This is meant as a brief summary for those who may not be following the recent news about Sandy recovery. It is not meant to be political, but rather just summarizes what happened over the past week. My own home and business as well as most of my neighbors are still working through the realities of Sandy’s impact every day.
The Star Ledger in Newark has been one of the most diligent media forces reporting on NJ’s Sandy recovery statewide over the past two years. Pulitzer prize winning writer (Amy Nutt has been to our small community of Money Island on the Delaware Bay at least twice to interview us and she covered bay shore issues in depth). Until yesterday the newspaper has been noticeably non-political on the Sandy recovery issue. Yesterday (1/14/2015) the Star Ledger put out an editorial pointing out that Sandy recovery disaster could be a thorn in Christie’s presidential ambition.
The Star Ledger pointed out that:
- More than two years after the storm most Sandy victims still aren’t back in their homes.
- Only about half of those approved for rebuilding grants have gotten any money.
- Of the 10,800 homeowners approved for relief grants, just 328 have actually finished rebuilding their homes.
- For those in the rental unit program, the latest data show that only 51 homes have been completed, out of a total of 5400 replacement rental units approved.
- Christie steered money to towns like Belleville for political reasons, even though it was barely damaged by the storm.
- State leaders refused to attend public hearings to answer basic questions from desperate residents. (Yet we noted earlier that state employees who visited us at the Cumberland County Long Term Recovery Group program this winter were perfectly comfortable saying “disaster assistance has been a disaster”).
- Blame was placed on a contractor hired by the state to oversee Sandy recovery.
- We are not in the mandatory 30-day public comment period for the state’s amended plan for using disaster relief funds under the federal Community Block Grant Program.
- Meanwhile, since Sandy, the amount of NJ property taxes actually paid by homeowners (net of any offsetting tax credits or rebates) rose at a faster rate than prior to the storm.
Christie did not mention Sandy recovery in last week’s State of the State address buy NJ Democrats are now pushing back. Senate President Stephen Sweeney said of the omission “You don’t point to things that haven’t worked”. Eight leading Democrats sent a letter to Christie the day after the State of the State address asking him “to increase the efficiency, accountability, and transparency of the recovery process.” The Democrats want Christie to release the oversight reports about recovery spending.
Christie spent a third of his time over the past year outside of New Jersey. A significant portion of that time was spent in Iowa that holds the first Republican primary. Yet a recent poll of likely Iowa voters buy Christie in a lowly 9th place as the party’s presidential candidate.