Tag Archive: Cryan

Who will be Assembly speaker and majority leader?

PolitickerNJ has had several reports on negotiations over who will be Assembly speaker and majority leader. In case you missed them, here’s a summary of what they report – with a disclaimer that this post relies entirely on those reports which all themselves rely on unnamed, and surely not unbiased, sources.

The underlying assumptions seem to be (a) the Democrats will retain both houses of the Legislature (which even Chris Christie agrees will happen); and (b) Steve Sweeney will remain Senate President unless something unexpected happens (watch for a separate post on Blue Jersey on that soon).

Several key considerations – existing and potential new alliances among power brokers and county parties, the pen-ben vote, and racial and ethnic diversity – appear to be driving the discussions on whether Speaker Sheila Oliver and Majority Leader Joe Cryan will keep their positions.

Where will it all go? And what do you want to see happen? A more detailed summary below the fold – and the floor is open for comments.

Cryan, State Bar get it right on Christie’s threat to independent judiciary

Gov. Christie, for the second day, yesterday attempted to bully a well-respected judge, the Hon. Linda Feinberg of Mercer County Superior Court, for a decision striking down part of the pension/benefits law.

We reported on the initial decision yesterday, and so won’t repeat the basic details. The developments yesterday, however, merit an update, as Christie went off the wall.

As the Ledger reports, his attacks on Judge Feinberg – by all reports a cautious and highly ethical judge – ran the gamut, getting more and more crazy.

Christie’s criticism ran the gamut, from accusing Feinberg of protecting “cronies” to describing all judges as “elitists” trying to take money from taxpayers. Then Christie compared Feinberg to Bryan Christiansen, whom the governor ousted as head of the scandal-plagued Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.

Trying to delegitimize an entire branch of government as “elitists” is quite simply dangerous. We need a fair and honest court system that rules on the merits and not based on favoritism.

And comparing a judge, who in fact has often ruled in ways that would please Christie as discussed yesterday such as ruling that neither civil unions nor gay marriage were legally required, to the head of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, without any evidence, is reprehensible. As the head of the New Jersey State Bar Association, Susan Feeney, stated:

His personal criticism of Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg is unwarranted and irresponsible. Judge Feinberg has a sterling record for integrity as one of the most respected members of the New Jersey bench, as well as a long, distinguished career as a public official.

This kind of statement, in itself, from the Bar Association – a non-partisan trade organization – is notable. But what the Governor did went way too far. Joe Cryan explained it very well:

No matter how one feels about the ruling, the governor’s lack of respect for the judicial process is chilling. (Christie) of course has the right to defend his law, but he should be above throwing a tantrum and disparaging someone else’s character if he doesn’t get his way.

That’s right – Christie can defend the law in court by taking an appeal, and criticize the decision. It’s also fair game to call for a constitutional amendment if needed, as he did yesterday (though whether one would be wise and what else he might try to stuff in there is another question – we’ll see if and when he proposes specific text). But disparaging a respected judge’s character, and the entire judiciary, is unethical and a mark of a poor leader.

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

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.

S-1 Standoff: Assembly Leadership Holds Strong

The process of how New Jersey should handle the need for affordable housing changed when there was an organized uprising of people calling for a more open process than what Sen. Ray Lesniak wanted to allow. We owe a lot to activists who flooded key legislators’ offices with calls demanding more transparency. And we owe a lot to those legislators who listened. But it’s not over. – promoted by Rosi Efthim

With the clock ticking towards Gov. Christie’s artificial June 30 deadline for passing the much-reviled S-1, the Assembly Budget Committee yesterday called the Governor’s bluff. Gov. Christie had come up with the June 30 deadline because that is when a moratorium on commercial developers paying a 2.5 percent fee on new development for housing trust funds is due to sunset. But everyone in Trenton knew that it was possible to extend the moratorium without simultaneously passing S-1. And yesterday the Assembly Budget Committee unanimously voted out a bill that would do just that.

The reaction: instant fury from Sen. Lesniak and Senate President Sweeney, who vowed not to allow the bill, A3055, see the Senate floor even though it is likely to pass the Assembly Monday with near-unanimous support. Lesniak and Sweeney supported the Governor’s fake deadline, with Lesniak calling the four month extension of the moratorium “an absolute waste of time.” Never mind that Lesniak himself authored the original bill imposing the year-long moratorium last year, and has been railing against its end for the past six months. (The fee comes from the landmark 2008 housing legislation A-500, and ironically was pushed by the non-residential developers themselves as a way to standardize such fees, which have been around for over two decades, across the state).

What is going on here? More after the jump.

Assembly puts the brakes on S-1

The S-1 runaway train has hit a bump in the road.

Finally, our political leadership has realized that ramming a deeply unpopular bill through the Legislature that has managed to alienate all of the Democrats’ core constituencies – and a few of the Republicans’ too – is not such a good idea.

Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green released a statement late today stating “MY PRIORITY IS AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LAW THAT WORKS, NOT ONE THAT IS RUSHED”. His words shows that he has been listening – a skill in short supply in this debate so far.

He, Vice Chair Mila Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan heard – from everyone – that we need reform of our state’s complex affordable housing laws.

But they also heard – from the NAACP, every Catholic Bishop in the state of NJ, the Sierra Club, Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and so many others – that we need reform that produces more homes, that recognizes the diversity already present in our cities and first suburbs, and that we don’t want a prolonged court battle – we want to get it right the first time.

It can be hard to get elected officials to listen. But this bill is such a colossal disaster that finally the Assembly realized that it had to stop – both because it made no political sense, and because of the sheer force of the groups against it.

We are not out of the woods yet. Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak may still try to bully the Legislature into passing something by June 30, their arbitrary self-imposed deadline. Sen. Lesniak says exactly that in the Ledger. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on – through phone calls to legislators and through attending the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing this Thursday at 10 am in Committee Room 11.

And no doubt even if S-1 does not get passed this month, there will be more to come. New Jersey does need housing policy reform. And there will continue to be those who try to exploit that need for reform to push the wrong policies – that ask our cities and first ring suburbs to do more than their fair share, don’t produce homes, and destroy our environment.

But for this moment, at least, we have achieved a significant victory, thanks to many people coming together, and to the leadership of Oliver, Cryan, Green, and Jasey (with an important honorable mention to the senators who stood up to the S-1 juggernaut – Rice, Turner, Weinberg, and, with an unusually public and vocal abstention, Don Norcross). And BlueJersey has been a big part of that – thanks very much to all of you for making calls and spreading the word and to Rosi and Jason for their constant encouragement. We look forward to updating you on the hearing tomorrow and what comes next after.