By David Cruz
The politics of Sandy recovery makes strange bedfellows as today’s events in Moonachie and Little Ferry demonstrated. Gov. Chris Christie in Moonachie hugged it out with Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell and toured the neighborhood with the Democratic mayor and President Obama’s HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. And in Little Ferry with a big hug for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Democrat Paul Sarlo, whom he once called an arrogant SOB.
“This is not an easy job,” Pascrell said to Christie as they shared the stage in Little Ferry. “You can govern from space or you can have boots on the ground. He chose — literally — to have boots on the ground and he was here right after the storm, so we thank you for that governor; we’re very appreciative of that.”
The Little Ferry event followed the tour of a Moonachie neighborhood hit by Sandy. The idea was to update residents on how far the recovery has come 10 months after the storm. The governor’s got this part of the story down pat, having gone through the laundry list frequently.
Secretary Donovan, who was tapped by the president to oversee the federal Sandy recovery effort, released a report yesterday, covering the progress and outlining a way forward for the region, including recommendations for hardening the supply chain on liquid fuel and rebuilding the electrical grid as he put it “smarter and more flexible.”
“During Sandy, 9 million people throughout the region lost power, far more than during Katrina,” recalled Donovan. “And we all remember the gas lines and the generators sitting idle because of the lack of fuel. It brought this region and the entire economy to a standstill.”
To be sure, the governor, the congressman, the secretary and even the mayors don’t all agree on the plan’s recommendations. For instance, the report acknowledges the role of global climate change in Sandy and other storms, while the governor still expresses doubt on the whole idea of climate change.
“We are pursuing specific infrastructure improvements in our state in order to make ourselves stronger and more resilient for whenever the next storm comes,” Christie said when asked about climate change specifically. “The rest of that is a scientific discussion and debate that I’m simply not engaged in.”
Donovan chose to emphasize areas of agreement. “I think we need to focus on what we agree on here, which is that communities are at risk, that we have to rebuild smarter and stronger and that’s exactly what this report focuses on.”
Pascrell said that he bought into all of the plan’s recommendations. “If you have to disagree with everything, that means you’re a fool,” he said. “If you talk about what you agree with and separate that from what you disagree with, then I think we got something going. If you don’t want to come together, if you don’t want reconciliation, then we don’t fix anything.”
In a report that contains close to 70 individual recommendations, the governor and the secretary said they don’t agree on all of them, but on the importance of short-term and long-term planning, they say they’re on the same page.