Jose Falto, a former school principal who now works as an office employee of the Union City Board of Education, announced last week that he is forming an organization called "Save Our City and Schools," an organization whose main purpose is to recall Stack from office.
But Stack charged that Falto is really just a front for bar owners who are angry at Stack's crackdown on loud and rowdy bars.
"Citizens are fed up with the abuse," Falto said in a telephone interview last week. He added, "People are being harassed, store owners especially."
Falto made his dramatic announcement Wednesday night at Chelval's Restaurant in Union City. His speech was heightened by an accusation that a "crony" of Stack's was across the street taking pictures of people entering the establishment to attend the meeting. "This is obviously a mayor that is insecure," said Falto.
Stack responded that the charge was untrue, and that he has better things to do. "I knew who was going to be there anyway," he said.
Until recently, Stack had been reticent to give any comments regarding the moves being made against him, not wanting to give credence to what seemed like a loud one-man effort. But Stack said last week that the situation is becoming "disruptive to what we are trying to achieve in Union City."
Said Stack in an interview at a commissioner's meeting, "There's nothing to criticize. Why cost the city money? Over 9,000 people came out to vote - and it was an uncontested election. Where was Mr. Falto then? This has everything to do with him being a front for the bar owners of Union City."
Stack is becoming widely known, and in some circles, disdained, for his focus on what he sees as "quality of life" issues in Union City. It has become the cornerstone of his administration. Last year, Stack orchestrated an ordinance that closed city bars at 2 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. The city also continually holds hearings on liquor license violations for noise and selling alcohol to minors. Recently, the city paid $15,000 to a bar owner to settle a lawsuit she filed against Stack for making negative comments about her bar.
"This is about bar owners being unhappy," Stack said. "It's as simple as that."
Falto's litany of accusations against Stack is long. He claims that Stack is first and foremost "a dictator" who has a "lack of understanding of the Latino community." Falto also claimed that Stack is mismanaging the Board of Education and was integral in Falto's demotion from his position as principal of Robert Waters School on Summit Street to a desk job in the Board of Education offices.
Said Falto, "I was principal from 1999 to 2002 and was 'transferred' because I became too popular with the parents."
Stack's response to the accusation on Board of Education mismanagement was: "I am hands-off with the school system. I let them do their jobs." Recently, the state lauded Union City for its achievements in budgeting its Abbott "special needs" funds in ways that best benefit the students of Union City.
Another of Falto's complaints is the city budget. "The city budget has gone up $7.5 million, and the city is running a $6 million deficit," he said. "Something is wrong here."
Stack stated that the deficit was there when he came into office. "We inherited a deficit in the budget," said Stack. "Rudy Garcia resigned leaving Union City with a deficit. In fact, at that time, the state stepped in and sent in an audit review team and took control of the budget, effectively taking it out of our hands. We're still paying for that."
Another of Falto's complaints is that Stack's administration is assigning too many handicapped spots in a city that has a dearth of parking spaces for able-bodied residents. In a memo he gave out at the meeting at Cheval's Restaurant last week, Falto pointed to "The excessive issuance of handicapped spaces and loading zones. By now, we must be the handicapped capital of our country, if not the world."
To this charge, Stack said, "The New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) authorizes handicapped placards and spaces. If a handicapped resident applies for a space, we basically have to give it to them." The mayor added, "We have a waiting list of hundreds of applications [for handicapped spaces]."
The city's Board of Commissioner's took special exception to Falto's suggestion Union City "needs" a Latino mayor to reflect Union City's 82 percent Latino population [according to the U.S. Census Bureau].
A visibly angered Commissioner Christopher Irizarry, who is of Cuban and Puerto Rican decent, said, "Being a mayor is about leadership. The connection Brian has with the Latino community is impeccable. He has a feel and a care for the people of Union City." Irizarry added, "I find his [Falto's] comments offensive. You know what he's doing? He's insulting the intelligence of all the people of the community that came out and voted for Brian in an uncontested election. It says that the people that came out in May aren't intelligent."
Falto stated that his organization, "Save Our City and Schools" will operate under three "basic principles": "Honesty, Integrity and Professionalism (HIP)." Falto also stated, "I will not hold a dual office like the present mayor [who is also a county freeholder]. I guarantee the community that if I get elected to higher office, I will give the job to another commissioner."
When asked if he had any particular problem with Stack's efforts to improve the quality of life in Union City, Falto stated, "No, but what I do have a problem with is Stack taking food off the plates of business owners' children."
While public opinion on this matter has yet to be sampled, one Union City resident took the bold step of writing a letter to the press last week. J. Elizabeth Rodriquez of Union City asked in her letter, "... is this [Stack's non-Latino status] the cause of all your troubles against Mayor Stack? Because Mayor Stack is not Hispanic? Whether Union City's mayor is Hispanic or non-Hispanic, this should really have no issue. As a Hispanic myself, I see Mayor Stack, although not Hispanic, doing his best for Union City."