New Jersey’s progressive community – and some not so usual allies – slowed the S-1 juggernaut today. With about 40 speakers in opposition, and many more in the audience clapping in support, the bills many flaws became manifestly apparent. As one Blue Jersey commenter pointed out, anyone there could understand why Sen. Lesniak didn’t want to take testimony – S-1, quite simply, got torn apart from every angle.
It’s bad for South Jersey (as Asw. Riley pointed out to DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa, who avoided the question with a long discussion of the entire history of COAH); it’s bad for cities and first suburbs in North Jersey (as we pointed out in a spirited exchange with Asm. Green, who recognized that the bill would overly concentrate poverty in communities like Plainfield). And it’s bad for middle-class people like firemen and police – a point that Asm. Scalera’s questions focused heavily on.
It’s bad for builders and the economy – as many of the state’s big time builders (that’s the part about nontraditional allies) and the New Jersey Builders Association hammered home – not to mention Habitat for Humanity and the Housing and Community Development Network. It’s bad for the environment – as Dianne Brake of PlanSmart, Judy Remington of Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, and Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club pointed out in extended testimony.
It would turn back the clock decades on civil rights, as the NAACP’s Kelly Francis and Mike McNeil pointed out in forceful testimony on the “Jim Crow” nature of the bill. And it would halt NJ’s progress in deinstitutionalizing people with special needs, as several groups working on supportive housing pointed out.
Oh, yeah, Steve Lonegan et al don’t like S-1 either which helps explain this morning’s rare sight of a Republican Assembly member, Michael Patrick Carroll, conducting a lengthy cross-examination of a member of Gov. Christie’s cabinet.
The only supporters of the bill were, well, not quite supporters – they all wanted amendments, in ways that seemed to contradict with each other. The non-residential developers, NAIOP, want changes. The Governor’s office wants changes. The League of Municipalities and New Jersey Conference of Mayors want changes. These changes do not, at least from what was discussed, sound like they overlap very much.
The Christie-Lesniak team still wants a bill passed by June 30 and are exerting tremendous pressure to do so. The rationales for the deadline are flimsy – a Lesniak quote in the Ledger mentioned the “fiscal year” (despite the lack of connection of this bill to the budget) and DCA Commissioner Grifa felt that things were close. But, as Asm. Green repeatedly said during the hearing, rushing the bill has many risks – of a court challenge or totally ineffective system.
Thanks so much to the Blue Jersey community – you have been great in your support on pushing the Legislature to reflect the will of its constituents. And thanks to Speaker Oliver, Majority Leader Cryan, Chairman Green, and Vice-Chair Jasey for slowing the process down.
But we’re not done yet – the Governor and Sen. Lesniak are still trying to bully the Assembly into passing S-1. We need to keep the pressure up against the serious push we are seeing. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any members of the Assembly you can reach out to.
Our testimony, per several people’s request, is after the jump.