June 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Candidate in the Spotlight: State Senator Bob Gordon

Senator Bob Gordon, the incumbent Democratic State Senator from the 38th District, took some time to talk to the JLBC.  He talked to us about his years of service and said his office handles 1,000 constituent cases annually. All the mail and emails that come to his office are read and most are responded to promptly unless he needs to do research on the question.  He reads every communication sent out of his office.

His platform concentrates on jobs and economic growth, the environment and quality of life, making New Jersey more affordable, and community safety.  He watches the “evolution of new issues and deals with them as they come to be more important.”

In addition to the dismal jobs statistics, which he discussed at the JCRC forum a day earlier, Gordon also talked about New Jersey’s infrastructure. “Our roads, bridges, and utilities are in bad shape and I would like to see the state invest in vital infrastructure projects, which would create many jobs, support the business environment, and improve our quality of life.  As FDR showed, such investments spur wider economic growth.” He noted that “There is currently 50% unemployment in New Jersey’s building trades.”

Although his decision was not popular with many environmentalists, Gordon supported the controversial expansion of the LG company’s campus in Englewood Cliffs.  As an environmentalist and lover of the Palisades, he was impressed that their design would employ technology that makes the new building one of the greenest in the United States.  He said he considered the number of jobs the work would create and took into consideration that LG, as a foreign company, might very well decide to relocate entirely if they ran into too much opposition.

Gordon is a prime sponsor of the Economic Opportunities Act.  It includes offering incentives to private developers to convert New Jersey’s 26 closed hospitals to new appropriate uses.  This fosters job creation and provides vital healthcare services to their communities.  His model is Barnert Hospital in Paterson, which after being closed for a while was converted into medical office spaces, ambulatory surgery units, and substance abuse facilities.

While Gordon strongly supports efforts to draw business to New Jersey and keep it here, he has introduced legislation to correct some of the problems in the way that the Economic Development Authority doles out incentives.  He offers new rules that would spread the payment of incentives over time rather than be given upfront.  Several companies have gotten generous incentives on the pledge of creating jobs, and then took those jobs out of state.  Closer monitoring and enforcement will put state money to better use.

Gordon points to New Jersey’s grossly de-centralized form of government and said that it is one cause for New Jerseyans paying the highest taxes in the nation. New Jersey has 565 separate municipalities, 618 independent school districts, and hundreds of authorities.  Millions could be saved if there were more sharing of services and procurement of goods.  “We should aim for governmental units of optimal economic size and minimize overlap and duplication of services.  In the case of Bergen County this most often means having towns work together.”  He points to the city of Woodbridge which consists of ten self-governing districts served by a common city administration with more expertise that has reduced costs drastically.   He has proposed a number of bills to provide state incentives to municipal consolidation of services and to reduce the number of regulations and technicalities that slow down action.  They were included in his 2007 Shared Services Act.

Gordon is watching the spread of for-profit hospitals.  They deny efficient and low-cost services more often than do not-for-profits.  Together with Senator Loretta Weinberg, he passed a bill to bring more transparency to these hospitals by having the state monitor their finances and billing practices.  Gov. Christie vetoed that bill, too.

Gordon is also very concerned about the frequent and costly flooding in many of our communities.  He thinks that the first step is to clear our rivers of debris.  He is working jointly with Republican Senator Gerald Cardinale, from the district north of his, to make it easier for towns and counties to obtain permits to do the clearing. The build up of debris at the bases of the bridges on the Passaic River create dams which raise the river behind it and regularly flood Garfield and Rochelle Park.  His bill to allocate $10M to redesign the bridge was vetoed by Gov. Christie.  Gordon is also meeting with officials from Rockland County, in which the headwaters of the Hackensack River are located.  He thinks we have to tackle flooding problems with coordinated plans encompassing each of our river basins, the Hackensack, the Passaic, and the Saddle Brook.

Sen. Gordon is also proposing a $100M bond issue to subsidize homeowners who must elevate their homes.  The subsidy would be 15% of their costs.  These funds would be administered by the Blue Acres program, which is intended to reduce flooding by buying open spaces that have great water absorption capacities, and repeatedly flooded homes which the owners would have a hard time selling, want to continue living in, and keep ratables in place in those municipalities.

Even before Sandy struck, he proposed a bill that would require the state DEP to update flood maps as frequently as does FEMA.  The flood maps New Jersey now uses were drawn in the early 1980s and grossly underestimate the flooding that we now experience.  But these maps are the basis on which towns have to plan and approve new developments.  The bill would also offer a rebate on sales taxes for affected homeowners who have to purchase new appliances and cars.  The DEP was reluctant to support this bill until Sandy left its devastation.

On the issue of safety in our communities, Sen. Gordon has been a strong supporter of sensible legislation to reduce gun violence, which also has strong support from the public.  Together with Sen. Codey, he introduced a bill to limit gun magazines to 5 rounds.  The Senate and Assembly passed some 20 bills in the past few months to reduce gun violence.  Gov. Christie signed a few, but fully or conditionally vetoed most of them.

By Stephen Tencer

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