Posted by: kendra | November 2, 2009

Open Space on the Ballot tomorrow

It’s clear to me that there are all sorts of different political stripes from people who read and post here, so here’s some takes on the open space question that is on the ballot tomorrow.  Feel free to add your own.

First, AndyB has a post on the connection between open space and biking on the Walk Bike New Jersey blog.

And here’s an open letter to New Jersey Cyclists from Morristown resident Samantha Rothman:

Dear NJ Cycling Community:

We are a cycling family. From my husband in the woods on a mountain bike, to meeting up with neighbors for a road ride, or pulling our son in the bike trailer on our local rail-trail, one thing is clear: we simply love being on our bikes.

I’m sure you feel the same. And I’m sure you would agree that cycling is about more than just the act of riding a bike. It’s about the places you go, the things you see – and the way you see the world while riding by on a bicycle.

That’s why I’m urging all cyclists to VOTE YES on PUBLIC QUESTION #1.

By approving this question, we’ll keep the Green Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation programs running. The Green Acres program has been a national leader for State conservation programs, with 95% of funds going to actually preserve open space and improve recreational access for all our families. This is a New Jersey program that works, and works with very little waste or overhead.

Without this important source of funding, parks for mountain bilking, science views of working farmlands, and trail improvements that allow me to comfortably pull my son in the trailer, will not have the necessary funding they need to expand, grow and improve. This is all to say nothing of the value of the ecosystem services that open space provides – like clean water and clean air.

Yes, times are tough in New Jersey, but continuing funding this program is the right choice for our State.

Please – vote YES on November 3rd.

Regards –

Samantha Rothman

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Responses

  1. I’d vote yes if
    a) there was a mechanism to keep the funds from being diverted to waste like payments to millionaire “farmers” as former Gov Whitman’s or anti-green endeavors like astroturfing soccer fields and
    b) there was a credible plan to pay for this.

    Given that most developers’ finances are in as poor shape as the state governments, I’m not too worried that we’ll lose any more open space than we would have with the backrom deals that happen now.

  2. Actually, what you are referring to about “millionaire farmers” – that is a matter of being classified as a farm for tax purposes and that issue is a totally separate one from what this bond is for. The Farmland Preservation Program will buy the development rights to a farm so that it can never, ever be anything other than a farm. Totally different issue than the tax assessment or getting federal payments for farming.

    The bond issue is really about The Green Acres program (which is what this bill is about) is a national leader in efficient state programs for open space – 95% of all monies allotted to the program actually go to get the job done!

    Also – you are absolutely right about the state of developer’s finances – that’s why we should be buying as much as we can now! BUY LOW!!! We’ll never see land deals like this again – we need to be thinking long term. If we buy now while developers are begging for conservation groups to take land off their hands, we’ll end up at the end of the game with so much more open space than we would have otherwise.

    Best
    Samantha

  3. Only about half is going to open space:
    “$218 million would go to preserving land, refuges, watersheds, recreational parks, and sports fields; $146 million would be used to preserve private farmland; $24 million would be used to acquire homes and properties in flood-prone areas; and $12 million would help preserve historical buildings, structures, and grounds.”
    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20091031_N_J__voters_to_decide_on_open-space_bond_issue.html
    The farmland program is full of abuse. “The largest ‘farmer’ in central NJ is Thompson Land Company, a land speculator and developer, and the largest ‘farmer in Hunterdon County is Toll Brothers… Then we have… our more wealthy residents with large lots and McMansions who use the farmland assessment program to dodge their taxes.”
    http://books.google.com/books?id=r2w6uLzXyfcC&lpg=PA27&ots=MKutHdQx5I&dq=nj%20farmland%20preservation%20whitman&pg=PA28#v=onepage&q=&f=false
    The ballot question has no provision to prevent this kind of abuse for these same people to sell development rights that would never be used anyway.

    Two years ago, of the $200M approved for Green Acres, “$47 million [was} used for the construction of recreation projects. It’s called Green Acres, but there’s nothing “green” about spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to cover earth with asphalt for parking lots and replace grass with artificial turf. Nothing grows there, nothing lives in it. In fact, one proponent of artificial turf said that it was best because it kept the wildlife away.” More went to “Handball courts in Camden, a snack bar, water fountains, construction of storage buildings, fencing, lighting, an outdoor adult gym, a skateboard park — an entire golf course in Atlantic County.”
    http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/commentary/lonegan-vote-no-on-new-jersey-open-space-ballot-question

    I don’t believe the advertising that Windows 7 will be wonderful after the actual experience of the OS; and I don’t believe the promises that this money won’t be diverted in fraud and abuse after that actual experience.

    I bike and I’ll vote No.

