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The new year in Washington started much like the last year.
The fiscal cliff was partly avoided, the debt crisis continues, and a key farm bill went unfinished. As hurricane victims in New York and New Jersey waited anxiously, the last Congress failed to consider the Sandy relief bill. Never mind that more than 60 days had passed since Sandy ripped through the East Coast, while previous emergency reliefs had sailed through Congress in two or three weeks.
Congress has an approval rating of only 14 percent. National polls indicate that Congress frequently votes against the majority opinion across the country.
Voters said they want the two parties to work together and are willing to accept compromise. So what do our elected officials do? Fight, threaten and bully each other. They seek to score partisan political points in a game that the general public does not want to watch.
It is like watching the Eagles scoring a late fourth-quarter touchdown in a game that they are losing by 30 points. Sure, they scored the points, but who cares? They still stink.
This goes on while the people of our area still work our way through recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Most of us did not suffer the communitywide devastation that occurred farther up the New Jersey coast. Some in our area did lose their homes or businesses, but you can drive up and down the quiet streets of our shore communities and think things are back to normal.
But behind most doors, there are still struggles to recover. Senior citizens are trying to untangle the web of insurance adjusters, FEMA representatives and plumbers, electricians and contractors of all sorts. Small-business owners that rely on summer tourists are racing to get their shops repaired and their equipment replaced.
It is difficult, but most people in our area are managing. But they wonder why people in public life have such difficulty doing their jobs.
That is one reason why the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy has created the Hughes Center Honors, which will honor five outstanding New Jerseyans who have managed to get things done, and have, in fact, excelled at their job and have worked productively in the public arena. We honor them and set them out as examples of how working together in the public sector is doable.
The honorees are:
Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan T. Byrne is being recognized with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award; former Congressman Jim Saxton with the Civility in Government and Politics Award; recently retired Verizon NJ President Dennis Bone will receive the Excellence in Civic Engagement Award; Lori S. Herndon, president and CEO of AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center will receive the Distinctive Alumni Leadership Award; and Stockton student Justin B. Frankel will receive the Distinctive Student Leadership Award.
Their work will be celebrated Feb. 13 at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
Daniel Douglas is the director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Learn more at www.stockton.edu/hughescenter .