Saturday, October 25, 2014

NJ Law Journal: Pass the Anti-SLAPP Bill

From the October 24th editorial of the NJ Law Journal:

In its 2009 ruling in LoBiondo v. Schwartz, our Supreme Court declined to read into the common law a mechanism to filter out so-called SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits, which are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, government officials and others against individuals and community groups who oppose them on issues of public concern. 

SLAPP suits use claims such as defamation, conspiracy, malicious prosecution, nuisance, interference with contract and/or economic advantage to derail public debate and put those exercising their free speech rights on the defensive for activities as innocuous as writing a letter to an editor, reporting unlawful activity, circulating petitions, erecting signs on their property or speaking at public meetings.

Numerous states, most notably California and New York, have enacted statutes that require prediscovery judicial review that would determine whether these suits are meant to stifle free speech or include bona fide claims, thus avoiding the "chill" of expensive discovery...

Recently, the state Assembly Judiciary Committee sent to the full Assembly A3505, a bill allowing judges to dismiss a SLAPP suit without requiring the defendant to undergo lengthy and costly discovery before considering a motion for summary judgment. As currently written, the bill allows a SLAPP defendant to file a special motion to dismiss within 45 days of receiving the complaint. The motion would be granted if the defendant makes a prima facie showing that the claim arises from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on an issue of public interest, unless the responding party demonstrates that the claim is likely to succeed on the merits, in which case the motion would be denied. Discovery would be stayed pending the outcome of the motion to dismiss unless a judge determines that some limited discovery would not be too onerous for the defendant. Under the bill, a successful attorney would be entitled to attorney fees and costs, in addition to a $10,000 statutory penalty.

Most SLAPP lawsuits are not designed to be legally successful, and most have at least a trace modicum of merit that would allow it to proceed without any real possibility ofLoBiondo's SLAPP-back sanctions. In any case, we know that judges are loath to issue such sanctions...

The cost of prosecuting such suits are part of the cost of doing business and defending a SLAPP suit—even when defenses are strong—requires a substantial investment of money, time and resources that most defendants and organizations do not have. This not only removes the dispute from the public body that should be determining the issue, but it chills participation in the public debate—something that is at the heart of the First Amendment. 

"The point is not to win the lawsuit but to push back against people," Assemblyman Joseph Lagana, the bill's chief sponsor, told the committee. "The whole point of this legislation is to dismiss these cases as soon as possible."

The full unedited article is available at the link below:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NJ anti-SLAPP legislation emerges

The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government announces:

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is the common term for a suit brought by a powerful plaintiff to intimidate and silence the opposition.  The defendant in a SLAPP is unfairly burdened with the cost of defense, and those costs may not be recoverable.  A public agency that files a SLAPP against a records requestor unfairly denies that person the recourse he or she would have had under the Open Public Records Act, which mandates reimbursement of the plaintiff’s costs in a successful suit.
On October 9th, the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed a bill that will provide a measure of relief to defendants and make well-funded entities think twice about filing a SLAPP.  Bill A3505 assesses a $10,000 fine for SLAPP suits brought in bad faith and creates a process for a defendant to obtain quick dismissal and recover his or her costs.  There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.
Per a legislative aide, the Assembly committee released the bill with amended language to clarify that if it becomes law, it would be effective immediately but not retroactively.  
The aide also stated that a similar bill passed the New Jersey Assembly in 2005 but did not make it through the Senate.  Let’s make it law this time!  Please ask your Assemblypersons to support the bill and ask your Senator to sponsor it.  Thank you!
Talking Ed Note: Representatives worth contacting. Phone calls are preferred, both even better.

Senator Brian Stack - (201) 721-5263 Email:

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (201) 714-4960 Email:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest of the Stable: Greg Bond on Hoboken's historical corruption and the BoE election

Greg Bond, a supporter of the Reform Movement in Hoboken pens his thoughts on the endemic battle of corruption in the Mile Square and the importance of the upcoming Hoboken Board of Education election.

The Evolution of Reform: The Next Wave

Public School No. 6 at Willow and 11th Streets c. 1907- 1914 (credit: Hoboken Historical Museum)

As someone who's assisted reform slates in every school board and city election since 2009, I've occasionally thought about a future where we'd get past the stark "good versus evil" state of Hoboken politics to arrive at a more nuanced, normal state of political affairs. When I describe Hoboken's bloody knuckle political scene to friends from the Jersey suburbs, they're amazed. They're amazed that millions of dollars were pillaged from the public schools, that the current mayor's private emails were wiretapped, that a sitting councilman agreed to accept a bribe from an FBI informant, that two of our recent mayors (Russo and Cammarano) were jailed for corruption, and that's just a small sample off the top of my head.

