Frustrated by the fact the New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie has refused to meet with the recently formed New Jersey Organizing Project, Joe Mangino and two other NJOP members traveled to Iowa to try to approach him.
According to the their Web site, www.finishthejob.org, NJOP was formed by “Sandy survivors and concerned business owners nearly all of whom are still trying to get back home from Sea Bright down to Little Egg Harbor.”
There are still more than 10,000 eligible families waiting for their RREM (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, & Mitigation) grants that they have qualified for and less than 400 homes have been rebuilt as of January of this year, according to NJOP.
“We were frustrated that his office kept telling us he was too busy for us” said Mangino. “We actively sought a cordial way to meet and were never given the opportunity,” he added.
The group from the beginning has been working in conjunction with the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) that campaigns “to create social, economic and environmental justice in their local communities,” according to their Web page.
“They’ve sort of taken us under their wing as we are just getting started, while they have been around 40 years or so,” he added.
Mangino said his group had already planned to travel to one of the out of state events Christie was attending to attempt to reach out.
IowaCCI then invited them to the Food and Ag Justice Summit in Des Moines held last weekend, and it seemed to be the right one, he added. The summit at the Iowa State Fairgrounds held by agri-businessman Bruce Rastetter is regarded as a “cattle-call” for hopeful Republican presidential candidates.
Iowa CCI offered to help the NJOP attendees with acquiring lodgings and tickets to the summit, Mangino said. In addition, he started a crowd funding page that raised nearly five times what they asked for in a few short days to fund the trip, he added.
The Iowa CCI Action Fund is a fiscal sponsor of the NJOP and holds any monies raised while we’re getting set up,” said NJOP founder Amanda Devecka-Rinear in a later email. “We raised our own funding for the trip and they did help by offering us space in the block of rooms they had reserved, but we paid for them,” she added.
“Mangino traveled to Iowa with Devecka-Rinear and member Lisa Stevens only to find the chances of seeing Christie nearly dashed, he said.
“The summit people were flagging all the tickets CCI had acquired and were denying the holders access,” he said.
Mangino and Devecka-Rinear managed to sneak past the checkpoint and gain access to hall which led to the confrontation with Christie, he added.
As Christie began answering a question from Rastetter, Mangino stood and shouted out that the governor had not done enough to get Sandy families back home while Devecka-Rinear held up a sign reading, “Thousands of families still not home after Sandy.”
“The man sitting in front of me turned and told me to shut up and go home, and I said to him that’s the problem, I don’t have a home to go too,” said Mangino, who has had to move his family three times since the storm.
Mangino said he then shouted “I will not sit down and shut up!” as the pair was escorted from the hall by police and Christie tried to laugh off the incident.
Mangino said his remark in reference to Christie’s commanding another Sandy activist in Belmar to sit down and shut up last October at an event commemorating the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
The next meeting of the NJOP will be held at the Ocean County Public Library in Lacey Township, 110 East Lacey Rd, Forked River at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Stafford Teachers and Residents Together (S.T.A.R.T.) is still working to assist Sandy victims and getting involved in other community outreach programs. For more details visit their Facebook page at:https://www.facebook.com/staffordteachersandresidentstogether
PHOTO CAPTION: Joe Mangino and Amanda Devecka-Rinea are removed from the crowd as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.