promoted by Rosi
Starting today, New Jersey Democrats will be meeting in Atlantic City to discuss, debate and soul search. They have a lot to talk about. Though the Dems have managed to hold on to the Legislature in the past election, they failed to gain veto proof majorities and, of course, stood idly by as one of the most mercurial Republican governors in the state’s history won re-election.
New Jersey’s state political scene is a complex one, but there are a few conversational priorities that I think the Dems need to focus on. Here are some I’ve thought up so far; I’d appreciate any feedback.
Increasing Voter Turnout – The state Democrats need to focus on what they can do, in the short term, to win statewide elections. The loss of the governorship as a progressive agent of change for the people of this state has had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences. Dems need to put their heads together to come up with a plan on how to get more of their supporters to the polls, which should be easier than ever in light of the fact that registering to vote is relatively straightforward in our state. Additionally, the Dems need to take advantage of the “vote by mail” reforms to get portions of the population that traditionally have had trouble voting to do so. Most voters do not know that in New Jersey a voter no longer needs a reason to request an absentee ballot; by simply asking for one, you can get it. Period.
Aiding Cities – New Jersey’s Republicans have long turned their backs on the state’s urban areas; after all, most Jersey urban residents don’t vote Republican and the state Republicans’ near-obsessive hatred of all things urban and collective is well known. Jersey Dems need to create a sort of “Garden State Urban Contract” that will aim to simultaneously bring jobs to our cities, reduce crime and improve public transportation and urban infrastructure. Our cities will never advance unless we give urban residents the tools they need to get around and communicate. Low priced, dependable public transit and municipal Wi-Fi are a good start, and our state is eons behind its neighbors and competitors in this department.
Improve Urban Empowerment Zone Policy – Lower the sales taxes in UEZ’s to 2% and renew local control over where these sales taxes go. They should go to directly aid our cities; instead recent Chrisite-led changes have weakened this practice.
Stop Meeting in Atlantic City – Dems need to stop having these huge meetings in A.C., which for most working Democrats might as well be in South Carolina. Next time, try to meet in or adjacent to one of the state’s larger population centers
Obliterate Beach Fees – Shore towns may depend on such fees for revenue, but they’re really hurting themselves and their (mostly New Jersey-residing) patrons. New Jersey’s citizens already underwrite and fund millions of dollars yearly for our beaches, their upkeep and replenishment. The idea that a family of 4 must spend $30-40 a day just to sit on a beach is ridiculous and ought to be stopped.
Consolidation and Regionalization – Home rule in many respects is the historical curse of our colonial past. The Dems need to come up with more incentives to push suburban communities to pool and consolidate resources. Our towns need to stop acting like petty republics and fiefdoms for over-paid administrators.
Arts Funding – The Arts form a vital core of our state’s cultural scene and more than reward our state in economic benefits. The Dems need to invigorate funding and programs for the Arts and artists. Keeping prices down for patrons to state-supported artistic productions (such as galleries and plays) ought to be emphasized. It shouldn’t cost the same to attend a play in, say, Morristown as it does to go to a Broadway show.
As my brain continues to percolate…I’ll keep you updated.