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What Should Christie Do? Advice from Robert Stack

U.S. 1 article –  DECEMBER 16, 2009

What Should Christie Do? Advice from Robert Stack

Robert Stack: Disability Advocate Robert Stack is the president and CEO of Community Options Inc., a Farber Road-based group that looks to find jobs for handicapped individuals. He also is a member of Christie’s Transition Subcommittee of Human Services and Children and Families.

Q : How can Mr. Christie get done what he said he will do?

A : You have to remember two things: First, that he is a man of principle. He is not going to make a decision because it will help advance him politically. He knew that this is not going to be a popularity contest. He is going to make decisions that are founded on the most profound utilitarian logic possible. He will remain disciplined and unflappable in getting New Jersey back on track. Second, Christie is also somewhat Socratic in his approach. He knows that he doesn’t know everything. Rather than function as though he is the only one with ideas, he will reach out to others and ask them for opinions and ideas. He will synthesize these perspectives and ideas and then arrive at a logical approach and make the right move.

Q : Christie is looking to cut spending: Where and how should he do it best?

A : My background will simply point to the way that services to persons with disabilities in New Jersey are provided. It is extremely expensive, and in my opinion cutting funding for community care is not in the best interest when it comes to adults with disabilities. We have more people with cerebral palsy and autism and mental retardation in institutions than 48 other states. The only state that has more people with disabilities in its institutions is Texas. There are almost three times as many people living there than in New Jersey, and still they only have 2,000 more people living in these costly segregated facilities. This is the result of lack of good leadership at the state level and the complacency that arose on the part of parents who were told to be patient. They were also told that the institutions were the best thing for their son or daughter and because of the lack of exposure to community alternatives, they never knew anything else. We need to let families see other things that do in fact work. We need to help them raise the bar on their expectations and then the bar will be raised for their loved one in need of support. The government has to consolidate institutions, reduce the wait list and increase family support. Another way Christie is going to save big bucks is with good leadership. He has to empower his managers and hold them accountable rather than micro-manage them and play puppet master. There is so much government waste on so many different fronts. Why is there a Princeton Borough and Princeton Township? Why is there an East, North, South and New Brunswick? There are reasons that accounting firms merged. It saved administrative costs. Consolidation, less intrusive services for persons with disabilities, and leadership are great ways to cut costs.

Q : Where should he not cut?

A : I know the one place he won’t cut a dime. That is integrity. He has a lot of it; he demands it from others and he won’t cut corners in that department.

Q : What advice would you give the governor-elect?

A : He is a Jersey boy. He knows he is and we know he is. When he speaks I honestly believe that his accent is a mix of both north and south Jersey. A Jersey boy doesn’t take any you know what from anybody. A Jersey boy is focused. Abraham Lincoln said “Only a fool trusts everyone … or no one.” Christie needs to pick his battles and trust the right people, but by all means stick to his guns and never forget where he works and where he was born and whom he works for — New Jersey. The governor should not be afraid to listen to both sides of the aisle as well as the middle, and maybe a couple of hecklers in the balcony too.

U.S. 1 article .pdf