By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
There’s massive waste and corruption associated with this notorious transportation authority’s functions. Money is frequently misallocated to non-transportation projects. A decades-old “economic development” scheme has wasted untold oodles of tolls dollars. Federal investigators are probing its operations. A grand jury is impaneled. High elected officials are connected to the suspected transgressors. Indictments are highly possible.
If you think I’m talking about the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Bridgegate, Save Jerseyans, you’re incorrect.
I’m describing what’s happening at the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) down here in South Jersey. A politically-motivated traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge is child’s play compared to what’s happening at the Ben Franklin and other major transportation hubs operated by the DRPA cartel.
I don’t have the time nor the patience to list ALL of DRPA’s sins below. You name it, they’ve done (or tried) it on the banks of the Delaware.
“In nearly every area we looked at, we found people who treated the DRPA like a personal ATM, from DRPA commissioners to private vendors to community organizations,” then-NJ Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a 2012 statement following an investigation by his office. “People with connections at the DRPA were quick to put their hand out when dealing with the agency, and they generally were not disappointed when they did.”
Samson who? Back at the end of 2014, it was reported that the Delaware River Port Authority paid $72,500 to the law firms of its own commissioners, William Sasso (whose firm took in $70,045) and Jeffrey Nash (whose firm billed $2,400), connected to defense work for the federal probe.
The COO was recently sacked. The newly-minted Chairman appointed by Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA), staked out obtaining employee pay increases his first priority (insert punchline here). And while Democrats in Trenton abuse the SCI authority to interfere in a federal Bridgegate investigation, efforts cheered on by Senate President Steve Sweeney, the leading Democrat legislator’s own brother, Richard Sweeney, is among those DRPA personalities who have been served with a federal subpoena.
You can’t make this stuff up!
So why isn’t it a bigger story?
Geography and politics, of course. North Jersey always get more attention since the New York media doesn’t like to venture further south than Exit 8 (maybe 7 in the summer, and then only for vacation). What’s more, while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is dominated on the Jersey side by Christie World folks (the leader of which is a presidential contender), the Jersey DRPA flunkies are tied to the South Jersey Norcross Machine with which Governor Chris Christie forged a tactical alliance to pass his early pension reforms and win reelection.
Given the current state of affairs in Trenton, I don’t see any reason why Republicans (or Democrats who don’t want to see Steve Sweeney as governor) are still clamming up and honoring old alliances.
But they are. Ironically, the only Republican talking about DRPA is a legislator from the far north of the state – Senator “Jersey Joe” Pennacchio – who locked arms with colleagues in Pennsylvania last fall to propose companion reform legislation here in the Garden State aimed at increasing transparency and restricting DRPA expenditures to avoid more runaway non-transportation investment. Naturally it got almost no attention while the New Jersey political universe focused on efforts (often duplicative in nature) to rein in the PANY/NJ.
Moving forward, Republicans have no choice but to do the right thing and vocally back Pennacchio’s charge.
The mathematics of 2015 and the next few legislative cycles are hard to ignore. Republicans plan to play in LD1, LD2 and LD38 again this cycle, with a few other districts (LD14, 27, 36, etc.) positioned as reaches. To get the 9 seats they’d need to flip control of the Assembly, the NJ GOP would need to sweep their top targets and pick off 5 more seats elsewhere without losing Fiocchi (R-1) or Brown (R-2) in the coming avalanche of Super PAC cash which, you guessed it, is tied to the same aforementioned Democrat Machine that has historically treated the DRPA as a patronage ATM.
To win the majority, the GOP will eventually have to put districts including LD3, LD4, and LD7 back in play, and rebuilding the Republican Party in Southwest Jersey necessitates taking steps to prove to non-ideological voters who crossed the aisle for Chris Christie in 2009 and 2013 that the New Jersey Republican Party is prepared to take a stand. Taking square aim at DRPA would be a good place to start.