Friday, October 31, 2014

Beth Mason in drag scares the children on Washington Street

Be afraid Hoboken, be very afraid!

Beth Mason with a cohort who is not likely a lawyer.
Hoboken residents are safe from her litigious appetite and perjury. At least for one day.

RuPaul has reportedly fainted and upon
recovery filed a complaint with HPD.

BoE candidate Monica Stromwall: 'No new legal funding to stop HoLa expansion'

Board of Education trustee Monica Stromwall is making waves announcing in the twilight of the election race Tuesday she no longer supports legal action constricting the expansion of the HoLa charter school.

Stromwall voted twice with the Kids First majority on the Hoboken Board of Education previously to start legal action in the hope of overturning NJ's state approval allowing expansion to seventh and eighth grades next year.

As stated in the pro Old Guard developer founded Hudson Reporter, Stromwall is reported saying she would no longer vote to continue legal action to overturn the HoLa expansion. Of the nine member body she is one of seven votes that initiated the legal action.

A day earlier Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced she would be voting for Stromwall and her two running mates on the Parents for Progress ticket in the upcoming Tuesday election. The mayor's letter published in full on MSV outlined her opposition to using legal means in an attempt to overturn the proposed expansion of HoLA and a desire for officials on the BoE "when appropriate to dissent."

The mayor has children in the Elysian charter school but one graduating next year is expected to be enrolling in Hoboken High School.

It's unclear if Stromwall's other two running mates will publicly endorse her position. At the time of this writing it's not clear if the Kids First majority on the BoE will back Stromwall's position either as five votes on the nine member body is required for passage.

Stromwall is quoted as saying she does "not wish to close HoLa or limit their expansion" and isn't backing additional funding in her role as trustee for the existing BoE lawsuit.

Monica Stromwall a trustee on the BoE seeking election to a full term Thursday stated she will no longer back
additional legal funding to overturn the State's approval to allow the HoLa charter school to expand to 7th and 8th grades.

This past year, controversy erupted when funding problems forced the wider Hoboken school district to make severe funding cuts. Warning signs by its former Superintendent Mark Toback among others said the continued expansion of charters in Hoboken would lead to layoffs and harm the district.

The issue exploded last March when controversial BoE President Leon Gold saw his comments published in Salon magazine describing the issue with Hoboken's four charter schools. He was quoted  saying the charters were "bankrupting" the wider district and creating "white flight."

The statements created a fracture among Hoboken's growing population of young families and elements within the reform movement holding majorities at City Hall and the BoE.

In related Hoboken education news, Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced her son who will be attending high school next year has decided he will be choosing Hoboken High School.  That announcement has been met with surprise and celebration among parents with children in the district where test scores have risen.

Recent enrollment analysis also shows the income levels of the student body are balancing out reflected in the lowered figures for those receiving free and reduced lunch now below 50%. The new figure represents a significant drop, meaning a wider group of higher income families in Hoboken are sending their kids to the district.

The funding issue determined by the State is expected to continue to be problematic for Hoboken. Charters are funded almost exclusively with local tax funds, in the area of 90%. Grafix Avenger published a story recently challenging the HoLa charter school to remove incorrect information on their website stating the funding comes from the State. She cited their homepage stating, "Charter schools are free public schools funded by the State."

Talking Ed Note: Stromwall's remarks are not clearly made in the context of her own position or her slate Parents for Progress. It's also unclear how Mayor Dawn Zimmer's remarks factored in coming one day earlier. There's likely to be speculation on all of it in the closing days of the Hoboken BoE race.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mayor Zimmer marks Hurricane Sandy at Hoboken City Hall

After the comments by the Mayor other officials and a Hoboken resident, City Clerk Jimmy Farina led the audience singing "God Bless America."

Video and story courtesy of John Heinis - The Hudson County View

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mayor Zimmer's statement on the Monarch Project and 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Sandy

Office of the Mayor announces:


Mayor Zimmer today issued the following statement regarding the Monarch project on the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy:

“Last night the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders upheld the County Planning Board's denial of Shipyard's application for the Monarch project. The denial was based on concerns regarding traffic and waterfront walkway issues, among other issues. The Freeholders’ decision will now be referred back to Superior Court as required by the Judge who maintains jurisdiction over the County Planning Board's review of this matter.”

“While the decision last night did not concern the wisdom of building large residential projects on piers, today, on the anniversary of Sandy, it is important to reflect on the public safety problems of building on any waterfront piers in a post-Sandy world. As a result of the impact of Hurricane Sandy, on December 18th, 2013, the City Council passed legislation that bans development on all piers in the high velocity zone, not just the Monarch project.”

