The great American political satirist Will Rogers once defined the difference between Democrats and Republicans, claiming Democrats are cannibals, feeding on other Democrats, while Republicans feed on Democrats, too.
This seems to fit well with what happened to state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and his ex-wife Katia Stack last week when Fox5 investigative reporter Arnold Diaz got duped into doing Hudson County’s political dirty work by uncovering alleged abuses of municipal vehicles.
While the details of the news report can be found elsewhere, some believe this was a preemptive strike by a combination of Stack’s fellow Democrats and longtime Republican enemies before the realigning of new political districts gives Stack greater power over portions of Jersey City. Stack could wind up representing half of Jersey City in a newly-shaped 33rd legislative district, a concept that scares the pants off the well-established Jersey City political elite, who could find Stack an obstacle to doing business as usual.
Jersey City’s political mainstream long ago made peace with their political neighbor in North Bergen, state Sen. Nicholas Sacco, whose district slices off the western slope of Jersey City Heights. Those ties are so binding that Sacco has at times sent political troops into the Heights to help work for favored candidates. Stack is a whole other fish, someone with uncomfortable ties with Jersey City political bosses and Sacco.
Taking a shot at Stack this early in the year – using the unwitting talents of Diaz – may be a way of sending Stack a message not to get too ambitious.
But this message could risk a new political war just at a time when peace appears to be on the horizon.
A definite ‘no,’ at least for now
Political people close to Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari say he will definitely not take on the chore of rebuilding the Secaucus Democratic Party, despite mixed messages sent over the last few weeks.
“He has a big enough job focusing on being sheriff,” one source close to Schillari said.
Secaucus Democrats were devastated by the arrest of then-Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell in a federal sting in July 2009, and his subsequent resignation as party chairman. Although state Assemblyman Vincent Prieto of Secaucus took on the role as chairman, most believe he was hampered by the fact that he is an employee of the town of Secaucus, and responsible for running a slate of candidates opposed by Independent Mayor Michael Gonnelli. Prieto is expected to step down as chairman following the June primary, although who will take his place remains unsettled. The three most likely remaining candidates are former councilman John Schinnick, former mayoral candidate Peter Weiner, former council candidateMark Bruscino, and current School Board Trustee Mike Makarski.
Stepping into the hot spot in Hoboken
Tom Greaney was scheduled to announce his candidacy for Hoboken’s 2nd ward council seat on Feb. 5, putting him squarely in perhaps the most significant race in the upcoming battle for control of the City Council. Greaney, a member of the reform movement in Hoboken since moving there in 2003, has the unenviable task of trying to unseat Council President Beth Mason. Mason is a former mayoral candidate and a frequent critic of Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
While five other ward seats in Hoboken will be contested in May, most political observers see two races as key if reformers hope to regain control of the City Council. Councilman Peter Cunningham must retain his seat in the 5th Ward, and Greaney must unseat Mason in the 2nd.
This, of course, means added pressure to an already tense election for Greaney, who cut his teeth in local politics when he supported Carol Marsh for mayor in 2004. Back then, Mason and Greaney were on the same side. But after Marsh’s loss to Mayor Dave Roberts, the reformers split, and Mason began to drift away from the Marsh group. Most recently, Mason has settled more or less comfortably among many of what were considered Old Hoboken people, especially during the special 4th Ward election last November, when she worked for and funded the Tim Occhipinti campaign against reformer incumbent Councilman Michael Lenz, causing reformers to lose control of the council.
Reformers are pinning some of their hope on Greaney’s ability to help take control of the council back in order to help support Zimmer’s agenda over the next two years.
Of course, Greaney says, reformer can mean anything in today’s climate, so he defines it as “someone who supports a practical, effective and efficient city government.”
He said he wants to get away from the idea of splitting the community between newcomers and old Hoboken, seeking to build on a one-community approach.
Although he has made his career in New York as a human resource specialist for a major life insurance company, Hoboken is his home and it is his goal to create a more efficient government here.
“I mean no disrespect to loyal city workers, but the model we’ve been using here went out with the Frank Hague era,” he said, calling Zimmer “the most improbable mayor” Hoboken has likely ever had, someone whose accomplishments he admires with a philosophy he embraces.
While ward issues and citywide issues are difficult to separate, he said infrastructure, such as the piers in Ward 2 and proposed park development at 1600 Park Ave., are local issues, as are water main breaks. Budget and taxes are both ward and citywide issues. A member of the stakeholder committee for the hospital, Greaney sees the sale of the hospital a critical issue for the city as well, which will help restore the city’s bond rating. He is in favor of maintaining an acute care facility in Hoboken.
While he believes he can beat Mason, Greaney expects a tough race.
“Once I declare, I expect an A-bomb aimed at my head,” he said. “But I promise I will run a respectful campaign. I just won’t hesitate to point out our differences.”