Help Shine a Spotlight on Racial Justice This Weekend

This weekend, in 12 locations around the country, thousands will gather at the March for Racial Justice and its 11 satellite events. STAND CNJ is a proud sponsor of the Trenton sister event.

Organized by a coalition of groups and individual activists, the main March for Racial Justice in DC is sponsored by more than 40 organizations, including  Jobs with Justice, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, National Organization for Women, the YWCA, and Common Cause. Marchers will gather for racial equity and political and economic justice for all communities of color. (Learn more here). The DC March will take place on Saturday, Sept. 30th to mark the anniversary of the Elaine Massacre of 1919, in which more than 100 black Americans were killed by white mobs.  Find details on the DC march time and location here.

New Jersey residents live close to two M4RJ satellite events on Sunday, October 1st.

1. In Trenton, the M4RJ Day of Service, Learning & Unity will be held from 2-6pm at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The program includes breakout sessions, music and the chance to learn more about and donate to community service organizations in the Trenton area. The event is organized by the Central Jersey Coalition for Justice, and sponsored by STAND CNJ, Hope Rises Up, Indivisible Cranbury, Lawrence Citizen Activists, and the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow-Trenton/Princeton Chapter.

During the Trenton event, you can drop off items to donate to local organizations that aid the Trenton community and/or work for racial justice.  Items requested include:

  • hygiene products (Trenton Area Soup Kitchen)
  • food, especially canned protein and cereal (Homefront)
  • clothes in good condition (Rescue Mission of Trenton)
  • Books for Black Lives Matter’s Books & Breakfast Program (SURJ-NJ; list of suggested titles here)
  • Spanish Language Books

Pre-registration for the Trenton event is available here before midnight Wednesday, 9/27. You can also register at the door. Tickets are $5.

2. The March for Racial Justice NYC is also on Sunday October 1st. Program begins at 1pm at Jay Street Plaza in DUMBO, Brooklyn. March begins at 3pm.

Can’t make it to any events this weekend? No problem! There are other ways to help the March for Racial Justice make an impact.

Learn. Educate yourself about the history of racial justice issues in our country, and how they affect people today. Check out the many resources listed here.

Post. Share information about the March for Racial Justice on your social media accounts before, during and after the event. You can also change your profile picture this weekend with a March for Racial Justice Twibbon.

Contact your representatives. Call or write to your elected officials at the local, state and congressional level. Stand in solidarity with those who march by telling your reps to do something about racial inequality in the criminal justice system, the school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality, voter suppression, the rise of white extremism, economic inequality and environmental justice.

 

 

 

 

Panel discusses upcoming election at STAND’s Burning Issues event

A crowd of central New Jerseyans gathered in Princeton on September 16th to ask a panel of experts about New Jersey politics and the upcoming state election.  STAND CNJ’s “Burning Issues in NJ Politics: Countdown to the Election” event featured panelists Heather Howard of Princeton University and the Princeton town council, Ingrid Reed of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Jon Whiten of New Jersey Policy Perspective, and state Rep. Andrew Zwicker of New Jersey’s 16th district. During the Q&A event, they discussed the increased civic engagement of the past year, and shared their insights into the urgent issues New Jersey faces as it heads into the November election and beyond.

Looking back on the months since the 2016 election, panelists commended the efforts of new grassroots activists to preserve progressive policies. “Your work is really so supportive and helpful. New Jersey was on the frontlines,” said Heather Howard, in reference to the fight to preserve ACA healthcare protections. Jon Whiten noted that widespread activism made a huge difference regarding healthcare; he reminded us that many people assumed Congress would immediately repeal the ACA in the days after President Trump’s inauguration! According to Ingrid Reed, the effect of increased activism was noticeable in this spring’s gubernatorial primaries too. Candidates who weren’t endorsed by the party committees still received a significant portion of votes. That tells us that “many more people are thinking about who should represent them” than in a typical gubernatorial primary race, said Reed.

Many in the audience asked how we can maintain this grassroots activity, and motivate people who are apathetic about state and local elections. Panelists had several suggestions. Howard reminded us that in state and local elections, individual votes really do matter — after all, Rep. Zwicker won his seat by 76 votes! Other recommendations included organizing get-out-the-vote campaigns that connect a voter’s values with what happens in the statehouse (just like STAND is doing!), and increasing the civic engagement of high school students in their local governments. Reed recommends that New Jersey develop better ways to inform people about who is running for what office. “It’s really difficult to know what you should pay attention to…There’s not voter apathy about what they think of government,” she said. Instead, the problem lies in figuring out what issues to follow and who to vote for at the state or local level.