The Long Path to Reform

But you see, this corrupt state of affairs has a very long history in Hudson County, as recounted in the excellent books Five-Finger Discount and Killing the Poormaster. Until recently it was understood that whoever won a majority would loot the taxpayers to reward friends, family and business partners. And this is how Hoboken operated until 2009 when a majority of reformers were elected to the Public School Board, and a reform mayor was elected to City Hall.  At the city level, the path to reform has been rocky. Since 2009, Mayor Zimmer has only had majority support in City Council for two years: between November 2009 and November 2010 when Michael Lenz served as interim Fourth Ward Councilman, and since November 2013 when James Doyle was elected Councilman-at-Large. In contrast, the Kids First reform slate have maintained a majority on the Hoboken School Board since 2009 and not surprisingly, they have accomplished a lot. So much so, that I think we may be on the cusp of a long-awaited change in Hoboken's political climate.

How Corruption Survives

As I've written about elsewhere, Hoboken started to actively encourage gentrification in the mid-80s aiming to refill nearly empty coffers. On the one hand, there was resentment directed towards the "newcomers" that came to occupy the new developments. On the other hand, the money started flowing again. Moreover, the newcomers were, generally-speaking, politically ignorant.

Today's Hoboken is famous as a temporary home to 25-35 year old young professionals, renting shares, getting their careers on-track, partying, meeting life partners, and then moving to the suburbs a few years later to settle down and have families. I can tell you that, as someone who's accompanied candidates door-to-door canvassing over the years, I've been through big rental buildings where virtually no one is registered to vote nor interested in registering to vote. Local politics just isn't on their radar. Hoboken is only a temporary stop on the road of life. And this suited the corrupt powers-that-be perfectly.
Over the years local voting blocs were created and exploited by Hoboken's old established political factions. Some of these blocs still exist, primarily in the city's assisted housing developments and in the Third and Fourth Wards, parts of the city that haven't yet been overrun with new developments. Although these blocs get smaller each year as long-time residents sell and move out, retire to somewhere more affordable, or simply die, they've been a force to reckon with given the relative apathy of the vast majority of Hoboken's population. 

When they're not squabbling amongst themselves and join forces, these blocs can win elections that disrupt and even set back reform. Some examples: in 2010 Tim Occhipinti was elected Fourth Ward Councilman with an unprecedented number of vote-by-mail submissions from paid "campaign workers." In 2011, Michael Russo, fresh from being exposed for agreeing to accept a bribe from an FBI informant, was re-elected Third Ward Councilman. That same year, in a record-low voter turnout, three school board seats were lost to Peter Biancamano, Francis Rhodes-Kearns, and Carmelo Garcia - individuals I shall return to shortly who, needless to say, are no friends of reform.

Plundering The Schools

On the topic of voter apathy, I hope you know that there's an election November 4th. And, along with the inauguration of Cory Booker, which isn't generating much voter interest, there are also three positions up for election on the nine seat Hoboken Public School Board, which should be generating voter interest. Why? Because historically, the school board has served as a big fat loot bag to be plundered and, despite a reform majority since 2009, there are still a lot of people with their eyes on the prize. What might they do if they get their hands on it? We only have to look back to the 2004-06 budget years for a graphic example. When the Kids First reform slate gained a majority in 2009 one of the first things they discovered was a 297 page KPMG audit of the 2004-06 budgets that had been buried by the non-reform majority at the time.
Here are a few of the many KPMG audit "lowlights." Over 1,000 improperly documented employees on payroll, including employees on payroll after termination and even after death. Outsourcing janitorial services while simultaneously retaining 60 janitors on payroll.  Almost $2 million in unapproved vendor overpayments. Expense-paid junkets to Atlantic City for board members and their friends. Tens of thousands of dollars spent on lavish steak dinners, floral arrangements, and "beverages." Even dipping into student-raised funds for non-student expenses. No wonder the audit was hidden. And who were members of the Board majority overseeing all of this? Frank Raia, Francis Rhodes-Kearns (currently running for re-election to the board), and Carmelo Garcia. For those who aren't familiar with Hoboken's political landscape, it's helpful to get to know Frank Raia and Carmelo Garcia a little better because they loom large in this year's School Board election.

Raia, Garcia and Their School Board

Frank "Pupie" Raia is a wealthy local real estate developer, born and raised in Hoboken. You may know him from the lavish public birthday parties he throws for himself every summer in Hoboken's parks. Not only has Raia served on the School Board, but he's also run for Mayor and City Council on numerous occasions.  And when he's not running for office he's helping others run, including School Board slates, most notably in 2011 when Carmelo Garcia, Francis Rhodes-Kearns and Peter Biancamano swept the School Board elections. Raia knows how to leverage his wealth to mobilize voting blocs and this year he's supporting Rhodes-Kearns and Biancamano again. 

Frank Raia 
Carmelo Garcia, also Hoboken born and raised, is a career politician, holding positions at the School Board, City, County, and now at the State level as a newly elected Assemblyman. Until recently Garcia was also Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA), a position he was selected for in 2009. The HHA manages over 1,300 low income housing units across six locations in Hoboken and, historically, Garcia has garnered significant numbers of votes from these blocs, not just for himself but also for candidates he chooses to back. Like Frank Raia, Garcia is also supporting a School Board slate this year consisting of three of his loyal supporters: Brian Murray, Lynn Danzker, and Patricia Waiters.

