If Gov. Chris Christie was concerned with a federal subpoena filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in relation to the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, he didn’t show it in Camden Thursday afternoon.
Even in the face of reporters asking questions, Christie maintained his composure, answering reporters with “It’s good to see you guys,” as he entered the Thomas H. Dudley Family School and reminding them “I’m not taking questions,” as he left.
The only interrogators he did engage Thursday afternoon were the elementary school students at the school, who asked “What’s your favorite sport?” “What’s the hardest part of your job?” and “If you weren’t governor, what job would you want to do?”
Christie responded to the last question by saying “College teacher.” Any response that might have resembled a political future may be becoming a distant memory with each passing day.
In the gymnasium following these questions, Christie, Camden Mayor Dana Redd and Superintendent of Schools Paymon Rouhanifard announced the beginning of an pilot program in six Camden schools that provides a free dinner between 3:30 and 4 p.m. It includes a prepackaged hot meal.
Currently, between 75 and 125 students a day take advantage of the free meal. Christie was hoping Thursday’s announcement would bring attention to the program. The schools involved in the program are the Dudley School, Camden High School, Octavius V. Catto Community School, Hatch Family School, H.B. Wilson and U.S. Wiggins.
Should the program prove successful, it could become a statewide initiative, Christie said.
He put it in the context of all the progress being made in the city, including the establishment of the metro division of the Camden County Police Force, an effort to put high school dropouts back in school and an effort to ensure students get to school safely called the Safety Corridor Initiative.
“We’re working together to make a real difference,” Christie said of the state government and the city officials. “We partnered together and are working together. We all agreed on what our goals are and what we need to do to achieve them.”
He spoke about the negative impact hunger can have on a student’s ability to learn, stating it can serve as a distraction. He spoke about the impact it has on the students’ families, as well.
“There’s nothing more painful than to see your children not learning because you know that means their future will be limited,” Christie said. “ … For me, the next four years is about trying to finish the job on education.”
Christie’s announcement comes amid a number of investigations, including the federal investigation and the combined investigation into the lane closure at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s accusations that the administration withheld Sandy relief funding from her town.
Inside the school on Thursday, Christie found support from those in attendance, the mayor and the superintendent. Outside, residents questioned why the announcement was closed to the general public.
That question, and many others, went unanswered, at least for now.