Essex Rising

Ensuring Transparency: What’s involved in Municipal Partnerships with Ring Surveillance Technology

Join Essex Rising for this important discussion on the use of corporate 
surveillance technologies, how they intersect with law enforcement, and the potential social impact of of these yet-to-be-understood technologies on communities, now and in the future.


FROM People’s Organization for the Progress:

Dear POP Members & Friends:

PLEASE ATTEND THIS EMERGENCY MOBILIZATION. The People’s Organization For Progress will have a Justice Monday March on Monday, January 28th, 4:30pm, starting at the Lincoln Statue, 2 Springfield Ave in downtown Newark, NJ to urge Governor Murphy to sign the Independent Prosecutor bill into law.

The statue is in front of the historic Essex County Courthouse at the intersection of Springfield Avenue and Market Street.

We have been informed that the deadline for the governor to sign the bill is January 31. Please call the governor’s office at 609 292-6000 and urge him to sign the bill.

This will be the People’s Organization For Progress (POP) 158th Justice Monday protest against police brutality. We demand justice for Jerome Reid, Abdul Kamal, Kashad Ashford, Radazz Hearns, Jameek Lowery, and all victims of police brutality in New Jersey and throughout the United States.

For more information call 973 801-0001. Thank you. Stop Police Brutality!!!

Power to the people!!!

Lawrence Hamm


People’s Organization For Progress

Water Filters Needed in Newark

Join Essex Rising’s support of the Newark Water Coalition‘s efforts to provide filters to residents who, due to issues with government distribution, don’t have access to clean water.  The call to action is to purchase and send water filters to Anthony Diaz at 1480 Pleasant Valley Way West Orange NJ 07052. Also, please email your NJ representatives about this, specifically Ras Baraka, Rep. Payne, Phil Murphy and Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.


Essex Rising speaks out about wrongdoing concerning EDA programs

Essex Rising signed this letter, along with other organizations, in the interests of transparency, accountability, and putting an end to corrupt practices.

For immediate release: January 22, 2019

Contact: Anne Songcayauon,, (201) 233-7735

                 Louis Di Paolo,, (201) 214-5049

Over 70 organizations call on Legislature and Murphy administration for full investigation, accounting and prosecution of wrongdoing concerning EDA programs

TRENTON — In response to the state Comptroller’s audit into the Economic Development Authority’s tax incentive programs, detailing nearly $11 billion in tax breaks awarded over 13 years with “little benefits” in return, over 70 New Jersey organizations joined to call on a full and transparent investigation, and a detailed  accounting of the problems alluded to in the report. Furthermore, the 72 organizations from various stakeholder and issue advocacy areas stand united in a demand for the suspension of any new grants until adequate reporting and accountability measures have been adopted. According to the report, in a 13 year period, the EDA has granted over $11 billion in tax incentives, with close to $8 billion granted under the the Christie administration.  Members of the Better Choices for New Jersey coalition have consistently decried the program, calling it corporate welfare at its worst, depleting the state’s coffers of critically needed revenue, making it harder for the state to meet its obligations and by extension a driving force behind the states economic woes;  including 11 credit downgrades.

“Advocates and experts have understood that years of escalated tax incentive programs, combined with the elimination of tax obligations for the wealthy have left New Jersey unable to meet its obligations to its residents, young and old alike,” said Analilia Mejia, Director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance which convenes the Better Choices for New Jersey Coalition. “Now is the time to right these wrongs,  and reform New Jersey’s tax incentive system in a real, thorough and transparent way.”

For years advocates have sounded the alarm against these tax incentive programs. In 2015 Better Choices for New Jersey called for a moratorium on major EDA programs. Over the years, the Better Choices have made multiple calls for legislation to increased transparency around economic incentives and questioned mass incentive announcements.

“For years, NJPP has been sounding the alarm about ballooning tax subsidies that favor already profitable corporations and produce questionable results for the state economy,” said Sheila Reynertson, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Given its already precarious fiscal health, New Jersey simply can’t afford to gamble away future revenue anymore. We agree with the Governor: It’s nuts. And it’s time for EDA reforms that reflect New Jersey’s financial reality and that respect New Jersey taxpayers.”

As budget season draws closer, Better Choices for New Jersey calls on the legislature to develop a budget that invests in itself and its people. Reforming the EDA as well as implementing revenue raisers such a true millionaire’s tax to a restored sales tax will give New Jersey a more opportunities to thrive.

