Appellate court rules Zimmer’s Doyle appointment illegal, offering clearer definition of ‘abstention’
The appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey on Friday ruled that Jim Doyle, the man Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer chose to fill a vacated seat on the city council last fall but who has yet to attend a meeting, could not legally join the council. The decision marks the end of one of the city’s longest-lasting political showdowns in recent memory, but leaves unanswered serious questions about the productivity of the city’s legislative body for the remainder of its current session, which will end following upcoming November elections.
The appellate court’s ruling reversed a previous decision regarding several council votes that would have appointed Doyle. The previous decision had defined the abstentions of Zimmer’s opponents on the council – Second Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason and Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo – as votes against Doyle. On Friday, the appellate court said none of the votes were legitimate because a tie-breaking vote was unnecessary. The tie-breaker was not needed because the abstentions by Russo and Mason had not been considered as votes against Doyle.
The Doyle saga began when former Councilwoman-at-Large Carol Marsh resigned from her seat in October, resulting in an eight-member council, split evenly along pro- and anti-Zimmer lines. From October to December, Zimmer’s faction – consisting of Council President Peter Cunningham, Council Vice President Jen Giattino, and Councilmen-at-Large Ravinder “Ravi” Bhalla and David Mello – attempted on three occasions to seat Doyle via tie-breaking votes by Zimmer.
The anti-Zimmer faction, led by Mason and Russo but also consisting of First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano and Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti, sued Zimmer and her allies on the council over the appointment, arguing that their abstentions should not count as votes against Doyle (thus allowing Zimmer the go-ahead to break the tie). Instead, the abstentions should not be counted as votes at all, according to the anti-Zimmer faction. At subsequent meetings in October, Russo and Mason were either absent from the meetings or abstained from the vote, leading Zimmer’s allies to consider the votes as 4-4 ties.
The appellate division sided with Mason and Russo, citing the 1876 legal statute “Robert’s Rules of Order,” which the city employs to govern its legislative proceedings. In “Robert’s Rules,” an abstention is defined as “an oxymoron, an abstention being a refusal to vote. To abstain means to refrain from voting, and, as a consequence, there can be no such thing as an ‘abstention vote.’”
Under “Robert’s Rules,” none of Zimmer’s tie-breaking votes were legal because none were 4-4 ties. Due to the abstentions, all would have been either four in favor, two against, one abstention or one absence, or four in favor, two against, and two abstaining.
The decision bodes poorly for Mayor Zimmer, who hoped to seat an ally on the council prior to naming a running mate in the upcoming November mayoral and council elections, but also for the city itself, which has been the victim of a political standstill due to continued stagnancy in the council chambers since Marsh stepped down. Countless important votes have ended in 4-4 ties, including those dealing with Hurricane Sandy relief and the city’s budget, which was only recently adopted after months of deliberation.
On Friday, Zimmer said that despite the ruling, her opponents’ tactics were not in the best interests of the city.
“The appellate division ruled that it’s legal to obstruct an appointment, and [that decision] will leave the city council deadlocked for 15 months,” she said, referring to the time period between last October and Jan. 1, 2014, when new council members will be sworn in. “While the court said it’s legally permissible, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for the city.”
Mason issued a press release Friday morning condemning Zimmer and her allies for using what she called “scare tactics” to mislead the public, and defended herself against claims that suing the city resulted in a deadlocked council.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. My position has always been simple, I will support the Mayor when she is right and oppose her when she is wrong,” she said. “The political bosses in City Hall may not like it, but my loyalty has and always will belong to the people not to them.”
Marsh’s still-vacant at-Large council seat will be up for grabs in the November council election. Zimmer is expected to name a candidate for the seat to her slate, but no opposition candidates have yet been announced. – Dean DeChiaro
Freeholders approve new traffic pattern for Hoboken streets
The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a new traffic pattern in southern Hoboken that will prohibit movement from eastbound Newark Street to northbound Madison Street, from northbound Madison Street to westbound Observer Highway, where No Left Turns signs will be posted.
