HUDSON COUNTY -- In the first of a series of personal appeals, Gov. Christopher Christie came to Bayonne to help sell his proposals leading the state out of its fiscal crisis.
“I may not be the smartest man in a room or know the most, but I know how to listen, how to learn and how to lead,” he said, appearing before a small gathering at the Avenue C firehouse where business people, union representatives and others asked about the impact of his proposed cuts to the state budget. They also presented him with concerns over the environment, state regulations and taxation.
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith said he had visited the governor last week to discuss some concerns of his own, especially over continued support for the development of the former Military Ocean Terminal and the fate of the Bayonne Bridge.
Both during that prior meeting and the visit to Bayonne, Christie said the fate of the Bayonne Bridge was high on his agenda, noting that the ports along Newark Bay were too valuable an economic engine for Northern New Jersey to allow shipping to go elsewhere along the East Coast. With a new fleet on container ships about to arrive, Bayonne Bridge poses an obstacle and will either have to be replaced or raised.
Christie promised that he would listen to the concerns of Bayonne about the impact.
Most of his talk, however, expanded on his 10-page March 16 speech, in which he outlined proposals that included a strict 2.5 percent spending cap for municipalities, cuts in state and school aid, and the proposed reshaping of many functions of state and local government, including possible changes to civil service and binding operations.
His harshest words, however, were against the very powerful teachers union, which he called “the 800 pound gorilla” that contributed heavily to the massive cost of operating the schools.
Christie said he had come to Bayonne because some of the changes Mayor Smith had made over the last 16 months were in line with some of the changes he had for the state.
“I will be going to other model communities,” he said.