If there is a lesson to be learned in the New Jersey, George Washington Bridge scandal, it is that this is how it looks when governments exert unnecessary and overbearing control over our lives. The facts are as such: local lanes that carried traffic past Ft. Lee New Jersery were inexplicably closed from September ninth through the 11th, diverting high volumes of traffic onto local roads in order to reach the bridge.
At the time, an article from The Wall Street Journal showed that Port Authority officials were just as confused as motorists. Although they did report, “there was even speculation that the closures could be retribution for [Ft. Lee Mayor Mark] Skolkich’s decision not to endorse Mr. Christie” during last year’s election.
Since damning e-mails were obtained by CNN’s Jake Tapper proving just that, Governor Christie has fired an employee and offered a mea culpa to New Jersey citizens and the Press. Critics, whose focus lies on Christie’s seemingly inevitable 2016 Presidential run, say that this scandal is typical of his governing style, highlighting a similar scandal in 2010 involving a proposition to build a commuter train.
However, for the citizens of Ft. Lee, this extends beyond a mere political-interest story. During the lane closures, local public services such as police or EMS found that their ability to do their jobs was hampered. Mother Jones reports that according to Ft. Lee councilwoman Jan Goldberg, the traffic even hampered the search for a missing four year-old child. The child was found, but Goldberg guessed “that the search took longer.”
In a letter to Mayor Skolkich dated September 10, while the lane closure was still ongoing, EMS coordinator Paul Favia describes instances where the traffic delayed first responders from reaching people suffering from chest pain and in a minor accident. A 91 year-old woman's death is being attributed to delayed response times. He describes “stand still traffic” even for ambulances and other vehicles equipped with sirens and lights.
Whether this was a coordinated political power move by Gov. Christie or merely, as he suggests, a rouge political payback is unclear. However, it should stand as an example of how petty political squabbles can unfold with little regard for real-world consequences. This may speak less about Christie’s personal governing style and more about politics behind-the-scenes. In any case voters need to exercise even more skepticism when evaluating political statements from simple candidate endorsements to complex policy positions.