Movement will be prohibited from northbound Madison Street beyond the Observer Highway/Madison Street intersection.
The city of Hoboken wishes to permanently keep Madison Street open to vehicular traffic between Newark Street and Observer Highway one way.
The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders endorsed the concept of providing a traffic pattern that they hoped would alleviate traffic congestion in those areas.
Thomas Kennedy, former Hoboken councilman and American Legion commander, dead at 79
Thomas M. Kennedy, a 26-year veteran of the Hoboken Police Department who served on the city council from 1977 until 1985, passed away at Hoboken University Medical Center last Thursday. He was 79.
A former Marine, Kennedy also served as the commander of the Hoboken American Legion, Post 107 and was also a member of the Hoboken Elks. He retired from the police department in 1988.
Kennedy was deeply involved in his community, and was honored as the grand marshal of the Hoboken Memorial Day Parade in 1968 and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1994.
Kennedy is survived by his wife of 49 years, Mary Ann, his sons Hoboken Police Sgt. Thomas M. Kennedy Jr., Port Authority Detective Michael Kennedy, and two grandsons, Connor Michael, and Christopher Thomas. He is also survived by a brother, retired Hoboken Firefighter Joseph Kennedy; and a sister, Mary McCloskey. He is predeceased by two other brothers, Michael and Richard Kennedy, and his sister Ellen Brady.
Fulop takes office in Jersey City; Zimmer in attendance
Calling Jersey City a “beacon of things to come in America,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in his July 1 inaugural address that education, job training, business development, and ethical governance would be among the cornerstones of his administration.
“Jersey City must not only improve the education of our children, but we also must align the training of skills to the creation of jobs,” Fulop told a crowd of thousands after taking the oath of office. “Working with labor and business, houses of worship and nonprofits, Jersey City will link training to jobs for the benefit of our families.”
Fulop has been deeply involved in education for the past several years. In each of the last three years Fulop’s political machine has pulled together and endorsed slates of candidates for the Board of Education, and in each of these years his candidates won. The Fulop-backed board last year hired a new superintendent of schools, Dr. Marcia Lyles, who is currently part of Fulop’s transition team.
Later in his inaugural address, Mayor Fulop said, “After education and workforce training, a second priority [of my administration will be to increase] private capital investment to enhance the economic quality of life of our communities … While we continue to attract investment in our city, we have a responsibility, and duty, to ensure that capital investment is matched with an investment in the training.”
Taking a comical swipe at some of Jersey City’s past administrations, Fulop finished his inaugural address by saying, “Recognizing the rich and colorful legacy of many of Jersey City's past mayors, my commitment is to lead an ethical and competent city government.”
Fulop’s predecessor, former Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy—whom Fulop defeated in the May 14 municipal election—was in attendance at the inauguration, as were many other top political figures in New Jersey, including Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Gov. Christopher Christie and Sen. Robert Menendez both made remarks during the ceremony. – E. Assata Wright
American Cancer Society looking for teams for Oct. walk in Jersey City
The American Cancer Society is looking for people to participate in its annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Jersey City. The walk will take place in Liberty State Park on Sunday, October 20 at 8 a.m. As of press time last week, 28 local teams had signed up for the event.
Each year, nearly 300 communities across the country, including Jersey City, participate in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks. According to the American Cancer Society, which is celebrating its centennial year, Making Strides is the largest network of events to benefit breast cancer research in the nation. These walks unite thousands of cancer survivors, caregivers, the friends and family members of women who have battled the disease, and others whose lives have been touched by this disease.
In addition to team participants, the American Cancer Society is also looking for volunteers and sponsors for the October Making Strides event in Jersey City.
For more information on Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Jersey City, visit http://makingstrideswalk.org/jerseycity or e-mail JerseyCity.Strides@cancer.org.