Senate President Steve Sweeney is calling on Gov. Chris Christie to sign the Sandy Bill of Rights. He told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he gives Christie a D- at best for his distribution of Sandy recovery funds.
Sweeney said that Christie has to change his mind and sign the Bill of Rights now because the whole Sandy recovery process has been horrible, especially for the people who were devastated by the storm. He said that the bill is very simple and as he went through hearings in different towns, what he recognized is the local involvement of non-profits is critical.
Sweeney said he is calling for a community resource center rather than calling a 1-800 number. He said that people could go to the community resource centers and sit down with somebody who is knowledgeable and can make sure that people are going into the right program and that the paperwork is being done properly.
“This whole process has been very troubling and at least you will start getting answers because every place that I have gone to and done a tour is not getting any answers,” said Sweeney.
Sweeney said that he and Christie do not talk about their conversations with each other publicly. He said that Christie knows how important this is, not just to him, but to the people who were impacted by the storm.
“I gave Christie an A for what he did when he went down to Washington and fought with his own party to get funding for the state. I want to congratulate him and our federal delegation for doing that, but the implementation is a D- at best. At this point, you can’t take back what has been done, but going forward in this next round of funding, you can learn from your mistakes and that is what we are calling on — much more transparency, an easier process for the people to deal with,” said Sweeney. “So let’s not repeat the same mistakes again because honestly the first round was a failure. This round, going forward, hopefully we do not repeat the same things that were done before.”
Sweeney said that FEMA has had its issues but it is the administration in the state that has actually done a poor job. He said that the state administration set up HGI as the contractor to handle the recovery and hired other contractors that they fired.
“I don’t want to point fingers of blame at anybody at this point. The people where I went, I got an earful everywhere we went. So it was an honest conversation where people told us how fed up they are with the state of New Jersey and how poor the performance is. We need to engage New Jersey non-profits to help the people who live in New Jersey. That was a clear message that we got,” said Sweeney.
When asked about the George Washington Bridge lane closures, Sweeney said that he thinks that everybody is upset with what has taken place and the investigators need to get to the bottom of it. He said that he knows that Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Sen. Loretta Weinberg are doing their job and they have a new round of interviews moving forward. He said that U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman is as good as they come at investigating these types of incidents and there are plenty of people looking into this. He said that hopefully they can get some answers to the public because at the end of the day, the people deserve to know what happened.
Sweeney said that the investigation is not a witch hunt. He said that while he has the greatest respect for his Assembly colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle who are talking about leaving the committee, that it makes no sense for any of them to walk away. He said that they need to stay and participate and as frustrating as it is, it is frustrating for everyone that no one has gotten to the bottom of exactly what transpired.