‘Election Conversations’ and the questions they raised

Even unanswered, questions from attendees say something telling about NJ issues
Credit: (AP Photos/Seth Wenig)
File photos: Gov. Phil Murphy, left, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli

NJ Spotlight News last week finished its series of online “Election Conversations” on issues important to voters and the state as a whole. We invited experts and observers for five separate, hour-long discussions on specific issues: education, COVID-19 and health care, budget and taxes, social justice and immigration, and climate change and clean energy.

As part of the events, we asked registrants to pose questions on issues the state faces and questions they want answered in this election. We received dozens of submissions, ranging from the philosophical to the pragmatic.

The following sampling of questions from each of these conversations offers a look at what is on the public’s mind less than a month before voters choose New Jersey’s next governor and members of the Legislature.

COVID-19 and health care:

Will it be safe for people to have in-person gatherings of more than 40 people within the next year?

What have we learned about community engagement in disease prevention and acceptance of scientific advances? Have we learned tangible lessons to help alleviate distrust of the health care system, and how do we keep all of our communities engaged and involved when not dealing with a pandemic?

How will the state of NJ investigate and address health care and COVID-19 recovery inequalities?

Can you speak to strategies being enlisted in NJ (possibly at county-based levels) to counter disinformation?

Your views on mandating vaccination?

The state of education in NJ:

Has the political power and capital of the NJEA and other state education unions grown or shrunk during the pandemic, and how is this trend likely to change over the coming years?

How can climate-change education be further integrated into NJ schools?

How will we ensure that our students who were most academically impacted by COVID-19 get the supports they need? How will we know which students suffered the most?

Who will be the final arbiter in the issue of masks or letting parents decide on masks?

What will be the long-term impact of COVID-19 on public education in NJ?

Budget and taxes:

How do we reduce reliance on local property taxes for funding public schools?

Why can’t the government balance their budgets like households and  businesses have to?

How do you see state revenues in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 after federal funds are gone?

Should property taxes be tied to your ability to pay them? Should there be a formula tied to your income?

How soon can the state implement consolidation of schools and one school superintendent per county?

How will the state address the pension liability over the long term?

Social justice and immigration:

Why do we not yet have a sustainable solution for our homeless? … If some of the homeless are mentally ill and/or drug addicted, could we not require guardians be established that could place them in the proper long-term facilities and give them the proper care?

How do we improve the educational experience for the newly immigrated?

What efforts at encouraging low-cost housing development are currently underway/needed to provide for immigrant families and middle- and low-income NJ residents in general?

Can the state empower an independent body to monitor law enforcement reforms?

What actionable policy does the state of NJ seek to introduce to address the current Afghan immigration situation and the ongoing lack of protection for undocumented immigrants?

Considering that the Congress is unable to reach resolution on immigration reform, what can the state of NJ do?

Climate change and clean energy:

Recent storm events have really highlighted the need to accelerate planning for redesigning and investing in resilient communities and infrastructure. What are the roles for federal and state government, local officials, developers and community members in this monumental task?

What is currently being done to establish a widespread network of electric-car charging stations as ubiquitous as current gasoline stations, so that we can transition faster to all-electric vehicles?

What concrete actions are in place to reduce emissions from agriculture in the state currently, and what more is the state going to do to persuade farmers to adopt emissions-reducing systems?

What is the best funding mechanism to generate the investment needed to transition to a carbon-free economy?

What do you suggest we, who are regular citizens, can do to effect climate change?

View the discussions:

The state of education in NJ

Budget and taxes

COVID-19 and health care

Social justice and immigration

Coming soon: the discussion on climate change and clean energy

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