Tag Archive: public service

Shoveling Matters

promoted by Rosi

In establishment politics, folks tend to get pretty jaded. Every word, every action, hell, every sneeze by a politician is viewed as a calculated move. If a constituent’s son is killed at war, it’s assumed that an elected official’s response is less about human emotion and more about conveying said official’s capacity for human emotion. Of course, that’s an extreme and somewhat silly example – the death of any service member is heart-wrenching, especially one in your own community. But the fact remains, we’ve all heard politicians and office holders attacked by their opponents for their “response” to tragedies, disasters, and other events in the news.

Just a few weeks ago, we were treated to the spectacle of all manner of criticism lobbed at officials at all levels for their handling of the December 26 blizzard. Mike Bloomberg only cared about Manhattan and was flippant towards the city’s residents. Chris Christie couldn’t even be bothered to skip his trip to Disney World to help New Jersey residents deal with the storm. Perhaps the most frustrating criticism was that lobbed at Cory Booker, especially in insider political circles, that his relentless updates on Twitter about his personal efforts to help residents dealing with the snow was a matter of grandstanding.

The most glaring public example of this criticism came from Governor Christie, in fact. As Jack Bohrer pointed out in an excellent article at Capital, the Governor snapped back at those pols who would “decide to be a showboat, hop on the back of a plow” and engage directly during the storm.

To my knowledge, Mayor Booker never directly responded to this criticism.

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American Legion Jersey Boys State: A Week That Shapes a Lifetime

Since 1945, New Jersey’s American Legion has conducted a week long seminar in state government and politics for young men about to begin their senior year of high school.  The program was designed to increase understanding how public policy is made and to instill a greater sense of civic duty in young leader’s with the potential to do great things.  In the sixty-five years since its inception, American Legion Jersey Boys State delegates have become notable public and private sector leaders.  Much has changed along the way, most importantly there’s now a Girls State program that runs parralell to the Boys State experience.

At the age of sixteen, I  

A Call to Public Service

“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. Aristotle tells us that ‘At the Olympic games it is not the finest and the strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists … So too in the life of the honorable and the good it is they who act rightly who win the prize.’ I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.” – Senator Robert F. Kennedy, June 6, 1966, Capetown, South Africa.

Yesterday’s arrest of forty-four individuals, including three mayors and two state lawmakers, came as no surprise to observers of New Jersey politics. Since 2001, over 100 elected officials have pled or been found guilty on corruption related charges. The list is long, and I fear that with each plea bargain and guilty verdict our people lose confidence in their ability to pursue social change and right what is wrong in our communities today. The situation we find ourselves in calls for a reorientation of the progressive agenda and the dedication of ourselves and our resources to the cause of reform.

American progressivism took shape because individuals summoned the moral courage to combat corruption. At the turn of the twentieth century, graft and bribe taking were part and parcel of political life. In spite of this, and against massive odds, progressive reformers refused to consign politics to the politicians and squared off against entrenched interests to accomplish the unthinkable: they won. Their work resulted in advancements in labor law, public health, environmental conservation, financial regulation, electoral reform, and most significant to today, the first campaign finance laws.

As the events of yesterday and the arrests of the last few years make clear, New Jersey has a problem with official corruption. We cannot rely on the ways of the past to change the culture of permissiveness that dominates Trenton and so many town halls across this state. We must insist that our elected officials close the loopholes in campaign finance laws that allow “wheeling,” the free flow of political contributions from county party to county party. We must insist upon the renewal and expansion of the Clean Elections Program. And most importantly, state lawmakers must finally implement a comprehensive ban on pay-to-play at all levels of state government.

New Jersey will mitigate the depth and breadth of corruption when we eliminate the corrosive influence of money in our political system. There are thousands of honest public servants who serve the people each day. Yet for too long right thinking members of both political parties have kept quiet on these issues for fear of finding themselves placed at a political disadvantage. With confidence in the system the lowest it’s been in living memory, our silence now equals complicity. Party interest must yield to the public good.

Today, in the aftermath of yet another embarrassing example of corruption, the myriad policy challenges confronting state and local government remain. We have differences in fiscal policy to resolve, inequalities to remedy, schools to improve, and an environment that deserves our protection. To move forward, public servants must work to regain the people’s confidence in the institutions of government. That will happen, not by denigrating public service, but by stepping into the arena and advocating the reforms necessary to recover our integrity.  We find ourselves engaged in a moral conflict.  We battle not only the enablers and perpetrators of corruption, but the forces of cynicism who say that changing New Jersey’s political culture is an impossible undertaking. This is a battle for the trust of the public we seek to serve. There are few better causes.  Whether one enters this moral conflict is an individual choice, but I have cause for optimism: New Jerseyans never shy away from a good fight.

In praise of public service

Yesterday’s arrest of forty-four individuals, including five mayors and two state lawmakers, on charges of corruption and money laundering comes as no surprise to observers of New Jersey politics.  That makes my blood boil.  At what point did corruption become so commonplace in our state that it was greeted by citizens with the shrug of a shoulder? When did we come to expect it?

Since 2001, over 100 elected officials have pled or been found guilty on corruption related charges.  The list is long, and I fear that with each plea bargain and guilty verdict our people lose confidence in their ability to pursue social change and right what is wrong in our communities today.

On June 6, 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoke before the National Union of South African Students at the University of Capetown.  Like Americans across the Atlantic, they were struggling with the realities of social and institutional racism.  Kennedy urged them not to lose hope that they could change society and encouraged them to enter the political arena:

Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. Aristotle tells us that ‘At the Olympic games it is not the finest and the strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists…. So too in the life of the honorable and the good it is they who act rightly who win the prize.’ I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.

Moral courage, the “vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”  Forty-three years later, those words still ring true.

Let’s End Profiteering From Public Service

Many of our elected officials on the State, County and local level are using their public office to financially reward themselves at taxpayer expense.  One example of this profiteering is elected officials, who are also attorneys, obtaining public business for themselves and their law firms by directly or indirectly using their position to do so.  This business is often obtained without competitive bidding.  As a result, these elected officials and their firms are getting rich and we taxpayers are paying for it.

Remembering Alan Lowenstein (1913-2007)

This morning at NJPAC, upwards of 1,000 people gathered to remember and celebrate the life of Alan Lowenstein, who died on May 8.  You may know Alan?s name as half of the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, but his 93-year legacy of public service and personal courage changed New Jersey and Newark permanently and for the better.

Born in Newark in 1913, Lowenstein was a link between America’s past and its future.  His grandmother heard President Abraham Lincoln speak on the steps of the Essex County Courthouse in 1863.  His “children” ? from Lowenstein Sandler and the Institute for Social Justice to the New Jersey Business Corporations Act and the right of Newarkers to directly elect their mayor ? affect us all still today.