Waiting for the reelection campaign of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy to get started has been like watching paint dry. You knew sooner or later it would happen, but it has taken so long that you wondered if he was actually running for office at all. So last week Healy finally kicked off his campaign… by going to Charlotte, N.C.
Actually, Healy hooking up to the reelection hopes of President Barack Obama does make a lot of sense, but not because Healy was one of the first New Jersey political figures to endorse Obama in the 2008 primary. Many of the key fundraisers Healy will have to romance at the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City two weeks after the presidential election will be looking back at the Jersey City turnout and assessing whether the Healy political machine delivered the votes for Obama. (The Jersey City election will be held in May, 2013).
While Healy is well behind Councilman Steve Fulopin raising funds, you can bet that if Healy gets his voters out, the money – always in search of the likely winner – will pour in. Fulop currently has an estimated $500,000 head start, but some political observers believe the mayoral contest will require a winning candidate to come up with about $2 million – a ludicrous figure when you consider the relatively low salary public officials make these days, but not when you consider the potential ways a donor can collect on a quid pro quo.
While Fulop’s political machine has been hard at work over the last few years, Healy’s has been largely invisible. Can Healy get out the vote? He can, if he hooks up with State Sen. Sandra Cunningham and the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who serves as the chairman of the HCDO, has already endorsed Healy, as have County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Democratic Chairman Jeff Dublin, Assemblyman Sean Connors and Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell.
Equally curious is Fulop’s lack of a candidate in Ward F’s special election in November. He unveiled a partial ticket last May, and has largely been silent since.
By not having a candidate in the special election, Fulop basically gives Healy’s choice, Councilwoman Michele Massey, a free ride, and another six months as the Ward F incumbent before Fulop finally does produce a candidate to run there in the regular election in May.
West New York issues
Joe Rodriguez, husband of West New York Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, has to be the weariest man alive, up at 3 a.m. to work his full time job in Weehawken’s Department of Public Works, before rushing over to West New York where he works his new second full-time job in the DPW.
The problem is, Caridad voted for him on Sept. 4 to become the city’s recycling coordinator, which seems to be something of a conflict of interest. As commissioner, she is giving him a job from which she derives a financial benefit. With two full time jobs and part time work, he may not find much time to do anything else but work, running back and forth between Weehawken and West New York like a chicken with his head cut off. He better hope he doesn’t get caught in a traffic jam.
West New York’s commissioners are apparently struggling with hiring issues, but also department boundaries issues. Under their form of government, each commissioner is responsible for staffing his or her own department – such as parks and recreation, public works and so forth. And yet, Commissioner Count Wiley complained this week that the other commissioners have invaded his turf, and worse, have not hired the staff he needs to make up for people retiring or leaving for other reasons.
He considers the matter serious enough to consider taking it to Superior Court, which he said he is in the process of doing.
“I’ve consulted an attorney who is drawing up the paperwork,” he said.
Wiley was particularly upset when he came to the commissioners meeting to find that the commissioners were poised to hire a number of people, none of them in the parks and recreation department.
“They wanted to hire 10 EMTs, saying they were trying to cut down on overtime,” he said. “But that’s the reason I need to hire some people in my department, so that we can cover all the shifts.”
Wiley, who is expected to kick off a recall election against Mayor Felix Roque on Sept. 13, said unpaid vendors may pose a serious legal problem for West New York.
“Some of these bills go back to when Sal Vega was mayor,” he said. “These have P.O.s [purchase orders], so you can’t let them go unpaid.”
Bueckner still has Gonnelli’s support
Although touched on in last week’s column, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli has affirmed his support for 2nd Ward Councilman John Bueckner, saying that Bueckner is not being forced off next year’s ticket.
“John has until next June to make up his mind whether he wants to run again or not,” Gonnelli said. “If he does, then he has my support. I want him to run, but that’s his choice.”
Bueckner, who is 74, was one of the founders of the Secaucus Independence Alliance in the early 1990s, has become the godfather of the Take Back Secaucus movement of the current era.
“John is my mentor,” Gonnelli said. “He supported me when I first ran for council and I’ll support him if he decides to run. But he hasn’t made up his mind yet. If he decides not to run, it will be very difficult to replacement. I’m encouraging him to stay and run with us.”