Author Archive: Bill Orr

About Bill Orr

University of Virginia Masters in English. Have lived in Argentina, Panama, Delaware, Virginia, California, NYC, and New Jersey for the last 25 years. Former editor and manager at McGraw-Hill, former President of Gay Activist Alliance of NJ, founder of NJ ActUp, and North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) in Newark.

Help for Haitian Refugees in NJ

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Help for Haitian Refugees in NJ

According to the Star Ledger (01/31/10) a state confidential document indicates, “by mid-February commercial flights carrying Haitians holding U.S. visas are expected to arrive in the USA, and many of the refugees will be seeking to join relatives in New Jersey.   Our state has the fourth largest Haitian population in the country, with nearly 57,000 NJ residents born in Haiti or of Haitian ancestry. Most of them live in Essex and Union counties.”  This “surge,” the article says, will create a humanitarian crisis and put new pressure on a state treasury already in peril.

In the last crisis when Haitian refugees arrived in the USA, people in NJ responded. The current crisis is of a much higher order as these refugees will need substantial medical, educational, housing, and psych-social services.  Their US relatives  will hep but cannot assume the large burden.

Hopefully the federal government will provide financial assistance.  More important there is an immediate need for state and  county government to create and implement aggressive assistance plans. This will be an early test of the compassion and skills of Governor Christie’s new administration, with support from the legislature.

A wide variety of NJ social/medical agencies and foundations have an equally important role. Like any large population some refugees will be gay, have chronic illnesses, have legal needs, etc.

Haitians, who have suffered  for years from terrible governance and most recently from a devastating earthquake, have proven themselves to be resilient, vibrant, creative, and hardworking.  They can contribute to the mosaic and economic strength of our state, but first they will need our  help.

For information on how you can help go to


Obama asks and tells

Until now when the President was asked when he would end “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” his response was “Don’t ask me when and I won’t tell you.”  In the State of the Union he said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)”  The most telling pat of his statement is “I will work with congress…”  True, rather than issuing an Executive Order, getting the law repealed is better, yet he could have been more forceful.  Lets hope he has the cojones to push this measure through congress and does so quickly before midterm election politicking, tea party hysteria, and the usual opponents drag it down. (Attaching this measure to a military funding bill is a good approach.)  It will be a proud day for New Jersey gays serving our country and for all of us seeking equality. Another important step forward.

Is discrimination alive and well in Secaucus?

It was a dispiriting display of bad judgment and cronyism at the Secaucus Council meeting when newly installed Mayor Michael Gonnelli and all councilmen except for one voted to promote a city employee to Director of Public Works – the same employee implicated in harassing and issuing death threats to a local gay couple.  That employee, his son and another individual – all firemen at the time – were at the heart of a civil judgment that resulted in a $4.8 million fine against the City of Secaucus.  All of the firemen had pleaded the  fifth amendment at the trial rather than discuss what actually happened during the multiple gay-bashing incidents.

As the lone dissenting councilman John Shinnick pointed out there was only about three weeks allowed for posting the availability of the new position and not enough time to reach other outside qualified candidates. The result was that only three current Secaucus employees were interviewed and former fireman Charles Snyder Sr. got the job.

Why would Secaucus officials promote an individual to a $117,000 job whose actions appeared so egregious as to cost local taxpayers $4.8 million? The mayor disingenuously pointed out that Mr. Snyder’s record while in the Department of Public Works was exemplary.  The mayor disregarded the fact that the employee while a fireman caused grievous harm to the reputation and finances of Secaucus and engaged in actions that threatened the life of two gay residents. The mayor also did not deny that he was a buddy of Mr. Snyder and that they vacationed together in Hawaii.  

Is Secaucus a place where gays and lesbians would want to live?  Is it a safe place to shop in?  With prompting from Steven Goldstein the mayor admitted there has been only a token effort at sensitivity training of employees. Garden State Equality members who sat through the council meeting heard jeers from other attendees and little assurance from councilmen that the lives and safety of the LGBT community mattered.  

Bill Orr