Before I begin let me say that I am no fan of Christie’s, can’t stand his bullying style and think he’s incompetent as a leader. That being said, I am fine with having the public decide his legacy, but not before examining the facts.
In the next few weeks a lot of information is going to come to light and much if it is going to show that, so far, we have just seen the tip of the iceberg.
Lets go back all the way to the start of the Christie administration.
Keep in mind two conflicting notions: New Jersey has a perennial revenue problem, and no governor ever wants to raise taxes.
Any other way of raising revenue is better than raising taxes. Raising fees, raising tolls, dipping into alternate funding sources. This has been the case going back several decades now.
So when Chris Christie took office he knew what he was faced with. As any good problem solver, he looked around to see what COULD be done to raise revenue. And he saw- the Port Authority Of New York-New Jersey.
So he installed a few friends, some who had -0- administrative experience in transportation, to oversee the authority.
And lo and behold- over time money started flowing FROM the Port Authority to other areas where it was NEVER INTENDED TO GO. The Pulaski Skyway improvement project. Bayonne Bridge. Atlantic City Airport.
But as big a cash cow as it was, the money still wasn’t enough. So the authority announced plans to raise tolls. First it announced plans to raise them 4.00 a for every vehicle. Of course this didn’t sit well with the public but it was all a dog and pony show. Both Christie and Cuomo howled at it, though THEY CONTROLLED THE AUTHORITY. So a more modest increase went into effect. As was the plan all along.
Along the way, tit for tat endorsements of Christie poured in from heavily Democratic northeast New Jersey. The mayor of Bayonne and the Mayor of Union City, to name two, endorsed his reelection bid.
And anyone critical of the diversion of funds? Christie used his connections to publicly humiliate them, as at this hearing:
After all this information comes to light there will be little doubt as to why Christie’s administration decided that the Port Authority was the perfect tool to exact vengeance on his political rivals. If those who supported him could be rewarded with Port Authority diverted funds, then why not punish those who did not support him by using that same agency’s power?
When Lautenberg was in office he railed time and time and time again against the Port Authority, especially for killing the Arc tunnel project. “I am very disappointed that the Port Authority continues to operate behind a veil of secrecy.” he said.
Christie fired back by calling Lautenberg “an embarrassment.”
Certainly the one thing the citizens and commuters of the NY-NJ area need to take from all this is that there needs to be better oversight of the Port Authority. Lets put an end to any governor using it as a cudgel for political payback or a cash cow.
Toll hikes should be monitored by a federal agency. I know the GOP would bristle at this but its the only thing that will stop this out of control agency, and put an end to the way its been misused and abused.