Carmelo Garcia 
I've already mentioned Garcia and Raia's time on the School Board, the same time millions of tax dollars were diverted away from students and classrooms. Why was this happening? 

Raia, a successful businessman, certainly didn't need anyone to pay for his steak dinners. But perhaps it's nothing more than good business sense: why spend your own money when you can spend someone else's? As a real-estate developer, Raia's business partners range from law firms to building contractors, all of whom would appreciate business coming their way. He also has plenty of friends who would appreciate well-paying jobs with benefits. Some notable examples: Hoboken Superintendent of Schools from 2007-2009 Jack Raslowsky, Hoboken Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools from 2007-2009 Anthony Petrosino, School Board Secretary from 2005-2010 David Anthony. All are good friends of Raia's (Raslowsky and Petrosino are boyhood friends, and Anthony was a business partner), all were hired when Raia sat on the school board, and all were provided with excessively generous compensation and benefits. So much so that the Kids First reform majority discovered that both Petrosino's and Anthony's contracts were found to flout State contract laws and guidelines.

The icing on the cake is that both Petrosino and Anthony maintained full-time jobs during their employment with the School Board. Incredibly, court transcripts reveal that Petrosino, during his tenure with the School Board, was also employed by the University of Texas in Austin, rented an apartment in Austin, and had a Texas drivers license. (Interesting side note: Raia and Petrosino are now Board members for a local charter school whose annual budgets and audits are mostly missing from their website.) 
As for Garcia, favors are the currency of politicians, and the School Board provides plenty of opportunities for doling them out. In 2006 Garcia was found guilty of violating the New Jersey School Ethics Act for voting to award a job to his brother, and another job to his boss at the time, former Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons. More recently, Garcia was fired from his position as Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority for, you guessed it, lax oversight of the HHA's multi-million dollar budget. A preliminary audit ordered by the recently appointed HHA board reform majority has found, among other things, $3 million of “unjustified non-competitive procurement.” A full audit has yet to be completed.
Despite not holding a School Board majority since 2009, Garcia and Raia still hold out hope that if they persevere, especially in the face of voter apathy, they will eventually regain control of the Board and its budget. This isn't a pipe dream. They swept the Board election in 2011 when only 4,000 people cast votes out of roughly 36,000 eligible voters. They're politically astute and know that this year's election has the hallmarks of a low turnout, winnable election. Now let's take a brief look at their slates and what might be motivating them to run. 

Garcia's Volatile Slate: Murray, Waiters, Danzker

Garcia's slate, consisting of Brian Murray, Patricia Waiters and Lynn Danzker, would explode were it not for Garcia working hard to keep it together. After all, how can Lynne Danzker, who was recently awarded a "Jewish American Heritage Award" by none other than Assemblyman Garcia, be running-mates with Garcia's former paid aide, Patricia Waiters, who made what were considered anti-semetic remarks at an HHA meeting earlier this year, and then recently retracted a public apology for those remarks?
Apart from reprehensible rants at public meetings, Waiters is known as a Hoboken fixture who regularly runs for positions on City Council and the School Board, and speaks frequently at public meetings. And over the past year, the relationship between Garcia and Waiters has been close, as Waiters repeatedly spoke in defense of Garcia at HHA meetings. Waiters' voting base has grown over the years, so one can only assume that Garcia, hoping to garner support from Waiters' base, has instructed Murray and Danzker to ignore Waiters' assertions that there are too many Jews in real-estate and too many Jews appointed to City boards.
Upon receiving her Jewish Heritage Award from Garcia, Danzker stated how proud she was of her religion and her heritage. It boggles the mind how she's managed to rationalize running with Waiters. Danzker and Garcia's kids attend the same charter school that, incidentally, Garcia's wife also works at. And, while Danzker does not have kids in Hoboken's public schools she's known on the Hoboken Moms discussion board for launching multi-font, personal attacks on School Board members, and for consistently misrepresenting the financial relationship between public and charter schools.
Murray is a local real-estate agent whose business relies on convincing people to move "To the 'Burbs." Not surprisingly, Murray's many speeches focus on scaring parents away from Hoboken by way of citing flawed statistics on violence in Hoboken's public schools. Parents whose children attend Hoboken's schools, including me, say that the schools Murray describes bear no resemblance to the schools their children attend. As for Murray's relationship to Garcia, this summer Murray was spotted in an unruly crowd at City Hall cheering in support of Garcia as Garcia faced ejection from his position at the HHA. Why would Murray choose to publicly support Garcia, especially at the risk of sullying his business reputation? Perhaps the two are simply friends? Or perhaps there's a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared real-estate interests? Before his ouster from the HHA, Garcia initiated a controversial multi-million dollar real-estate development plan, dubbed Vision 2020, to "create a mixed-income sustainable community" in place of existing HHA properties.

