Major structural reforms would require legislative approval in Albany and Trenton, which would be hard but definitely worth a try. New Jersey, for instance, could help matters by enacting the equivalent of a reform law approved in New York that, among other things, required board members to pledge to uphold their fiduciary duties to their agency's mission, not to their patron in the governor's mansion. Short of that, the two governors should make changes that could make the authority less political and more professional. The Port Authority's 12-member board of commissioners is appointed by the governors, six by each. They should be appointed on the basis of their professional qualifications, not political connections, as so often happens, and held to six-year term limits. Some holdovers have been there for more than 10 years. Each commissioner should also publicly disclose potential conflicts of interest well before the authority makes its decisions. These potential conflicts should be regularly displayed on the Port Authority's website. Commissioners have routinely been allowed to lobby for contracts that could affect personal businesses and, only later after the decision is made, would they formally recuse themselves in the official minutes. Their recusal in each case should be announced at the public board meeting.
There are no doubt plenty of experts in political crisis management who could help steer the governor through these perilous waters, but I talked with a knowledgeable friend this afternoon about the kind of advice Christie needs but doesn't seem to be receiving.
First, it's not a good idea for the governor to travel to a tropical resort while New Jersey residents are struggling with another snow storm -- causing, among other things, roofs to collapse.
Second, it's not a good idea for the governor to cancel a town-hall meeting with constituents, citing inclement weather, only to keep his commitment to travel to nearby New York City for a Republican fundraiser for the same evening.
Third, it's not a good idea for the governor's office to identify a potentially damaging witness and then go after his high-school antics through the national media.
Fourth, it's not a good idea for the governor to hire a high-priced lawyer, have the taxpayers pick up the tab, and then sit back as he shamelessly tries to intimidate witnesses.
Fifth, it's not a good idea for the governor to change his story as the controversies unfold.
Sixth, it's not a good idea for the governor to keep pretending there may have been a traffic study.
And finally, it might be a good idea for the governor to look busy.
Christie can start by considering some reforms at the Port Authority.
It'd be a start, wouldn't it?