L to R: Ingrid Reed, Heather Howard, Jon Whiten, and Rep. Andrew Zwicker

Healthcare was a major focus of audience questions. During the past months of congressional attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, many progressives have wondered whether a state-wide single payer system is possible. However, according to Whiten, “It’s close to impossible. The funds just really aren’t there…We need to maintain the progress that we’ve made at the federal level” if we want to improve healthcare. Howard agrees: “I think the answer [to improving healthcare costs and coverage] is to do it at the federal level” where funding is more flexible and deficit spending is possible, she said. Howard sees a single-payer, Medicare-for-All plan at the federal level as one important way to reduce costs for small businesses. While a state-based single-payer system is unlikely, universal coverage for New Jersey’s children is possible, according to Whiten.

Economic concerns also loomed large in the Q&A. “There are huge structural barriers to economic success” in New Jersey, said Whiten: 1 in 10 New Jerseyans live below the federal poverty line, state investment in almost every area has been flat or cut, property and sales taxes are regressive, and the long-underfunded NJ Transit system “is in a death spiral.” Possible solutions to these problems based on New Jersey Policy Perspective’s analysis include raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing sick leave for workers, and rethinking property and sales taxes so that the wealthy pay their fair share. According to Reed, another way to improve economic well-being for New Jersey residents is to invest more in community colleges that can retrain workers for better-paying jobs.

As if these concerns weren’t enough, our state also faces major budget problems in the coming years. Reed warned that the $35 billion budget limit will give us very little wiggle room. The next governor will play a huge role in dealing with the state budget. Whiten says he or she will have to look at ways to “expand the pie of the budget in a fair and equitable way”, work to protect current federal sources of money, and try to find new sources as well. Howard predicts that recreational marijuana will soon be legal as the state looks for new ways to fill its coffers. Citizens can get engaged in the budget process by attending public budget hearings to testify about the specific state investments that matter to you.

Another issue on people’s minds was climate change: with the federal government doing little about climate change (and sometimes even denying its existence), how do we address it in New Jersey? Rep. Zwicker sees a robust role for the state to play, by rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, committing to honor the Paris Climate Agreement, and incentivizing energy efficiency, especially in warehouses and school buildings. “It’s about investing millions now to save billions later, and to save people’s lives,” said Zwicker. Reed emphasized the importance of coastal management and resiliency as we deal with the effects of climate change in New Jersey, an approach that the state has so far resisted. “We don’t have a plan for where is safer to build and in what condition…We in New Jersey have really turned a blind eye to thinking about what the alternatives are,” she said. Reed recommended that the entire state follow the example of Tom’s River, which has recently created a new master plan for the city using 100-year projections from scientists at Rutgers University and high-water marks from Hurricane Sandy.

So, with all these urgent issues, what can we do to ensure we are effective in addressing them in 2017 and beyond? At an individual level, “the challenge is to pay attention to what party officials are doing”, said Reed. She recommends that people get involved with their local party committees, communicate with local party officials, and help get more people out to vote. Some in the audience asked how we can protect our state from harmful policy coming out of Washington. “We need a governor who makes [protecting New Jersey from an extreme right-wing agenda] a priority, and a legislature” who will support that, according to Rep. Zwicker. New Jersey could “make progress on day one” of the new governor’s term by restoring funding for and access to reproductive health services, said Howard. Zwicker mentioned a number of progressive bills that had passed with bipartisan support in the last session, but were vetoed by Gov. Christie. These bills can be queued up to quickly pass next January, if there is a governor and legislature committed to them. Another strategy New Jersey can take is “joining with other states [like California and New York] in a resistance agenda,” offered Howard.

A lot of problems and possibilities lie before us. Let’s get to work, New Jersey!

 

 

Six Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feel Hopeless about the Paris Climate Agreement

[Update, 7/7/17: New Jersey’s state senators recently passed a bill, S3317, that would require NJ to join the US Climate Alliance! The bill is now in committee in the Assembly. Stay tuned…..!)

The world was stunned last week when the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Progress on fighting climate change seems more out of reach than ever. But local mayors, governors, and corporations from around the country have given us six reasons why you shouldn’t despair! Read this list to learn about 6 different alliances of local leaders ready to take action on climate change. And get ready to feel more hopeful!