Raia's Old School Slate: Biancamano, Rhodes-Kearns

Raia's slate, consisting of School Board incumbents Peter Biancamano and Frances Rhodes-Kearns, is old school compared to Garcia's.  Rhodes-Kearns is a nine year veteran of the School Soard, elected long before the Kids First reform majority took control and cleaned things up. In fact, Rhodes-Kearns was the sole Board signator for the aforementioned, absurdly generous, legally questionable, contracts of Anthony Petrosino and David Anthony. Rhodes-Kearns also has a relationship to disgraced, indicted ex-mayor Peter Cammarano: she was a member of his election slate in 2009.

As for Biancamano, he's been groomed for politics by Raia since Biancamano first ran for School Board in 2011. That year, Raia chaperoned Biancamano everywhere on the campaign trail. And last year Raia and Biancamano were running-mates for City Council. Raia funded that campaign to the tune of $122,000 out of his own pocket. Biancamano is often heard complaining about how much the School Board spends on legal representation, despite the fact that without representation the Board would lose legal battles launched by the likes of Anthony Petrosino. But, as I expect Raia has explained to him, Biancamano surely understands that this is precisely the point.

Underscoring the old school roots of Raia's slate are recent Facebook notes of support from none other than Michael Russo and Michele Russo. Michele Russo, matriarch of the Russo clan, possesses her very own list of unscrupulous dealings, just like her indicted ex-Mayor husband Anthony, and her bribe-agreeable Councilman son Michael. Now that's support that only money can buy.

Parents for Progress

Standing in stark contrast to Raia's and Garcia's slates is the Parents for Progress slate consisting of Monica Stromwall, Sharyn Angley, and Antonio Gray. All three are parents with kids in Hoboken's public schools. Stromwall was unanimously appointed to the School Board at the beginning of the year when Garcia was forced to leave the Board after winning his Assembly seat.

The Parents for Progress slate claim their interest in running for election is simply to ensure that the schools continue to improve. They've got skin in the game and they care. Having spoken briefly with the candidates I was struck by their honesty and integrity. However, I also discovered that they had no knowledge of the School Board's history of corruption. They had no idea of how hard reformers originally fought to get elected to the board, and the significance of Kids First taking a majority in 2009. They had no idea how much the schools have been cleaned up since then, how much money taxpayers have saved despite massive state cutbacks, and how much money has been directed back to school classrooms and students. 

The Next Wave

By their own admission, Stromwall, Angley and Gray are not affiliated with reform, and they most certainly aren't affiliated with any of Hoboken's corruptocrats. Instead, these three represent what I think is the next wave in Hoboken politics, the one I've sometimes daydreamed might finally come to pass. 

Like Hoboken's reformers, Parents for Progress want to make a difference in this city. They like Hoboken and they want to raise families here, not flee "To the 'Burbs" as Brian Murray urges them to do. Unlike the corruptocrats, they don't expect favors or payback but, unlike reformers, they're unaware of Hoboken's recent "good versus evil" political history. Why? Because in just a few years reformers have managed to fix things up enough that more people are choosing to stay in Hoboken longer, and corruption is beginning to fade into the past.

Choosing to stay longer has positive results for Hoboken. Families and property owners pay attention to schools, parks, and taxes and inevitably, they become politically engaged, initially as voters but sometimes even volunteering to serve their community, just as Stromwall, Angley and Gray have. This is why Hoboken's formerly disengaged electorate is beginning to take notice and start participating. And this is what it's going to take to eliminate, once and for all, the long-standing tradition of looting Hoboken's school and city coffers.
While the appearance of the Parents for Progress slate is a positive sign for Hoboken politics, I am concerned that this election will be a particularly harsh one for these political neophytes. Not only is this election guaranteed to have a low turnout, Parents for Progress is being out-campaigned by Garcia's ticket and, naturally, Raia's ticket need not rely on campaigning as they are assured of votes via other, tried and true, methods. (Word on the street is that votes are being bought for $35 this election - a little lower than usual.) So perhaps Parents for Progress will win or perhaps they will lose, but I am willing to bet that we will see more slates like Parents for Progress in School Board and City elections in the years to come. 
Hoboken's demographics keep changing. The ranks of the public schools continue to swell and, while parents still leave Hoboken for the suburbs, it's clear more are choosing to stay every year. It's well known that schools are an important factor in choosing a place to raise a family, so continuing to improve the public schools is fundamental to Hoboken's future success. For this reason be sure to vote Angley, Stromwall and Gray: 2, 3, 5 for Hoboken Board of Education on November 4th. 

Applied Housing line for Section 8 Housing stretches around the block


A line forming outside the Elks Club last night to apply for Section 8 Applied Housing in Hoboken and Weehawken stretches around the block at 11th and Washington.

