Christie revisits familiar issues at town meeting

Gov. Christie at the town hall meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary in Fairfield, N.J. Some barbs were traded.
Gov. Christie at the town hall meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary in Fairfield, N.J. Some barbs were traded. (JULIO CORTEZ / AP)
Posted: April 11, 2014

FAIRFIELD, N.J. - The same few questions appear to be following Gov. Christie from town to town.

At the governor's 118th town-hall meeting Wednesday, at Winston Churchill Elementary School in Fairfield, Essex County, those in attendance yet again confronted the governor about his stance on medical marijuana, as well as his decision to veto a bill that would have outlawed pig-gestation crates, a factory farming tool that the Humane Society describes as a "lifelong confinement in a space so small you can't even turn around."

The governor spent 20 minutes of the meeting discussing his goals for the state's fiscal 2015 budget. The governor argued that New Jersey spends far too much - 94 cents per every dollar of new spending - on pensions, health benefits, and debt services.

"How long do you all think we can keep this up?" he asked the crowd of about 500. "It is an unsustainable system."

Christie warned that eventually, taxes would rise or state services would be cut substantially if the Legislature did not renew a cap on raises that arbitrators could award to police and firefighters.

"I hear crickets from down the hall in the state Legislature," he said. "They don't want to deal with this problem."

Before opening the floor for questions, the governor included an addendum to his four town-hall "ground rules": Any protesters sent from the Communication Workers of America, a union the governor says bused protesters to multiple town-hall meetings in March, would be quickly escorted away by police.

The first question of the evening touched on a topic that the governor discussed extensively at his April 3 town-hall event in Sayreville: medical marijuana.

Dale Lazarovitch, a mother of two children with Crohn's disease from Caldwell, told the governor she could not afford to put her children through the doctor and psychiatrist visits the state requires before a patient can receive medical marijuana. After mentioning that her family had considered moving to Colorado to obtain marijuana, she asked the governor to streamline New Jersey's process to make it cheaper.

Christie noted that in 2013, the state approved a measure to make edible forms of marijuana more easily accessible, but that he remained steadfast in his belief that recreational marijuana should not be legalized in New Jersey.

"People want to decriminalize it," Christie said. "We're not going to do that on my watch. I don't think it's right for our state. We see what's going on in Colorado and California. . . . I'm not going to turn New Jersey into that."

After fielding a question about pig-gestation crates - another topic discussed in Sayreville - and the lack of federal relief for second homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy, the lone jabs of the afternoon came from Ken Collins, a cake decorator and environmental-rights activist, who pressed the governor on the state Department of Environmental Protection's decision to cover and cap the gas-emitting Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury rather than removing it altogether.

"On behalf of the citizens of Roxbury, I'm here to ask you, 'What's being hidden in Fenimore Landfill?' " Collins asked.

After trading barbs - the governor said that removing the landfill would disturb the lives of Roxbury's residents - Christie shut the debate down in his customary fashion.

"Sir, you and I are not going to sit here and debate anymore," the governor said. "You asked a question, and I gave you my answer. If you don't like my answer, all I can do is give it to you."

Harvey Susswein, a 2012 candidate for mayor in Montclair, asked the day's lone question addressing the George Washington Bridge scandal: "Do you know who is paying the legal expenses for David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly?"

The two former Christie appointees are under investigation for their role in the September lane closures and resulting traffic jam.

"No," the governor replied. "I know the state's not."


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