Lest we be accused of being naive ... yes, we realize that state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, is a likely candidate for governor and that the Christie administration's failed distribution of Sandy aid makes the perfect political target.

But the man has a point. And while Gov. Chris Christie continues his bluster and blame game - "It's all the feds' fault!" - Sweeney has made some common-sense proposals that would help fix the process. Christie would be wise to embrace them.

Last week, Sweeney proposed allowing local nonprofits in each of the Sandy-damaged counties to administer the second, $1.4 billion round of federal aid for homeowners and renters.

Christie has gone on the offensive to defend his administration's handling of the initial $1.8 billion in Sandy housing aid. But he can't outrun the facts. Only 4 percent of the available funding has been distributed. Thousands of people are still out of their homes and being stymied by a confusing, inconsistent, mistake-riddled application process. There are allegations that the administration tied towns' Sandy aid to political support. And the administration secretly fired the original Louisiana-based contractor hired to distribute the aid rather than have to answer questions about the failed process.

Sweeney is proposing that local nonprofit agencies experienced in housing or related issues staff "Community Resource Recovery Centers" in each of the afflicted counties. He argues - correctly - that local, community-based organizations familiar with the facts on the ground should be able to get people back into their homes more quickly and efficiently.

Sweeney has also proposed a "Sandy Bill of Rights" bill, which would require clear eligibility guidelines for grants and give victims the right to know where their application stands and why it was rejected or placed on a waiting list - all of which should have been part of the process from the beginning.

Christie's approval rating for how he has handled the state's recovery from Sandy has dropped from 80 percent in November to 54 percent now, as the problems have become clear. He has worked with Sweeney before on important issues. Now would be a good time to do so again.


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