Tag Archive: Lesniak

Building New Jersey’s future

The way to build New Jersey’s future is through competition and investment from the private sector. As an engineer and business owner with more than two decades of experience managing the planning, development, design, and construction of complex institutional facilities for education and healthcare, I understand first-hand how private sector investment creates jobs.

When companies are allowed to compete in a free an open marketplace, everyone wins. Companies bring resources to bear in a competitive market that might otherwise be used elsewhere. To compete for consumers, businesses must build facilities, expand services and offer competitive pricing. The net result is lower prices and better service for consumers and job creation for New Jersey.

Government also has a role to play. When over-regulation prevents fair competition, investment from the private sector is slowed. This in turn slows the roll-out of new services and cripples job growth. When regulations become obsolete or outdated, it is the job of government to modernize these rules.

Sadly, New Jersey’s existing rules pertaining to cable and telecommunications providers are grossly out of date. These rules, created decades ago before the iPhone, laptop computer or the Internet were even dreamed of, hamstring the communications marketplace and prevent competitors from operating on a level playing field. As it stands, government red tape is slowing innovation and preventing communications providers from creating jobs in New Jersey.

That is why Senator Raymond Lesniak introduced legislation earlier this year to reform New Jersey’s outdated laws. S. 2664, the Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act, removes bureaucratic red tape and decades-old rules in the communications and video industry, but maintains important protections such as LifeLine service for seniors and other vulnerable populations. This important legislation will open New Jersey to new investment.

Cable and telecommunications providers operate at a national level. Like any business, their resources are not limitless. If outdated rules and regulations prevent open competition in New Jersey, cable and telecom companies will chose to invest their resources elsewhere. This makes New Jersey less competitive in the region, stunts job growth and hurts the vendors and suppliers working in the communications sector. That is why I support this important legislation.

The State Senate has the opportunity to pass S. 2664 before the end of the year. I hope they do. We need this legislation so that New Jersey can break loose from the past and begin building its future.

Anthony Bastardi is the Chairman of the Board of New Jersey Foundation for Public Broadcasting

Is Anyone Else Noticing a Pattern?

Let’s review the last couple of weeks, shall we?

– When Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney forced through the public worker benefits reform bill – without the backing of the majority of his party – he tried to include a provision to do away with the state-run State Health Benefits Plan: a plan that saved towns millions of dollars. If he had succeeded, he would have enriched his patron, South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross.

– In the final writing of the bill, Sweeney tried to include another provision, this one forcing public workers to stay in-state for health care (and precluding them from seeking care at world-class hospitals like Sloan Kettering or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). It has been widely reported that this provision would also have benefitted Norcross, this time because he is also the chair of Camden’s Cooper Medical Center.

– Ray Lesniak, Democratic power broker from Union County, has proposed a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded subsidies for the building of luxury condominiums.

– Steve Adubato, Jr., television producer and son of Northern Jersey Democratic boss Steve Adubato, Sr., has brokered a deal that many say effectively “gives away” the New Jersey Network (NJN) to New-York based WNET. Adubato Sr. worked closely with Chris Christie to pressure the Senate to allow the deal to proceed. Adubato, Jr., pays himself $341,000 a year to produce programming for NJN.

– Democratic Mayor of Camden Dana Redd stood side-by-side with Governor Christie to announce a new program that would give money to private contractors to run schools – despite the fact that all available evidence shows that privatizing school administration does not work. Attending the announcement: George Norcross, speaking about how he wants to use Cooper to run charter schools.

Understand: I am a loyal Democrat. But is anyone else sensing a pattern here?

Because I’m beginning to wonder just when the hell my party is going to get back to standing up for working people, and when it’s going to stop concentrating on enriching the already wealthy and powerful.

Will Legislature Use Millionaires’ Tax to Subsidize Millionaires’ Condos?

promoted by Rosi

With four days left before the Legislature breaks for the summer, one of the most controversial and costly bills up for debate – first considered just last Thursday – would provide up to $150 million in state subsidies for luxury condominiums. Think of it as using the proceeds from the millionaires tax to help subsidize condominiums for millionaires.

The proposed legislation, S2972, has as its main sponsor Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who has drawn controversy over the past year for a number of legislative proposals regarding housing policy. The bill came to light for the first time late Friday, as an amendment to an existing bill that dealt with other aspects of the Urban Hub Tax Credit. The amendment actually passed Lesniak’s Senate Economic Growth Committee on Thursday but the text of the bill was not available to the public until 24 hours later.

