Saturday, January 11, 2014

Something is Rotten in Drumthwacket

Conventional wisdom has it that the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge was done by Christie loyalists, most likely with a wink and a nod from the Governor, in order to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (or to punish Senator Loretta Weinberg, if you buy into the Rachel Maddow theory.)

The problem is that this hypothesis makes no sense. If Christie wanted to punish Sokolich and the people of Fort Lee for supporting Barbara Buono, there would be subtler and more effective ways of doing so.

Does anyone really believe that a tie-up at the bridge and subsequent jams in the streets of Fort Lee would be immediately pinned on the mayor? Were there any editorials in the local papers on the day of the traffic jam excoriating Sokolich? Are Christie’s minions so incompetent that they think a traffic jam in North Jersey would point back to Sokolich or Weinberg?

If Christie wanted to punish Sokolich, there are other, more direct ways to do so. His biggest club would be the fiscal one. Reducing state aid to a municipality or school district that he doesn’t like is Christie’s modus operandi. The state’s eminent domain power could be invoked to place undesirable things like high-voltage power lines or sewage treatment plants in the town. Another way that Christie could punish Fort Lee residents is to perpetuate traffic jams by cancelling the ARC tunnel. (Oh wait! He already did that.)

NJ Governor's Mansion
There’s got to be more to this story than a short-lived traffic jam. Ideally, an independent special prosecutor should be brought in. Speaker-elect Prieto has indicated that he is amenable to extending the subpoena power of Assemblyman Wisniewski’s Transportation Committee. The Governor and his direct reports (Counsel Charles McKenna and Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd) must testify under oath about what they knew and when they knew it. Same for Christie’s mouthpiece, Michael Drewniak. Port Authority Chairman David Samson must testify under oath as to what orders he received from Trenton and what actions he took unilaterally. Until that happens, the stench of lies and obfuscation will permeate Christie’s second term.

For now, the idea that Christie is taking political retribution on a mayor by creating a traffic jam makes as little sense as the “traffic study” explanation that was perpetrated by Mr. Wildstein.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree the conventional wisdom makes no sense. The problem is that I (and apparently you) can't come up with anything better. Traffic jams on the GWB are not going to reflect back on the mayor, state senator or anyone else. The best I can come up with is that, like Tony Soprano whacking an underling for no reason, it was done just to show they could do irrational, hurtful things if you mess with them.

    On a lighter note, I love the class action suit where the lawyer claims one of her clients suffered a panic attack as a result of the lane closures. Regardless of the merits of the suit, if traffic jams cause you to have panic attacks, Fort Lee, New Jersey is not the optimum place for you to live.