New Jersey

New Jersey is a living embodiment of why political boundaries should never be drawn along rivers, and always along ridgelines.  Nine million people live in two enormous clusters attached economically and culturally, but not politically, to the cities of New York and Philadelphia across the major regional rivers. These clusters anchor the ends of an ugly industrial strip along the turnpike that has given rise to a collection of New Jersey jokes. [In fairness, most people don’t realize that the NW and SE corners of the state are rural and quite beautiful, with very different character – the pine barrens are neither Atlantic City nor the Jersey Shore.]

  • State mammal: Junkyard dog
  • State mineral: Asphalt
    Fig. 1, NJ State Tree

    Fig. 2, NJ State Park
  • State bird: Hackensack River mosquito
  • State tree: See Fig. 1, far R
  • State flower: Mildew
  • State song: Here
  • State ceremonial tradition: FBI indictment of elected officials
  • State park: Fig. 2, near R
  • State traditional costume: Concrete galoshes
  • State flag: Schmata
  • State chemical reaction: 4Fe + 3O2 -> 2Fe2O3
  • State motto: “My client is innocent of these politically motivated charges and we will mount a vigorous defense”

New Jersey politics is crippled by media costs dictated by having to make wasteful, expensive buys in New York and Philadelphia markets, news coverage that’s an afterthought of NY and Phila media, and of course all the long sad history of corruption typical of  northeastern industrial cities.  Now the state can add another official emblem:

  • State idiot: Chris Christie, Governor

for whom there is no amount of money too big to leave on the table, and no injury too great to inflict on his citizens, for a wrong-headed egotistical gesture.  The overrun for the tunnel is about $300 per citizen.  New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 9.6%; all those hardhats will now stay on the dole instead of making good money sandhogging and building something the region desperately needs, while their fellow citizens will waste millions and millions of unpaid hours sitting in traffic instead of working or playing with their kids. Paul Krugman offers the clinical dissection of the tunnel lunacy.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

11 thoughts on “New Jersey”

  1. Poor New Jersey, national punching bag. But even though I have barely set foot in the state, any place that is home to both Paul Krugman and Bruce Springsteen is OK by me. In fact, I believe that there was a push at one time to make "Born to Run" their state song, which would have been great, except that some folks couldn't accept enshrining the line that goes, "Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims,

    And strap your hands 'cross my engines." Maybe in the age of "Jersey Shore", that should be revisited.

  2. The fact that Born to Run was considered for the New Jersey anthem lead to Robert Wuhl's best bit.

  3. I live in Juhsey (Newark, no less), and I resemble your remarks.

    There are two errors in your analysis of New Jersey. First, the State Mammal is not the junkyard dog; it is the rat. The junkyard dog is only the State Housepet. Second, Chris Christie is not the State Idiot of New Jersey. He is the State Idiot of Mississippi, because that is the kind of government he seems to want for New Jersey.

  4. Cancelling the ARC/Tunnel project in favor of roadway was shortsided and wrong headed- roads already got stimulus dollars more easily than mega-rail because they were shovel ready and not yet funded. However,the Tunnel was a boondoggle of a project that many thought was poorly (politically) planned and designed. Neither the states (NJ & NY) nor the Port Authority was watching the dollars closely enough. If Christie was angry about overruns, he chose to ignore ensuring it was managed well and see why cost was growing, tighten up controls and stanch the $ flow, but decided to just cut the project and leave $600M in sunk costs. Just as the Feds last week gave $100M to a Perfroming Arts Center at "Ground Zero" after years of saying no Fed $ would go there, we will see how many Fed $ go to the ARC Tunnel. It is great to support projects to keep people working, but well run projects generate less cynicism about public money being wasted. I imagine for many NJ residents hearing Frank Lautenberg complaining is pretty laughable, while they look at a virtually abandoned/never used HUGE Transit Hub with his name on it along I-95.

  5. Just for the record, Jersey Shore isn't the Jersey shore either; it's only a small, disreputable piece of it.

  6. Mr. O'Hare,

    I believe this Sept. 24 Associated Press story more accurately reflects the decision behind Gov. Christie's decision today in New Jersey.

    Lots of politics behind this decision. The governor in 2010 who authorizes a project set to be completed in 2018 will have to campaign against a big hole in the ground were he to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2012, 2014, or 2016, and/or his own reelection as governor in the State of the Perpetually Extended Middle Finger.

    The headline does not do the first six paragraphs of the story justice. Hat tip to the Associated Press.

    E-mail, conversations allude to Gov. Christie's concerns

    about Hudson tunnel funding

    The Associated Press

    Published: Friday, September 24, 2010, 5:31 AM

    Updated: Friday, September 24, 2010, 10:51 AM

    TRENTON — As early as March, Gov. Chris Christie's administration may

    have been considering withholding the state's $2.7 billion portion of

    money to pay for a new tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan, according to

    an e-mail and conversations from a high-level state Transportation

    Department official.

    Last week, the governor ordered a 30-day halt to all new work on the

    tunnel over concerns that the $8.7 billion project would go over its

    budget and New Jersey would be forced to cover the overrun, which

    Christie says is now between $2 billion and $5 billion.

    In an e-mail to a staffer for U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey,

    who helped secure $3 billion in federal funding for the tunnel, David

    Kuhn, the executive director for capital investment strategy for the New

    Jersey Department of Transportation, called New Jersey a "critical

    commerce corridor" for the entire country but said the state shouldn't

    be forced to pay for the tunnel, which is known as Access to the

    Region's Core.

    "ARC is an important piece of the country's economy and merit's

    additional consideration as a project of national significance," Kuhn

    wrote on March 30, according to a copy of the e-mail obtained by The

    Associated Press. "New Jersey should not be saddled with any of the cost

    of this project."

    Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray said the staffer quickly called Kuhn to

    ask for clarification. Gray said Kuhn told the staffer that the Christie

    administration believed the federal government should pay for the

    project entirely.

    The staffer asked Kuhn to double-check with other officials about those

    statements, and minutes later received a call from state Transportation

    Commissioner Jim Simpson, according to Gray's account of the


  7. I gather this is one of Christie's actions taken in furtherance of his nascent campaign for president.

  8. Another dubious distinction known to the poor people nationwide who take in complaints about consumer products–a hugely outsized portion of consumer complaints come from New Jersey. It is about 3% of the population of the United States, but regularly represents about 20% of the consumer complaints. There really is something in the water.

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