Jersey City residents leading an effort to recall Mayor Jerramiah Healy and several members of the City Council officially launched the effort on Wednesday with an announcement in front of City Hall.
Led by John Lynch, Martha Larkins, and Riaz Wahid, who formed the committee to recall Healy, the residents said they started collecting signatures beginning Monday. Their petition effort was the first one approved by the City Clerk Robert Byrne.
Now they have until Feb. 22 to collect signatures to force a recall of Healy, who was reelected in the May 2009 municipal election.
A recall enables voters to remove an elected official from office through a petition drive which, if successful, forces a new election, in this case in November 2011. For each public official targeted, a separate petition must be signed by 25 percent of voters, either city wide or in a specific ward, who were registered in the last general election, which was November 2009.
“We are here today to make a difference here in Jersey City.” – Kim Snyder
For ward council members facing a recall, it would require a minimum of 25 percent of voters from that ward who were registered to vote in the November 2009 general election.
By law, the petition drive cannot begin until one year after the elected official’s term commenced. The plan is to force the recall of the council members who ran on Healy’s ticket in last year’s municipal election: Michael Sottolano, Nidia Lopez, Bill Gaughan, Peter Brennan, Willie Flood and Viola Richardson. Mariano Vega was once also considered a target, but he resigned from his council seat and pleaded guilty to corruption charges this week (see our other cover story).
Councilmen Steven Fulop, who did not run on the Healy ticket, and David Donnelly, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Team Healy candidate Phil Kenny after he resigned and pleaded guilty to corruption charges last year, are not targets of the recall effort.
They want change
Some people who earlier this year started expressing dissatisfaction with the way the city is governed at council meetings were standing outside City Hall on Grove Street, a somewhat disorganized group wearing t-shirts that read “Recall Team Healy.”
Among them was local resident Kim Snyder.
“We are here today to make a difference here in Jersey City,” Snyder said. “There has been tremendous crime, taxes have gone up, and people have had enough.”
Esther Wintner, sans t-shirt, was one of the first people who raised her voice about the city’s problems back in January. Now running in the November Ward B special election to fill the remainder of former councilman Phil Kenny’s term, Wintner emphasized the importance of the recall movement and people standing with her.
“We stand together united, one Jersey City united, to put an end to this government and give the city back to the people,” Wintner said.
But is their enthusiasm enough to carry out the recall of any Jersey City official? If successful, it would be the first in the city’s history, according to city clerk Byrne.
Various political observers have noted that a recall effort could easily fail due to apathy. In the May 2009 municipal election, a little more than 30,000 out of a potential 120,000 registered voters actually voted. Healy amassed more than half of those 30,000 votes to win reelection.
So far, the council members seemed unconcerned about the recall effort targeting them. One of them was Viola Richardson, who represents Ward F, covering most of the city’s Bergen-Lafayette section.
“I am not about to give them life by worrying or concerning myself about what they are going to do,” Richardson said. “I am going to continue to be focused on doing my job and serving my constituents.”
City Councilman Michael Sottolano said he was “not worried” and said “what will be, will be.”
Do you think a recall of Mayor Jerramiah Healy and/or the City Council will be successful?
If you do or don’t, and you’d like to take our reader poll on this topic, visit our website at www.hudsonreporter.com.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Polling ends Thursday, Sept. 23)