Courage and vision is what makes a true leader
Jul 03, 2007 | 665 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dear Editor,

Two years ago Hoboken's reform movement looked dead. Carol Marsh and her three City Council running mates, Ines Garcia Keim, Tony Soares and Brian Urbano, had just been defeated in their bid to bring responsible government to Hoboken. Theresa Minutillo had lost her bid for School Board. They'd run a strong, principled, grassroots campaigns and were able to beat three mayoral contenders and thirteen council candidates to reach the run-off - but ultimately they lost to Mayor Roberts and the political establishment, including Hoboken Democratic Committee and Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO). Yes, the reformers won a few skirmishes that year but had ultimately lost the war.

A year later there was a beacon of light when Theresa Minutillo ran again for School Board with Kids First's support and this time was triumphant.

Fast forward to today. The movement for reform in Hoboken is thriving. Three Kids First candidates - Carrie Gilliard, Rose Merkle and Tricia Snyder - were elected in April to join Theresa Minutillo, Francis Rhodes Kearns, and Frank Raia in creating a coalition for positive change on the Board of Education. On the City Council, three candidates who had been part of Marsh for Mayor in 2005 were just elected - Peter Cunningham, Beth Mason, and Dawn Zimmer. Cunningham, Mason and Zimmer each ran independent campaigns and advanced independent priorities while maintaining a focus on fiscal responsibility, open space and responsible development. All nine of these elected officials is - in their own way - a true reformer and Hoboken will be better for their leadership for years to come.

As if that wasn't enough, there have been equally exciting changes in the HCDO and the Hoboken Democratic Committee. Far from being obstacles to reform, these organizations - in Hoboken at least - have become forces for positive change. Dozens of independent voices ran for Democratic Committee seats. Many of us won and now form a majority voice on the Hoboken Executive Board.

And the HCDO? This year they didn't help entrenched incumbents opposing reform, instead they championed open space and ethics reform and gave crucial last minute support to Dawn Zimmer to help her - along with her myriad of supporters - earn her 6-vote victory.

It is easy to see that this change in the direction of the HCDO comes from many sources, Bernard Kenney, Tom DeGise and Sal Vega among them but still wouldn't have happened without the courage and leadership of long-term, committed reformers like Carol Marsh. Carol clearly understood the lessons of 2005 - Hoboken is not an isolated island - reformers need allies outside of Hoboken if we hope to succeed in creating lasting reform and a stronger, better Hoboken. So when the HCDO reached out to Carol, she shared with me that she saw an opportunity to build bridges. I believe that Carol's run for Assembly and the commitment, competence and grace she showed throughout, went a long way toward ending the knee-jerk support for Hoboken entrenched incumbents that the HCDO has shown support for in years past. And Carol's name on the ballot brought new voters into the Democratic Party and helped a coalition of reform committee candidates led by Ernie Marmer to extraordinary success. Carol Marsh took an ultimately unwinable race for Assembly and turned it into a win for all of us - lost a battle but won the war. That kind of courage and vision is what makes a true leader.

One of the greatest gifts I received this year has been working with so many people who feel the same way I do: they love Hoboken and are passionate about making it the best place to live for everyone. I thank Carol, Ernie, Peter, Theresa, Dawn, and so many, many more for all your support and I look forward to working with you on the future of Hoboken.

Ryn Melberg
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