BridgeGate: Will we or won’t we get answers?: The matter is heating up as we near Thursday’s Assembly Hearing. David Wildstein, Christie’s number two staff appointee to the Port Authority, has been summoned to appear before the Transportation Committee. From previous testimony we learned he ordered the lane closures and told the head of the GW Bridge not to inform the local authorities, which appears to be a violation of the law. Wildstein also told the Director of Bridges, Tunnels, & Terminals he would inform the P. A. Executive Director about the action being taken, but failed to do so. The result was days of unnecessary traffic chaos in Fort Lee for ambulances, fire trucks, school buses, and the general public.
Transportation Committee Chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) has said subpoenaed documents “create the implication that this originated outside the Port Authority.” He added, “Redactions and a lack of related correspondence among the 900 pages of documents he received last month obscure their meaning and context.”
Among the key questions are why were the lanes closed and were others in the administration involved? David Wildstein has some or all of the answers but he has retained a lawyer and may be subject to criminal charges. He could take the 5th Amendment to remain silent, or invoke the infamous Executive Privilege and not comment on communications with the Executive Office.
Others know or could find out what happened but are saying little or nothing. Port Authority Chair David Samson (a Christie appointee) has refused all comment. P. A. Executive Director Patrick Foye answered some but not all questions at a prior hearing. Former Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni (another Christie appointee) testified (not under oath) that lanes were closed for a traffic study, but Foye said there was no traffic study. Christie who has downplayed the issue is known for browbeating people and could get to the bottom of the matter, but maybe he already has information which is not beneficial to his administration.
There remain too many unanswered questions. The redactions and the fact that many documents under subpoena have not been produced suggest that ferreting out the truth will not be easy. If, as alleged, Chair Wisniewski has not yet made the documents received available to Republican committee members, he should do so today. The hearings on Thursday are likely to be interesting (and vituperative) but may not be illuminating. Assemblyman Wisniewski has shown determination in his investigation so far but after Thursday will need additional fortitude and legislative leadership support to continue until we get straight answers.
One of Many New bills Now on the Governor’s Desk:
S2995 (Sponsors: Sens. Weinberg and Madden) intended to counter an increase in discriminatory practices and treatment for the growing number of pregnant women in the workplace.
Stop FEMA Now: This group’s motto is “We must keep flood insurance Affordable.” Member George Kasimos (Toms River) who advocates for Superstorm Sandy victims is going to meet with Sen. Robert Mendez in Washington today to attend a press conference to delay increased premiums. NJ Spotlight wrote a profile on him: Sandy Storm Surge Turns Homeowner into Unlikely Activist.
Governor Chris Christie: 11:00am, Meeting with Hispanic Community Leaders and at 11:15, Dream Act Ceremonial Bill Signing and Remarks, Colin Powell Elementary School, 1500 New York Avenue, Union City. Gov. Christie signed off on only half of the Dream Act, approving tuition equality but not state financial aid. It would be interesting to find out if some Hispanic leaders boycott the event.