We don’t know the circumstances surrounding Chris Christie’s arrival at his son’s high school baseball game in a New Jersey State Police helicopter. It’s possible that such use of the chopper is routine, or that there were good reasons that he used it for this occasion.
But the optics are bad: just before the game began, Christie landed in the chopper on a field adjacent to the playing field, and then took a car with tinted windows the remaining 100 yards to the game, where he was then “flanked by State Police security guards,” only to leave by the chopper in the fifth inning.
One thing we do know is that, in general, state use of helicopters in New Jersey and elsewhere is abusive. For instance, Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano regularly takes a helicopter to make recruiting trips to high school players’ games (Rutgers is New Jersey’s public university).
It’s possible that for both Christie and Schiano, using helicopters for certain trips is economical. But as public servants, they have the responsibility not only to use taxpayers’ money wisely, but to avoid an imperial appearance. Maybe there’s a more discreet way to arrive at high school games.
UPDATE: NewJersey.com reports that the state police superintendent claims that Christie’s flights incur no additional costs for taxpayers:
“It is important to understand that State Police helicopters fly daily homeland security missions, and use flight time for training purposes, more so lately as we acclimate our pilots to the new aircraft,” Fuentes.
Fuentes said because of this, the flights have no extra cost to the taxpayers.
“Therefore, there is no additional cost to taxpayers or the State Police budget, nor is there any interference with our daily mission by adding the state’s chief executive to any of these trips,” Fuentes said. “Any flights transporting the Governor would be subordinated to priority needs for our aircraft including rescue and emergent law enforcement missions.”
Also, a commenter points out that Gerg Schiano’s helicopter is provided by a private company, in exchange for advertising at Rutgers games.
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