A line outside the Elks Club began forming last night. People in the line
said they were applying for housing through a Section 8 Applied Housing program.

People have been queuing to submit applications for Section 8 housing, a federal program subsidizes units in town at the Hoboken Housing Authority, Applied Housing and other locations in town. People on line including some residents in the HHA said it was for applications to the Section 8 program in Applied Housing. The applications are to be added on a wait list for both Hoboken and Weehawken.

Some residents recognizing MSV from attending Hoboken Housing Authority meetings clamored for attention saying the line showed a need for affordable housing. "Mr. Horse, tell Dawn Zimmer we need affordable housing," one current uptown HHA resident said.

One Hoboken resident, Linda P, standing with her daughter near the front of the line added, "Tell the mayor we need more affordable housing."

A reader alerted MSV last night on the forming line which now stretches around 11th and Hudson and is growing southward threatening to reach the tony home of Councilwoman Beth Mason.

Similar lines for Marine View years ago formed overnight to apply for the affordable housing in those buildings. Other affordable housing structures in town such as Church Towers have lists officially closed and units there changing hands have not been available for application to the mostly minority applicants in line today outside the Elks.

Talking Ed Note: An Applied Housing sign out side the Elks Club says applications are being taken for a wait list in Hoboken and Weehawken.

Applications can be obtained and filled out today up to 4:00 pm. The line has dwindled down to the corner of 11th and Hudson Street as of 1:30. as applicants are waiting to get into the Elks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two weeks out...

Hoboken has an election in two weeks although most do not know it. There's three slates in a hunt for votes. What are some of the issues they are running on? Other than the tribalism vote the Hoboken BoE's elections are infamous for year in and year out?

Are Hoboken schools for education or it is a jobs program? Most often, over many years this is part of the unwritten ideology within the system.

It's been weeded out both as a result of direct action in recent years and most recently State funding cuts which have led to a lawsuit, internecine warfare with charters at the epicenter and Kids First not even running a ticket under its name.

So is Hoboken pumped up for an election in two weeks?

Can you run for BoE from your bathtub? Well if you run for Hoboken BoE
while sending the "yuppies" to the burbs, why not?
This is Hoboken.

Monday, October 20, 2014

US Senate candidate Jeff Bell to NJ voters: "Liberate the economy!"


Jeff Bell a candidate for US Senate from New Jersey appearing in Hoboken last week had a direct message to Mile Square and NJ voters: "Liberate the economy."

Bell knows much about liberation. He was an advisor, speechwriter and observer to President Ronald Reagan making him a witness to what led to unbridled growth in federal revenues during the greatest peacetime economic expansion in US history. That engine came about through the historic Tax Reform Act of 1986, a point of controversy then and consternation to liberals since but the record of increased revenues and decades long prosperity are a model the nation only hopes it could repeat today.

In an environment where government success is touted by lowered unemployment totals created by "the disappeared," the hundreds of thousands who fall off government statistics monthly never to be heard from again, the 80s look like the good old days. Bell however sees opportunity on both the domestic and international front saying it can be fixed and of the latter with ISIS trampling over the Middle East, "It looks bad but I think it can be turned around quickly, more quickly than people think."

Bell admitted concern his ties to President Reagan might be too distant to NJ voters but discovered it isn't the case saying most older voters remember him and the times fondly and there's "an aura" surrounding him for young voters.

Looking back Bell admitted he nor others realized the glow on America was as strong under the leadership of President Reagan as most Americans say looking back in Gallup polling consistently over many years. Of his remarkable character, Bell said he like many didn't realize the greatness in their midst saying the presidency is often seen as a great burden and isolating but Reagan didn't seem to be affected negatively by it. "He had no self pity. He had no feeling of isolation whatever. He never brooded over the fact he wasn't appreciated. It was one of the most revealing things about him," Bell said with a hint of admiration.

Viewing the current state of New Jersey and the larger national economy, Bell didn't hesitate to advocate for his solution. He's an advocate of moving the US back to the gold standard. The idea is novel among some economists but on the whole is viewed as not politically viable or practical. Bell didn't shy away from taking on that challenge noting, "What they call QE (quantitative easing), it's printing money."

Looking at the state of affairs economically impacting American families he cited, "People's wages are not going up." From his perspective Bell thought it remarkable the current Administration didn't understand that fact as it tries to convince people they are better off than they believe. He noted New Jersey continues to see an eroding tax base as younger people are electing to move to Pennsylvania with its more competitive, re: lower taxes saying NJ should cut taxes.

Jeff Bell is running for US Senate against former Newark mayor Cory Booker who is finishing the term of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg. Of his opponent, Bell offered no kind words saying he had no answers for Newark and would offer the same for America.

On the energy and environment, Bell spoke directly of his perspective, "Ten years ago, environmentalists saw natural gas was a clean energy source. Then we found out we had more then we ever imagined and now all of a sudden their against natural gas." He added the unfortunate cause, "They want to drive up energy prices and heating prices in the name of fighting global warming," he said noting "it's unproven" human activity is the cause.

