Other NJ News

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Wisniewski, in Newark, Discusses Urban Housing Issues

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Wisniewski is introduced by Larry Hamm, chair and founder for People's Organization for Progress, at a Town Hall meeting in Newark. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo

NEWARK, NJ - Democratic Assemblyman and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate John Wisniewski campaigned in Newark to talk about the state's housing issues, believing that they should be tackled with a practical approach as part of a progressive agenda. 

"Affordable housing is a moral obligation. We have to address this gap in our humanity," said Wisniewski, of Middlesex County, to a group of more than 30 people assembled in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark's Central Ward on Monday night, just hours before a major winter blizzard was to blanket Newark in snow.

"We have to call it what it is," Wisniewski said. "We have a foreclosure crisis because we have a greed crisis. We have to make sure that the foreclosure crisis is solved in favor of all of those families that are looking for truly affordable housing." 

Sign Up for E-News

New Jersey's share of distressed properties is the highest percentage in the nation, according to a 2016 national foreclosure report, with Essex County leading the state in foreclosures with 6,367 and a rate of 4.12 percent. 

Affordable housing also remains a major concern throughout the state. In a decision that could reshape hundreds of communities, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in January that municipalities must allow the development of affordable housing for poor and middle-class families whose needs were ignored for more than 16 years, a period when state the Council on Affordable Housing, or COAH, was effectively neutralized by legal and political disputes. 

The decision reaffirmed the Court's commitment to a series of landmark housing rulings in the Mount Laurel cases that date to 1975. For decades, New Jersey justices have said that the state's poorest residents have a right to affordable housing opportunities in their communities and that towns must allow a reasonable level of development. The ruling is likely to be a catalyst for the development of tens of thousands of affordable housing units in New Jersey over the next decade. 

Newark resident Carl Hill asked Wisniewski a question about how addressing affordable housing issues will affect gentrification in the city, which he said "will move people out" as dispossessed homeowners become renters in a market with anticipated higher rental rates. 

Wisniewski answered by promoting his plan to establish a state land trust plan to acquire land rights to where foreclosed properties are located. Wisniewski maintained that funds that had been earmarked for affordable housing that were never used would form the seed money for this program, which would remove the land costs from buying foreclosed properties, therefore facilitating their purchase and future productive use. 

"The land is owned by the state land trust, and the structure is owned by the homeowner," Wisniewski said. "This makes the structure that much cheaper. You want to make sure that somebody gets ownership. This is the first step."

Wisniewski is locked in a Democratic primary battle with several other candidates, including state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D - Union); former Treasury official and federal prosecutor Jim Johnson; and former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy. 

In a speech at the Newark campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in September, Murphy proposed the creation of of a public bank, owned by the people of New Jersey, designed to make investments in and for New Jersey.

Murphy said that he believed the creation a public bank would provide capital to communities that have been ignored by the financial system, including minority communities and businesses owned by people of color. 

Wisniewski, however, challenged the concept of a public bank concept, pointing to Trenton's recent record regarding fiscal governance.  

"We have not fully funded our pension obligation for 20 years. We have overspent our Transportation Trust fund for 20 years. We have not fully funded education for the past seven years," Wisniewski said, who has served in the Assembly for 21 years and is a former state Democratic chairman.

"The concept of giving a banking role to the same governmental institutions that have failed us on pensions and education and transportation just worries me," he said.

Throughout Wisniewski's Newark town hall meeting, he repeatedly referred to Wall Street's role in the foreclosure crisis, a not-to-subtle jab at Murphy. In an interview afterwards, Wisniewski questioned the role of money in a primary election process where Murphy, who campaigned extensively in Newark last fall immediately before several major potential rivals declined to enter the race, is widely seen as the front runner. 

"It is not only accepted, but expected that someone will try to buy the nomination," Wisniewski said. "In levels of leadership in our party, there is not any sense of awkwardness at the huge amount of money that trades hands to obtain party support."

The Murphy campaign did not immediately return calls seeking comment. 

The Wisniewski town hall event was hosted by the People's Organization for Progress, a grassroots, community organization based in Newark.

Lawrence Hamm, the New Jersey state chairman and founder of the organization, noted that his personal support for Wisniewski's gubernatorial is based on Wisniewski's support for former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Wisniewski was the New Jersey chairman for Sanders' 2016 campaign. 

