The New Jersey Supreme Court today rules 5-2 that Gov. Chris Christie does not have the power to abolish agencies intended to be independent.
“The plain language of the Reorganization Act does not authorize the Chief Executive to abolish an independent agency like COAH.”
– from the decision, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner
Today’s decision upholds an appellate court ruling in 2012 which reached the same conclusion. Adam Gordon of Fair Share Housing Center argued the case at the Supreme Court:
“The Supreme Court’s decision ensures greater public participation and transparency in important decisions on where homes get built. It’s a bad idea for policies involving homes for working families, people with special needs, and lower-income seniors to be made behind closed doors. Especially after Sandy, we need to encourage more homes for people of all incomes.”
The Court found that the statute that created COAH requires bipartisan control of the Council, with no more than 6 of its 12 members from the same party. The membership requirements call for a cross-section of community and state interests to make sure different voices have representation, including local government, households in need of low- and moderate-income housing, nonprofit builders of affordable housing, the disabled, for-profit builders, and the public interest.
In other words, a balanced group to better serve people in need, not a housing policy directed by one guy. Particularly one who has demonstrated little interest in serving communities in need. This decision comes as the Christie administration is trying to take $165 million in housing trust funds from municipalities, which translates to thousands of homes that wouldn’t be built. Gordon stresses that today’s decision is the Court’s rejection of “the Governor’s attempt to shut the public out of this process.”
Amazing. We called Christie out on his attempts at naked power grabs back in 2010. Not much has changed in his methods or his direction since then.