Mayor's slate victorious: Russo, Anthony, Alicea win three-year school board terms
The "Excellence in Education" school board slate that was backed by Mayor Anthony Russo swept Tuesday night's elections, providing six-year school board president David Anthony with another three-year term and adding two new faces to the nine-member volunteer board that oversees the city's public schools. Joining Anthony on the board will be Michele Russo, the mayor's wife, who is also a real estate agent and Parking Authority Commissioner, and Wanda Santana Alicea, a daycare facility administrator who works in Union City. Anthony, who says that he spends more than 100 hours a month working on school board issues, was the runaway winner, collecting more than 2,200 votes. Russo also finished strong with 2,185 votes. The slate dominated the third ward, where the Russos live, providing each of the slate's candidates with 200 to 300 more votes than their competitors. But Alicea's seat on the board was not secured until a strong showing among absentee voters leapfrogged her over 6-year board member Sandra Ramos, who ended the night with more than 1,900 votes. Ramos out-polled 14 year school board member Peter "Perry" Belfiore, who spearheaded the Hoboken Parents United slate of candidates. The slate, which also included political newcomer Francis Rhodes Kearns, had the backing of a slew of city politicos that oppose the policies of Mayor Russo, including State Sen. Bernard Kenny, County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons and city councilmen Dave Roberts and Tony Soares. Jerry Forman and John Scutellaro, two independents, lagged far behind the other six candidates, recording 514 and 348 votes respectively. Budget passed
The $38 million school board budget for the 2000-2001 school year also passed 1,214 to 644. Although local politicians poured a great deal of time, money and energy into the bitterly contested election, most Hobokenites did not take time to visit the polls and vote. Of the 22,099 registered voters, only 4,300 voted, or less than 20 percent. The amount was still higher than the average throughout the state. Standing on top of a table at the Russo Civic Association just moments after the results were announced, David Anthony promised an overflow crowd of election workers, city officials and other supporters to get back to work the very next day. "You are really going to see what we can do now," said Anthony, who promised to go to the Housing Authority meeting the next night. "Our goal now is to get more and more parents involved in their children's education," said the father of three girls later on. "Education does not stop the moment the child leaves the classroom. I think that the way that we can get the bar raised for education here is to get parents more involved in the process." Across town, more than 40 people had gathered at Signore's, a Hudson Street pub, to cheer the opposing Hoboken Parents United slate on. When it became clear that their team had fallen short, candidates and supporters alike said that they would continue to work together to provide an "independent" voice in Hoboken, referring to the connection that other school board members and city politicians have to Mayor Russo. "I've run and lost and I've run and won," said Belfiore, who did not serve his 14 years on the board consecutively, "and I know that winning is better." In the days leading up to the election, Belfiore was arrested once, and handcuffed and taken to police headquarters another time for minor offenses that had been outstanding for years. After many of his supporters had left for the evening, Belfiore said that the impact of those arrests, which he charged were inspired by City Hall to influence the election, may have changed the election. "I'm disappointed that their negative campaigning seems to have worked," said the construction manager and father of four. "All the arrests seem to have clouded people's view and caused them to look beyond my record of accomplishment in 14 years on the board." Just a few feet away from him, Ramos was looking at the vote tally that had been recorded on poster board and taped to the wall. It showed that she had won the 4th ward, where her son Ruben Jr. serves as a city councilman, by nearly 60 votes. But she had only garnered 17 absentee votes to Alicea's 167. "I'm more than sure that there was fraud with the absentees," said Ramos, but she declined to say how or if the campaign would press the issue. Back at the Russo Civic Association, the candidates were already talking about the future. The board will meet later this month for an organizational meeting where officers are selected. Anthony assured current board vice president Paul Aponte that he would have his support for another term as the number two man. Thirty four-year-old Wanda Santana Alicea spent much of her post election time huddled with supporters, thanking them and talking about what she hoped to bring to the board. "We want to have meetings in different communities around town," said the mother of two young boys. "We need more tutoring and more parent involvement. I'm just excited to strap my boots on get to work."