A battle over zip codes eligible for a possible grant to help curb criminal activity evolved into a heated exchange at the Hudson County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 14 when West New York Freeholder Jose Munoz accused Family Services Director Ben Lopez of political posturing for including a Jersey City zip code where his wife, Nidia Lopez, serves as a councilperson and is currently running for reelection.
The federal grant is designed to help those areas that are considered high crime districts with an influx of funding. Munoz criticized Lopez for excluding other possible sites in Hudson County in favor of three zip codes that are entirely located in Jersey City – one of which covers Nidia’s ward.
While Freeholder Bill O’Dea also questioned the inclusion of Nidia Lopez’s district, this was purely on grounds that other areas in Jersey City needed the funding more to help deal with crime.
Behind the scenes, some freeholders said that Munoz was off base in criticizing the focus on Jersey City, saying that Hudson County will be competing with hard-hit crime areas in places like Paterson and Camden, and to include areas such as Hoboken or even West New York would make it less likely that Hudson County will get the grant money.
Roque fundraiser questioned
West New York Mayor Felix Roque held a fundraising event on Feb. 13, and depending on who you talk to, he either did extremely well and drew in some new blood into a possible future campaign or – if his critics can be believed – he only got out the usual suspects, already hardcore loyalists or those to whom he has given raises, promotions, or jobs.
Calling from a medical conference in Arizona the next day, Roque said he had as many as 160 people, many of whom were medical professionals willing to fork over the $1,000 per ticket cost for dinner at the Waterside, and that people were still dancing when he had to leave at 9:30 p.m. to catch his flight.
Critics said he had about 70 people, all of whom owe Roque allegiance or have contracts with his administration, and that for the most part the dinner ended with whimper at around 8:30 p.m. and not a bang as he claimed.
Roque appears to be working hard to consolidate power, replacing people in every possible position with those loyal to him, ahead of what could be a troublesome trial in which he and his son are being tried for allegedly hacking into a website of political opponents. Everybody has a theory about the outcome, with some closest to Roque saying that the website was bogus. Others say that his son could plead guilty and testify that Roque had nothing to do with the alleged hacking. Some believe Roque will either plead out of the charges and step down or will be convicted. This would prompt a special election which some claim will be a madhouse with hopeful candidates inside and outside the Roque camp scrambling to become mayor. Already in campaign mode is Commissioner Count Wiley, who will unveil his slate of commissioner candidates over the next month for a recall election he hopes to initiate by September whether or not Roque steps down.
Roque’s term isn’t up until 2015, but he faces significant hurdles in reelection, with or without a recall. Some political observers attribute his 2011 victory to anger at previous Mayor Sal Vega, along with the help of former mayor and still popular Rep. Albio Sires, and the addition of then Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriquez to the Roque ticket, bringing her own significant base.
Although rumors suggest that Vega may run again for mayor, helping to reignite some of the old passions that helped Roque, the outrage that swept Roque into office has long dissipated, and with Rodriquez expected to run against Roque with Sires’ support, Roque may not be able to hold onto his office, even if he escapes his current legal troubles.
Stack’s problems filling his ticket
Nearly everybody accepts the fact that any Assembly candidate who runs on the ticket of state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack will get swept into office without a problem.
So why doesn’t he seem to be able to get anyone to run with him? Recently, Nidia Lopez chose to run for reelection as Jersey City council member instead of running for Assembly with Stack, and rumors say the Stack’s offer to Hoboken council member Beth Mason has been rebuffed. Some claim Stack has too many requirements of his candidates, including open support for the reelection of Republican Gov. Christopher Christie. Other reports suggest Stack wants to control his candidates too much for any of the more prominent figures to tolerate. Whatever the truth is, Stack still hasn’t announced anyone to replace Assemblyman Sean Connors, who is running for Jersey City council on mayoral candidate Steven Fulop’s ticket for this May, or Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, who is reportedly running against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in November – if Ramos can actually get anyone to support him. Mason reportedly would like to see Hoboken Councilman Tim Occhipinti run against Zimmer – talk about sending a lamb into the slaughter. Stack, however, apparently met with former Hoboken School trustee Frank Raia last week.
The trouble with Facebook
An ongoing argument between Fulop and Radames “Ray” Velazquez on Facebook is one of two examples of the danger of social media Hudson County saw this week, but also the tendency of the Fulop camp to unwisely alienate people who don’t support him at the risk of turning non-committed voting blocs into political enemies.
Fulop may have had the right idea that the appointment of new judges should wait until after voters select a mayor in May, but rejecting two appointments recommended by his opponent Mayor Jerramiah Healy and the subsequent Facebook exchange between Fulop and Velazquez could well turn the Filipino community against Fulop, who along with four other council people, put off the permanent naming of the first Filipino municipal judge, a point that quickly became a campaign issue for Healy.
Velazquez then went on Facebook claiming that Fulop once courted him for political support then allegedly defamed him when rejected, to which Fulop responded by calling Velazquez a liar.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Charles Mainor came under criticism for questionable items he “liked” on his Facebook account, reminding the public of a remark he made last year when he referred to professional sports team as “gaybirds.”
The trouble with Facebook is that people feel free to make personal remarks that are inappropriate, often fueled by a moment’s mood. Most people can get away with it because they have little or no public influence other than their personal friends. It is an easy mistake to make, but one that is hard to correct once it gets out, and those hurt most by these posts usually learn not to repeat the error – although sometimes it takes getting burned a few times before the lesson gets learned.
Facebook and other social media outlets have become a public space similar to what the town square was for earlier generations, a place where exchanges become very public and often with consequences not initially intended.
Conflicts like those between Fulop and Velazquez amount to a verbal fistfight to which the general public serves as witness, a dispute carried on between two figures who should know better.
Mainor’s “likes” on Facebook have come under public scrutiny, though as with personal remarks, people often click the “like” button on the parade of images based on little or no information, partly because some friend or friend of a friend has posted it on the timeline. This is true for Twitter as well, where the tendency is to follow those who have started to follow you, and later unfollow people who prove to be somewhat less than reputable.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.