Editorial: Chris Christie coaster ends in the Atlantic
Twas The Night Before Christie left the State House. Opinion Editor Alfred Doblin's take on a classic holiday poem.
As 2017 comes to a close, New Jerseyans soon will be putting a close on the Christie administration. It has been much like the roller coaster in Seaside Heights swept into the Atlantic after Superstorm Sandy – intact, but not quite where anyone wants it.
When Chris Christie came to office, we were skeptical. He didn’t offer much insight as to what he would do except “turn Trenton upside down.” Well he did that. He pushed for teacher tenure reform, pension reform and targeted public employee groups he felt were getting too much money – like schools superintendents.
Very little of what Christie did was subtle. At times it was downright insulting. But he was getting results, working with willing Democrats who wanted many of the same things, but didn’t want to take the heat for it. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, felt that fire this fall when the New Jersey Education Association spent millions to oust him from office. They were not successful.
Sweeney picked up some of the lift on public employee benefits reform only to see Christie renege on the deal and come back asking for more givebacks.
While we never liked the way Christie handled himself in public – the bullying of critics, from politicians to teachers to a former Navy SEAL he called an idiot, we did acknowledge he was getting things done. Yet eight years later, what was accomplished may not outweigh what was made worse.
Without question, NJ Transit is high on that list. Christie squeezed the transit agency like an orange to get every last drop of juice. He killed the ARC tunnel project and poured that money into other transportation projects that should have been funded from other revenue streams. And he eliminated most of the dedicated funding for NJ Transit, leaving it the mess it is today.
Yet what troubles us most at the end of 2017 and the near end of the Christie administration has nothing to do with state funding. Christie, much like President Donald Trump, has more often than not, used his larger than life personality to promote himself, not the people who elected him.
This past year as Trump fueled xenophobic fires, thrown the future of Dreamers into chaos, and while many powerful men have been added to the growing list of abusers of women, Christie has been surprisingly quiet. He did not decry the candidacy of Roy Moore in Alabama. He does not use the president’s frequent visits to Bedminster to highlight the plight of Dreamers and Muslim Americans in the state of New Jersey. His most notable accomplishment of 2017 was a trip to the beach during a shutdown of state parks and beaches.
Yes, Christie has become a national advocate for treatment for people addicted to opioids. It is certainly an important issue, but it is not enough for the governor of New Jersey to hang his hat on after eight years.
The politician who once chided reporters that they should take a bat to then septuagenarian state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, has not pushed back against a Republican president who has promoted policies that once were anathema to Christie.
And as an eruv battle grew in northern Bergen County, a Republican stronghold, it was not Christie who spoke up. His attorney general did, his successor, then still a candidate, Phil Murphy did, as well as the county prosecutor appointed by Christie and nominated by Murphy to become the new state attorney general. But where was the governor in 2017 when it mattered?
In these final weeks of his administration, we will ask that question again. And as we ponder that, the roller coaster in the Atlantic comes back to mind. How did something so strong and exciting end up where it did?