Between the Lines Be out of town by sundown

In what may come to resemble a classic scene from Gary Cooper’s movie High Noon, Hoboken Councilman Tony Soares is taking on Rep. Bob Menendez. After exchanging letters in the local daily newspaper, we might soon hear the jingle of spurs on Washington Street in Hoboken as Soares comes uptown with his political shooting irons slung low.

Soares, whose has notched several significant victims since being part of a group that took on the Port Authority in 1992 over the proposed development of the location now occupied by Pier A, seems to have decided Mayor Dave Roberts wasn’t a fast enough draw to be a challenge. Soares had decided to test his aim on the third most powerful democrat in Congress (Menendez), particularly concerning the proposed development at 1600 Park Ave. in Hoboken and the more distant but equally significant development of the Xanadu Mall in East Rutherford.

Menendez, no stranger to fighting in the street, has a host of notches of his own, including the decline of former Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia and possibly former County Executive Robert Janiszewski. So in response, he took aim in the paper at Soares with both guns blazing. Whereas Soares’ shots accuse Menendez of meddling in local politics, Menendez claims Soares is hardly a positive force in politics.

With so many political bullets flying, there is almost no place in Hoboken to duck for cover.

Can you pass the test?

Michael Lenz, hired last year as the Hoboken Certified Financial Officer and fired this year, admitted that he failed a portion of his CFO test last month. Lenz has been extremely critical of Roberts’ recent refinancing efforts as well as what Lenz called “a climate of overspending.”

Roberts pondered how Lenz could lecture on policy when Lenz could not pass the state tests. Lenz said that he was among a host of those who made mistakes in a tougher calculation portion of the test, but among the few that passed the portion covering municipal finance law.

“When it comes to law, I know what I am talking about,” Lenz said, adding that a key member of Roberts’ financial team also failed a portion of the test.

Roberts countered, “So if my kid fails in school, things will better if I say the whole class failed? How can Mr. Lenz be such an authority of financing when he can’t pass the tests?”

Meanwhile, Hoboken is flush with rumors over possible additional changes in staff, such as replacing Cassandra Wilday – a nationally known urban planner as director of Environmental Service – with longtime school board member David Anthony.

Whether this is true or not, only time will tell.

Watch what you say

Indignant NJ Transit officials and their special consultants took on a superior tone before a public presentation of a possible redevelopment plan for the south end of Secaucus last week. The officials called the Reporter “the intruder reporter” because the newspaper broke the news that the company’s transit study encouraged 1,850 units of housing and other development changes, a week in advance of a public presentation. The officials made their comment at the hearing Wednesday night, unaware that the reporter was in the room at the time. They claimed that local objections to what may become a $1 billion development were anti-development “stick-in-the-muds” and against progress. The development may impose a 20 percent increase on the Secaucus population.

Bob Ceberio, executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, said during the public presentation that a portion of local control would be returned to Secaucus, allowing local officials a bigger say in the development. Of course, he neglected to say that developers like Starwood-Heller appear to have the inside track on the project and have already contributed generously to local political campaigns.

Ceberio claimed the new Secaucus Transfer Station has put pressure on his office to approve development for the area, failing also to note that the Transfer Station was imposed on local residents – not as a necessary transportation hub but as the ground floor to a 4 million-square-foot development called Allied Junction. For nearly a decade, residents resisted the project, taking it all the way to federal appeals court before losing the fight.

Taxpayers footed the $450 million construction cost of the station, and commuters will pay additional fees to use it. Meanwhile, the nearly 4,000 additional people who will live in new housing almost guarantee NJ Transit steady use of the station.

Critics of the new Secaucus project are bemoaning the fact that the next municipal election is not until 2005. The longer election term is a gift to the current administration by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (who is also employed by the town of Secaucus), who brokered legislation in 2001 that expanded the terms of office without telling the voting public. Gov. Jim McGreevey signed the legislation into law. Mayor Dennis Elwell, whose Democratic majority controls the Town Council, said the increased terms would allow his administration to make some hard decisions.

Lesniak and other former associates of former county executive Robert Janiszewski had a good month. Geoff Perselay, former county administrator and former warden to the county jail, brokered a five-year $13 million deal for the county, while his business partner and financial whiz Dennis Enright may score big with handling the Hoboken refinancing.

Unfortunately for Joseph Pelliccio, director of the West New York Police Department, he thanked the wrong man during the swearing in of new police recruits last week. Instead of thanking Larry Riccardi, the current director of Public Safety, Pelliccio thanked the man Riccardi replaced, Sal Vega.

Vega, freeholder chairman and a member of the West New York Municipal Commission, appeared to have “fallen” out of favor with Mayor Albio Sires – although why that happened still remains a mystery.


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group