Beck: “Hubris and Ego have no place in this recovery process. We have all made some mistakes. Now we need to fix them.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney held a politically charged press conference in a partially gutted Sea Bright home this morning, ostensibly to create political pressure on Republicans in the State Legislature to join Democrats in overriding Governor Chris Christie’s conditional veto of the Sandy Bill of Rights.
Sweeney’s comments sounded like a campaign rally against Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, Senator Jennifer Beck and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, JR.
The “Sandy Bill of Rights” passed both houses of the State Legislature unanimously in March. Christie conditionally vetoed the bill earlier this month, making over 150 changes to it. Some of the changes were to bring the law into compliance with federal Housing and Urban Development regulations, others removed what Christie called “partisan language.” One of Christie changes removed the requirement on the State that applicants for RREM grants be able to access the status of their applications online.
Sweeney penned an OpEd published in The Asbury Park Press last week wherein he appealed to Republican legislators who had unanimously voted for his bill “to do something they have yet to do under this (Christie) administration, and that’s to put aside their partisanship and override the governor’s veto.”
O’Scanlon responded with an OpEd of his own, wherein he said, “after further analysis we found a number of critical flaws that the Governor wisely and reasonably addresses in his conditional veto.”
Specifically, O’Scanlon wrote that the provision in Sweeney’s bill that required applications not responded to by the State within 50 days be automatically approved would prompt HUD to rescind funds and cause applications to be denied in defense of the 50 day time clock rather than being evaluated on their merits. Additionally, O’Scanlon wrote that Sweeney’s provision that Spanish speaking residents who did not understand the RREM program because translators were not available be given priority in the second round of RREM funded violated HUD’s policy that grants be based solely on need, not race.
Also, O’Scanlon wrote that the Sandy Bill of Rights requires that 60% of the Resettlement grants go to low and moderate income housing (LMI). “Every eligible LMI resident has already received a Resettlement grant and that does not add up to 60% of the 18,000 that applied. The Sandy Bill is asking us to do the impossible. We cannot create LMI folks or mandate something that does not exist.
Sweeney angrily rejected O’Scanlon’s OpEd as “a load of crap.”
The Senate President chided O’Scanlon for not showing up at the press conference in his distirct, “I want to debate O’Scanlon on this in public, in front of cameras.” Informed by MMM that O’Scanlon said he had not been invited to the press conference, Sweeney said, “that’s not true.” “Hold him there, I’ll be over in 10 minutes,” O’Scanlon said when informed of Sweeney’s remarks by MMM. Sweeney and the NJTV and News12 cameras had already left.
Sweeney said he invited O’Scanlon as well as Senator Joe Kryillos and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin to the press conference. Handlin said she had not been invited. Kryillos said that not only was he not invited, he was unaware of the press conference until MMM mentioned it to him.
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long said that she had not been invited to the event either, but read that it was happening in The Asbury Park Press. (The APP did not have a reporter covering the event). “Anytime a member of the legislature comes to Sea Bright, it is a good thing,” Long said in a phone interview, “it shows that they care and keeps them aware of our ongoing recovery.”
Long said the Largey residence where Sweeney held the press conference is not the elderly couple’s permanent residence.
Thomas J. Largey, 57, the son of Thomas P. Largey and Joan Largey, 82 and 81, spoke out vehemently against Long and Republican office holders in Sea Bright, the 13th district and Monmouth County during his remarks. The younger Largey has been at outspoken critic of the Christie Administration’s Sandy Recovery efforts at Christie’s Town Hall Meetings and other appearances by the governor at the shore. An attorney, the younger Largey said he was a left leaning Democrat and is considering running for local office in Sea Bright.
UPDATE: The younger Tom Largey called to say the the home is indeed his and his parents primary residence.
UPDATED, June 12, 2014: Mayor Long contacted MMM yesterday to correct “the factually inaccurate statement” attributed to her in this story. “Mr. And Mrs. Thomas C. Largey are, in fact, permanent residents of Sea Bright. It was a mistake to suggest otherwise. I deeply regret causing additional stress to Mr. and Mrs. Largey, who already suffered so much,” Long said in a prepared statement.
Sweeney said that O’Scanlon put his name to the OpEd for Senator Jennifer Beck, who wouldn’t publish it under her own name because she helped write the bill in caucus, and stood on the Senate floor and thanked Sweeney for pushing the bill.
Beck said that O’Scanlon wrote the OpEd, though they had both discussed the four critical flaws of the bill that the OpEd addresses. Beck noted that she abstained from the bill in committee and voted for it after working with Sweeney’s staffer Kevin Drennan to correct flaws in the bill that had passes committee. “I thought be fixed all the flaws,” Beck said explaining her vote for the bill, “we made mistakes. This is not that big a deal. We should correct the flaws and pass a new bill.”
Beck said she was surprised and taken aback by Sweeney’s attack. “We’ve always worked well together,” Beck said of her relationship with Sweeney, “he knows I am an honest broker.”
Beck said the four critical flaws in the bill are 1) the requirement that applications that are not answered in 50 days be automatically approved, 2) the requirement that Spanish speaking residents be given preferential treatment, 3) the requirement that 60% of Resettlement grants go to LMI residents and 4) the provision that this bill apply to all future natural disasters.
Kean JR wrote to Sweeney yesterday to inform him that the Senate Republicans would not be voting to override Christie’s veto of the bill.
“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.”
Sweeney said that Kean was tough enough to stand up to Christie when his own job as Minority Leader was on the line, a reference to Christie trying to have Kean replaced as Minority Leader by Senator Kevin O’Toole the day after election day last November. “He’s tough enough to fight for his own job,” Sweeney said of the former governor’s son, “but not for the people impacted by Sandy who need the help this bill provides.”
Sweeney said he is not interested in working with O’Scanlon or Beck in fixing the flaws in the bill, even should his attempt to have Christie’s veto overridden fail. “There are no flaws in the bill, or they wouldn’t have voted for it in the first place. If we give him (Christie) a new bill, he will veto that and the Republicans will find another reason not to override.”
Beck said that Sweeney doesn’t have his facts straight or understand all the HUD requirements. “He’s trying to swoop in here and make a splash, but we’re working day in and day out trying to help people through this arduous process,” Beck said, “ego and hubris have no place in this recovery process. We made some mistakes, we’re all human. Now we need to fix them.”