You would have thought that a king was being crowned in Jersey City on Monday as crowds gathered to usher in a new era in Jersey City government with the swearing in of Steven Fulop as mayor and a city council over which his administration seems to have control.
In some ways, descriptions of people in the crowd make this swearing in seem more like a coronation, to be rivaled only by the swearing in of Brian Stack as Hudson County freeholder more than a decade ago.
This passion for Fulop seems a bit strange. Yet after years of being the up and coming one in Jersey City politics, it is difficult not to go overboard when the event so many hoped for actually transpires.
But a line from the classic TV sitcom “Married with Children” may serve as warning to those who think such crowds will remain loyal through thick and thin: “Where did they get the torches and pitchforks so fast?”
Fulop will need to prove himself quickly in order to keep the adoring crowds from becoming an angry mob – and keep in mind that Christ had a mere week from when palms were being cast before the feet of his donkey and when He was hammered onto a cross.
Several observers who like Fulop said he was overshadowed by some of the power brokers who attended the event, such as Gov. Christopher Christie, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, and even Fulop’s staunch ally, Freeholder Bill O’Dea. With Cory Booker among the dignitaries, Fulop had a lot of competition for stardom.
But in the end, Fulop’s speech seemed to distinguish him, outlining an ambitious agenda that some described as “Kennedyesque” from the Peace Corps era, maybe beyond the ability of a mayor to accomplish.
“This is very noble stuff, he wants to do,” one source said, noting that while Fulop wants to be inclusive to people of color, the majority of people in the crowd were white.
But more importantly, Fulop has the ability to finally rid Jersey City of the last vestiges of the old Boss Frank Hague political machine.
As heated at the election was, Fulop and Menendez were gracious to outgoing Mayor Jerramiah Healy, and Healy appeared equally gracious to Fulop.
Although the event brought together dignitaries from far and wide, most notably absent were state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith. Forced to sit near each other were Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her mayoral opponent, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos – a somewhat uncomfortable arrangement considering some of the behind-the-scenes rhetoric already being spewed.
The media frenzy over Fulop may be attributed to his being a young mayor of a major eastern city, but some believe he resembles Dennis Kucinich, who was elected at age 30 as mayor of Cleveland – someone who never managed to live up to the hype.
How Hoboken keeps time
Carmelo Garcia, of the Hoboken Housing Authority, may need to get a new watch since the one he has appears to be malfunctioning. Apparently running 25 minutes too fast on the day the Housing Authority opened a new water park, the watch allowed Garcia to cut the ribbon before Mayor Zimmer and other dignitaries could arrive. Fortunately, the other dignitaries held their own photo opportunity. Garcia is backing Ramos against Zimmer in the November election.
Later, residents of Housing Authority buildings who are also supporting Ramos, held a protest outside one of the more upscale residential developments in the city – but showed up two hours late.
There is a lot of race baiting going on behind the scenes as Ramos supporters try to paint Zimmer’s opposition to expansion of the public housing as a race issue, pitting rich against poor.
Freeholder Anthony Romano has a tough choice to make. He is apparently being courted by former school trustee Frank Raia to head a third ticket for the November municipal election.
But running a third ticket will only mean Ramos will lose, since Zimmer is seen as a significant frontrunner.
With Councilman Ravi Bhalla eyeing Romano’s freeholder seat, Romano won’t get anything from Zimmer for the effort, but will enrage Ramos and his supporters.
His best shot would be to back Ramos – if upcoming poll numbers show Ramos has a chance, although most likely Romano will likely have to sit out the whole election.
A last ditch effort might have Romano and Raia running as candidates for City Council, but no one in their right mind would actually want a city council seat these days.
Bayonne’s mystery candidate?
Rumors are that someone new to politics will run for mayor of Bayonne next spring. People are keeping who this candidate is a secret – saying they do not want to expose him to the political backlash too soon.
Reports are that Mayor Smith will not seek reelection and may even resign at some point in late September, allowing some appointed person to take the seat until the May election, running as an incumbent.
Jason O’Donnell, however, said Smith has opened his reelection campaign account, which is usually an indication that a candidate intends to run.
Behind the scenes, however, some still believe that there is a conflict inside the Smith administration with 3rd Ward Councilman Ray Greaves and 2nd Ward Councilman Joe Hurley vying to replace Smith.