Christie Town Hall Remains Sandy-Focused [VIDEO/AUDIO/POLL]
Hosting his first town hall since the Bridgegate debacle unfolded, Gov. Chris Christie witnessed a rather calm crowd. The focus of Christie's opening remarks was the distribution of federal Superstorm Sandy aid, and it steered many of the crowd's questions in the same direction.
Christie visited Port Monmouth on Thursday to conduct his first town hall meeting since June 2013. The second half of the program was devoted to a question-and-answer format, but no one grilled the governor over his administration's role in lane closures approaching the George Washington Bridge late last year.
With another $1.4 billion headed to New Jersey to help homeowners and infrastructure recover from Sandy, Christie laid out the state's current plans for how to spend the aid. He stressed to the crowd of hundreds that the state will end up receiving $15-20 billion from Washington, even though Sandy caused $37 billion worth of damage.
"Not everybody can be made whole," said Christie, noting aid is being distributed based on two overriding factors -- most damage and level of need.
"I believe, once I knew we weren't going to be able to get dollar for dollar, that we had to take care of those people who didn't have the means to help themselves in any way," Christie said. "And if there's not money for people afterwards, that's what we're going to have to deal with."
Approximately $1 billion of the first round of funding has been accounted for, with more than 70 percent committed to low and moderate income families.
During the Q&A, Christie was asked by a Union Beach resident why people with secondary homes by the water have been "treated with such discrimination" throughout the recovery process. The issue was one of strong debate immediately following the storm, and it's one that still stings for many New Jerseyans.
The federal aid package did not include second, or beach, homes, despite a personal plea from Christie to the Obama administration.
"The president refused to include it in the bill he sent to Congress," Christie said. "Congress refused to change the bill to cover secondary homeowners. The fact is, if the federal law does not permit us to cover secondary homeowners, we have no other pot of money to work out of."
A toddler affected by Sandy was also able to chime in towards the end of the town hall meeting.
"May you fix my house?" asked 3-year-old Nicole. "It's still broken."