When you meet with business leaders and political junkies from around the state to help get names for your Power 100, you can't help but get plenty of, well, Grapevine material. Here's just some of the lowdown.
Opening thoughts from one insider: What are the big stories in the state? What are the things that NJBIZ has covered? The big things to me, other than the businesses as usual, are OMNIA, the casinos. And OMNIA and the casinos. And the 2017 race and jockeying for that.
On picking the list: I went into this list looking at power as partially interrupters, disrupters. In an Airbnb, Lyft and Uber world, who are our disrupters? Clearly what (Horizon’s) Bob Marino just did with OMNIA is disruption. So I went in with that frame of view: Who’s mixing it up and really changing the dynamics? Because some of the names are tired, and they’re really not accreting any new value. They may be sitting on some power, but if it’s dormant power, it’s like a grenade. It’s there, but it’s not active power.
On former Govs. Whitman/Kean/Florio speaking out: The sensible center is emerging. As they are getting closer to the sunset, they get a little wiser, they get much less political, and then they start to think about their legacy and their grandchildren. And they see how it’s all (B.S.).
On Gov. Christie getting the TTF done: It’s a function of putting the political muscle together. At one point, that was (Jamie Fox’s) job. He missed his moment — it’s not his fault — and the next crack at this is probably going to be easy. It’s going to go from really hard to probably very easy in one fell swoop, because there’s no middle ground. Either everybody is going to coalesce because the governor is going to come home, if he doesn’t succeed, and he’s going to look at his legacy and realize he’s got to make deals. He’s going to be in the private sector soon, so engineers and everybody else are breathing on him to get it done. And everything is weighing on him: his own personal fortunes, and legacy and labor unions, and just things being about to collapse. And if he does succeed and he moves on, you’ve got a solid Democratic voting bloc to get it done. So we’re now lurching back to the other direction, where it’s easy.
On Christie’s wakeup call to business leaders: It was well-deserved. The business community is getting their clocks cleaned. The governor was absolutely right. He was like a top coach to say to the team, ‘Get with it, man. You’re going back out on the field.’
On the lack of leadership in the front office in Trenton: It’s really a unique time, because there’s nobody on top who’s keeping an eye on things. And then you also have rookies that are playing center field in the big leagues. You’ve got the decision-making or the perception that there is real authority up top — in the governor’s office. They don’t have the skillsets to pull it off. It’s almost like a model of a corporation that goes through dramatic change at the top and doesn’t have a strong succession plan. So even the people that occupy those positions of authority, they look in the mirror and say, ‘This is too much for me.’ It’s a very interesting year, I think. A little bit challenging.
On Marino not knowing what he was getting into in Trenton: I’ve testified before legislative committees, and it’s a setup. It’s a setup in your favor or it’s against you. It’s ‘I really don’t mean to offend you, but I’m going to put an axe between your eyes.’
‘Oh, OK. Thank you, that’s very nice.’
‘And by the way, it’s going to be on TV.’
On which Democrat will run in 2017: It’s who George wants.
Grapevine: A special Power 100 edition