The Decline and Fall of the Christie Empire
It is now ten days since the great debate began. Did the Magnificent Brontosaurus, as the leader of the Christie administration might be called some day by future paleontologists studying New Jersey politics in the 21st century, send his henchperson, the oratorical whiz, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, to a Hoboken parking lot one day in May to explain to Dawn Zimmer, the Democratic Mayor of Hoboken: Okay the development deal favored by His Rotundity — as we call our Governor out of respect — or fuggedabout Sandy relief funds. Is Her Honor, the mayor, not only being “false, illogical, and unable to withstand scrutiny when all the facts are examined,“ as charged. But she may be simply mistakenly making it all up for some unknown reason, beyond becoming the media star dujour on MSNBC the last fortnight? Or lying.
The public has been waiting with bated breath for the resolution of this difference of opinion. A friend of mine, in fact, is considering making a mint for bated breath, hoping to get start- up money from the Port Authority business opportunities development fund.
I have been deliberating all week about the case, checking statements, backgrounds, character references, and their hairdos, and have finally come to a conclusion.
Who does Dawn Zimmer’s hair?
It’s the most interesting do since Rebekkah Brooks was doing the perp walk as the lieutenant general in charge of Rupert Murdoch’s stable of British papers in the recent phone bugging cock-up. She looked like she put her finger in an electric socket before going to work every morning.
The other thing that impresses me most is Mayor Zimmer’s apparent ability to tell the Brontosaurus people it was an offer she could refuse.
There is an old folk saying, a rule of thumb, and a basic principle of local New Jersey politics:
Throw the rascals out. And let the new rascals in.
Mayor Zimmer appears to have failed the rascality test.
Imagine turning down a quid pro quo Sandy relief money for a new Rockefeller-Center-by-the-Hudson for a one-mile rectangle with 50,000 residents in a city plan that already seems to be based on a can of sardines?
It could be that she is a woman of integrity. The cognoscenti are understandably in a state of shock and awe at Mayor Dawn’s guts, brazenness. Or does she have a screw loss?
I have been fascinated by this amazing fish-out-of water story, almost too good to be true, given Hoboken’s political heritage.
To understand flukes like Dawn Zimmer, you have to go back and watch that docudrama, “On the Waterfront,” based on the good governance movement in Hoboken.
In the old days, Hoboken was the cement overshoe capital of the world. “It was a dull day without a body turning up on our shores,” a long-time resident reminisced.
In the 1950’s, the town was under the control of the Longshoremen’s union. They were the good guys. Eventually, the Longshoremen shared influence with Mayor Hague, the boss of Hudson County. This was the fusion movement. It was one of the few places around the country that had this combination. Mayor Hague appointed the mayor; the longshoremen the police chief.
Mayor Hague, who also served as chief executive of Jersey City, ruled Hoboken as a fiefdom. Periodically, they held what were called “elections.” Such was Boss Hague’s understanding of the two-party system, it is said, he needed to hire somebody to be the Republican candidate.
Mayor Hague’s contribution to political science was vote tabulation. He waited to hear what the count was elsewhere in the state, and then put in the numbers for Hudson County. It was rare for Republicans to win a national election in New Jersey. In one of FDR’s elections, the national Republican Party organization demanded a Hudson County recount. The ballot boxes were duly impounded in a Jersey City courthouse. There was a great tragedy when the courthouse burned down that night.
But all of that is ancient history.
In modern times, Mayor Zimmer’s predecessor was indicted and sent to prison. Peter J. Cammarano, the 37th mayor, was in office for one month before he went off to the slammer.
His predecessor Mayor Anthony Russo was just getting out of jail. It is unusual for two previous mayors having done consecutive jail time.
When Hoboken mayors weren’t being indicted or already in jail, Hoboken had some otherwise strange mayors. My favorite was Thomas Vezzetti. The New York Daily News called him “the wackiest mayor in America.” He did things like reporting his car stolen. A month later it was found exactly where he had parked it. He also was the mayor who walked around town with a bullhorn barking at cats to get off the street. They were lucky not to get tickets for loitering.
While I’m giving out medals for possible heroism in the face of fire from His Rotundity’s people, the big question is why did she wait 160 days or so before reporting the apparent shakedown attempt, a federal crime?
Hoboken might have gotten even less money for sandy relief. And who would have paid attention? It sounded so New Jersey politics. Who knows, maybe they would have managed to commit her to a state asylum.
Dawn or Kim? True or false?
This is more important than who is going to win the Super Bowl? The experts are saying one more email could be the cement overshoe to drop on the Magnificent Brontosaurus of New Jersey’s future as a presidential candidate.
Jan. 27, 2014