New Jersey's Democrat-controlled legislature announced a new committee on Monday with subpoena power to investigate the still-unfolding scandal over traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee tied to Gov. Chris Christie's staff. Mayors of other towns apparently have things they'd like to have looked at, too.
Take Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. According to The Wall Street Journal, Fulop had meetings scheduled with members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that manages the George Washington Bridge (the focus of those closures in Fort Lee) and the Holland Tunnel (which connects Jersey City with lower Manhattan). At some point around July 18, Fulop told Christie's staff that he wouldn't be endorsing the governor's reelection. On July 19, Bill Baroni, the head of the New Jersey side of the Port Authority, cancelled his meeting with Fulop. On July 22, the last of the commissioners Fulop had hoped to meet with cancelled as well. "Mayor Fulop believed the cancellations were connected to his decision not to endorse Governor Christie," the mayor's spokeswoman told the Journal.
WNYC reported that a number of other mayors in the state have similar concerns. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer applied for grants that would have helped protect her city from flooding similar to what it suffered during Hurricane Sandy. At some point after Zimmer told Christie she'd be staying neutral in his reelection, the grants were awarded — totaling $300,000 of the $100,000,000 she sought. (The state had enough money to run pro-tourism ads featuring Christie, however.) Zimmer told WNYC, "I think probably all mayors are reflecting right now and thinking about it [possibly being retribution], but I really hope that that's not the case." Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage is doing some reflecting, too, wondering if a DMV closure in his city is linked to his failing to endorse.
It's Fort Lee's problems that remain the center of attention. Even as the traffic backups stemming from closing two of the three lanes leading from the town to the George Washington Bridge continued, Mayor Mark Sokolich wondered in a letter to Baroni if he was being punished for something. Since emails linking Christie's office to the decision were released last week, a number of theories have been proposed. It being punishment for Sokolich not endorsing Christie has been the leading argument, though some have pointed to a state senate dispute and a major development project as possibly playing a role.
The new committee formed by the State Assembly this week gives investigators subpoena power and a special counsel meant to dig into the rationale behind the closures. Its new chairman pledges that the "investigation will continue with increased intensity," thanks to its expanded powers.
In emails sent on September 9, the first day of the traffic jams in Fort Lee, an message that Sokolich called regarding the "urgent matter of public safety" in the city is sent to Baroni. Baroni's No. 2 at the Port Authority, David Wildstein (who, like Baroni, has since resigned his position), forward the message to Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who Christie fired last week after her email to Wildstein became public. "Did [Baroni] call him back?," Kelly asks. "Radio silence," Wildstein responds. "His name comes right after mayor Fulop."