“As we mark the second year since Sandy, I want to remind everyone of Governor Christie's clear public position on this issue that I agree with 100 percent.”

“In his veto of State legislation that would have made it legal to build on piers, the Governor had this to say”:

This bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to approve development projects on existing piers located in “coastal high hazard areas” in certain municipalities along the Hudson River. Because this bill has the potential to jeopardize National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) eligibility for impacted municipalities, I cannot sign this legislation.

Allowing new construction on a pier in a coastal high hazard area as this bill provides contravenes that federal regulation and may therefore jeopardize NFIP eligibility for those municipalities with existing piers along the Hudson River. I cannot condone such a risk.

Link to the Governor’s full veto message:

Mayor Zimmer to Vote for Parents for Progress

A letter from Mayor Dawn Zimmer on the upcoming Board of Education election this Tuesday.

Dear Horsey and MSV readers:

Since first being elected to the Hoboken City Council in 2007, I have always publicly shared my thoughts with respect to Hoboken’s annual School Board elections.  This year’s election is taking place this coming Tuesday, November 4, and I will be casting my vote for the Parents For Progress slate consisting of Monica Stromwall, Sharyn Angley and Antonio Gray.

While I do not know the candidates well, I had the opportunity recently to sit down and speak with them about the issues facing our schools.  I share their excitement about the enormous progress the Hoboken School district has made in recent years.   In fact, last week my husband and I, together with our 13 year old son Alex (an 8th grader at the Elysian Charter School), attended the Hoboken High School open house and were all extremely impressed.   As we walked home,  Alex let us know that he has decided to attend Hoboken High School next year because of the opportunities it provides to high achieving students for independent study.

Perhaps the most controversial issue with regard to Hoboken Schools at this time concerns the decision of the Hoboken School Board to oppose in Court the State’s decision to permit the expansion of the HoLa Charter school to 7th and 8th grade.  I have made clear my support of the State’s decision to permit the expansion, and while I respect the School Board’s right to take the steps that it has in opposition, I have made clear my strong disagreement with their decision to do so.   In my conversation with the Parents For Progress candidates, I was pleased to learn that the candidates’ views reflect a spectrum of opinion with regard to this and other issues relating to the relationship between the traditional School District and our Charter Schools.  I believe that this diversity of opinion would be a real asset to the School Board going forward.

I respect the Parents for Progress candidates for their decision to run independently of any political affiliation and hope that, if elected, they will make their voices heard not only in agreement but, when appropriate, in dissent.  This would help the School Board as a whole make the best decisions possible for Hoboken’s children.  That’s why on Tuesday I will be casting my vote for 2-3-5 Stromwall, Angley and Gray.   

Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Mayor Dawn Zimmer last night
at the Freeholders Meeting

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


After two hours of deliberations and hearing from dozens of Hoboken residents, the Hudson County Board of Freeholders finally weighed in voting to uphold its Planning Board in a 5-0-1 vote.

With over 125 residents in attendance but some departing on a break, the vote in the end was anti-climatic as the weight of residents and county attorneys all agreed asking the Hudson County Planning Board application by Ironstate be denied.

Previously, the County Planning Board voted 5-2 to deny the Monarch project application to build two towers east of the Hudson Tea Building.

The project already in the courts is likely to continue on that front.

This story is breaking... reported on the story:


 City of Hoboken announces:

The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders will hold a special meeting at 6:00pm on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 to vote on whether or not to uphold the Hudson County Planning Board’s denial of Shipyard’s application for the Monarch project.  

The Hudson County Planning Board’s denial was based on the effects of the proposed project on traffic and pedestrian safety along an abutting county roadway (Sinatra Drive). The Hearing will be limited to those issues. The meeting will take place in the cafeteria of the Wallace School, located at 1100 Willow Avenue.  The meeting is open to the public, and concerned members of the community may attend and voice their opinions.


City of Hoboken announces:


The City of Hoboken is introducing a final draft for the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan which will be considered on first reading by the City Council at their next meeting on November 5, 2014. If approved by the Council, the plan would then be reviewed by the Planning Board. The Planning Board would provide a recommendation to the City Council, which would then hold a final vote to consider adopting the Plan.

