Governor Chris Christie
Saturday, March 22, 2014
The first Bridgegate question — and calls for Port Authority Chair David Samson to resign. This Week in Politics breaks it down.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Governor Chris Christie is facing the biggest political battle of his administration, with investigations into lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and the distribution of aid after Sandy. But there may be an even bigger challenge looming. A new report says a crushing level of debt puts New Jersey dead last for fiscal solvency.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
It looks like things may continue to worsen for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie before they improve. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has revealed that the Christie administration held Hurricane Sandy recovery money hostage, tying the aid to her support for a real estate development project. Joining The Takeaway for an update on Bridgegate is New Jersey Public Radio reporter Matt Katz.
Friday, November 22, 2013
This week, GOP governors from around the country convened in Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual Republican Governor’s Association Conference—a chance to welcome their new chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The meeting is a chance for Gov. Christie to elevate his own profile and hobnob with some of the GOP's biggest donors. Matt Katz, New Jersey Public Radio reporter has been reporting on this year’s RGA conference.
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
By Sarah Gonzalez : Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Governor Chris Christie was re-elected in New Jersey Tuesday night with 60 percent of the votes.
The race was called for Governor Christie a minute after the polls closed. At his election night party - on the boardwalk in Asbury Park - the Republican Governor walked out with his arms raised, to the song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By Scott Gurian
The Obama administration's $60.4 billion emergency funding request to Congress last December stated that part of the money for recovery and rebuilding should be used "to help the region prepare for future challenges, including future severe storms and coastal flooding, as well as impacts associated with a changing climate."
It also instructed that government officials at all levels should work together "to develop mutually agreed upon assessments of future risks and vulnerabilities facing the region, including extreme weather, sea level rise and coastal flooding, and incorporate these into their recovery planning and implementation."
One year after Sandy, here’s a detailed look at where some of that money has gone, how it’s trickling down to New Jersey, and how portions of it are hopefully being used to make the state safer and more resilient to severe weather along its coast.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
By David Furst : NJPR
Mary Mann with New Jersey News Commons at Montclair State University joins New Jersey Public Radio host, David Furst, to highlight the work of two local news reporters. One covers the news for the web site, Planet Princeton - the other is a freshman working for the student radio station at Montclair State University.
Over the past couple of weeks, they broke stories that were later picked up around the state. The first has to do with a parking scandal in Princeton. The next involves the heckler who disrupted the second and final debate between governor Christie and State Senator Barbara Buono.
Monday, October 14, 2013
By Fred Mogul : Reporter, WNYC News
The rollout of the health insurance exchanges is starting to gain momentum in New York, but progress continues to be slow in New Jersey. One state developed its own system - the other outsourced it to the federal government.
About two-thirds of the states, including New Jersey, opted not to develop their own exchange, and the federal system, healthcare.gov, has been consistently overwhelmed since October 1st, with relatively few people able to log in, create accounts, examine different insurance plans and enroll in a plan.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Janet Babin : Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Governor Chris Christie is taking steps to force Jersey shore homeowners to allow sand dune construction on their beachfront properties.
He issued an executive order to start legal action against about 1000 oceanfront property owners who've refused to assign a strip of their beach front to the state.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Bob Hennelly
As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigns for re-election, he leads a united Republican party. And on the campaign trail he is doing his best to fracture the state's Democrats.
Friday, December 14, 2012
By Scott Gurian
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared Friday afternoon in the storm-battered beach town of Seabright to announce a series of measures to help small business owners get back on their feet.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Bob Hennelly, WNYC's contributing editor for politics and investigations, joins to talk about his reporting on developments on the future of power companies in New Jersey and on the latest from the Governor's office.
Monday, October 29, 2012
National disasters are fraught with peril for any leader. As Hurricane Sandy slams the eastern seaboard just a week before a national election, no one wants to make the wrong move. Least of all the Governors of New York and New Jersey, both of whom are eying a possible 2016 run for the presidency.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Not too long ago, an ad for Audi cars sought to relate to the average driver with grimly shot footage of rutted roads, rotting bridges, and frayed guardrails. “Across the nation, over 100,000 miles of roads and bridges are in disrepair,” a female announcer intones.
That this rhetoric could turn up in an ad is a metaphor of the current acceptance of America’s rather sorry infrastructure. In its latest report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a "D.”
