By Anthony J. Machcinski
Despite a postponement due to a scheduling conflict and then, a half-hour delay on the day he did show up, the large crowd at the Lyndhurst Senior Center roared to life as Gov. Chris Christie walked through the curtains.
This was Christie’s 82nd town hall meeting since stepping into office in 2010. Christie’s message was simple and posted on a large banner behind him, “The Jersey comeback has begun.”
Why did Christie come to Lyndhurst, when there are other larger cities in the region? “These are not the shy, retiring wall flowers in New Jersey,” Christie proclaimed. “These people in Lyndhurst know how to fight.”
With that spirit in mind, Christie hit the road running, talking about bringing jobs into the state. “We have plenty of good people in New Jersey,” Christie said. “What we don’t have is a competitive spot.” When a Lyndhurst resident asked him later during a question and answer session about bringing blue collar jobs back to the area, Christie elaborated, saying, “Manufacturing is happening in other places and not here because we’re not competitive. We can’t be the third highest in income tax and believe people are going to choose to come here. Not just businesses, but the workers and the families themselves.”
Christie also mentioned schools need to be more aggressive in their approach to students who may not want to go to a four-year college by pushing them towards a vocational school or community college.
Another hot topic discussed at the meeting was the Medicaid/ Medicare debacle. A Rutherford woman came to the microphone, explaining the situation with someone in her care and how the dual-eligible patients are causing health care expenses to spiral up.
“Dual-eligibles are the people who are driving the cost way up in both programs,” the Governor said. “Everybody is trying to do something and there is a lot of confusion. Everything is frozen until the end of the month because of (the uncertainty of Obamacare) and the unknown stance of states. If in fact (Obamacare) is struck down (by the U.S. Supreme Court), you will see the nation’s governors aggressively trying to fix it.”
The pro-Christie crowd met this answer with applause. The crowd had supported the governor all day, including one child who shouted in excitement when the governor mentioned Lyndhurst. Christie quipped: “I need to take him to all of these (town hall sessions).
” Not everyone in the capacity crowd cheered the governor’s ideas, however. One 22-year-old Lyndhurst resident challenged Christie on the governor’s lack of support for the minimum wage bill, seemingly testing the governor who has become known for his occasional outbursts at these meetings.
However, Christie responded calmly, saying, “I’m not signing that bill when we’re not creating jobs. We’re going to raise prices for small businesses. Here’s what’s going to happen (if we do that). They’re going to lay people off. There’s no free lunch, no way to do this without taking it from people.”
When the same resident asserted that government should be spending more during the recession, Christie likened that strategy to the downfall of the Soviet Union.
“Look what’s happening in (Greece, Spain, and Italy),” Christie said. “They’re in big trouble. I don’t want to be in a position where someone else has to bail us out.”
Despite their disagreements, Christie praised the young man, saying, “Here’s a kid that obviously could not think any differently than I do, and we just had an easy discussion.”
While no viral video moments came out of this meeting, Christie was still able to make his point loud and clear, that New Jersey, and our area with it, are on the road to recovery.