Building One New Jersey!

BONJ audienceBuilding One New Jersey: State Planning for Inclusion, Sustainability, and Economic Growth" -- a powerful, dynamic summit meeting on equity and planning brought close to 400 people together in Princeton on July 23, 2010. Panelists and attendees made up an amazing array of Federal, State, municipal, corporate, civic, and clergy leaders who joined in a powerful discussion of regional equity and a NJ state plan.

See a summary of the ONE New Jersey policy platform.

Marty Johnson's excellent summary of the event for the Trenton Times is here. The Trenton Times own coverage of the event is here. A news story from NJ Spotlight is here. See pictures here.

Visit PlanSmart NJ's website for more information about NJRC's partner in this Building One New Jersey event.

At the conference, public officials from all branches of government agreed that a statewide plan that focused on inclusion would improve our economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability. They called for stronger state planning to reduce segregation and the disparities among communities.

Keynote speaker Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with author and national expert on fair housing and regional equity David Rusk and Georgetown law professor and author on race and integration Sherryl Cashin challenged the audience to work together to change federal and state regulations and investments as well as local planning and zoning to produce a better quality of life for all.

PlanSmart NJ and the New Jersey Regional Coalition convened the conference. PlanSmart NJ President Dianne Brake opened the conference pointing out the power in the room: the hundreds of people from the congregations and community organizations, which are a part of the New Jersey Regional Coalition and partners on the conference; plus the most powerful stakeholders in redevelopment in New Jersey represented by the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, the conference's Title Sponsor; plus the hundreds of PlanSmart members and supporters. "There would be nothing," she said, "that such a coalition could not accomplish."

She laid out a 4-step approach for creating a strong state plan that would reflect the equal importance of the economy, the environment and reducing segregation and the concentration of poverty, with the aim of producing regional equity.

Step 1: Pursue an aggressive economic development strategy that targets jobs that will strengthen the economic base of each region of New Jersey.

Step 2: Connect a commensurate housing program to meet the affordability requirements of the workforce and special needs populations.

Step 3: Locate the jobs in places that will shift travel to public transit, improve natural resources, and reduce segregation and the concentration of poverty (regional equity).

Step 4: Make regional compact agreements among all agents of government to implement the plan in each county and hold decision-makers accountable.

The conference's first panel was moderated by Marlene Lao-Collins, of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, and included Michael Powers, Mayor of Lawrence Township; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey of the 27th District; Joseph McNamara Director of NJ LECET; Father Joseph Capella, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Lindenwold; and Dennis Bone, the President of Verizon NJ. The group affirmed that without such a plan, each and every one of their interests has suffered.

New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno spoke at lunch about the need for a new, more streamlined State Plan. She announced the Administration's decision to move the Office of Smart Growth to her office, renaming it the Office of Planning Advocacy.

The second panel, was moderated by PlanSmart NJ President Dianne Brake and New Jersey Regional Coalition President Rev. R. Lenton Buffalo of Union Baptist Church in Elizabeth, and included Assemblyman Joseph Cryan of the 20th District and Majority Leader of the Assembly; Melissa Castro-Marmero, representing US Senator Robert Menendez; Stefan Pryor, Deputy Mayor of the City of Newark; and Timothy Touhey, Executive Vice President of the NJ Builders Association and former Chairman of the NJ State Planning Commission. The group supported a stronger state plan, supported by housing and tax reform that would produce a better future for all New Jerseyans.

In a rousing speech, which received a standing ovation, Dep. Secretary Ron Sims challenged the group to train and organize to take on the enormous task of changing the structure of government to achieve inclusion, sustainability and economic growth.

Afterward, the audience had a chance to voice their thoughts on what they had heard in breakouts of each of six Local District Councils (six regions of the state), already underway through the New Jersey Regional Coalition.

A clear indication of the lack of equity between regions is a Municipal Opportunities map prepared by PlanSmart using expert (and meeting speaker) David Rusk's methodology. It shows how towns differ in basic opportunities for their residents. A copy of the map is here.