PICKING AND CHOOSING OUR HANDOUTS - With parts of New Jersey and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast still literally underwater from Hurricane Irene, it is time to examine the double standard that is New Jersey governor and likely presidential candidate Chris Christie's modus operandi.
Sure, during the extended Tea Time we are living through it is refreshing to see a Republican governor talking about the obligation of Big Government to respond to the needs of the public.
But hold on a minute, isn't this the same New Jersey governor who hired a high-priced Washington law firm [link] to fight the state's obligation to repay the U.S. Department of Transportation $271 million for work already shelled out by the taxpayer for the ARC transit tunnel that Christie so ceremoniously cancelled?
This much-needed regional transportation project would have more than doubled the number of NJ Transit trains able to shuttle commuters between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station. The existing Hudson River tunnels have long operated at full capacity.
Before FEMA spends another dime on New Jersey, the Feds should require the State to first spend down the $271 million plus interest it owes the U.S. thanks to Christie's tunnel stunt for the cameras.
Of course with an election approaching only a president with a backbone and the nerves to play hardball with Christie would tell New Jersey to first spend the money it owes the taxpayer before bellying up to the FEMA trough.
Given the way the recent budget negotiations turned out I'm not overly confident in the president's skills at the negotiating table.
Some will no doubt say that with residents of New Jersey and a half dozen other states suffering in the wake of this latest accelerated-by-global-warming storm it is no time to play politics.
On the other hand, with conservatives like Congressman Eric Cantor declaring that Congress will find the money for FEMA by cutting from elsewhere in the federal budget, the devastation in New Jersey presents an ideal opportunity to show the extremists in the Republican Party the real meaning of fiscal accountability and of taking responsibility for your actions.
I for one hope the president seizes this made-for-sound bites opportunity to give Governor Christie and Congressman Cantor a dose of their own bitter medicine.
And as for the money recaptured, there is a transit agency in LA that can put it to good use extending the Subway to the Sea.
(Joel Epstein is a communications and public affairs consultant focused on transportation, development and other urban issues and a CityWatch contributor.) –cw
Tags: Hurricane Irene, New Jersey, Governor Christie, Chris Christie, Republican, transit, Subway to the Sea, FEMA, MTA, Los Angeles, Washington DC
Vol 9 Issue 72
Pub: Sept 9, 2011