Commentary

Stop the Exodus from Jersey: a State for All Seasons

By JOHN M. IMPERIALE | Jan 17, 2018

I am loving the winter!

Yes, it has been the coldest January since the two-faced Roman god Janus first ushered in the Golden Age. We had our blizzard and I hope everyone was safe through that. But we are in a four-season locale and there is nothing better than enjoying the diversity of climate, of activities, of crowds and solitude, of excitement and peace.

So bundle up and take a quiet, serene walk on the shore before the summer crowds come back. Perhaps you will see a baby seal resting in the sun. Or you can just marvel at how the ocean waves in freezing temperatures seem to glisten like diamond-covered swells. Perhaps it is the ease of eating at local restaurants, or the indoor pickleball games, or the visit to the Pinball Museum in Asbury Park that will warm your blood. Maybe a ski trip to North Jersey is just what you need. Or stay inside with a good book. Whatever you do, winter in New Jersey, and especially by the Jersey Shore, has an appeal that goes beyond a mortal’s words.

I know I am in the minority.

People are fleeing New Jersey, if they can. It is not only the snowbirds who head to Florida or wherever for six months and a day. It is also the people who are leaving New Jersey for good, thanks to our spineless, ineffective, uncaring and, let’s face it, just awful political leaders.

I am loving winter, but I am now completely fed up with our elected officials: federal, state, local, all of them. They have failed us and it is time to stop being even a little bit gracious or politically correct; it is time to stop saying other politicians are terrible but mine is trying his or her best.

People leaving the beauty of New Jersey are the proof that it is time for a major shakeup of the way this state conducts itself. Forget the new governor. Forget the upcoming midterm elections. Forget our local elections. If we do not all start to show our anger, then the exodus from New Jersey will continue and those of us who stay behind will suffer for it.

See what thinking about politics will do to you? I was writing my love letter to winter and, all of a sudden, it came over me: They, the politicians, are ruining us. But back to how I am loving the winter!

First, I am staying in New Jersey for the same reason I came here: love. Only now it is the love of Jersey. I moved to this beautiful state over a dozen years ago after a lifetime as a New Yorker because I was lucky enough to meet the perfect person. So I married a Jersey girl and became a Jersey guy.

My wife and I could be happy anywhere, though, but New Jersey is our home and we want to keep it that way forever. All year ’round. We are quickly becoming a minority in that respect. People, families and businesses are getting out of the Garden State as if there were a massive evacuation order underway. And, in reality, there is.

Our elected officials, in Washington and Trenton, have put out the order: stay in New Jersey at your own (financial) risk. And so New Jersey is a leader, along with New York, of people leaving the state to relocate, permanently, somewhere else, anywhere else. And those who leave just because of the cold should not have to stay away, along with their taxes, purchasing power and friendship, for more than half the year.

But it has been this way for years and it is getting worse. It does not have to be this way. The mass exodus of taxpayers to wherever life is more affordable can be stopped, and even reversed. People, families, businesses should want to be in New Jersey. After all, it is a beautiful, exciting place, 12 months a year.

The right leaders, the right policies and the right message and our state could achieve its vast potential. We have the natural beauty and the most energetic, friendly, hard-working people in the nation. That may sound like a pandering platitude, but it is not. I have traveled the country and met its people. America is beautiful and Americans are wonderful, but New Jersey is the best.

Travel America and you will see majestic mountains, breathtaking lakes and streams and shorelines, arts and culture centers, forests that never end, bustling main streets and economic hubs, small town coziness and big city excitement. Travel New Jersey and you see all of that, too, and much of it better than anywhere else in the nation.

We, the people, not the politicians who have failed us for too long, need to do whatever it takes to make New Jersey a place where people want to visit, move to, stay forever.

That will take quite an effort, and will require quite an upheaval in Washington and Trenton and our local cities and towns.

If an elected official is not actively working every minute to change the desirability of our state as a place to live, work and visit, then out with him or her, out with them all.

We can start with Congressman Tom MacArthur, who shamelessly voted for the tax bill that will raise taxes on Jerseyans while lowering property values. He has high aspirations and must think his vote will win him favors in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, but it should cost him his seat in Congress. Whether you live in his district or not, you should work against him. After all, he is working against us. Let’s see him run for president after losing re-election in his own district.

Gov. Murphy should do absolutely nothing except figure out how to ameliorate the tax burden in New Jersey. The same holds true for every other elected official. I do not want to hear about anything else, nor do I want to hear excuses. Stop the exodus!

We can deal with image as well as reality. Perhaps no state in the nation has as misguided a reputation as our state. That can change. Ten years ago, the Garden State ran a contest to pick a new state tourism slogan. The winning entry was: “New Jersey: Come See for Yourself.”

Not bad, I suppose, but 10 years later is anyone walking around spouting that slogan? Go to visitnj.org and you won’t find that slogan anywhere. In fact, the state’s official slogan is, can you guess? That’s right: “The Garden State.” It became the state’s official slogan as far back as … last year! Gov. Christie signed an order to that effect in August 2017, in lieu of doing anything else he should have been doing to promote the state or make it more affordable. So those of you who think he did nothing in his second term, you were wrong. He did almost nothing.

Of course, our state’s motto is “Liberty and Prosperity.” We still have our liberty, but the prosperity part has not been true for almost a century. New Jersey has not seen true prosperity since the turn of the 20th century. Since then it has been rising taxes, political corruption and falling behind every truly “prosperous” state in the union.

Here is what New Jersey is to me: “A State for All Seasons.” Visitors need to come for more than the shore in the summer or the skiing in the winter. The message should be: There is always something wonderful going on in New Jersey. (Was there a better off-season event than this year’s LBI Kite Festival? I doubt it.)

Leave for the Sunshine State if you must, but tax policies should not be forcing you to stay away so long. And we certainly should not be watching our citizens leave forever because it is so much cheaper to live elsewhere. Stop the exodus. Make New Jersey an affordable place to live and let everyone enjoy the wonders of New Jersey year ’round.

If you are a New Jersey elected official and that is not your No. 1 priority and your constant obsession, then, please, you be the first to leave.

John M. Imperiale of Harvey Cedars can be reached at johnmimperiale@gmail.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.