The amendment would eliminate a requirement that the “Urban Hub Tax Credit” only be used for developments including apartments and condominiums affordable to middle-class families, and instead place no price limit on developments that could be built with $150 million in state subsidies for residential development. With only four days left before the Legislature’s summer break, the full Senate could take up the bill as soon as today.  An identical bill was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday to allow the legislation to pass by June 30.

More below…

Housing bill on the Governor’s desk

After a year-long debate on the future of starter homes for families, seniors, and people with special needs, the Legislature yesterday took the final action necessary to put S1/A3447 on the Governor’s desk for his signature, with an amended final bill passed by both houses.  The legislation has improved substantially since the earlier version of S1 June 2010, but still reduces the number of homes required in New Jersey by over 50 percent.

Under the final bill, municipalities are actually required to provide opportunities for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families, based on a simple percentage of the total homes in the town.  Two key bad features in earlier bills have been removed:

• Municipalities can no longer meet all of their obligations by providing expensive housing for households earning up to 150% of median income.  

• Developers will actually be required to provide housing that is affordable rather than simply paying a small fee to avoid making a development inclusionary.  

In those ways, and many others, S1/A3447 is much better legislation than what was originally proposed by Sen. Lesniak as the replacement to the Council on Affordable Housing.  

The legislation reflects significant input from FSHC and many of our allies, including housing, planning, and civil rights organizations, a broad range of faith communities, special needs and supportive housing providers, and over 100 other groups that opposed the original S-1. With the help of many of you – including many of you on BlueJersey – we shaped the debate through preparing analyses, sharing information with the media, and helping mobilize our grassroots allies. Our many voices persuaded the Assembly – with the leadership of Housing and Local Government Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Green and Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan – to reject the Senate’s demand that its bad legislation pass by June 30, 2010.  We consider the progress an important accomplishment for the broad movement of New Jerseyans who oppose exclusionary land use practices – which according to a national study by the Brookings Institution are the most exclusionary in the country.

Unfortunately, as with the legislation that passed the Assembly late in 2010, the version that is now on the Governor’s desk falls far short of the number of homes needed to comply with the Mount Laurel doctrine.  As a result of amendments made yesterday, which reduce obligations largely in shore towns, we project that the S1/A3447 will require about 48,000 units of affordable housing to be provided over the next ten years – or an over 50 percent reduction from COAH’s Third Round numbers and a 13 percent reduction from the version that passed the Assembly just a month ago (you can see our complete town-by-town analysis here).

Yesterday’s legislative votes now puts the issue front and center with Governor Christie. While he considers whether to sign S1/A3447, he also faces a court deadline of March 8, 2010 for COAH to adopt revised Third Round regulations – a process that COAH has admitted in court filings it has not even begun.  If the Governor does not sign this bill, and COAH continues to delay, we will seek to have the courts take over the process. If we need to reach that last resort, we are optimistic that the judiciary will keep its promise from the Mount Laurel decisions that, while it does not build houses, it does enforce the constitution.  

Thanks to the Blue Jersey community as housing fight stretches into new year

This was posted just before Christmas. I have to say, this year Fair Share Housing Center has told its story very well at Blue Jersey, and we thank them for that. – promoted by Rosi

It has been quite a year for housing policy in New Jersey. After at least six different versions of housing legislation, one Executive Order that only stood for 10 days before a court injunction, and two other key court decisions, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) remains in place, and housing policy in New Jersey has an uncertain future. Here’s a look at where we’ve been, where we are going, and the excellent grass roots organizing by so many groups – including the BlueJersey community – that have impacted the past year and will be critical in 2011.

Gov. Christie, of course, promised to “gut COAH” during the 2009 Republican primary to his conservative base. It didn’t come up so much in the general election, perhaps because polls shows that most New Jerseyans support having a range of housing choices in every community. Still, replacing COAH was a goal that most people could agree on as the agency, despite a competent and intelligent staff, had been manipulated due to various politically motivated changes in policy over the past decade.

the ugly details below

Business leaders: bad housing bill = jobs going to PA

promoted by Rosi

While the Legislature and Gov. Christie fiddle with a badly flawed housing bill, NJ’s economy burns – especially in the cradle of the state’s economic strength in the 80s and 90s, the Route One corridor.

