Sherrill and Krickus Bond over Ukraine

MADISON – The official act of the day was what Mikie Sherrill says she likes best – giving out grants throughout the 11th District.

She began with an estimated $4.1 million check to help preserve Drew Forest, a 53-acre tract that may otherwise go to high density housing.

Then, it was off to Randolph and a $1 million check to help County College of Morris develop a satellite campus in Dover dedicated to workforce development. Also on tap were awards to Jefferson to study sewer installation along Lake Hopatcong and to Maplewood in Essex County to combat flooding.

Such awards, which officially are known as community service projects, are popular for pretty obvious reasons – towns like getting money.

But more substantive news can’t be ignored.

Last weekend was a big one in Washington, as the House finally passed aid packages for Ukraine, Israel and the South Pacific.

As the Madison ceremonies began, Sherrill deviated from the assigned task of the day to commend John Krickus, a Morris County Commissioner, for his strong support for Ukraine.

Immediately after the Russian attack more than two years ago, Krickus was instrumental in promoting and organizing vigils and other support for Ukraine. And he’s still doing it.

Krickus, who was at the Madison event, joined the congresswoman at CCM as well.

Sherrill praised him again.

Krickus, in turn, thanked Sherrill for backing Ukraine aid. He called the weekend vote a historic moment and compared it to the nation’s Lend-Lease program, which helped U.S. allies during World War II.

Highlighting the magnitude of the vote, Krickus cited social media reports that suggested Ukrainian soldiers “on the front lines” were cheering when they heard the news.

This was very much a bipartisan exchange, but Krickus did mention that the aid package was also backed by Republican Thomas H. Kean Jr. who also represents part of the county.

The votes also demonstrated once again the partisan split in Washington by those on the far left and right.

Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman was the only voting House member from New Jersey to oppose aid for Israel.

Likewise, Republican Jeff Van Drew was the only voting member from New Jersey to vote “no ” on aid for Ukraine. Van Drew chairs the Trump campaign in the state.

Foreign policy aside, Sherrill and a host of local officials trumpeted the money to preserve the Drew forest, which Mayor Bob Conley called “a gem right in the middle of Madison.”

It will probably take more than $20 million to buy and preserve the entire tract. So far, a bit more than $9 million is at hand.

Besides the $4 million plus from the feds. Morris County contributed $5 million from its open space fund. State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, the minority leader, said there’s $2 million in the proposed state budget for the forest; money he hopes remains when the budget is adopted by the end of June.

Morris County boasts more than 20,000 acres of preserved parkland, so as Sherrill pointed out, the county has shown a “long term” commitment to open space.

That’s really an understatement, given how local groups defeated the Port Authority’s plan to build a massive airport in the nearby Great Swamp more than 60 years ago.

With that historic backdrop, securing the needed funds to keep Drew forest as is, doesn’t seem all that daunting.

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