Legal troubles for local politicians have become so routine that ordinary people may soon come to believe that indictments are the preferred way of removing an elected official rather than the ballot box.
Although those closest to West New York Mayor Felix Roque dismiss the charges of bribery against him, many of his usual critics remain silent. This is partly because the details of the indictment against Roque have not been released.
Some fear Roque may be cooperating with law enforcement in order to minimize his own culpability.
Roque called the charges “ridiculous.” But he is savvy enough after being acquitted on federal charges for alleged hacking to know not to take anything for granted. He has hired two prominent firms for his defense, including a lawyer that helped get his first acquittal.
Meanwhile, in North Bergen, the indictment of two Department of Public Works employees this week has given additional fuel to Larry Wainstein, who led a losing ticket against Mayor Nicholas Sacco earlier this year.
While this latest round of charges against employees in North Bergen will not likely lead to charges against anybody close to Sacco, the charges become grist for the mill. Wainstein will continue to paint the Sacco administration as wrought with corruption. This is myth-making at its best.
The indictment of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for allegedly taking gifts from a prominent supporter in exchange for help in clearing up red tape has national implications.
Some people believe that the charges against Menendez come partly because of his opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies in Cuba and Iran. Both issues, along with Obamacare and the recent moves to deal with climate change, are part of Obama’s legacy. Menendez has sided with national Republicans on Cuba and Iran.
Some observers believe that if a new Democratic president gets elected next year, the charges against the senator will likely vanish. Menendez is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Trump is for real
The GOP presidential candidates’ debate was scheduled this week.
Although a number of prominent Democrats seem to think that Donald Trump’s number one poll numbers are a fluke, some political observers believe otherwise. In fact, Trump appears to have taken a chapter out of the Christopher Christie playbook for bluntness. This appears to have attracted a lot of ordinary people who are getting sick of the usual political double-speak. This is a similar appeal to what got Christie elected as governor. But Christie has since disappointed that base of voters. Many of these same voters are gravitating towards Trump instead.
“A lot of people are sick of politicians and like that Trump isn’t mincing words,” one prominent political observer said. “With his money, he also won’t be beholden to any of his campaign contributors.”
Is Zanowic a spoiler in the 31st District?
Ever since Anthony Zanowic announced that he will be running with Alex Rodriguez (no, not the New York Yankees’ A-Rod) for state Assembly as an independent, some people are wondering why, suggesting that he may be working behind the scenes with Democratic candidates Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Angela McKnight to cut the opposition vote.
For the first time in decades, Matthew Kopko, one of the two Republican candidates, may be able to win one of the two Assembly seats.
While Chiaravalloti is considered very strong, McKnight is seen as vulnerable.
Zanowic’s candidacy appears to come out of nowhere, even though he claims he has his own ideas that are more relevant to Republican ideals.
But some critics believes Zanowic played a similar role in the mayoral campaign in 2014, allegedly working with then Mayor Mark Smith with the intention of stealing some of the anti-Smith votes that would otherwise have gone to challenge James Davis.
If this is true, then the plan backfired. Zanowic appears to have taken votes away from Smith instead.
Rumors persist about freeholder changeover
Critics of Bayonne Freeholder Ken Kopacz insist that he will step down in January to allow former Bayonne Councilman Ray Grieves to take his place.
Kopacz and Greaves have both denied the rumor.
Greaves, who is currently a member of the Bayonne Board of Education, recently voted to approve a Kopacz promotion from principal to assistant Superintendent. Greaves’ campaign prior to this donated to Kopacz’ freeholder campaign, raising a lot of questions among critics.
Kopacz, however, appears to be on the path to eventually replace Dr. Patricia McGeehan as superintendent of schools when her contract expires next year.
Mayor Mike takes a vacation
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli has been posting a lot of photographs during his trip to Venice, Italy. He keeps pointing out that Venice is constructed on pilings in wetlands similar to parts of Secaucus. This makes you wonder if we can soon expect gondolas to join kayaks and canoes on the Hackensack River.
What isn’t being said, however, is how the state expects to make up for the loss of hotel tax revenue recently used to help Secaucus’ municipal budget. In the past, towns like Secaucus which had significant development were required to kick back some of those tax revenues to help towns not allowed to develop in the Meadowlands. Gov. Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto came up with an alternative that would pay those other towns using hotel tax receipts. But the estimated revenues fell short of what was expected. The Hackensack Meadowlands Commission, which historically oversaw the tax sharing program, recently said it’s the state’s problem to solve.
A shaky relationship
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer appears to have made up with the local Uber taxi service. This, of course, will be a short-term relationship, lasting only until Zimmer can finally get her bike sharing program off the ground.
Zimmer has been extremely critical of the Uber system in the past, and so it makes you wonder about her sudden change of heart.
Jersey City, who broke away from a joint agreement with Hoboken and Weehawken for bike sharing, launched its program this week.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.