Between the Lines

That’s not Santa outside on Christmas Eve!

A war of words spilled over from a marathon City Council meeting on Dec. 19, when Council President Rolando Lavarro slammed community activist Bruce Alston, who was raising questions at the podium.

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Lavarro went nuclear in his verbal attack on Alston, questioning some land deals that got Alston in legal difficulties over the last few years.

While the questions Lavarro raised had merit, it was like trying to squash a mosquito with an atom bomb.

And for Alston, this became the provocation for a Christmas Eve protest in front of Lavarro’s home.

Lavarro’s patience with gadflies has grown very thin lately, especially when they are critical of him and the administration the way Alston routinely has been.

Perhaps Lavarro has other things on his mind, such as recent moves by Mayor Steven Fulop, who is organizing a campaign for reelection in 2021.

Fulop just held an extremely successful fundraiser. More than 70 people showed up for an event that cost $500 per head. A recent internal poll said Fulop still has high favorability in Jersey City, despite his lack of popularity among the rest of the county’s political elite.

To quote one prominent public official: “There isn’t a mayor in Hudson County that Steve hasn’t offended.”

Yet in Jersey City, Fulop appears to have dodged a lot of bullets. Even though he got stuck with the property revaluation, he managed to shift blame to then Gov. Christopher Christie, whose administration ordered the city to conduct it. By cancelling the revaluation that former Mayor Jerramiah Healy started, Fulop apparently forced Christie’s hand – a bit of political retribution by Christie that actually benefited Fulop in the long run.

Taxes went down for many in those areas of the city where Fulop might have been weak, and many of those who saw an increase were mostly out of town landlords or property owners.

While there are plenty of people in Jersey City who dislike Fulop for a variety of reasons, these do not seem to be the majority of voters.

Lavarro apparently had been hoping for a political backlash against Fulop over the recent efforts to unseat Tom DeGise as county executive.

Fulop enraged DeGise, resulting in an upset victory for DeGise’s daughter Amy DeGise, who became chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization instead of Fulop’s ally, state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

While Stack and fellow conspirator Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, mended fences with the HDCO, Fulop, along with West New York Mayor Felix Roque appeared to make their situation worse. Fulop would not get off his hands to help U.S. Senator Robert Menendez get reelected. And Roque got into a turf war in West New York with former mayor and current Rep. Albio Sires.

The HCDO has vowed to unseat both Roque and Fulop. While Roque’s days appear to be numbered going into the May election, Fulop appears fully entrenched in Jersey City – and with more than two years before he needs to worry about reelection, he may well be unbeatable.

Fulop won reelection in 2017 with 78 percent of the total vote cast.

Bad news for Bhalla

The vote that named Jen Giattino as City Council president in Hoboken on Dec. 2, however, may spell bad news for Bhalla going into an important election year.

Giattino replaces Rubin Ramos as president, and suggests that there could be an alliance of two anti-Bhalla factions on the council.

While Councilman Michael Russo has been siding with Bhalla, a majority of the council clearly is trying to limit the mayor’s power. This was evident with the vote to restrict the number of aides the mayor can hire without civil service designation. Although Bhalla vetoed the legislation, the move indicates that the mayor may be finding himself stranded on a political island.

The sandwich caper in West New York

Mayor Roque complained last week that holiday sandwiches given out by his fellow commissioners to senior citizens may have been taken from his political camp, which had planned to distribute these through the Board of Education.

This resembles strongly accusations Roque made prior to last year’s primary when he accused his opposition of making off with committee petition signatures that ultimately led to the defeat of candidates he supported, and possibly to the victory of Amy DeGise over Brian Stack for chair of the HCDO.

Roque has yet to learn the fine art of politics. Instead of accusing his enemies of stealing his ideas, he should have taken credit for them anyway.

With his reelection only five months away, Roque may have bigger problems, such as finding a slate of candidates to run with, since all those he ran with four years ago are currently working against him.

Bayonne mysterious telephone poll

Some people in Bayonne have been polled. While it is natural that someone should poll to see who people in the First Ward might want to support in the November special election, this poll also included questions about who they would support for mayor – an election still two years away.

The caller asked which of these the person might consider for mayor:  Mayor Jimmy Davis, Councilman Gary La Pelusa, Mike Embrich, Council President Sharon Nadrowski or former Mayor Mark Smith.

Then the polling company asked which of the following the person is likely to vote for in the First Ward race: Councilman Neil Carroll, Neil Reynolds, Peter Franco, Jason O’Donnell or no one at all.

To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, Al Sullivan may be reached at


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