Argument: Christie case drawing so much attention because commuting affects so many people

Here is an interesting take on Chris Christie’s predicament: it is getting so much attention because commuting matters to a lot of people.

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer just published this chart of the breakdown of constituent service requests and complaints his office fielded during 2013 (“no problem is too small for us to handle,” Van Bramer writes in his annual report card):

How we get around has an enormous influence on our quality of life, and so it’s central to what we expect from our elected officials. This is why unplowed roads can undermine an entire administration. It’s why arcane changes to residential parking permit policy stir such public ire. It’s why problems with transportation make up the largest single set of concerns that a local city councilman must address – beyond even jobs, public safety, and housing.

This is also why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is in such trouble. Were he neck-deep in a petty political spat involving a public park or a job-training program or a real-estate project, the scandal wouldn’t resonate quite so widely. We often talk about transportation – and its sub-genres of parking policy, street design, traffic management and mass transit planning – as a niche interest of nerds at the national level. Locally, though, no issue is more politically potent.

Don’t mess with the commute of the average American. It might be much worse because driving is involved because driving usually implies more independence and privacy. On the other hand, when mass transit is at fault, like it has been this past week with Metra in the Chicago area, there is less that the individual commuter can do. Uncontrollable situations are bad enough but intentional sabotage of commuting would infuriate all commuters.

Crediting New York if this year’s Super Bowl goes well, blaming New Jersey if it does not

Gregg Easterbrook points out the interesting game of geography playing out in the upcoming Super Bowl to be played in New Jersey in a stadium used by two New York teams and with lots of media coverage of the Super Bowl happening from Manhattan:

This year’s Super Bowl will be played in New York, which, for NFL purposes, is located in New Jersey. Since the media, politicians and celebs will downplay the New Jersey angle, TMQ will play it up. In solidarity with the state of Thomas Edison, “The Sopranos” and toxic waste, TMQ will offer a weekly Road to the Swamps item during the runup to the game…

Both of the NFL’s “New York” teams not only play in New Jersey, they practice there and are headquartered there, too: neither the “New York” Giants nor “New York” Jets has the decency so much as to maintain an office in the Empire State, which today has one NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. NFL officials, media types, club-goers and politicians love New York and look down their noses at the Garden State. Should all go well, New York officials will take the credit. Should the game or the bus-based logistics be a fiasco, New Jersey will be blamed.

Three years ago, the Super Bowl was held in Dallas, which for NFL purposes is in Arlington, Texas, and ESPN’s local set was in Fort Worth, 35 miles distant. These things happen in modern life. But the “New York” Super Bowl will take cartographic challenges to an extreme. Though the game will be held in New Jersey, all three networks will report on it from across the Hudson River in Manhattan. The ESPN local set will be at Herald Square, the Fox and NFL Network local sets at Times Square. For media purposes, New Jersey will be located in New York.

Officially the Super Bowl will be played at a field called MetLife Stadium located in a town called East Rutherford, N.J. In order to encourage tourism, that town should change its name to The Swamps of Jersey, New Jersey. Springsteen fans would flock. The stadium should change its name to Somewhere Field, which has a nice numinous quality. Then as the big game begins, broadcasters could say, “Welcome everyone to tonight’s Super Bowl from Somewhere, in The Swamps of Jersey.”

The real issue here is that the game and media coverage is all happening within one metropolitan region surrounding New York City. Plenty of stadiums are located outside of the central city and media facilities are located all over the place. (Think of the world’s media sports center in Bristol, Connecticut – home of ESPN.) Yet, this particular metropolitan region crosses state lines. Yes, Fort Worth is not the same as Dallas which is not the same as Arlington or Irving but at least they are all within the same Metroplex. Moving between New Jersey and New York City (and also Connecticut – though there are no sport facilities there, perhaps for the same NIMBY reasons that didn’t allow the United Nations to locate in suburban Connecticut – and upstate New York, which probably has the same relationship with NYC as downstate Illinois has with Chicago) is a big deal. New York City, particular Manhattan, is the number one global city in the world. It is the center of media, entertainment, and the financial industry. In contrast, New Jersey is industrial, working-class, and The Sopranos.

One other question: can Chris Christie take some credit for this New Jersey Super Bowl or do the New York politicians get to take all the credit?

About that New Jersey radio ad running in Illinois and asking businesses to relocate

On the drive home from work last week, I heard a new radio advertisement where New Jersey governor Chris Christie appealed to Illinois businesses to take advantage of New Jersey’s business-friendly climate. The typical appeal was made: possible tax breaks or incentives, proximity to New York City and other notable cities, and an able work force await in New Jersey. Hear the ad here. (And New Jersey is not the first state to make an appeal in Illinois since Illinois raised its personal income and business tax rates.)

On the question of whether such radio advertisements actually do draw businesses to another state: I would guess that the success rate is low. In fact, perhaps the main goal is not to attract businesses from Illinois but rather to alert New Jersey residents that the state government is doing all it can to attract businesses and jobs and that it has a good business climate compared to other states. States have certain options by which they can attract jobs or make direct appeals to businesses and an opportunity like this, where a state notably raises taxes, presents an opportunity to make a comparison.

A few other pieces of information would be helpful in interpreting this advertisement:

1. How exactly does New Jersey’s business climate compare to Illinois in areas like the tax rate, labor force, etc.? How many businesses have moved back or forth in recent years?

2. Is Christie’s ad politically motivated? Here is a chance for a Republican governor to tweak a Democratic state.

h/t Instapundit

Asking politicians the important questions

According to Entertainment Weekly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked about all the important issues over the weekend:

ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Christie on The Week yesterday whether Situation, Snooki, and the gang are “positive for New Jersey or negative.” Christie answered “negative” without batting an eyelash.

The story also has a YouTube link where you can see the question about Jersey Shore follows inquiries about more typical political topics.

On the other hand, perhaps many Americans learn important facts about reality shows?