"The question is how the Sanders supporters become a political force that can push the Democratic Party in a progressive direction," said Hamm, who noted that Wisniewski has addressed his organization four times. "The first step was the Sanders campaign. Wisniewski's campaign here in New Jersey is another step along that path." 

Sanders has declined to endorse any candidate in the 2017 New Jersey Democratic primary, to be decided in June. But Wisniewski said that he wants voters to based their decision not on his support for Sanders, but on his qualifications for the job. 

"I want to make it clear - I supported Bernie Sanders, but this is not Bernie Sanders 2.0. This is New Jersey, and I'm a New Jersey progressive," Wisniewski said. "The progressive message in particular appeals to urban areas because it fundamentally deals with a rigged system that doesn't work for everybody in America or New Jersey." 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Denville

Local Authorities Seek Public’s Help to Solve 1982 Madison Train Station Murder

October 20, 2017

MADISON, NJ – Nearly 35 years after James Wescoe was found murdered at the Madison train station on Lincoln Place, authorities are still in search of clues that may help solve the case.

Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Madison Police Chief Darren Dachisen ask the public to provide any information they can about the decades-old crime.

Multiple law enforcement agencies, ...

Former Governor Whitman Honored at Great Swamp Watershed Gala Celebration

October 13, 2017

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman was the honored guest at the Great Swamp Watershed Association 2017 Gala Celebration held Thursday night at the Brooklake Country Club.

Chatham residents turned out for the fundraiser that supports the yearly budget of the association, which is "dedicated to protecting and improving the water resources of the ...

Centenary University And County College Of Morris To Embark On a Path To Transfer Program Agreement

October 20, 2017

Dr. David P. Haney, Centenary University President, and Dr. Anthony J. Iacono, President of County College of Morris (CCM), signed a Path to Transfer Program agreement today.  This agreement guarantees a seamless transition for qualifying CCM graduates at Centenary University. 

Both institutions have recognized the importance of completing an associate degree before students transfer ...

Family Health

Second Opinion on Breast Cancer Program Offers Peace of Mind

A breast cancer diagnosis can change a person’s life. And during such devastating news, the sheer amount of information regarding treatment and follow-up care can quickly become overwhelming. However, patients are not alone in this fight. Atlantic Health System’s Breast Cancer Second Opinion Program at Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, Overlook Medical Center, is helping provide peace of ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, October 20, 6:00 AM

Centercourt Athletic Club of Chatham, Chatham

Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser

Giving Back Sports

Fri, October 20, 5:00 PM

National Guard Armory, Morristown

41st Annual Morristown CraftMarket

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, October 21, 8:00 AM

Rockaway

Morris Knolls Project Graduation Clothing Drive

Other

A Call for All Library Supporters to Vote "Yes" on Nov. 7

October 16, 2017

As a New Jersey resident and strong supporter of our local library, I urge all New Jersey citizens to vote “YES” on Tuesday, November 7 for the NJ Library Construction Bond Act, supporting libraries across NJ. 

Libraries are increasingly becoming the social hubs of our communities.This act  authorizes New Jersey to issue bonds in the ...

JCP&L Reminds Customers Assistance and Service Programs are Available to Help Pay Utility Bills

Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) reminds customers having difficulty paying their utility bills that they may be eligible for special financial assistance or energy efficiency programs that could reduce the amount of electricity they use.

    Assistance programs available to New Jersey residents include:

Lifeline – Offers a cash grant to help people who ...

Paying tribute to 'Shakespeare in Love'

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey pays tribute to ‘Shakespeare in Love’

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ – Many audiences loved the film version of “Shakespeare in Love,” which won the best picture Academy Award in 1999, with dialogue by Marc Noonan and Tom Stoppard. Adapted by Lee Hall for the stage, much of the dialogue remains. The production has a warmth and ...

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard with Lauren Zigman

(Penguin Books, 2017)

 

Cake or death? If you are a fan of the British comic/actor Eddie Izzard, you probably own a teeshirt with a blue cupcake on it with one of Izzard's signature lines from his fabulous standup routines. To see Eddie Izzard in concert is an experience in hilarity that one ...