The day after Changes in tone at Town Council meeting after election

On Nov. 8, the Secaucus Town Council met at 7 p.m. and renamed a street, introduced a storm water control ordinance, and announced applications for spring raffles at the high school.

However, by the time the meeting got to the remarks of citizens, it was apparent that today was not just business as usual in Secaucus.

In front of a crowd of approximately 50 people, town resident Carole Acropolis got right to the point.

“We’re just here tonight to let you know that Take Back Secaucus is not going away,” she said, referring to the name of the opposition slate of candidates that won two out of three contested Town Council seats the day before. “We are all here and we’re going to keep coming.”

Post-election effects immediately felt

There were even more politics that usual at this particular council meeting because it was held less than 24 hours after the polls had closed. Councilmen Michael Grecco and John Bueckner both made specific remarks about the election. Grecco graciously congratulated Gary Jeffas, the 1st Ward councilman-elect who defeated him, who was in the crowd. Jeffas would later step forward to thank Grecco and to say that he was looking forward to working with the council. Councilman John Bueckner congratulated Jeffas, 2nd Ward councilman-elect Mike Gonnelli, and 3rd Ward councilman-elect and Elwell Team member John Shinnick, expressing a desire to work together. Shinnick would later thank Bueckner and the rest of the council. Dr. Robert Berckes, who was also present, also thanked the public for their support in his unsuccessful effort and voiced his continuing support for Gonnelli and Jeffas’ future efforts.

Sign shenanigans noted

The pleasantries soon ended when some of the potentially nastier aspects of the election came to light.

Arthur Young, a Harmon Cove resident, noted that he had a problem placing a sign supporting the Take Back Secaucus team in his window.

“Your secretary, Maddy Michaels, is the president of our association,” said Young, addressing Elwell. “She sent me a letter advising me that I did not have a proper window treatment and to remove the sign. Yet the elect Kickey, Grecco, and Shinnick people were allowed to leave their signs in the window. Mayor, you’ve always been a very fair and reasonable person, and I’m sure you’re not aware of this situation. How could a political sign expressing my free choice and my rights not be allowed within Harmon Cove?”

Elwell answered succinctly.

“I certainly do not get involved in my secretary’s dealings with Harmon Cove,” he said. “I know nothing about it. That’s an issue between you and Harmon Cove. I would suggest that you take it there.”

George Broemmer followed Young on the microphone. He voiced a practical concern that many town residents have expressed regarding council meetings.

“At the last meeting, there was a lot of conversation related to the scheduling of council meetings,” he said. “How does the public get it known to the council that we want 7 p.m. council meetings, not 4 p.m.? I know myself and I’m sure a lot of other people here would appreciate 7 p.m. meetings.”

Elwell said that the council will discuss the matter at the first meeting of the new council in January.

A perceptible change

Although the new council has not taken office yet, a new attitude could be detected among the citizens attending the meeting. Issues often not discussed before the council, such as the town’s role in the Meadowlands Commission’s tax sharing program, affordable housing, and Secaucus’ earlier attempt to secede from Hudson County were raised. Whether this tenor and tone of political debate at the Town Council meetings will be maintained in the weeks and months ahead remains to be seen.

However, Bobby Berckes, the father of Dr. Robert Berckes, fixed an eye on future council meetings and offered a cautionary comment.

“I hope that you all remember to consider other things besides politics when you consider the issues,” he said.


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