The City’s revised Plan calls for a baseline 2.176 million square foot mixed use project with an additional 125,000 square feet of commercial space permitted if the commercial space is architecturally creative and designed to LEED Gold standard. Two-thirds of the overall plan is for office space and one-quarter for residential space, with the remainder for retail space. The plan would create a true mixed-use project that will significantly diversify the local economy, support local businesses, and revitalize the Hoboken Terminal area and Observer Highway area - an essential gateway to Hoboken.

“This plan represents the results of an extensive City Council and community process to find consensus,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “It is my hope that all of the parties will objectively evaluate this project and move forward in the best interests of our State and our City.”

The public is invited to view the plan, plan presentation, economic analysis, and overview of changes compared to the 2012 draft plan at the following links:

Economic Viability
The City’s Economic Analysis, conducted by Freeman/Frazier & Associates, Inc., a highly regarded and experienced New York City-based firm, makes clear that the implementation of the Plan is economically viable. The economic experts considered, among other factors, the value of the land, soft costs, construction costs, flood resiliency costs, relocation costs, infrastructure costs, and the fair market value of the residential, retail, and office space improvements. They concluded that the “cash flow model indicates that the IRR [Internal Rate of Return] of the project will be 12.9%” which “is at the high end of the minimum range of pro forma rates of return in the New York - New Jersey Market as reported by the ‘Realty Rates’ survey in the 3rd Quarter of 2014.” This is a conservative estimate that does not include the additional 125,000 square foot density bonus.

The proposed project will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs, bring new companies to New Jersey, and add millions of dollars of revenue for the State of New Jersey. 

“While NJ Transit will not receive the enormous revenue that it hoped to receive when it originally proposed its 9 million square foot plan back in 2008, it will receive a fair return on its real estate asset enabling it to make overdue and vitally necessary improvements to its Hoboken facilities," added Mayor Zimmer. “Hoboken is the 4th most densely populated City in the country, so we are quite sensitive to the burden that excessive new residential density would place on our City’s infrastructure.”

Robocall: Join the opposition against Monarch butterflies? You Bet!


Beth Mason urges residents in robocall yesterday to join her battle to promote herself... somewhere

Last night Hoboken residents phones were ringing with a robocall from the supremely litigious councilwoman of 921 Hudson Street with a direly important message: join her in fighting Hoboken traffic and the Monarch butterfly?

Independently, Hoboken residents said the robocall failed to deliver on the details where the politically craven councilwoman wished to meet up. 

The robocall abruptly cut off leaving the Mason family investment wasted as to the time and place where to join Beth Mason in fighting... the Monarch butterfly?

One resident giggled after receiving the robocall while listening as the call abruptly ended before telling Hoboken residents the required details, "It just cut off and the line went dead. It's right out of the gang that couldn't shoot straight," he said referring to the coterie of political operatives who splurge on Mason family funds.

Another resident confirmed the robocall cut off before any location details were spelled out but was more reflective on what the call signifies for the beleaguered second ward sighing, "I guess she is really desperate to keep the 2nd ward seat."

Elections for all six ward seats are up in November 2015 and reports suggest Beth Mason will hold on to the only political chit she can in the hopes to trade up to another political job. Yesterday MSV detailed she's already launched another website but doesn't tout the only political position she holds as the first reason to consider her.

Repeated attempts to leverage the second ward council seat in Hoboken have eluded her even with million dollar expenditures in Hoboken and tens of thousands given to NJ political figures and statewide Democratic committees. One rumor said the Mason family entered into a failed seven figure bidding war for the Hoboken Assembly seat. She was said to be so irked by the endeavor's failure to buy her way out of Hoboken into higher office she refused to back the departing office holder of the Assembly seat in a bid for Hoboken mayor. The complaint by Beth Mason? Then Assemblyman Ruben Ramos had failed to give her a heads up on that failed purchase.

Last year, Beth Mason backed Timmy Occhipinti for mayor who was crushed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer and then Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, coming in a very distant third.

Beth Mason has even given a now former Hoboken prosecutor significant monies who would later run for a NJ Freeholder position. She however didn't get much in the way of a conviction against this editor on behalf of one of her thuggish political operatives. 
 Hi, it's me Bet Mazin...

Talking Ed Note: MSV has detailed Beth Mason's numerous political operations against the people of Hoboken and reported on her voting to stop funding for the City's legal effort to oppose the Monarch project last year in the story below.

Beth Mason and Old Guard allies vote down legal work against Monarch project!

