2014: Year In Review
The Ups and Downs in Politics and Business in New Jersey in 2014
Glenn Townes | 12/1/2014, noon
For New Jerseyans, the year 2014 will likely be remembered as a year of big and bigger news---especially when it comes to politics and economics. In fact, what is a year-end review story if it doesn't include sordid and occasionally salacious details of scandal, political corruption and money?
The year started off with a bang as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was accused of throwing his weight around in orchestrating a fiasco called Bridgegate.
The scandal accused the tough talking governor of coercing members of his administration to force the closure of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge (GWB) – a major thoroughfare between New York and New Jersey during the height of rush hour back in September 2013. Supposedly, members of the Christie administration orchestrated the alleged “traffic study,” as payback to Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting the re-election campaign of the Republican governor. Sokolich had been an ardent critic of Christie.
The lane closures caused massive traffic jams and encumbered travel between New York and New Jersey and was even blamed for at least one or two deaths as ambulances and other emergency vehicles were snarled in traffic backups for hours. Christie denied knowing anything about the closures and fired his deputy chief of staff for, among other things, lying to him regarding issues surrounding the controversy. Additionally, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the mega bi-state behemoth that, among other things, oversees the GWB, came under fire for being complicit in the scheme. Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the agency eventually resigned. As a result of the scandal, in November, the state Assembly introduced a bill that would subject the Port Authority to open record laws; annual audits, lobbying restrictions and protection of whistle blowers.
Lastly, while the brouhaha of Bridgegate subsided as the year progressed, dozens of political consultants, advisers, and pundits, agreed the controversy and Christies' “I didn't know a thing!” defense, derailed, at least to some degree, his aspirations for a Presidential run in 2016. “How could he not of known what was going on in his own administration,” said Ben Wilson, a resident of West Windsor, NJ. “If he really didn't know what was going on, what does that say about his managerial skills?”
And blogger Bill M posted, “So, a traffic study was done to see what effect closing lanes of traffic on the bridge during rush hour would have? Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper to hire a Gypsy fortune teller to get the same answer?” Christie was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and has put the matter behind him, however, many contend the fiasco badly damaged his credibility, image and makes a successful 2016 run for the White House---slim.
In what many expected current senator and former Newark mayor Cory Booker won his first full term as New Jersey's first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since President Barack Obama took office. The gregarious Democrat defeated little known Republican and former White House speechwriter, Jeff Bell in what many said was a shoo in win for the celebrity senator.