Christie's Bridghazi scandal is about money and union busting.
The earlier notion that it was about a political endorsement went away yesterday at the Christie press conference. Mayor Sokolich was not on the list, was not asked for an endorsement.
Governor Christie's trouble with the George Washington Bridge started with emails from Bridget Anne Kelly that went out in August, 2013. Coming up with the plan to shut lanes on the GW Bridge -- timed for early September -- was a stroke of media lightning.
So what was the motive?
What was happening August '13 that threatened to derail Christie's re-election campaign? What could have blown out big enough to bring Christie down?
Sex? Money? Drugs? What?
For one plausible answer here, take a look at the blog of Diane Ravitch. She focuses on New Jersey education.
She and her friends at Education Law Center in Newark dug out a proposal that Christie submitted to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which in turn is famous for the oxymoron "entrepreneurial philanthropy." They do privatization projects that turn a profit.
Christie's School Turnaround Proposal goes for union busting. "Schools will be freed from the [School D]istrict's collective bargaining agreement and the school's [privatizing] operator will have control over personnel decisions." The rest of the document is a puffy set of excuses for pulling 5% of New Jersey schools out of union contracts.
Diane characterizes Christie's scheme as a "shell game." That is exactly what has happened with the Special Ed schools.
$43,000 vs. $90,000.
That's what Christie's "shell game" has produced privatizing school for New Jersey's Special Ed students. Cost more than doubles going over from New Jersey Education Association members and public Special Ed schools to Christie's friends and their privatized, non-union profit centers.
$43,00 was the annual cost to School Boards to educate a heavily disabled, wheelchair bound student.
$90,000+ is where this billing stands with the privatized schools. That is the real current billing.
Bundles of money are wasted at the item-level costs. One part of that is because these operators cannot be protected with sovereign immunity. They end up lawyering themselves. For example, they spend two and three times as much transporting these students.
It is all about money.
Christie ran a campaign for governor of New Jersey where he belittled NJEA. He blamed the NJEA union for NJ school problems, despite that the system ranks 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in everything nationally. Meanwhile the one thing, the only thing that Christie had done with education was his privatization of the Special Education schools.
Barbara Buono, his opponent, got zero for earned media attention, despite nailing him for the hypocrisy. Come September, 2013, there were cities and towns and counties who could have ripped Christie a new one.
Fights over the land underneath these schools are where you get numbers in the millions of dollars.
So, consider the privatization story back in August, 2013. Opening day for schools was coming up for early September. The $90,000 bills for Special Ed were going out. Bergen County was on the front burner.
Enter Bridget Kelly with “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” and her brilliant wipe-out of local television news coverage.
How's that for plausible motivation? The "mayor's endorsement" story never quite made sense. For more in the way of documents and analysis for this FOLLOW THE MONEY approach, read on below the orange muffin:
Let's simplify what is going on with Chris Christie and New Jersey education. For the last four years Christie has fronted for the Broad Foundation out of Los Angeles, California. Their programs range from anti-union propaganda to running a non-accredited Broad Superintendents Academy.
That program provides self-teaching materials and all of five weekends of on-site training. For example:
Program StructureFive weekends. Wowee.
Fellows attend five extended sessions over the course of an 18-month program. A typical session runs from Thursday morning until Sunday at noon.2015-2016 Academy Session Dates
Session 1: June 24-28, 2015
Session 2: November 5-8, 2015
Session 3: March 3-6, 2016
Session 4: July 14-17, 2016
Session 5: November 2-5, 2016
That compares with normal Superintendent training programs. They require earning a Master of Education or Master of Education Management diploma in a program at an accredited university.
One of this program's attendees was pitched recently to head Newark's public schools. This was Marcia Lyles. She was proposed for that $231,000 position by Christie appointee, State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.
It did come out, then, that Cerf's principal qualifications were going through this same Broad Superintendent's Academy and knowing prominent conservatives.
Fortunately for Newark, Lyles is the real deal. She earned her M.A. from New York University, and an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Some of the people who go through the Broad system know their stuff. At first Newark's Board of Education voted down her contract, fearing politics. But eventually a slightly modified contract went through.
Here's a timeline:
August 13th: Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly e-mails David Wildstein at Port Authority, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Wildstein responds by email: "Got it."
September 6th: DavidWildstein, the Port Authority's Director of Interstate Capital Projects, orders the bridge's general manager to carry out lane closures.
September 9th: The Port Authority closed two of three access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. Local traffic slows to a halt.
Sept. 12: Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich writes to Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority, and states that these lane closures were "punitive" for unknown reasons and asks they be lifted.
Sept. 13: Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, directs bridge managers to lift the closures. He says that they jeopardized public safety.
Sept. 16: Port Authority claims in writing that the closures were due to a traffic study.
Christie's appointee as the state's Education Commissioner is Chris Cerf. He started out saying in a Jersey City City University presentation reported by The Jersey Journal that privatization of New Jersey schools is "palpable, absolute nonsense." That, despite that he was already helping Christie to privatize the Special Ed schools hand over fist.
Cerf has also responded to a citizen question saying that he was "stunned and astonished"that "serious citizens believe [the state is] interested in privatizing public schools."
“The notion that there is some group of corporate, you know, kingpins out there who are lurking in an effort to conspire to take over … is just nonsense,” Cerf said. “It is palpable, ridiculous nonsense that someone has sold you.”
Cerf added: “I am embarrassed to the degree to which that has taken hold … it is just not so.”
Except, of course, that it is all true. Already happening.
Dogma that opposes unions is one part of the principles that govern Republican policy. Getting $90,000 for a $43,000 job is also tempting. And they get to lie about it.
Cerf had already singed off on declaring the "bottom 5%" of NJ schools as Failed Schools and privatizing them.
He's very convincing telling people that firing teachers and administrators will repair a school. Especially without filtering out low performance students. Or low performance parents. It's magic.
Cerf enjoys lying.
@#$%^%^&))(&^%$ Republican. They're like a Wall Street boiler room operation selling worthless penny stocks.
There is no way to know how Barbara Buono would have done if all this had come out. Couldn''t have hurt.
I had the feeling during her campaign that her ad people didn't know how to draw blood. Or they were unwilling. Up against a thug, you have to have that.
They could have tracked out the grants from Sandy. The ones that went through were Christie supporters. The towns that went Democratic got screwed. But Buono's people never used the maps, never hit the "Stronger than the Storm" bxllshxt.
Privatizing the Special Ed schools is an unmitigated disaster.
Believe it, people understand turning a $43,000-a-year cost item into a $90,000-a-year item and taking the difference out of their pockets.