Monday, October 27, 2014


City of Hoboken announces:


The Zimmer Administration announced today the appointment of Police Lieutenant Kenneth F. Ferrante as the City of Hoboken’s next Chief of Police effective December 1, 2014. Previously on July 1, 2014, Edelmiro "Eddie" Garcia was appointed as Provisional Chief of Police following the retirement of Chief Falco. Chief Garcia announced that he will retire on December 1, 2014.

“It was a very difficult choice, and Hoboken was lucky to have three outstanding candidates for the position,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “I thank Chief Garcia and Captain Pasculli for their willingness to serve, and I congratulate Lieutenant Ferrante on his appointment and look forward to working with him as our new chief. On behalf of the citizens of Hoboken, I thank Chief Garcia for his lifelong commitment to the City of Hoboken and for leading our Police Department through this transition.”

In a letter to Mayor Zimmer, Chief Garcia expressed his deepest gratitude for the opportunity to service as provisional Chief of Police. “It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve in this capacity,” said Chief Garcia.

With over 21 years of experience as a police officer performing patrol work and community policing initiatives, Lieutenant Ferrante also has over 11 years of experience as a supervisor. He has over 6 years of experience as a commander, including planning, developing and administering patrol operations, community based practices, and crisis management. His assignments included serving as South Hoboken Commander of the Hurricane Sandy operation, Southeast Hoboken Commander of the Hurricane Irene Operation, Washington Street Commander for several St. Patrick’s Day events, and Waterfront Commander of several Macy’s 4th of July fireworks displays. Since 2013, he has also served as Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management.

Mr. Ferrante has developed a plan and vision for the Hoboken Police Department to embrace 21st century technologies and policing tactics, introduce customer-friendly reforms, and tackle quality of life concerns. The plan includes establishing a waterfront/parks division, expanding customer service hours, enhancing police training, including community sensitivity training, addressing homelessness, allowing residents to file online reports, embracing social media to communicate with the public, restoring bicycle patrols, holding regular community meetings, and creating the position of Identify Theft Officer to address one of the fastest-growing crimes in America.

“This afternoon Mayor Zimmer called to inform me that a decision has been made on the next Police Chief for the City of Hoboken,” said Sergeant John Petrosino, President of the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association. “This was a highly anticipated phone call because the candidates for the title were literally the best in the State of New Jersey. When I was told that Lieutenant Ferrante would become the next Police Chief for the Hoboken Police Department I was excited for him, his family and this department. Ken’s dedication to the Hoboken Police Department has been unmatched since he took his oath as a patrolman some twenty years ago. From community services foot patrol officer to commander of uniformed motorized patrol, Lieutenant Ferrante has been goal oriented and task driven. He possesses street cop savvy with the intellect of a college professor. He is a hard but fair supervisor who uses practicality harmoniously with regulations. This is a new and exciting time for Ken and the Hoboken Police. I am looking forward to his plan for the Department and working with him to move us forward.”

“I agree with the Mayor's decision, which was surely difficult, taking into consideration that all the candidates are extraordinary police managers, well respected and uniquely qualified to serve as police chief,” said Detective Vincent T. Lombardi, President of Hoboken Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “Ken Ferrante has the knowledge, education and overall hands-on experience necessary to best serve our department and the community to the highest levels of law enforcement excellence.”

Mr. Ferrante has bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from New Jersey City University. He graduated as a Presidential Scholar from Saint Peter’s Preparatory School in 1990 and coached football there for 12 seasons. He has received multiple awards for his service including the Combat Cross, two Honorable Service awards, and two Exceptional Duty awards.

Is Hoboken about to be screwed with the Monarch towers?

MSV analysis on the County Board of Freeholders vote on the Monarch Project tomorrow

There's no building permits approved, but if you asked Ironstate, re: Michael and David Barry there's no reason why two towers built over a pier in northwest Hoboken should be problematic. Tennis courts and parking originally designated as part of the approvals for 1,000 units of the Shipyard were part of the agreement with the City but things changed as historically many developer promises. The four digit units of buildings got built, the waterfront views on Hudson blocked.

No tennis courts for Hoboken's recreation loving residents and now an all out legal war with the Barry family. When it comes to developer political control in Hoboken, the Barry family is the model. 