Of his opponent former Newark Mayor Cory Booker he summed up his current and future contribution to the state of affairs predicting what he'll deliver. "Nothing. He has nothing to contribute because he agrees with President Obama. He thinks we need to keep printing money, adding more debt and stimulating the economy by spending money. They tried that for six years. It hasn't worked."

For a replacement for Attorney General, Bell said he supports "someone who upholds the law and supports the Constitution." Saying of the outgoing Eric Holder, "He doesn't uphold the law... he just decides to uphold the laws he supports. No Attorney General has ever behaved like that before."

Asked what final message he had for Hoboken and NJ voters, Bell had a simple, positive message. "Liberate the economy." It's a message in direct contrast to the government actions espoused by his opponent, a favorite to continue as a NJ Senator.

But for this man who had a first row seat at the Reagan Revolution, it's not about who's favored or who has more campaign cash; it's about ideas. Somewhere up above, Ronald Reagan is looking down and smiling.

Talking Ed Note: Jeff Bell's appearance in Hoboken last week was sponsored by the Republicans of Hoboken and hosted by Chair Diana Davis. For more information on Jeff Bell's platform, see his campaign website:

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hoboken event of the season; here's Y

A Taste of Hoboken 2014
The Hoboken-North Hudson YMCA's gala fundraiser celebrates its twenty-second anniversary this year on Tuesday Novemebr 11, 2014 at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

In addition to tasty bites from over 40 restaurants, bakeries and cafes, this years event will feature an expanded selection of quality wines from all over the world.  For the first time in the fundraisers history, guests will be able to sample beers and wines from around the world.

The $80.00 Champagne Preview, 6pm to 7PM and the $60.00 General admission ticket, allows you to enter after 7PM to close at 9:30.  All tickets are fully tax deductible.

Tickets are available through brownpapertickets at  Http:// will be available at the door for Champagne Preview $90.00 and general admission will be $70.00.

Kindly hosted by the Stevens Institute of Technology - 1 Castle Point - Schaefer Center

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is there an election in Hoboken or something?

Last night the Republicans of Hoboken sponsored guest speaker and NJ Senate candidate Jeff Bell at the Clinton Social.

With an election less than three weeks away, some late arrivals to the event showed up to mingle with the public and shake hands after the Q&A with the audience. They also posed for Da Horsey who is known for snapping a good pic now and then.

BoE trustee Peter Biancamano and Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano both made an appearance at the Clinton Social last night. 
Both are running for re-election in November.

BoE trustee Monica Stromwall: "Continue the progress"

The following was submitted by current BoE trustee Monica Stromwall on behalf of the Parents for Progress slate.

Dear Horsey,

Progress. Progress is what is currently happening within the walls of our district schools and in the lives of over 2,000 children that attend the Hoboken Public School District schools. For this reason, and to keep the momentum going, we, Antonio Gray, Sharyn Angley and Monica Stromwall are running for the Board of Education. We are Parents for Progress and we would like the community of Hoboken to join us in improving on and continuing the progress that has already been made these past few years. Together we have many reasons why we are seeking election; seven of which are our children that ALL attend Hoboken Public Schools. As parents, actively involved community members and Hoboken Public School PTO members we will continue to improve upon the progress. Education builds a strong community and allows for future successes within our children’s lives.

We are excited by the improvement of test scores in all of our schools and will continue to raise the bar and set our expectations high for all of our students. Our students are eager to learn and our professional staff will empower and foster a love of education for the children that spend their days with them. We will continue to support and expand the 14 National Advanced Proficient (AP) courses and electives at the high school by utilizing the change of the 6th teaching period that was agreed upon in the new contract that Monica Stromwall assisted in negotiating this past summer. We are also pleased that so many children are able to utilize the new tutoring time after school that was also part of the new teacher’s contracts’. We will continue to support Response to Intervention (RTI) reading program that has already shown success in the first and second grade children. We are happy with so many of the programs that our children have the opportunity to be a part of and we will look forward to the future.

One of the most important jobs a school board member can undertake is the selection of a new superintendent that will continue the progress and provide positive support and encouragement to the staff and students. Antonio, Sharyn and Monica will seek the most qualified superintendent to provide an excellent education for the children in Hoboken public schools. We are proud to note that Hoboken Public School teacher Mr. Mark Mautone, who teaches at Wallace Elementary in the new ABA/Special Needs Center was selected as teacher of the year for the state of New Jersey. He dedicates himself to the children that need the most and we congratulate him in all his success! We are very lucky to have such an outstanding educator in our district.

We have dedicated our time and energy working collaboratively to provide all of our students with positive support to achieve success for all students! Please support the progress and help build a better future for all our children; vote Tuesday, November 4th for Antonio Gray (2), Sharyn Angley (3) and Monica Stromwall (5).

