Keeping up with Chris Christie

Gov. Christie in front of a “Jersey comeback” banner at a town-hall meeting in Morris County last week. MEL EVANS / Associated Press
Gov. Christie in front of a “Jersey comeback” banner at a town-hall meeting in Morris County last week. MEL EVANS / Associated Press
Posted: May 24, 2012

In January 2011, amid much fanfare, Gov. Christie trekked out to Chicago on the heels of a public-relations blitz, promising to lure businesses and jobs from Illinois to New Jersey. His administration spent more than $300,000 in taxpayer money on an advertising campaign starring Christie himself. Newspapers ads ran up and down the state, from the Chicago Tribune to the State Journal-Register of Springfield, encouraging businesses to pick up stakes and relocate to the Garden State.

Even though major employers such as Kraft Foods ignored or refused the governor’s request for a meeting, Christie nonetheless immediately deemed the trip a success. He claimed to have met with about 18 Illinois business leaders, one of whom was purportedly “sold” on moving to New Jersey. Yet he refused to identify any of them, saying he would wait until the deals were done.

More than a year later, New Jersey seems to have bubkes to show for Christie’s promises. We certainly haven’t heard a peep from the administration about any jobs created because of the governor’s efforts or a single Illinois company relocating — not even a deep-dish pizzeria. And we know that if Christie had any success on this front, he would crow (and tweet) loudly about it — if not throw a taxpayer-funded town-hall meeting, replete with confetti and a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

And it’s not as if Christie hasn’t had time to produce results. When he first trumpeted his job migration push, Carmelo Anthony was still a Denver Nugget, Peyton Manning was starting for the Colts, and Rick Perry was seven months away from entering the presidential race. Meanwhile, New Jersey has continued to lag the nation in job creation and employment.

Manufactured moments

Like P.T. Barnum and Kim Kardashian before him, Chris Christie has a remarkable gift for getting attention. His constant announcements, manufactured YouTube moments, and headline-grabbing antics run reporters ragged — leaving them little time to follow up on whether he is actually accomplishing anything, let alone anything of merit. It’s brilliant public relations: The more information Christie puts out, and the more gusto he does it with, the less time anyone has to evaluate what he’s doing.

But the results fall far short of the hype. No matter how many times Christie regurgitates his poll-tested line about a “Jersey comeback,” it’s more rhetoric than reality.

The Illinois incident wasn’t Christie’s only job creation failure. In canceling the construction of a broadly supported commuter-rail tunnel between North Jersey and Manhattan, for example, Christie also canceled a lot of New Jersey jobs. Putting aside the governor’s use of false figures to justify killing the project, as well as the environmental and transportation benefits the project would have brought about, the fact is that the tunnel would have created 6,000 short-term construction jobs and nearly 50,000 jobs over the long term.

‘Hold me accountable’

Nor was the Chicago fiasco the only time Christie has led people astray with job creation promises. Last year, when his administration handed the owners of the Revel resort and casino a $261 million check from the taxpayers, the company promised that 5,500 full-time jobs would be created in Atlantic City. While I didn’t agree with the governor’s decision to give cash to casino moguls even as he pleaded poverty on women’s health funding, I am rooting for Revel’s success as an economic engine. But contrary to what was promised, Revel later revealed that nearly 40 percent of the positions created could be part-time.

Candidate Chris Christie relentlessly reminded voters of then-Gov. Jon Corzine’s inaugural address, in which he urged voters, “Hold me accountable.” Fair enough, but now it’s time to hold Christie accountable. And he has enjoyed about as much success moving Prairie State jobs to New Jersey as the Chicago Cubs have had winning a World Series in the past century — though, unlike Christie, the Cubbies never made the mistake of guaranteeing success.

I would be happy to be proven wrong if major Illinois employers begin relocating to New Jersey. But long after we should have seen results from Christie’s taxpayer-funded campaign, it seems the governor was just a modern version of the snake-oil salesmen who once traveled to Midwestern towns to fleece the locals. In this case, however, the huckster came home empty-handed.

Joshua Henne is a cofounder of White Horse Strategies, a communications and political consulting firm, and the spokesman for One New Jersey. For more information, see www.onenewjersey.org. Twitter: @JoshuaHenne.

|
|
|
|
|