Governor Chris Christie said that he his inclined to not renew New Jersey’s Red Light Camera program when the five year experiment expires in December.
Speaking at a press conference in Sea Bright yesterday afternoon, the governor feigned surprise that Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon is opposed to the RLC program. O’Scanlon has waged a ferocious multi-year campaign against the cameras, producing independent data showing that the cameras increase accidents at intersections where they are installed, that they are often timed to entrap drivers and alleging that they are nothing more than a money grab on the part of the companies that operate them and the municipalities that deploy them.
Christie said he has not studied the issue to the extent that O’Scanlon has, “but I will, ” he said, “I have some concerns. At this point I am not inclined to allow them to continue, but I haven’t made a final decision yet.”
Karen Finley, former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc, one of two Red Light Camera companies operating in New Jersey, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago last week on bribery charges.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, New Jersey’s fiercest opponent of Red Light Cameras, says that is not a surprise:
“Well this is a shocking turn of events, said no one! If cameras actually increased safety no one would have to bribe anyone for business – we’d all be lining up! How any public entity can continue to do business with Redflex in particular, but really any of these companies pitching these ineffective, thieving cameras is beyond me. Is the lure of fast cash so strong we have decided that morality doesn’t matter? We now have multiple pieces of evidence of corruption reaching the highest levels of one of the two companies operating these cameras in New Jersey. Both companies are guilty of blatantly lying about their products and misrepresenting data.”
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon said he supports the Borough of Oceanport’s efforts to prevent a crematorium from being built in a residential neighborhood.
“I am concerned with the process and the minimal amount of communication,” said O’Scanlon. “The fact that the only public notification of this pending permit was published in the Home News Tribune, which is not even distributed in the Borough, is hardly adequate notice.”
“I have seconded the municipal request for a public hearing so that all the facets of this permit request can be discussed and the residents have an opportunity to voice their concerns,” O’Scanlon explained. “Projects such as this should never be implemented behind closed doors. I plan on remaining involved in this issue to see that all concerns are addressed.”
Oceanport Borough Administrator John Bennett was surprised last week when he was informed by the Department of Environmental Protection that Woodbine Cemetery had applied for an Air Pollution Control permit. As Acting Governor in 2002, Bennett signed legislation that required crematoriums be approved by the governing bodies of the municipalities where they were proposed. That legislation was repealed in 2011. The current law gives the New Jersey Cemetery Board the authority to approve crematorium construction permits. The majority of the Cemetery Board is comprised of owners or managers of cemeteries.
Legislation will prohibit NJ drivers’ information from being shared with private companies for purposes of speed or red-light camera enforcement
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon announced today that he has filed legislation that will not allow New Jersey drivers to be preyed upon by red-light or speed-camera manufacturers that operate in other States. This legislation was modeled after a South Dakota statute that passed both houses and was signed into law by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard this year.
“New Jersey’s red light camera program, mercifully, appears to be headed towards certain death this December – and we already wisely ban speed camera enforcement – but these systems continue to operate in neighboring states where our drivers often commute,” O’Scanlon explained. “These systems have proven to be error-ridden and non-effective so we shouldn’t allow our motorists to be preyed upon when they are outside of our borders. By continuing to share this information – now that the evidence is clear that these systems don’t improve safety – New Jersey would essentially become complicit in the scam. And that’s exactly what these systems are – government sanctioned theft. If you set yellow light times and speed limits based on sound engineering criteria you end up with the safest roadways. You also eliminate the profits in these systems.”
The bill will prohibit the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission from sharing residents’ license plate information with the private companies operating these systems for the purposes of speed-camera and red-light camera citations.
Beck: “Hubris and Ego have no place in this recovery process. We have all made some mistakes. Now we need to fix them.”
Thomas P. Largey, 82, and Senate President Steve Sweeney talk in Largey’s gutted Sea Bright home prior to Sweeney’s press conference. May 30, 2014. Photo by Art Gallagher
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 Presslast 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.”
New bill reauthorizes regional contribution agreements for Sandy affected counties
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon will introduce new legislation tomorrow that reauthorizes regional contribution agreements (RCAs) between towns in the nine most Superstorm Sandy-impacted counties. These agreements will permit the transfer of housing units to count towards a recipient municipality’s fair share obligation. These types of agreements were originally permitted under the Coalition On Affordable Housing where one town could transfer a portion of its affordable housing obligation to another. RCAs were banned in 2008.
“I’ve always said that the law banning RCAs was shortsighted,” explained O’Scanlon. “I want to go on record saying I disagree with this far reaching court-mandated housing scheme. But if we have to have it, there should be a mix of options for municipalities to deal with it. “Mayor John Hornik of Marlboro recently revived the discussion of RCAs in relation to those areas affected by Sandy. We have seized on that common ground and developed legislation reauthorizing RCAs to help facilitate the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of housing in areas hardest hit by Sandy. We can finally put these funds to work creating affordable housing and helping towns recover from the storm at the same time. I look forward to working with Mayor Hornik on this as we work to persuade the legislative leadership to join the effort.”
