christie town meeting

Gov. Chris Christie speaks Tuesday, March 29, 2011, during the Hammonton town hall-meeting at the NJM Building.

Gov. Chris Christie often tells his town hall crowds a line his mother told him toward the end of her life: “There’s nothing left unsaid between us.”

If that is true, then this week members from both parties have decided the governor’s words of wisdom deserve to get a second go-around.

To help the public get their dose of Christie, a comedy writer has built from scratch a smartphone application that brings Christie’s best moments to your finger-tips.

The application — subtly titled NJGOVRANTS, and accessible for free through iTunes — is loaded with audio files showcasing the governor’s most famous quotes, whether clips of speeches, TV sound bites or throwaway responses to off-the-cuff questions.

But the story of the app gets funnier — because it was built by a former New Jersey mayor.

Joey Novick, who served as mayor of Flemington for 12 years, said he took on the task to build a simple kind of application for iPhone and iPad without any Silicon Valley tech-whiz skills.

“It was lots of fun editing clips of Christie — and I had to listen to hundreds of hours and hours of him, trying to decide which audio clips were best,” Novick said. The process also gave the Democrat a chance to find his personal favorite Christie-isms: “Where the governor says over and over again, ‘This is who I am!’ It’s like his justification and rationale for what he does.”

While Novick did his homework, the state Republican Party took steps this week to help everyone else pick their prized Christie moments.

The state Republican committee’s Facebook page invites viewers to view and vote on five “Christie Exchanges” — from his put-down of a town hall-heckler to his serious defense of his political “tone.”

Visitors who stop by to vote are also reminded they can donate to the party, through a newly-added button to the site.

Use-it-or-lose-it accounting

Elsewhere this week, Trenton lawmakers cleared their schedules for a series of budget hearings, designed to set the stage for April and May’s contentious deal-making to pass a balanced budget.

Not all went smoothly. A landmark appearance by the state Treasurer was hastily canceled Monday because two senior members of the Senate budget committee were also involved in the state legislative redistricting process. Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, who sits on the Democrats’ redistricting team, first tried to move up the appearance by Andrew Eristoff, and when that failed, canceled the hearing altogether.

But Eristoff appeared the next day to deliver a explanation of the administration’s “zero-based” budgeting.

Defending the administration’s budget, which does not restore funds cut last year from education, human services or women’s health clinics, he backed the governor’s decision not to fund “every relic from two decades ago that is still on the books.”

“Continuity” budgeting, he said, “encourages a use-it-or-lose-it mentality that drives spending up to the budget.”

Democrats meanwhile made clear they would pick a fight in the next two months over the governor’s promise of $500 million for the state pension fund – to be made only if lawmakers pass pension and benefits reforms.

“Reforms have already been made,” said Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, who argued the governor should make the payment because of enacted commitments by public workers to contribute more to their pensions.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, criticized the governor’s decision also to tie in extra property-tax relief credits with that same deal.

“The governor has tied the restoration of a portion of his rebates cuts for seniors, the disabled and low income homeowners to legislative enactment of his employee health care proposals, pitting neighbors against neighbors,” Burzichelli said.

Pressure over nuclear power builds

This week, environmentalists started ramping up pressure on Christie to break the state’s commitment to nuclear power.

Oyster Creek, the state’s nuclear reactor, shares design features with the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan, which has been crippled by last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a review of Oyster Creek, located in Lacey Township, Ocean County.

That review is expected to report initial findings on the plant in three months.

Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey Sierra Club, has seized the opportunity to call for Oyster Creek’s closure.

“Given what we are learning about Japan, it does not make any sense and could be outright dangerous to keep Oyster Creek open,” Tittel said.

In 2009, the state relicensed the plant for 20 years. But Tittel wants the governor to reconsider.

“The lesson is that these older plants with above-ground waste storage need to be closed and they need to be closed now,” he said.

People and Power by Juliet Fletcher, The Press of Atlantic City’s Statehouse Bureau reporter, appears every Sunday. Fletcher can be reached at: 

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