UPDATE 2: George Norcross himself has now responded to the letter from Frank Lautenberg to Secretary Duncan asking for a review of the Rutgers Rowan Merger. So much for my prediction that he would attempt to lay low on this one.
I think Senator Frank Lautenberg has been a phenomenal representative for northern New Jersey. But on this issue, rather than taking cheap shots like a typical Washington politician, the Senator should be rolling up his sleeves and be part of a solution for a higher education model that strengthens Rutgers, Rowan, Newark and our region. Camden is not in the State of Maine, it’s in New Jersey and desperately needs the Senator’s help, not his hysteria. We should all be embarrassed that New Jersey ranks third to last in the United States on higher education funding. Rather than provoking a political food fight on this, let’s focus our efforts on fixing that disgusting blemish & improving higher education in our State and region.
Does anyone else find it odd that the machine politicians in South Jersey are so adverse to a mere review of their plan?
UPDATE: According to the Burlington County Times, the US Department of Education has announced that they will be reviewing the takeover plan for Rutgers Camden. I am sure this will make the merger proponents, whom could all likely fit in an phone booth together, unhappy. Nothing like a federal review to shine some much needed light on a shady plan. I got word of this literally minutes after publishing my initial story.
Recently Senator Lautenberg woke up and issued a letter to Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, requesting that he take a look at the proposed takeover of Rutgers Camden by George Norcross and Rowan University. Lautenberg’s letter trumpeted some of the key points being raised by the anti-merger crowd, and also raised some points not often made. The Senator also called the plan out as a political deal rather than one being based on the interests of the region or the students. He could not have been more correct.
Well today it was time for Sweeney to respond, because a response from George Norcross himself would have just been too risky at this point. Sweeney sent around a press release that was co-signed by a long list of legislators.
The humorous thing about this statement is that aside from sticking up for Cooper Hospital, because well, Sweeney has to do that, it really does not attack Lautenberg on any of the points he made in his letter. Instead it ignores the arguments of what damage this plan will do to South Jersey and its students while attacking Lautenberg personally.
Sweeney calls Lautenberg’s request for review of the merger plan “vengeful.” Talk about overkill. Lautenberg is requesting a review, based on this response you would think he asked the Department of Defense to send in SEAL Team 6 to stop the merger and take out its proponents. He then attacks Lautenberg for not fighting for more higher education funding from the federal government for our state. This is a valid complaint, I suppose. Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with this issue in any way, but lets not let that get in the way of putting it in print and emailing it to everyone in the media.
Then we come to my favorite attack, one that overflows with hypocrisy and a hint of willful ignorance.
He seems to forget that he was elected to represent all the people of New Jersey, not just those who live north of Trenton. On issue after issue, Sen. Lautenberg has been missing in action when it comes to the problems and concerns of his constituents in this region.
On a normal day, I would probably agree with this. Senator Lautenberg barely campaigns in South Jersey, and can probably count the number of people he knows down here on his two hands. He has almost never done anything that has represented my interests or views as a South Jersey resident. That is, until now.
Lautenberg may not travel below I-195 all that often, but unlike some people down here he knows how to read a poll and the headlines. The people of South Jersey do not want this merger. They recognize a dirty deal when they see one, and they know who this is really meant to benefit, and its not the students or the region.
What is really so funny about this statement is that yes, Senator Lautenberg is supposed to represent all of New Jersey. Again, only 22% of New Jersey supports this plan, and I think if a new poll were to be taken it would be even less. However, Senator Sweeney and the other officials who signed on to this letter are supposed to represent this region specifically! Instead of standing up to their respective bosses and doing what their constituents wants, they are fighting the people of this region with an awfully dismissive tone. Sweeney even went so far as to call concerned students and faculty a “lynch mob” if you recall.
For the first time since I can remember, Frank Lautenberg is actually doing his job down in this part of the state, and as is usually the case, our local legislators are walking around with their eyes and ears closed to the voice of the people they are supposedly here to represent.
In closing, I just want to say that I am deeply disappointed in Senator Diane Allen and Senator Dawn Addiego for their participation in this press release. The co-signers at the bottom reads like a list of Norcross puppets, and then these two. I applaud Assemblymen Rudder and Brown, the only other Republicans down here, for not following the lead of their running mate and selling out to Norcross as well. Let Sweeney and the Democrats bash each other all day long on this and other issues, Addiego and Allen have no reason to be on this press release. They have nothing to gain, and much to lose, by standing on the wrong side of this issue.
So, Save Jerseyans, I know the vast majority of you are against the takeover. Now that the legislature is likely going to be the vehicle by which the plan will need to be implemented, let the lobbying begin, and let it start with these two. Light their phones and inboxes up. It is bad enough that we have to deal with Democrats selling out to the machine down here, we don’t need Republicans doing the same.
Senator Dawn Addiego (R-LD8):
Senator Diane Allen (R-LD7):