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The Equity Factor

Four Reasons Why Chris Christie Is Bad for Cities

Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t been much of a favorite among New Jersey city-dwellers.

A pensive Chris Christie. Credit: Bob Jagendorf on Flickr

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has seen better days. His administration has been under intense scrutiny since the revelation of the George Washington Bridge scandal, and it seems like he’s spending more time on image rehabilitation than on his acting duties as governor — he’s a distraction to his own administration. Now, the editorial board of the Star-Ledger has said that it wishes it hadn’t endorsed him in the last election. (A tad late for that, alas.)

Christie’s administration hasn’t exactly been best of friends with cities. Just last month Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that Christie withheld Hurricane Sandy relief funds from the city contingent on Zimmer backing a redevelopment plan. That got us wondering: How have urban policy and some of the issues that directly affect cities fared under the Christie administration?

As it happens, Bridgegate — or whatever you want to call it — was obviously a colossally stupid abuse of power, but didn’t effect the working poor the way some of Christie’s real policies did.

Housing

Christie’s been a nemesis of housing advocates since his first term. He shuttered the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) in 2011, for which the state Supreme Court ruled last summer that the governor had “exceeded his legal authority.” When Christie disbanded the COAH and transferred all affordable housing decisions to officials that reported directly to him, it effectively took decision-making on the state’s public housing away from an independent board and into the hands of lawmakers behind closed doors. Thanks to the judges, however, COAH will remain intact for now. (Next City co-founder Adam Gordon was the lawyer who won the case with a 5-2 decision in July.)

Earned Income Tax Credit

In June 2010, the state legislature passed a law that reduced the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for the working poor, by 5 percent. One year later, Christie vetoed a provision that would have reversed the $45 million cut. He promised to restore the EITC in his January 2012 State of the State address, yet the following June he promptly vetoed a bill that would have done just that, saying he’d only give it his blessing if it was part of a tax cut for all New Jersey residents.

Minimum Wage

Last January, the governor vetoed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $8.50. It was a modest proposal — only $1.25 an hour more than the federal requirement — that likely could have helped lift some of the state’s working poor out of poverty. Despite Christie’s attempts to dispel any hope for a higher minimum wage, state voters in November approved an amendment to raise minimum wage to $8.25. The majority of the state disagreed with its governor, so the people took matters into their own hands.

Transit

In October 2010, Christie cancelled the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel, which would have been the largest public works project in the country. The ARC Line would have created another option underneath the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York and reduced congestion for daily commuters. The late New Jersey senator Frank Rautenberg called it “the most important transportation project of our time.” But not under Christie’s watch, as he feared of budget overruns — which are commonplace for massive infrastructure projects. So much for commuters saving up to half an hour of their valuable time each way.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.

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Tags: affordable housingequity factortaxesminimum wagebridgesnew jerseychris christie

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