After a year of headlines about rising taxes and politicians brought down by corruption charges, Jersey City residents John Lynch, Martha Larkins, and Riaz Wahid have formed a committee to lead a recall of city officials.
They say they have submitted a Notice of Intention to the city clerk’s office asking him to inform the officials targeted for the recall, the first legal step in the process. On Thursday, City Clerk Robert Byrne acknowledged he had received the notice.
The residents said they want to recall Mayor Jerramiah Healy and City Council members-at-large Peter Brennan, Mariano Vega, and Willie Flood in order to protest the council’s approval of the recent municipal budget, which led to a rise in taxes. They also want to express dissatisfaction with how the city is governed.
“I had politicians advise me not to do it.” – Riaz Wahid
A recall enables voters to remove an elected official from office through a petition drive forcing a new election. For each public official targeted, a separate petition must be filed signed by 25 percent of the registered voters in the last general election, which was November 2009.
In Jersey City, that means a minimum of 30,000 signatures would have to be validated by the clerk to force a recall election of each official. By law, the petition drive cannot begin until one year after the elected official’s term commenced.
Typically, such an effort takes months to accomplish. In nearby West New York, a group of residents tried to recall Mayor Sal Vega this year, but failed to gather enough valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
Wahid, a Journal Square resident, said there is “nothing personal” behind his involvement.
“I joined the recall committee because like many city residents, I am frustrated by our elected representatives,” Wahid said.
What do the targeted officials think about the recall effort?
Mayor Healy, through a spokesperson, declined comment.
The local internet bulletin board JCList stated that ward council members Nidia Lopez and Michael Sottolano also may be targeted later. Both declined to comment last week.
Vega, after Wednesday’s City Council meeting, said he will comment when he sees the recall notice. Brennan, meanwhile, scoffed at the notion of a recall.
“How can anyone sign petitions to recall me after nine years of dedication to the city?” Brennan asked.
Brennan charged that downtown Councilman Steven Fulop – rumored to be a mayoral candidate against Healy in three years – was behind the recall effort.
But Fulop said he did not support the recall effort, and recommended that residents “use their energies” to get candidates elected instead.
The recall process
By New Jersey law, a recall works like this:
• A recall committee is formed and files a Notice of Intention with the city clerk. The clerk has three business days to approve it, or send it back with a letter explaining if it is not in compliance with the law. The recall committee is allowed to correct and file it again. The clerk also must notify the elected official subject to the recall in writing. The official has five days to acknowledge that he is aware of the recall.
• Once the Notice of Intention is approved, the recall committee can begin collecting signatures on petitions. The minimum required in New Jersey is 25 percent of the registered voters in the jurisdiction, as of the last general election.
• The petition effort must be completed within 160 days from the date the Notice of Intention has been approved. The petitions are submitted to the municipal clerk.
• The clerk reviewing the petitions must certify the number of signatures and their validity within 10 days. If the petition is accepted, the clerk must schedule the recall election.
Could be long haul
Riaz Wahid, a married father of two working as a technology manager at a New York firm, said he is aware of the challenge of mounting a successful recall effort.
“I had politicians advise me not to do it,” said Wahid, declining to mention the names of the politicians. “But I don’t know what to do, as I have seen my taxes go up with nothing to show for it.”
Supporting the recall effort to some degree is downtown Jersey City resident and longtime activist Mia Scanga, who said she found out about it through e-mails from various people involved.
“I told them if they needed any advice on gathering signatures, that’s fine,” Scanga said. “My days of going door to door are over.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.