Full Letter:

January 22, 2019

Dear Member of the New Jersey Legislature:

The recent audit of New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the programs it oversees paints a troubling picture of New Jersey economic incentive programs, the failures of self reporting, and the need for greater transparency and accountability at an agency responsible for billions of dollars. We write to urge you to pursue a full investigation and accounting of every penny that New Jersey and its taxpayers have forgone, and to support a transparent and open process for the revisioning or development of any future incentive program; from strong legislation to proper execution and sufficient oversight. Until the above is complete, no new proposals should be approved.

Comptroller Philip James Degnan’s report details practices that would be incredibly troubling in any entity or corporation. The report states that, through the EDA’s various programs, New Jersey has forgone nearly $11 billion in taxes for the promise of job retention and growth. However, measures to oversee the proper disbursement of this exorbitant amount of taxpayer money were wholly lacking. Instead, there were poor practices including self reporting, insufficient monitoring, incongruous evaluation measures for approvals, and failure to comply with laws and procedures. For example, in a sampling of 37 projects that were awarded tax incentives, the Comptroller found that 1 out of 5 jobs created could not be sufficiently substantiated. New Jersey residents continue to foot the bill with little in benefits to be shown in return, all while companies gamed the system.

This budget season, New Jerseyans will descend upon the legislature and demand resources to fund our schools, rebuild our roads and provide for the things that comprise a good quality of life in the Garden State. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we should be in agreement that we must fix this egregious mistake and do right by taxpayers. First, we must immediately freeze the tax incentive program and issue no new awards until every single penny has been accounted for. Next, legislators and the Attorney General have an obligation to investigate why this happened and whether fraud or gross negligence was committed by the corporate entities and/or the EDA. 

Most importantly, the EDA programs in the audit report are set to expire this year, providing a critical opportunity to enact the robust reforms that bolster accountability and transparency. For years, the experts and advocates in the Better Choices for New Jersey campaign have offered common sense fixes and limitations on our corporate tax incentive programs to avoid austerity measures that would befall that state’s 9 million residents. It’s time to give them a serious and honest look.

Lastly, we demand greater public and open transparency in the creation of new legislation, absent of any backroom deals. We have the opportunity to reform our incentive programs to ensure they are transparent, accountable and actually create good jobs and real economic opportunities for New Jersey residents. Taxpayers and impacted communities must have a say in how these programs are developed and enforced.



Action Together New Jersey, and 19 affiliate county chapters

Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey

Amalgamated Transit Union, NJ State Council

ATU Local 819 Newark

ATU Local 820 Union City

ATU Local 821 Jersey City

ATU Local 822 Paterson

ATU Local 823 Elizabeth

ATU Local 824 Howell

ATU Local 825 Oradell

ATU Local 880 South Jersey

ATU Local 1614 Dover

Blue Wave New Jersey

Clean Water Action

CWA Local 1037

CWA Local 1081

David Pringle Associates LLC

Environment New Jersey

Essex Rising

Greater New Jersey Pride at Work

Housing & Community Development Network of NJ

Hudson County Central Labor Council

International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Port Division

IFPTE Local 194

Indivisible Cranbury

Indivisible Congressional District 5

JOLT Ridgewood

La Casa de Don Pedro

Latino Action Network

Laundry, Distribution, Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU

Progressive Democrats of America, NJ

Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry NJ

Make the Road New Jersey

NAACP Newark Chapter

New Jersey Citizen Action

New Jersey Education Association

New Jersey Policy Perspective

New Jersey Sierra Club

New Jersey Tenants Organization

New Jersey Working Families Alliance

NJ11th For Change

NJDSC Progressive Caucus

Our Revolution Burlington

Our Revolution Essex

Our Revolution Ocean

Our Revolution Monmouth

Our Revolution Somerset

Rutgers Newark College Democrats

South Jersey Women for Progressive Change

STAND Central NJ

Westfield 20/20

Women for Progress

Work Environment Council

###press release on better choices eda letter 1-21 (1)

Constituents’ Letter from the Steering Committee of Essex Rising

Dear Congresswoman-elect Sherrill,

I write on behalf of the Steering Committee of Essex Rising. First, congratulations on your election victory! With you in the forefront as an outstanding candidate, the grassroots organizations and volunteers of our district helped deliver a historic renunciation of Republican representation for NJ11. Our nation-leading 33-point swing of NJ11 provides substantial leeway to lay out an alternative agenda, based on common decency and moral rectitude, that strikes out for social and economic justice and social progress for our district and beyond.

