Am subbing today for Rosi who is unable to provide your usual dose of roundup.
UPDATE: two items recommended by Rosi:
Am subbing today for Rosi who is unable to provide your usual dose of roundup.
UPDATE: two items recommended by Rosi:
Yesterday, as the Bridgegate Select Committee on Investigation (SCI) prepared to formally release their findings everything had to come to a halt so Sen. Kevin O’Toole could throw some smoke. It was quite the show. He complained Republicans were being mistreated, and went on to question co-Chair John Wisniewski’s motives and actions – – even comparing him to Kim Jong Il. Asm Greenwald, watching this, said he’d never seen such a level of unprofessionalism in his 20 years in Trenton. There were also loud complaints about the number of times co-chairs Wisniewski and Weinberg had been invited on TV.
So this sober account of where the investigation stands – with Weinberg and NBC’s Brian Thompson on Hardball with Chris Matthews – should unsettle O’Toole mightily. Oh well.
This is cross-posted at my blog at Epoch Times.
Ever since I was transfixed listening to what would be called Bridgegate testimony a year ago nearly to the day, the day that Governor Chris Christie deleted texts between himself and his aide Regina Egea, I have been following Bridgegate, live tweeting the hearings, reading everything I could get my hands on, and watching every development on TV. I tuned in today, too.
December 9, 2013, the day of the deleted texts, was the day I first realized Chris Christie’s appointees had a lot of explaining to do. My first blog about Bridgegate was inspired by the testimony before the Committee on December 9. I actually called it Toll-Gate because it occurred within feet of the toll booth and not on the bridge and had not yet earned the name Bridgegate.
The reason I knew Christie’s Port authority appointee and former cheerleader David Wildstein, responsible for implementing the traffic jam, was in deep trouble was because I used to work for the Bergen County Traffic Department as a traffic enumerator where I counted cars at intersections. I conducted real “traffic studies”. My very first one was on River Road in Edgewater, nearly a stone’s throw down the road from the GWB. As a Municipal Engineer, I knew instantly what Bill Baroni had described to legislators was pure fiction and what David Wildstein had asked of PA employees was illegal and exactly which laws may have been broken. The relevant statutes are Title 39, Chapter 4-8c(6) and 4-197.1.
Wildstein probably regrets now that what he thought was a little stunt, affected traffic for 2 Interstate Highways, I-95 and the Palisades Interstate Parkway, 2 Federal Highways, 1 and 9, Three State Highways, 4, 63, and 67, and two county roads, 56, and 505 in addition to the local approaches which handle traffic from Bergen County towns north and south – particularly from the Hudson River developments from Edgewater to Hoboken and Bergen County towns from Fort Lee to Alpine as well as New York State. There are a lot of folks still mad at him, but he probably most regrets he broke the law and may be why he tried so desperately to get immunity.
I am not surprised that there is now talk of possible indictments coming in January. Laws were obviously broken.
Last week, I posted a diary called “Imagine”, in which I let my imagination take me to a world where Governor Christie was a moderate Republican instead of a presidential candidate bowing to the worst that the GOP has to offer. Driving home from Trenton today, I imagined something else. I thought about how the Special Committee investigating the George Washington Bridge closure could have been more valuable to the citizens of New Jersey had the Republicans wanted to get to the bottom of the incident instead of making this a totally partisan game.
I’m not naïve. I know Trenton is the center of political gamesmanship and that every one of our legislators is a political animal. Every action, every vote, every question they pose is filtered through a political lens. But if politics is their only criterion, they don’t deserve to wear the moniker “public servant.”
Today, I witnessed the worst exhibition of non-value-added partisan politics in the actions of Senator Kevin O’Toole as he read his opening statement during the session called to issue the interim report of the Bridgegate legislative committee. Speaking with venom that would make Rush Limbaugh cringe, O’Toole aimed his rant directly at co-chair Wisniewski with personal attacks on his motives and actions, even comparing Wisnewski’s to Kim Jung Il. PolitickerNJ’s Chase Brush called it a 10-minute tirade, and committee member Assemblyman Louis Greenwald called it “unprofessional.” Greenwald was being kind.
More, including the Democratic response, below the fold.
Sen. Kevin O’Toole, who we now know is a player in Chris Christie’s GWB scandal, helping Bill Baroni and David Wildstein spin their first big lie, is also a member of the legislative committee investigating the scandal. And he might just be getting a subpoena from that same panel compelling him to tell what he knows and when he knew it.
When the NJ legislature launched its joint investigative panel under the co-chairmanship of Asm Wisniewski and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Republicans complained that the allocation of 4 spots on it for them (Democrats have 8) was unfair. It never struck me that way. We have a divided government, and both houses in the legislature are Democratic majority. That said, I would suspect the fairness of any investigative panel the minority is excluded from, or cannot vigorously participte in. But the fact is that what’s under the microscope here is the Republican governor who has for three years been not only the leader of their party, but with whom GOP legislators have marched in lockstep. So, it’s tricky; we should be able to expect that good government work is going on from both parties in that panel, but the reality is that Gov. Christie has turned even good public servants into his political operatives.
Potentially consequential work is going on in that probe, with the level of due diligence that every voter should demand when one branch of government is examining another. What complicates that good government work, though, is that the governor at the center stands accused of abusing his power by turning servants of the public – paid by us taxpayers – into a squad of political henchmen. Loyal to him, at the expense of duty to the people they’re supposed to be serving. And maybe even willing to lie , break the law, or put citizens in jeopardy to do it. Big stuff.