When Gov. Christie came to office in 2010, he took action to address the biggest problem New Jerseyans have faced for decades – property taxes. Working with the Legislature, historic tax reforms were signed into law. These included a two percent limit on property tax levies, increased health and pension contributions by public employees and a two percent cap on awards arbitrators can grant when towns and their unions can’t agree on a contract.
These cost control tools are working. Recent property tax data shows the average property tax bill grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 and by the lowest consistent rate in decades since the reforms were passed. While our ultimate goal is to actually cut property taxes, slowing their growth is an essential first step.
The clock is now counting down to the destruction of the delicate framework that has successfully controlled our property taxes. An essential component of that framework – the arbitration award cap which enables local officials to control their largest costs – expired on April 1 of this year. The first contracts exempt from the cap will expire in June. That will be a disaster for property taxpayers throughout New Jersey. Without an honest and effective arbitration award cap, the property tax cap will fail.
The state’s interest arbitration cap law is one of the primary reasons we have turned the tide on the escalation of property taxes. According to the Public Employment Relations Commission, from January 2011 (when the arbitration law took effect) to September 2013, average raises in local contracts, whether through arbitration or negotiations, were 1.86 percent — the lowest in at least 20 years.
Citing the shortage of federal and state funds available to assist Superstorm Sandy impacted homeowners in rebuilding their homes, the Middletown Township Committtee this week joined Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon in calling on the state legislature and Governor Chris Christie to put the more than $100 million in Affordable Housing Funds that are sitting dormant to work.
With a unanimous 5-0 vote, the committee passed a resolution on Monday, April 21, calling for legislation that would reinstate Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs) “for the limited purpose of getting victims of Superstorm Sandy back in their homes during this time of need.”
RCAs were created in the original 1985 Fair Housing Act whereby towns with funds raised from developer fees or through bonding could transfer up to half of those funds to another community for the purpose of building affordable housing as required by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mt. Laurel decision.
Both the State Senate and General Assembly passed the bill that would blow a hole in municipal budgets for the next four years, the “extension” of the 2% Interest Arbitration Cap for police and firefighters base salaries that did not really cap those salaries. Had the bill become law, there would have been a massive cut in municipal services throughout New Jersey or property taxes would have started rising again at levels we experienced during the Corzine/Codey/McGreevey administrations.
But Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the bill and the Senate quickly concurred with the changes he made to the bill which kept the cap intact through December 2017 by a vote of 33-1. Christie’s office announced the conditional veto and the Senate’s concurrence in the same press release.
One has to wonder why the Senate went through the exercise of passing the “bad bill” in the first place, by a vote of 28-7, only to abandon the changes it made to the existing Interest Arbitration Cap and, for the most part, extend the existing law for another four years, so quickly. Without the Senate’s concurrence to Christie’s conditional veto, the cap on arbitration awards would expire on April 1st. Either the “bad bill” or the expiration of the cap would have been a victory for the Trenton Democrats benefactors in the police and firefighters unions.
The unions may still have their victory. Before the Assembly could take a vote on concurring with Christie’s conditional veto, Speaker Vincent Prieto abruptly adjourned the session. No Assembly session has been scheduled, yet, to take up the concurrence prior to April 1.
Below is a video of Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon’s floor speak before the chamber voted on the “bad bill.” As usual, O’Scanlon makes is case and fights for New Jersey taxpayers very well.
New Jersey property taxes will likely resume the double digit annual growth that occurred under the McGreevey, Codey and Corzine Administrations if Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s version of the of the Interest Arbitration extension becomes law. Either that, or municipal governments as we know them will cease to exist, succumbing to a long and painful death of higher crime and reduced services and capital improvements.
A 2% cap on interest arbitration awards in labor disputes was a key component of the 2% property tax cap negotiated between Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Prieto’s predecessor, Sheila Oliver in 2010. It worked. Arbitrators made awards of less that 2% to police and fire fighters unions and property taxes rose less than 2% per year over the last four years.
The problem is Oliver insisted that the arbitration cap expire on April 1, 2014. Now, we’re a week before the arbitration cap expires and Prietro is gutting the cap by passing an extension of the law that exempts contracts that were awarded less than 2% during the last three years from any future caps and raises the cap to 3% on contracts that have not been negotiated since 2010.
The math will never work. If property taxes stay capped at 2% but the primary cost of property taxes, salaries, are not capped or are capped at 3%, municipal services will disappear. Police will be laid off, with the junior, lower paid officers being let go first, leaving the older and more highly paid officers to run drown the inevitable increase in crime. Towns will go bust. The state will take over municipal governments and force consolidations.