Sarah Gonzalez, Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Sarah Gonzalez is the northern New Jersey enterprise reporter for WNYC and NJPR.
Mayors in New Jersey say they're starting to consider foul play by the Christie administration in light of the George Washington Bridge lane closure controversy.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says she had a face to face visit with Gov. Christie in the Spring, when he asked her to endorse him for re-election.
She told him she would be remaining neutral.
“He was quite disappointed, but I wouldn't say that he was angry. He was disappointed and said he would keep asking,” Zimmer said. "And I said, 'We can keep the conversation going but I don't expect to be changing my position.’ And I didn't.”
She had applied for hazard mitigation grants to protect Hoboken from flooding. During Sandy, 80 percent of the city was under water.
Zimmer says she asked the state for $100 million in grants. She got $300,000 — a fraction of 1 percent.
“It's a lot less and I was extremely disappointed,” Zimmer said. “And at the time I was angry because I felt like the focus was on the shore.”
Now, she says she can't help but wonder if her decision not to endorse Christie played a role.
“With 20/20 hindsight, in the context we're in right now, we can always look back and say, 'Okay, was it retribution?'” Zimmer said. “I think probably all mayors are reflecting right now and thinking about it, but I really hope that that's not the case.”
Next week a representative from the governor's office is expected to hear Hoboken's proposal for a flood solution. And Mayor Zimmer says she's optimistic the city will get more support this time around.
In Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop recently disclosed that the Christie administration cancelled several meetings — the day after he refused to endorse the Governor.
In Elizabeth, Chris Bollwage, who has been the mayor for 21 years, says his city has gotten payback from Christie after its state legislators opposed several pieces of the Governor's legislation.
“The Governor's retribution was to close down the Division of Motor vehicles here in the city of Elizabeth, which is the fourth largest city in the state of New Jersey,” Bollwage said.
In a 2010 letter to State Senator Raymond Lesniak, the Motor Vehicle Commission wrote that the office in Elizabeth was closed for cost saving reasons, among other things.
Senator Lesniak says he doesn't buy it. He thinks it was retribution.
But other Democrats, like Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, stand by their cross-party endorsement of the Governor. He says Christie really stepped in after Sandy.
“We do have a have a very good working relationship and we had one before and during the storm and it got better after,” Schneider said. “And that’s what led me to do the endorsement, and that has not changed.”
The Mayor of Harrison, Raymond McDonough, was the first Democratic mayor to support Christie. He says he did so because the Governor helped him get $100 million for the city’s PATH station.
In Elizabeth, Mayor Bollwage says he's been wondering what the Democratic mayors who did endorse Christie are getting out of it.
“I said back then, it's only going to be shown when this budget cycle comes around. Who benefits in this budget and who gets hurt in this budget," Bollwage said. “But the GWB fiasco has really taken away the ability for political retribution.”
Now, Bollwage says Christie's budget, and political relationships, are going to be under a microscope.