By Mayor Paul Aronsohn, Ridgewood
In times of crisis, Americans pull together. We saw it after the 9/11 attacks. We are seeing it now in the wake of the mass murder in Newtown, Conn. It is what we do. It is who we are.
It is against this backdrop that the president has put forward a proposed post-Hurricane Sandy aid package – one that has garnered support on both sides of the political aisle. Governor Christie supports it. Governor Cuomo supports it. A large bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate voted for it.
All members of the New Jersey and New York Congressional delegations support it … with only one exception.
Despite the storm’s devastating impact on our state – including in the local towns of Moonachie and Little Ferry - our own congressman, Scott Garrett, is the lone holdout and is poised to be the only federal New Jersey official to oppose this all-important measure.
In fact, rather than throw the full weight of his office behind the president’s proposed $60 billion aid package, he has delayed consideration with accusations about “wasteful spending” and lack of accountability.
Rather than encourage his fellow Republicans to support the measure, he has given them political cover to oppose the much-needed assistance. This follows his decision in November to be the only New Jersey member of Congress – Republican or Democrat – not to sign a joint letter to congressional leadership urging bipartisan support for disaster relief.
Meanwhile, New Jerseyans continue to suffer. Many are without homes. Many are without businesses. And now, thanks to Garrett’s unconscionable positioning, many are without much hope for imminent relief.
This is unacceptable. Action is needed now. The magnitude of the devastation has been great and widespread, ravaging communities and disrupting families throughout large sections of our state.
Let’s look at the facts:
* In New Jersey, an estimated $40 billion worth of damage was caused by Hurricane Sandy.
* In New Jersey, approximately 122,000 structures were impacted – some damaged, some destroyed.
* In New Jersey, more than 48,000 households have been deemed eligible for federal housing assistance.
* In New Jersey, the federal government has served more than 1.7 million meals and 2.6 million snacks to survivors and first-responders.
Yet, in New Jersey, one congressman has “distinguished” himself as the most vocal critic of the president’s storm assistance package.
Granted, to some, Garrett’s position comes as no surprise. After all, he was one of only eleven congressional members to vote against a similar aid package for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. To them, his seeming opposition is merely a matter of consistency.
But to the rest of us, Garrett’s position is beyond belief and beyond justification, particularly since many of the victims of Hurricane Sandy are fellow New Jerseyans, some of whom live in Bergen County. To us, his opposition is a matter of obstinacy, if not downright indecency.
The truth is that there is both a moral and economic imperative at play here. Morally, helping people in times of crisis is the right thing to do. Economically, helping New Jerseyans rebuild is the smart thing to do.
This, of course, includes the many small businesses that were devastated by the storm – small businesses that Garrett so often likes to tout in his campaign literature.
Clearly, I have had many differences with Garrett in the past. Having run against him in the 2006 congressional race, our contrasting views concerning issues of national security, economics and social policy have been well documented. But his refusal to support desperately needed aid for the people of our state represents a new low.
Four weeks ago, Governors Christie and Cuomo released a joint statement that ended with the following passage: “Our message to all people, regardless of political affiliation, is the same: We need the full funding for our aid to arrive, hopefully, before the end of the year.”
Garrett needs to change his position. He needs to get on the same page with the Governor, the Senate’s bipartisan majority, the rest of the New Jersey congressional delegation and the tens of thousands of New Jerseyans still struggling in the wake of our state’s worst storm.
Simply stated, Garrett needs to do the right thing.
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"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."- Nelson Mandela
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