May 30, 2013 - By The Philadelphia InquirerChilly weather aside, most of the Jersey Shore's towns were back in business for the Memorial Day weekend, which was capped by another joint appearance of President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday.
Those who would criticize the "bromance" between the Democratic president and the Republican governor should consider that this is what it looks like when politicians do their jobs.
Their cooperation after Hurricane Sandy has shown how working together can bring about results. Boardwalks can be rebuilt; homes and businesses restored. Tossing partisanship aside and getting to the job of reinvigorating a $38 billion tourism economy helps everyone.
But troubling issues remain. Some of the Shore's less affluent residents and second-home owners may not be able to afford to rebuild. Insurance settlements have been slow to come for many of the owners and renters of the 360,000 apartments and houses damaged by the storm, and work on them is only beginning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to finalize the flood maps that will tell property owners whether they must elevate their structures or face dramatically higher insurance rates. Businesses and homes still have plywood facades. A potential exodus of the Shore's working class threatens its everyman appeal.
Christie has wisely put forward $300 million to buy out residents who want to walk away. And he has counseled rebuilding to stringent standards.
But the governor has yet to address climate change in a meaningful way. He won't even admit that it heralds more threats to the state's 127 miles of coastline. Without acknowledging that, how can state officials do a better job planning for the next extreme weather event?
Still, much of the news from the unofficial start of the Jersey Shore's first post-Sandy summer is hopeful. Last fall, Christie and Obama walked through scenes of devastation. On Tuesday, they admired recovery successes backed by $3.5 billion in national flood insurance payouts and $1 billion in federal beach replenishment funds.
Yes, the Christie-Obama joint appearance was staged to an extent, and it had political value for both men. But it also offered a symbol of cooperation not seen often enough in American politics. It was a pleasant break from political rancor against the backdrop of a vacation destination that's back on its feet and ready for the crowds.
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