Governor comes to town


By Ron Leir

The Chris Christie “show” came to Kearny March 19 as New Jersey’s governor presided over the latest of 72 “town meetings” he’s brought to residents throughout the Garden State since his election in 2009.

Christie was just back from weekend visits to Puerto Rico and Illinois while on the campaign trail for GOP Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney. In a speech he made in Elmhurst, Ill., Saturday, he got laughs from a reference to New Jersey as the home of “The Sopranos” and to Hudson County and its “folks who defi nitely color outside the lines,” as reported by But he also talked up what he likes to present as the start of New Jersey’s recovery from the fiscal mess he says he inherited largely from his Democratic predecessors: a $13 billion budget deficit, higher debt, a jobless rate in excess of 10% and a host of home mortgage foreclosures.

That’s a theme Christie sounded, anew, in Kearny this past Monday to a friendly audience of about 200 guests assembled in the former Boystown gym – now known as the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center – at Belgrove Drive and Quincy Ave.

Speaking in front of a blue-and- white banner reading, “The Jersey Comeback has begun,” Christie touted his achievements since coming into office in beginning to turn around the state’s teetering economy by cutting the state budget by 9%, boosting tax revenues and creating business-friendly policies that resulted in nearly 70,000 new private sector jobs.

Photo by Kim Pezzolla/ N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks to throng at Youth Retreat Center.


But, at the same time, Christie said, his administration also spent nearly $9 billion on “k-to-8 education,” restored $1.1 billion to the severely underfunded public employees’ pension fund, imposed a 2% cap on all municipal budgets and required cops and firefighters to pay a surcharge on their health care coverage.

Christie drew applause when he lit into the state teachers’ union for spending $10 million on a negative media campaign against his public education policies. Instead, Christie said, the union could have dedicated some of its $130 million in annual dues for things like “teacher improvement training,” particularly in light of the 200 “failing schools” of New Jersey.

Teachers having job protection through tenure is valid, Christie said, but not when it affords an ineffective teacher an arbitrary lifetime guarantee of a job. “Make tenure something you gotta earn,” he said.

And there’s nothing wrong with giving teachers “merit raises,” Christie said. As things now stand, he said, teachers “get no consideration for achievement.” When the union says that’ll “kill incompatability” among teachers, “that’s ridiculous,” he said.

The governor also got support from the Kearny crowd when he was asked how the Romney campaign should be dealing with the public health controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s endorsement of contraceptive care by health agencies that receive federal funding.

“Contraception is everybody’s personal choice,” Christie said, adding that “it’s a silly issue to talk about,” in light of what’s going on “in the Middle East, the debt crisis in Europe, all the things happening in China.”

Christie said he’d like to see an extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit System “down here” or “regular rail” but that’s something New Jersey couldn’t fund alone without help from Congress. For the future, Christie said, “transportation and higher education” are “the type of investments I’d make.”

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