TRENTON – The state’s Department of Community Affairs’ chief urged members of the African American Chamber of Commerce to throw their support behind Gov. Chris Christie, particularly in the area of education reform in the state.
Acting Commissioner Richard Constable spoke to chamber members Tuesday afternoon during the group’s monthly luncheon. Constable noted the governor’s attention to inner-city schools, which the acting commissioner said should be a primary goal.
“I want you guys to join the governor to the extent that you support him in this effort,” said Constable, referring to Christie’s efforts in advancing tenure reform and increasing the amount of charter schools in the state.
Constable told chamber members he’s “proud to work for a guy that literally got no votes in the inner city” but has made reform education in those areas a priority for his administration, he said.
Constable also touted the governor’s pension and health benefits reform, as well as the state’s 2 percent property tax cap, as major milestones for the Christie administration.
pHe also urged chamber members to continue to fight New Jersey’s high property taxes by supporting the governor’s proposal to enact sick and vacation pay reform, a key talking point for the governor during his recent and upcoming town hall meetings around the state.
“It’s commonsensical to you and I, but our friends in the Legislature don’t want it,” Constable said.
Missing from Constable’s talk was any mention of the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny the Christie administration request for interim relief to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing.
In March, New Jersey’s Appellate Division ruled the governor’s decision to dismantle COAH went beyond the Executive’s authority. The administration appealed the court’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which, late Friday, rejected a request to set aside the lower court ruling until the high court could fully take up the issue.
The acting commissioner spoke during the luncheon at the request of the chamber, which hoped to inform its members of the resources available to the black business community, officials said.
“Today’s event is to make the community more aware of the resources available,” said John Harmon, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
“This administration has been a true partner,” he said. “We’ve been afforded unprecedented access to all governmental agencies.”
The African American chamber represents roughly 600 businesses in the state, Harmon said, adding there are about 66,000 black business owners in New Jersey.
According to the latest U.S. Census data, African American businesses experienced 66 percent growth in New Jersey between 2000 and 2010, said Harmon, who called the data “very encouraging.”
However, 95 percent of the African American-owned businesses in the state are categorized as “sole proprietor business,” Harmon said, explaining “that means from where I’m sitting, there’s a tremendous opportunity to grow those businesses.”