A number of people were surprised last week when they discovered Don DeLeo’s name was not going to be on the June Democratic Primary ballot.
For the first time in almost 25 years, someone else’s name appeared in the Democratic line for Hudson County Surrogate.
In a year in which county government has become front and center in the political three-ring circus, many might have suspected the worst – that DeLeo had been forced out the way some of the freeholders had.
This is not the case, DeLeo said.
“I’m leaving on my own,” he said, although he also said he would miss it terribly.
After so long in a job he loved, it’s hard to walk away from it.
“But I’m 77 years old and this is for a five-year term, and I’m didn’t want to make the commitment for another five years,” he said.
As surrogate judge, DeLeo mostly dealt with death and its aftermath, and so DeLeo still has other things he wants to do before he steps off – as Shakespeare puts it – this mortal coil.
“I deal with death every day,” he said. “I’ve very lucky to have served as long as I have and I’m proud of what my office has done. But people this age drop dead at any time. Look at what happened with Ray McDonough (former Mayor of Harrison who died in office earlier this year). I still have things I want to do. I don’t want to commit to another five years. I’d be 83 when I’m done.”
DeLeo’s decision, if anything, stunned a number of political figures because, like the general public, they saw DeLeo as something of an institution, someone who had perfected constituent services for a very vulnerable portion of the community, people who have lost loved ones and must deal with the economic reality of inheritance, wills, and other legal matters.
DeLeo knows all the statistics about life expectancy, and even noted that half the people who reach the age of 85 suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
“I have to figure out how much longer I have,” he said. “This was a hard decision to make. I love what I do. All I do and my staff does is help people who are dealing with death. Except for a small percentage of people who come to my office for adoption reasons, no one who comes through my doors comes here happy.”
Over the years, he has had a free hand to shape the office into something that concentrated on the needs of those who came in, and for that, he said, he is very grateful.
What the heck is up with the WNY Parking Authority?
Rumors that Richard Rivera would be asked to step down as the director of the Parking Authority in West New York proved unfounded when the Parking Authority board failed to vote for him to leave. This means that he will likely work until the end of his contract – which ends in June.
A change of priorities in the Roque administration appears to want to replace Rivera with someone more in line with the new political regime. Since Rivera was brought on as director in early 2013, the Roque administration has re-established its political alliances with Rep. Albio Sires, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and state Sen. Nicholas Sacco. Insiders say that Rivera does not fit in with the new team.
Shrugging off the political changes, Rivera said it was time for him to separate from governmental work and get back to his advocacy work – which has been his focus for more than a decade.
But the WNY Parking Authority appears to have other problems that have nothing to do with Rivera, and may soon lead to a showdown with a newly reorganized city administration. The city is particularly critical of the Parking Authority’s consideration of a development project that some city officials believe should be rejected. Legal eagles for both the city and the Parking Authority may soon come out swinging with legal opinions. This may lead to a review of the membership of the Parking Authority.
Bread-and-butter issues may decide Bayonne election
While a pothole on 53rd Street and Broadway in Bayonne may not decide this year’s election, it may symbolize what is going on behind the scenes.
At the bus stop in front of the Broadway Diner recently, people huddled against the rain, only to have a speeding car hit the pothole and send a spray of dirty water onto the waiting pedestrians. A woman, wiping muddy water from her pink jumpsuit, asked: “What’s wrong with this town?” Across the street, union members were picketing a construction site for not using union labor.
“And this is supposed to be a union town,” said one of the men as people in passing vehicles beeped their horns in support.
Some Smith insiders said they’ve been frustrated by the project there, saying the administration has tried to get union workers employed on the project—to no avail.
This was the same week that the pipe fitters union endorsed Mayor Mark Smith and his ticket for reelection.
The Smith team sees smooth sailing to reelection based on its own polling data. But there is another poll that they seemed to have missed, an apparent dissatisfaction that isn’t reflected in telephone polls or lawn signs.
For the most part, The Smith campaign is selling the idea that Bayonne is on the mend, and the literature is rife with success stories and new development. Opposition candidate James Davis is selling the idea that the Smith Administration has failed to live up to the promises it made four years ago and cites rising water bills, the lack of a teachers’ contract, changes in utility services, and vacant stores along Broadway.
Caught in the middle of this is the third candidate, Anthony Zanowic, who is trying to provide a moderate alternative to these two extremes.
It is difficult to know if the lady in the pink jump suit from the bus stop will vote in May, or how much of an impact everyday experiences will play in the election. But it is clear that Davis and Smith see two completely different Bayonnes. Which is rooted more in reality?
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.