As usual, I read the New Jersey “mainstream press” (my definition: newspapers in NJ who print on paper and circulate to my front door). Something struck me this past week. An inside page featured our Governor promising an “improved reputation” for New Jersey. In a speech given to municipal officials at the League in Atlantic City this past week, Christie said, “We have climbed out of the hole. It is time to raise the New Jersey flag high on the flagpole again.” He urged the audience to think where the state was two years ago, and where it is now.
So here’s a few things I’m thinking about where “we” are now as compared to two years ago. More of New Jersey children are in poverty. Some 215,000 households (one in 15) received food stamps last year – a more than 23% increase over 2009. In 2009 13.5% of children lived in poverty and in 2010 there was an increase to 295,346 children or 14.5% of children in poverty.
Our unemployment rate is still higher than the national average. The Governor has cut large amounts of state aide to our municipalities and to our schools over the past two years. He removed the State from the coalition suing for spoiling our air on the eastern seaboard. He took us out of RIGGI. He took away property tax relief. He took all the state dollars away from women’s reproductive health centers. And now he wants to borrow dollars to pay for infrastructure improvements. He has not paid one dollar of state money into our pension system, and then states that the system is broke.
He did not “veto” the minutes authorizing huge increases in Port Authority tolls. He didn’t ask for an audit before the tolls were increased. Then we find out (from that same mainstream press) that there were millions of dollars in secret perks paid to top staff at the PA. The PA Commissioners claimed ignorance about what their top executives actually earn. So maybe we (and they) really should have had that audit before these increases paid by hard working New Jerseyans where rammed through.
So Governor Christie, that’s my view of “where we are now compared to two years ago”. We can “raise the New Jersey flag high on the flagpole again” when we have less children in poverty; when our unemployment rate is less than the national average; when our residents are asked to pay less in property taxes; when the air we breathe is less polluted; when even poor women in our state have more rather than less access to birth control; when the state stops paying less than its fair share into the pension system; when poor working people get their earned income tax credit fully reinstated while millionaires pay a little more rather than less than their fair share!
I look forward to a time when we can raise that flag “high on the flagpole”! But Governor Christie, your victory lap is ill timed. We have some serious problems, many of which were created or made worse under your watch. Recognize them and help to come up with the solutions. Then we’ll all be in a better place in New Jersey.
Some notes about the better side of the two New Jerseys: This weekend we observed the Day of Transgender Remembrance in memorium to those victims murdered because of who they were. I made a brief stop at the observance at St. Pauls Lutheran Church in Teaneck where they provide a safe and loving place for all who choose to come there. Thank you to the St. Pauls congregation for hosting this event. I also had the pleasure of stopping by a luncheon in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Zonta Club of Northern New Jersey. Here are a group of wonderful women devoted to making our state and nation safer for women and their families. May they enjoy many more years of doing good work on behalf of all of us. And today, a “new” Democratic Assemblyman gets sworn in. Congratulations and Mazel Tov to my dear friend, Troy Singleton. May he enjoy many years really doing the “peoples’ business” in the State Legislature.
An Addendum: My friend of 40 years Dorothy who recently moved with her husband from Ft. Lee to New York decided she had to participate in some way in my recent campaign. So she took a Weinberg/Johnson/Huttle sign and some literature and headed to the Bergen County bus platform in the Port Authority terminal. As Dorothy tells it, she was there for approximately 3 minutes when approached by a PA worker and told to leave immediately as she was on “private property”. Huh? Not one to scare easily, she stood her ground until surrounded by 4 Port Authority police, since she did not have the requisite “permit”. Dorothy tells the story with great humor. She said she did leave willingly. Especially since most bus riders either paid no attention or (as she describes it) had “wires coming out of their ears” and didn’t bother to disconnect. Thank you Dorothy. We women, “of an age”, do not give up easily.
I wish all of you a joyous and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you are sharing a feast of friends and family as we also honor those who cannot be with us because of war, or poverty, or work schedules or geographic separation or because they have been taken from our midst.