An Open Letter to Josh Gottheimer

Dear Congressman Gottheimer,

Sunrise Bergen gathered outside of Gottheimer’s office at sunrise (approximately 6:30 AM) on October 25, 2020 to demand legitimate progressive action.

We are the Bergen County Chapter of the national Sunrise Movement. We know that, without a doubt, urgent action on the climate crisis is necessary. We know this not just because we are climate justice advocates, but because we have seen its effects in our own New Jersey communities: Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in 2012, lead contamination in the water, and the almost successful construction of a dangerous and polluting power plant in the Meadowlands.

We also know what Jersey Values look like: doing whatever it takes to protect our state, our coastline, and our people. Right now, we do not believe that you accurately represent or reflect these values. A significant percentage of your campaign donations were from the Blackstone Group, which has millions in fossil fuels, and you received $24,400 from LS Power and $24,300 from Chevron, both of which are notoriously huge greenhouse gas- emitters. We also believe that you have not taken sufficient measures to ensure an equitable and livable future for our generation. Compromises and excuses are not enough; we need bold legislative action now. That starts — but by no means ends — with support of President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan and the THRIVE Agenda since we must build back fossil free. As a co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, you must additionally expel the four members of the Caucus who were in support of the insurrection on January 6: Mike Bost (IL-12), Bill Johnson (OH-6), Dan Meuser (PA-9), and Lloyd Smucker (PA-11). Continuing to include them in the Caucus is not bipartisanship, but a sanction of violence and polarizing political beliefs.

Sunrise Bergen outside of Gottheimer’s Hackensack office on December 6, 2020

In the spirit of building back fossil free and the THRIVE Agenda, we ask that you prioritize protecting and investing in Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities who have been disproportionately affected by fossil fuel pollution and climate disaster; this would include advancing a No Hotspots Policy, a fossil fuel moratorium for environmental justice communities, and a requirement on cumulative pollution impact assessments of all federal policies, regulations, and actions. Similarly, we ask you to support a halt on all fossil fuel leasing, a phase-out of all fossil fuel extraction, and an end to fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies so that we can transition to 100% net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and completely decarbonize our transportation system by 2030.

Thus, we strongly encourage you to vote in favor of the following six bills: S.2876, H.R.6906, H.R.6553, H.R.4278, S.672, and H.R. 5845.

S.2876: The Green New Deal For Public Housing Act will retrofit 1 million+ public housing units and augment living conditions for 2 million+ residents. This will not only cut 5.6 million tons of annual carbon emissions, but also improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and create 240,000 jobs per year.

H.R. 6906: The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act will give every American the ability to seek necessary treatment during the pandemic. In light of your advocacy for bipartisanship, it is important to note that this bill has over 50% support among Republican voters.

H.R. 6553: The Automatic Boost To Communities Act will give every American a pre-loaded debit-card with $2,000, recharged monthly with $1,000 until one year after the end of the coronavirus crisis. As a member of the bipartisan Problems Solver Caucus, your support would prove that saving the lives of millions of Americans from poverty, hunger, and homelessness is not a bipartisan issue.

H.R. 4278: The Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act of 2019 will provide a job with a living wage to all citizens older than 18 seeking employment. This will naturally create full employment and help to improve America’s dismal infrastructure (which the American Society of Civil Engineers scored a D+). More than 70% of voters support this federal job guarantee since it will finally alleviate economic anxiety and create a stable AND sustainable economy for future generations.

S. 672: The Debt-Free College Act of 2019 will make public universities free. All Americans should be able to pursue the “American Dream”, not a select few. This is especially important with the coronavirus crisis harming the economic capabilities of millions of Americans, especially those of color. FAFSA applications, for example, decreased by 18% this year, which means that more and more students perceive higher education to be unattainable. Furthermore, we need free public colleges to ensure that we have a supply of future doctors, technicians, and other essential workers as we rebuild our economy.

H.R. 5845: The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 would reduce the production and use of single-use plastic products and packaging, increase the responsibility of producers of such plastics, and prevent plastic pollution from entering animal and human food chains and waterways. This bill died in the previous Congress in 2020. However, plastic pollution is still a huge threat to the health of the environment and people alike; petrochemical facilities are responsible for places like “Cancer Alley”, and a very small percentage of the plastic currently produced are actually being reused or recycled, which means that most of them end up in our waterways, especially in NJ, with places like the Jersey Shore, the Hackensack River, and more. Hence, this bill, or a bill similar to it, must be reintroduced.

All of these policies will materially benefit Americans, and help to create equitability within the U.S., while ensuring the right to a habitable environment to all. A uninhabitable planet will not be able to sustain a stable economy or democratic political systems, so it is integral that we, as a nation, take action on these issues now. We are calling on you to aid in that process by supporting the six listed policies.

Urgently yours,

Sunrise Movement Bergen County