Torricelli on the open space bond referendum

The contest for Governor of New Jersey might be the most visiblebut in the long term it might not be the most important. Long after our youngest children have forgotten the winner of this year’s gubernatorial election they’ll be aware of the pernicious loss of our quality of life in New Jersey.

The things that we value most in our quality of life are at issue. A quiet drive on a Sunday afternoon.A walk with family through falling autumn leaves.Having fresh produce for a summer picnic. They’re all part of the struggle to preserve open space in New Jersey.

On November 3 voters will be asked to approve a $400 million bond issue to continue preserving our diminishing open space. It’s the latest in a bipartisan effort over the last two decades to reverse the destruction of farms, fields, and forests that make New Jersey a wonderful place to live.

Our instincts in difficult economic times are probably to oppose the referendum. The last thing that our state government needs is more debt;and schools, tax relief, and health care are higher callings. A closer look might lead to a different conclusion.

Developers who have purchased thousands of pristine acres to build more shopping malls and densely populated housing tracts are in trouble. They’re willing to sellsome of this land for pennies on the dollar. If we don’t buy it now, we’ll pay much more later. It’s a once in a lifetime situation.

Some environmentalists argue that we should be buying this land but using a permanent revenue stream to pay for it. They want a water tax. They’re right about a permanent solution but wrong to make their argument an excuse for defeating this proposal.

Despite all of our political divisions, preserving open space has always united us. This year should be no exception. We’ve all suffered through this recession but every crisis has an opportunity. Reversing the destruction of our forests and farms is the opportunity that collapsing land values has presented.

Voters should support the Open Space Referendum. It’s the smart thing to do.

Torricelli on the open space bond referendum