5 Reasons Why I Love New Jersey

And 5 Reasons I Don’t

NewJerseyStateCountyMapI am a lifelong resident of New Jersey—Exits 141, 139, 9, 13, 131, 98, and 4. Newark, Springfield, New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Avenel, Colonia, Edison, Belmar and Voorhees. I can name all 21 counties and have been in most of our 500+ towns. My undergraduate degree is from our state university, Rutgers. (OK, I went to NYU for my MBA, but I commuted from Elizabeth).

My New Jersey credentials are obviously deep and my perspective on everything good and bad about our state, has been well formed throughout my lifetime. So as I praise and condemn my own state I do so with a first hand appreciation of the Garden State’s assets and liabilities.

Here are 5 reasons why New Jersey rocks:

1. The Jersey Shore
10th&E (1)There is none better. My favorite beach is Belmar in Monmouth County. Great beach, lively town and getting nicer every year. It was devastated by the storm (screw Sandy) but what other town has the legitimate 10th Avenue and E Street?

2. New Jersey Suburbs
Some of the nicest suburbs in the U.S. are in New Jersey. Those passing through the state on the NJ Turnpike have no clue how nice some of our suburbs are. Short Hills, Alpine Bernardsville in the north. Moorestown and Haddonfield in the south to name a few.

3. Price of gas
There are many outrageously priced things in my beloved NJ (see below). Gas is not one of them. Cheapest gas in the East, and you don’t have to pump it yourself either.

4. Proximity to New York and Philadelphia
Where else can you live within a short ride (ok, the traffic stinks) to the 1st and 4th largest metropolitan centers in the U.S.?

5. Overall affluence and education levels.
New Jersey’s citizens are well educated and have more “coin” than virtually all other states.

So that’s a lot of good stuff right? Unfortunately here’s why I think our state stinks and why I ponder the possibility of moving some day

1. Taxes
Our taxes—state income and real estate taxes–are ridiculous. And oh yeah we have an estate tax that begins with estates of $675k or greater. And you wonder why people move to Florida when they get older?

2. Our “cities”
Truth of the matter is that we have no real cities. We have only devastated areas of declining population—Newark, Camden to name a few. And we’ve found no solutions to deep problems.

3. Gap between rich and poor
Yes, New Jersey is a very affluent state, but it also is a very poor one in the cities mentioned above. An economically polarized populace is a prescription for civil unrest. It has happened before in the 60s and could happen again.

4. Atlantic City
Yes I love the beaches, but I loathe what we created in AC. The plight of AC is well documented (AC in Decline) but the crime is that its demise is self-inflicted and the gaming industry did nothing to truly invest in the city as promised years ago. It merely sucked dollars out of the visitors’ wallets, and did little to create a robust industry insulated against competition in competitive regions despite its massive head start. Unfortunately, now the thousands of laid off employees of closing casinos are the victims.

5. Our State Government
Our state is in dire economic shape despite having an affluent population, the densely populated state in the nation, and among the highest tax rates. Shouldn’t we be running a major surplus? And while these problems aren’t caused by the current administration, they aren’t being solved by them either. Our Guv has now spent 2+ months this year alone out of state paid for by us with lots of time in Iowa—isn’t that great?

Is there hope for our state? Maybe. It will take vision, leadership and significant changes how the state delivers services to its citizens. And while I can legitimately criticize the state, it bothers me to have New Jersey as the butt of jokes. Unfortunately, there is often truth behind the humor, at least for now.

More Strumings

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