Honoree - Rothman

When the New Jersey Meadowlands is better known as an idyllic oasis for hiking, kayaking, fishing and bird watching than as a dumping ground for toxic waste, state residents can thank Rep. Steve Rothman.

A Democrat from Fair Lawn who has represented New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District since 1997, Rothman has obtained more than $10 million in federal funds to buy up parcels to turn the wetlands into an environmental park. Much of the restoration is already underway, and Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan credits Rothman’s strong leadership for helping save the Meadowlands and Hackensack River watershed from further pollution and development.

Rothman’s district includes the southern portion of Bergen County, parts of northern Hudson County and the borough of Hawthorne in Passaic County. In addition to his Meadowlands work, Rothman is perhaps best known for leading the fight against aircraft noise and pollution at Teterboro Airport. Most recently, he brokered an agreement among operators at the airport that will ultimately end nighttime flights, ban large aircraft and the noisiest jets, and improve safety and security.

In its editorial endorsement when Rothman was running for his seventh term last fall, The Record of Bergen County said that Rothman “has a proven record of serving the district well. … He also has a strong reputation for integrity and ethics.”

Rothman is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and sits on subcommittees that deal with defense, foreign operations, agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. He is also a member of the House Science and Technology subcommittees on space and aeronautics, and investigations and oversight.

An early supporter of Barack Obama, Rothman served as the president’s campaign co-chairman in the Northeast. Rothman is known for his strong, independent voice in Congress; not only has he long been an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, but he has defied his own party by criticizing the $700 billion federal bailout of the nation’s financial markets.

Rothman has been a leader in efforts to restore health-care benefits and promote equitable disability and retirement benefits for military veterans. In February 2007, he completed an eight-day trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and other strategic areas in the Middle East, where he visited with heads of state, U.S. military commanders, diplomats, intelligence officers and military troops, including wounded soldiers and their doctors.

As a former member of the House Judiciary Committee, he wrote and got passed the Secure Our Schools Act, which lets local school districts apply for federal grants for such items as metal detectors, security cameras, employee training, and better lighting and locks. In New Jersey, nearly 80 Secure Our School grants, worth more than $6 million, have gone to 160 schools.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Rothman has obtained hundreds of millions of dollars for improvements to roads in his district, including funds to relieve Route 17 traffic, bring commuter rail to Bergen County and expand public transportation to and from Manhattan and around New Jersey.

Before becoming a congressman, Rothman was mayor of Englewood (1983-1989) and the Bergen County Surrogate Court judge (1993-1996). In private practice as an attorney from 1978 to 1993, he won awards for providing pro bono legal service to the poor, disabled and elderly. Rothman graduated from Tenafly High School in 1970 and earned a B.A. in political philosophy from Syracuse University in 1974 and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law in 1977. Rothman and his wife, Jennifer, have five children, ranging in age from 15 to 21.

Commencement Honoree Rothman FULL

Doctor of Humane Letters