  4. thanks for the info clever-title.
    Every time I ride by a methane-spewing, crowded “family” cow farm with a Green Acres sign proudly out front I can’t imagine there’s any stringent guidelines or long-term requirements to meet besides being “not a development”.
    I’m all for stopping development by any means necessary, but we shouldn’t be giving breaks to unsustainable farmers who clearly misuse much of their land. There’s also many corn farmers protected by the program – corn being a completely unsustainable and damaging crop when raised conventionally – how many of those fields are sprayed every year with heavy pesticides, never rotated, and soaked with fertilizers that are causing massive eutrophication and death to our waterways? Reform starting at strictly enforced environmental mandates is needed to keep these acres “green”

  5. Sadly, the funds were approved, and put under the control of Chris Christie’s cronies. I hold little hope for the money being allocated less to the politically well-conneted over the truly environmentally important.

    It would be far more effective if we could have kept the money that will be taxed from us for this question and donated it to the Nature Conservancy. Protecting ecologically important land is too important to be left to the corrupt government of NJ.

  6. Wow what a bunch of cynics.

    The system pretty good but not perfect but then again nothing in any government ever is. I’m not to happy about millionaires buying preserved farms so they can have an estate horse farm at a bargain basement price but then again most working farmers are upset about this too. However don’t forget that land is still protected from development.

    Oh and this is what I had to say about Lonegan’s video tirade to my brother the other day:

    He finds ONE (I repeat) ONE potentially questionable example and then damns a whole program that has wisely preserved over a million acres in 20 years and which has also helped to build and restore active use parks that millions enjoy every day. There’s a word for what he is doing: Grandstanding!

    And those look like really nice park facilities! In urban locations, open space takes on a different meaning. North Bergen is a city as densely populated as Brooklyn or the Bronx. The needs of the residents there are different then in rural Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset Counties (all Republican strongholds BTW), which have all greatly benefited from the Green Acres program. If you look at parks in NYC you will see that they look a lot like what was built in North Bergen, albeit minus the parking. Is he implying that the urban tax payers of North Bergen don’t deserve the benefits of a program that has wisely helped preserve thousands of acres (which is also great for local resident’s property values) in those Republican counties?

    BTW. I don’t like minimum parking requirements either that mandate so many parking spaces, particularly in urban areas. However, those are the engineering requirements no matter how antiquated and ill suited. I know of way too many Green Acre park projects that required massive amounts of parking that may only fill up once or twice a year. It’s not the fault of Green Acres but of the car-centric engineering requirements that assume that everyone is going to arrive by car.

  7. It’s not a matter of being cynical, it’s just reality In the hands of politicians, the money will always be allocated to the projects that do the most for the politicians, whether it’s buying votes by building facilities in areas where a pol needs votes or by handing out tax benefits to big-time campaign donors. Go back and read the book I linked above. The examples are numerous.

    Again, if you really believe in open space, you should be donating your own money to the cause, not using the power of the state to force others.

  8. Your not telling me anything I don’t already know. Yes there quite a number of examples of rich people “selling” the development rights to their estates farms. It disgust me as well and I don’t think it’s fair either. However for every 1 case like that, I know (having worked with Green Acres folks in Trenton) that there 100 cases where the land purchase was good, clean and highly beneficial to the environment.

    Plus there are a number of estates being subdivided into McMansions right in prime Somerset and Morris County bike riding country. Just because people are rich doesn’t mean they will never sell a develop their land.

    And yes many people do donate land (or sell it well below market value to the program and other organizations like NJ Conservation Foundation and Trust for Public Lands use private monies along with state and local funds here in NJ in the preservation efforts.

    Finally (and I’m trying to keep this polite) you must be a cynic and an anarchist from your own statements. It was a popular vote and a majority favored the program. Doesn’t get more democratic than that.

    If you don’t like the results of living in a democracy go move to a country like Somalia or Afghanistan where you won’t have to listen to the government, since there isn’t one. You’ll have the benefit of not having to pay taxes that go towards things like, land preservation, roads, police, courts, schools, sanitation, etc. You’d also probably be dead in a week, so I don’t suggest it.

  9. 838,357 votes for, 756,050 votes against. Truly a mandate in a state of over 8.6 million.

    And yes, I’m an anarchist, since the alternative is tolerating the use of agressive violence.

    Are you seriously stating that the only reason you don’t rape and kill is because you think you’ll be caught by the police?

    I’m certain you’re aware that gay marriage was prohibited in Maine by a democratic vote. Does democracy make that proper, too?

  10. Wow! You are clever! (I mean that as an honest compliment).

    Your example of the gay marriage vote in Maine was a great parry but still ultimately flawed.

    I think a popular vote to decide to use money towards open-space preservation and to deny a group of people human rights are two different things.

    Gay marriage bans brought about by popular vote would be illegal in the US if our Judiciary wasn’t also homophobic. I think our Constitution says something about guaranteeing its citizens “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Denying citizens personal freedoms otherwise guaranteed by the Constitution is MUCH different then a popular vote on a bond referendum to purchase land.

    WOW! Wasn’t this a bike blog at one time?


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