It’s called making perfection the enemy of the good and it’s the first lesson of legislating.
Every legislative action involves compromise. Effective leadership means doing the best that you can to get the best result. Freshman legislatorsoften make the mistake of demanding too much and being left out of the final product. By wanting perfection,they become the enemy of the good and the final result can be failure.
This isexactly the scenariothat played out last week in the New Jersey Legislature. State Senator Bob Smith introduced legislation for a $600 million bond issue for open space preservation.
This has always been the most popular cause in New Jersey. Dwindling open space and rising congestion is destroying our quality of life, choking our economy and impacting our health. We’re not only the most densely populated state in the nation, we’ve now past India as one of the most densely populated places on earth.
Time is running out. If we don’t act soon, there won’t be any land to save. It’s more than an issue of beautiful vistas. Life in New Jersey always included fresh vegetables at summer picnics, there were weekend drives in the country on fall afternoons. Children were able to play in wooded areas as they climbed trees and waded in brooks. The forests kept our air clean and replenished our drinking water.
Every acre lost is forever. Voters seem to understand because Democratic and Republican Governors have proposed bond issues to buy open space and voters have approved the initiatives in good times and bad. Now we’re in bad economic times and some legislators and even environmental groups are hesitating in supporting Bob Smith’s leadership.
The Sierra Club would prefer a permanent funding source rather than being subject to the annual legislative process. Theiranswer is to tax water bills and dedicate the money. It’s a perfect answer because land preservation protects clean water and the source of the funds would be continuous. The problem is that we’re in a serious recession and nobody wants to increase any tax this year. This perfect proposal could defeat the good idea of passing another bond issue.
This begs the question of why do anything in this economic environment? The answer is clear. Land prices have dropped significantly. Some major developers that own thousands of acres will sell land to the state at a fraction of future value. The state will never have the opportunity to buy so much land for so little money again. If we don’t act now, then we will be faced with buying the same land for millions of dollars more in future years or accept its destruction to hundreds of new strip malls, parking lots and subdivisions.
It’s time for everybody to unite behind Bob Smith and the Audubon Society. Let’s get voter approval for this new open space bond issue and pledge ourselves to create a permanent funding source when the recession ends. Good people shouldn’t be divided in fighting for agood cause.