Educationally Yours,
Parents for Progress

Antonio Gray, Sharyn Angley and Monica Stromwall (Hoboken Board of Education Trustee)   

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sign of the Times: US Senate Candidate Jeff Bell in Hoboken

Jeff Bell, NJ candidate for US Senate spoke earlier this evening at the Clinton Social outlining his positions on a host of issues and how the US should tackle its abundant problems domestic and abroad.

A key policy player under the last great one of the greatest American Presidents, Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bell had much to say about how a Reaganite prescription can turn around America.

He also had a one word answer on the achievements of his opponent, Senator Cory Booker as mayor of Newark and what he'll bring with six added years in Washington:


More to come with an exclusive interview with Jeff Bell.

Rehab for Newmann Leather and the surrounding area tonight @ 7:00?

Lots on the plate tonight making this a more substantial meeting in some time. The Planning Board has green lighted the ability for the City and Council to designate the area around Neumann Leather as an area in need of rehabilitation. There's new owners there who spent $25 million and one can imagine they didn't spent that amount of coin to retain the status quo.

Beth Mason who was unexplainably absent at the last meeting when her and Councilwoman Castellano's ordinance for mandatory sick pay was up for first reading is back on the agenda. Will it make it through first reading? There's many businesses in Hoboken with 10 or more employees who would like to say a resounding "NO!" and they aren't just in the hospitality business. Motion to table!

A story highlighted its passage in Jersey City and one small business owner stated they keep employees down to nine to avoid the hassle altogether. It's a bakery so people wonder if that's health conscious. Just another example of unintended consequences brought to you courtesy of local government which has no business in that sandbox anyway.

Also on the agenda is a prohibition against automated cameras at red lights. Well, no one has pushed for this in Hoboken and it's a trend being reversed statewide. Again, Beth Mason and First Ward Councilwoman Terry Castellano are your sponsors looking to put this on lit for ward races in 2015. It should pass for no other reason than that and why would anyone vote no?

Big $5 million ordinance for parking meters. End to end in Hoboken? Sure sounds like it's coming, ready or not. (MSV is not sure on this and hasn't confirmed before game time.) Confirmed: this will mean funding for the installation of meters at all non-resident parking areas across Hoboken if that measure is approved after the bonding is available.

A Planner is up for NJ Transit's proposed development. This is the restricted version proposed by mayor.

Public portion may be entertaining as follow-up on the crash and burn of a 2010 ethics complaint will be resisted, for whatever reason under the sun one can entertain. Will Beth Mason dare to open her mouth on that or campaign reporting? Who knows but this is the way of Hoboken, so expect some sparks.

As Perry Belfiore would say, "Thank you for your many courtesies."

Complete details in the resolution pack and a mighty detailed plan on the area in need of rehabilitation:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Perry Belfiore defends his comments and double downs with a ELEC complaint against Ravi Bhalla

Perry Belfiore says four years of political conflict with Councilman Ravi Bhalla to continue with ELEC campaign complaint

In a broad ranging interview, Perry Belfiore, a decades long player in Hoboken politics who's served  as a Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner and BoE trustee announced further action in his four year political battle focused on Councilman Ravi Bhalla. The latest, a NJ ELEC filing targets a new complaint stemming from campaign expenditures back in early 2013.

The recent controversy surrounding his heated fall 2013 election remarks surprised Belfiore who said the judge has never met him but, "the language against me is stark" suggesting his being "discriminatory against Asians." Belfiore repeatedly insisted it wasn't the case and couched the voicing as strictly political.

He explained his commentary where he said last September to reform members, "control your animal" in a political context. "I should have called him a monster. Was I chastising the council more than him? You best your ass."

A defense was offered to the core of the long running political dispute with the reform movement and Councilman Bhalla. "My theory is there is nothing trivial when it comes to an elected official. If they get away with these actions, they accelerate."

Referencing contracts Bhalla's former law firm won in Newark and Union City when he was a private citizen back in 2008 where he made local political contributions, Belfiore pointed to that as morally problematic. "He got away in Newark... you can be unethical everywhere but the town you are in." Councilman Bhalla has backed the updated pay to play laws in Hoboken in 2011 but New Jersey has no applicable laws statewide.

Turning to the local arena, often described as toxic inside Hoboken and within the rough and tumble world of Hudson County politics, Belfiore admonished further. "The council should hold the council responsible. They were letting him get away with his unethical behavior because they needed his vote." Without elaborating, he said, "It continues to this day... (and) he's going to do something stupid and get indicted."

If the comment was a warning, many in Hoboken may not agree viewing Belfiore's offering as highly partisan. The split between the Old Guard and Reform is hot with election cycles and likely to see further skirmishes. The battle lines are set in the Board of Education race with two Old Guard slates taking on a new district parents slate backed by some reform activists called Parents for Progress. In November 2015 all six ward seats will be up for election on the nine member City Council.

The ethics complaint filed originally in 2010 is not final. A board decision in the next 45 days may agree, overrule or take no action since the judge's withering comments were published in full. Belfiore said he offered to speak to Judge Geraghty but his office declined the request.

