Between the lines Will L. Harvey Smith run again?
by Al Sullivan Reporter political columnist
Jun 03, 2006 | 392 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While it may be too early to predict a political rebirth for L. Harvey Smith, former council president, acting mayor and state senator candidate, people have been mentioning him after the victory of his close political ally, Ed Cheatham for the Jersey City School Board.

Smith during a recent interview said he always tried to do the right thing when it came to government - even when faced with personal attacks.

"I've always tried to handle the business at hand," he said. "And I've always drawn a line between a good idea and politics."

Although he sometimes had political disagreements with Mayor Glenn Cunningham, even going as far as to run against Cunningham for state Senate in 2003, Smith remembers moments when he and Cunningham came together on issues, such as the city's possible purchase of the Block Drug property.

"We did a walk through and it made sense," Smith recalled. "And it must have been a good idea because the county hopped on it later."

Smith, of course, served as acting mayor after Cunningham's unfortunately early death, and sought a term of his own in hopes he could explore some of ideas he had for helping the city.

Many of the problems facing the city today, he said he saw coming and had made plans to address, both as councilman and acting mayor - such as refinancing bonds and dealing with insurance, and lobbying to change the way the city taxes. A lot of the burden he said falls on the shoulders of home owners, when there are better ways.

"While I was conservative in my approach, I didn't run from problems, I dealt with them head on, while others let them fester," Smith said. "We can handle anything if we prepare for them early."

Smith said development should not gentrify people, who are working hard to keep their homes.

"You can't kick people out of town," he said. "But a lot of people don't want to hear that."

Blue collar workers - even underpaid white collar workers - should not be forced out by new development.

"I think we need to take care of our own first," Smith said, calling his administration one that was open and one that always sought the best solution to problems people faced everyday.

Smith's name has been mentioned by prominent people in the Hudson County Democratic Organization as a possible replacement candidate to Assemblyman Charles Epps.

Freeholder split

What happened during the budget introduction at the Hudson County Freeholder meeting in mid-May?

In a move to stall the introduction of the county budget, the Freeholders split with Bayonne and Jersey City voting to delay the budget for 30 days while an independent audit was conducted to look at county spending. The idea was to find a possible way to reduce the impact of tax increases to Jersey City.

Freeholder Sal Vega thought he had the five votes necessary to keep the proposal off the agenda but was unexpectedly bushwhacked by Hoboken/Jersey City Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons who abstained.

"I didn't get too mad at him," Vega joked later. "I only threw one chair at his head." Eventually, the Freeholders accepted the budget on time. But the vote had a lot of curious developments behind the scenes. Apparently Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy contacted Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria for support on delaying the budget. Doria agreed. Doria faces reelection for the state Senate next year most likely against Ward F's Sandra Cunningham. With two thirds of his district in Ward F, the last thing Doria needs is to be seen piling taxes onto Jersey City.

Healy also reached out to Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts, who promised his support, after whom Healy turned to Union City Mayor Brian Stack, but couldn't get through to him.

The resolution not to accept the budget was an innovation by Freeholder Bill O'Dea, who leaped into the fray with his usual gusto.

Apparently Bayonne Freeholder Maureen DiDomenico got caught between loyalties, her mayor and chairman Vega, but in the end supported Doria's request.

Meanwhile the people behind County Executive Tom DeGise - fearful of an embarrassing confrontation began calling around the county warning people to get in line. Although Union City Freeholder Tilo Rivas initially voted with Vega, Stack apparently was expected to support Healy, if only to be consistent. Union City routinely voted against the county budget, and with Union City facing a county tax increase, political war was on the horizon.

At that point, Fitzgibbons apparently called up Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, asking him to act as peace maker. DeGise didn't have the votes on the freeholder board. Turner worked behind the scenes, talking to DeGise, and to others, telling them they did not want a Democratic civil war prior to the primary. The war was averted. DeGise and Healy came to the meeting as friends. The freeholders accepted the budget.

Secaucus

Even before the Democratic primary settles who will run for Secaucus town council on the Democratic slate, a split in the opposition is being rumored.

While Democrats struggle to see whether incumbent Councilman Mike Grecco or his challenger Robert Zych will run for First Ward on a slate that includes Incumbent Second Ward Councilman Robert Kickey and council hopeful John Shinnick in the Third Ward, opposition candidates seem to be divided. Although the only officially declared independent candidate is Tom Troyer, who said he will be running in the second ward, independents apparently are trying to put together a ticket that could see former Councilman George Heflich in the First Ward, Department of Public Works Superintendent Michael Gonnelli in the Second Ward and Dr. Robert Berkes in the Third Ward.

The question is: Will Troyer drop out of the race?

If he does, you can bet he will wait until 3:59 p.m. on June 13, the last possible minute to make sure Gonnelli remains in the race.

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