It’s no easy thing to get business and civic leaders together with advocates of all stripes pulling in the same direction on big picture items. But that’s the mission of the Regional Plan Association, which hosted its 28th annual assembly on Friday.
“We’ve got to fund the Gateway Project, we’ve got to increase housing production. So when folks come here, they know what we’re talking about and they buy into that vision. And so then it really becomes, how do both states across the river sign up for that? What is going to be the public sector’s role, what is going to be the private sector’s role? And at RPA, when they’re taking our decisions and making them, we need to back them up and we’re going to provide them with support, air cover, to do that,” said RPA President and CEO Tom Wright.
Gov. Murphy’s investment agenda on mass transit, infrastructure and education was well-received. His speech touched on familiar themes, but as a statement of purpose it checked a lot of boxes.
“Yes, the Northeast and New Jersey will never be the least expensive places, but we deliver value by investing in the right things: strong public schools, among the strongest in the United States of America, world-class colleges and universities, walkable and exciting downtowns, affordable housing and safe and reliable mass transit and infrastructure,” said Gov. Murphy.
“I think Gov. Murphy did an excellent job of articulating a forward-looking vision,” said Anthony Attanasio, vice president of AECOM and former executive director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association. “As a former state official in the transportation world, I can tell you that this administration is far more friendly to forward-thinking transportation investment and mobility than previous administrations have been.”
“Having Gov. Murphy this morning was pretty amazing because he’s really been in tune with a lot of our priorities and pushing them forward, so we were really pleased to have him come and talk about his vision and see that there’s a broad base of support for what he’s trying to do,” said Wright.
Afternoon keynote speaker Hillary Clinton added her voice to those warning about failing to fund the Gateway Project.
“Not acting on the Gateway Tunnel is a disaster in itself waiting to happen, and it’s time for the Trump administration to stop using this vital project to settle petty political scores,” Clinton said.
The governor says he’s not spiking any footballs, but this has been a week’s worth of speeches intended to show him redirecting the ship of state.
“Our administration has no interest in doing things the same old way. This is a transformative time for our state. In a way, we’re lucky that we started where we did — at the bottom — because it allows us to think outside of the box, to dream big and to act bold,” said Murphy.
With the first 100 days now behind him, Murphy’s job is about to get a lot tougher because his entire agenda — from transit investment to school funding requires approval from the state Legislature, which is showing itself to be a bit more skeptical, than the crowd at the RPA.