Home ownership has often been a symbol of "making it" in our society. It has often embodied the manifestation of the American Dream for many New Jerseyans. But, with the pressures of a struggling economic resurgence here in our state this dream has not been able to turn itself into reality for too many of our neighbors. Whether it is growing families…..idealistic 1st time buyers….or those in life’s various transitional stages, we must ensure that achieving a piece of this dream can become attainable again.
As a member of both the New Jersey Assembly Budget and Education Committees, I get to see first-hand the intersection of our state’s fiscal and educational policies. This vantage point has given me a greater appreciation of the difficult decisions that New Jersey faces with respect to ensuring that every child is given the best chance to succeed academically, while recognizing the financial constraints which sometimes limit our options. However, by serving in this capacity I am emboldened to push our educational system in a way that allows all of our children to fulfill their enormous promise. This promise can only be nurtured forward by a comprehensive and cohesive agenda that no longer pits tax payer against tax payer or child against child, but rather recognizes that through our common purpose we can raise the educational standards of every child.
Earlier this year, I put out a call for people who were interested in serving their neighbors to join me on special community boards that we instituted to gain your insights on the issues affecting our communities. One of the highlights of my job is the interaction and feedback that I get from folks like you....my bosses. That is what led me to start the CAP (Citizens Advisory Panel) Teams. The CAP Teams are every day men, women and children who have committed some of their time to meet with me to discuss the issues of importance to our communities. The CAP Teams focus on economic development, education student, veteran and women issues, with an eye towards adopting common sense solutions to problems in these respective issue areas.
We had great success with this program during my first term in office. Initiatives such as the law to create the NJ Helmets-to-Hardhats Program in the NJ Turnpike Authority, ideas to refine the transformative New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act and the proposal to create benchmarks of performance for teacher preparation programs were all born out of discussions led by the CAP Team.
Over the last few months I have been working with different groups to ensure that New Jerseyeans know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to sign up by the March 31st deadline. I am one of those folks who believe that our "unalienable rights.....life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are made far more possible if we're healthy enough to enjoy them. Call me crazy, but I believe in an America that looks out, rather than looks over one another.
I was raised in an union household. My father is a retired Teamster and instilled in me early on, the value of honest work. My childhood was spent learning the value and benefits of organized labor from my dad. His involvement in the union provided our family with a solid middle-class upbringing that valued an honest day's pay for an honest day's effort. Those values shape my life as an elected official, carpenter and as a citizen.
I have always wanted to be an elected official. I think it may go back to my man, Michael J. Fox. See, Michael J. Fox played a character, "Alex P. Keaton", from the show Family Ties....Man, I loved that show! Anyway, his political aspirations and admiration of Republican political leaders caught my attention. I either smartened up or missed the boat (you can decide) since "Alex" was a pretty staunch Republican and I walk a more progressive path.
As the face of poverty has continued to evolve and morph into the faces of our families, friends, and neighbors a sober imperative, with respect to this dilemma, confronts our state and our nation. Is my neighbor's prosperity or ability to get ahead linked to my own? I believe that answer is yes.
As I recently read President Obama's remarks on addressing the issue of fatherlessness in our country, I was emboldened by the attention he brought to this critical issue. Fatherlessness is a growing crisis in our country and our state. It is an issue that can form the foundation of many of the challenges that families in every population segment of our state may face. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to start a statewide dialogue on this issue, and address its root causes....and to mitigate its negative impact upon our society.
I firmly believe that a consistent educational standard is necessary for our students to compete on a global scale. A scale which unfortunately, has begun tipping in the other direction.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an education push that seeks to make sure students across our country are being taught to such a standard. The Common Core is a dramatic difference from America's current educational standards system for one primary reason. Until recently, we didn’t HAVE a uniform standard across our nation.
I hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season, as well as a safe and prosperous start to 2014. I want to take a moment to ask that you join my team as I continue my efforts to bring greater economic opportunity, enhanced educational value to our children, and to grow our middle class by investing in our common future. Please consider a donation today of $25, $50 or $100 by clicking on this link.