience nature? Are there CMP amendments to consider social justice and environmental justice impacts? Require applicants to mitigate injustice? CMP amendment to mandate affordable and diverse housing? Is there a funded new center on Indigenous culture and history? Nope, none of that and none of it is even being discussed. Instead, all Matos and McCurry have done is serve as tokens for Gov. Murphy’s political interests, rubber stamped the Murphy DEP clearcut plan, and advanced the Gov.’s agenda and their own personal careers.  They serve power, not principle or Pinelands preservation. The clearcut forest is the same outcome, whether approved by a white man or Latina woman Chair. That’s the sham known as “Progressive Neoliberalism” (Google Professor Nancy Fraser’s work on that), which uses identity politics to mask a Neoliberal corporate economic and regulatory agenda.

[Update 2: 10/19/22 – For those who may think I am just denying racism, or may even be a racist:

It is very easy to establish racist intent and racist impact when DEP permits garbage incinerators, fossil power plants, regional sewage plants, junkyards (now Orwellian called “recycling centers”), chemical plants, and garbage transfer stations in poor black and brown cities like Newark, Camden, and Trenton.

Similarly – although Ta-Nehisi Coats is widely noted for this, he was not close to breaking the story about racist schemes to “red line” black communities in US cities – it is very easy to establish racist patterns of investment, development, and land use based on government policies.

And its similarly easy to document racism in FDR’s concessions to southern racist Dixiecrats in excluding black people from the benefits of the New Deal.

And it’s easy to see racism in NJ’s highly segregated school systems and wealthy white suburbs – which were created by white flight and huge federal highway and water and sewer infrastructure subsidies – along with legacies of exclusionary zoning and racial covenants and deed restrictions.

I’ve written about all these issues for many years.

But please, by all means, tell me what the racist motives and impacts are when the Pinelands Commission approves logging of forests, restricts the allocation of water, or protects rare and endangered species?

Please then tell me how “diversity” on the Pinelands Commission can redress and fix these alleged social and racial; injustices. Please. And be specific.

All we have now on the Pinelands Commission is diversity in serving the Gov.’s political agenda and selling out the Pinelands.

EJ and Social justice activists are being played, and they don’t even know it.

[End Note: for comparison, I don’t see any blue jeans in this photo and a lot more preparation went into the more well attended ceremony (and Candy was still alive!)

Screen Shot 2022-10-16 at 3.20.49 PM

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