Corrupt politics meets a castrated press this afternoon in Camden. Gov. Chris Christie, whose wife’s cousin was recently favored with a job at the city’s state-operated school district, is coming to announce funding for school construction from the School Development Authority.
A statement from the governor’s office indicates the press is free to cover the event, but the governor will not answer questions from reporters. That’s what makes the press castrated.
Why shouldn’t the press be allowed to ask why Camden’s state-operated school administration hired Kathryn Meeley, 32, the daughter of Mary Pat Christie’s first cousin, Joanne Meeley?
Why shouldn’t they be allowed to ask why Meeley abruptly quit the $95,000-a-year job after someone in the audience at a school board meeting complained about nepotism in the system? Was she fired as a sacrifice to Christie’s political ambitions? Was she promised a better job somewhere else–a job, perhaps, better hidden from prying eyes? She is a devoted charter school advocate so certainly she will find a role somewhere in the privatization movement.
I asked questions of both Christie’s potty-mouthed press secretary, Michael Drewniak, and of the Camden school system. Drewniak didn’t answer. Brendan Lowe, the spokesman for the school district, was kind enough to answer but he hid behind sensitivities about the family background of school employees.
Oh, please. If the governor is using state -operated school systems–like he used the state education department–as a hiring hall for relatives and political cronies, then the right of the public to know trumps such niceties as a policy to refrain from commenting on an employee’s family connections.
Camden will play a major role in Christie’s presidential ambitions. It will allow him to pose as an education reformer–which he is not. It will allow him to argue he plays nicely with opposition Democrats, when, in fact, he cuts deals with the corrupt Democratic South Jersey boss, George Norcross. You know, George Norcross, whom the state’s largest newspaper has absolved of all sins and now portrays as the Great White Hope for the Camden masses. (Just as WNYC recently told us about how Christie has found religion beyond his self-adoration).
Camden will allow him to contend he is concerned about cities, when we all know his policies of starving the cities have led to bloodshed in places like Newark. If so many young people were not dying, this farcical burlesque would be funny.
But the local press–assuming any representatives thereof would have the courage to risk their access to the Big Man to do it– will not be allowed to ask questions when he unveils millions for Camden, just as he bestowed millions on politically-connected charter schools through the Michelle Brown-run Economic Development Authority. Millions he has refused to give to Newark because the residents there are not adequately worshipful.
Hiring relatives like Kate Meeley and the sons of political hacks like Joseph DiVincenzo, the back-stabbing Democratic Essex County executive, are corrupt acts that should be subjected to press scrutiny. It’s public money going to feed personal ambitions.
But, today, by government fiat forbidding questions, reporters will be mere stenographers and the stories will be of how generous Chris Christie is to the people of Camden.
It is to wretch.