Elections, Public Administration, and Public Policy:

Policy questions at play in elections – As voters prepare to head to the polls on November 7, they will consider various policy issues in their choices. The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University reports that Republican voters are thinking about parental rights and trans students in public schools, while Democratic voters are most concerned about abortion rights. The contentious offshore wind project in south Jersey also forms a significant policy question in this election. The Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University predicts low turnout – 27-28% of registered voters – for this election, in which all state and assembly seats are up for reelection. (Source: WHYY; NJ Monitor)

Salem, NJ voters to decide whether to sell their water system to private utility company – On Tuesday, voters in Salem, NJ will decide whether to sell their town’s water system to New Jersey American Water, a subsidiary of the largest investor-owned water utility in the U.S. The town faces an $11 million debt and high levels of PFAS (“forever chemicals”) in its water system, which will cost over $1 million to resolve. NJAW would pay the town $18 million up front and make $50 million of capital improvements over the next 10 years. Consumer prices would remain the same for the next two years, then be raised by 3% annually for the following three years, with no specific plan to keep prices affordable after that. Potential price increases concern residents of the town, which has a population of 5,300 and a median income of $26,000. With the help of nonprofit Food & Water Watch, resident Janice Roots collected 250 signatures to place the question on the ballot. NJAW has spent over $100,000 campaigning for the measure’s approval. (Source: WHYY, NJ Spotlight News)

Some groups question timing as ANCHOR relief checks issued – Governor Phil Murphy announced on October 11 the second round of ANCHOR (Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters) property tax relief payments, and senior homeowners and renters have started to receive their checks already. Representatives from the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and watchdog group Common Cause raised concern that sending payments to voters within the 30 days preceding an election might be perceived as an effort to influence elections. The Governor’s office asserts the goal is to provide taxpayers with swift relief. Though historically a hot topic, the issue of property taxes and affordability does not command as much attention this election cycle. (Source: WHYY)

Legislation lies dormant as sexual harassment continues in NJ politics – A new investigation by NJ Advance Media exposes continued rampant sexual harassment in NJ political campaigns. In 2021, in response to public outcry around this issue, NJ Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg championed legislation that would create an Office of Discrimination and Harassment Prevention within the Election Law Enforcement Commission and appropriate $2 million for its functioning, as well as require campaigns to create anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. The bill passed the Senate in June 2021 but never made movement in the Assembly. (Sources: NJ.com; NJ Spotlight News)

Atlantic City to address homelessness through new group offering social services – Atlantic City partnered with the state and the Atlantic City Casino Association to create the Boardwalk Improvement Group, which will help to connect people on the boardwalk with social and addiction services. The group will also assist small businesses on the boardwalk who believe customers are deterred by homeless people nearby. Increased rents since the pandemic have spurred homelessness in Atlantic County. Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small will also look to appoint a homelessness czar. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)


Transportation and the Environment:

Offshore wind developer backs out of South Jersey plan – Orsted, the Danish wind power developer, announced on October 31 that it would cancel its two Ocean Wind projects off of the south Jersey shore, citing interest rates and supply chain issues. It will accept an impairment of $4 billion plus any other cancellation fees, which may bring the total cancellation cost to $5.5 billion. The company is proceeding with projects in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Long Island. The Ocean Winds projects had faced significant opposition from the public in NJ, who expressed concern over costs, noise, and harm to the natural environment. Orsted’s decision constitutes a major loss for Governor Murphy, who aims to reduce NJ dependence on fossil fuels, and for President Biden, who set a goal to develop 40 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2035. (Source: NJ Spotlight News; CNBC)

Plan to build warehouses in White, NJ fall through – A proposal to develop 2.8 million square feet of warehouse space in White, NJ ended on Nov. 1 with the announcement that the state will purchase the land from the developer for preservation. Residents have organized to oppose the plan since its inception four years ago, as it would lower their quality of life, bringing significant car and truck traffic to a two-lane road in one of the most rural parts of the state. (Source: Insider NJ)

Federal government commits a further 3.8 billion to new trains in Hudson tunnel – NY Senator Chuck Schumer announced on November 3rd that the federal government would provide an additional $3.8 billion in aid for the Gateway project, which will expand rail service from New York to New Jersey via a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. This additional funding brings the total federal commitment to $11 billion of the $16 billion price tag and will reduce New Jersey’s financial burden for the project. New Jersey and New York must each pay for a quarter of the Gateway Development Corporation’s construction costs. The project will meet growing demand for public transit pathways between NJ and New York City and resolve concern over damaged tunnel currently in use. The new influx of funding enables construction to begin now, and the project should be completed by 2035. (Source: NJ Spotlight News; New York Times