Even though the voters approved the move of Jersey City’s municipal elections from May to November, the silly season has started with a bang less than two weeks after the nation closed the books on the 2016 presidential election.
Former Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis leapt into the mayoral election with both feet, suggesting that the mayoral campaign, which usually lasts a few months, may last a whole year – not much different from the presidential election the nation just suffered through.
With echoes of protests over the national election still resounding outside and inside Jersey City, Matsikoudis’s campaign promises to raise the temperature. For political junkies who may be suffering from withdrawal after the nastiness of the last election, this may be a good thing. For ordinary people, it means an exchange of political rhetoric and a desperate need to fact check.
Mayor Steven Fulop (who has announced his intention to run for reelection as mayor) and Matsikoudis may well become the reality show for Jersey City the way Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been for the world over the past year.
Fortunately, other candidates will emerge, perhaps giving a little more sanity to what is considered one of the most important civic duties Americans have.
Although seen by some as politically wounded, Fulop is still a powerful force to contend with. Remember, people employed or intimately connected to City Hall will want to keep him in power. It’s those out of power, or who yearn for the power they once had, who will be most desperate – and need a lot more money.
One more time
Just when you thought the conflicts on the Jersey City Board of Education might be over, Vice President John Reichert has resigned effective Nov. 18, setting the stage for another serious conflict.
The board currently is political split – largely over liking and disliking Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles.
Over the last year, Reichert has been the swing vote on a number of matters. The election, however, changed this. At the board’s next regular meeting it will be split 4-4.
Three strong supporters of Lyles – Micheline Amy, Jessica Daye and Ellen Simon – chose not to run for re-election. Voters elected two people seen as allies of the anti-Lyle faction, Sudhan Thomas and former Board of Education Trustee Angel Valentin, and one candidate loyal to her, Luis Felipe Fernandez, shifting the balance of power to the anti-Lyle side.
Rumors suggest that Gina Verdibello, who ran with the union-backed Education Matters ticket (perceived as anti-Lyles), might be appointed to replace Reichert, which would give anti-Lyles members a 6 to 3 majority starting in January. Before the new board members take the oath in January, if the current board manages to name someone such as former candidate Matt Schapiro, pro-Lyle people might be able to add one more vote to their side.
Interesting politics in school board races in Secaucus and Bayonne
Board of Education elections in Secaucus and Bayonne seemed largely predictable, except that in Secaucus, Tom Troyer failed to make his comeback, while in Bayonne Gina Garafolo-Irizarry came closer than she has in elections last year.
The Bayonne race was largely one of name recognition and how to get your name before the public when some of the most well-recognized candidates, such as Denis Wilbeck and Mary Jane Desmond, stood out against a backdrop of relatively unknown candidates.
This doesn’t mean that Secaucus and Bayonne were without drama. The last minute withdrawal of Secaucus Board President John Gerbasio from the election created some doubt about the makeup of the new board, since Troyer – an ardent opponent of Mayor Michael Gonnelli – would have likely used the position as a political platform. Troyer wouldn’t have likely run for mayor or council. He would have used the board to lambast the mayor in a conflict likely to last the entire three years.
Bayonne is a work in progress. While politics isn’t new to the city, it is to Board of Education elections, and this was obvious from the constantly shifting alliances, bullet voting, and perceived political betrayal some candidates complained about.
Wisniewski remains in the governor’s race
John Wisniewski made it official this week that he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in June. This comes at a time when many of the heavyweight power brokers around the state are lining up behind Phil Murphy.
Wisniewski appears to want to retell the David & Goliath story, although it is unclear just what he has in his sling shot he hopes will bring down the rising political giant. His campaign appears to be focused on Main Street over Wall Street with a strong emphasis on liberal issues such as establishing the $15 hour minimum wage and women’s rights. In a shot at Murphy, who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, Wisniewski said, “I’m not a Wall Street executive. I haven’t made hundreds of millions of dollars by outsourcing jobs. I’ve learned the value of public service. I’ve spent 21 years in the state assembly fighting entrenched special interests that want to run New Jersey for themselves.”
Since this seems to be the year of the underdog, perhaps Wisniewski can defy the political machine.
Where do inmates really live?
A bill introduced by State Sen. Sandra Cunningham would require inmates in state and federal prisons to be considered residents of the towns they come from rather than the prisons in which they are housed. The classification of an individual’s race, ethnic origin, and age would be the same as used by the United States Bureau of the Census.
Currently, the Bureau of the Census counts inmates as residents of the towns where they are incarcerated. Census data is used for multiple purposes, including legislative apportionment. This bill would also provide that legislative districts be drawn to meet equal population requirements.
Because the incarcerated population is not geographically distributed the same way as the general population throughout the state, and because inmates tend to go back to their original communities after incarceration, the current system leads to discrepancies in terms of how communities are represented in the state legislature.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org