POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy headlines second day at NJ League of Municipalities Conference

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

In his keynote speech at the 103rd convention of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, Gov. Phil Murphy listed his accomplishments in his first ten months in office, from equal pay to the environment. He quoted JFK and said political party takes a back seat to partnership and what the people want.

“They want us to stop looking for scapegoats and boogiemen and they want us to speak to them as adults,” Murphy said.

The governor said 88 percent of positive train control has been installed on NJ Transit cab cars and better platform communication is on the way.

“One thing that we’re about to go live with is a push app. If you take the 8:05 out of South Orange every morning, you don’t have to look up and figure out where your train is. It’s going to come to you and say the 8:05 is two minutes late, or maybe God forbid one minute early,” Murphy said.

Wednesday, former Gov. Chris Christie accused Murphy of being silent on the opioid epidemic. Murphy said he’s putting together new strategies based on statistical research.

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“Any notion that the tackling of this epidemic has become a lesser priority is completely and utterly wrongheaded,” Murphy said.

One of the workshops focused on police-community relations, avoiding conflict and assuring cooperation in the era of Trump.

“As a country, the atmosphere is one that is not conducive to race relations, and that divide can ultimately adversely affect police and community relations and we cannot afford any further setbacks,” said Richard Smith, president of the New Jersey NAACP.

Setbacks like deadly encounters. The New Jersey NAACP has partnered with law enforcement to improve training and relations. Smith is lobbying to move a bill in the state Assembly that would call for an independent prosecutor to investigate police shootings.

Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said if applicants can’t diffuse a situation with their mouths, he doesn’t want them on his force. He also said he’s pro and con on civilian complaint review boards.

“City council is your representative of the people. They are the civilian review board. They are the ones that approve your policies. They’re the ones that approve your promotions,” said Gaimari.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who’s in a court fight with police associations over the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, said it takes more than city councils and internal affairs divisions to do oversight.

“We can’t allow people’s lives to be in the hands of individuals of good will. So, meaning that we can’t wait to get good people elected that we like who agree with us to protect our lives and our constitutional rights,” Baraka said.

Another workshop focused on the Garden State’s aging infrastructure. The Board of Public Utilities President, Joseph Fiordaliso, called it the economic vitality of the state and nation.

“With a subpar infrastructure, we’re no better than any Third World nation,” he said.

The challenge: how to fund improvement. State Sen. Bob Smith said the state’s ballooning debt rules out another bond issue on the ballot.

“The drinking water task force last year reported that we have a $7.8 billion water infrastructure deficit. You can’t bond for that kind of money. You can’t even bond for a portion of that money. I think what you have to do, and it’s crazy and I’ve already gotten hate mail about it, I think you have to have a water user fee of 40-cents per thousand gallons, which means on the average home in New Jersey it will cost $32 a year,” Smith said.

They’re challenges to meet between now and the next League of Municipalities convention.