The upcoming referendum in Hoboken may well be like a scene out of the film “Back to the Future II,” in which Dr. Brown tries to explain to Marty McFly how they wound up in an alternative future. For the two heroes of the film to get back to the reality where they belong, they have go back in time and change the event that caused the alternate reality to happen.
Hoboken voters will have a similar opportunity to help reverse a clever political scheme that allowed Mayor Dawn Zimmer to win reelection with far less than 50 percent of the overall vote.
Under the old system that included runoffs, the top two contenders in a municipal election would be required to run against each other so that one or the other gets more than 50 percent of votes cast. In 2012, Zimmer successfully managed to get a referendum passed that eliminated runoff elections in time for her reelection in 2013.
The referendum passed partly with the help of Mother Nature, since Superstorm Sandy made traditional voting difficult, and the state allowed alternative voting efforts that appeared to benefit that part of the population in favor of Zimmer’s plan.
Ravi Bhalla’s mayoral victory in 2017 from a crowded field of candidates, in which he won with less than 35 percent of the vote, made some rethink the wisdom of the original referendum. Voters in November will get their chance to go back in time and correct what some believe created an alternative political future in Hoboken. Barring another superstorm, this referendum may well give a better assessment of the public’s position on runoff elections.
Roque buys a summer home in Weehawken
West New York Mayor Felix Roque has become the talk of the town – not West New York, but Weehawken.
He has purchased a large house near historic Hamilton Plaza and has begun extensive renovations. He calls it his “summer house,” although some of his political opponents are raising questions as to what he might really be up to.
Roque announced last week that he intends to seek reelection as a Commissioner in West New York – despite the fact that most of the other commissioners are opposed to him.
Roque also broke ties with Rep. Albio Sires, who as former mayor is still hugely popular in WNY.
Sires reportedly is supporting one of the other commissioners for mayor in the 2019 municipal election. In a commission form of government, people vote for commissioners and then the commissions select a mayor from one of their own.
Roque may well be trying to cling to his seat. But he apparently is at odds with Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who is Sires’ chief of staff.
This move to Weehawken may well be the start of a political uprising against Turner with Roque at the head of a future alternative ticket.
Absent without leave?
A Hudson County Democratic Organization rally (HCDO) in early September was a lot like Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” (a popular song in the early 1970s describing a who’s who of musical talent that came out for a performance by Nelson at Madison Square Garden).
The HCDO brought out nearly every Democratic leader in Hudson County (including Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli who runs as an Independent) to help support the reelection of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez.
The event featured an appearance of Gov. Phil Murphy as well as the newly named HCDO Chair Amy DeGise, her father County Executive Tom DeGise, the mayors of nearly every town, and other state and local officials.
County workers were “encouraged” to appear at this rally – suggesting that they might be frowned upon in the future if they did not.
The most curious moment came when state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack took to the stage. Stack made reference to his failed attempt to become HCDO chair calling it “a family dispute.” Stack went on to say that Democrats had to support Menendez in November.
The family dispute, however, had repercussions that were made obvious by the absence of WNY Mayor Roque and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Stack, Roque, Fulop, and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla had attempted a political coup against County Executive Tom DeGise earlier this year. But the bad feelings go deeper because Menendez apparently believes Fulop tried to exploit Menendez’ legal troubles to possibly take his seat in the U.S. Senate. Roque’s recent dispute with Rep. Albio Sires, a strong Menendez ally, has also put him in the political dog house.
Battle in Bayonne
The Bayonne Board of Education election is all about naming the new schools superintendent.
This may figure into the intensity of this race, and why tickets are seeking to get as many of their team mates in. But it has also created some bitter feelings because candidates, who helped each other in the past, currently find themselves at odds – especially when it comes to endorsements.
Some of this is a spillover from the municipal election, where those who supported Mayor Jimmy Davis or his challenger Jason O’Donnell are now backing candidates for the board.
Some candidates who are running this year helped support other candidates in past elections and hoped they could get support in the way of endorsements. But the new political alignments appear to forcing people to pick side and betray pervious relationships.
Selecting a new superintendent will have a ripple effect in the school district as far as new hiring, promotions, and other patronage.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.