A joint op-ed today by a cross-section of non-profits and business leaders in the Ledger calls the Route One corridor – “Einstein’s Alley” between Rutgers and Princeton – “poorly positioned to attract private sector investment as the economy rebounds.” It suggests that Educational Testing Services – one of the main employers – is considering moving future jobs to Pennsylvania because its employees can’t find homes here. And it says that municipalities in the Route One corridor, based on a study by PlanSmart NJ, will only allow one home for every four new jobs (as compared to a historic one to one ratio) – which will produce Los Angeles-style traffic congestion by 2025.

Hello? Is anyone in the State House listening?

Instead of addressing this problem, which stems from, according to the article, “too little zoning for housing,” the Legislature seems bent on making it worse. The Housing and Local Government on Monday passed a bill that would expand municipalities’ ability to turn down starter homes and apartments. Which would likely lead to even fewer homes in the Route One corridor. And more jobs moving out of state.

The op-ed calls for a better approach to state laws on housing and planning. That approach would focus a wide range of new homes – for families at all income levels plus seniors and people with special needs – near jobs and transportation. If towns like West Windsor and Plainsboro are going to see massive job growth, they should not be able to turn down homes for the people working in those jobs.

Then again, if the Legislature moves forward with its current proposal, the jobs just might follow the homes, as the CEO of ETS hints in the article – all the way to Pennsylvania.

S-1…. It’s BAAAACK – and we need your help

promoted by Rosi

As bytheshore73 deftly noted earlier this week, something strange is going on in Trenton on housing issues. Gov. Christie chided Speaker Oliver for not moving on legislation to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) when what the Assembly was doing that day was… well… introducing legislation to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing, that had been shared with members of Christie’s cabinet twice the week before. Is this just an example of the Governor shooting from the hip, or something more?

In part, shooting from the hip. In part, something more… well, more pernicious… and we need your help on that part by calling Asm. Jerry Green at 908-561-5757.

You see, pretty much everyone – builders, civil rights groups, environmentalists, housing advocates, municipalities – agrees that we should get rid of COAH, especially after we won a court decision earlier this month tossing out its current rules as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

But, as you might imagine, there are widely divergent views on what comes next.

find out why below the fold

Court throws out COAH rules, provides blueprint for housing reform

Not sure everyone saw this, from Friday. – promoted by Rosi

Today, the New Jersey Appellate Division invalidated the Council on Affordable Housing’s (COAH) Third Round regulations. The court required a return to basic constitutional principles to remove exclusionary zoning barriers to new homes for families, seniors, and people with special needs of all incomes.

Basically, the court said three things, agreeing with Fair Share Housing Center and several homebuilders who had appealed the rules and rejecting a challenge by the New Jersey League of Municipalities:

(1) The need for homes must be met in a fair and predictable way;

(2) The plans to build homes must be backed by sufficient economic incentives for for-profit builders and/or realistic plans with non-profits, not just paper promises; and

(3) Municipalities may not implement exclusionary policies contrary to sound planning.

These three principles are the backbone of the Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel I and II decisions, and produced the nation’s most successful policy ever for homes affordable to both low- and moderate-income families and the middle class. A Lincoln Institute of Land Policy study found that the policies in place in the 1980s and 1990s under both Democratic and Republican governors successfully produced enough homes to keep housing prices affordable at all income levels, while comparable states saw skyrocketing housing prices.

Then for the past ten years a series of delays and maneuvers came up with multiple sets of unworkable rules. Now, the court has ordered a return to a simpler system based on what worked in the past, and given the Christie Administration five months to implement it.

Of course, the Administration and some members of the Legislature, particularly Sen. Ray Lesniak, spent this spring doing their best to come up with yet another totally unworkable set of rules through the proposed S-1, leading to opposition from everyone from the NAACP to every Catholic Bishop in NJ to the Sierra Club to the Mental Health Association. The Assembly decided to stop the bill after the outpouring of opposition and analyses that found the bill unconstitutional.

Now, Sen. Lesniak has reacted to the decision by stating that S1 will be back with “some improvements, some refinements and some clarifications.” Of course he also “declined to elaborate” on what those might be, continuing a bizarrely secretive process that has so far involved passing bills without the text being publicly available and denying the NAACP the right to testify. The process, according to Lesniak, will move fast, with a bill passed in the next 30 days (the latest in a series of urgent deadlines).

