After the smoke has cleared
Jun 22, 2014 | 2117 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Politics, like rust, never sleeps. So just when you think the shouting is over, the whole election cycle starts up again.

Most immediately on the agenda will be November school board races in Jersey City, Hoboken, and West New York, along with a ballot initiative in Bayonne that would ask voters to approve an elected school board there.

Although Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop worked hard to get many of the school board members elected prior to becoming mayor, he has encountered friction over some of his proposals for tying construction of pre-k classrooms to residential development.

Whether or not he will make moves to bring the board in line with his policies is still uncertain. But it should be a defining issue in the Jersey City race.

The November school board race in Hoboken will be a test of Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s political strength going into the 2015 mid-term City Council elections. If a Zimmer-backed ticket fails, this could galvanize the anti-Zimmer forces and unite them in the council races in 2015. The victory of Freeholder Anthony Romano in the Democratic primary against Zimmer-supported Phil Cohen already shows Zimmer’s vulnerability.

Zimmer opponents have several opportunities. The first fight will be over the appointment of a new superintendent of schools. But a more serious fight will be over policies regarding charter schools.

The reform community – as they call themselves – is pretty much split down the middle over the concept of charter schools. Some see them as a way of providing a more focused education for their kids, while others see charters as a way of abdicating the responsibility for improving the other public schools.

This, in a way, mirrors the national debate over charter schools, in particular the legal wrangling ongoing in California, where many believe charter schools are simply a way of breaking the teachers’ unions.

Union problems may plague Bayonne

Bayonne was targeted last week by labor unions that criticized the school district for using non-union labor for work at some of their schools. Ironically, Bayonne is considered a pro-union town, and this could help generate support for the referendum in November that would establish an elected school board, as opposed to a board that is currently appointed by the mayor.

Bayonne may also face the charter school question if rumors are true about a possible charter school for the former Holy Family Academy site.

Roque vs. Munoz, continued

Voters approved the establishment of an elected school board in West New York last November, and were supposed to have two rounds of elections. The first occurred in January, expanding the board from seven members to nine. The two winning candidates had ties to opponents of Mayor Felix Roque, and were supported strongly by Freeholder Jose Munoz.

Munoz was on the political upswing at the time.

Roque has successfully put off the second school board election – originally scheduled for April – to November, delaying a potential takeover of the board by anti-Roque forces.

This may well prove a boon for Roque and his supporters because Munoz’s power appears to be lessened after his loss in the freeholder primary to WNY Commissioner Caridad Rodriquez.

With commissioner elections looming in May 2015, the school board election in November could be a test of Roque’s support.

Still stinging from his loss in the primary, Munoz said he won’t be taking an active role in politics for the immediate future.

“One thing I managed to do was pull together people against me,” he said. “These are people who don’t like each other. But they didn’t want me reelected and so they worked together against me.”

Munoz said that his best option is to get out of the way and let this “unholy alliance” self-destruct.

But Roque supporters believe that recent events position Roque well for next year’s municipal election, although there are a number of people who hope to run against him.

At this point, Munoz isn’t saying one way or another, although he has a more positive view of his primary loss.

“I went against all of the big people in the county and I only lost in West New York by 200 votes,” he said. “They spent a lot of money to beat me.”

He also said reports of how much he spent on his campaign are wrong. His opponents claim he spent $200,000. He says his campaign spent only $80,000. He believes his opposition spent much more than he did. He also pointed out that a large part of the vote against him came out of Weehawken. His freeholder district includes West New York, Weehawken, and Guttenberg.

This suggests that Munoz may be considering a run for commissioner in May 2015.

So you think you can dance?

In what is bound to become an anti-Christie campaign video if Gov. Christopher Christie ever runs for president, last week on the Tonight Show Christie demonstrated his ability to dance.

The video clip has also become a very popular item on You Tube, although not because the public was looking for instruction in dance.

Most revealing, however, was the build up to the ludicrous scene in which he was asked if Christie could beat Hillary Clinton. Christie said “you bet,” only to have the host add a tag line, “in dance.”

Polls show that Bridgegate – the scandal in which some Christie officials allegedly closed lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor – is fading from the public mind. But a number of reports, including investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Manhattan District Attorney, may keep alive claims that Christie used the Port Authority as a kind of piggy bank for expenditures on New Jersey projects that allowed him to avoid raising taxes.

Also, bad relations between Christie and some Hudson County elected officials may not heal easily, as shown by the recent grant announcement resulting from the Rebuild by Design competition. Allegedly because of his ongoing conflict with Mayor Zimmer, Christie held the event in Little Ferry instead of Hoboken. Although Zimmer did appear, the chill between the two was extremely evident. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop’s suit to recover $400 million allegedly owed in back taxes to the city by the Port Authority adds even more to the chill factor.

Al Sullivan may be reached at
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