People in Ward C in Jersey City know what Steve Lipski does for them, how he’s had to balance support for business and residential concerns. A smart man who most residents respect found himself in the unenviable position of changing political sides last week when he pushed to out Donald Scarinci as the counsel for the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.
Scarinci, who tried to resign before being fired, said the move was more theatrical than substantive, since he told Lipski more than a month earlier that he wanted to leave.
But suddenly, for more than a block in Ward C, "Recall Lipski" signs cropped up – high up on telephone poles.
If this is a grass-roots effort, then it is a grass-roots effort performed by people on stilts, or in bucket trucks.
So where could this be coming from?
Lipski’s peace overtures towards Mayor Glenn Cunningham (who has been at odds with the county government) should not be seen as the act of a Benedict Arnold, but rather the wisdom of a Benjamin Franklin, learning to go with the political flow of the future.
With Cunningham likely to be named to replace Joseph Charles as the state Senator for the 31st District, it will be a hard road for any councilman to continually remain in opposition.
Politics isn’t supposed to be continued opposition, but a way of peacefully resolving differences.
But some members of the county executive’s camp (not Tom DeGise personally) wish to keep fighting Cunningham, even after Cunningham’s recent political victories.
Lipski has clearly decided to make peace and move on, sacrificing Scarinci, one of the war’s most sacred cows.
Scarinci, of course, may be more resilient than the current political players think. He has survived similar moves to destroy his power base in Hudson County. Former Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia tried, and suffered the consequences of tangling with "The Donald." The fact is, this most recent political undermining of Scarcini has Garcia’s fingerprint on it, even though Garcia has kept a low profile.
But the real mastermind of the JCRA coup against Scarinci came out of Cunningham’s office, orchestrated, reports say, by Joe Cardwell – the Clark Kent of Hudson County politics.
"He doesn’t want the attention," one source said. "He just goes around and makes certain he gets things done."
Cardwell apparently has been calming the political waters with a new mantra for Cunningham’s November bid for state Senate: "We’re not looking to go to war; we’re looking to go to Trenton."
The political war that exploded in Hudson County after the resignation of ex-County Executive Robert Janiszewski destroyed Bayonne Assemblyman Joe Doria.
Some people are beginning to understand that Doria’s loss was an unnecessary tragedy.
Doria, of course, has not given up and still lingers in the legal limbo hoping the courts can do for his re-election bid what the polling booth could not.
Lou Manzo, who beat Doria in the June Primary for the Assembly seat in the 31st District, believes Doria will never give up.
"My first term will be over before he gives up his appeal," Manzo told one political heavyweight this week.
Cunningham, who could be named to fill Charles’ seat as early as September (thus giving him an edge in the November election) may have an even bigger influence in the state. While there is no official Black Caucus on a state level, the way there is in Congress, Cunningham’s election may bring together other black senators such as Sharpe James, Nina Gill, Donald Rice and Wayne Bryant to form one. This would provide a powerful urban block in the Senate and promise significant consideration in future state budget allocations.
Cunningham’s influence in the political trenches of Jersey City became clearer this week, when some people in Marion Gardens told L. Harvey Smith, "you should not have run against our mayor."
Smith was defeated by Cunningham handily in the June state Senate primary.
Coming up with replacements
State Sen. Bernard Kenny, chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, would not speculate on his recommendations, but said that the position would not officially become vacant until September. Charles, apparently, wanted time off before being sworn in as a judge. So he will technically remain a state senator until he is sworn in, despite approval by the legislature and governor.
But Kenny did say, "We will be in a good position to win the November election."
A united Democratic effort is necessary because of the 20-20 split in the 40 seats in the state Senate, half Republican, half Democrat.
September may also reveal a more specific name as to who will replace recently convicted freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon. While plenty of names have been bandied about from Gerry McCann to Anthony Cruz, the decision apparently hasn’t yet been finalized.
The sad death of County Clerk Janet Haynes also has its political ramifications. Reports suggest county officials may look outside Jersey City to North Hudson to find a suitable replacement. Democrats have been hit hard by the loss of Latino elected officials. Freeholder Nidia-Colon, Assembly members Rafael Fraguela and Rudy Garcia have lessened Latino presence in public office, and may influence county officials to pursue a Latino to replace Haynes. Cunningham may have something to say about this, and may insist that Willie Flood (who is black but not Latino) be given the post along with the Democratic nomination for the November election.
Unlike the replacement for Charles or even Davila-Colon, the decision rests with the governor’s office, and reports suggest that the governor insists on ending the feuding in Hudson County.
Trivia; Politicos make Hoboken’s schools pay
Rich McCormick, Jersey City’s west side advocate, just got back from Mexico, where he discovered a neat little election law.
"I was talking to one of the police and I found out you can’t sell alcohol on Election Day," McCormick said. "All the bars and liquor stores are closed. I can’t image that in Hudson County, can you?"
Hoboken Councilman Tony Soares had a sharply negative reaction to the fact that Hoboken Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons received a public relations contract for the Hoboken School District.
"I like Maurice, but I feel he shouldn’t be allowed to do public relations in a district he represents," Soares said.
But then, Soares is still miffed at Fitzgibbons for voting "yes" on the county budget when Soares believes Hoboken receives comparably little in county benefits.
Soares had even stronger negative feelings about the rumor that political consultant Tony Amabile will share PR duties for the Hoboken school district. It was just two months ago that Amabile served as a political consultant to the 4th Ward council candidate backed by Mayor David Roberts against Soares. It was a vicious campaign. Amabile has been a long-time political consultant, and previously worked for Mayor Anthony Russo.
This is not the first time there was talk of someone politically-connected doing PR for the school system. Michael Korman, former city spokesman under Russo, also has been paid to do PR for the schools in the past. And Fitzgibbons’ firm has, as well.