When Mayor Jerramiah Healy announced that he supported city employee David Donnelly as a replacement for former Ward B councilman Phil Kenny, it was practically a given that the City Council would vote for Donnelly’s appointment at Wednesday’s council meeting.
The 7-0 vote, with City Councilwoman Viola Richardson abstaining, did not come without some controversy.
Before the vote, Richardson and Councilman Steven Fulop said the replacement should have been an open process, saying a committee should have been formed to consider other Ward B residents who expressed interest in filling the seat, which covers much of the city’s west side.
“Does he know what he is getting himself into?” – Peter Brennan
His replacement will fill the seat until a special election in November 2010 to fill the remainder of the term, which ends on June 30, 2013.
The council members and Healy had received information from Ward B residents indicating their interest in the seat. One of those residents, Hudson County employee and freelance photographer Richard J. McCormack, addressed the council with his qualifications and said they should look beyond just one candidate.
“What does democracy mean? Think about it, it is about choice,” McCormack said.
Paul Catsandonis, who had also planned to offer himself as a candidate but did not show up, said in a phone interview that he choose not to attend to “dignify a dog-and-pony show,” and plans to run in the special election in 2010.
After the council voted to seat Donnelly he was sworn into office by City Clerk Robert Byrne before the meeting ended, with family and friends looking on.
A new challenge
When newly installed Council President Peter Brennan (replacing Mariano Vega) cast the final vote, he humorously admonished Donnelly’s mother, Mary, a one-time Ward B councilperson from 1997-2005, for not talking her son out of filling the seat.
Then Brennan posed the question: “Does he know what he is getting himself into?”
Donnelly may well know what he is getting himself into, based on his resume.
Besides having a mother with previous council experience, he has also worked in City Hall for the past several years as a special assistant to Mayor Healy, and has previous experience working in the Hudson County Executive’s office and for Edison Mayor Jun Choi. He also received the endorsement of several council members. Councilman Michael Sottolano called the appointment an “excellent choice” and said a “lot of thought” went into choosing Donnelly.
Also lauding the appointment of Donnelly were Councilpersons Nidia Lopez and Mariano Vega. Fulop had called for both of them to abstain from voting on Kenny’s replacement because Lopez’s legal residency – and thus her right to sit on the council – is the subject of a lawsuit, and Vega was among 44 people arrested in an FBI corruption sting July 23.
Donnelly, after being sworn in, told the Jersey City Reporter there were a lot of issues to deal with in Ward B, from quality of life matters to development within the ward, such as the AMB Warehouse and open space near the Hackensack River. He said he also plans to run in the November 2010 special election.
“You never know what you will get yourself into unless you are in that position but I plan to work my heart out for the people of Ward B.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.