You may have read how Governor Phil Murphy has been asleep at the switch on an important issue he campaigned on -- ridding New Jersey’s cities and towns of dangerous lead drinking water pipes. It’s sad to think that up to 250,000 New Jersey school children and according to Gannett New Jersey, “likely many more in recent years,” have been exposed to lead poisoning in their own schools.
What’s most troubling is that the Murphy Administration, namely his NJ Department of Environmental Protection, has neglected to live up to the many promises of politician Phil Murphy.
Here are but a few examples, and counting:
· Murphy's questionnaire on what he would do as governor to solve this problem, from the 2017 general election.
· In early 2018, Murphy said he would focus on the lead issue.
· Murphy also mentioned the lead crisis in his inaugural address: "A stronger and fairer New Jersey embraces comprehensive criminal justice reform -- including a process to legalize marijuana -- and focuses on creating housing that is affordable and safe from the danger of lead.”
· The legislature convened a task force on the water crisis in 2017 and came up with recommendations that they submitted to the Governor in early 2018. Not many of those recommendations were acted upon. We recommended that the NJ School Development Authority (SDA) allow the 31 SDA districts to obtain funding through the Emergent Projects or Capital Projects programs to conduct necessary lead remediation activities. Guess what? No action was taken. The point is that this report was submitted to the Governor almost immediately upon his inauguration, so he had to be keenly aware of the scope of the problem.
· Murphy’s own Administration also knew how bad this problem was and didn’t take immediate action to fix it. His NJ Department of Environmental Protection fell down on the job.
· Despite the legislature’s efforts to bring this issue to the forefront, one key bill was vetoed by Governor Murphy even though there was a dedicated 5-cent paper or plastic bag fee for removing lead paint and pipes.
· And if that isn’t bad enough, while Murphy and his allies tried their best to downplay the lead water crisis, the Newark Board of Education wasn’tbeing straight with the parents of school children about dangerously highlevels of lead in school drinking water.
· No wonder Senator Ron Rice, the longest-serving African-American state senator in New Jersey history called out Governor Murphy for not listening to the plight of minority communities across the state.It’s time for the Governor to act. Too many innocent lives are impacted.
· Now the Governor comes forward with a “plan” as if it was just written off the back of a diner napkin, totally reactionary instead of visionary, and it likely includes higher water taxes on New Jersey consumers and a referendum that will pit suburban taxpayers against urban residents. This isn’t a slam dunk by any stretch. None of this guarantees it’ll be passed by the voters. His own Administration could’ve reacted on Day One but they didn’t. The legislature gave him a blueprint and it only collected dust on his shelf. His latest appointee to deal with the lead issue claims he has no way of truly knowing how many lead pipes exist in the state because of antiquated records, so he essentially put the cart before the horse. The Governor is a day late and more than a few dollars short.
JAMEL C. HOLLEY
State Assemblyman (D-NJ-20).