Does that now also include a duly elected Republican member of the legislature, and member of the investigating panel?
Good morning chilly New Jerseyans. It was 21 degrees when I got up. Have you been enjoying your snow shoveling? If you are indoors and want a book to read, check out Americanah, on the NY Times’ list of Ten Best Books in 2013. The main part of the story takes place in a hair salon in Trenton.
2013 is rapidly nearing an end.
Open thread: Add an event taking place today of interest to our readers, or email items for this column the evening before to BillOrr563@gmail.com
“He’s threading the needle,” state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40), Cedar Grove, said of Christie. “He’s swift boating – surgically. He’s taking away the muscle and bone of the Democratic Party by finding commonality within his initiatives. They have no place to go but to work with him. He is the most brilliant tactical politician we have seen in the governor’s office in our lifetime.”
Last week, the Assembly Education Committee passed a tenure reform bill with all stakeholders lavishing praise on the legislators and on one another for coming up with a bill that was acceptable to all. Not to be outdone, today the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee heard from many of the same folks, and the love fest continued. Senator Teresa Ruiz, the author of the Senate version, was the target of most of the adoration.
As Republican Senator Kevin O’Toole noted, “To see John Tomicki [of the League of American Families] and the NJEA [simultaneously] praise this effort…speaks volumes.”
While the GOP abstained as a bloc in the Assembly, today’s vote was unanimous for the Senate bill (which Governor Christie said he will support). No one went away completely happy. The NJEA objected to the fact that taxpayer-funded charter schools are not subject to these reforms. The New Jersey Press Association testified that the process for tenure hearings will not be transparent. Some praised the fact that this was a first step in the goal of complete elimination of tenure.
Here’s the complete testimony. Let us know what you think. Is this kumbaya or is it a sell-out?
Rosi is taking a well-deserved day off from the Round Up. So you’re stuck with me. As Rosi would say, “Deal with it.”
Chivukula for Congress
After a decade in Trenton, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Congress against incumbent Leonard Lance in the 7th District. Blue Jersey broke the news. Chivukula is the chair of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and has been instrumental in shaping energy policy in the state. Last September, he granted Blue Jersey and extensive and exclusive interview, posted here and here. Other discussions with Blue Jersey are here, here, and here.
Camden in the News
While the Assembly Budget Committee heard public testimony in Downtown Camden, the elephant in the room was the Rowan takeover of South Jersey Rutgers campus. Senator Lautenberg calls for a federal investigation alleging the deal was “crafted to benefit powerful political interests.” Doh!
If You Can’t Lower the Ocean, Raise the Bridge
Port Authority asks the Feds for an expedited review process on the Bayonne Bridge project. Sierra Club is worried about cutting corners.
The legislative budget session is in full swing, with the Treasurer defending the Governor’s wildly optimistic revenue projections before the Senate Budget Committee today, and the Assembly Budget committee tomorrow, while the Office of Legislative Services presents a more realistic view.
A short-handed New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether their “salary” is impacted by increased benefit costs.
Senator Kevin O’Toole, one of the more vociferous supporters of Governor Christie’s nomination of Phillip Kwon to the Supreme Court, makes the television rounds.
When asked by Blue Jersey about the re-scheduling of the confirmation hearings for Bruce Harris, one Senate staffer commented that it would happen “later than sooner.”
Charlie Stile describes the governor as “deflated”.
Blue Jersey has posted a video archive of the entire Kwon confirmation hearing.
Preaching to the Choir
Acting Education Commissioner Cerf expects good days ahead for the education-industrial complex. Meanwhile, will Governor Christie give a Trenton public school the same attention that he gave to a Catholic school?
More Christie Political Posturing
What’s that Boom?
For once, the loudest noise in New Jersey isn’t coming from Trenton.
Sen. Kevin O’Toole called Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over Philip Kwon’s nomination a “lynching.” As Tom Moran has already pointed out, this was out of line. In case anyone needs a refresher, according to Wikipedia, “Lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a population of people.” OK? Serious stuff there, that happened way too often for way too long in our nation’s history. It’s like someone saying that “the upcoming election will be a Holocaust for the Republicans.” It’s not something to trivialize.
But there is something broader here too. Look back just a week or two to when Assembly Transportation Chair Wisniewski got subpoena power to investigate the really sketchy seeming Christie patronage going on at the Port Authority.” Republicans reacted by calling it a “witch hunt” (that word was used in the judiciary hearing too) and suggested that Christie himself was already taking the necessary steps (to investigate his own patronage apparently).
Often conservatives accuse progressives of being entitled. But this Governor and the party he leads have started to act with a huge sense of entitlement. They feel that if they can cut deals with the Democratic Legislature on some issues (pen/ben) that means they are entitled to whatever they want, with no oversight, acting like they have a mandate to do whatever they want.
As Sen. Sweeney pointed out in his statement on the court process on Friday:
The governor talks often of how ‘elections have consequences.’ For him, the consequence of the people electing a Democratic Legislature concerned with protecting the integrity of our legal system is now clear. The governor must work with us to put together a balanced tandem of candidates for the Court. The Senate will not consider anything less.
Let’s hope that the message from the Legislature continues to be that Christie doesn’t get what he wants by having his surrogates make outlandish accusations, but rather by genuinely negotiating and making concessions.