Christie Calls GWB Lane Closure Issue ‘Not That Big a Deal’

NJ Spotlight News | December 19, 2013 | Politics
Gov. Christie said members of the press are "obsessed" with the controversy over GWB.

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

“I know you guys are obsessed with this. I’m not,” Gov. Chris Christie said.

Christie opened himself up to more questions today about the George Washington Bridge lane closure flap. His answers were generally restrained, until the end.

“It’s not that big a deal. Just because press runs around and writes about it both here and nationally — I know why that is and so do you. Let’s not pretend it’s because of the gravity of the issue. It’s because I’m a national figure and anything like this will be written about a lot now,” Christie said.

Earlier, with West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller now calling for a federal probe, he was asked if he thinks Democrats are piling on.

“I don’t know. Better for you to judge than me. I certainly don’t feel piled on,” the governor said.

And how about the news his two Port Authority appointees who oversaw the lane closures are reported to have hired criminal attorneys.

“Mike Himmel, whom I know, does a lot of work other than criminal work. So does Alan Zegas. So I think that’s just you guys deciding to be sensational about it, to be candid with you, and I think it’s an unfair characterization. The subpoenas are civil in nature,” Christie said.

The back and forth came at a press conference in which Christie announced more staff changes. State Comptroller Matt Boxer is leaving to join a private law firm. Schools Development Authority head Mark Larkins will replace Boxer. Chief Counsel Charlie McKenna will go over to the SDA and replace Larkins. And Chris Porrino is to be the new chief counsel. He’s been running the Division of Law for the state attorney general.

The governor wanted to talk about today’s positive report on state unemployment. Instead, he was asked about a negative report from Moody’s, which just downgraded the state’s economic outlook from stable to negative.

“I’m sure Moody’s would have liked to have waited to see that unemployment went down six-tenths of a percent this month before they came out with their half-baked opinion of the state’s finances,” Christie said.

As for the GWB, that story is basically over, he said, now that his two appointees have resigned, even though the press has not let it go.

“In the meantime while you have been chasing around about this, I’ve been putting policies into effect that have lowered unemployment to a five and a half year low. I’ve come to a compromise agreement on the DREAM Act with the legislature. I’m putting forward nominations that will be considered in the lame duck session. And I’m working with the Senate president and the incoming Assembly speaker on an agenda for the new year. Those things are much more important to the people of New Jersey than a couple of cones in a couple of lanes for four days, I gotta tell ya’,” Christie said.