We regret that, so soon, before you are even seated, we are compelled to express Essex Rising’s disappointment and dismay that you will caucus with the Blue Dogs. To our members—and others under the Indivisible umbrella—our resounding Blue Wave does not mean we must leap over the aisle into the Republican arms that embrace one of the most base, unintelligent leaders in world history. You always said that you would seek bipartisan cooperation, but rather let decent Republicans join us, on the sane side of the aisle, to enact sensible legislation that benefits the nation, or let them sink. Our Blue Wave winners don’t have to mix with the scum that rode Trump’s tide.

Blue Dogs today might not be what they were in the past, but their record of collaboration with Republicans is disheartening for Democrats, and downright dishonorable. Blue Dogs are a historic enemy of the Affordable Care Act, and their position was corrupt because big pharma was a principle source of their funding. So, Blue Dogs helped stall ACA over that long summer that gave its Republican opponents time to undermine it, derisively dub it “Obamacare,” and strategize to strip away its crucially progressive “public option,” with Blue Dogs’ support. The faltering of the ACA today, with disastrous results for healthcare nationwide, can be tracked back to these early weakening actions. The Blue Dogs have that blood on their paws.

The vast majority of our country—at least 70%, including a majority of Republicans— today supports Medicare-for-All. The number is probably higher in NJ11. If the Blue Dogs hamper progress this time, we will oppose them and your caucusing with them. We promise that we will conduct the same “die-ins” on your doorstep that we did on Frelinghuysen’s—and that got Rachel Maddow’s attention.  

We know from experience that what the Blue Dogs term “fiscal conservatism” is generally Conservatives’ code for cutting social spending while boosting military expenditure. We will adamantly oppose that interpretation. We fully support fiscal prudence but we have a different interpretation of what it means, and different priorities on how to achieve it with more equitable outcomes.

  • On healthcare, GAO analysis demonstrates that Medicare-for-All will represent a saving to the nation. Even a conservative think tank calculated the net saving at $2 trillion. Medicare-for-All is a less costly and more beneficial option than continuing down the road we are on. We urge that you begin to apply “fiscal conservatism” right here by studying the numbers, and if you cannot fault the GAO, urge the Blue Dogs to sign on to H.R.676 and fight for Medicare-for-All. If Rep. Richard Neal chairs House Ways and Means, the path to Medicare-for-All will have to pass through the one person in government who has taken the most money from the insurance industry!  
  • We oppose tax cuts for the rich that inflate the deficit; conversely, we support tax reform so that the wealthy pay a fairer share, like they did before Reagan upended our tax structure. Will you fight for tax reform, reversing the tax cuts, and stalling the Republicans who hypocritically run up the deficit so that the next Democratic president must start off deep in debt—like our poor graduating students, gouged by usurious lenders?
  • We want strict accountability over Defense expenditure. We want an end to all wars and military adventurism that are not specifically authorized by Congress under the War Powers Act as being in the necessary interest of the United States—rather than benefitting defense contractors, such as those that supported Rep. Frelinghuysen, while killing hundreds-of-thousands of innocent people. We want the Defense budget to reorient toward what our military analysts agree is the biggest threat America faces today—climate change—and also toward cyber warfare. That does not mean increase Defense expenditure, it means redirect expenditure. With your background, we know you are well positioned to lead this discussion. Would the Blue Dogs follow your lead?

We as a district, and you as a candidate, were firm on calling for gun control—and we have been encouraged to see that you joined the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force—but gun control means opposing the NRA. Many of our members were appalled that the Blue Dogs accepted money from a superPAC that had bundled in a substantial donation from the NRA. That is more blood money. The Blue Dogs’ sure have Red Paws—that’s a graphic image we can already visualize on protest signs.

We look forward to your comments on these issues at your first Town Hall.


Gary van Wyk, Ph.D.

For the Steering Committee, Essex Rising:

Lisa Brittan, Lenora Isaacs, Khabirah Meyers, Cindy Matute-Brown, Elizabeth Redwine, Jonathan Redwine, Rose Registre, Soma Sinha

Essex Rising endorses Cindy Matute-Brown for Town Council, and Terry Trigg-Scales and Jeremias Salinas for BOE

A few West Orange neighbors asked, “What can we do?” in the wake of Trump’s election. We founded Essex Rising to dedicate ourselves to progressive action from the local level to the federal level. Today, we have more than 1,300 members and are affiliated with several likeminded NJ organizations—including NJ11ForChange, with whom we have worked closely and now support Mikie Sherrill for Congress.