In 2008, Republicans and Democrats pretty much agreed that investing in infrastructure is a national priority. Here's an excerpt from the 2008 GOP platform:
We support a level of investment in the nation's transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system's performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas.
We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation's impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation's energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.
It's hard to remember that that was just four years ago -- when Senator Barack Obama was running against Senator John McCain.
In 2012, supporting infrastructure couldn't be more partisan.
In one of the most-quoted pieces of video />made this campaign, President Barack Obama argues that success relies on collective action, including big infrastructure projects. Obama: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help... Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
But to Republicans, that sounded like an argument against individual ingenuity. "We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones," former Governor Mitt Romney said in his acceptance speech, describing all the reasons our parents and grandparents came to this county, including "freedom to build a life. And yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands."
It was huge applause line. The theme even became a country song Lane Turner performed at the convention, with the refrain, "I built it, with no help from Uncle Sam."
That Uncle Sam has a big role in building infrastructure has been a pretty consistent theme for President Obama. His $800 stimulus bill had big sums for highways, transit, and high speed rail. He's proposed big transportation budgets every year.
But republicans see it differently. Arguing the country can't afford more debt, Republican Governors sent stimulus money back to the federal government. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, they stopped high speed rail projects in their tracks. But they weren't the first republicans to send big bucks back to D.C.
But before Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida had even won office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started a modern trend: sending billions back to the federal government for a local transit project rather than risk incurring extra debt for New Jersey taxpayers. In October, 2010, Christie pulled the plug on an already-started transit tunnel under the Hudson River -- the so-called ARC tunnel. " In the end the taxpayers of New Jersey would be on the hook for every nickel of the cost overruns," Christie said, explaining the decision.
"When you become governor, and you start to become presented with the information I was presented with you're presented with now a choice of a project that I do think is a worthwhile project but that we simply can't afford," Christie added.
Christie's Democratic counterpart in New York, Andrew Cuomo, took a different approach. Without the financing in hand, Cuomo greenlighted his own massive infrastructure project -- a new $5 billion Tappan Zee bridge.
"As a society, as a government, as a state, we have to be able to get to yes," Cuomo told reporters after he'd applied for the funds. "We have to be able to build a bridge that needs to be replaced. If we want this state to be what we want this state to be you have to be able to tackle a project like this."
Monday, August 13, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- a likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate -- put transit squarely in the middle of the 2013 debate Tuesday by proposing a reinstatement of the commuter tax and an infrastructure bank to fund long term capital projects, including more rapid buses in the outer boroughs and a subway from Brooklyn to the Bronx.
"I believe we need to get back to an era in which public transportation is acknowledged as an essential civil responsibility," Stringer said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York. "Right alongside public safety and education."
Stringer wants to re-jigger the way capital construction is financed, setting up an infrastructure bank seeded by the NY Mortgage recording tax, which now funds transit operations.
But to do that, he needs a replacement source of funds for transit operations, and he's looking to the restored commuter tax to supply more than $700 million a year to do that.
Still, the fate of the commuter tax, which would be borne exclusively by suburbanites, is cloudy at best, and it's already being blasted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who's calling it "penny-wise and pound-foolish."
And in supporting the commuter tax, Stringer is backing away from his previous support of congestion charging. The commuter tax would only affect suburbanites, who won't vote for the next mayor, while a congestion charge would hit some city residents.
The commuter tax -- a 0.45 percent surcharge on income -- died in 1999 when Democratic Assembly member Sheldon Silver brokered a deal to eliminate the tax in order to help a Democrat win a special Senate election in Orange County. The Democrat lost. The tax was detested by suburbanites.
But Stringer says he thinks he can get it passed. "Every Mayor, when they get elected, gets one big ticket from Albany," Stringer said in a question-and-answer session after Tuesday's speech. " Mayor Bloomberg got mayoral control of the school system. Other mayors came up and asked for something from Albany that can change the discourse in this city. I believe the next mayor can go to Albany, rearrange the commuter tax, build a partnership with suburban elected officials, and finally finally finally get this transit system on sound footing because this is not just a New York City issue, it’s a regional issue. And if we flounder, we could take our economy with us, and that’s the argument we have to make."
In 2008, a congestion charging plan backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed the New York City Council, but died in the legislature, where it found little support.
