Saturday, June 7, 2014

NJ GOP is not stronger than Superstorm Christie

For those readers old enough to remember, this image is a parody of the fierce reaction to President Gerald Ford's infamous but false response to NY City's 1970's financial crisis. Even though he never said those words, he might as well have because his reaction to the city's request for financial help was part of his political undoing. 

My point is not to rehash what happened 40 years ago so, gentle readers, please limit your comments to current events. If you want the back story, read this NY Times piece. In a nutshell it was a classic case of liberal vs. conservative values locked in a game of Chicken. The only difference is that unlike many of today's elected officials, both sides blinked: they came together and worked it out. 


With 30 years’ hindsight, some of the players say that if Mr. Ford had acquiesced to the city’s appeals months or even weeks earlier, New York might never have recovered. 

“Ford was good for New York, because he made us clean up our act,” said Henry J. Stern, a former parks commissioner and city councilman.
 

On balance, investment banker Felix G. Rohatyn said, “I think he was a plus. Ford did change his mind, and you can’t say that about every president.”
 

Edward I. Koch, who succeeded Mr. Beame, said of Mr. Ford: “Obviously he was persuaded his original position was wrong, and that shows a great man open to change. I hold nothing against him. And there are very few people, even when they’re dead, that I hold nothing against.”


2014: This isn't Ronald Reagan's version of bipartisanship

While worshipping at the feet of the tax-raising, deficit-raising, federal spending-raising, amnesty-giving, Ronald Reagan, Gov. Christie forgets that despite their political and philosophical differences, Reagan and then House Speaker Tip O'Neill had a good working relationship. Although Christie touts his ability to work across the aisle, he and Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney are no 'Tip and the Gip'. Case in point: last month he conditionally vetoed the 'Sandy Bill of Rights'.


The bill (S1306), sponsored by Sweeney (D-Gloucester), passed the state Senate 34-0 in March. But Christie conditionally vetoed it on May 12 — proposing more than 150 changes and removing entire sections — including the bill’s name.

... "including the bill's name" because in Gov. Christie's eyes, people who've lost everything, who've been homeless for over a year and a half, who've endured endless days, weeks and months of bureaucratic runaround, who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their neighborhoods, their schools—their entire way of life—who still can't find decent temporary housing don't deserve to be treated with basic human dignity. They don't deserve a Bill of Rights. Maybe because they can't write big donation checks to the RNC.

But according to Christie, what they do deserve is $5 million in taxpayer dollars given to a politically connected firm to create "Stronger Than The Storm" tourism re-election ads prominently featuring him and his family because, you know, nothing says Jersey Shore like the Christie family sitting on a beach during campaign season!


A whole new game of Chicken

I've been trying to find the right adjective to describe the behavior of Senate Republicans. Sorry, I can't dig down far enough into the sewer, so I will let them speak for themselves:


In a letter today to Sweeney on behalf of his members, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union) said they won’t be voting against the governor. 
“While we support much of the concept behind Senate bill 1306, we do not believe it will achieve these worthy goals if enacted in its current form,” Kean wrote. “As stated in the Governor’s conditional veto, provisions of S-1306 are in direct conflict with numerous federal laws and regulations and the original version could harm the very people it intends to help.” 
Kean also said the bill would force New Jersey to “prioritize” aid for Spanish speakers “if the original outreach efforts were not deemed sufficient.”
Sweeney in a statement called Kean's letter "disgusting" and "sickening." 
"This is the height of hypocrisy. The Republican members of the Legislature are so scared of doing anything in opposition of this governor that they won't even support getting basic answers and information to people who've lost their homes. It's disgusting. There was nothing wrong with this bill when they all voted for it in March and now, suddenly, they all oppose the exact same bill. This is sickening. And the worst part is their cowardice is merely punishing folks who've already lost so much."
The bill was written in response to complaints from residents and businesses about the slow pace of Sandy aid distribution.

