Did Chris Christie's lieutenant governor deliver a message last year to Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, telling her that if she wanted her share of Hurricane Sandy relief funds she needed to get moving on a redevelopment project that Christie was eager to have approved? Everyone in Christie's office is denying it, of course, and today we get this from the New York Times:
Another state official, Marc Ferzan, weighed in on Monday to counter the idea that Hoboken had been shortchanged on its share of hurricane aid. Mr. Ferzan, executive director of the governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, said, “We’ve tried to have an objective process, we have tried to design programs with application criteria that are objective, that prioritize the communities most in need, with the least financial resources.”
Ms. Zimmer has complained that Hoboken received just two grants worth $342,000 out of $290 million the state had to pass along to municipalities for mitigating flooding and other storm damage. She pointed out that 80 percent of Hoboken, a densely packed city that encompasses only about a square mile, was underwater after the storm.
There's something fishy going on here. If Christie wants to discredit this allegation, there are two simple things he can do:
- Have Ferzan release documents showing that Hoboken has, in fact, gotten a fair share of that $290 million.
- If Hoboken hasn't gotten a lot of Sandy aid, have Ferzan explain credibly why this was reasonable based on where the damage was greatest.
If I understand things correctly, the governor's office has explained that there are two pots of money, flood mitigation and Sandy relief funds—and they say Hoboken has gotten $70 million in relief funds, mainly paid out directly to local residents and businesses. But that's not what Zimmer is complaining about. She's charging that Christie held up Hoboken's share of the $290 million flood mitigation fund. So far, though, all that Christie's office has said in its defense is that "Hoboken has not been denied on a single grant application for recovery efforts under the current programs for which they are eligible."
This shouldn't be hard. These numbers ought to be easily accessible, and it's in Christie's interest to get them out in public view as soon as possible, before this story metastasizes. If Hoboken has gotten more mitigation funding than Zimmer says, Ferzan should say so. If it hasn't, he should explain why, and he should do it in mind-numbing detail. What's the holdup?