I admit the traffic in New Jersey can be bad. Yesterday afternoon, my son and I were yet again sitting bumper-to-bumper on the interstate so we could get into the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike so we could face the 20-minute delay to merge onto the Garden State Parkway. Traffic, like death and taxes, is something you can always count on around here.
So, you could say it’s no wonder that yesterday afternoon, Governor Chris Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, had to take a State Police helicopter to attend their son’s baseball game (here’s the video) at St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale in Bergen County, in northern New Jersey, a town not so easily reached from the NJ state capital of Trenton which is in the central part of this not very large, but very congested, state. The “brand-new Augusta Westland helicopter,” says the Star-Ledger, has twin turbo-shaft engines and can fly at speeds of nearly 200 mph, vs. the 1 mph at which our car was inching along the interstate, at just about the same time Christie was in the ($12.5 million) chopper.
On the other hand, given that Christie has styled himself as the “cutting-the-fat” governor, his hop in the helicopter seems a bit hypocritical. Even those who support Christie are scratching their heads, as comments at the Star-Ledger attest:
“I’ve been mostly pleased with Christie’s efforts to rein in state spending, but have to say I’m amazed at this. I would not have thought he would be this tone deaf to the image this portrays.” (rt15years )
“Have to agree; definitely a supporter of Christie but this one leaves me scratching my head.” (glhs279)
Aside from wishing to avoid Jersey traffic, it seems Christie — he and his wife only stayed through the 5th inning of the game — had reason to get back to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion, in central Jersey by 6:30 pm. Christie had to make a private meeting “with a group of Iowa donors who have publically expressed a desire to persuade him to run for president in 2012.”
As another Star-Ledger commenter, yesirreebob, observed:
Beyond the cost of the helicopter, the key issue is that he was using the copter to get back to Princeton to meet with Iowa donors. If we were talking emnergency legislative session, ok; to meet with potential political financial backers is potentially illegal.
Indeed, meetings with political donors from Iowa is not exactly important New Jersey state business. Further, the helicopter is designed specifically for “homeland security duties and transporting critically injured patients.” The NJ State Police have two such helicopters (they’ve ordered five). I guess it was fortunate no “critically injured patients” needed to be transported in such a helicopter yesterday afternoon.
Making sure they got back to Princeton (that’s where Drumthwacket is located) to make that 6.30 pm appointment must have been why the Christies also had to be driven all of 100 yards from the helicopter to the baseball field (where they sat in the stands “flanked by State Police security guards”), and from the field back to the helicopter. It is true that it has been very hot — around 90 degrees — here in New Jersey, and walking 100 yards in hazy hot and humid weather can feel like you’re walking a still longer distance. Evidently, the governor did not feel the need to stretch out a bit after watching the game and getting back into the SUV, I mean the helicopter, for the (relatively quick) hop back to Princeton.
To tell you the truth, I really wasn’t that surprised to hear about Christie taking a State Police helicopter. It’s is the sort of behavior we Jerseyans have come to expect from our governor. Back in 1946, the NJ state constitution was rewritten to allot extra powers to the governor; indeed, the governor of NJ is one of the most powerful governorships in the whole US. Why sit in tedious heavy traffic with Charlie and me and everyone else when you can just fly above us all?
Photo of an Augusta Westland helicopter by Highway Patrol Images.
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