Well, that’s not quite true. As Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula explains, “All it takes is to be a friend of the governor.”
Ever since he took office, Governor Christie has not only established a horrible record on energy and the environment, but he has misused funds earmarked for energy improvement and job creation as a gimmick to balance the budget.
To get one of these high-paying jobs described in the headline under the Christie administration, all you need to do is to get the governor to appoint you as a commissioner on the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
As Chivukula, chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, explains in the video below, the BPU was established as an independent agency whose charter is to work for the ratepayers (that’s us), and promote programs that conserve energy and save the environment. But instead, the Board has become a patronage pit for the governor’s cronies (three out of the five commissioners were appointed by Christie) most of whom Chivukula believes do not have the background to do the work that they are being paid for. To add insult to injury, Chivukula points out that the BPU has hired some very expensive consultants to compensate for the gaps in the board members’ experience. Heck, you don’t even need to be a Christie Crony to be appointed. Being the spouse of a Christie Crony is qualification enough – as long as you’re a tennis official.
To be fair to the governor, the lack of qualification of BPU members is not entirely his fault. Commissioners are appointed by the governor but must be confirmed by the Democratically-controlled Senate. None of the current BPU commissioners have any educational qualifications in science, technology, or the environment. Only Commissioner Fox (appointed by Governor McGreevey) has had extensive relevant career experience. Yet, when Bob Hanna, now a State Supreme Court nominee, was brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation as president of the BPU in December, 2011, not a single relevant question was asked. As Assemblyman Chivukula puts it, “The BPU should also not be a waiting area for gubernatorial political appointees until they get nominated for judicial positions.”
In our conversation, Chivukula also spoke about several bills that he and Assemblyman Joe Cryan are sponsoring in response to Hurricane Sandy (starting at 5:45 in the video).