Congestion charging is “our last best chance to reduce the number of cars and trucks on our streets, lessen the business costs associated with congestion, reduce asthma rates, build new mass transit, and prepare New York City for another million residents," Stringer testified in 2008.
But Stringer stopped short of endorsing the latest congestion charging plan -- Sam Schwartz's "Fair Plan" -- which would charge drivers entering Manhattan while lowering some other tolls around the city. Stringer said that was an idea that deserves "discussion." His prepared remarks said "serious consideration."
When questioned after the speech, Stringer said "I am supporting my plan...I’m not endorsing the Sam Schwartz plan. I’m not endorsing those ideas today, but I wanted to say to people, elected officials, potential candidates, why don’t we dig in and have a real discussion and not be afraid to talk about new ideas?"
Stringer's press people were also quite clear that Stringer does not favor congestion charging -- although he doesn't not support it either.
The MTA stopped short of supporting Stringer's call for a commuter tax, but spokesman Adam Lisberg said "we're glad that he’s started this conversation about how to get more funding for the MTA, because the MTA needs money."
Neither the congestion charge nor the commuter tax have much support in Albany. Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the congestion charge while campaigning for Governor, called it " moot." He's shown a distinct distaste for taxes -- especially dedicated transit taxes -- this year eliminating a dedicated tax surcharge for the MTA paid by suburbanites.
In supporting a commuter tax over the congestion charge, Stringer is hewing a politically less treacherous route -- he's not pushing for a tax or a toll that some outer borough residents detest. No constituents of Stringers, should he be elected mayor, would be affected by the commuter tax.
Of the other 2013 candidates for Mayor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn helped steer the congestion charge through the city council -- where Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio, then a council member, voted against it. City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a 2009 mayoral candidate, opposed congestion charging, but supported more expensive registration fees for heavier cars.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, before he withdrew from the 2009 Mayor's race, supported congestion charging -- but only for people who didn't live in New York.
In 2005, no Democratic candidates for mayor supported congestion charging. I know, because I asked them about it during the primary debate.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
Two more Governors are speaking out against last week's audit of the Port Authority.
Former Governor Elliot Spitzer was Governor from June 2007 until March 2008. He says the latest Port Authority audit by Navigant Consulting was unfair to his successor Governor David Paterson and Paterson's pick to lead the Port Authority, Executive Director Chris Ward.
That audit sharply criticized the Port Authority, and, by implication, Ward, who led the bi-state agency until this fall. But Spitzer says Ward himself cut through a thick knot of problems.
"Chris cut through a great deal of it with deadlines that were imposed upon him, some legitimately, some for political purposes -- and got things moving The effort now to revisit and repaint that picture is unfair to Chris and inaccurate," Spitzer said in a telephone interview.
Spitzer's remarks back of those of his successor, David Paterson, who said in an interview that cost overruns at the Port Authority were in part driven by demands by New Jersey that every expenditure on the World Trade Center be matched by a similar layout across the Hudson.
Spitzer said Ward got the stalled project moving. He says Ward deserves credit for the on time completion of the Memorial that was the focal point for the global commemoration of the tenth anniversary.
Spitzer also said the Port Authority has become a fundamentally political organization.
"Inevitably over time organizations like that become dominated by politics, not substance. The Port has not escaped that," says Spitzer. "Overlay on top of that the reality of two states balancing and juggling competing political needs and you have clear opportunities for waste and outright corruption."
Former Democratic New Jersey Governor Dick Codey, who is now a state senator, is also backing his former cohorts accounts that the Port Authority has long been beset with problems.
Codey said during his tenure from 2004 until the beginning of 2006 he was frustrated by the lack of progress at Ground Zero. He said from his first-hand experience overseeing the agency it's bi-state nature slowed progress and drove up costs.
" I mean obviously it took way too long to get that done and that is the problem when you have a bi-state agency; one wants to do it their way, the other wants it their own way.
"The thing I was frustrated at was the lack of progress dealing with the World Trade Center site," Codey said in an interview. " You got to compromise and sometimes that compromise takes a very long time, and the money you thought it would take to rebuild just escalates."
Codey says the governors of both states, including himself, were too quick to let the Port Authority carry the huge cost of rebuilding the site. "I think if there is any criticism to be laid at any Governor is that we were not vigilant in going after Federal money because is really a monument to our country as opposed to New Jersey or New York. It was not new Jersey or new York that were hit that day. It was America, clearly."
