Elections

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wisniewski, in Newark, discusses urban housing issues

764b3696849f75cd1145_Wisniewski_LarryHamm.jpg
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
764b3696849f75cd1145_Wisniewski_LarryHamm.jpg

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

East Orange/Orange

Essex County Will Host A Job Fair Thursday

May 22, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Essex County Department of Economic Development Office of Training & Employment cordially invites you to this year’s Essex County Job Fair.

The Job Fair will be held this Thursday May 24, 2018 at the Essex County College Gymnasium 303 University Avenue Newark, NJ.

For ...

Memorial Day Service and Parade Monday May 28th!

May 20, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ - One of the most certain signs of spring soon turning into summer in East Orange is the towns annual Memorial Day Parade. The parade has been a city tradition for decades and continues to be one of the major rallying events for community pride and camaraderie. 

Mayor Ted R. Green and the East Orange City Council cordially invites our residents, supporters and friends to ...

Governor Phil Murphy to Speak at Bloomfield College Commencement

May 15, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The 145th Commencement at Bloomfield College will take place Friday on the 11 acre campus in the heart of Bloomfield at 9:30 a.m. 

The program will include  remarks from honorary degree recipients New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Christian McBride, six-time Grammy-winning jazz bassist; and Prof. Deog-Seong Oh, President of Chungnam ...

When Good Stress Becomes Bad Stress

In the last email, we looked at how to set your own goals in life so you do not feel as if things are out of control and that everyone is driving your life except you. Your boss can’t have that kind of stressful power over you if you know you are doing your best and actively adding to your skills all the time.

Your mother can’t pull your strings like a puppet if you cut them and ...

Two Goal-Setting Techniques to Gain Control of Your Life

In the last email, we discussed how keeping a stress journal can help you identify your stressors. Then you can come up with various success strategies for dealing with them.

In this article, we want to discuss one of the most useful things you can use your new stress journal for is goal setting, in order to take control of your own life so you don’t feel as if you are at the mercy of ...

How a Stress Journal Can Help You Cope

Welcome to the May series on positive and negative stress. I hope you learn a lot from it.

In this series, I will be discussing how stress can sometimes be positive, but what to do if it starts to have a negative impact on your life.

Keeping a Stress Journal

Any journal can aid you in personal reflection, to help you spot patterns, reveal your feelings, and note down what you’ve ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_89b7833f137f24d5e750_invitation_to_ciao_sioree_-_6.15.18_-_front__1_

Fri, June 15, 7:00 PM

The Van Vleck House and Gardens, Montclair

Taste of the Oranges Soiree

Giving Back

Mayor Ted Green to Recognize Historic Nurse and NJ Hall of Fame Inductee Clara Louise Maass during National Nurses Week

May 8, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ - Tomorrow, May 9th in City Hall’s Rotunda at 12 noon East Orange Mayor, Ted Green will be presenting a proclamation in honor of the historic nurse, Clara Louise Maass, a native of East Orange who was posthumously inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame. 

History-making nurse Clara Maass (1876-1901) is a native of East Orange who lived on Main Street. She was officially ...