Although City Council members may have shed some tears (even crocodile tears) over the departure of Councilwoman Carol Marsh earlier this month, it was soon back to the brutal business of Hoboken politics when it came to naming who should replace her.
Prepared to break a tie vote in naming Jim Doyle, Mayor Dawn Zimmer even voted, although the vote was apparently not registered since Councilwoman Beth Mason – who was expected to vote against Doyle – did not attend the meeting, and Doyle’s appointment passed by 4-2-1 (Councilman Michael Russo abstained, adding one more twist to an already twisted political process).
Critics of Doyle claim he is anti-development, while supporters claim he supports “reasonable” development, whatever that means.
The truth is, his appointment continues Zimmer’s control of the City Council, frustrating the opponents who lost control in the 2011 elections and have been sniping from behind trees and rocks ever since.
Anti-Zimmer council members promise litigation over the appointment, saying that the replacement needed a super majority vote – five votes – rather than the simple majority of four. This silliness, of course, gets old very soon, since Zimmer was on hand to cast the deciding vote that would have given the appointment the necessary fifth vote. The fact that Zimmer voted anyway even dismayed her own council people because she is only entitled to vote if there is a tie.
This vote comes because Marsh waited until after the Sept. 1 deadline to announce her resignation, just one more political stunt in a city notorious for political stunts, but savvy nonetheless, because it removed from voters an opportunity to reconfigure the council at least until next year’s elections – which could be in May, or next November if voters next month approve the referendum shifting local elections to November.
Doyle would stay on as councilman for the extra six months if voters pass this referendum. Most observers believe voters will approve the move. What is more challenging is the second referendum, the one that would do away with runoff elections and thus allow any candidate who wins by one or more votes to take a mayoral or council seat, even if many candidates run for one office.
While this might sound like a good thing, cutting the costs associated with elections by removing one more, in truth, runoff elections make certain that the candidates who are elected actually have a majority of the public vote, and they also allow the public to avoid those stealth candidates who will steal votes from opponents, thus distorting who the public actually supports.
What happens if and when Roque steps down?
An even bloodier fight is expected in West New York if Mayor Felix Roque actually steps down as mayor, taking the deal the feds are said to have offered him. Rumors suggest that Roque has been given until either Nov. 1 or Nov. 15 to step down in order to avoid any jail time for himself or his son. Both have been charged with hacking into an anti-Roque website, something Roque denies doing. But if Roque intends to take the deal, it is not obvious, since he’s scheduled a birthday bash for Nov. 15 at the ritzy Venetian in Garfield.
Accepting a guilty plea means Roque would lose a majority of his medical practice, at least for the duration of the probation, likely because of restrictions on Medicare and Medicaid. Not taking the deal means a tough trial which he and his son might lose.
Stepping down would begin a political circus that would rival even Hoboken’s best, because in shifting his commissioners last May, Roque put Fior D’Aliza Frias as next in line of power, and as acting mayor she would oversee the vote as to who will serve as mayor until a special election puts the choice in the hands of voters.
Each commissioner would likely nominate someone for this post, and unless someone can come up with a majority of votes – three of the four – then Frias would continue on as interim mayor until the special election.
At this point, Roque and others have taken aim at Commissioner Count Wiley, partly because he has already started fundraising while Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, seen as the frontrunner to become mayor, has not. Wiley has been accused of using North Bergen workers to paint his office in an attempt to somehow tie him to the crimes of which his father, James, was found guilty in North Bergen.
Roque said during a phone interview last week that the painting of the office and possible other infractions were part of the reason why he moved Wiley out as commissioner of the Department of Public Works last June. But Wiley said this was just an attempt to damage Wiley after Wiley announced his recall effort of Roque, noting that if this was an issue in June, Roque would have announced it then, not after Wiley’s father went public.
Those close to the Wiley campaign say the change of departments came after hacking charges were revealed and this was an effort by Roque to make certain that his close ally Frias was next in line for power.
Although there are four possible candidates for mayor that include Wiley, Rodriquez, Richard Rivera and Chuck Benacore, Wiley dismisses Rivera and Benacore as not viable, and sees the race between himself and Rodriguez.
If true, then Wiley would need powerful allies and a lot of grass root support to make up for the strong support Rodriguez can expect from Rep. Albio Sires, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and possibly even State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
To this end, Wiley has been working the waterfront as well as making friends in the Latino community, and recently walked in the Latino parade with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who Wiley said he supports in the upcoming election.
Wiley has a fundraiser scheduled at Las Palmas in West New York the same day as Mayor Roque’s birthday party and is hoping for a good a turnout or better than the one in which he announced the recall last month.
Elsewhere in Hudson County
State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack is rumored to be looking for new Assembly running mates next year, possibly as many as two because Assemblymen Sean Connors and Ruben Ramos are looking at running in local elections. Connors is apparently being courted by Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy for a slot on his council ticket, while Ramos apparently wants to run against Zimmer for mayor in Hoboken next year.
One possible candidate for state Assembly is Hoboken Councilwoman Mason, who Zimmer forces are gearing up against, even though her reelection isn’t until 2015.
Also on the agenda is the Secaucus municipal election next November and the question of whether long-time Councilman John Bueckner will run. Although named as part of Mayor Michael Gonnelli’s ticket, Bueckner may decide not to run.