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What doesn't the NJ Legislature get?

Message Constance Lavender

This is not a partisan appeal, nor is it a partisan is, quite simply, a question for every legislator in the NJ General Assembly and the NJ State Senate. It is a question for every Nrew Jersey county or municipal official.

After the conviction of over 100 public officials, after the indictment of eleven more last week, and after a long and unsavory history of public corruption and unethical practices (e.g. dual-office holding, pay-to-play, wheeling, Christmas tree budget items, to name just a few), exactly what do you people not get? 

This is not a matter of partisan game playing, it is not a matter of getting through the November election, it is not a matter for delay...

It is a matter of public trust and the ability of the citizens of this state, including its children and students, to believe that their elected representatives, with whom we entrust the power and prestige of high elected office, shall represent their best interests.

It is not about perfection; it is about putting the public interest over and above both special interests or self-interest.

The lack of leadership, the raw greed, the flaunting of political office for personal gain, the mismanagement of state government, the financial insolvency, the lack of integrity and candor, the inability to fund guaranteed mandates ( in education, affordable housing, public worker pensions, and transportation, etc., not to mention universal healthcare for all New Jerseyans), the refusal to remove special interest money from public business and public elections, the inability to correct unfairness in and fix the taxation system, the failure to consolidate county and municipal services and government, is quite simply astounding, stunning, and appalling.

And let me is not a matter of partisan divide.

Explain to the people of New a high school government or civics class, what you don't get?

There was a time in this state, not so long ago, when there were public officials who truly served the people's interest regardless of whether or not we agreed with their individual political philosophies: Brendan Byrne, Thomas Keane, Sr., Millicent Fenwick, and Bill Bradley.

The following paragraphs are taken directly from the New Jersey Legislature's own website:


52:13D-12.  Legislative findings
             The Legislature finds and declares:

    (a) In our representative form of government, it is essential that the conduct of public officials and employees shall hold the respect and confidence of the people. Public officials must, therefore, avoid conduct which is in violation of their public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the public that such trust is being violated.

    (b) To ensure propriety and preserve public confidence, persons serving in government should have the benefit of specific standards to guide their conduct and of some disciplinary mechanism to ensure the uniform maintenance of those standards amongst them. Some standards of this type may be enacted as general statutory prohibitions or requirements; others, because of complexity and variety of circumstances, are best left to the governance of codes of ethics formulated to meet the specific needs and conditions of the several agencies of government.

    (c) It is also recognized that under a free government it is both necessary and desirable that all citizens, public officials included, should have certain specific interests in the decisions of government, and that the activities and conduct of public officials should not, therefore, be unduly circumscribed.


    L.1971, c. 182, s. 1, eff. Jan. 11, 1972.


What don't you people get?

There is a difference between "unduly circumscribed" limits and behavior that is free-wheeling, whatever-you-can-get-away-with corruption. That difference seems lost on state, county, and municipal leaders in New Jersey.

The legislature's failure--both Democrat and Republican---to understand those limits has "unduly circumscribed" the people's right to expect their elected leaders to conduct the people's business.

Some would advance the argument that the corruption we have seen is the result of "deeply flawed individuals..." But can one legitimately make that argument, that it is not a pervasive, endemic, entrenched pattern and practice of abuse, when over 100 elected officials have been revealed as corrupt?

Some would have the public wait, yet longer, until after the November election to enact the sort of comprehensive clean government, clean election laws and ethics reforms that are so obviously needed right now in this state.

Still others say: "It has become fashionable to say that there is little difference between the parties. There is a real distinction between Republicans and Democrats regarding campaign finance and ethics reform."

Really? Which party has less officials in jail or convicted of corruption? Is that really a selling point? Something to be proud of? No it is not a matter of fashion; it's a matter of faith: in the public trust, in public servants, in the public good, and neither party has any legitimate claim on the moral high ground there.

Democrats delay. Republicans position. Democrats position. Republicans delay. Neither has the public interest in mind. Let's have some bipartisan, grown-up leadership.

Why should the people elect more corrupt politicians in November? It is a bit like saying let's operate on the leg after we amputate it...


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Constance Lavender is an HIV-Positive pseudonymous freelance e-journalist from a little isle off the coast of Jersey; New Jersey, that is...

In the Best spirit of Silence Dogood and Benj. Franklin, Ms. Lavender believes that a free (more...)
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