  1. The newly formed United States Climate AllianceIn the wake of the president’s decision to take the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the governors of New York, California and Washington state created the United States Climate Alliance on June 1st. By Monday, June 5th, ten more states had joined (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia), increasing the size of the alliance to 13 states! These 13 states make up 31.4% of the US population, and 18.1% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. The bipartisan effort (both Democratic and Republican governors have joined the alliance) will work to meet the goal laid out in the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. On June 26th, New Jersey’s lawmakers passed a bill in the state Senate (S3317), that would require NJ to join the US Climate Alliance! As of this writing, the bill is in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. Call committee chair Tim Eustace (D-38) at 201-576-9199 to voice your support for New Jersey joining the US Climate Alliance!
  2. The Under2 CoalitionStates and cities from 35 countries around the world and six continents have signed the Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding, under the coordination of The Climate Group. The 175 members of the coalition represent 1.2 billion people, 16% of global population, and 39% of the global economy. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State are members, as well as 8 major US cities. Coalition members commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
  3. The Climate Group. In addition to its involvement with the Under2 Coalition, the Climate Group has also organized over the last decade a States and Regions Alliance to help members phase out usage of coal, move to 100% renewable energy, invest in clean tech infrastructure, and commit to limited emissions by 2020 and net zero emissions by 2050. California, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and Washington are members, along with 30-some other state and regional governments around the world which represent 368 million people. The Climate Group also works with corporations through the RE100 Project, a coalition of businesses that have committed to 100% renewable energy. Ninety-six major corporations, like Google, Ikea, Bank of America and Unilever, have joined RE100 since its inception in 2014.
  4. The Climate Mayors. Originally formed in opposition to the executive order scaling back the Clean Power Plan, this group of US mayors grew from 75 to 279 in the days after the US left the Paris Agreement. The mayors who have signed on to “adopt, honor, and uphold”  the goals of the Paris Agreement represent 59 million Americans. The 11 New Jersey Climate mayors as of 6/7/17 are: Bruce Packer of Glen Rock, Colleen Mahr of Fanwood, Gayle Brill Mittler of Highland Park, Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, Steve Fulop of Jersey City, Timothy Dougherty of Morristown, Ras Baraka of Newark, Francis Womack of North Brunswick, Liz Lempert of Princeton, Michael Gonnelli of Secaucus, and Eric Jackson of Trenton.
  5. The Sierra Club’s Mayors for Clean EnergyEighty-four mayors across the country have signed onto a Sierra Club initiative to get local communities working towards 100% clean and renewable energy. Three New Jersey mayors have joined on: Frank Bivona of Franklin Lakes, Philip Kramer of Franklin Township, and Peter Rustin of Tenafly.
  6. We Are Still InIn the days after the president pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, former mayor Michael Bloomberg began working with other state, municipal, corporate and university leaders to pledge their commitment to the Paris Agreement. On June 5th, they published an open letter to declare their goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources. Signers of the letter included 1,219 US mayors, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities. Five mayors from New Jersey signed the letter (Gayle Brill Mittler of Highland Park, Steve Fulop of Jersey City, Liz Lempert of Princeton, Mohammad Hameeduddin of Teaneck, and Brian Stack of Union City), along with 8 colleges and universities from our state (the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rider University, Rutgers University, Rutgers University-Camden, Rutgers University-Newark, Stockton University, and the College of New Jersey).

While local municipal and academic leaders from New Jersey are members of these alliances, Governor Christie has taken no action to sign up our state. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy announced on June 2 that he will enter New Jersey into the United States Climate Alliance if he becomes governor. Republican nominee Kim Guadagno has not said whether she would join the alliance, though she has supported reentering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and increasing New Jersey’s use of renewable wind and solar energy. You can contact her campaign here or on Facebook or Twitter to ask her about her stance on, and encourage her to join, the United States Climate Alliance, the Under2 Coalition, and the Climate Group’s State and Regional Alliance!

If your mayor has already on signed on to one of the above initiatives, please contact them to say thank you and find out how you can support your town’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use more renewable energy. If your mayor is not mentioned in the list above, contact him or her, as well as the other members of your town council and urge them to join the Climate Mayors, the Mayors for Clean Energy, and/or the We Are Still In alliance!

If your university is a part of We Are Still In, write a thank you letter. If your university has not signed on, write a letter urging them to do so!