Council members Tiffanie Fisher, Jen Giattino, and Michael DeFusco have all gone public asking Bhalla to comply with his campaign promise to become a full-time mayor.
Bhalla’s legal career has at times raised questions about a potential conflict of interest, since his last firm had done business with the city.
The political attacks last week increased after Bhalla failed to reappoint to city boards several people connected to his political opposition.
The news of death threats, of course, stole the headlines.
Bhalla historically has managed to somehow gain political advantage out of otherwise bad news, such as when a racist campaign flyer was issued within a week of last November’s municipal election and some of his critics said it may have helped him get a sympathy vote.
Jersey City reval
Is Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop just very lucky that the results of the citywide reevaluation of property came after the election and runoff? Some critics believe the announcement was deliberately stalled.
Downtown residents, which represent Fulop’s strongest base, took it hard on the chin, seeing estimated taxes triple in some cases.
This is the second major economic blow to that part of the city. For several years, rising rents have been forcing many to relocate out of downtown. Many went to the Jersey City Heights. But if the downtown home owners relocate they will likely move south, creating a chain reaction that could see a large displacement of poorer people in Greenville. This will have huge political implications in the future.
Murphy flexes his patronage muscles
Gov. Phil Murphy has apparently learned an important fact about New Jersey politics.
By far, the governor is the most important political position in the state. This is not the case in many states.
As a result of changes to the state constitution in 1947 and later again twice in the 1960s, the New Jersey governor is among the most powerful governors of all states in the nation – with the exception of New York and one other.
Unlike other states, the New Jersey governor gets to make appointments throughout the bureaucratic structure of state government. Thus he is able to award friends and possibly make peace with political enemies.
Earlier this month, Murphy named former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to head the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority – or at least, Murphy so encouraged the authority’s Board of Commissioners to do so.
The move is something of a peace offering to Hudson County Democrats who have largely been left out of the revamped power structure in the state Senate and Assembly.
Prieto as Assembly Speaker came off second best in a power struggle with southern New Jersey power bosses, and the election of Murphy signified a significant geographic shift in power.
While state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack retains some of his leadership posts in the legislature, Hudson County has seen very little in the way of leadership patronage. While this could change in the future as Murphy settles into his new job, for the moment leadership has moved south.
Prieto will be in charge of overseeing the Meadowlands Sports Complex along with the albatross American Dream project, recently restarted as a possible new attraction. But Prieto will lack the ability to allow for a casino in the Meadowlands, something he fought hard to get, but was rejected by interests dedicated to keeping gambling to Atlantic City.
Antonio Suarez, a commissioner on the Secaucus Housing Authority, and brother of Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez is rumored to be Prieto’s intendend replacement.
Hudson County Undersheriff Andrew Conti Jr. was rumored to be considering a run for the Secaucus Town Council against 2nd Ward Councilman James Clancy. But with the filing deadline looming, it is unlikely.
Bayonne mayoral election
There is pressure mounting on the mayoral candidates in Bayonne to publicly reject an undercurrent of racism related to the recent court settlement that will allow a Muslim Center to be built on the city’s east side.
The city settled a lawsuit with Muslim supporters earlier this year after the city’s Planning Board rejected the center and the Muslim group sued.
Racist remarks by members of the general public during the Planning Board hearings made it clear that there will be an undercurrent in the upcoming election. Neither candidate has expressly condemned the racist tone that is once more bubbling up out of the ooze to affect the election.
Some of the sub-rosa racist remarks are being aimed at Mayor Jimmy Davis because his administration signed off on the settlement.
The administration justified the settlement by saying the city would have had to pay a lot more later if the city lost the lawsuit.
But there have been no overt statements yet by the Davis campaign or by the campaign of challenger Jason O’Donnell to distance themselves from groups that would promote hate.
One political observer, however, pointed out that many of those who are most engaged in promoting the racism are not part of either campaign. Many of these were originally supporters of Davis four years ago, but have since have become embittered with Davis for other reasons and so have ended up supporting O’Donnell.
O’Donnell people, however, note that these are not people involved with the O’Donnell campaign, but people latching onto it to satisfy their own personal agenda.
Smith most likely won’t run for mayor
Although former Mayor Mark Smith toyed with the idea of running to regain his seat in Bayonne, he apparently will not run after all.
Had he run, he would have almost guaranteed a Davis victory since many of O’Donnell’s votes are former Smith supporters.
The rumor of Smith’s running surfaced last September after the county failed to give Smith the job as the head of the new Hudson County Police Academy.
A number of prominent Davis supporters apparently lobbied on Smith’s behalf, but apparently, Smith would have been required to endorse Davis’ reelection campaign – betraying O’Donnell, his old political ally.
Earlier this year, Smith said he was still considering the idea of running. But now, with less than two weeks before the filing deadline, it appears a Smith candidacy is out of the question.
This has to have O’Donnell supporters elated, who believe they can not only unseat Davis but a majority of Davis’ council as well – particularly in the three wards.
O’Donnell people believe all three ward seats can be turned, even the very popular Gary LaPelusa in the third ward.
“You have to remember, Gary lost eight years ago to Ray Greaves, and would have lost four years ago, except that Washington Flores cut into the Greaves vote as a third candidate,” one observer said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.