Shawn Boburg, of North Jersey.com, has a long and detailed article entitled, Top Christie Port Authority appointees devised toll-hike plan to bolster image of NJ, NY governors, which exposes an alleged secret plan to a float a really large $6.00 toll hike proposal, so that the Governors could then look moderate by scaling it back to $4.50
This long, well written article is full of too many details to summarize quickly. I'll see if I can put in more details, or at least summaries in update, or with the help of commenters.
Years before they resigned amid a scandal over politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Governor Christie’s top two executives at the Port Authority led a secretive campaign to quickly push through controversial toll hikes on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels by drowning out criticism, limiting public input and portraying the governors of New York and New Jersey as fiscal hawks who reined in an out-of-control agency.
At its heart was a plan to have the Port Authority, an independent bi-state agency, propose an enormous toll hike — a $6 increase that would bring the E-ZPass toll to $14 by 2014 — so that the governors could then scale it back. The smaller increases that were ultimately approved in 2011 — $4.50 over four years — allowed both governors to claim credit while they set the stage for each state to claim hundreds of millions of dollars to fund pet projects not directly related to the Port Authority.
It was a sleight of hand that began with a campaign-style operation that, according to interviews with more than a half-dozen people familiar with the operation, was run out of a conference room on the southwest corner of the 15th floor of the Port Authority’s Manhattan headquarters. ... It was referred to as the “war room.”
1:49 PM PT: This case has so many astonishing parellels to the "Bridge-gate" scandal you will think you are watching an episode of the Twilight Zone, or the Sopranoes. This secret scheme was run by Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni David Wildstein. Their secret "war room" had a warning "Do Not Enter." The people let inside the room "were instructed not to reveal its secrets."
Weeks earlier, Christie held a meeting in his office where he instructed his aides at the Port Authority to float the higher number, a knowledgeable source said. And Christie and Cuomo’s top Port Authority commissioners — David Samson for New Jersey and Scott Rechler and Jeffrey H. Lynford for New York — also discussed the toll-hike plan with Wildstein and Baroni before it was released.
According to Boburg, other similarities of "Toll-Hike-gate" and "Bridgegate include "a culture of secrecy, rank-and-file employees who feared for their jobs and the sidelining of the agency’s executive director." In both cases "Christie has said he had no prior knowledge of the planning."
This revelation will likely add to suspicions, many people already have, that when Governor Christie says "he has no prior knowledge" of planning something, this really means he master-minded it.
2:19 PM PT: Another reason I find this case to be potentially important, if these allegation hold up, is that we are now seeing legally valid and repeated evidence of a "well established pattern-of-behavior," of the sort that would hold up in court, such as in a sexual harassment case, which I think requires three similar cases. (Lawyers please help.)
Even if Governor Christie somehow managed to insulate himself from any proof of his involvement in Bridge-gate, Or Hoboken-gate, or Walmart-gate, or Guardagno-gate, or the other "gates," if voters see proof here that he lied when he claimed he had no knowledge of this scheme, with the exact same cast of characters, who now have a long history of seeing their jobs as carrying out these exact kinds of operations, is "integrity" will be "suspect." Perhaps, even "impugned," or one of those fancy legal words.
3:00 PM PT: jwinIL14 wins the prize for best name for this set of "alleged" scandal.
Toll-gate is added to the collection.
On Aug. 5, 2011, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a jaw-dropping proposal to immediately raise bridge and tunnel tolls by $4 for E-ZPass subscribers and $7 for cash customers, followed by another increase in 2014. The proposed hikes amounted to a 75 percent increase for E-ZPass users and 112.5 percent for those paying cash. ...The reaction was swift and angry, with commuters and lawmakers blasting the increases. ...Gov. Chris Christie, who said he had no advance knowledge of the proposal, was among them. ... “You’re kidding, right?” Christie told reporters three days after the announcement, describing what he said when briefed on the proposal.
The thing is, a former Port Authority official told The Star-Ledger, “It was all bullshit.” ... From the start, the fix was in, said that former official and five others who occupied key Port Authority posts when the toll hike was rolled out and eventually approved. ... The whole process, the authority officials said, was orchestrated from the outset to make the governors look good even as they reached deeper, through the long arm of the authority, into the public’s pockets.
But it was all Hollywood on the Hudson, the six sources said, scripted all the way through.
“They knew what the toll increase would be,” said one former official. “They set the governors up to look like heroes. It was all a farce.”
One source said complete responses to the latest subpoenas from the legislative committee would reveal that the bridge closures and the toll hike were engineered out of much the same playbook.