I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

At Rally Against @GovChristie, Real NJ Voices #tellingitlikeitis

This afternoon, Chris Christie announced his candidacy for president at his alma matter, Livingston High School. The superintendent of the district, Jim O'Neill, skipped the event, as he understands just how bad Christie has been for this state's public education system.

Christie is many things, but he's not a fool. Given his dismal approval ratings, he knew he was likely to have a throng of critics at his announcement. That's why he kept the location secret until it leaked out last Thursday, giving detractors little time to organize a counter event.

It's a testament to Christie's deep unpopularity, then, that so many people -- especially teachers -- showed up today in Livingston to condemn Christie's record of failure. And it's a testament to Christie's cowardice that he held his announcement in a closed gym, away from the people who understand the consequences of his horrible tenure as governor.

My invitation to go inside for the speech must have been lost in the mail. Instead, I milled around, taking pictures and speaking with teachers and others about the train wreck that is Governor Chris Christie. Here's what I saw and heard. Sorry for the missing names, but it was chaos; this was a big, peaceful, but angry crowd that had a lot to say.

By the way: it was great fun meeting all of you who read the blog. Many, many thanks for your support.

Teachers making signs before the rally.

Mike Mignone, President, Belleville Education Association, teacher, poster boy for tenure: "He's not a leader. A true leader acts on what he says. But his actions don't match his words."

On the bus.

Teacher in Hudson County: "He's spewing lies about teachers. My husband and I are both teachers, but my husband is working three jobs. Our house was hit by Sandy, and it took us a long time to get the insurance money. We didn't get any help from the state. My husband's working right now; I left my kids with my mom to be here."

In the crowd.

Retired teacher: "He's wasted billions of dollars. He ran the state into the red, and he now says there's no money for the pension. But the money was there; he just wasted it."

Teacher from Bloomfield with 4 years of experience: "I don't regret going into teaching, but I am very nervous. Our benefits are down, and our payments are up, and we aren't paid a lot. I do this for the love of the job, but I'm worried I won't be able to continue."

Jesse Turner, the Walking Man.

Nancy Ooms: PE teacher at Livingston High School who actually taught Christie when he attended: "He was nothing like this. It's hard to believe he's forgotten about this place and all of us. He says we work a part-time job, but I work day and night."

The crowd gets ready to greet Christie.

Mark Worobitz, retired teacher, Sparta: "He says we do a part-time job? HE does a part-time job, for a full salary. He's traveling all over the country, worrying about pigs in Iowa and syrup in New Hampshire, instead of what's happening here."

Teacher from Ridgefield Park: "If he had just left the money he gave to corporations in the pension, he could have made the payments. Our state's credit is nothing. People can't find jobs -- but all of his friends have jobs."

Christie's limo, windows tinted, drives by while people boo.

English teacher, Livingston High School: "We're planning, grading, writing curriculum. We work over the summer. We meet with our co-teaching teams to plan. I work all evening, taking questions from parents and students on the internet. What should I do: stop working at 3:00 PM?"

Univision covers the rally.

@TickTockMrsGlock: "My husband's a police officer. We've both made 678 pension payments, but he's made none. We came into our jobs knowing we wouldn't make a lot of money, but we would make a difference."

Retired teacher, Parsippany: "He has an impulse control disorder. Imagine him in a room with Putin!"

In the crowd.

Jersey City teacher: "He has failed for New Jersey, and he will fail for this country."

Jim Keady

Jim Keady, candidate for State Assembly (aka Mr. "Sit down and shut up!"): "Chris Christie has been an abject failure as a chief executive. The pension is becoming insolvent. Our bond rating is in the toilet. Our job recovery is terrible. He should do his job and show some results -- then maybe he could be considered a candidate for president."

Anthony Rosamilia

Anthony Rosamilia, teacher at Livingston High School, president of Essex County Education Association, and chief organizer of today's rally: "We're here to send a message to the rest of the country: if Chris Christie becomes president, it will be a disaster for the nation. I teach here. To choose this location for his presidential announcement is rubbing our faces in it. We had to do something."

In the crowd.

Livingston High School teacher: "Christie's mother worked in this district, and collected a pension until the day she died. She was a wonderful woman. I don't understand what happened to him."

In the crowd.

John Samtak, retired teacher from Pequannock: "He can't be trusted. The first thing he said back in 2009 was: 'I won't touch your pensions.' The first thing he did was touch our pensions."

In the crowd.

Melissa Katz, education student and education activist: "As a future teacher, I think the hypocrisy of his announcing a run for president at a public school is appalling."

Teachers from South Orange-Maplewood.

Teachers from South Orange-Maplewood: "He's dishonest. He will do anything to have the bully pulpit. He cannot imagine a world where he is not the big cheese. But he's not going to win; he's probably just auditioning for Fox News."

Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, Ikechukwu Omyema, Elizabeth Cornell, Mel Katz.

Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, teacher and education activist: "Chris Christie is not a president for all people. He has been a persistently imposing force for the people of Newark to block any local control. Recently, he backed off only to get votes."

Ikechukwu Omyema, teacher and education activist: "I left teaching in Newark, and the State Superintendent [Cami Anderson] is the reason I left. She drove out good teachers who were tired of disrespect. Anderson's ridiculous policies were only in place because of Chris Christie."

Waiting for the buses back to the parking lot.

Bill Cole, educator in Morris County: "By any metric Christie is a dismal failure. We're one of the lowest performing states economically. He catered to the one-percent on the backs of the middle class. He has nothing to point to; where are his successes?"

Christie supporters had to walk by the teachers waiting to take buses back to the parking lot.

I asked many of Christie's supporters as they left what they like about him. To a person, they said some variation of: "He tells it like it is."  Propaganda works -- at least on some of us.

I take comfort in two things from Christie's candidacy:

1) He'll be around here a lot less.

2) The other Republican candidates are finally going to make his record in New Jersey a topic of scrutiny. Fellas, you can use anything you find on this blog, but I'll warn you -- there's a lot of failure documented here. Enjoy.

ADDING: Here's a great video of today's events:


Giuseppe said...

Thanks for the coverage, great pictures and quotes from the protesters. Without a doubt, Christie is the worst governor as regards education, teachers and their unions in recent (at least the past 70 plus years) NJ history. He is the anti-education governor. The only positive thing you can say about him is that he's marginally better than Donald Trump, which is not saying much. Both are narcissistic egomaniacal blowhards. Christie probably knows he can't win but is angling for the vice presidency, secretary of defense or a supreme court position (if a GOPer wins)?

Unknown said...

I was the person who told you that Christie's own mother, Sandy, was our board of education receptionist for decades. She received her pension and medical benefits until the day she died of brain cancer. It is on fathomable how Chris Christie can stand there and belittle public workers when his own mother was part of our union. You may quote me. My name is Barbara Rosato and I am a Business Education teacher at Livingston High School.