While we certainly support housing reform that works and that meets the constitutional principles that the court reiterated, the court decision today only reinforces why S-1 was unconstitutional and unworkable – nearly all of the key flaws in COAH’s rules that the court invalidated are shared by S-1. Perhaps the “improvements, refinements, and clarifications” might change that – but if they aren’t public, it’s hard for anyone to know.

In any event, we will keep you posted as this issue progresses, and applaud the court’s decision for recognizing that, especially in economically difficult times, New Jersey simply can’t afford job-killing exclusionary zoning.

A Tale of Two Towns: Marlboro Housing Plan Tossed Out, Union Township Approved

promoted by Rosi

In a decision issued this morning, Marlboro Township (Monmouth County), was removed from the protections of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) because the Council found that the municipality “consistently failed to demonstrate good faith” in meeting its housing obligations.  

At the same meeting, the Council approved the housing plans of Union Township (Union County), along with Cresskill Borough (Bergen County).

The comparison between Marlboro Township and Union Township gives a good perspective on what a sound housing policy looks like, and the deep flaws with S-1, which failed to pass the Legislature this spring. Marlboro Township was a prime proponent of S-1; Union Township – ironically the location of the office of S-1 sponsor Sen. Ray Lesniak, along with Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan – was deemed “exclusionary” by S-1 despite the town’s diversity and history of compliance with its legal obligations.

Marlboro Township has a history of flagrantly violating the state’s housing laws that would be comical if it weren’t true. Find out why below the fold….

Talking S-1 at the New Leaders Council awards event

Promoted by Jason Springer

Hi BlueJersey readers – it’s been a bit quieter on the S-1 front over the last few weeks – while the Legislature is not moving forward on S-1 at this time, we continue our discussions about a better approach to replacing COAH, based on the alternative proposal we and many other groups announced last month. Our summer intern Mike McQueeny brings us this blog report from Wednesday’s National Leaders Council event in New Brunswick.

Fair Share Housing Center was in attendance at Wednesday night’s kick-off event for the New Jersey Chapter of the New Leaders Council. The event was held to honor the work of 40 progressive leaders under the age of 40 across the nation, including Justin Krebs, the co-founder and Executive Director of Living Liberally and a New Jersey native. In the midst of the heated debate surrounding the controversial S-1 housing bill, FSHC came to spread the message that one can’t “live liberally” without somewhere to live.

The event was held in New Brunswick and included Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, and was scheduled to include Senator Raymond Lesniak. While Assemblyman Cryan could only stop in briefly, he graciously stopped around the room to speak to many of the guests to discuss legislation and trade some stories. Assemblywoman Quijano spoke at the event, and honored those named for their progressive leadership in various fields. Justin Krebs read from his recently released book, “538 Ways to Live, Work, and Play Like a Liberal,” and shared a reading from one of its chapters.

FSHC’s hope in attending was to urge Senator Raymond Lesniak to support a wide range of housing choices, rather than allowing municipalities to exclude lower-income families through the arbitrary standards under S-1. Though Senator Lesniak was not in attendance, we were able to talk with the range of students, political staffers, lawyers, and other young politicos from around the state who were there.While some had not been previously aware of the full implications of S-1, all could understand its significance.

Of the many attendees that voiced their concerns, one remarked that all S-1 would accomplish would be to undo all the great strides over the previous 30 years. Another student in attendance remarked that because she lived in West New York, along what is referred to as the “gold coast” of New Jersey, the presence of expensive condos and townhouses were effectively pricing her out of the town she grew up – but under S-1, such towns would be exempted as “inclusionary” because they had a lot of expensive apartments. Another young professional in attendance that had served in the Corzine administration remarked that though A-500 didn’t achieve what everyone had hoped, at least it provided more housing affordable to low- and moderate-income people than would be created under S-1.

Though the event was premised around liberals, and the group promotes itself as progressives, some political issues, such as S-1, are not so clear cut. S-1 does not affect liberals, or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, but rather thousands of New Jerseyans of all backgrounds that will be shut out of many towns as a result of this bill. We need to replace COAH with a better housing policy that works for all New Jerseyans, instead of S-1 which would make New Jersey more unaffordable for middle-class families, the working poor, people in their 20s and 30s, and people with special needs.