Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chris Christie Bridgegate/Michael Bloomberg JPE Scandals, Serious Questions That Must Be Asked

*Christie: I did not have social relations with that man, David Wildstein. 
*Bloomberg: Everyone passes or else.
*8 Videos of Christie bullying, berating people 
*Kelly was texting about GWB lanes closure the day she accompanied Christie to Seaside fire *Breaking: Christie boasted to a youth that one of the best things was diverting traffic

So the last 30 days have been the days that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threw top aides and agency supervisors, David Wildstein, director of interstate capital projects, Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, his campaign manager, off the bridge. The first two "submitted their resignations" in December; Christie today forced Stepien to withdraw his name from applying to lead the New Jersey state Republican Party; Christie fired Kelly today, in Christie's moves to respond to the unfolding scandal over the early September 9 to September 13 closure of Fort Lee traffic lanes connecting with the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River to Manhattan, in an alleged strategy to retaliate against Democratic Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who would not endorse Christie's re-election bid. Heightened concern has grown over the bridge issue after it was learned that the closures delayed aid for a heart attack-stricken 91 year old woman. And just in the last month Christie derided concern over the closure as "not a big deal." " I know you guys are obsessed with this. I'm not."

His performance in his marathon one hour, 47 minute midday press conference today was contrite at best, but self-pitying at worst. His record of acting and speaking has been of a bully, read here and here in the New York Times, and this closure issue reeked of a bullying politician. (He mocked reporters when they expressed concern about the lane closures. Watch the video in this link. He verbally lashed out at a teacher that questioned his policies against New Jersey teachers.) Instead of focusing on the inconvenience to motorists in the Fort Lee area, he focused his comments on how his top aides disappointed and embarrassed him, leading a Washington Post columnist to dub his statements "Me-me-mea culpa." To his credit, Senator Lindsey Graham (AL), Republican stalwart, referenced Christie as a bully: "It seems to me that this whole bridge thing reinforces a narrative that's troublesome about the guy, he's kind of a bully," he told NBC News today. Besides, he said, "I think he's going to have a hard time in the South, I really do. The edge is part of it. You know, he's a little too slick by half. . . I think the problem he's going to have in the South is against the view of his actual positions because it's hard for me to understand what he's for and what he's against on the social side." Before this week, polls placed Christie neck and neck in competition with Hilary Clinton for the 2016 presidential race, with a reputation for "reaching across party lines" to "get things done." This day has been a big low for the governor. People will now ask, is intimidation how he accomplishes these things?

Christie, and Wildstein, Livingston HS, NJ graduates
Christie and top aide Kelly in better days
Listening to Christie (full transcript here at The Washington Post, and read amusing tweets in the live blogging at MarketWatch), the self-absorbed pol demands loyalty, but unlike Reagan who stood by appointees when his administrators were under fire, Christie absolutely threw Wildstein off the bridge. Note Christie's Bill Clintonesque parsing of words, he said that he was not friends with Wildstein during high school. Yes, they were in classes a year apart, but this was in school in a small city of 30,000. It is not such a stretch that they traveled in the same social circles. Yet, reading the David Wildstein bios, e.g., today here or this earlier bio nearly two years ago, "Ex-blogger is Governor Christie's eyes, ears inside the Port Authority", one finds that Wildstein had no qualifications for holding a high level job such as director of interstate capital projects, at the Port Authority, a state agency, a transportation enterprise, involving structures that are national security concerns. No, Wildstein's professional background, not as an engineer or an agency head, no it was working in the family carpet manufacturing business, and blogger as Wally Edge, so popular a blogger that he hired a staff, which nonetheless never met him. It does suspiciously seem like Christie and Wildstein bonded on a personal level at least by Christie's time of state-wide political ambitions. 
Postscript: Christie's denials about knowing Wildstein well are beginning to unravel.

And now, "JPE" and the Bloomberg parallels
Of course we could on for thousands of words about how Michael Bloomberg has systematically destroyed the New York City Schools. But the looming parallel is: teachers in recent years have received the message from principals in no uncertain terms, failing marks to students and you will face the most serious consequences.

Just Pass Everybody
Yes, Bloomberg's minions have mouthed mantra of College Readiness, the main thing is that you must attend class, be at your seat, and do your work. Regular readers of the NYC blogs, especially the Chaz blog, have read of the strange contrasts: in the real world you should show up for work; in New York City, you merely have to remain on the register. Under Bloomberg's Department of Education there has been the credit recovery program, whereby students that have been MIA most of the school year or semester only have to complete a few worksheet packets or go on an online program, and shazaam, they've got a NYC high school diploma.

This, the credit recovery program, paired with the intimidation policy from administrators (against teachers giving deserved failing grades), is the ugly secret behind Bloomberg's record of actually dubious school graduation rates --not to mention the de facto drop-outs that enter the ninth grade and vanish by the twelfth grade. This has ruined the reputation of the worth of a New York City high school diploma.

This is the policy at many schools across the city. Where does the source of this come from?

Plausible deniability?
Could it be that Christie's and Bloomberg's hands are literally clean, that they merely said, I want these results and I don't care how you get the results, just get the job done?

Fortunately for the process, there is division of power in New Jersey, and the legislature is empowered to conduct an investigation. Shame on the political class in New York City: we cannot have similar investigations because Bill de Blasio, and nearly every other competitor support mayoral autocracy.

Then, again, there is the inspiring political ombudswoman Letitia James. Public Advocate James, could you please demand a full investigative and subpoenaing powers? You have already taken the admirable step of suing to the Bloomberg administration to stop school co-locations. Citizens of New York City need to know what did Bloomberg say and when did he say it, regarding the Just Pass Everybody and credit recovery policies?

Democratic Christie allies, Democratic traitors
We should never forget that speaking of throwing people off the bridge, just how does Cory Booker and Barack Obama's chumminess with Christie look now? Never forget that neither of those high profile Democrats gave serious support to Christie's Democratic challenger state senator Barbara Buomo; how do their token support gestures make them look now?