ICYMI Watch- New Jersey Women Call for Political Reform

I’m taking some time off, but my sisters aren’t. So I want to amplify yesterday’s live-stream and statements putting NJ politicians on notice that the people of NJ are turning their attention to how they do business. Also recommend Bill Orr’s Hey. For many it’s really a walk to Washington and (the indispensable) NJ Spotlight’s detailed coverage here.

If you rode the NJ Chamber of Commerce ‘Walk to Washington’ train yesterday, maybe you saw these women near the train platform. And I hope you listened. This is the just-launched Coalition to Restore Democracy, led by some of the women who powered New Jersey’s midterm blue wave, then surprised the majority party when they confronted and defeated a Democratic plan to gerrymander legislative districts. It should not surprise you that attention now turns to NJ’s political system itself. It’s in need of a good scrubbing to rid the state of top-down, secret deals by unelected power-brokers, policy decided by those with undisclosed conflicts-of-interest, a party “line” system which rewards loyalty to power over letting the best ideas and leaders bubble up naturally. The people of New Jersey deserve the most ethical, representational and accountable government we can give them. Politicians who fight this should be put on notice. Good politicians whose interest is the public good, not their own power base, will welcome reform.

This is speaking truth to power as Jersey politicos lined up at Newark Penn Station – the politicians and the lobbyists & biz leaders there to sway them – and the train got ready to hurtle down the I-95 corridor clackety-clack. And this is just the beginning.

Coalition to Restore Democracy – Quotes

“For far too long, New Jersey has legislated, governed and shaped its electoral structure into a system that is intentionally opaque and closed to the public. Whether it is the fast tracking of special interest written legislation with little public review or knowledge, or an electoral line system in which a couple powerful party bosses grant inordinate party line advantages to a select group of beholden candidates, New Jersey’s democracy is made less accountable to its people.” – Analilia Mejia, Executive Director, New Jersey Working Families
Coming off the heels of news that dozens of New Jersey’s political insiders held an exclusive “Boys Club” in Puerto Rico, the complete lack of surprise in the media and amongst the public speaks to the urgency of the actions to be taken by this Coalition. These grassroots activists and organizers see this example as another undemocratic way in which New Jersey lawmakers legislate and deal-make behind closed doors.

“The people of New Jersey are tired of having unelected party bosses and the same tired, old “Boys Club” dictate the business of the State. We are tired of these men legislating only to protect their own power, and not to protect our interests. We want transparent and accountable representation at all levels of government, and we will fight for those values no matter which party stands in our way.” – Saily Avelenda, Executive Director of NJ11th for Change

“In areas of the state that are deeply one party or another, like Camden County, voters do not enjoy competitive primary or general elections. This results in what is effectively one-party control, which leads to very little electoral accountability, with no incentive for elected officials to respond to their constituents. It doesn’t matter which party holds power, a lack of accountability and transparency leads to bad policies. Best case- these policies are tone-deaf, inefficient and ineffective; worst case, they result in the lavish handing out of tax breaks in low-income cities to politically well-connected corporations.” – Sue Altman, board member of South Jersey Women for Progressive Change

The groups detailed ways to improve the electoral, legislative and political system so as to prioritize the interest and voices of citizens over self-dealing and undue influence in order to stem the systemic corruption hampering New Jersey’s growth and to allow New Jersey to function as a true and productive democracy.

“Without open conventions, party leaders have a lock on their positions and  candidate selection, which narrows and dilutes the vote of the average citizen. This ability to wield power and influence breeds corruption and stagnation, curries a system of patronage, and limits choice,Insofar as we remain predominantly a two party system, in order for an election to truly pose a choice for people across the entire political spectrum, we need open conventions to be legislatively mandated. Selection of candidates by party bosses dilutes the individual vote and undermines the one person one vote mandate of the Constitution The legislature need to step in and remedy this. We will fight for true free and fair elections starting with the average citizen having an actual day in candidate choice.” – Cathy Brienza, President of JOLT

“New Jersey residents deserve a better government. We have the right to representation that is free of corruption, free of discrimination, and accountable to the people. We are calling for changes to improve legislative processes and ethics oversight, and to increase public access. This will ensure that corrupting influences no longer control our state government. Our elected and public officials should serve us and not themselves.” – Margaret Illis, co-founder & leader of NJ7 Forward

“At Action Together New Jersey, we believe that democracy is strongest when all participate. We encourage the people of New Jersey to vote. We encourage people to stay informed and get involved.  We encourage people to run for office. Because of this, we see all too well how New Jersey’s current political system fails the public. Lawmakers can choose to operate in a manner that does not serve the greater good; they can—and do—rig primaries, broker backroom deals to decide the state’s business without scrutiny, and hide their own conflicts of interest, financial and otherwise. Any system that is designed to empower and enrich members of the political class while disenfranchising those they serve will no longer be tolerated. If you doubt our resolve, we will remind you that you underestimate the people of New Jersey at your own peril.” – Lizzie Foley of Action Together New Jersey.

“The vision of Westfield 20/20 is a society that values every member. We’ve joined the Coalition to Restore Democracy to fight for a government and electoral system in New Jersey that values the participation of every voter. Our members demand transparency, fairness, and openness from our elected officials and will fight to ensure that machine politics in New Jersey becomes a thing of the past.” – Lillian Duggan, co-chair of Westfield 20/20

At Indivisible NJ 5th District, we believe that an engaged constituency is pivotal for a stronger democracy. We also must acknowledge that, in spite of our participation, too many of us feel like the decisions that matter are made off in a back room somewhere. We need New Jerseyans to be able to believe – deep down in our bones – that we can count on our representatives to actually represent us.  What a breath of fresh air this set of proposals is – these are real, tangible changes that would make our democracy more Democratic.” – Anna Wong, co-lead of Indivisible 5th District.

“SOMA Action advocates for progressive policies across a range of issues. We require a transparent legislative process and open communication with our lawmakers so that our members can make their voices heard when it matters. NJ policy should reflect the will of the voters, not the desires of special interests.  We are proud to join this Coalition of grassroots groups representing of thousands of New Jerseyans in calling for transparency and accountability. We will not be silent.” – Lillian Hawkins, president of SOMA Action

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