Diverse Groups Call For Smart Use of Stimulus Funds
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2009
Peter Kasabach, New Jersey Future (609) 393-0008
David Pringle, New Jersey Environmental Federation (732)-996-4288
Zoe Baldwin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign (609) 271-0778
Carleton Montgomery, Pinelands Preservation Alliance (609) 859-8860
Arnold Cohen, Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey (609) 393-3752
A diverse coalition of nonprofit organizations from the environmental, housing, planning and transportation sectors expressed concern today that the state is spending large amounts of economic stimulus funds without any publicly stated policy priorities beyond creating jobs and meeting ready-to-proceed deadlines.
“New money for infrastructure in New Jersey presents an important opportunity to invest in smart growth – rebuilding our roads, towns and cities – and to avoid subsidizing sprawl,” said Peter Kasabach of New Jersey Future. “These times of economic crisis, shrinking budgets, and growing competition for land and water provide a unique opportunity for bold action to improve the economic, environmental and social quality of life in New Jersey.”
“The state’s spending billions in short-term economic stimulus funds without any publicly stated policy priorities beyond creating jobs and meeting ready-to-proceed deadlines and needlessly so,” said David Pringle of the NJ Environmental Federation. “We’re also concerned the state’s backsliding on past commitments for longer term stimulus like more stringent building codes and greater reliance on clean, renewable energy sources.”
The groups laid out a set of spending principles that would ensure these funds make a more significant, strictly positive impact on the State of New Jersey. They said that they have been in contact with Gov. Corzine’s office to endorse these principles over the past month but they have yet to get an affirmative response even for a requested meeting.
“A lot of stimulus money is going into sewer plants and other water-related infrastructure. It’s vital this money be spent to improve water quality by upgrading the treatment of existing wastewater flows. It must not be spent on projects that will degrade water quality by providing more sewer capacity for sprawling development of forests and farm fields. We’re looking to the Governor and state officials to make sure the money is not spent on promoting sprawl,” saidCarleton Montgomery of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
“Million of dollars are coming to New Jersey through the Community Development Block Grants. It’s an opportunity to rebuild our communities through energy efficient rehabs and new construction to make housing more affordable for residents,” said Arnold Cohen of the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ.
“We hold to President Obama’s promise of transparency for the spending of Stimulus dollars as, ‘not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back that trust in government.’ Our coalition’s principles are core values and provide guidance toward transparency. The fact that Governor Corzine has ignored our repeated requests to discuss these vital principles casts a dark shadow,” said Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action.
The groups highlighted several projects that did and did not meet their principles criteria.
“Adherence to a fix-it-first policy and continued advancement of key transit projects, like the new Hudson rail tunnel, are necessary if NJ is to sustainably maintain and maximize its transportation infrastructure,” said Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We can’t build our way out of congestion, so let’s be smart and fund projects that integrate land-use and maintain a state of good repair on our existing network.”
“We urge the Governor to use federal stimulus dollars on projects that are consistent with the Highlands Regional Master Plan, the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan and the new Water Quality Management Planning rules. Projects such as the proposed expansion of the Garden State Parkway in the Pinelands and Rt. 206 in the Highlands are not consistent with these regional plans and goals.” said Michele S. Byers of the NJ Conservation Foundation. “Capacity-based planning is needed throughout New Jersey to protect our natural resources.”
“Every corner of the state suffers from crumbling water and sewer infrastructure, which wastes water and threatens public health. These stimulus funds must be used to repair the leaks and improve the treatment of our water, and not to expand sprawl-inducing infrastructure that just compounds the problem,” said Jim Waltman of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
Additional coalition partners include: American Littoral Society, Association of NJ Environmental Commissions, Edison Wetlands Association, NJ Audubon, NJ Highlands Coalition, PlanSmart NJ, and Trust for Public Land.