By John Burton |
PORT MONMOUTH — On the anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Murphy held his 60th town hall meeting in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown.
The area was badly damaged by that event five years ago. Residents wanted to tell Murphy about the continuing struggle.
“The builder took the money and took off,” Simone Dannecker of Union Beach told Murphy at the VFW Post 2179 on Oct. 29. Dannecker said she and her husband, who is a contractor by trade, have been defrauded and were forced to do much of the work themselves. They lost time from their jobs and had to tackle stacks of paperwork required for assistance by state and federal agencies.
Murphy chose this section of Middletown Township in the Bayshore area because of what he deemed a “sober anniversary” and also because he is a resident of the township’s nearby Locust section. “It’s no coincidence it’s in my hometown,” he said. He was joined Sunday by a lineup of county and state legislative Democratic candidates and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (NJ-6).
Port Monmouth was also the location used by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in the months following the October 2012 storm for one of his high-profile town hall meetings.
Karen Livingstone of Oceanport said she was struggling to repair her home after it was flooded by Sandy, a home she has never left. Livingstone said the insurance payment she received after Sandy was not enough to rebuild to pre-storm appearance. She said she has had to use retirement money to make the needed work. She didn’t elevate her home, but now faces the financially difficult decision to either lift the structure or demolish it. “I’m not a rich person…I don’t know where to go,” Livingstone told Murphy.
Murphy told the approximately 130-member audience that Christie let the people of New Jersey down, with New York getting 14 times more federal assistance after the storm because of Christie’s lack of a relationship with the state’s congressional delegation. And of the affordable housing projects that were built after the storm, Murphy said only a handful of Sandy victims went on to occupy those approximately 2,000 units. “This is an area where political favors get thrown around,” determining where the projects get built, he said.
Murphy was animated, relaxed and quipping with audience members and Democratic officials, showing a confidence that comes with a double-digit lead over opponent Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, with just a little more than a week to the election, as of Sunday.
Sporting a dark, pinstriped suit, open collared shirt, and black sneakers – “Because I’m running for governor!” Murphy said about his footwear – he fielded a handful of questions during the approximately 90-minute session.
In his responses, the candidate reaffirmed his commitment to his progressive ideals, such as continuing to offer funding for Planned Parenthood, which Guadagno opposes; supporting environmental and renewable energy initiatives – such as wind turbines and solar – and returning to the 10-state Regional Greehouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, which Christie pulled out of early in his first term; endorsing stronger gun regulations, which includes opposing federal action on concealed carry reciprocity and allowing for silencers – “This is a states’ rights issue,” he maintained; making community college free for qualifying students; and committing to addressing the state employee pension demands – “The state has to stand up to our obligations,” he said.
He voiced opposition to the Trump administration and Republican congressional efforts for a tax overhaul, believing it would disproportionately hurt New Jersey taxpayers. “We will become a victim state,” he alleged, since New Jersey already gives more than it receives from the federal government.
He reaffirmed his commitment to the 22,000 “dreamers” in the state, undocumented young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents. “We ain’t ever giving up our ground, when it comes to dreamers,” he said.
On the opioid crisis, Murphy offered a slight nod to Christie’s seemingly sincere efforts to combat it, but then took a swipe at the governor, saying it was “hypocritical” of Christie to oppose the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Medicaid, when so many in the state need treatment, and for waiting until the end of his two terms to address the crisis.
Closer to home, Murphy offered an emphatic position against the JCP&L proposed high-voltage power lines along the NJ Transit rail lines through a number of Monmouth County communities. The plan has met with vociferous oppositions from residents and elected officials who raise health, quality of life and property value concerns. Murphy believes JCP&L has not met its obligation to make a persuasive case for the project. “Sign me up for completely rejecting that argument,” that the power utility has put forth, he said.
“We won’t restore the triple-A bond rating overnight,” for the state’s finances, acknowledged Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive. “But we’ll stop the freefall,” he concluded.
Murphy’s campaign streamed the event live on Facebook and had 6,329 viewers, according to the campaign.
The Two River Times repeatedly tried to schedule an interview with Murphy since the primary election in June, indicating the editorial staff would meet the candidate where and when it was convenient. However, the effort, through numerous phone calls, has been unsuccessful.
Guadagno sat down with the editorial staff for approximately an hour in August for a story that that appeared in the Aug. 17-24 edition.
This article was first published in the Nov. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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