Governor Paralysis

According to the online source www.Dictionary.com, the word “paralysis” is defined as a “state of helpless stoppage, inactivity, or inability to act.” We often hear it used to describe medical conditions that cause certain people to be unable to sometimes walk, talk, or otherwise move. In New Jersey, it can be best used to describe Governor Corzine’s Administration.

That’s the word around Trenton and throughout the State: Corzine’s leadership is paralyzed. It is helpless, inactive, and unable to act. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And it’s Jon Corzine’s fault.

Why? Because he is our leader, the one most New Jersey voters elected two years ago after unprecedented campaign spending, to provide us all with strong, decisive, and consistent leadership. But that’s not what we have gotten and many of us see that first hand every day in Trenton. The voters of New Jersey confirmed that feeling in this week’s election, by voting down a very important ballot question pushed by the Governor, one that he spent his own money to push. But Democrats and Republicans voted against it. It shows that his leadership is shot, unfortunately. And we all know it. That’s why people have left the Administration in droves, in virtually every executive branch office and agency. Because the writing is on the wall, and they see nothing but an explosion in red tape and abysmal employee morale, many experienced professionals-most of whom are non-unionized-have left and many more are planning to leave. They want out.

Why is that? Because we all expected a lot from Jon Corzine. As an international leader in business he did well for himself, making millions through his knowledge of finance and investments. As a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C., he was a leading voice for the voiceless, a champion for small businesses, for victims of ethnic cleansing and abuse internationally, and for a clean and just America. What happened to that Jon Corzine, the gutsy, strong, and bold Corzine?

What happened to the man who said he would recruit and appoint the best and brightest to positions in government, and bring in specialists with an experienced hand in running government? What happened to the man who promised he would streamline the way government does business by applying a business model to the State government? What happened to being able to multi-task, focus on multiple important issues at once? What happened to bringing New Jersey’s communities together to fix the problems of our State? Well, either his agents and post-election handlers didn’t get that memo, or he seriously misjudged what it would take to fix-and run-our government.

What it takes is guts. What it takes is fortitude. And what it takes is bold leadership. Unfortunately, today, Corzine is deficient in all three areas, and we are now halfway through his term. So now is the time to ask, what has he really done in these two years?

  • Jon Corzine shut down State government, causing losses to New Jersey’s critical tourist industry and casino revenues.
  • Jon Corzine caved to the demands of the state worker unions in recent contract negotiations without really cutting the number of state union employees.
  • Jon Corzine gave sweetheart government business to Wall Street buddies while seeing a record number of New Jersey families and small businesses leave the State because of high taxes.
  • Jon Corzine made nepotism permeate gubernatorial hiring practices by largely hiring Wall Street friends and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaign staff.
  • Jon Corzine enhanced the used of “executive privilege” in hiding discussions with union leadership and others while engaging in secretive discussions to develop major public policy proposals.
  • Jon Corzine has been extremely slow in making needed appointments to the judiciary, commissions, boards, and other public bodies, resulting in perhaps the slowest appointment pace of any modern Governor.
  • Jon Corzine has talked a good game on ethics reform but refused to call for the resignation of indicted Senators Wayne Bryant and Sharpe James, and continues to donate huge sums of money to political bosses in North and South Jersey.
  • Jon Corzine has engaged in unprecedented secretive decision-making, without consulting community leaders, elected officials, legislators, government affairs professionals, or government agencies.
  • Jon Corzine has offended large segments of the statewide community, including many minorities, by refusing to take leadership on numerous issues ranging from increasing affordable housing, enhancing environmental rights, continuing the monitoring of racial profiling by State Police, and other matters.

Worst of all, however, he has engaged in “Pay-Your-Way”, an attempt to constantly use his personal financial resources to impact public policy decisions, hoping to buy his way out of any controversy. This is Corzine’s own version of pay-to-play, his way of paying to get his way.

But people are seeing right through it all, and they are tired. Even those of us at the Statehouse are tired of it. And we ask, please end the Pay-Your-Way approach to governing. It’s unhealthy, it’s unfair, it’s undemocratic, and it sets a miserable precedent for the future. But it can stop.

It can stop with gutsy leadership-real leadership that our Governor is capable of and which he has shown in the past. Just to make it a bit easier, here are a few (though not all) brief ideas and the lessons to learn from them. Consider it a 6-Point Gubernatorial PIP, or personal improvement plan.

Lesson 1: SLOW GOVERNMENT IS BAD GOVERNMENT.

Action: Pick up the pace of appointments and get those judicial, board and commission appointments moving right away so that the many people who want to volunteer to help our government feel they are able to participate.

Lesson 2: INEXPERIENCED GOVERNMENT IS BAD GOVERNMENT.

Action: Hire competent, diverse, government-experienced staff, not just your former Wall Street friends, Senate staff and campaign hacks.

Lesson 3: EXCESSIVE GOVERNMENT IS BAD GOVERNMENT.

Action: Apply a real business model-even if it will negatively impact unions- to government decision-making, and eliminate unnecessary red tape so that constituents receive government decisions quicker and you bring real business efficiencies to the State.

Lesson 4: ENGAGED GOVERNMENT IS GOOD GOVERNMENT.

Action: Order your Cabinet to get out to the community more effectively so that the public understands the value of their tax dollars and sees the government working for them.

Lesson 5: GUTSY GOVERNMENT IS GOOD GOVERNMENT.

Action: Take some real strong positions on things, like affordable housing, immigration rights, funding on education, and racial profiling.

Lesson 6: CLEAN GOVERNMENT IS GOOD GOVERNMENT.

Action: End Pay-Your-Way and stop spending your private funds to do the work of government and campaigns, because it looks undemocratic and “dirty”.

It’s time to end the paralysis in Trenton. In the same way the Governor wants to end medical paralysis with the promise of stem cell research, he can end the political paralysis in Trenton. The Governor, his Cabinet, and staff can do better. But he needs to provide the energy, the challenge, and the engagement. Jon Corzine needs to be a leader again, lest the paralysis permeates the entire State.

The author is a Democratic political appointee who holds a senior position in the Corzine administration.

Governor Paralysis