Below are Dianne Brake’s remarks delivered at the PlanSmart NJ Annual Dinner, October 29, 2009,at the Hyatt, New Brunswick.

Nov 3, 2009   //   by PlanSmart NJ   //   Speaks Out Blog  //  Comments Off on Below are Dianne Brake’s remarks delivered at the PlanSmart NJ Annual Dinner, October 29, 2009,at the Hyatt, New Brunswick.

Welcome and thank you for coming tonight. And a special welcome to the many new faces we see in the crowd this year – the next generation of New Jersey’s leaders. Thank you for coming. In this recession, you deserve a special thank you for making tonight so successful! It is energizing – and we see it as a demonstration of hope for the future. Hope that we think is well founded.

Yes, even in this so-called “Great” Recession, even when the future is so uncertain. Why should we hope?

Look around! Together we have power. The power to shape the future of New Jersey is here in this very room. Every year, the people who receive our awards stand at this podium and tell you that you can do what they do.

I know, we all have to vent about how broken New Jersey’s government is – it sometimes seems beyond repair. But if we allow venting to be all we do, than we waste the power we have.

Like a muscle, power atrophies if it is not used. And when we allow our power to atrophy, we allow those who have been given power by the Constitution and by the Electorate to waste it. Waste their power. Waste our time. And lay waste to our future.

In just a few days, New Jerseyans will know who our Governor will be for the next four years. Whoever he is, let’s flex our muscles. Let’s call on him to immediately put away the banners and badges on Wednesday, and begin governing.

On paper, New Jersey’s Constitution gives the Governor more power than any other Governor in the country. But it does nothing to ensure that the Governor will actually use his power to do what needs to be done. That’s where we come in.

Let’s make him forget the “Us versus Them,” the “We win/you lose” way of thinking. Beginning on November 4, New Jerseyans are once again all in the same boat. And we want it on the right course. With your support, PlanSmart NJ can help navigate.

First: Let’s demand that the Governor stop tinkering around the edges. New Jersey can’t afford to work on only one problem at a time. The economy, traffic, climate change, and regulation – they are all connected.

Instead let’s start with New Jersey’s assets: its location, its infrastructure, and its skilled labor force. Build on these assets, fix the system, link them in a strategic plan, and get all agencies of government to work together to rebuild our future.

OK, wait. Don’t worry! I know that when I begin to talk about PlanSmart NJ’s planning frameworks, strategies, and tools for how to make things right, your eyes may begin to glaze over (even though we know this is what you appreciate about us!). So I will simply tell you why the Governor must pay attention:

It’s about our quality of life. We all need jobs and housing, right? We ride on trains, drive on roads, drink the water, flush the toilet; we breathe the air, and enjoy the fall color. Well, all of these are things are connected as regional systems.

The bad news is that right now all these systems in New Jersey are broken – fragmented and directionless. The good news is that they are all strongly influenced by government plans, regulations and investments – things the Governor can influence! So he can get New Jersey back on track by integrating its plans, regulations and investments. That’s it.

But, instead of focusing on what is real, some of our elected officials behave like the drunk who lost his keys in the dark and is looking for them under the lamp post because that is where the light is. We need to show them a better place to look and light their way. It may not be easy, but it is guaranteed to get results.

I must warn you that too many other Smart Growth and sustainability advocates will be no help here. They are too focused on the local and not at all on regional systems. Let me give you a transportation example of why that’s a problem.

Many of you here this evening are working hard to get permits for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and other types of redevelopment projects. These are vital – we have supported such development for years. But your TOD will only succeed if there is an efficient transit system to serve it. That’s why planning for regional systems is so important.

Make transit work for New Jersey and get it built. We can build a Jersey-centric system, rebuilding hundreds of communities, adding growth capacity and the promise of a better economy, environment, and regional equity. It is what is real, important – and, yes –difficult. But it is where we need the Governor to focus.

This is no time to say, “It’s too broken” or “It’s too big.” There are young people coming up behind us! And yes, you can do it in a recession.

PlanSmart NJ’s Smart Growth Economy Project saw how the economic engines in New Jersey were stalling even before the “Great Recession.” And so did others. Some of the major sectors have already come up with what they need to thrive in the Garden State.

The transportation industry – the biggest of our economic engines, capitalizing on our location, ports, highways and rail systems – it created the Liberty Corridor Plan. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) – a major asset to New Jersey – unveiled their strategic transportation and housing plan for South Jersey last year. It is designed to meet a job target and find places for workers to live and provide the means to get to work. PlanSmart NJ gave an award last year to Tom Carver for his leadership on this plan.

And the bio and high tech industry – another huge driver of our economy – have mapped their major assets. The next step for them could be to follow CRDA, beef up their Einstein’s Alley and the Innovation State campaigns, and plan for where their workers can live and how they will get to work.

The Governor not only has these plans to work with, he has major investments in public transit already underway.

Most powerful among them is the billions of dollars we are investing in the new ARC Tunnel – which PlanSmart NJ is recognizing tonight in an award to New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of NY and NJ. There are also plans to expand transit in South Jersey.

But these plans and investments will be wasted, unless the Governor uses his leadership – his power – to connect the dots, build a shared vision of the future of New Jersey, a shared vision that will not pit the economy against the environment, the suburbs against the cities, or the rich against the poor. And then get your Administration to work together.

I call all of you in this room tonight to embrace your hope and exercise your power. Vote on November 3. And then join us on November 4 in a call to action.

We can succeed. The future depends on it.

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