Recognizing that “all politics begins local,” we analyzed whether how our town is run matches up to Essex Rising’s published principles. We concluded West Orange falls short in many ways. It lacks transparency and accountability. It is a top-down system controlled by a few key figures who manipulate what legislation passes, who stands for office, who gets appointed to committees, and who gets jobs and contracts.

This undemocratic system is outdated—like the America of Trump’s imagination that possessed some sort of past “greatness” we lack today. Well, West Orange is not the town it was generations ago, and so we need dynamic, democratic leadership that reflects the outstanding capabilities and rich diversity of our residents today. We just need to let existing greatness rise up and shine. That is why we endorse Cindy Matute-Brown. She embodies our principles, which is also why we appointed to our Steering Committee in June 2017.

Our sitting BOE hired and then renewed—despite community opposition—a divisive Superintendent. After investigations launched by residents exposed irregularities that justified his termination, the BOE allowed him to resign, walking away with more than $130,000 of taxpayers’ money. We demand more accountability from our future BOE. We want teachers and voters integrally engaged in selecting the next Superintendent, and we support these two dedicated educators for BOE.

What’s new with Essex Rising

With just over TWO WEEKS to go to the November 6th election, Essex Rising is focused on canvassing for the candidates Essex Rising has endorsed, and others we support. If you haven’t already gone canvassing, contact one of the campaigns. It’s quick to learn, and easy and fun to do!

October 14th we had an exciting rally featuring Mikie Sherrill for Congress, Cindy Matute-Brown for West Orange Town Council, Terry Trigg-Scales for West Orange Board of Education, and Jeremias Salinas for West Orange Board of Education.


Congressional Seat in NJ 11th district

Mikie Sherrill could flip the Congressional seat for NJ11 from Republican to Democrat, but the race is very close. It is essential that every Democrat and Progressive gets to the polls—and bring as many voters with you as you can. Remind your friends and neighbors! Many of us have opposed Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen so vigorously since 2016 that he is retiring. If Mikie wins his seat now, this will be our victory, too. But it’s still a serious fight against Republican big guns and big money. This race has caught national attention. Vice Presidents Biden and Pence have each come to NJ recently to support their party’s candidates. If we win NJ11, it will be major event!

What can we do now to help win this seat? Keep on canvassing! Keep spreading the message that Mikie Sherrill, a Montclair resident, stands for Essex County’s voters. (Yes, believe it, some people still haven’t heard about Mikie Sherrill – and they are the voters you can help bring into the fold! Some people don’t even know they have had a Republican representing them in Congress all these years – up till NOW!).

Essex Rising was one of the first groups to host Mikie Sherrill, back in July 2017, at the start of her run. For Essex Rising’s most recent “Progressive Discussions” event, Mikie Sherrill returned to highlight her views on key values, including health care, women’s right to choose, tax policies that will make NJ more affordable, gun safety, and environmental protection. Republican Congressman Freylinghuysen dismally failed us constituents on all these issues — and now Mikie’s opponent, arch-conservative Republican Jay Webber, would be even worse! Print out this comparison of our choices to spread around, from our friends at NJ11ForChange!

We must win this one! Contact Maralyn Kinch to join a town team and to volunteer for Mikie’s campaign, and/or sign up with Judy Kelly to canvass for Mikie Sherrill, and to get the materials you need. You can canvass alone or in groups. If you live in West Orange, please also volunteer for the local candidates Essex Rising has endorsed.

Cindy Matute-Brown for West Orange Town Council

Cindy Matute-Brown is the only Essex Rising-endorsed candidate for Town Council. As a Steering Committee member of Essex Rising, Cindy not only supports Essex Rising’s principles but she also embodies them in her ethical positions and in her career track record of supporting labor and educators. And she stands up for these principles in Town Council and Board of Ed meetings.

Cindy stands for transparent, progressive leadership with sound fiscal policy. We want to be sure our taxes are spent fairly. We don’t want to grant unnecessary tax breaks to wealthy developers that we, the taxpayers, legally must reimburse to our school system. Cindy is full of fresh ideas to stabilize West Orange by providing local opportunities so that our young graduates can work here and afford to stay, and equally, that retirees can afford to remain in their homes in West Orange. Check out and share these {INSERT LINK} film clips of Cindy discussing these issues.

