In an Ocean City appearance Friday afternoon billed as a press conference on Gov. Chris Christie's commitment to protecting the state's beaches, the governor touched briefly on the environment but moved on to talk about and field questions on the economic issues that have defined his term.
At the news conference and in a walk down the Boardwalk, Christie gave Ocean City residents and visitors a first-hand look at the straight-talking, firebrand image the governor has carefully cultivated.
Christie said tourism and other Jersey Shore industries account for $6 billion in salaries and wages.
"We've got to protect this place," he said.
The governor said he opposes a plan by the PurGen partnership to build a coal-fueled power plant in Linden and pump compressed liquid carbon dioxide through a pipeline, burying it under the ocean floor 70 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. City Council in Ocean City passed a resolution Thursday night expressing the city's opposition to the project.
"I don't want people messing with 127 miles of New Jersey coastline," Christie said.
He said the environmental risks outweigh the potential economic benefits.
The governor went on to field questions on other topics:
- On the success of Atlantic City's state-run tourism district: "If we do that for Atlantic City, it's going to help Ocean City and the Wildwoods (by bringing more visitors to the region)."
- On the abandonment of a successful UEZ program in the Wildwoods: "If UEZ dollars were being used effectively there, it would be the exception and not the rule."
- On the tone of the campaign for the Republican presidential primary: "The tone of every campaign stinks."
- On his endorsement for a presidential candidate: "Not only is the jury still out, but we're still collecting evidence. I didn't make any decision last night (after the candidates debate), let's put it that way."
Walking down the Boardwalk to visit Mack and Manco Pizza, Shriver's Salt Water Taffy and other Ocean City institutions, Christie stopped to answers questions from people like Cherry Hill firefighter Mark Scian, who complained to the governor that police and firefighter unions have sacrificed more in salary and benefits than other public employees.
Recent Ocean City High School graduate Caroline Hartman asked about the governor's use of the line-item veto to make cuts to New Jersey's $30 billion budget this year.
Hartman said she was disappointed by what she called mostly "double talk." Scian walked away similarly unsatisfied.
But Christie pressed on undaunted -- to field more questions from passersby.
"Some days people love me, and some days they don't," Christie had said in his news conference. "But they always know where I stand."