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Jul 03rd
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Christie turning Port Authority into 'Patronage' Authority

hayneMichael080311_optBY MICHAEL HAYNE

Professional YouTube screamer and Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is facing scrutiny over the massive surge in new hires he’s made at the Port Authority. Records indicate that the gargantuan governor has directed more new hires than any governor from either state in more than a decade. The explanation for Christie’s aggressive was definitely worthy of a few chuckles as one of Christie’s appointees claimed the hires are necessary to carry out the governor’s pledge to reform the bi-state agency.

"The people who we have brought in are people who are committed, as the governor is, to reform," said Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.

"You couldn’t expect a $7 billion agency to have Governor Christie come in, have a deputy executive director and a chairman come in and not be able to bring people who are equally committed to reform, people who share Governor Christie’s priorities, share Governor Christie’s view that this agency needs reform," added Baroni

A little Bologna from Baroni, perhaps? If these new hires are so committed to making government more accountable to the people that pay their salary, then perhaps they wouldn't mind taking a modest salary with no pension or benefits, as opposed to say spending $5 million more on salaries in 2010 than it did in 2009. But damn those greedy teachers for living bon vivant lifestyles during the summer as house cleaners and baby sitters, all in order to absorb the blows from the economic recession.

Proving even further that Christie is using the PA as his personal patronage mill is a document titled "NY/NJ Executive Referrals," obtained by The Star-Ledger, which states 35 new hires ordered by Christie during his first year in office. It seems only Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey made more referrals — 36 — during the period covered by the document. However, McGreevey did so at 35 months in office as opposed to Christie’s mere 12 months.

Here was Christie’s response to the findings uncovered by The Record of Woodland Park, which reported 50 Christie referrals to the Port Authority:

"I make no apologies about trying to put some people in place who are going to understand what the view of this administration is and execute ... in a way that’s consistent with my policies."

Well, it’s pretty clear that the view of the Christie administration is to protect the very wealthy at all costs, while disingenuously instigating a civil war of resentment between the private-sector middle class and the public-sector one.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of Christie’s most strident critics, thinks the whole “reforms” argument is balderdash.

"A question I have is what reforms are being carried out that need 35 people," Wisniewski said. "It’s like the makings of a joke: ‘What has 70 legs and stand on both sides of the (Hudson) river? People hired at the Port Authority to implement reforms.’"

Christie officials could not be reached for comment, but Port Authority officials were quick to chime in, citing reforms such as online posting of payroll information, quarterly overtime reporting, the hiring of a new independent auditor and approval of 2012 capital and operating budgets (though they are subject to changes based on the audit released this week).

The need for transparency is even greater in the aftermath of last year’s record toll hikes for the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels, and Wisniewski is making sure that it happens. Last week, Wisniewski chaired a hearing of the transportation committee, when four bills intended to enhance transparency and oversight of the Port Authority were release to the full Assembly. Wisniewski even invited Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye to testify at the hearing, but Foye conveniently said he could not attend and didn’t even bother to send a representative.

Not counting on Foye to actually follow through on his verbal promise and show, Wisniewski has since introduced a resolution in the Assembly giving his committee subpoena power to compel an agency representative to testify.

In the meantime, the Port Authority appears to be the serving as the Christie BFF club.

Michael Hayne is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist extraordinaire; who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, produces a chapter of Laughing Liberally, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for affiliated Cagle Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


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