Tag Archive: Peter Barnes III

Cleaning Up From the Cleanup

“AshBritt [in Louisiana and Mississippi] had no-bid contracts. Here they have no-bid contracts. There, they moved debris piles around, here they move debris piles around. There they opened landfills that were closed, here landfills that were closed were opened. There, there was no governmental oversight or transparency in the process, here there’s been no governmental oversight or transparency.”

       – Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club

Today, along with the Sierra Club, three members of the New Jersey General Assembly raised some serious questions about the selection and performance of the company that received a no-bid contract to remove debris from Hurricane Sandy.

Tomorrow, a joint Senate and Assembly committee will hear testimony about the Superstorm Sandy cleanup. Today’s press conference by the Sierra Club focused not on the dubious way that the contract was awarded, but rather on AshBritt’s dismal environmental performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Sierra Club’s goal is to not leave New Jersey with a similar legacy of polluted sites. In fact, in New Orleans, the result of some of the “cleanup” was the creation of one, and possibly two, Superfund sites. The last thing we need in New Jersey is for AshBritt to give us more Superfund sites.

In addition to Tittel, Assemblymen Peter Barnes, Ruben Ramos, and Reed Gusciora each talked about the challenges of a robust and cost-effective Sandy cleanup. Barnes also announced the creation of a Coastal Commission Regional Planning Board to provide oversight on zoning, planning, and environmental protection.

The press conference is presented in its entirety, below. You can jump to Ruben Ramos at the 8:00 mark, Peter Barnes at 10:00, Reed Gusciora at 13:45, and the Q&A from the press at 17:37.

Epiphany or Miracle?

The solutions to the world’s environmental problems are numerous and inextricably related. There’s no silver bullet, but rather a set of choices – some easy and some more difficult – that have to be made if this planet is to remain habitable.

Solutions involve combinations of environmentally efficient energy sources like CHP, totally clean non-fossil solutions like wind and solar, and reduction of energy usage through conservation.

The issues are not only technical, but they have a large political component as well.

While some of our elected officials, mostly but not exclusively from the Republican Party, still look backward toward fossil fuels and subsidies for the obscenely rich oil barons, others are promoting more sensible approaches.

One approach to alleviate some of the environmental damage is to improve the way we construct our buildings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in the United States buildings consume 40% of our energy and produce 39% of our carbon emissions. Yet the technology exists to significantly reduce energy, CO2 emissions, water use, and solid waste.

Assemblymen McKeon, Chivukula, Barnes, and Conaway are among legislators who have promoted realizable solutions to our energy and environment crisis. Despite their effort, Governor Christie has vetoed green building initiatives in the past, using his veto message to excoriate the Democrats in the legislature. Those four assemblymen have re-introduced a green building bill (A-1966) this session.

I spoke yesterday with Assembly McKeon outside of the Trenton office of the Department of Environmental Protection. I asked him why the bill is being re-introduced despite the governor’s opposition to investment in jobs and the environment. In the short conversation, posted below, McKeon said he hoped the governor would have “an epiphany” and consider signing the bill this year.

Certainly, the governor has occasionally changed his mind on issues – as he recently did with internet gambling. But given the fact that the Koch Brothers are pulling the governor’s strings and the governor relies on dirty energy money to further his political ambitions, I suspect that more than an epiphany is needed. We need either a miracle or a new governor to advance the cause of clean energy in New Jersey.

Will the Congressional Redistricting Commission give Joe Cryan a golden parachute to Washington?

Unless a miracle takes place this Tuesday and Republicans in LD1, LD3, and LD4 pull off major upsets, South Jersey party boss, George Norcross, will have more than enough votes to replace his primary adversary in the Assembly, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, with his top ally in the legislative body, Louis Greenwald, sending Cryan to the back bench.

What remains to be seen, however, is what Cryan will do once he is sent there.  Will he unite with his fellow back bencher in the Senate, Dick Codey, to build an opposition movement that will contend not only for the Governor’s office in 2013, but also all 120 legislative seats?  As much as I would love to see this, I do not expect that this will happen.  It is very possible that Dick Codey will run for Governor in 2013, but it is also possible that Cory Booker, Barbara Buono, and Steve Sweeney will run as well and it is unlikely that any of them will run opposition slates against the party lines that they do not win, which means that regardless of who wins the gubernatorial primary, there will not be much change in the legislative roster or its leadership.

If I am right about this, then Cryan will most likely remain on the back bench for most of the next decade.  That is, unless he finds a new office for which to run or that office finds him.  There have been times in the past decade when Cryan expressed an interest in running for Congress in the 7th district, but admitted that the current configuration of the district made it extremely difficult for a Democrat to win.

This is very true.  Our best chance to win this district came in 2006 when a very popular Assemblywoman, Linda Stender, challenged a very unpopular Congressman Mike Ferguson in a year that Democrats were trending up and Republicans were trending down.  However, despite these trends, Stender came a few thousand votes short of victory.  Two years later, Stender did not run as strong of a campaign as she did in 2006 and faced a very popular State Senator, Leonard Lance.  Despite huge turnout increases inspired by Barack Obama’s candidacy, it was not enough for a Democrat to win the 7th and Lance defeated Stender by a much wider margin than Ferguson did two years earlier.

Why is the NJ Assembly leadership looking less Diverse all the time?

There are twenty-four committees in the NJ General Assembly in Trenton and only four of them are chaired by women.

In a week or so, when Assemblywoman Greenstein takes her seat in the Senate — that number will dwindle to three as Greenstein’s Judiciary Committee gavel was promised to an anti-choice Assemblyman who was not even on the Judiciary panel when the selection was made.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Democratic party. Oh wait, maybe it is.