If anyone thinks the next police chief of Hoboken won’t be a person very close to Mayor Dawn Zimmer, then I have a bridge to sell them.
The Zimmer administration has changed the rules, allowing lieutenants to qualify for police chief for the first time in Hoboken history. This may be because a captain who is best qualified to become chief is not considered a Zimmer zealot, and a close study of Zimmer appointments show that most, if not all, are close Zimmer allies.
This, of course, makes selection of a new police chief in Hoboken deeply political – not a novel concept, but one that explains why some people who worked with Zimmer in the past feel betrayed, and why some in the Democratic Party are pushed to eject Zimmer committeepeople from key or leadership positions.
This is something of a ghost dance for anti-Zimmer forces, who split during last November’s municipal election and allowed Zimmer to retain power.
And while the “Old Guard,” as it is sometimes called, got behind Anthony Romano for the freeholder primary to defeat Zimmer acolyte Phil Cohen, their infighting may hurt them in the fall when they need to defend the two remaining school board seats they possess.
“The most we can gain is one seat, and that’s far from control of the board,” said one source. “We’re mostly trying to hold our own.”
The school board election will also set the tone for the mid-term municipal elections in November 2015, at which point the Old Guard will have a similar problem. Right now, they have four out of nine seats on the council. Six of the nine seats are up for grabs. Zimmer supporters are focusing their attention on beating Councilwoman Beth Mason in the 2nd Ward. Meanwhile, 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who often opposes Zimmer, could nevertheless face opposition from any number of candidates favorable to the Old Guard, including Ruben Ramos or even Carmelo Garcia.
Indeed, the handwriting is on the wall already for Garcia, who is currently the paid executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority. He has become the number one target for the Zimmer-appointed Housing Authority board members who are sniffing in every corner and under every rug for anything they might use to support removing him as director.
Garcia is currently a state assemblyman. But as with a number of previous assemblymen who have had the dubious pleasure of serving alongside state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Garcia may be a one-term assemblyman. Knowing he will eventually be cast out of both jobs, Garcia might just consider running for City Council – something he might well be able to achieve.
Who will replace Albiez?
The big question of the week is what Stack will do to replace Mark Albiez, who has been his right-hand man for almost five years. Albiez isn’t just a capable administrator, helping to manage much of the nuts and bolts programs in Union City, but he is also a key political brain, someone who has helped a number of key figures over the last few years.
During the war between Stack and most of the other Hudson County Democrats a few years ago, the strategy to bring down Stack was to get those immediately below Stack on the political pyramid. This was called the “legs to the chair” theory. For a time it worked. A number of key people left or were driven out of the Stack camp, but Albiez and a handful of others remained.
Last year, Christopher Irizarry moved out of Union City, and for the most part, Stack’s power base was balanced on the back of Albiez.
Albiez is joining the administration of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop as one more key piece in a political move to run for governor. The loss for Stack is immeasurable. Who Stack will turn to next remains a mystery.
Bayonne is rebuilding its government
Newly-elected Bayonne Mayor James Davis has a rare opportunity to entirely reinvent the city’s government. This isn’t only because a number of political people need to be removed and replaced, but also because a number of people – holdovers from Mayor Joe Doria or even before – may decide this will be a good time to retire.
Fortunately, Mayor Davis picked a good ticket to run with that includes veteran Councilman Gary La Pelusa, but the real gem in the rough is Council President Sharon Nadrowski. She brings a lot of personal knowledge to the administration.
The changes to government will come on several levels. The “Circle of Five” was replaced immediately that included Joe Waks, Jason O’Donnell, Steve Gallo, and Charles D’Amico. These five were the inner core of the Mayor Mark Smith’s political machine. Smith also relied on two county operators, Harold Demellier and Craig Guy. Gallo, who has a contract with the city until October as the executive director of the Municipal Utilities Authority, has been relocated to an office at the MUA building.
Letters were apparently issued this week to five more employees that were the next layer of the Smith’s pecking order, each of whom were told that their position would be eliminated within 45 days.
Fulop as super hero?
A curious post by one of the bloggers in Jersey City claimed that while the city is going to “hell in a hand basket,” Mayor Steve Fulop is busy climbing tall buildings or swimming across the Hudson River.
The week saw shootings and stabbings, the death of a police officer, and a mounting crisis with street gangs. The blogger assumed Fulop is focused on running for governor. But leaping tall buildings with a single bound seems to suggest maybe he’s trying out for Superman.
It may take a Superman to resolve the deep divide between wealthy and poor neighborhoods, and it will likely take monumental efforts by his administration to win the trust of people who see themselves left out of the good life generated by the wealthier part of the city.
The blogger is right in that Fulop may need to turn his attention closer to home. Otherwise, he may become a new Nero fiddling while Jersey City burns.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.