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Friday, December 16, 2011

Bailing Out New Jersey's Cities

The Transitional Aid Bill passed the N.J. Senate by a count of 35-4. 12 of the 16 Republicans supported sending more tax dollars to the cities at the expense of suburban taxpayers.  Effectually, it means the suburbs are bailing out New Jersey’s cities – once again.

Gov. Chris Christie has been battling with the Legislature over this bill for over six months.  Using a line item veto in June, the governor striped money from the Democrats’ budget, leaving just $10 million.  The revived measure restores $139 million in aid to the state budget that Christie had removed earlier.  Christine insisted on $1.5 million for oversight of the funds before he would sign the measure to allow the aid.

The Assembly passed the measure last week.  However, the Senate rewrote some language before approving it 35-5 on Thursday.  The Assembly passed it 53-16.  Neither chamber even bothered to debate the measure.  Christine “guaranteed” his signature, giving a nod to the Legislature’s “recognition that much-needed aid for our urban cities must go hand-in-hand with common sense and permanent oversight.”

The governor took objection to Democrats removing a clause that designated 1 percent of the total for oversight of the cities, and he refused to sign any bill restoring the aid without it.  For their part, Democrats insisted that every cent should go directly to the cities, rather than for “bureaucratic” supervision.  In the proposal that passed Thursday, Democrats got around Christie’s requirement by adding $1.5 million to the bill — on top of the original $139 million — for the supervision

Now the legislation is headed to the governor’s office.  The money, called transitional aid, is intended to help cities in fiscal distress. The oversight, which began when Christie took office, gives the state Department of Community Affairs power over hiring and firing, and requires city officials to confer with the department over how best to spend the money.

The aid will be distributed to eleven cities:  Camden, $61.4 million; Trenton, $22 million; Paterson, $21 million. Union City, Asbury Park, Lawnside, Chesilhurst, Harrison, Maurice River, Penns Grove, and Prospect Park will share the rest.
Governor Christie wants an amendment to the $140.5M Transitional Aid bill. He needs to hear from us on this.  Let him know taxpayers can't afford to see tens of millions more wasted to bail out Newark, Camden and other urban areas. It's time for these cities to stand on their own two feet without suburban and rural taxpayers subsidizing them. Ask him to veto this bill in any form it may take.   The telephone number for the governor’s office is 609-292-6000.

Passing this bill will make New Jersey’s suburbs much like Germany to the southern European Union countries – Greece, Spain, Italy.  They can’t continue to be expected to bail out these fiscally mis-managed, socialist countries.  Neither can New Jersey’s suburbs.  The last thing New Jersey needs is to squander hundreds of millions more of our tax dollars in poorly-run cities like Newark and Camden.  But that’s exactly what the state Legislature proposes to do with this bill that would send a whopping $140.5 million in so-called Transitional Aid to these urban centers of waste and corruption.  Gov. Christie has done his best to at least make sure the money isn’t mismanaged.  The N.J. Senate, in gratitude for his willingness to “compromise” was tack on another 1.5 million to the bill.

Last night, Glenn Beck hailed Walt Disney for promoting centralized, family-oriented communities, with town squares.  Walt Disney was a great man and a great conservative.  The Great Society of Lyndon Johnson destroyed any prospect for centralized communities.  The people who moved from New York City to New Jersey’s suburbs came here to get away from the crime, the bureaucracy, and the high taxes the centralized plan of Socialism created.  Those parents of the late Fifties and Sixties – my own and my former sister-in-law’s included  - wanted those isolated cul-de-sacs and far-flung developments up very long, winding roads to avoid the crime and the violence they’d left in the cities.

When my mother was growing up in the Lake Edenwald section of the Bronx, New York, in the 1930s (the Great Depression), Lake Edenwald had exactly the community spirit Disney would later envision.  Every morning, the housewives would come out and sweep not just their sections of the sidewalk but the street as well, right up to the center of the road.  There they’d gather together and gossip for awhile, then sweep up the dustings and go back home to their housework.

They kept an eye out for each other’s children, as well.  Not just to make sure they were safe, but to make sure they obeyed all the rules.  If a child dropped a candy wrapper in the street, their mother got the news before they got through the front door, and the child was sent back to retrieve their garbage. 

The increasing litigiousness of American society, as well as the inbred suspicions of the former city dwellers, made them more cautious about getting involved even with their near neighbors.  As the generations came and went, that phobia wore off.  Still, there is a tendency towards nosiness and bossiness amongst neighbors.  That’s why people prefer to have their own property.  Whether or not the Constitution grants Americans a right to privacy, privacy is something they cherish all the same.

This is far off the track of Transitional Aid to urban blight cities in New Jersey.  Suburbanites want to be good neighbors.  That doesn’t mean they want to or should be the keepers of irresponsible neighbors.  Even in great-grandma’s day, good Americans knew redistribution of wealth when they saw it in the form of lazy, shiftless people or corrupt politicians.  Gov. Christie was more than generous in agreeing to sign the bill; our Democrat State Senate – with the whole-hearted consent of our Republican representatives – took advantage of his offer.

Those cities mismanaged their own money.  They should rise and fall by their own efforts.  The residents may suffer, but then, they elected these people.  If they complain of ignorance, one could wonder whether they should forfeit the right to vote.  They’re smart enough, though, to vote our money into their pockets.

Don’t do it, Gov. Christie.  You’re a good, decent man, with honorable intentions.  But don’t sign that bill.


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