What in God's name happened between the time that vote was taken and Christie red-lined that bill? My guess is that, as he has been rumored to do, he paid a little visit to the state Republican caucus and ripped a few people a new one. Pretty easy to do when you are Fundraiser in Chief for your national party, and your 'bipartisanship' consists of bullying and intimidating anyone and everyone in Trenton without a backbone.

What's so terribly, horribly wrong with S1306:

For all you policy wonks, here's the bill that the Office of Legislative Services approved, and here's his conditional veto.

The bill clearly says that anything in it that is contrary to federal rules gives deference to those rules, so the complaint that some of it is not compliant with federal guidelines is patently false.

Is it my imagination or do a lot of the vetoed items seem petty and self-serving? For example:

He doesn't want you to know how much damage Superstorm Sandy Caused:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 13: Delete “inflicted more than $36 billion of damage on New Jersey,”

He doesn't want you to know that recovery efforts are far from complete:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 18: Delete “far from” and insert “not yet”

He doesn't want you to know that too many people have been victimized by his botched handling of the relief effort, even though this bill passed with bipartisan support:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 19: Delete “Since the recovery effort began, too many victimized” and insert “Recognizing that there are numerous challenges associated with the efficient and expedient distribution of federal recovery resources following a disaster of the scale of Superstorm Sandy, the processes for

He doesn't want you to know that there are problems:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 22: Delete “These problems”

He doesn't want certain Sandy victims to have rights (this is actually line 31):
Page 3, Section 3, Line 32: Delete “, shall have the following rights” and insert “is treated fairly in that process”

He doesn't want storm victims to have the right to appeal an "award amount, a placement on a waiting list, a contractor selection, or any other decision that the applicant might reasonably view as unfavorable." Seriously?!?
Page 3, Section 3, Lines 44-46: Delete in their entirety

And possibly the most damaging red line to Sandy victims is the fact that he doesn't want any information that is available in English to also be available in Spanish. Here's what the bill says:
6 (7) The right to access all information on recovery and 
7 rebuilding programs in both English and Spanish. Whether online, 
8 over the telephone, or through in-person communications, all 
9 information provided on a recovery and rebuilding program in 
English 1 [must] shall1 
10 be available concurrently, accurately, and 
11 comprehensively in Spanish, and in any other languages required 
pursuant to State or federal law1 12 . 

Here's his conditional veto:
Page 6, Section 3, Lines 1-15: Delete in their entirety

Read it for yourself, folks. I'm not making this stuff up.

With micromanagement like this, does anyone really believe he didn't know what happened on the GWB?

Not stronger than the storm

Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and the rest of the Trenton GOP are boarding up their shops and issuing an evacuation order against the threat of Superstorm Christie. This is a disgrace and it's a slap in the face of every man, woman and child who is still homeless some 20 months post-Sandy.

But grass-roots organizations like New Jersey Working Families and Fair Share Housing have been pressuring state agencies to indeed be 'stronger than the [Christie] storm'. Just yesterday it was announced that
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency's board voted 6-0 to approve new guidelines for distribution of a second round of 4190 million in federal money for the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing.

Time for action

On June 12, the state legislature will attempt to override Gov. Christie's veto of the Sandy Bill of Rights. Here's what you can do:
  1. Contact your state legislator and demand that he/she votes with the override. There's a link to their contact info on the right side of this page. 
  2. Send a Tweet to the following legislators and urge them to support the override:
    Sen. Tom Kean: @TomKean
    Sen. Jen Beck: @JenBeckNJ
    Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-Ocean): @JimHolzapfel
    Sen. Bob Singer (R-Monmouth & Ocean): @BobSingerNJ


Final thoughts

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gov. Christie doesn't care about you or me. He doesn't care about the middle class or the poor or single mothers or children or teachers or cops or firefighters or senior citizens or minorities or the LGBT community or public schools or anything or anyone else he has screwed over in the past 5 years because they can't further his political ambitions. And now we can add Sandy victims. There is only one person Chris Christie cares about: Chris Christie.



George, you nailed it.