Dr. Felix Roque announced on July 2 that his movement for an election to recall Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega has progressed to collecting signatures from supporters.
Muncipal Clerk Carmela Ricci confirmed that Roque’s notice of intention for a recall has been accepted, and Roque has been approved to send “circulators” around town to collect signatures on his petitions.
Roque announced at a press conference July 2 that starting July 6, he would start collecting the 5,200 signatures needed to require scheduling of a special recall election.
The regular mayoral election is scheduled for May 2011. Roque began the recall effort earlier this year after local taxes climbed.
At the conference, Roque was greeted by cheers from supporters who were waiting for him at his headquarters, located at 216 60th St. in West New York. Many were wearing t-shirts with the campaign slogan and the name of his organization “Together We Can.”
Roque said that if elected mayor, he would work for $1 a month and not take a mayor’s salary.
Roque, who is a pain management doctor in town, also noted that he has spent thousands of dollars of his own money to move forward with his campaign and that he has also held a fundraiser.
“I’m willing to spend whatever it takes. I’m willing to borrow against my house,” said Roque.
Chanting at City Hall
After his speech, Roque took his supporters to the front steps of the Town Hall. They chanted “Recall Vega, recall Vega!” At one point, Roque shouted toward Vega’s office and asked him to come out.
Mayor Vega did not come out, and it is believed he missed the protest because he was seen in a vehicle that was headed toward the Town Hall while Roque’s group was leaving and heading back to their headquarters.
“Oh, what you missed,” a woman shouted in Spanish toward the vehicle that Vega was traveling in.
Issues Roque is protesting
Roque listed the issues he and his supporters were most concerned about.
“A $15.7 million dollar deficit where there was once a surplus before the Vega administration,” he said in his speech. “A 47 percent tax increase within a span of two years that is putting thousands in danger of losing their homes and businesses.”
Roque also said there was decrease in the quality of education and safety in schools and an intended reduction of the police force and municipal workers.
Vega intends to lay off police officers and city workers or change their benefits in order to bring taxes back down
“It’s just a political power grab by a group of people who are largely out-of-towners.”—Paul Swibinksi
Vega’s administration responds
Paul Swibinski, the spokesman for the town of West New York, said the Vega administration is not the least bit worried about the efforts made by Roque.
“It’s just a political power grab by a group of people who are largely out-of-towners,” said Swibinski. “Right now the mayor and commissioners are concentrated on coming to terms with the employee unions. The recall is a pointless distraction which has zero chance of succeeding.”
Swibinski also said that a recall would unnecessarily cost taxpayers at least an additional $100,000.
“Trying to have a recall election two months before the [regular election] would be a foolish waste of time and money,” said Swibinski. “It’s just an outgrowth of [Roque’s] own thirst for power, and it’s a bad thing for the town.”
Roque’s supporters voice their reasons
Juan Dominguez, a West New York resident and realtor for over six years, is a volunteer with Roque’s group. At the conference, Dominguez said he’s participated in many town meetings and has spoken to Vega.
“This type of crisis happens around every 10 years in a cycle, in fact, for the whole nation,” said Dominguez. “But for West New York, we have an incapable administration that can’t deal with the problem here.”
Melissa Rappaport may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org