In New Jersey, it's always something
Dominic Preziosi January 14, 2014 - 2:43pm
The Chris Christie-Bridgegate story has provided no shortage of entertainment for this New Jersey native. Whenever I'm feeling wistful about my roots I can always look back across the river and be reminded of what I left behind, and why. But stories like this also have a way of spinning out separate ones, not necessarily directly related. So, some nonsmoking-gun items that may be of interest.
The problematic Democratic loyalists: The tangled web of New Jersey politics is teased out at Talking Points Memo, which looks at how favors are traded to play the southern part of the state against the northern and vice versa - and how many of the state's Democrats have actually forged quiet but significant alliances with Christie. While The Sopranos has often been invoked in describing the state's political climate, this report says it's more Game of Thrones.
Local paper makes headlines: The Bergen Record is winning deserved attention not only for how it broke and is covering Bridgegate, but also for its ability to do so. Transportation reporter John Chichowski was the first to look into the lane closures, and investigative reporter Shawn Boberg got the "smoking gun" emails, but that it even has such resources, according to The Washington Post, can be explained in part by family ownership -- which has ensured stability and helped it avoid the massive layoffs and spending cuts that have weakened so many other papers. And it's not just what it reports that's important, adds Steven Waldman at Washington Monthly, but that it's looking into stories in the first place. Just by digging around, Chichowski got the attention of Port Authority officials who still hadn't looked into the lane closures: "This reminds us that accountability reporting works not only because of what is printed but by giving public officials the sense that someone out there is watching."
Speaking of the Port Authority: Residents and commuters in the New York-New Jersey region might have some sense of how fundamentally dysfunctional the Port Authority is, but the Christie story has shed even more light on the problems with an agency led by political appointees of the governors of the two states sharing oversight. This item being illustrative: Former executive director Guy Tazzolli decades ago bought the naming rights for "World Trade Center" for $10. Until his death in 2013 "he earned millions primarily by licensing the name through the group, the World Trade Centers Association. And the Port Authority is among the hundreds of licensees around the world paying thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of using the words ‘World Trade Center.’” Who broke this story? The Bergen Record.
Richard Feder lives: Meanwhile, though the paper of record has turned out some good reporting, its real coup may have been confirming the existence and whereabouts of a Mr. Richard Feder, once of Fort Lee, N.J. The other day The New York Times featured on its front page a story about Roseanne Roseannadanna's favorite correspondent, who turns out not to be a fiction but the brother-in-law of an original Saturday Night Live writer who co-created Gilda Radner's famous Weekend Update segment. Feder moved out but eventually returned to the Garden State -- only to become trapped in the traffic at the bridge one of those September mornings.
You shouldn't go home again.
About the Author
Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.