An January 13th, Alternet reported: "The Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has opened a federal investigation into whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) improperly used Hurricane Sandy relief funds to produce commercials starring himself and his family ahead of his re-election campaign. Auditors will examine how the Christie administration used $25 million set aside for “a marketing campaign to promote the Jersey Shore and encourage tourism,” focusing on the bidding process to award a $4.7 million to a politically connected firm that cast Christie and his family in the Sandy ads, while “a comparable firm proposed billing the state $2.5 million for similar work” but did not include Christie in the commercials."
What: Occupy NJ Capitol, confront Christie's unethical diversion of Hurricane Sandy funds towards political campaigning
When: Saturday the 18th to Wednesday Tuesday, January 22nd, 12:00 pm
Where: WWII Veterans Memorial, 140 West State Street, Trenton, NJ.
In light of the recent disturbing disclosures concerning Governor Chris Christie’s flagrant misuse of federal Sandy aid money, the collective of storm survivors and their allies who organize under the Occupy Sandy New Jersey banner are calling on residents of New Jersey to join us in Trenton to Occupy outside the Capitol starting this Saturday, January 18th, at noon. We intend to maintain our camp through Chris Christie’s re-inauguration festivities on Tuesday, January 21st.
We invite Sandy survivors in particular, to make the trip to Trenton (we’ll help you get here if you reach out: call 609-318-4271 or email OccupySandyNJ@interoccupy.net) to tell your stories to the state and national media already camped out nearby. We know that the people of New Jersey have stories to tell, to Chris Christie and to anyone willing to listen, and we plan to provide a safe space from which to do so.
Since our Sandy recovery work continues on a daily basis—indeed, some of our volunteers and organizers may not even be able to make it to Trenton due to responsibilities in the field—this will only be a four day Occupation. However, should the administration fail to quickly fix its broken response to the storm and shift its attention to the state’s residents who are most in need, we will not rule out returning to Trenton again soon. Governor Christie must understand that the last people he should be bullying right now are Sandy survivors.
Why "Camp Sandygate"?
Sandygate is the real big scandal of Chris Christie's administration. While the state and national media are fixated on "Bridgegate"—which indeed does make for a good story—the real story should be the thousands of New Jersey residents who have been failed by Christie and the state. This is not simply an issue of storm recovery being a long and difficult process, as officials are often heard saying, but this is an issue of discrimination, misappropriation, and lies. Sandygate is about callous state officials deciding that one group of people will get help, while another will be ignored.
Frankly, Sandygate is a scandal about mistreating the most vulnerable among us.
Below are just a few of the grievances we hear most often through working with both survivors and service providers. As the links below demonstrate, the NJ media has actually done quite a good job of telling the real story. Unfortunately, the national media has so far failed to put the pieces together:
Blacks and Latino applicants have been disproportionately rejected for resettlement and construction grants. 14.5% and 13.5% of White applicants were rejected by the Resettlement and RREM programs, respectively. Contrast these rates of rejection to 20.4% / 18.1% of Latino applicants, and a shocking 38.1% / 35.1% for African-Americans.
South Jersey's battered Delaware Bayshore has been almost completely left out of the recovery process. Residents of Cumberland County, one of the poorest counties in the state, are ineligible to receive state-administered federal funds. This means that while a beachfront homeowner on Long Beach Island is eligible to receive up to $150,000 to repair their home (or even to jack it up on stilts so their flood insurance remains affordable), bay-front or marsh-front homeowners in Downe Township could have lost everything and yet be eligible to receive nothing from the state.
Discrimination against mobile-home owners:
Despite assurances from the state that the grant application process did not exclude mobile-home owners, the process was riddled with confusion. In October, 2013, only 10 of 3,500 statewide applicants for rebuilding grants were given to mobile-home owners. In the devastated Vanguard and Metropolitan parks, in affluent Bergen County's working class borough of Moonachie, only 4 of 400 residences were approved. The state website still contains language excluding "RVs and trailers," which is believed to be the main cause of the confusion.
Mishandled recovery for renters:
Rental property recovery was underfunded, and relief went to landlords based on demand, rather than need, leaving renters out in the cold. As a result, $2 million of the $4.5 million awarded through the state's Incentives for Landlords program ended up in Essex County, which did not experience nearly the magnitude of storm-related damage as did other Atlantic counties. Devastated Ocean County, by contrast, received a mere $47,484 from the same program. Furthermore, while the state has been focused on landlords, renters themselves have too often been ignored.
Leaving people out in the cold:
As a result of the systemic mishandling and inequities in the Christie administration's recovery effort, many of the most vulnerable among Sandy's survivors have fallen through the cracks. The state has yet to commission a comprehensive survey of survivors, nor assessed the needs of those who currently live crammed into motel rooms with their whole family, or by sleeping in the condemned ruins of their home, or in between the reeds hidden in sand dunes. These and countless other survivors are still in urgent need of assistance with basic necessities such as food, clothing, medical services and stable housing. We do what we can for them every day, but there is so much more work to do.
With so many resources going to well-off people and businesses, even one vulnerable person left behind should be a scandal. Tragically—and due to the decisions of Chris Christie and the state of New Jersey—thousands have been left behind.
#OccupyChristie starts at high noon this Saturday at the State Capitol. Bring tents and sleeping bags.
This is Sandygate. Please join us in Trenton tomorrow if you share our outrage.
To Governor Chris Christie, here is our one demand: Do your damn job.
Partial Schedule of events:
Day 1 – Saturday
- 12pm – Occupy.
- 6pm – Community Dinner & Assembly
- 8pm – Memorial Candlelight Vigil for Sandy’s victims
Day 2 – Sunday
- 9am – Breakfast
- 1 pm – Community Lunch & Assembly
- 7pm – Sunday Dinner
Day 3 – Monday
- 9am – Breakfast
- 11am – Press conference
- 1 pm – Community Lunch & Assembly
- 7pm – Dinner
Day 4 – Tuesday
- 8am – Breakfast
- 11am – Sandy Survivor Speakout
- 1pm – Lunch
- 7pm – Dinner
Day 5 – Wednesday
- 9am – Breakfast and Break Down Encampment
For more information, please contact Occupy Sandy NJ at 609-318-4271 or OccupySandyNJ@interoccupy.net.
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