Gov. Christopher Christie might not have felt very comfortable coming to Jersey City last week to attend the funeral of Melvin Santiago, the police officer shot on July 13.
Part of the reason is that the shooting could have been a lot worse. The Glock handgun stolen from a security guard by the killer happened to jam before it could expend all the bullets in its clip. This allowed a Jersey City police sergeant who arrived on the scene to shoot the suspect and secure the area as the SWAT team and others determined whether or not other gunmen were involved.
Two weeks ago Christie vetoed legislation that would have limited the number of rounds allowed in a gun clip, in a move that he denied was designed to appease the powerful National Rifle Association lobby. Christie reportedly wants to run for president, and he does not need the NRA against him.
The fact that Santiago was allegedly murdered using a stolen legal handgun flies in the face of NRA rhetoric that would provide more firearms to citizens, not fewer. This firearm also had a large capacity clip that several police officers claim contained as many 45 bullets. One of the expended bullet casings jammed in the gun, which kept the killer from firing more – and possibly doing injury to even more police officers.
Mayor Steve Fulop is part of an organization of mayors seeking to limit the number of guns on the streets, and must have known during the funeral that Christie’s veto makes it more likely, not less, for future incidents. As unlucky as Jersey City was in having lost one officer in the shooting, more could have died.
“Why the hell did a security guard need a Glock?” one cop asked. “And why did he need 45 bullets?”
A chilly visit
A chill between Christie and Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was felt by a number of observers, who claimed that Christie kept as far away as possible from both mayors. This has more to do with claims that Christie has tied Superstorm Sandy recovery aid to politics. Jersey City is also suing the Port Authority over taxes Fulop believes are owed to the city. Zimmer, meanwhile, claims that two key people in the Christie Administration tried to tie Sandy aid to a development project with connections to the GOP.
School elections in November raise questions
Hoboken school board observers are gearing up for a last-ditch effort by anti-Zimmer forces to retain or gain seats on the nine-member board. Zimmer-supported candidates currently have seven to two control of the board, and the best anti-Zimmer people can hope to gain is one vote. But they have a lot to lose, because this may be their last and best chance to retain a voice for the old community.
This is not to say that the Zimmer-supported candidates are in sync. They are not. They are divided over support for or opposition to charter schools, something that has the potential to split the reform movement.
Jersey City board elections are coming up in November as well. What was assumed to be a Fulop-controlled school board (because he helped so many of them get elected) has since gone their own way over some of his initiatives tied to new development. The question is whether or not Fulop will remain neutral in the upcoming election or seek to back candidates that will support his agendas.
West New York will hold its second round of board elections in November with three regular seats up for election and a special election to fill one unexpired term. But the politics that seemed to dominate the election in January have since toned down and will not likely serve as a predictor to Mayor Felix Roque’s reelection effort next fall.
Not yet on the ballot is the referendum that would change the Bayonne Board of Education from appointed to an elected one. This may be a moot point after the election of James Davis as mayor, since a lot of the momentum for an elected board evolved out of the need to settle a teacher’s contract there. Davis has vowed to see the contract settled.
Who will run for council in Secaucus?
Secaucus has the second round of municipal elections in November, and as yet, it is uncertain if the fractured Democratic Party that once opposed Mayor Michael Gonnelli will be able to field candidates. At one time, Secaucus used to have elections every year – one year for mayor and three council seats, the second year for the other three council seats. When the law changed creating four year terms, the election cycle was not staggered as in towns like Hoboken. So that last year, the mayor ran with three candidates, and this year, three seats are up. And it is unclear just who might be running. Former school trustee Tom Troyer said he will not be running for the Town Council.
While some people grumble in town, most can’t find an issue that will upset anybody supported by Gonnelli, and any disputed council seats would only likely come about if one of the existing council members decides not to run this year.
Union City Mayor Brian Stack apparently is seeking a new chief of staff after losing Mark Albiez to Fulop. A few names have emerged, but sources said few can do all that Albiez did and it will take time for Stack to find a qualified candidate.
Meanwhile, the appointment of a new police chief in Jersey City was settled this week after a lot of jockeying. Philip Zacche got the nod from Fulop. Joe Connors was a political favorite, especially among developers, but Mike Kelly was seen a strong contender. Although the title is acting chief, Zacche is expected to be named chief later.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.