Pick Wayne's Brain

January 10, 2014

Things Really Did Go Well In Fort Lee Toll Plaza, Didn’t It?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 10:21 PM

Let me start by saying nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. (As, I write this, I’ve made two typos in the first two sentences.) You’re not perfect. Conservatives aren’t perfect. (They’re not reading this.) So I’m not going to examine New Jersey politics through the prism of perfection. But I do believe I’m a basically good person. And I’m sure you’re a good person. Conservatives aren’t reading this. But what is it about the Great State of New Jersey (my neighbor to the southwest-ish), birthplace of such brilliant talent as The Boss (Bruce Springsteen to you non-rock fans), and Jon Stewart, the host of the coincidentally-named The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher, the man Conservatives hate to the point of orgasm, that produces some of the most vicious, incompetent, and, yes, corrupt state government in the entire United States?

A poll taken thirteen months ago, after the mayor of Trenton, Tony Mack, was indicted on federal corruption charges, asked readers of nj.com, “Is New Jersey corrupt?” Their results:

No. A few lunatic leaders will never spoil our state. 7.11%
Yes. The evidence speaks for itself. 80.96%
Maybe. How much would you give me to say “no”? 11.93%

As that same news site observed, “Richard Nixon slept here; now it will be history.

So the whole Fort Lee Toll Plaza scandal (I refuse to call it that “b”-word ending in that “-ate”-word. For crying out loud, people, try to be original, for once! What happened to “Tammany HAll” or “Teapot Dome”? Why must every scandal end in that “g”-word?) is now known to be a conspiracy. And since it involved a federal bridge (it’s an interstate bridge, which makes it fall under Federal, New York, and New Jersey law), the FBI will be investigating. We know that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which overseas the operations of the bridge) started asking questions about why the bridge was closed, and that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ask that Mr. Foye back off his investigation. The initial public speculation about why this happened centered on the mayor of Fort Lee, who was thought was being punished for not endorsing the Governor in his re-election bid. But that didn’t sit well with some people, among them Rachel Maddow. According to her reporting, there was another, more plausible target: The Leader of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Fort Lee is in her district. And traffic problems are a well-known retaliation tactic in New Jersey politics. It’s a state with a very heavy car population, and elected officials’ careers hang on how well they resolve their constituents’ traffic problems. We also have reports that Gov Christie was highly pissed about her blocking one of his nominees to a judgeship. Shortly after that, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly e-mailed Christie-appointee David Wildstein to suggest “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to which Mr. Wildstein replied, “Got it.”

“Got it”? Got what? Exactly what was it that he “got”? That some kind of retribution was in order? The response clearly implies that two people made a plan to do something that quite likely violated several state and federal laws, and that this later involved others who communicated ways to carry out the plan. This is literally a conspiracy, so, naturally, everybody’s theory about what happened will accurately be called a “conspiracy theory.” But there are some questions I’d like to have answered.

How many other times did members of the Christie Administration deliberately manipulate things to retaliate against a political opponent, where the public safety was endangered? How much did Governor Andrew Cuomo know about why what happened in Fort Lee happened, and did he ask Patrick Foye to back off in his investigation? And will anybody go to jail for what happened?

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