The reason why students learn about history in school, is so we learn from the past. That is why it is concerning that members of the school board and key influencers have learned the wrong lessons from the failed January 25th referendum for a new $331 million Hoboken High School ($241 million plus an estimated $90 million in interest).
One of the arguments that they have used to dismiss the results of the 65%-35% lopsided loss is to claim that the results were affected by low turnout.
Here are some quotes from the aftermath of the referendum campaign from key influencers:
“While only 20 percent of the Hoboken community voted on Jan. 25, with the majority voting against the referendum, we have received valuable feedback from both supporters on the referendum, and those not in favor of the referendum, which will help us plan the road ahead.”
– Hoboken School Board President Sharyn Angley at the February 2022 Hoboken BOE meeting
“There were 4000 people that voted ‘No’ that were gonna vote that way regardless of what those clowns did. They don’t represent a single Republican I’ve spoken to including myself. The issue is not the 4500 or so ‘no’ votes, it’s the 2700 ‘Yes” votes. Given that there about 2500 kids in the Hoboken Pub School district, this tells me that at best 1/2 voted (or voted Yes).”
– Michael Cademartori (Husband of the School Board Vice President Malani Cademartori) on Facebook in response to the Hoboken Republican Party’s support of the Vote No effort.
“This will literally end up having the same turnout as the November election. Claims of “voter suppression” were totally unfounded.”
– School Board Candidate Leslie Norwood on Facebook on a thread about the referendum results.
Turnout for the referendum was low compared to other elections, which was by design. When the School Board voted to put a referendum on the ballot in January 2022 rather than in a November election, they voted to schedule the referendum for an election date where turnout would be low.
In the past, Hoboken had April BOE elections and May City elections. Those elections had a much lower turnout than the November elections. Based on other school district bond elections, we were expecting 8-10% turnout from registered voters.
That is why It was distressing to see Sharyn Angley dismiss the 20% turnout from the referendum, because even though it was low, it was much higher than usual for an off-cycle election.
Leslie Norwood’s dismissal of concerns about suppressing the vote with an off-cycle election date is also concerning because almost half of the voters who came out to vote in November (49.6%) didn’t vote in the January referendum. For the November election, 36% of registered voters came out, which is much higher than the 20% for the January Bond Election.
Norwood was quick to make an incorrect judgment on the turnout from the January referendum, and now she is running for school board this November.
Lastly, Michael Cademartori’s dismissal of the election results is concerning for a few reasons. Mr. Cademartori is not an average private citizen, his wife Malani Cademartori is the Vice President of the Hoboken Board of Education. When my mom was a school board trustee in Westchester, NY, school board issues were frequently discussed at the dinner table. While my dad wasn’t on the school board, like Michael Cademartori he had more information on school issues than most private citizens.
Mr. Cademartori’s comments should be concerning for several reasons. He dismisses most of the no votes, by saying that they will always vote no regardless of what is being proposed. Then, he says that what made the bond fail was that not enough parents voted. What makes that claim problematic is that the bond supporters had aggressive outreach efforts to parents, and that many parents voted no.
Altogether, with the lopsided margin of no votes compared to yes votes, the bond failed because of substance not because of turnout. If our elected officials and key influencers can’t understand why it failed, it’s a problem as they won’t be able to exercise sound judgment on future facility planning.