Second of two parts.
Former Jersey City councilman Steve Lipski says he misses being on the City Council.
“It was wonderful working to help my constituents, so many different cultures from all walks of life, during my eight years on the council,” he said.
In the first part of an interview (published in the Dec. 24 issue of the Midweek Reporter), Lipski spoke about his November 2008 arrest as the result of an incident in a Washington D.C. nightclub when he urinated on patrons while he was drunk. Lipski was sentenced last January to a year of probation, along with a $50 fine and community service, which he has since completed.
Now, over a year later, he devotes his time to running two schools in Jersey City, and receiving counseling and treatment for his alcohol addiction.
“By the Grace of God go I that it wasn’t me.” – Steve Lipski
Lipski’s exit from politics was beneficial in another way: it allowed him to avoid the government sting that snared so many Jersey City politicians who were running up for election in May. Jimmy King, the man Lipski probably would have faced in the election, pleaded guilty in September to accepting $10,000 in bribes from government cooperating witness Solomon Dwek.
Looking from the outside in
On the subject of King and the other mayoral and council candidates who ran in the election and ended up being arrested, Lipski expressed his sympathy.
“My heart goes out to Jimmy King and his family, whom I’ve known quite a while, and a great and profound sense of sadness for everyone who got caught up, for the hardship that it created for them and their families,” Lipski said at the Brownstone Restaurant in downtown Jersey City.
The other political contenders besides King who were arrested included Councilman L. Harvey Smith and Assemblyman Louis Manzo, who both ran for mayor, and Mike Manzo, Phil Kenny, Lavern-Webb Washington, Lori Serrano, and Mariano Vega, who ran for council seats. All were accused of accepting bribe money from Dwek to help him obtain approvals for a bogus development project on Garfield Avenue, and then using the money for their political campaigns or for Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s reelection campaign.
The fact that they allegedly took the money is why Lipski doesn’t think they are victims of entrapment.
“I can go into a bar and someone can offer me a beer; it doesn’t mean I have to accept it,” Lipski said.
Yet, he also expressed a sense of relief that he was not among those involved: “By the Grace of God go I that it wasn’t me.”
Lipski pointed out that if he’d remained on the council, he might have been in meetings with Dwek, since he had many ties to the city’s development process, including serving on the city’s Planning Board and as chairman of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency’s Board of Commissioners.
Maybe there’s a future
Mayor Jerramiah Healy did not choose Lipski to run on his ticket. Instead that spot went to Nidia Lopez, wife of former City Councilman Ben Lopez. Nidia Lopez ended up beating Jimmy King by 17 per cent in the May election.
Then, Lopez ended up in court answering accusations that her primary residence was in Jersey City, since she owned a residence there. A judge ruled that she was eligible to remain on the council.
Lipski said he and his wife have known her for several years and they consider her a “friend.”
On the topic of her recent victory in court, Lipski said he was “glad” she was able to clear that legal hurdle, but he was still disturbed by the revelations about Lopez.
“A lot of people spend their time in two states but declare themselves the resident of just one,” Lipski said. “I don’t know how you can reconcile taking advantage of a tax break [in Florida] and still run for office.”
As for his own future political plans, Lipski has no plans at the present time, but he doesn’t rule out that possibility in the future.
The only sure thing for Lipski is his current mission to “stay healthy and sober.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.