Gov. Chris Christie, arguably the most powerful man in New Jersey, yesterday ridiculed a high school senior for asking a perfectly reasonable question: Why won’t he come to Newark to hold one of his “town hall” meetings? He dismissed the question as “ridiculous” and then mocked the student for asking it.
The encounter occurred in politically safe Belmar and was captured on a video available from YouTube. Kristin Towkaniuk, a senior at Science Park High School and president of the Newark Students Union, asked why Christie has never held a town hall meeting—he has held more than 120 since taking office in 2010—in the state’s largest city.
The governor immediately went on the defensive, saying that, if the question implied he was ignoring Newark, then it was “ridiculous.” He inadvertently touched a sore spot by suggesting that anyone who believed he was ignoring Newark should talk to Cory Booker, he former mayor.
Booker, an ideological Republican who pretends to be a Democrat, has been a staunch Christie ally ever since the Governor took office. He and Christie conspired—openly, it turns out—to bring the incompetent Cami Anderson to the city as school superintendent (she was a Booker political operative) and to make Newark “the charter school capital of New Jersey,” according to a recent article in The New Yorker. Christie and Booker worked together to manipulate last year’s senate election so that Booker could easily win.
The governor also told the student he had “given” Newark “billions of dollars,” as if he were some super-rich and benevolent plantation owner showering cash on his subjects. In fact, Christie is far behind in legally-mandated payments to the city–and, of course, it’s not his money in any event.
Christie’s ridiculing of a popular Newark student leader follows by just a few days his overtly racist mockery of newly-elected Newark mayor, Ras Baraka. Speaking in Aspen, CO., Christie told Republicans how he put Baraka down by saying that, although Baraka was elected on a platform of opposition to Anderson, Christie was the “decider” and didn’t have to listen to anything Baraka said.
In response to Christie’s disrespectful behavior, New Jersey Communities United put put the following statement:
Today, dozens of Newark residents and community-based organizations carpooled to Belmar, NJ where Governor Chris Christie was holding the latest in a long series of taxpayer-funded town hall events. Their gripe? He travels the country to brag about his authority over Newark, but he hasn’t held a Town Hall forum in Newark – his hometown and the largest city in New Jersey – to engage residents directly. Members of NJ Communities United, the Newark Students Union and the Newark Parents Union attempted to deliver a letter to Christie and a petition signed by nearly 1,200 people demanding that Christie finally hold a Town Hall forum in Newark. (The petition can be found online at http://bit.ly/Newark2Christie)
“Chris Christie is fully aware of Newark’s opposition to his appointed superintendent of public schools, and he’s watched the drama unfold in countless media reports,” said Kristin Towkaniuk, president of the Newark Students Union. “While he has plenty of time to travel the country and joke about Newark with conservative donors, he can’t find time to come to Newark to hear directly from the students, parents and teachers in our city. We travelled all the way to Belmar today to deliver the message that the people of Newark want to talk to him.”
Chris Christie has held over 120 public town hall events in cities across New Jersey. In fact, today’s town hall is the second one to take place in Belmar since March. Christie has travelled the country stumping for the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) while promoting his own personal and presidential aspirations. As he engages residents and leaders in New Jersey and across America, Christie has purposely avoided public appearances in Newark.
“I was fuming when I heard about Christie’s comments at the Aspen Institute. He knows full well how the people of Newark feel about his lack of concern for our city – and it’s outrageous that he continues to antagonize us!” said Frank Adao, president of the Newark Parents Union. “As governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie needs to engage and represent the issues of everyone, not just the residents of towns and cities that chose to re-elect him.”
While the fight to protect public schools in Newark has made headlines, another crisis threatens the city’s economic future – foreclosures. Students and parents were joined by Newark homeowners fighting to save their homes from foreclosure, while Christie has been idle on the issue.
“I’m not the only one fighting to save my home from foreclosure,” said Yolanda Andrews, a Newark homeowner. “The foreclosure crisis is rampant all across the city. Christie hasn’t done anything to address the issue, but if we look across the Hudson River, we see the state taking legal action to protect New York homeowners. What has our governor done?”
“Newark outranks Detroit in the number of mortgages that are ‘underwater’ – where homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of NJ Communities United, which is leading the fight against foreclosures in Newark. “The banks have not been held accountable for their predatory lending practices in Newark and Chris Christie has diverted $75 million meant to help families facing foreclosure and instead used it to offset tax breaks for the wealthiest in the state. He needs to explain that to hard hit Newark residents in a public forum.”
“Governor Christie deliberately stages town halls at places and times where the very people left behind by his failed trickle-down policies can’t attend,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “He owes Newark residents a personal explanation for why millionaires and corporations are getting big tax cuts while at-risk kids and underwater homeowners pay the price.”