New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie strong on dunes, weak on climate

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

”You do have your moments. Not many of them, but you do have them.”

– Princess Leia to Han Solo, “The Empire Strikes Back”

I’ve drawn many cartoons during Chris Christie tenure slamming the governor as a loud-mouth bully more interested in brash YouTube clips than working with the other side to accomplish something.

At worst, he comes across as an unintelligent brow-beater trying to exert his will using tough-guy bonafides, usually in the form of a Jersey-style tirade with or without an ice cream cone in hand.

But when Christie gets behind the right issue, and unleashes the full force of his fury, he can be like a righteous hurricane, battering idiots and compromising nincompoops with what Sen. John McCain used to refer to as “some straight talk.”

Take for example the 80 or so holdouts along Long Beach Island unwilling to sign easements allowing dunes to be built on their land. This group of greedy, short-sighted homeowners accounts for about 12 of the island’s 18 miles of shoreline, and are putting other residents at risk over something as simple as their precious ocean view. They’re not alone – the borough of Ship Bottom also has homeowners on the island refusing to allow dunes to be built.

In the wake of Sandy, no one should doubt the value of dunes. Yes, they may obscure your million-dollar view of the ocean, but the homes protected by dunes weathered the storm much better than those that didn’t, where Sandy’s full force ripped homes from their foundation and spread sand and debris throughout unprotected shore towns.

So why doesn’t Christie and Long Beach Island Mayor Joseph Mancini just use eminent domain and force the dunes onto these selfish homeowners? According to Mancini, the town is reluctant to go the eminent domain route because he thinks it would be unfair to compensate these greedy handful of wealthy homeowners while others were willing to do it for nothing to enable greater safety.

That reluctance might be near an end, if Christie’s latest tirade is to be taken seriously. At a town hall meeting in Long Beach, the governor called the homeowners “knuckleheads” and definitively said to the holdouts, “We are building these dunes whether you consent or not.”

He also called their claims about the state wanting to take over their land to build roads, showers and bathrooms, “bullshit.”

“That’s what that is … That’s the excuse they use,” Christie said. “Here’s why they’re really concerned: They don’t want their view blocked.”

Mancini has posted the remaining holdouts on the township’s website in hopes of pressuring them to sign off on the plan before time runs out to secure beach replenishment from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“That’s not pressuring. That’s not bullying. That’s for you people to see whether or not your homes are protected, and how your neighbors are dealing with the catastrophic events of Sandy,” Mancini told the SandPaper. 

So give credit to Christie for using his outspokenness to publicly shame these greedy holdouts into doing what’s right for everyone in preparation of the next storm. But even in this just response, there’s the feeling he could do more, especially when it comes to climate change. 

Calling out rich homeowners refusing to build dunes over losing their ocean view is nice, but if Christie wants real credibility on the environment, he’d call “bullshit” on the climate change deniers within his own party. 

I see how it would be tough. Christie pulled out of the regional treaty on climate change and has been raiding funds set aside for green energy projects to balance his budget Corzine-style. All this may be bad for the environment and New Jerseyans, but it puts Christie in a better position to appeal to the knuckle-dragging wing of the Republican Party, who will ultimately decide the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2016. 

Who’s being selfish now?


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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