Nearly three weeks after super storm Sandy made landfall, Gov. Chris Christie reassured the taxpayers that the state has largely returned to the “normalcy” that existed prior to the devastating storm.
Mainly, lines at the gas stations have been cut down considerably; power has been largely restored with the exception of certain pockets; children are back in schools. Now, as Christie said last week in Seaside Heights and again this week, the hard part has arrived in rebuilding.
To help the process, Christie said he has set up a mobile cabinet consisting of officials from the Department of Banking and Insurance to help residents who suffered property damage, among other things, to navigate the insurance and reimbursement process. Mobile offices have been set up in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties this past week, and other offices will be set up as needed.
The long process is not the only thing that will be painful, though. Christie said residents in battered communities can probably expect to see higher taxes, mentioning one of his favorite phrases that there is no “money tree.”
Although there is a 2 percent cap in place, emergencies allow towns to bypass the cap.
In addition, economic experts gathered at an annual forum this past week also said the state’s economic recovery, already tepid prior to the storm, will now take longer in the aftermath. A Rutgers economist predicts a “short-term hit” but a stimulus of sorts following as money is spent to rebuild.
In some slightly good news, the state’s unemployment rate slipped to 9.7 percent. The bad news: The state lost nearly 12,000 jobs in October.
The future of affordable housing is at stake and supporters and opponents for the proposed growth share methodology testified before the Supreme Court.
Advocates of growth share say there’s a fixed formula towns have to abide by in the Third Round Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) rules, namely that one affordable unit be built for every four market-rate homes, and one affordable unit for every 16 jobs created. If towns don’t create their fair share, there’s nothing to stop a developer from filing a builders remedy lawsuit.
But supporters of more affordable housing want to rely less on numbers and more on actual data regarding municipalities to determine where there’s the greatest need for more affordable housing. Too often, they say, towns adopt exclusionary housing policies deliberately to keep low- and moderate- income residents out.
The high court has yet to make a decision.
After an understandable hiatus, legislative committees came together on Thursday. Among them were the Senate Education, Community and Urban Affairs, and Law and Public Safety committees.
The Law and Public Safety Committee took up an interesting bill sponsored by Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5) that would enable sheriff’s offices to hire special officers for court-related duties. The measure would enable the offices to carry out those duties without having to pull sheriff’s officers from other divisions, as it currently has to do to provide ample security.
But officials from the Policeman’s Benevolent Association said there needs to be more concrete language in the bill to make sure the special officers aren’t misused and start doing PBA-related functions. One senator, Christopher Bateman, said something like that was taking place in his home county of Somerset, and he said that he has a problem with that.