The political context of the original complaint is not clear. Belfiore signed his name to the ethics charges and they were published in full here on MSV. Evidence however points to extensive coordination with longstanding Beth Mason political operatives and the release of a hit piece, one in a series on Councilman Bhalla on the notorious censored website Hoboken411. The Hudson Reporter has also written stringent and questionable stories directed at Ravi Bhalla with one pointing to traffic tickets in a June 2012 feature story. (The tickets were later all thrown out largely due to mistakes in computer records but saw no follow up piece.) Last fall, an expensive political campaign targeting Bhalla failed to stop his re-election.

The funding for those efforts to unseat Bhalla in 2013 and overturn a reform minded council majority came from the Mason family. Councilwoman Beth Mason has been a long time antagonist of Bhalla but has declined comment with the release of the judge's remarks from last July's administrative hearing.

There's been no update by the state agency watchdog NJ ELEC on the extensive complaint and potential million dollar fines the Mason family faces for hundreds of campaign violations in her 2009 and 2011 election campaigns filed early this year. A longtime Mason supporter and political operative claimed the matter is settled with a small fine but NJ ELEC at press time has not confirmed that claim and declined to offer any comment in its investigation.

Belfiore for his part has not publicly criticized any Old Guard political allies including Beth Mason's alleged campaign violations or more recently ally Carmelo Garcia who saw his contract in the Hoboken Housing Authority terminated. He was a staunch supporter of the controversial massive expansion of the HHA presented by Garcia called Vision 20/20.

Looking forward, Belfiore made clear he would have to fight the perception of being viewed as a bigot "for the rest of my life." He didn't see himself retreating from the rough and tumble Hoboken political arena saying he planned to be at the next City Council meeting and put forward his case. "I'm considering what appeal (for the ethics complaint) may be available" then dropped another bombshell. "I've filed an NJ ELEC complaint against Ravi Bhalla."

Belfiore offered no legal specifics but said, "ELEC is considering it." Technically this may be true but there's not likely to be any cloud hanging with the allegation. NJ ELEC has limited bandwidth so whatever case can be made may only come from Belfiore and political allies in the near term.

The latest complaint revolves around a ballot challenge of now Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia back in the Democratic Primary for that seat in early 2013. A group of Hoboken residents filed a claim saying Garcia was in violation of the Hatch Act precluding federal employees running for partisan office. Initially, they won the case in Hudson County Superior Court based on a ruling by Judge Peter Bariso but later saw it overturned on appeal.

Belfiore said Bhalla funded the legal action to knock Garcia off the ballot to the tune of more than $40,000 from his campaign funds when he was looking to benefit personally considering a second run for Assembly himself. He didn't specify the reasons why use of campaign funds might fall outside NJ ELEC rules on campaigns. "I'm going before the council to show the complaint I put in with ELEC. That is what happens with unethical people. This council is turning a blind eye to his behavior."

Expect Perry Belfiore to follow through and appear in public portion of the City Council Wednesday night. He's not retreating from the public square; he's doubling down.

Perry Belfiore, once described as the jovial opposition seen here in 2010 being subjected to locks inspection by Grafix Avenger.
He's less jovial after a judge threw out his ethics complaint against Councilman Ravi Bhalla.
He's hinted at seeing the decision overturned and announced he's filed an ELEC complaint against Bhalla as well.

Talking Ed Note: Will another media campaign be ramping up against Ravi Bhalla courtesy of Beth Mason? No email was sent to Mason inquiring on her plans but she almost always ignores such requests. Typically she answers questions in council chambers and at City Hall.

In a phone call a detective in the Hoboken Police Department told MSV to "stay away" from Councilwoman Mason when she filed a harassment charge against this editor the week of September 15th after her avoiding service of a subpoena. A request for Beth Mason's criminal complaint via an OPRA request was denied last week. An unknown Hoboken Police Department source said through the City Clerk's office the denial was due to an "ongoing investigation." The Hoboken Municipal Court previously moved the case out of the Mile Square on a change of venue order.

As for Perry Belfiore, he's clearly not taking a back seat since Judge Geraghty's remarks were made public. The Old Guard rivalry with Reform will see him remain a political player. He's one of the strategists backing Patricia Waiters, Brian Murray and Lynn Danzker for the Hoboken BoE election slated in three weeks.

Belfiore lays claim his remarks perhaps offensive to some can be couched within the context of political speech. Was he reckless in extending it to what critics would call a less than coded bias? It's a matter of interpretation and people will draw their own conclusions but Belfiore vehemently disagrees.

In the end, Belfiore made one additional correction of the judge's remarks saying, "I'm not a gadfly." Overall, he'd likely accept debate on that designation versus the question marks elevated around his other controversial remarks during the last election cycle.

The original remarks made in September 2013 by Belfiore are seen in a video with a related story by MSV available here.
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