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Eliminate Waste, Not Public Oversight

Date : Fri, 10 Sep 2010 15:53:42 -0400

*For Immediate Release*
September 10, 2010 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Eliminate Waste, Not Public Oversight*

* *

*Trenton -- *Today the Christie Administration released another report on government efficiency. The report recommends certain government bodies for elimination or consolidation. There are some good recommendations in the report; however, there are many areas that are troubling.

The point of many of these bodies is to have an independent voice on government actions and affairs, with boards that are made up of citizens, stakeholders and everyday people that are concerned about environmental issues. Eliminating many of these boards will severely limit public input and independent oversight on actions of govt. The Sierra Club is concerned that streamlining and cost-efficiency will be used to undermine public participation and the public’s right to know.

“We need to eliminate waste and duplicity but we cannot do it at expense of public oversight and independent review of government actions. Eliminating many of these boards does not save money but it does eliminate transparency and accountability,” *said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director*.

Combining some boards like the Shellfish Advisory Board and the Marine Fisheries Council makes sense, as does giving the governor the right to veto over the Marine Fisheries Council. This will avoid situations like that of the problems in getting a horseshoe crab moratorium. Giving the DEP commissioner the power to appoint the director of the Fish and Wildlife Council is also an improvement in accountability. It may make sense to eliminate some boards like the Wetlands Mitigation Council as well as the Garden State Preservation Trust since SADC and Green Acres do most of the work. We are glad they are leaving alone the Highlands Council, Pinelands Commission and the Natural Lands Trust.

The Sierra Club is very troubled by the recommendation to eliminate the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, which not only helps run the state park but oversees land decisions that impact the water supply. Having an independent board is critical not only for water quality but also for properly dealing with land use issues the affect the canal. Oversight is also critical for the Tidelands Council since it is another regulatory body where citizens can have input on the development or sale of lands that directly impact riparian corridors.

The Sierra Club is extremely troubled by the plan to merge the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission with the New Jersey Water Supply Authority. Merging will undermine their independence and clean water for the citizens of New Jersey. NJDWSC is a well-run organization that has been a leading voice over the years for clean water and has been willing to stand up to governors in that process. The Commission helped with the protection of Sterling Forest in the Highlands and opposing privatization of water supplies. The NJWSA has worked very hard in protection of the watershed in buying land and regional planning. That could be lost in a much broader organization. The Sierra Club is concerned that the people of New Jersey will lose an independent watchdog that works to protect water supply. The combined authority will be too big to deal with these issues and not serve the people of New Jersey properly.

There are some are councils that people may think are not necessary when in fact, they are. For instance the Invasive Species Council can and does prod the DEP to deal with invasive species. If it were to go away there wouldn’t be any prodding. The Drinking Water Advisory Council was at once time was a very strong advocate. It has not been as vocal lately but that is because the quality of the appointments, not the necessity of the council.

“We believe that some of the actions are appropriate, others that are wrong. This report is only a recommendation for the governor. Therefore we ask him to accept certain recommendations, such as vetoing the minutes from the Marine Fisheries Council. But we ask him not to accept the recommendation of merging the NJWSA and NJDWSC or that of eliminating the D&R Canal Commission. We need to eliminate waste, but this is not waste. These are appropriate government agencies,” *Tittel said.* Received on 2010-09-10 12:53:42

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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