Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo and Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, one time political rivals, both celebrated their birthdays last week. Both were born on Feb. 28. Both got gifts they didn’t quite expect.
Manzo, of course, got charges dropped after nearly a two-year battle to untangle the mess federal authorities made of his life when they claimed he took a bribe from FBI informant Solomon Dwek.
The only sad part of the decision to dismiss the charges is that the public will never get to hear his argument in court as to how federal law officials possibly used Dwek and other investigations to pave the way for Christopher Christie to become governor.
Manzo, of course, is delighted with the verdict, but makes a point of telling people that innocence, his or anyone else’s, doesn’t come cheap – and some of the other defendants in the Dwek case might also have been innocent of the charges, but had to choose between financial ruin or maintaining their name. So they plea bargained, giving Christie one more notch in his gun handle to qualify him for higher and higher office.
This birthday might have been even sweeter for Sweet Lou had the Green Bay Packers made it to the Super Bowl instead of the New York Giants, but you can’t have everything, and there is always next year.
Fulop got a gift, too, when Jerramiah Healy opted to run for reelection. Although this might seem like one more roadblock in Fulop’s drive to become mayor, the Healy announcement may actually keep Fulop’s team focused, since Healy has been the object of their attention for the last three or four years. Having no Healy in the race is like Ronald Reagan having no Evil Empire. Although it is rumored that state Sen. Sandra Cunningham may run, or even Assemblyman Sean Connors, that race would not have the same verve as a Healy-Fulop race.
Watch what you say
When a member of an internet press outfit called up West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque to ask about possible endorsements, Dr. Roque apparently answered off the cuff.
“Would you consider endorsing Republican Sen. Joe Kyrillos for U.S. Senate?” a press man asked.
“Sure, why not?” Dr. Roque apparently said.
This was not an official endorsement. It wasn’t even an endorsement. But within hours, internet headlines rocked the local political world by claiming Dr. Roque had endorsed Republican Kyrillos against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
This came as a shock to Menendez, who had met with Dr. Roque only a week prior to this news and had been assured that Roque would endorse him.
Part of Dr. Roque’s charm – and one of the things that resonated with the public – was his inability to play the role of politician. So, when quoted as saying he would endorse Kyrillos, Dr. Roque stuck to that even as the political shrapnel fell across north Hudson, leaving a trail of potential victims such as Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and Rep. Albio Sires, both of whom quickly announced their support for Menendez.
The Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) was in an uproar, too, demanding oaths of loyalty from fellow Democrats in a kind of McCarthyistic purge of possible future political enemies. The two most dangerous of those would be state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, both of whom owe political debts to Republican Gov. Christie, who might call in those debts if there is a possibility that Republicans might steal a key U.S. Senate seat.
Ramos will likely run for mayor
Meanwhile, some people have been throwing Assemblyman Ruben Ramos’ name around as a possible threat to Sires, suggesting that the HCDO might back Ramos for Sires’ seat if Sires doesn’t fall into line.
There are several problems with this. First, Sires never got out of line, and certainly isn’t backing any Republican candidates, and secondly, Ramos doesn’t want to run for Congress; he wants to run for mayor of Hoboken. Some people on his team believe the rumor has been spread deliberately in order to discourage people from possibly joining Ramos’ ticket as Hoboken City Council candidates.
The union between Stack and Zimmer seems to be someone’s idea of a dream team, but that may not become a reality, as it is looking more and more likely that Stack will tap Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason as an Assembly candidate on his ticket in 2013.
So when exactly will you vote for school board?
The Hoboken school board took the bait Gov. Christie set out for changing school elections from April to November. The public will no longer get the opportunity to vote a school budget up or down, in what will prove to be one giant step backwards for democracy.
If school boards behave themselves and do not exceed the spending cap, they can avoid having a public vote on their budgets. Taxpayers will be forced to vote out incumbents to show their dissatisfaction, rather than voting down budgets and forcing deeper cuts.
While some school board candidates were announced this week – in Jersey City, Secaucus, North Bergen and Weehawken – voters in Hoboken will have to wait until September to see what candidates are running, and this factor, because of its proximity to municipal elections the following May, will thin out possible candidates. No one who loses in the November school board race will likely try to run again in May for a municipal post.
This will leave Frank Raia in a quandary. Even if he wins a successful bid for the Board of Education, he would be unlikely to run for mayor only a few months into his term as school board president, thus eliminating one potential rival for Zimmer.
Zimmer opponents tried to sidestep this by taking advantage of a political opportunity earlier in February. Zimmer supporters have a 5-4 majority on the City Council, but for one meeting, three of those council members were not present. The opposition attempted to pass a resolution that would have required the school board election move to be put on the ballot next November as a referendum. The two remaining Zimmer supporting council members suddenly got the urge to go to the toilet, thus avoiding a quorum and eliminating any possibility for a vote to take place. They truly learned their lesson from Wisconsin Democrats who did a similar thing last year to avoid voting on resolutions there.
What they did in the bathroom in order to force the meeting to be postponed for lack of a quorum has been the speculation of bloggers ever since.
But Gov. Christie has made it very tempting for elected school boards to make the move. School districts that move to November can avoid voter wrath and a vote on the budget if they keep the yearly increase to 2 percent. This will, of course, mean that local school boards will have to negotiate leaner contracts with teachers’ unions. In football, this is called an end run. Instead of beating a dead horse on how teachers’ unions are bad, Christie gives school boards incentive to fight the fight for him, and since school boards have always had the power to control salaries, it is an appropriate move.