TRENTON – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to tout his record during Tuesday’s State of the State address before an audience eager to hear what the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate has to say. But a group of about 75 protesters braved the cold outside of the State House hours before Christie’s speech to talk about concerns they don’t expect the Garden State’s governor to mention.
“Can a brother get a job in New Jersey?” said Gerard Burns, of Paterson, a member of the Parent Education Organizing Council, referring to the state’s sluggish job recovery, before passing the microphone to other protesters, each addressing a New Jersey issue they feel is not being addressed by Gov. Christie.
“The state of our state has turned all public schools into cash cows for high-stakes [interests],” said Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, a Newark school advisory board member, referring to her opposition the One Newark school reorganization plan implemented by Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, who Christie appointed to run the troubled, state-run school district, the largest in New Jersey.
“The state of our state is that bridges are being closed because they are unsafe to drive,” said Patrick Kavanagh, the president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1032, of Ewing, referring to an effect of the depleted state Transportation Trust Fund.
Other protesters named the ongoing Bridgegate investigations, cuts in public higher education funding and questions about the distribution of post-Hurricane Sandy aid among a litany of New Jersey-based issues they feel are getting lost in the shuffle while Christie is on the verge of entering the presidential race scrum.
“Real solutions exist, but we must start with an honest discussion of what are the real problems,” said Deborah Cornavaca, legislative director of New Jersey Working Families, a statewide advocacy group. “Today, we are out here in the cold where Governor Christie has left us. We do not want to hear his spin.”
Jim Keady, a Hurricane Sandy aid activist and former Asbury Park City councilman who gained fame recently when he was the target of Gov. Christie’s “Sit down and shut up!” comment, made his voice heard again on Tuesday as both a local and national audience waits for Christie’s speech.
“We will not sit down and shut up. We will stand up and speak out,” said Keady, of Spring Lake, who is a business owner in Waretown. “The governor needs to stay in New Jersey and do his job.”