The Chris Christie bridge scandal drew more attention last week than any other story. The attention did not last. New Jersey Democrats have not yet found any order from Chris Christie to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee.” (And not for lack of seeking have they not found it.) But the mainstream media, and the Fox News Channel, never asked all the questions they should have asked. These questions deal with more than who gave the order to slow down traffic. They strike at the heart of the role of government in transportation. They also go to the real agenda. And that agenda is far more dire than a mere fit of pique.
Chris Christie bridge scandal – summary
On September 9, 2013, units of the New Jersey State Police closed three lanes of traffic near Fort Lee, N.J., for four days. This tied up traffic for half a mile or longer. That might have caused a death: a woman died in an ambulance in the jam. Her family aren’t suing, but six other people living in Bergen County are. The tie-up stopped on September 13, and some aides in Chris Christie’s office seem to have protested the lifting of the “blockade.” Four days later those same aides were scrambling for cover. The Essex County (N.J.) Conservative Examiner has the details.
On Thursday, January 9, 2014, Chris Christie spent nearly two hours apologizing for the delays. The embedded video (see below) is the best available video of that speech, from start to finish.
On Friday, the New Jersey Assembly released more than nine hundred pages of documents. Brett Loguriato of Business Insider uploaded all these to Scrbd.com and built this collection. He also linked to that collection here and embedded the documents, in 100-page lots, here. These documents still draw a lot of interest. Scribd’s servers can’t always keep up with demand. CNAV has embedded the documents at the end of this article. (If they show as “HTTP 500 Internal Server Error,” then too many people are trying to read them at once.)
Subpoenas are flying. Chris Christie himself denied giving any such order, and fired the person who did: Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff. At least one former Port Authority official is “pleading the Fifth.”
The debate on the coverage concerns why the mainstream media covered the Chris Christie bridge scandal more than, say, the IRS harassment of conservative groups. Maybe this event, happening on a bridge into New York City, affected more media people than most other stories would have. Chris Christie has also alienated many reporters. Few will forget when he called one “The Thinnest-skinned Guy in America.” And also said this:
I love when people say, “We don’t want to have argument.” But that’s what people sent me here for!
But few are asking the deeper questions the Chris Christie bridge scandal raises. Brett Loguriato did report on two questions the documents raise:
- Why did the Port Authority police blame the victim in this affair? According to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, “police officers were telling commuters it was the mayor’s fault.” Huh?!?
- Did Chris Christie meet, either before or after the traffic jam, with Port Authority Chairman David Samson? Why were his staff planning such a meeting a week before the lanes closed?
And then Loguriato raised another question no one else is talking about.
Chris Christie bridge scandal – a real traffic study
Chris Christie first claimed New Jersey officials closed the lanes as part of a “traffic study.” Then the incriminating e-mails came out. At first, many assumed no one was doing any kind of “study” except to draw the “long knives” on the mayor of Fort Lee.
The truth: Port Authority engineers did do a traffic study. Loguriato showed key documents, including a PowerPoint slide show dated September 12, while the lanes were closed. They showed the obvious: when they closed two of three lanes, traffic backed up for half a mile and stayed backed up until noon. On September 13, a New York Port Authority appointee stopped the study and re-opened the lanes. (That’s when the New Jersey officers “went nuts” and tried to go over their heads to the Chairman.)
And the conclusions of the study? “TBD.” This after they admitted E-Z Pass lost $550 a day in tolls it would otherwise have collected.
That much Loguriato seems to know. But he might not have studied the e-mails carefully enough.
RoseAnn Salanitri heads the New Jersey Tea Party Caucus and returns as President of the Sussex County Tea Party. In an exclusive to CNAV she said the e-mails among Kelly and the P.A. appointees show more than a traffic study. They show where it came from. Specifically:
Chris Christie specifically approved a $60,000 traffic study on behalf of Sustainable New Jersey.
The specific e-mail appears on page 4 of 22 pages of e-mails obtained, and served to the Internet, by NorthJersey.com, home of The Record (Bergen Co., N.J.). Here is the relevant quote, from an e-mail from David Wildstein to Bridget Anne Kelly, September 6, 2013:
The Township of Springfield has requested LAP funding for a Master Plan Re-examination Report. The Township requested that the Re-examination include a critical Traffic Study for Morris Avenue to assist in the redevelopment of the downtown and a Sustainability Element to assist the Township in getting certified by Sustainable New Jersey. $60,000.
Sustainable Jersey is a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. Launched in 2009, we are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue sustainability programs.
Nothing appears on their site about getting a $60,000 grant to study traffic in or near Fort Lee or any other town. But closing traffic lanes, and seeing where the traffic goes, might make sense to a “sustainable development” advocate. He could use the study results to say,
There, you see? Now if you would give up your car and get around by rail or bus, jams like this needn’t happen.
One element of mystery: Springfield Township lies in Union County, not Bergen. Morris Avenue separates it from Millburn Township in Essex County. That would seem far removed from Fort Lee. Did the governor’s office have two traffic studies in mind? Or did someone, either Kelly or Wildstein or both, misappropriate some funds?
Basic questions in the Chris Christie bridge scandal
Most in the media are now asking what Chris Christie knew and when he knew it. Commentators at Fox News Channel are asking why the Chris Christie bridge scandal got seventeen minutes of coverage on mainstream media channels for every one minute of coverage of the IRS, Benghazi, and similar affairs.
But no one seems to ask whether government ought to lay aside all the authority governments have traditionally held in building, maintaining, and setting rules for roads. Since roads have existed, governments have built them. Sometimes governments fund them from the public purse. In ancient Rome, prominent Roman Senators made names for themselves by building and keeping up roads at their own expense. But one constant has already remained: they who keep up the roads, have the absolute right to close them, or limit traffic on them, as they see fit. And when that person is the government, and when said government owns or controls all other means of transport, a government can then stop any traveler from traveling, either according to law, or according to whim.
Bridget Anne Kelly, David Wildstein, et al., whether by order of Governor Chris Christie or not, set a dangerous precedent on September 9, 2013. They limited the travel of their fellow citizens on a whim. Their motive: to shame a mayor into helping put on a show of good feelings. But future governors, or a President, might close the roads for another, even more nefarious motive.
Consider that “sustainable certification” request by Springfield Township in Union County. “Sustainable development” means limiting growth and activity for someone’s idea of what the land can support. It is the latest code phrase for abolishing the usual signals of free production and trade, and replacing them with a government plan. This, then, is the real Chris Christie bridge scandal: that his name appears on any grant, of taxpayer’s money, aimed at furthering the plans of an international elite to dictate how a town and its residents may run their affairs. Or how free people may travel.
Chris Christie bridge scandal documents and videos
Chris Christie apologizes for two hoursARVE Error: need id and provider
900+ pages of Chris Christie bridge scandal documents
Chris Christie v. Tom Moran – videoARVE Error: need id and provider
Chris Christie bridge scandal e-mails (from NorthJersey.com)
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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