The new old Hoboken?

6/21/09

“One of the evils of democracy,” political comic Will Rogers once said, “is you have to put up with the man you elected, whether you want him or not.”
This is largely what runoff elections are about – deciding which candidate comes closest to the one you voted for, but didn’t get.
In Hoboken, battle for the mayoralty between council members Peter Cammarano and Dawn Zimmer leaned heavily on the concept of the next best choice for supporters of candidate Beth Mason, who didn’t make the runoff.
Hoboken politics revolves around the concept of change – or more precisely, development.
Voters who associate strongly with Old Hoboken are generally nostalgic for “the good old days,” although it is difficult to determine which days they precisely mean since the old days can mean the days when Hoboken was still a shipping capital, or any time since.
Newcomers seem to be those who came to Hoboken after development had turned the city into a quaint Greenwich Village-like place where artists once romped through the streets and people dined in street level cafes.
But strangely enough, this election is not really about what Hoboken was, or what it is, but rather what it is to become, as out-of-city developers eye potential projects on the north and south side of the town as potential money-making opportunities.
Although Old Hoboken played a part in getting Cammarano elected mayor this year, the political battle lines seem to be focusing instead on how much more Hoboken should change. In this regard, newcomers, who moved to Hoboken after it changed from an industrial town, now want to halt the wheels of development to keep the town from taking what is the next logical step in urban redevelopment to taller and more massive buildings.
The newcomers – many of whom supported Zimmer – resemble the Greenwich Village coalition in the 1970s that opposed Robert Moses’ plans for the Westside Highway.
While both Cammarano and Zimmer had promised to scale down the massive proposed development for above the rail line along the south end of Hoboken, Zimmer – if elected council president as expected – will still play a huge role in determining the future of the city.

Secaucus election depends on investigation outcome

Secaucus is a boiling cauldron filled with potential political scandal.
After the Democratic primary saw incumbent Mayor Dennis Elwell, his council ticket and all but two of his committee people beat a challenge by attorney Peter Weiner, a victory against Elwell by Councilman Mike Gonnelli and his ticket in November may depend on some significant event that will draw out more voters on his behalf.
While Gonnelli supporters dismiss the Elwell victory over Weiner as insignificant since Gonnelli has a stronger base, many in the Elwell camp believe Gonnelli and his team worked hard to get out their vote for Weiner, and so in effect, Gonnelli was unable to dent Elwell’s political armor.
A current investigation into city finances could produce the smoking gun Gonnelli needs as political fodder, but no one yet knows if indeed there is a scandal in the works or merely some technical glitch.

Cunningham and Stack: perfect together?

Reports suggest that state Sen. Sandra Cunningham has been meeting frequently with state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack to discuss possibly reviving the nearly defunct Democrats for Hudson County.
Cunningham and Stack may be feeling the pinch of the expanding power base of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
Cunningham alienated County Executive Tom DeGise by blocking his appointment to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. DeGise has vowed to work against Cunningham’s re-election to the state Senate in 2011.
Cunningham could be in trouble if incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine manages to survive the November challenge by Republican Christopher Christie, since DeGise was his choice for the seat. But it is unlikely that Cunningham will campaign for Christie despite the feud, since a Christie victory would dry up a lot of state funding for Hudson County.
DeGise might have seen the Port Authority appointment as a possible retirement post and a way for Jersey City Councilman Peter Brennan to become the next county executive. This might explain the move to make Brennan Jersey City council president in order to improve his public profile for a possible run at the county’s top seat. But the current council president, Mariano Vega, apparently does not want to vacate the coveted seat.
Stack, who will be seeking re-election in 2011 along with Cunningham, finds that his rival in Hudson County, state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, is expanding his power base around the county. Sacco appears to be anticipating a redistricting after the 2010 census that could shift the political boundaries of his district to include additional towns. While North Bergen and Union City are unlikely to wind up in the same district, Sacco appears to be solidifying possible changes in order to be prepared for every inevitability.

Bayonne is next

While Bayonne has a special election in November for the at-large council seat vacated by Anthony Chiappone, only Councilman Terrence Duane (who was named to fill the seat until November) has declared intentions of running. But reports suggest there are groups already gearing up for next May’s regular municipal elections and that tickets are being formed in anticipation of a fall announcement.
Mayor Mark Smith, who will likely seek re-election in May, is facing some tough economic times and needs to come up with budget cuts soon in order to avoid a hefty increase in the last quarter tax bill scheduled to go out just prior to the municipal election in May.