The conflict between Hoboken Housing Authority Chairwoman Dana Wefer and Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia has taken yet another turn.
(The HHA is the agency that oversees Hoboken’s federally funded low-income housing projects, a source of votes and contracts. Garcia is the paid head of the agency; Wefer chairs an unpaid board that oversees him.)
Wefer, who is an ally of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, has been looking into Garcia’s spending issues in the Housing Authority, but seems to also have stumbled into a political quagmire, as Garcia has reached out to Old Hoboken for support.
Garcia has asked Democratic Chairman Jamie Cryan to look into whether or not Wefer – who recently moved – can still be seated as a Democratic committee person since she was elected in her old district, not the new one.
This also comes after union workers found that they could not cash their checks because the paperwork had not been filed so that the bank could recognize Wefer’s signature as an authorized signature.
There is a lot of finger pointing as to why the resolution was not passed in time, and the bickering continues to fuel a political firestorm between Wefer and Garcia.
The back-and-forth between Wefer and Garcia risks dividing Old Hoboken political figures just when they need to come together for the upcoming school board election in November. Old Hoboken – as it is sometimes referred – came together for the recent freeholder primary, allowing Anthony Romano to beat Phil Cohen, despite Cohen’s being endorsed by Mayor Zimmer and Mayor Steven Fulop.
But the Garcia issue could break that coalition apart just when Old Hoboken is trying to salvage two of the last seats it holds on the board.
Zimmer people are commonly called newcomers or reformers (although many are no longer new, and others question if they had the right to be called reformers after all the political tricks played in previous elections). Zimmer-backed people currently have the majority on the HHA board, but the reform community is sharply divided over backing or not backing charter schools.
A successful school board race this year could help rejuvenate the anti-Zimmer forces for the mid-term elections in November, 2015. Six council seats will be up. Zimmer forces control the City Council, but by only with a 5-4 majority. Divisions in the last election between those who supported Ruben Ramos for mayor and those who supported Tim Occhipinti put a number of Old Hoboken seats at risk.
In terms of the council election, Zimmer supporters are targeting Councilwoman Beth Mason – as they always do – while Occhipinti may face opposition from his own side. Will Ramos run in the 4th Ward and will this repeat the mayoral election from last November and split the Old Hoboken vote to allow Zimmer’s choice to win?
Short list for Jersey City police chief job
Police Captain Michael Kelly and Deputy Chief Joseph Connors are rumored to be front runners to become the new chief of police in Jersey City, although insiders say the list has about five names in total with Deputy Chief Corry Short seen as a dark horse possibility. Some suggest Captain Edgar Martinez could be considered. A source said several insiders will be named by Public Safety Director James Shea, enough though technically it is a mayor’s appointment.
“This is not going to be political,” said one source. “The mayor has confidence in Shea. That’s why Shea is where he is, and it will be up to Shea to decide.”
While the removal of Robert Cowan was a shock, some believe state level politics may have played a part with behind-the-scenes maneuvering by state Sen. Steve Sweeney. Cowan has several pending lawsuits and was seen as a political Achilles heel to Fulop and his ambitions to run for governor. Insiders said Fulop and Shea wanted to tighten up accountability in the department and make it more difficult to base promotions on departmental politics. Reports suggest that Cowan resisted the changes when presented with them in late June, prompting the mayor to demote him.
West New York cleans house
Donald Scarinci, newly appointed at WNY town attorney, has been quietly cleaning house in preparation for next year’s municipal election. Most recently, the appointment of Hoboken’s Jamie Cryan as parking director seems to have cured some of the ills at the West New York Parking Authority. Under Cryan’s leadership, the board changed its attorney and some vendors. There was a concern over too close a relationship between Authority and deals with private building owners. These, according to officials, are being reviewed by the new legal staff.
The changes are still underway, said one insider.
“Donald’s approach is, if you don’t work, you won’t have a job here,” this insider said. “We’re getting rid of all the dead wood.”
All this is designed to rebuild the administration of Mayor Felix Roque, who has more political lives than a cat, and appears to be in a stronger position for reelection than in the past. But some Roque opponents claim he is still vulnerable, and see Roque’s renewed political alliances as weaknesses.
Many people are waiting for Town Manager Joe DeMarco to officially take the job as Bayonne business administrator, clearing the way for the triumphant return of Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who served as town manager in WNY under then Mayor Albio Sires.
Bayonne will see a purge
With James Davis as the new mayor, Bayonne is seeing massive governmental changes that include police chief, public safety director, business administrator, town attorney, municipal services director and others. In fact, nearly every director will be replaced, according to sources. The fire chief will not be replaced apparently, nor will the tax assessor. The director of finance, however, will likely stay on and retire later, avoiding a significant loss of brain power since most of that staff will likely retire when the position is vacated.
The big danger for Bayonne is the significant loss of institutional memory that comes with the loss of so many key people all at once. How Davis handles this will be the first serious test of his administration.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.