The recession before the recession3/22/09

Will Rogers once noted that unemployment started well before the great crash of 1929, but no one noticed.
Part of it was hidden by flush economic times.
But in some ways, many of those who lost a job in industry got a job in government.
When tough times hit, people take notice of who has a job and where, and demand that somebody do something about it.
This is posing serious political problems for state and local governments, especially since most government workers have grown used to the fringe benefits their job provides, and when they say “cut the budget,” they do not mean cut benefits or services.
For Gov. Jon Corzine, this year’s state budget is a political minefield, filled with “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenarios
With every likelihood that Corzine will face former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie as the Republican challenger for governor in the fall, Corzine faces an inglorious political dilemma: even if he does the right thing – cutting the cost of state government – he may get dumped from office by an irate public, much in the way Gov. Jim Florio got dumped after he raised taxes in the early 1990s to cover the massive increase in services the public demanded from the state.
A perfect example of this double bind facing Corzine came last Thanksgiving when he required state workers to report to their offices the Friday after the holiday. Although this was in keeping with his promise to run the state like a business, it resulted in state workers moaning over their gravy-covered turkeys about having to go to work the next day, thus turning not only state workers against Corzine next November, but also all of the family members who had to hear the gripes.

Who controls the Bayonne Board of Ed?

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith faces a similar dilemma in his effort to fill a $30 million shortfall in municipal revenues. Unable to rely on the state or even one-shot revenue deals, Smith needs to cut spending, with each layoff threatening to deliver a host of votes against him when he runs for reelection next year.
His biggest obstacle, however, may be the Board of Education, which seems determined to resist his budget-cutting measures.
Last year, several residents tried to get a referendum on the ballot to return to an elected Board of Education rather than an appointed one.
The argument against this was that electing the board would reduce City Hall’s control over and responsibility for school spending, since the mayor oversees the appointments to the board and is a member of the Board of School Estimate, which oversees the school budget.
This confrontation between the mayor and the employees of the school district shows just how little control City Hall really has, as well as the taxpayers who foot the bill for boards that are not answerable to the voters.

Ban the term ‘reformer’

A prominent Hoboken political figure said last week that the term “reformer” should be banned from use by anyone who has taken a political job.
This point is very well taken in a year when all of the prominent candidates for mayor – Peter Cammarano, Beth Mason, and Dawn Zimmer – have aligned themselves with strong political powerbrokers.
Generally speaking, candidates come in two basic types: issue-oriented candidates (sometimes referred to as “reformers”) and professional politicians.
Reformers in general seek elected office in order to resolve problems, while professional politicians generally “do the right things” to continue in office.
While the line is sometimes blurred between the two, Hoboken’s political universe seems to have eliminated the line entirely since so-called reformers have sought alliances with powerful interests in order to improve their chances at getting elected.
While Councilman Peter Cammarano is seen as the most logical candidate for the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s support this May, Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer also has ties to the HCDO – especially by selecting Carol Marsh, who served until recently as vice chair of the HCDO, as her running mate. Councilwoman Beth Mason ought to be able to don the reformer crown, except that she picked three candidates for her mayoral slate who have close or past associations with former Mayor Anthony Russo, and is slated to get support from State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
While Cammarano is seeking to separate himself from the crowd by running a campaign noting that he opposed the state takeover of the municipal budget last year, he may, as a sitting councilman, still feel the wrath of a voting public hit with a massive tax increase.
(Independent candidates Frank Orsini, Ryn Melberg, and Tom Vincent are also running for mayor in Hoboken.)

Poll shows tight race in Jersey City

In Jersey City, more people were jumping into the mayoral race last week, suggesting a feeding frenzy. Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith is hoping to galvanize the African-American vote, but he may not be the only African-American running. Phil Webb turned in his petition signatures for mayor by Thursday as well. Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, although not African-American, hopes to draw votes from the same community.
But the latest poll numbers show incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy leading the pack with 25 percent of the vote, Smith with 18, Manzo at 10, and Dan Levin at 7. Webb’s entrance in the race could help cut Smith’s numbers, possibly allowing Manzo to compete for a June runoff, or giving Healy a larger lead.

Change at Hoboken Dem Committee?

The Hoboken Democratic Committee is scheduled to vote for a new chairman at a special meeting at Willie McBride’s this Monday, March 23, a source said last week. The committee must fill the position vacated by Jeff Barnes, a relatively new chair who resigned earlier this month.
Some rumors suggested that state Assemblyman Ruben Ramos will become the chairman, at which point he may step down early from the City Council to assume the duties as chairman.
The Hoboken Democratic Committee is made up of two committee people – a man and woman – from each election district in the city. (Each ward has several districts.) As a group, they set agendas for the Democratic Party in Hoboken, vote on rules of operation, candidates they will support for various offices, and fundraisers for candidates.
Last year, the committee leadership said they wanted to get away from supporting a single candidate in Hoboken elections, and instead focus on statewide and national Democratic candidates, although not everyone agreed.
Officially, the body cannot raise funds for any mayoral or council candidate in the upcoming mayor and council elections, but Ramos’ election as chairman could be seen as a boost to the mayoral aspirations of Councilman Peter Cammarano.