While Gov. Chris Christie's efforts to help the Jersey shore recover from Hurricane Sandy have been mostly laudable, his plan to direct badly needed hurricane-relief funds to businesses damaged by the massive Boardwalk fire in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights on Sept. 12 seems highly questionable.
Christie has said "there's no doubt in my mind" the wiring that sparked the fire was corroded by Sandy-related flooding. And he is using his "hurricane did it" theory to justify using
$15 million in Sandy relief money to clean up the fire damage and help Boardwalk store owners get back in business.
However, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said authorities "will never know" whether last year's hurricane actually compromised these specific electrical wires, which probably date to the 1970s and were exposed to sand and saltwater for decades.
The governor's assertion that Sandy damaged the wires is simply unprovable either way - but he has declared it is reason enough for him to use Sandy money to help businesses damaged by the fire, some of whom have already received checks for Sandy damage and will now be getting second checks.
That's simply unfair considering the many homeowners, renters and businesses who are still waiting for Sandy relief.
Although it is easy to sympathize with the dozens of businesses in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights destroyed or damaged by the Boardwalk inferno, they have fire insurance to help them cope with their losses. After all, fires on boardwalks are not exactly unusual.
The governor's desire to use Sandy relief money to help revive the Seaside Boardwalk has been criticized by a cross-section of groups. Housing advocates, for instance, say the funds should not be diverted to other uses as long as New Jersey residents are waiting for hurricane aid to rebuild their homes.
Elected officials in parts of southern Ocean County hit hard by Sandy are particularly frustrated by Christie's actions. Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora, whose mainland community lost an estimated $200 million in ratables to Sandy's wrath, suggested that Christie may be favoring seashore communities to the north.
Christie's quick-draw rhetoric got ahead of him this time. He was pledging to use Sandy relief aid for Seaside Park and Seaside Heights even before a cause of the fire had been determined. Sandy victims elsewhere in the state have good reason to be angry at this rash, unfair decision.