Last year the Division on Women was moved from the Department of Community Affairs to the Children & Families Department of state government. We were assured that this move would improve services to the women of New Jersey. Instead we went through a year with a moribund Commission on the Status of Women. (In the interest of transparency the Governor just recently nominated a few new members to the long dormant commission.) Must be election time!
For the last several years the Division on Women was the prime mover behind the Governor’s Conference for Women in New Jersey. Though it was called the “Governor’s Conference”, I do not believe our current Governor ever attended or spoke during his tenure. Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno generally represented the administration.
The conference, in the past held in May, was a two day event in Atlantic City. It featured an evening welcome reception, a morning breakfast, a luncheon with key note speakers and break out panel discussions. Women owned vendors joined and displayed their wares. The conference attracted literally hundreds of women from across the state and featured speakers including women like Maya Angelou, Donna Brazile, Peggy Noonan, and others of equal stature. It was a chance for women to network, learn more about our state and talk about politics and business. I think it was generally supported by the registration fees of the attendees.
2013: An election year! A year when the Democrats have Senator Barbara Buono, who happens to be a woman, running against the Governor. The conference has been reduced to a one day event to be held at the War Memorial in Trenton on June 3rd, which also is the day before the Primary election. (That must be a coincidence too.)
And guess who the key note speaker will be?
A. Maya Angelou
B. Donna Brazile
C. Michelle Obama
D. Michelle Bachman
E. Governor Chris Christie
If you guessed the Governor, there will be no surprises for you at the Governor’s Conference on Women. Yes, he is going to make his first appearance in almost four years! And right across the street from the State House at the War Memorial.
Note to Commissioner Blake: I know Super storm Sandy took up alot of everyone’s time, but couldn’t a few folks have made the Governor’s Conference something akin to the last number of years? Very disappointing! I’m sure the Governor will make up for my disappointment when he speaks to the attendees about things like the unemployment rate in New jersey; women’s access to health care and family planning centers; aid for minority and women owned businesses; pay equity for women; funding for our schools and how he’s done with the environment, and cleaning up the air our children breathe. Can hardly wait. However, I might be too busy getting out the vote for the primary election to actually get there this year!
I know I could be talking about alot more important things during this past week like gun safety legislation and today’s Senate Budget Committee meeting on higher education! But somehow the pure politics of the “dumbing down” of the Conference for Women in this election year when we have a woman running for the highest office in our State, really seems like a reflection of the administration’s attitude toward women!
And while I’m at it, I’d also like to address the issue of Senator Buono’s “institutional support” being written about by so many columnists and news reporters. Again, we women, even those of us who have the titles Speaker, Majority Leader or Senator before our names just don’t seem to count even for an honorable mention. A couple of weeks ago, Speaker Oliver and I hosted a fundraiser in honor of our colleague and presumed gubernatorial candidate, Barbara Buono. Every woman Democratic State Senator contributed to her campaign, several of us “maxed out” on our contributions, and almost every one of us actually attended the event at a woman owned restaurant in Asbury Park. I guess we just don’t count as “institutional support”.
The more things seem to change, the more they seem not to!