Both Codey and Spitzer say that any meaningful reform of the Port Authority has to include ending what has become the standard practice of the Governors from both states appointing campaign contributors to the powerful Port Authority Board of Commissioners. They oversee the agency that generates more than $4 billion dollars in revenue annually and employs almost 7,000 people.
"Part of the problem is that we want people that are non-partisan and who are professionals and clearly we have gotten away from that," says Codey. " There is no question about it. People that are on these authorities are big donors. Whether that be on my Democratic side or on the Republican side. So I think both parties need to take a hit on this. "
Both former Governors say the Port Authority, originally established to facilitate the development of the region's Port and transportation infrastructure, has to get back to its core mission. Forays into so called "economic development projects" are examples of a diversion from that mission.
"Well you would think that Port Authority is running the bridges and tunnels and that would be it," says Codey."These economic things that came about maybe 15 years or so, why? I don't understand. You are supposed to be doing the infrastructure that binds us together. And yet we have gone away from that. Economic development is really the federal government and the state's role."
After signing off on controversial toll and fare hikes Governors Christie and Cuomo called for a first of its kind internal audit of the bi-state agency that was first created in 1921. The audit found that the agency had more than doubled its debt from $9 billion to $21 billion in just ten years while boosting the compensation for its own workforce by 19 percent over the last five.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
(New York, NY -- Bob Hennelly, WNYC) Last week’s audit calling the Port Authority dysfunctional and running up billions of dollars in cost over-runs made eye-catching headlines.
The audit called the bi-state authority a "dysfunctional organization suffering from a lack of consistent leadership." That void, the report concluded, manifested itself in "insufficient cost controls" and "a lack of transparent and effective oversight" when it came to managing the World Trade Center's site's re-development.
But to long-time observers of the Port Authority and many of those involved, it was more like a Captain Reynault moment in Casablanca.
They were hardly shocked to find gambling in this establishment.
Instead, the latest 50-page report from Navigant is just one more critical audit and fact-finding volume in a library generated over decades by state comptrollers by former and current state lawmakers.
This particular audit was commissioned by Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, who found themselves in political hot water after backing a toll-hike to pay for rising costs at the bi-state authority. Both men had been elected on platforms that pledged to make government, even independent authorities like the Port Authority, more accountable.
But former Governor David Paterson says the audits findings were hardly a secret to those close to the World Trade Center project.
“The truth has to be told about this," Paterson says. After September 11th there was tremendous political tumult in both states. Sex scandals toppled a Governor in each state. The instability at the top had repercussions.
"Five governors of New Jersey, four governors of New York, changes to the Chair of the Port Authority and the executive director," recalls Paterson. "Every stakeholder, every real estate person within 150 miles wanted to be involved. What started out as a demonstration of vigilance and response to the terrorists turned into a real estate boondoggle."
Paterson says then-Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward, in an attempt to get the 911 Memorial completed by the psychologically important tenth anniversary, did not sugarcoat the site's overall status.
"In the memorandum written to me by Chris Ward he says there are likely to be cost overruns and delays. And there were," says Paterson.
“While significant progress has been made, that memo said, the schedule and cost estimates of the rebuilding effort that have been communicated to the public are not realistic. In fact, as other reports by the FTA and LMCCC/LMDC have already suggested, the schedule and cost for each of the public projects on the site face significant delays and cost overruns,” the memo said.
"And the whole issue that there could be toll hikes -- all that was discussed before the project was even built," says Paterson. "When we started putting this together we knew that the costs that were assessed were way below what the actual price to build those structures would be."
There was something else driving up costs, the former Governor said. “Every dime that was spent to rebuild the World Trade Center was assessed in the Port Authority Board room as a New York contract for which the New Jersey members wanted equal value. I am not blaming them but it becomes a cesspool driving costs up."
Paterson says the Federal government should have shouldered the entire multibillion dollar burden of re-building the complex not the Port Authority.
"They did not attack the Port Authority on September 11th nor did they attack the states of New York and New Jersey. They attacked America."
Check back soon for Part 2 of this story...how the Port Authoiry, once a national model, found itself adrift in a sea of red ink.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
By Janet Babin : Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
UPDATED WITH MORE ON PA STATEMENTS ON WTC & TOLL HIKES (READ A BIT INTO THE POST) The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is defending the expanded costs for the World Trade Center project, but it also admits it needs to become leaner and more transparent.
