Trading places

As many as 20 Jersey City police officers will be indicted shortly, according to sources close to Mayor Steven Fulop. But the indictments, despite the rumors, did not figure into Fulop’s decision to drop out of the governor’s race earlier this month.

The pending indictments, which were confirmed also by people inside and outside the police department, involve a unique perk cops get as part of their union contracts.

By law, some construction projects require a traffic safety officer to be on site. These assignments go to off-duty cops, as well as an off-duty supervisor that is supposed to go from site to site to make sure that the off-duty cops are doing their job.

According to sources inside the police department, some off-duty cops are allegedly trading places with on-duty cops to cover these assignments, taking police officers off the beat.

Contractors often pay off-duty cops on site, and the cops are supposed to turn this money in or at least report it to city financial people. Allegedly, this isn’t always happening.

But, rumors being what they are, some have tried to connect this and other potentially less valid scandals to Fulop. Several insiders are saying, however, that Fulop is not implicated in any of this.

Jersey City mayoral will likely be in a run off

A number of key political observers believe that a referendum that would move the municipal elections from May to November next year will fail.

Voters are being asked to vote on the binding referendum on Nov. 8 that would make the change.

If it fails, then there will be a mad dash to get campaigns up and running. While Fulop has announced he is running for mayor, he has significant gaps in his ticket. Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman is running for county register on Nov. 8. Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski most likely won’t run either. These are two wards where Fulop is not particularly popular, but which he won in 2013 as a result of a lot of street work by his campaign staff. Even if Fulop is reelected, he may find himself with only a one-vote majority on the council.

This will also depend on Councilman Michael Yun, who is expected to run for mayor, and will likely leave Ward D up for grabs. While Yun has strength along Central Avenue where he served as head of the Special Improvement District for years, some other groups in the Heights no longer have faith in him, and you may see the Riverview and Washington park areas coming up with their own candidate.

Most believe that if there is a race in May, then it will involve three full slates of candidates, as well as some independent candidates for council.

Fulop, Yun, and former city attorney Bill Matsikoudis appear ready to face off against each other, and this will likely end up a runoff because Yun can pour more than a million dollars into the campaign, and bring a significant number of street workers into the city.

If the referendum is successful on Nov. 8 and the election is moved to November 2017, more candidates for mayor and council will likely run, increasing the chances that Fulop could win as mayor and lose control of the city council.

“This is going to be just like 1989,” one political observer said, referring to an election with a very crowded field of candidates.

If Fulop decides not to run for reelection after all in May or November, the field of candidates will likely be huge, with possibly as many as five or six candidates for mayor and perhaps more than 40 candidates trying to secure ward and at-large council seats. The field for mayor could include Freeholder Bill O’Dea, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, Councilman Richard Boggiano, Council President Rolando Lavarro, and possibly an African-American candidate such as Jerry Walker.

Board of Education election madness

You know something is wrong in Hudson County when the quietest Board of Education in the county appears to be Hoboken’s. This does not mean there isn’t contention, but with Jersey City so lively, and Bayonne full of intrigue, Hoboken will have to wait until next’s municipal elections to get interesting again.

Jersey City’s school board election is one for control of the board, after three incumbents – generally considered supporters of the current superintendent of schools – decided not to run for reelection.

In a statement issued jointly by outgoing board members Ellen Simon, Jessica Daye, and Micheline Amy, the three said they are gratified to see improvements in Jersey City’s public schools.

“Graduation rates and students earning college credit in high school are climbing, while drop-out numbers and suspensions are declining. It’s important to note that the greatest graduation rate improvements we’re seeing are in the schools that have struggled for the longest: Lincoln and Snyder high schools. These improvements are a real credit to our teachers, administrators and staff. It shows what can happen when everyone pulls together to tap the limitless potential of our students,” they said.

“Earlier in our term, the board’s discussions and deliberations were focused on students. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The change followed the political shift in Jersey City of interested parties away from parents and students. Until we have political leaders in Jersey City who are willing to put children ahead of politics, we fear the board will remain on its current unfortunate course. We speak only for ourselves and not for the board as a whole.”

While Jersey City United slate appears to be trying fill in the big shoes of the outgoing members, they are faced with a serious challenge by The Education Matters ticket, which appears to be more aligned with the anti-superintendent faction on the board, even though the ticket’s members claim their campaign is not about the superintendent. Education Matters has the endorsement of Mayor Fulop, the teacher’s union and the police and fire unions.

Bayonne intrigue

The most interesting thing about the Bayonne Board of Education election is just how quickly it became politically-charged.

You would think that after several decades of not having an elected board, the candidates would need time to get back into a political mode. But if some candidates are to be believed, political backstabbing, failed promises of finance and support, as well as possible spying on other candidates and stealing ideas has become common.

Bayonne has a lot on the table over the next year or so. Whoever is elected in this term will have to select a temporary and possible permanent replacement for the outgoing superintendent of schools, settle the teachers’ union contracts, as well as handle the fiscal impact of aging buildings at a time when the state may soon cut back on aid to urban districts.

Although there are well-known names in the campaign, many observers claim that the big names might not be the people best suited for the future challenges. But politics being politics, those who are most aggressive in their campaigns are likely to succeed.

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