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Don’t Repeal Regional Contribution Agreements Dear Editor: Respectfully, your March 8 editorial, “Money Talks, Mount Laurel Walks” [175 N.J.L.J. 942], misses the mark with regard to both the production of affordable housing and the importance of regional contribution agreements. While we still have a long way to go, since 1983, there have been 29,000 affordable housing units created statewide. Under the proposed regulations issued by the Council on Affordable Housing, it is intended that another 50,000 units be constructed over the next 10 years, including units constructed and/or rehabilitated through RCAs. The purpose of Mt. Laurel and the Fair Housing Act is not social engineering. It is to mandate that decent housing be provided to all segments of the population, including those of low and moderate income. Municipalities do not build housing nor are they required to do so under Mt. Laurel or the Fair Housing Act. Their function is to provide a realistic opportunity for the construction of that housing within and without its borders. RCAs serve a useful purpose, providing funding to many urban areas to promote the construction of decent, habitable, affordable housing to residents who wish to remain in their communities but who currently live in substandard housing. Writing a check does not absolve a municipality from its responsibility under the Mt. Laurel doctrine or the Fair Housing Act: It fulfills part of it. If the proposed COAH regulations are adopted, there is to be created a statewide RCA bank – funded by municipalities with an affordable housing obligation – where receiving municipalities can go to access money to construct new housing or rehabilitate existing housing. Let us not have the social engineers also determine where people should live. Give the people the opportunity to live where they currently live, but in decent affordable housing or in the suburbs where they may want to live. The RCA helps to achieve that goal while still requiring the other 50 percent of the municipality’s obligation to be addressed within its geographical boundaries. The repeal of the RCA legislation would be a colossal mistake and an incredible setback for affordable housing in this state. I am disappointed that the Law Journal advocates such a position. Edward J. Buzak Montville Death Penalty Has Been Studied to Death Dear Editor: Your Feb. 16 editorial urging Governor McGreevey to support a commission to study the death penalty in New Jersey [175 N.J.L.J. 554] is replete with factual errors, misinformation and questionable assertions. For example, you take issue with the governor’s statement that the death penalty has been so exhaustively studied that further study is unnecessary by claiming that, “No study has ever been made of whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent or is cost effective.” In fact, no less than five recent studies by well-respected academic institutions – Emory University, the University of Colorado, the University of Houston, the State University of New York and Clemson University – have all found a significant deterrent effect. Regarding cost-effectiveness, any study in New Jersey would be useless considering that no one has been executed here in over forty years. We certainly do not need a legislative study to determine that $7.4 million per inmate and no executions are not cost-effective. The editorial also states that the Legislature has never studied whether the death penalty is applied in a discriminatory manner and that only the New Jersey Supreme Court has conducted proportionality review. It fails to note that the Court’s exhaustive study found no racial disparities in capital prosecution and death sentencing rates. The governor correctly found no reason to conduct an additional study of the same death row inmates. Most importantly, the editorial states that “112 people in 25 states have been freed from death rows across the country because they were found to be actually innocent.” Exactly who found them to be actually innocent, since our criminal justice system does not declare anyone to be innocent? In reality, the 112 allegedly innocent inmates were determined to be innocent by the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty advocacy group. The list includes numerous individuals whose convictions were reversed, but who were unquestionably guilty. Moreover, none of the allegedly innocent inmates were from New Jersey. The simple fact is that the people of New Jersey support the death penalty and want to see it implemented. If anything needs to be studied and corrected, it is why the death penalty law is not being enforced. Erik Daab West Windsor

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