Chamber Train Cherry Pop

It was my first time aboard the NJ Chamber train this year.  Before boarding,  the descriptions I was given were strongly aligned with the end of days.  Perhaps that was a bit of an overstatement.  Nevertheless, and seeing as how I willfully choose to live in political purgatory out of a strong (perhaps stubborn) desire to march to the sound of my own drum, there were moments here and there that dug deep.First off, yea I changed my hair.   Thanks for noticing, seven people.  Gold Stars all around.

The other was that as I marched into Newark Penn Station in all my rookie glory, my friend from Montclair, Jim Johnson who’s running for governor was being interviewed.  I didn’t want to interrupt him, but I had wondered why he wasn’t boarding.  Thusly, we had some serious juxtaposition because I learned later that it was a boycott.  On my seat of the train, I had Murphy materials and Guadagno materials.  It  was likely just circumstances that I didn’t see others running for governor.

Now, I like Murphy AND Johnson, but they are two different kinds of pols.  They both supported the Young Democrats of America, which is important to me. Murphy did so by having supported Constantina Meis’s bid for Executive Vice President by giving to NJYD and Johnson hosted a raiser and strategic planning session for YDA proper.  Murphy has a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention, which is important, and Johnson called me to offer his condolences when my God Daughter, of Montclair/Bloomfield NJ, committed suicide this past December on the Garden State Parkway in Essex County – followed by many olive branches and words of encouragement.  He was one of few candidates, the vast majority being from Hudson and some from Union – which is to be expected for me.

I appreciate the support from both towards my youth organizations – and the organizations of which I am part – that promote our definition of equity.  Certainly, there is value to be had in both models, but the approaches are so different lending the question:  will these pols grow more similar or dissimilar as time goes on, and how?  … Moving on.

Whenever I go into a pressure cooker event, being a young woman with a numbers (dollars) background, I often find that there is a disproportionate amount of emphasis on my heads or my tails, that perhaps I am just some coin that the guys want to flip.  I didn’t feel that way this time.  There was quite a bit of day drinking going on.  Schmoozing.  Laughing. Heckling.  But no undue attention drawn to gender, as much as that may have been the focus of my warnings … though I did notice that when I walked into the Marrriott and did a head-count that there were 60 men at first glance and only 7 women.   I am told that that is an improvement, nonetheless, shame on those who made me feel like my virtue was in jeopardy.

The anticipated and usual suspects were there.  Schmoozing away.

The dinner, though.  Bro… Bro.

Ok, so normally I find circular self referencing tacky, gauche even, but Christie’s speech gave me a case of the feels because so much of what he was talking about was actually my primary research focus of old.  What a co-inky-dink!

In his speech, Christie rightly stated that, yes, it will be an election year coming up which will inevitably lead to the volume being turned up on the problems in our state and turned down on ‘what’s right’ about NJ.  That’s fair, but amidst the triumphs and defeats, the guv talked about brain drain and young adults!  He talked about young people leaving the state! But have no fear, development on our campuses will both get our NJ youth to stay to get educated and ALSO work!  He was playing to the room.  Our governor is not a dumb man.  Do I agree with him often or ever?  Eh… He’s not a dumb man.

Now, I’m full on ready to be gauche and reference my own work.  I used to research brain drain in suburban communities, namely Long Island suburban communities, and I still offer millennial trainings and discussions in my not-so-abundant free time.  I realize that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, but some key points definitely overlapped.

Back in the day, (a couple years ago) I had to see why people were leaving Long Island and in my research model development, we threw around some hypotheses. One was the cost of living was way too high.  Another was the cost of education was way too high.  Another was access to childcare.  YET another was the commuting time was too long  and lastly, we hypothesized that  the downtowns just weren’t cool enough.  We had more that proved true as well.

Overall, our spider senses were correct.  Also, in my literature reviews (yes, more than one), I came across the phenomenon of overdevelopment of universities not only driving up costs, but also leading to credit downgrades of the universities thereby reducing grad rates.

Listening to Christie talk about developing universities to minimize brain drain and keep our talent here was just hard to do.  Many would contend that developing the universities out would make our schools too expensive and without promoting job development in our state in industries that require higher education, as well as good first home purchase options, we are turning a simple centrifuge into a slingshot right out of our state.

Now, I am not anti-development, but where are we developing?  When our poll was administered through Hofstra University in my tenure at the Suburban Millennial Institute, we found some trends of note.  Young people dislike commuting and having student loan debt is the life ruining-est experience a young adult may have and probably why we see few-to-no young  adults at these high dollar events we all like to attend so much.  Paraphrasing, of course.

Sure,  I love my mom’s pies and my papa’s peanut sauce, but I am glad I don’t live with them – so much so that selling flowers at intersections, subway doodling and tapping on plywood are all potential ways to avoid that in light of my student debt.

In my time at Montclair State, I watched University Hall get erected.  I also watched tuition rise like the buildings around me on facilities I wouldn’t get to use. This phenomenon was touched upon in a few Newsdayarticles I read years ago.  Universities take out bonds to develop dorms because amenities were perceived to be what draw students to apply to schools, to attract talent.  Universities would build apartment style dorms, but the cost of attendance would therefore rise so the graduation rate plummets.  Also, if there aren’t local options for work at the time of graduation, why would they stay especially if they want to take public transportation?   Owning and insuring and storing a car has become too arduous an ordeal especially since young adults struggle to rent spaces larger than a hamster cage.  Street parking is sparse in hamster cage living communities.  Little known fact, I guess.

Anyway, the Governor was playing to the room.  Many higher education folks were there and it all made sense why he would focus on whatever it is that he was looking to focus on.  I couldn’t help but jump on Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s to see the assessments of  NJ’s public institution for some bedtime reading.  I was much too tired to party all night; I am like a 178 year-old woman in a 32 year-old woman’s body, after all.  I won’t spoil it, but take a look.  It’s not so bad.

I will say this like I always do: you can’t develop policy alternatives in a vacuum and again, why not just ask young people?  I will plan the town hall myself, I AM planning the town hall.  Come.  I know I and a bunch of other young adults have been working to attract and activate our peers in civic participation, but brain drain will not be alleviated by a trope from Wayne’s World 2, If You Book Them – THEY MAY NOT COME.  It’s difficult to see folks STILL touting bigger better campuses as a deterrent for brain drain when years ago, correlations were drawn between lowered grad rates, higher tuition and – you guessed it- brain drain.

There are, of course, exceptions. I like the look of ILSE at Kean.  I like incubators being connected to higher education since it addresses the brain drain issue head on because brain drain relates to dropping out, transferring or moving after graduation.  NJ as a whole, and not just our fancy institutions, needs to be the flame and not the moth.  We need to be a little bit more cohesive.

The desire for bigger and better isn’t what draws young people.  Look at NYC.  If we have hamster cages here in NJ, in NYC they have a jar with a stick and a leaf and young folks swarm there still.  Perhaps we should make our colleges a ton more affordable and make the surrounding areas more attractive to young people.

Now… This is obviously a rant.  There wasn’t a lot of substance to go on in that speech.

El Fin. 7777777

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