It’s the time of year when pundits ponder about the past and contemplate the future. So what’s the early line on the legacy of Chris Christie as he wraps up his first term as the Ruler of New Jersey?
Christie entered the scene as a relatively unknown minion of the ethically-challenged Alberto Gonzalez U.S. Justice Department. He stretched the limits of his powers by ignoring the best interests of the middle class by cancelling much-needed projects like the ARC tunnel and by throwing precedent down the toilet by politicizing the state Supreme Court.
But over time, these misdeeds are addressable in the near term and won’t be a major factor in Christie’s first-term legacy. Marriage Equality, which I believe Christie fought on ideological and not personal conviction, is here to stay. Vital infrastructure projects will suffer for the next four years, but our senators at the federal level are addressing some of these projects. So far, the State Senate is holding firm on keeping the Supreme Court as even-handed as it can.
There is one area, however, that will be with us long after 2016 that will define Christie’s first term legacy.
New Jersey’s environment is as fragile as it is vital. Keeping our water pure and our air clean is not a one-term initiative, but must be a sustained effort over the long run. And like herding cats that escape from an enclosure, fixing problems that we create takes much more time than it did to create them.
Clean air and water know no geographical boundaries. Cooperation with adjacent states is essential. Yet, Christie has been in the pocket of his dirty energy barons from Day One. He was behind the firing of the executive director of the Highlands Commission and refused to allow the head of the Pinelands Commission to get involved in the deliberations on a gas pipeline through that protected region. Christie’s refusal to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will be a factor in the increased severity of future hurricanes. His refusal to ban fracking waste will invariably leave a legacy of cleanup costs and pollution for future generations. Christie has put roadblocks in front of the development of clean wind energy, and so wind-friendly states like Maryland will reap the benefits of more jobs and less pollution.
Sadly, the more we ignore the environment, the longer it will take to fix the problems that are being compounded by Christie’s policies. Even if the next governor is more environmentally-friendly, he or she will face the ever deepening hole being dug by Christie’s policies.
Regardless of Christie’s second-term performance, his disdain for our air and water and his genuflecting at the feet of the Koch Brothers and their ilk will be the legacy that New Jerseyans will have to live with for a long time.