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NJ Governor’s Town Hall Gets Confrontational

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie found himself on the defensive Wednesday as retired educators and union workers lobbed criticism and lectured the tough-talking governor about his tone with the teachers union.

Holding his 12th town hall event to tout his proposed property tax reforms, Christie heard plenty of feedback on his criticism of the teachers union.

“Things have to change, but don’t come to us with a fist out and expect us to put our hand out and shake it,” said Ed Johnson, 60, a retired telephone repairman from Clifton, after clashing with Christie during the town hall. “The man has no class.”

The teachers union, which supported former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in last year’s election, has been at odds with the Republican governor since the day he took office.

Christie’s attacks on the union have made him a national and YouTube sensation. But on Wednesday, a handful of retired teachers said they were ready for the nastiness to stop and solutions to start.

Angela Collucci Jones, 71, implored Christie to extend an olive branch. The former home economics teacher even suggested Christie invite New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian over for coffee and a nutritious snack to talk.

Christie said that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m not going to invite Barbara Keshishian over for coffee, OK?” Christie fired back. “The campaign for the NJEA never stopped.”

Others also asked Christie to temper his criticism of the union, explaining that students can’t differentiate between teachers and their union, making the governor’s attacks seem like they are intended for all educators.

“Let’s set the reset button. Let’s dial it down,” one man asked. “Because that would be best for the kids.”

Christie had another suggestion: Get a new union.

“If you feel a distinction be made between the teachers and the teachers union, it’s time to change your union,” the governor replied.

At one point, Christie told an attendee that they had come to the “wrong complaint line” and needed to complain to the head of the union, not the head of the state.

A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Wednesday showed that a majority of state voters oppose Christie’s cuts to education and plan to link teacher pay to student performance.

While several people asked the governor to reconsider his tone, one teacher presented a surprising apology; he asked Christie to forgive him because he didn’t vote for him.

John Salierno, a retired Spanish and Italian teacher, said he agreed with Christie’s views on the union and was impressed with Christie for speaking his mind, even when it made him unpopular.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Sam Thurston

    people listen to what the Gov. said before the school union needs to open their books and let’s see where the unions funds are going, maybe the teachers union needs to start chipping in for health care or lower there dues so it doesnt fall back on the taxpayers, I believe this state is finally finally starting to dig it’s way out of the whole it is a long journey but it’s a start.

  • Dan

    Hey it is not just the teachers union. Why do we need all the Administrators at these schools. They built Cherokee South and now just like Washington twp we need two Principals ETC. While we are at it, does every road construction site need police at it on overtime. They say the contractor pays for it, don’t you think it is reflected in the bid. Motor Vehicle Office with cop station there. Banks don’t have this, it goes on and on.

  • Frank

    Unions are destroying this country just as they have their industries. Teachers unions demonstrate year over year they could care less about their students and continue to fail to educate. No wonder home schooling is growing across the country. HS students outperform the failure of public education.

  • MYmoney

    He won because he told the truth : there ain’t enough money to keep things as they are in NJ. Government and public spending are out of control. He won because not all union members like being told what to do by their union “leadership”. In Orwellian terms, some voters and members finally realized that the pigs (union leadership and the political class) are not meant to be more equal than the other animals. In NJ, government (including public schools administration and funding) are a Mafia. As a prosecutor he treats criminality and corruption with contempt. He is treating the Union’s leadership with the disdain . He is the result of years of insidious profligate spending, irresponsible borrowing, waste, mismanagement, graft, public corruption, ineptitude, thievery, tyranny, misinformation and a corrupt elections system…
    For my money ( and it is MY MONEY, not the Teacher’s Union’s money, not the State’s money, not John Norcross’ money, not any New York Commuter’s money for some scam of a new tunnel and ITS NOT YOUR MONEY) Chris Christie is not confrontational enough.

  • Rog

    Wonder what the union people are going to attack, “John Salierno, a retired Spanish and Italian teacher”, with? Gonna make it tough on him. Unions look down on the truth sometimes.

  • colle

    The Gov. is right! Unions have and are destroying the economies of many states.
    Unions have nothing to do with quality education. Just look at religious schools…they do a much better job of educating with far less $$$$. Unions take the teacher’s hard earned dollars (dues) and throw them to political parties
    that support their selfish goals which often have nothing to do with educating our children. Wake up teachers. You are being duped!

  • importer1

    I always said union are the down fall of america.all unions want is more money and less work on thier part.I totally agree with the gov.if you want to save nj .get rid of the unions

    • Garry Sampson

      Who are union workers? They are you.They are your next door neighbor.They are the people who fight for a LIVING wage they are the people who gave us the forty hour work week. The electrician who wired your house and fixes the downed power lines after a storm. the carpenter who built your house. The teacher who taught you how to read and write. The mechanic who built your car. The people who fix your train, bus, airplane so you can get where your going. THEY ARE YOU. They are as AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE. Stop believing the lies of those who send your jobs over seas for their own greed. .

  • Debra Traub

    This man is an unbelievable jerk, why did anyone vote for him? Because he lied, lied, lied, plain and simple. He threw away 400 MILLION dollars our children need because he hates the teachers union? He has a vendetta against them because they didn’t vote for him, WAH WAH WAH! What about our kids? What about our tax dollars? Why does he act as if the money and the state belong to HIM? HIS children go to private schools in limos. What a pig.

  • R Goltz

    It is incomprehensible to me how this insidious bully has any support whatsoever in the state of NJ. How is it even possible that I have even heard calls for him to run for President? What is this country coming to when we favor arrogant attack-dogs rather than problem-solving thinkers?

    • jojo

      I couldn’t agree more. But on the other hand Obama gets no respect for his mild-mannered intellect, diplomacy and practicality. People would rather have him act like Christie but then they’ll criticize that too. Christie is a hypocrite. He’s tough on public servants but not tough on his rich greedy buddies on all the freeholder and authority boards.

  • itz

    Arrogant. Wonder if he is still traveling first class on the state checkbook as he did as AG. The chances are that the teachers will vote for another governor before they vote for another union. The rest of the state may just join in.

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