Post-Sandy, hoping for a spirit of unity

By Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

For the past several weeks, one thought keeps coming into my head:  the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” 

In New Jersey, this is especially true.  We just survived one of the longest and most expensive presidential campaigns in the history of our nation.  The discussions about the impending fiscal cliff have the entire country on pins and needles. 

We here in New Jersey are desperately trying to rebuild our shattered lives after Hurricane Sandy.  All this is happening during what is supposed to be the season of joy and laughter.

Despite the devastation, as I look around our great state, I see everything as it should be.  Neighbors are helping neighbors, utility workers from around the country came to work 18-hour shifts just to get our electric back, our first responders proved once again that they are the best of the best, and even Democrats and Republicans are working together. 

Mark Twain famously wrote,” Tom Sawyer pointed out a preacher that came to town who was so good that Huck Finn stayed saved until Tuesday.”  I sincerely hope with the elections behind us and so much work that needs to be done, my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Statehouse and in Congress continue to show the people of New Jersey that government is not always the problem and we can work together.

There is no reason that rebuilding New Jersey should not be the utmost priority in Washington.  For years we have been sending our tax money to the capital and receiving just 49 cents for every dollar sent, while New Mexico enjoys a return rate of $2.63.  We helped for all these years, now we need help.

As is always the case, there are no easy solutions.  However, we can all agree that we want better for our children than what we have.  The only way that will happen is if we all roll up our sleeves and work together, neighbors and neighbor, urbanites and suburbanites, Democrats and Republicans. 

There are too many challenges facing us as a state and as a nation to keep fighting battles that are long over and making even the most routine issue a partisan issue.  I have learned the hard way that it is difficult to get people to comprehend something when his or her salary depends upon not comprehending it.  However, I have seen the art of compromise in action before and I know it can be done again.

In the spirit of bipartisanship and full disclosure, I was inspired to write this piece after reading the very thoughtful letter to the editor Joe Sinagra wrote about Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan and me.  Mr. Sinagra and I have been opponents in elections, but never enemies.  I want to thank him for his kind words.

I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

Peter J. Barnes III, D-18, Edison 

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.