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GRAPEVINE: Steindel resignation a 'surprise'?

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Two weeks ago, when Bloomberg News first broke that Charles Steindel had resigned from his post as the chief economist for Gov. Chris Christie's administration, it was in a way, an unsurprising surprise.

If that’s not a “Yogi-ism,” it should be.

Unsurprising because, according to Bloomberg’s calculations, Steindel’s overly optimistic revenue projections in four out of the last five years missed the mark by a total of $3.5 billion.

That’s a lot, to say the least. And the problem is exacerbated by a $1.7 billion projected budget revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year.

But the move also came as a surprise because Steindel had been with the administration for years and had survived previous revenue shortfalls.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said that Steindel had informed the administration “many months ago” that he planned to resign and accept a teaching role. The initial Bloomberg story also noted this, adding that he would be resigning at the end of August to become a resident scholar at Ramapo College in Mahwah.

But one source wonders if Steindel’s projections finally caught up to him, adding that again, news of the move came as “kind of a surprise.”

With Christie in need of good news on the state’s fiscal affairs, Steindel’s resignation may have been a “casualty of war,” the source said.

COAH is a ‘mess’

Nobody is quite sure what is going on with the Council on Affordable Housing these days.

The board has until November to finalize its latest set of rules, which were unveiled earlier this year and the subject of heated criticism at a public hearing in early July.

Opponents say the new rules do little to actually serve their intended purpose and the drafting process has been anything but transparent.

Gov. Chris Christie is no fan of COAH. He has tried his best on several occasions to get rid of the board altogether, only to later be rebuffed by the courts.

So maybe Christie isn’t the best person to speak on the need to reform COAH, but one source says a complete overhaul of the system may be in the works. How that would be structured though, is anyone’s guess.

“I think everybody realizes that it’s got to be totally reformed,” the source said. “But nobody’s taking the lead on it.”

Another source, asked about COAH, aptly summed up the state of confusion surrounding the board.

“Oh my God, what a mess,” the source said.

Bob Martin’s staying power

If it seems like Bob Martin has been at the Department of Environmental Protection for a long time, it’s because he has.

For a lifetime, in fact — at least when it comes to the shelf life of cabinet chiefs. The DEP commissioner has held the post since soon after Gov. Chris Christie took office in January 2010, and he’s the last major department head still standing after Christie’s re-election.

Only Christie can truly say why — other top agencies are on their second and third commissioners of the Christie era — but business interests certainly aren’t complaining.

One source said that previous governors — mainly Democratic ones — “put the environment way out ahead of the economy when they’re making up their priorities.” And that translated to the leadership at DEP, which for years was nothing more than an anathema to developers.

Business leaders have seen the opposite in recent years: “I think Christie and his guy Martin say ‘Hey, you know what? It can’t be one way out ahead of the other. They’ve got to be working together,’” the source said.

“He’s pro-business and he’s pro-growth,” the person said. “And he sees the DEP’s role as facilitating development and growth and not stopping it.”

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