Zimmer takes aim at county Democrats over June 7 primary

After Hoboken Councilman Ravinder Bhalla announced on Monday that he will independently challenge the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s slate of incumbent Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. and Jersey City Detective and School Board Member Sean Connors in the June 7 Democratic Assembly primaries, different politicians issued statements about the recent Democratic civil war in Hudson County. Two Assembly seats and one state Senate seat are up for election this year.
First, Bhalla announced that he will run in the June 7 Democratic primary for a seat, facing HCDO-backed candidates Sean Connors of Jersey City and incumbent Ruben Ramos of Hoboken.
Then, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer issued a statement on Wednesday saying that she received a politically threatening phone call from Union City Mayor and State Senator Brian Stack after Bhalla entered the race. Stack, who is running for re-election to his state Senate seat, is the leader of the slate with the two Assembly candidates on it.
Zimmer claimed that HCDO Chairman Mark Smith ignored suggestions from her allies, including Bhalla, when putting together a slate to receive the county Democrats’ endorsement. She said that Stack in effect threatened to be more involved in Hoboken politics against her candidates.
Bayonne Mayor and HCDO Chairman Mark Smith blasted both Bhalla and Zimmer in a statement later on Wednesday.
“We cannot afford ‘fair-weather’, ‘Democrats-in-name-only’, who feign to support the party’s values and platform but then jump at the chance to run against the party as soon as they see an opportunity to advance themselves,” Smith said.
Bhalla said his phone calls, text messages, and voicemails were ignored by Smith over the past weekend when they were putting together a slate.
“Smith fails to mention that the HCDO leadership itself asked Mayor Zimmer and myself to collect petitions to run for state Assembly because they were concerned Senator Brian Stack would renege on the backroom deal they made that placed Senator Stack and Assemblyman Ramos on the HCDO line, along with the Russo family committee people,” Bhalla said.
Smith said he did not authorize Bhalla to collect petitions. Bhalla said someone else in the party leadership did advise him to prepare for a potential race.
On Thursday, the incumbent Ramos also issued a statement.
“It’s no secret that Mayor Zimmer holds personal grudges and conveniently failed to mention the behind-the-scenes efforts she engaged in for Councilman Ravi Bhalla to get the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s endorsement,” Ramos said. “Bhalla wasn’t given the official endorsement because he and Zimmer selfishly tried a power play of their own and lost. This is a simple case of Zimmer and Bhalla not getting their way and being sore losers.”
When the dust settles, it will be Assemblyman Ramos and Connors on one slate, and Bhalla challenging the two independently in a Democratic primary on June 7 to represent the 33rd District in the State Assembly. If Bhalla wins the seat, he will have to step down from the council at the end of 2011.
Democratic voters can choose any two Assembly candidates on June 7, and then have a choice of Democrats and Republicans in November.

Public safety director resigns; tells mayor he met with FBI informant

The city is accepting resumes for the position of public safety director.
Angel Alicea resigned from his position after revealing in a discussion with Mayor Dawn Zimmer that he had met with FBI informant Solomon Dwek twice in 2009. Dwek is the FBI informant who brought down numerous political leaders that year in a sting operation, including now imprisoned former Mayor Peter Cammarano.
Alicea, who was on Cammarano’s council slate in 2009 during the time of the meeting with Dwek, announced his resignation on Friday, April 8. The news was released by City Hall late on Friday, too late to make last weekend’s newspaper.
“He and I mutually agreed [on April 8] that in light of Hoboken’s recent history and the fact that he had failed to disclose this information either publicly or to me, he could no longer serve effectively in his position as public safety director,” Zimmer said in a statement. “He therefore submitted and I have accepted his resignation. On behalf of the city, I thank him for his service to Hoboken.”
Alicea earned an annual salary of $27,000. The public safety director provides administrative oversight for the police and fire departments.
Alicea had been appointed by Cammarano and stayed on the job when Zimmer took over. Alicea was not charged in the 2009 sting that took down Cammarano.
Zimmer is now looking for a new director.

Potential hospital sale to be addressed at April 20 meeting

The negotiations between the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority and a group of investors from Bayonne for the sale of Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC) will continue until at least April 20. Then, on April 20, the authority will meet at 7 p.m. in Assumption Hall in HUMC for a special meeting to address the potential sale.
The authority is trying to sell the hospital to a private buyer, and after eight bidders stepped forward, the authority decided to negotiate exclusively with HUMC Holdco, a group that has common ownership with Bayonne Medical Center.
The Hoboken City Council voted in 2007 to guarantee $52 million in bonds to keep the hospital alive. Now, the Hoboken Hospital Authority is looking to sell the hospital for at least the $52 million bond price.
See future issues of the Reporter for more news, or keep an eye on our breaking news section at the top of www.hudsonreporter.com.

NJ Transit adds additional rush-hour bus service

Beginning last week, New Jersey Transit added five additional trips to the 126 bus line along Clinton Street on weekdays because of concerns about overcrowding. The new buses will depart from Clinton Street at Newark Avenue at 8:32 a.m., 8:35 a.m., 8:36 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 8:42 a.m.

City arts center to be addressed at Wednesday’s council meeting

Mayor Dawn Zimmer is calling attention to the arts in Hoboken. Zimmer placed two resolutions before the City Council for consideration at the upcoming council meeting on April 20.
The first proposes a study to designate the downtown Neumann Leather complex an area in need of rehabilitation. Zimmer will also present an “interim cost agreement for the analysis of a proposal for a Hoboken Arts Center on the western side of the city,” according to a city release. The agreement would require the proposed redeveloper (Water Music) to pay for the city’s costs associated with reviewing the redevelopment proposal, its financial feasibility, and its impact on the community, according to a city release.
The city is also launching a “Hoboken for the Arts” campaign to promote the arts through the city website. The website will feature all upcoming arts events in Hoboken that are submitted. Artists can submit event information by emailing Geri Fallo at gfallo@hobokennj.org.
The city is also establishing a Cultural Arts Resource Guide to help promote local artists. It is free of charge to sign up, and a link is available at www.hobokennj.org/arts/.

City receives almost $1M to replace Sinatra Field

The days of playing soccer at Sinatra Field may be drawing closer.
The city announced that the state Green Acres Program provided a $900,000 matching grant award to Hoboken for the repair of Sinatra Field and Castle Point Park. Parts of Sinatra Park collapsed in the Hudson River in September 2009.
The Green Acres Grant program is associated with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The City Council bonded for $12 million in 2010 for the repairs of Sinatra Field and Castle Point, but a recommendation from Boswell Engineering in January indicated that the price may be closer to $15 million.

Mason receives ‘President Barack Obama Political Achievement Award’ from Hoboken NAACP

City Council President Beth Mason was the recipient of the Hoboken NAACP’s President Barack Obama Political Achievement Award last week.
“Growing up in Virginia I saw first hand how many people from all different backgrounds came together to stand up for equal rights,” Mason said in a release. “When I stepped into the booth to cast my vote for President Barack Obama I thought of all the blood, sweat, and tears that brought our nation to that very moment.”
Hoboken’s state senator, Brian Stack, served as the keynote speaker for the event.

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