I (George Hathaway) and two tea party colleagues had a 2 hour conversation with Gerry Scharfenberger, the person in the state government who is spearheading the state strategic plan. Here is a summary of what happened:
Barbara Eames, George Hathaway and Lucy Tscherne met with Gerry Scharfenberger, Director, Office of Planning Advocacy, on Monday, 7/31, to reiterate our concerns with the Draft NJ State Plan and to get status on the redlined version.
Below is a short summary of our meeting.
Bottom line, Gerry was very accommodating. But, how the Plan actually reads does not correspond to what Gerry says the Plan does. We stressed this over and over again to him in our discussion, with quotes from the Plan itself as proof.
- You likely received notice this morning (attached) that two more public input sessions are scheduled in September. Per Gerry, these sessions will be on the same plan as was presented earlier this year…not any red-lined version, because the State Planning Commission has not yet approved any revisions to the draft Plan.
- Gerry said that we could meet with the Lt. Gov. or the Gov. but, most productive is working with his Team. The Lt. Gov. and the Gov. look to the OPA when it comes to details on the Plan.
- Gerry stressed that the plan is intended to protect local autonomy. We countered that the Plan does not say that and provided several quotes where the Plan infringes on local autonomy.
- The final Plan will have a glossary to define words like ‘equity’, which Gerry says means ‘financial equity’. We told him that the word ‘equity’, like the word ‘sustainability’ has a specific meaning in Agenda21 and the OPA should change the words.
- Gerry defined ‘sustainable development’ as not building a Quick Chek, and the necessary access roads, in the middle of farm country. See 4 above.
- The cross-acceptance process with local and county planners was relaxed for this Plan because of the costs in terms of questionnaires/consultants that the process required.
- We questioned the Plan statement that people want to live in smart growth communities, given this is not what the National Association of Realtors research shows. We said that the Plan must include a statement allowing a ‘choice of living environments’ by citizens.
- We made the distinction between regional industry clusters that grow organically and those the government creates. Gerry said that the Plan will support organic clusters and create new ones, based on key industries in the State.
- Gerry asked that we send the specific word changes we want to him and his staff. He said he would be receptive to a complete rewrite, although we are somewhat skeptical that it can happen.
- We discussed how one could get onto the State Planning Commission. He said there are currently 5 vacancies and all it takes is getting your name submitted via a state website and then getting confirmed by the Senate. Law dictates that an equal number of Republicans and Democrats be on the board. This might be an opportunity to have real impact, if someone wants to take a crack at it. A letter of recommendation from your State Senator or Assembly person would help.
I was mildly encouraged and will continue to pursue this with colleagues inside and outside our organization. I will be doing another rewrite of the plan for personal submission to Mr. Scharfenberger in September. This will be vetted through other tea party leaders prior to submission. Anyone who wants to participate in the process is welcome to contact me.
As a separate posting, we will advise you of the dates for the public comment sessions. The last round was very interesting and I hope that we can get a large Somerset County turnout for one or both.