Chris Christie Tanks in London

Chris Christie

Eugene smith

Governor Christie’s 3-day “trade mission” to London paid for by—you guessed it—New Jersey taxpayers has proved fruitless, despite his penchant for “squeezing all the juice out of the orange.”

Christie is a kind of Boss Tweed, taking for himself and his family and leaving New Jerseyans to flounder in the wreckage.

New Jersey is only one of three states where poverty has gone up according to the latest U.S. Census data. (New Mexico and Washington are the two others.) Back in 2007, 8.6 percent of the state lived below the poverty line. That went up to 9.4 percent in 2009 and in 2013 hit 11.4 percent. 

A month after being sworn in as NJ governor in 2010, he declared a fiscal state of emergency, and said, “Like any family . . . we must live within our means.” Why doesn’t he do the same?

Previous New Jersey governors have flown commercial for trade missions, but Christie traveled by private plane for three. He takes his family on all the trips and stays in five-star hotels. Taxpayers footed the bill for him, his wife and two aides to travel to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Airfare totaled $8,146 for the four and his 3-night hotel bill was $3,371. These costs were only disclosed after The Record, a northern NJ paper, filed a lawsuit and a judge’s order ordered him to do so. In response to other public records requests, the governor’s office has said that he is not subject to disclosure laws regarding travel or that they don’t have the records.

On his first day as governor, Christie promised “a new era of accountability and transparency.” Really?

His administration has been unwilling to disclose basic information such as payroll data without first being sued by various media outlets. The Christie administration is currently battling 23 open-records requests in court.

And what about his personal stake in the World Trade Center:

Less than two years before Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s tickets and travel to NFL games, government documents show Christie personally pushed the Port Authority to approve a lucrative contract for a firm part-owned by Jones.

In March 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Christie chose Legends Hospitality LLC (owned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Checketts Partners Investment Fund) to operate the World Trade Center observation deck. The Port Authority spent a whopping $4 billion (borrowed money, still to be paid off) to re-vamp the World Trade Center transportation hub alone, leaving nothing for the decrepit 42nd Street Bus Terminal which has not been renovated in 40 years and funnels 250,000 commuters daily. But that’s another story . . .

And then there’s Bridgegate, which will never die. That was his Waterloo, immortalized by Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon. Time to bail out, Christie. We know you orchestrated it. How could we possibly want you for President?

And another thing, Christie has bad manners. When asked how he reacted to many Londoners not knowing who he was during his trip, he said, “I don’t think I have to worry about that. I’m not running for anything in the United Kingdom anytime soon.”

Consider yourself fortunate, U.K.!

The Anti-Preacher

Those of you who travel the highways and byways of Port Authority Bus Terminal (“PABT”) may be familiar with its plethora of preachers. For those who aren’t familiar with PABT, let me set the scene. After you enter NYC from New Jersey on one of the many NJ Transit buses, take the down escalator and go through the turnstiles to catch the A-C-E, 1- 2-3 or 7 subway line, you enter the Land of the Preacher, with a musician here or there. The first preacher you may encounter is strident and severe, an African American man wearing a bolo tie and Frye boots. “Do not reject Gee-sus. Gee-sus will not reject you,” he says.

Turning right, heading down a never-ending ramp with a steaming mass of fellow commuters chugging along like a human freight train, you may witness the joyful Bible-toting woman of indeterminate ethnicity: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Praise him, praise him, praise him, praise him.”

Further down, when you are sliding or tiptoeing in your heels, trying to negotiate the precipitous downward slant of the concrete ramp, you may encounter the hyper Asian woman who carries placards that weigh more than she does, “Repent! Repent! Repent!” She wasn’t there today. There is often a table set up with pamphlets, posters, buttons and bumper stickers of a religious nature directly above the staircase to the #7—my train. Sometimes there’s a yelling preacher at the table, who must terrify the children. I can’t believe no one’s complained about him yet.

This morning, a newcomer had usurped the Asian Lady’s turf: it was the Anti-Preacher. He was a John Belushi lookalike, a little thinner perhaps, with a messy shock of dark hair, wearing a black sweatshirt, sweatpants and sunglasses. Kind of a beat poet / John Belushi, come to think of it.

“Do they tell you, ‘Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?’ ” he said.

“Do they talk in your face as you’re going to catch your train? Do they tell you Jesus will solve your problems?”

Then he began to stagger, “Don’t believe them!”

He was standing next to the guy handing out the free paper, amNewYork, who was talking to some other dude; they didn’t seem to notice him.

This is a new, and rather refreshing development. I envision a battle of the Preachers vs. Anti-Preacher(s) like Alien vs. Predator, X-Men vs. Avengers or Republicans vs. Democrats. Don’t we all like stand-offs and battles as an easy way to compartmentalize and label each another and make sure someone always wins?

The pre-election commercials are a prime example of this. Every morning I wake up to a TV face-off between Rob Astorino and Andrew Cuomo. One of the silliest ads has Astorino accusing Cuomo of being a “unicorn killer.”  And Cuomo accuses Astorino of racketeering and fraud and stripping seniors of prescription drug coverage.

Maybe there won’t be a standoff between the John Belushi lookalike, aka “the Anti-Preacher,” and the Other Preachers. Perhaps they can co-exist peacefully on their bit of PABT turf. I wonder if the Anti-Preacher would sing “Rubber Biscuit” if I asked. Can’t hurt to try.

(audio recordings by Erica Herd)