OP-ED: Saving New Jersey Requires ‘Tough Discussions’ Now

I have been on the front lines fighting for the legislature to do its job and provide a legislative solution to recent Court opinions on affordable housing in the State. Even the NJ Supreme Court agrees that the legislature should do something, anything, on this issue.

As a result of recent court opinions, I drafted bills to stop the costly litigations currently taking place in every municipality so that all interested parties, including the NJ League of Municipalities, the Executive Director of the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, the Executive Director of Fair Share Housing, professional planners and members of the legislature can sit together and develop a better way to ensure affordability in this State for all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. The current plan to have over 280,000 new affordable units or 1.5 million additional total units in a state that is already the most densely populated with a population growth rate of less than 0.3 percent, along with being one of the States that most people are fleeing, is irrational at best.

My bills have received support from Democratic mayors and councils, Republican mayors and councils and communities that are split between political parties. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, this is one of the most important issues affecting every community in the State and if we, as legislators refuse to address it, we do not deserve to be legislators.

Unfortunately, many times elected officials are unwilling to step up to the plate to address the more difficult issues for fear of the backlash. It is exceptionally unfortunate that in today’s political climate, the immediate “go to” for those who disagree on an issue is to insinuate the other person is a racist or a bigot or a whole host of other items. Today I found myself just in that place. As a result of my trying to bring all parties to the table to properly address an incredibly complicated and difficult topic, the head of the Bergen County NAACP, provided a letter to the Bergen Record today accusing me of “fear mongering”, “trying to advance my political profile” and alleging that I am affirmatively trying to keep minorities out of our communities. Anyone who knows me knows how totally off base his letter is with respect to how I operate or what I believe. I have reached out to the State NAACP President to request a sit down to openly discuss this issue.

If we want our State to succeed we better start having the tough conversations now, while we still can. Wanting to figure out a better way to govern this State is a quality we want in everyone who represents us.