The agency addressed the project’s costs at its first public Board meeting since an outside audit released earlier this week. The interim report revealed that costs at the World Trade Center project had ballooned to $15-billion dollars, up from about $4-billion in 2008.
But Port Authority Chair David Samson said the figures did not reflect cost overruns at the World Trade Center. “The numbers that provide an increase in the original cost estimate were not on cost overruns, and they were not over budget....there was a cost estimate increase,” said Samson.
The Board said that the project’s expanded costs were simply not included in the original cost estimates created in 2008. “They were mostly costs associated with One World Trade Center and retail, like tenant improvement costs, financing costs, and leasing commissions,” said Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. He said these were things that would normally be included in a project cost estimate.
The Board said any cost overruns at the World Trade Center site were due to expanded work on the transportation hub, and the accelerated speed of the project. Some work was fast tracked in order to complete the 9/11 memorial in time for the ten year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The audit, by Navigant Consulting, was commissioned by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and NJ Governor Chris Christie after the Board voted to increase bridge and tunnel tolls last August. Board Chair Samson said those toll increases are here to stay. He also maintained the toll revenue is not linked in any way to the World Trade Center project. “There was never a statement made that linked the toll increase to paying for the World Trade Center redevelopment,” said Samson.
(That's actually not accurate. An August 5, 2011 press release announcing the proposed hike specifically cited "the overall cost of WTC rebuilding" as pressuring the authority's finances. "Faced with three unprecedented challenges at once," the statement said – "(1) a historic economic recession that has sharply decreased revenue below projections, (2) steep increases in post-9/11 security costs, which have nearly tripled, and the overall cost of the WTC rebuilding, and (3) the need for the largest overhaul of facilities in the agency’s 90-year history – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey today proposed a two-phase toll and fare increase to fully fund a new $33 billion ten-year capital plan, which will generate 167,000 jobs."
To be sure, after being sued by the AAA, the Port Authority has maintained that no funding from the toll increase actually goes directly to the World Trade Center, a position the Chair restated Thursday. Samson said said he "disagreed" that the Port Authority had raised the specter of WTC reconstruction as driving the toll hike, saying that press release was instead painting "a general picture of the financial position of the Port Authority." )
The audit also described the agency as dysfunctional.
The Board blamed that on prior leaders. Vice Chairman Rechler said that the last ten years at the Port Authority have been “destabilizing.” The agency lost 83 employees during the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Board went through seven different executive directors over the past ten years. “We feel confident now that there’s new leadership,” said Vice Chairman Rechler.
The Board said it’s finding ways to move forward. It pointed to a new joint venture with Westfield Group as a positive sign. “Our agreement with Westfield leverages public and private sector money that allows us to pursue our core mission: to stimulate job creation and economic activity for the New Jersey and New York region,” said Samson.
The Board said it will also focus on improving capital planning and financing for big projects. It will also tackle employee compensation. The audit found that the average Port Authority employee earns about $143-thousand dollars a year. “We need to better align our compensation and benefits packages to appropriate public employee standards, “said Samson.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
A Princeton professor emeritus and author of a book on the Port Authority says Governor Chris Christie's hiring recommendations at the Port Authority far outpace his predecessor's patronage hires. Jameson Doig, author of "Empire on the Hudson," is speaking up after the Bergen Record published the names of some 50 employees, from executives to a toll collector, who were hired on Christie's reommendation, most of whom have ties to the Republican party officials or their campaigns.
"Whereas Christie might have 50 people, the other Governors might have four or five," Doig said in a phone interview from New Hampshire, where he also teaches at Dartmouth college.
Christie is defending the hirings. "I make no apologies about trying to put some people in place who are going to understand what the view of this administration is and execute …in a way that’s consistent with my policies,” he said at a news conference Monday.
Christie's spokesman didn't respond to Doig's criticisms.
Shawn Boburg, one of the Bergen Record reporters who broke the story, said the hirings "cut against the grain" for Christie, who made his bones as a prosecutor crusading against corruption. (You can listen to an interview with Boburg here. )
The report says among those hired were an actor, a gourmet food broker, and the author of a self-help book by a Port Authority executive. The salaries total $4 million.
Christie says, under his watch, overall headcount has dropped at the bi-state transportation authority.
The Port Authority is not subject to the same disclosure laws as New Jersey state agencies, and has not released the resumes of the 50 employees.