Waiting for the third shoe to drop
Sep 01, 2013 | 2684 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Waiting for political people to make up their minds about anything in Hoboken is nothing new, especially when one of those people happens to be Frank Raia.

Raia is expected to announce this week that he will be on a third ticket that will field candidates for mayor and council, with 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti leading the ticket as the candidate for mayor.

If this wasn’t enough to put the final nail in Ruben Ramos’ mayoral candidacy coffin, the Raia ticket promises to provide a serious challenge for control of the City Council – a body currently split between pro- and anti-administration members.

This split in the normally nine-member council resulted from the resignation of Carol Marsh last September, who made her announcement after a deadline that would have required a special election to fill her post. This left the choice up to the eight remaining members.

You would think this was a shoe-in for Mayor Dawn Zimmer to retain control of the City Council since she becomes the tiebreaker if the council is evenly split. Not so, said a court ruling earlier this year. While Zimmer supporters all voted for Jim Doyle to fill the seat, only three of the opponents voted against it. One abstained. Since Doyle needed five votes to fill the seat, and the court ruled that an abstention is not a no vote, Zimmer could not vote to break a tie. The seat remains vacant and the council has been deadlocked on some key issues.

With Doyle on Zimmer’s ticket in the November municipal election, Zimmer is once again poised to take back control of the council – especially because the council candidates on the Ramos council slate are relatively weak, and would need a hefty push from a successful Ramos campaign to get them into office.

Raia is expected to cut the legs out from under this move by running a slate of candidates who are all “Hoboken born,” meaning that longtime residents of Hoboken, who might have been expected to back Ramos slate, have another viable choice.

If Raia gets even one council candidate elected from his slate, he becomes a powerbroker on the council, able to wheel and deal the deciding vote so that both sides must bargain with him or lose that critical vote.

Late in the week, rumors said that the Raia ticket will include Occhipinti, Board of Education member Peter Biancamano, and a female candidate. More should be known in the coming week.

Singing in the bathroom?

Ramos has yet one more albatross around his neck in the upcoming election.

While Hoboken Housing Authority Chairman Carmelo Garcia has not yet endorsed Ramos for mayor, many perceive him that way. This makes the appearance of a transcript of a secret tape Garcia allegedly recorded all more damaging.

A transcript of the tape fell into the Zimmer administration’s hands when a lawyer representing Garcia chose to read from it during an unrelated court proceeding, and when the other side demanded it as evidence, apparently handed over the unedited document.

If the document is accurate, not only did Garcia offer to support Zimmer over Ramos (a backroom deal without the smoking cigars) in exchange for support for Garcia’s pet housing redevelopment project, Vision 20/20, but the tape also revealed that Garcia likes to talk to himself while alone in the bathroom – something we probably all do, yet refrain from making a transcript of.

There is no love lost between Garcia and the Zimmer administration, and it appears pretty obvious that Zimmer people would like to remove Garcia from his powerful position, replacing him with one of their own, just the way Garcia replaced Robert DiVincent under the administration of Mayor Dave Roberts. But the secret recording of a meeting is considered bad form even in Hudson County’s notorious political circles, and has raised questions as to whether Garcia has recorded anyone else.

The fallout could make Garcia so radioactive that no political figure in good standing in Hudson County will come near him even with an anti-radiation suit, and the spillover onto Ramos’ campaign can be disastrous.

Garcia is currently running for the state Assembly on a ticket led by State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

While Stack did campaign in the Hoboken Housing projects last week, he picked a day when Garcia was in Costa Rica to do it.

Deal-making in WNY

With the trial of West New York Mayor Felix Roque looming, every move he makes is viewed as a possible indication of what is about to happen.

His failing to appear at two commissioner meetings in a row raised all kinds of speculation among political observers who claim he is about to make a deal with federal authorities prior to his trial, yet most likely after the deadline that would otherwise require a special election for his commissioners’ seat in November.

If Roque resigns after Labor Day then it is the remaining commissioners who must pick his replacement. If they cannot, they leave the post open under an acting mayor until a special election, most likely next fall.

Currently, there are at least five political factions in WNY. One of these groups includes the current Roque people such as Mayor Roque, along with commissioners Fior D'Aliza Frias and Ruben Vargas.

A second faction is associated with Commissioner Count Wiley, who is seeking a recall election against Roque and the other commissioners.

A third faction is building around former West New York Mayor Sal Vega, who Roque beat in 2011.

A fourth faction is behind Carlos Betancourt, who has also announced his candidacy for mayor – although in truth, any election would only be for commissioner. In West New York, it is the commissioners who decide which commissioner will become mayor.

Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, although once a runningmate with Roque, is seen as part of a fifth faction with ties to Rep. Albio Sires, also a former mayor of WNY.

The Board of Education – on which Sires’ wife is president, but which is controlled by Roque – recently refused to hire Rodriquez’s daughter as a teacher. Some believe the job is being held hostage for Rodriquez’s vote to replace Roque if Roque is forced to step down as mayor. In this theory, Rodriquez would vote with the Roque majority to fill his commissioner’s seat with someone that would retain the current Roque inner circle. This would buy these insiders another year to polish their resumes for jobs elsewhere. But any deal of this kind would have to get Albio Sires’ blessing, insiders say.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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