Cindy has the great honor of being the only candidate running for Town Council who has been endorsed by the PCCC—the Progressive Campaign for Change Committee—backed by key Democrats like Chairman Keith Ellison and Elizabeth Warren. Cindy is also the only candidate endorsed by Our Revolution, the national organization of Progressive Democrats. Our Revolution has three intertwined goals: to revitalize American democracy, to empower progressive leaders, and to elevate the political consciousness. Our Revolution’s national office receives thousands of requests to endorse local candidates each year, but very few receive the national endorsement. Cindy is the ONE for Town Council.

What can you do to help Cindy’s campaign now?

Donate here to help the campaign spread the news.

Please join Cindy’s campaign team, made up of fellow Essex Rising members. We are getting the word out about her campaign, by canvassing our neighborhoods, either with Cindy or alone or with friends, to tell people about Cindy’s ideas for the Town Council, and by hosting neighbors for coffee. Volunteer here. To get yard signs delivered to you,  email Help your friends erect signs, especially in spots with prime visibility!  


Board of Education @Terry4WOBOE  

Terry has a distinguished 38-year career as an educator in Essex County’s school system, during which time she has lived in West Orange and raised her children here. Noting the intense conflict in our district over the WOBOE, she was inspired to serve. She believes a successful school system incorporates the parents and teachers, and that school boards should not be at odds with the community or reactive, but rather be “thoughtful in their deliberations and be proactive. My experience as an administrator has taught me that through a ‘continuous improvement model’ we must evaluate programs and initiatives to ensure a quality education for all students. Trust, honesty, respect and collaboration are the cornerstones of a strong school district.” It’s time to Get This Educator on Board!

Our school budget is much bigger than our municipal budget. This is where most of our taxes go. The State has only funded one-third of what it owes West Orange for our schools—we, the taxpayers, are funding that shortfall. We must work with our NJ State Legislature and Governor Murphy to correct that, and Terry has already served during Governor Murphy’s transition on his Education, Access, and Opportunity Committee, whose first priority was fully funding towns’ schools. This is a VITAL KEY  to lowering your taxes. Also prioritized in the Committee’s report, reductions of standard testing of students and staff, reduction of student debt, and reduction of college tuition costs.

What can you do to help now?

Donate here to help Terry’s campaign spread the news.

Contact the campaign through its website to volunteer, to canvass, or to get Terry Trigg-Scales lawn signs.

There are two seats up for election on the Board of Ed. Please give your second vote to Jeremias Salinas, also an educator, with 15 years’ of experience. Our local government needs to become more representative of our community, and Jeremias would be the only Hispanic voice on the BOE. He fully supports Essex Rising principles.

Let’s get THIS TEACHER on Board!

Both of them recently were interviewed on West Orange 07052 and made clear their motivations for serving. The third candidate for WOBOE, Cheryl Merklinger, refused to be interviewed, perhaps because 07052 published screenshots of her support for Republicans, the NRA, President Trump, and Vice President Pence!

Senate Race

A shoutout for Senator Menendez. He has consistently stood up for NJ and many of the principles of Essex Rising and is endorsed by our NJ Democrat leaders. Republicans want to take this seat. They are hammering Menendez for “corruption,” conveniently forgetting that, although admonished for unethically accepting gifts, he was cleared of all charges against him. If Sen. Menendez lost this seat now, we would lose a crucial Democrat vote in the Senate, and elect instead the first Republican senator for NJ since 1972—Bob Hugin. Hugin represents much of what is most wrong with our politics: the entitlement of millionaires and billionaires, and the power of big pharma to price-gouge the ill. Hugin figured that because cancer patients really needed his company’s drugs, he should raise the price! He made millions, and then he funded Chris Christie and Donald Trump. Say no to Hugin! Do not forget to vote FOR Menendez: not to vote (an undervote) will benefit Hugin.


We must GET OUT THE VOTE! That means ensuring that eligible voters, including new residents in our town, are registered to vote. To vote in person, they must register within 21 days before the election—deadline to vote in person is October 16th. They can download registration forms here, which include change-of-address information. To vote by mail, anyone can access Vote-By-Mail forms and mail in a vote by October 30th.

We can help by printing out these forms, carrying them with us, and giving them out whenever we encounter somebody who hasn’t voted before or isn’t registered.

You can always check your voter registration and polling place at