Is there one Democratic mayor in New Jersey that doesn’t have a story about how Chris Christie hurt his city to get back at him? Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage is the latest to join the parade, accusing Christie of inexplicably closing his city’s Motor Vehicle Commission office and placing traffic cameras where they were not needed.
“And some folks think its a good idea that he gets the nuclear codes,” Mayor Bollwage quipped while explaining what he thought were two separate plots to hurt the economically ravaged city of Elizabeth in order to enact revenge on its Democratic mayor. Bollwage first announced that he too considered himself a victim of Christie’s vindictiveness on MSNBC’s The Last Word days ago, in an interview overshadowed by graver accusations such as those of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, also on MSNBC, that Christie threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy funding from the city. Bollwage has since then only surfaced in the one interview nationally to accuse the governor, and there is no evidence that, like Zimmer, federal investigators have attempted to contact him.
Bollwage and New Jersey Assemblyman Joe Cryan, who represents Elizabeth, argued that the Motor Vehicle Commission office was shut down as a move for “complete retribution… there was no other possible explanation for it.” They alleged that the closure caused hours-long lines at the closest office remaining open in Newark, far from public transportation. Bollwage and Cryan are longtime members of the New Jersey Democratic scene, and Elizabeth’s other legislative representative, State Senator Ray Lesniak, has long been a powerful force in New Jersey politics. Lesniak had also been a top strategist for the Corzine campaign.
Bollwage also accused Christie of concocting a traffic light retribution scheme. The Daily Mail notes that Elizabeth received funding for traffic safety cameras, but they were not placed where Bollwage wanted them. “Just another retaliation by this administration,” Bollwage lamented. Bollwage and Lesniak argued that the move would disproportionately affect Elizabeth’s poor minority community, as the closed office was easily accessible by public transportation which is used in great numbers by that population.
Christie’s office disputes the claim that there was “no logical reason” to shut down the extra Motor Vehicle Commission office. ‘The Elizabeth agency was not only the least used of the three in Union County, but its consolidation saved New Jersey taxpayers nearly $300,000,” Christie spokesperson Colin Reed responded.
Mayor Bollwage, a Democrat who has been mayor of Elizabeth for the better part of two decades, has been at the center of a number of scandals himself–from appointing corrupt officials in the city to attempting to shut down opposition newspapers. Bollwage’s ties with State Senator Lesniak–also a political operative in Union County for decades–run deep, as does Lesniak’s distaste for Christie, whom he has previously called “hideous” and “unhealthy.” The third accuser in this latest allegation, Assemblyman Joe Cryan, has been accused of accepting campaign donations from organized crime figures and apologized publicly for sending “sexually charged emails” during office hours as an assemblyman.