Monday, January 20, 2014

The Bridgegate Smoking Gun?

By Murray Sabrin
The great mystery remains about the closing of two Fort Lee lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, now known as the “‘Bridgegate” caper.  We still don’t know who ordered the closing, but we do know that it was not part of a traffic study to determine the impact of reducing the number of lanes to the bridge from the borough.
With all the speculation about what Gov. Christie knew about the lane closings, could there have been a “trigger” that may have caused the governor and/or his staff to retaliate against Fort Lee?  In fact, the New York Times article (January 20),  ”For Christie and MSNBC, a Messy Divorce Plays Out in Public View,” provides a clue that could be the “smoking gun” explaining why Fort Lee could have been the target of an egregious abuse of power, the closing of two lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
The article states, “Mr. Christie, who is known to be sensitive to slights…” may provide the mystery about “Bridgegate.”
At the groundbreaking ceremony in October 2012 for the first phase of the $1 billion project in Fort Lee, several public officials were present including Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, Freeholder chairman John Mitchell, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37), State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37), Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle and Freeholder Joan Voss of Fort Lee.  Neither Governor Christie nor Lieutenant Governor Guadagno was present.
The question, therefore that must be asked is: did Mayor Sokolich invite Gov. Christie to the ceremony?  If so, why didn’t the governor show up? If he was busy campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, then why wasn’t Lt. Gov. Guadagno sent in his place?
If Mayor Sokoloich did not invite Gov. Christie, was this the “slight” that triggered “bridge gate?”    Gov. Christie’s theme for his first term in office is the ” Jersey Comeback.”  What better way to highlight New Jersey’s comeback then to make remarks about a privately financed $1 billion development in Fort Lee, the gateway to New York City?
Until all the principals in the “Bridgegate” fiasco testify under oath, the above is just mere speculation. But given Christie’s supersize ego, his sensitivity to “slights,” and the cronyism that apparently is rampant in all administrations, playing hardball is what politics is all about.
So-called public service always takes a backseat to funneling money to the politically connected and soothing the egos of the high and mighty.  Bridgegate, therefore, could be another case study of how government officials abuse their power for the benefit of the few at the expense of the general public.
Dr. Murray Sabrin is Professor of Finance at the Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He writes at

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