Chris Christie’s bridge to nowhere

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been touting his image as a bridge to bipartisanship in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The bridge, it seems, has collapsed.

We like to think our politicians in Massachusetts are second to none when it comes to political payback. It appears they have a lot to learn from the blunt-talking former prosecutor in the Garden State who’s toed the line between aggressive posturing to get things done and being a downright bully.

Christie is on the defensive over newly released emails that show his administration was behind a multiple lane closure of the George Washington Bridge as payback for a small-town Democratic mayor who did not get in line to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. The closure on the first day of school caused monumental traffic jams in Fort Lee, NJ, and delayed emergency vehicles stuck in the miles-long traffic jams.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, wrote to the governor’s boyhood friend, whom Christie had appointed to the Port Authority, which oversees the bridge.

You can have your scandals and your faux pas in American politics but our cars are sacrosanct and anyone who messes with traffic had best be ready to pay the piper. Just ask Charlie Baker.

Christie aides tried to line up Democrats from around the state to show the governor could reach across the aisle to get things done, a winning strategy for any Republican looking to woo Democrats and Independents on the road to the White House. But Bridgegate (you know that’s what it’s going to be dubbed) will remind voters of another Republican president who abused his office to exact retaliation on enemies. Can you say Nixonian?

Like Nixon, it seems the damage is in the cover-up. In his usual snarky and sarcastic manner, Christie dismissed questions and charges that the lane closures were payback. “I worked the cones, actually,” Christie said last month as the roiling controversy threatened to overtake his nascent presidential campaign. “Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and hat, but I was actually the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question?” Um, yeah.

Though there’s no indication Christie knew what was going on, the fact it ensnared his most trusted and longtime aides doesn’t cover him in glory. Some say the actions are a reflection of the tone he has set while others say it was either willful blindness or, worse, cluelessness, which is not a quality one wants in a president.

Pundit Nation is divided on how this will affect Christie’s chances, with some saying it’s a first misstep that will blow over while others say turn out the lights, the party’s over. Either way, it looks like we’ll still be seeing a lot of Christie on local television, either as a candidate slogging around snow-covered New Hampshire or as a reminder of former Boston politician Martin Lomasney’s everlasting admonishment: “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.” And never, ever put it in an email or text.

–JACK SULLIVAN  

BEACON HILL

The Patrick administration is bringing in the Child Welfare League of America to review procedures at the state Department of Children and Families, State House News reports. A former supervisor at the agency tells the Telegram & Gazette that policy changes have led to a “snowballing” of difficult cases for investigators.

It’s official: The state awards the contract to run the region’s commuter rail operations to French company Keolis. Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says the move is a reminder that MBTA general manager Beverly Scott has chutzpah.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Haverhill officials approve new zoning rules that should spur development along the city’s waterfront, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Lawrence Licensing Board closes a bar for refusing to admit police and fire inspectors, the fourth bar shut this year, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Peter Gelzinis paints William Evans, Boston’s new police commissioner, as a hard-working street cop who worked his way up the department ladder.

West Bridgewater officials continue to refuse requests to release details of a confidential settlement with a former police officer who had sued the town for discrimination because of a disability.

CASINOS

Mohegan Sun wants to ease traffic into its proposed Revere casino by reducing I-90 eastbound traffic to one lane; East Boston officials are not pleased.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

What DC gridlock? asks newly-installed Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Republicans take up the mantle of income inequality.

New York state moves to regulate medical marijuana.

Utah says it won’t recognize the same-sex marriage licenses it issued.

ELECTIONS

Rep. Tom Conroy, a Wayland Democrat, is jumping into the race for state treasurer, the Associated Press reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Farley White Interests of Boston buys the former Wang Laboratories and M/A-Com site in Lowell for $15.5 million, the Sun reports.

Macy’s plans to lay off 2,500 workers and close five stores as part of a cost-saving effort, CNN reports.

Central Massachusetts may see more bank consolidation.

Banks are mining social media sites for clues to borrowers’ creditworthiness.

EDUCATION

The number of students enrolling in charter schools in Shrewsbury drops sharply, but the financial cost to the school district doesn’t change, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lock horns on school choice.

HEALTH CARE

The Massachusetts Health Connector, once a national model, is beset with problems that go far beyond the faulty web site that was redesigned to meet the new standards of the federal health care reform..

A state reports finds unnecessary medical treatments may cost as much as $27 billion annually and 5 percent of patients account for 50 percent of the health system’s costs, the Globe reports.

During a transition from fee-for-service care to care attempting to keep patients from getting sick, UMass Memorial Health Care finds losses soaring, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

A patient in a locked unit at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen gets his hands on scissors and stabs three staffers, the Associated Press reports.

An animal rights group charges that Harvard continues to treat the animals that researchers use for medical experiments poorly and more fines should be levied.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

For the second time in three months, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to downgrade Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth later this month, placing it on a list of seven other facilities around the country that are deemed degraded.

High leads levels are found in the soil of a Salem park where Little League plays its games, the Salem News reports.

Hot and cold air: Howie Carr’s fingers are cold and so climate change is a liberal hoax. (Never mind any of this sort of sciency stuff.)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Boston police superintendent William Gross will be named to the department’s number two position, the Globe reports, which would be the highest slot ever held by black officer.

New court documents appear to tie Aaron Hernandez more closely to an unsolved 2012 double homicide in Boston’s South End.

The three Seabrook, New Hampshire, police officers caught in a YouTube video slamming a detainee into a cement wall are identified as veteran officers and the attorney general begins investigating, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A Weymouth middle school food service worker has been charged with multiple counts of statutory rape but officials have not said whether her victim is a student at the school.

The attorney representing a Peabody police officer accused of sexually molesting his stepdaughter uses her tweets and Facebook posts against her in court, the Salem News reports.

A Superior Court judge dismisses charges against a former Attleboro city councilor who was accused of scamming a home off a retired judge.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

New Globe owner John Henry made his most extensive public comments to date regarding his stewardship of the paper, including the possibility of launching a TV station and selling the Dorchester property, CommonWealth reports. But he made no mention of publisher Chris Mayer stepping down, which Mayer announced later in the afternoon. Dan Kennedy wonders what it all means for editor Brian McGrory, given that most publishers want to pick their own guy.

A Chinese multimillionaire travels to New York in a bid to buy the New York Times and when that didn’t work out he set his sights on the Wall Street Journal. He tells reporters he knows many of America’s newspapers are owned by Jews, adding: “I am very good at working with Jews.”