David Barry, scion of Ironstate development

Michael Barry, Ironstate and Barry family leader

Father Joe would be so proud. The history is recaptured in a guest piece tied into the last great developer scam on Hoboken: Truckstop Lenders and Waterfront HUD Hauls. Hoboken residents need to know what they are up against and it's a learned, skillful private developer enterprise with a history of making government work - for the developer. From the original article:

Constructing the Waterfront Walkway and making it accessible to the public were conditions Barry and Applied had to meet in order to build The Shipyard. The Walkway was to be part of a continuous 18 mile path along the Hudson County waterfront, a long time vision of local greenspace activists. Because the Walkway was open to the public, Barry wanted the public to pick up the cost. Despite the fact that as a condition of the New Jersey state waterfront permit, private developers are expected to construct and maintain the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at their own expense. But thanks to NJDOT and the HCIA, Barry got paid. In 1999, a nonprofit association of private developers including Applied, joined with Robert Janiszewski, the HCIA, the Port Liberte Condominium Association and other interested parties to try and have the entire Walkway declared a Special Improvement District (SID). Which would transfer authority over the Walkway from the state Department of Environmental Protection to either Hudson County or the HCIA.

As an aside, if Barry's reasoning re public access is correct, one wonders if it cuts both ways. Are taxpayers entitled to space in the Applied projects they help finance or enhance? If so, everybody into Port Li-bur-TAY! Where Robert Janiszewski used to live. And where he kept the hidden cameras rolling.

That was millions of dollars in profits then, this is million of dollars in profits at stake now. The Freeholders are not the working reform council majority sifting and deliberating on what's best overall for Hoboken. It's a legislative body taking its cues from the HudCo Machine. For those that know, the name Robert Janiszewski is infamous for wearing a wire snagging HudCo pols not so many years ago. Janisewski did it for the Feds before it became a singular capital interest. Why wear a wire for the Feds when doing it for yourself is so much more daring and novel? (That novella isn't over yet either but Da Horsey digresses.)

Tomorrow's showdown, 6:00 pm at the Wallace School could be the end of the reneged Barry family agreement with the City. The Freeholders merely need to uphold a decision of their own County Planning Board. Don't count your chickens however. The Barry family wields huge political influence in Hoboken. Applied Housing is its legacy of financial and political empire propping up one desperate councilwoman's dwindling ambitions, was responsible for the prop yelling, "Viva Applied" screaming current Assemblyman occupant and historically was not only the developer power in Hoboken but in Hudson County and beyond.

The Barry family under its Ironstone moniker will not go down easily. While the Zimmer Administration is leading a consistent legal battle on multiple fronts and teamed effectively with former Assemblyman Ruben Ramos approving state legislation giving municipalities the ability to block pier construction, the Barry family shows no sign of relenting. With their track record of success and getting what they want from local, county and state government; it's not likely to occur before all legal remedies are exhausted.

Add their historical powerful political influence, (they also are the founders and power behind the pro Old Guard Hudson Reporter) they've demonstrated a can do attitude to make government work for them. Which brings us to the Hudson County Board of Freeloaders, Freeholders.

Absolution has been issued to Hoboken Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano who has been busy running around the area making every photo op possible in recent months. Romano sits on the Hudson County Planning Board and is told by the Hudco Freeholder lawyer he can't vote. No legal opinion has been rendered on the matter and made available to the public. Is Romano legally conflicted by his Planning Board vote? Or is this a political get free out of jail card for when some bad news comes with the Freeholder vote tomorrow night?

The Freeholders agreed to hold their meeting in Hoboken. Is it to show their metal to the Barry family in the face of some organized well to do Hoboken opposition or to make a big show of "standing with the people," as Councilwoman Beth Mason attempts to reinvent herself with the family checkbook from her current title as the scourge of Hoboken? She was for the Monarch before she was against it; well she was for the Barry family and getting those Applied Housing votes to scratch and climb by any means possible for a better political job than second ward council member.

Beth Mason stands with her hand out for some chow with her political operative escort Matt Calicchio last week in line with hundreds of others applying to be put on a wait list for Applied Housing in Hoboken and Weehawken. Does Beth Mason need another home? She needs Applied Housing and the Barry's backing for votes in next year's 2nd ward election. She is desperate to get a better political job but needs to leverage the lowly second ward seat.
She's trying with her political operatives to position herself above the job she does badly at,
As she said to her former campaign manger of the ward seat, what's the point of that?

Urging Beth Mason to do the right thing is never a successful citizen enterprise but now she's found religion or the desire to hold the second ward council seat as a tool to trade up for another New Jersey political office. Any, but that's another story.

The Zimmer Administration is waging a consistent legal fight on all fronts. They have their hands full in Superior and Federal court. That's nothing new for them or Hoboken. The Mile Square will not see any relenting on that front. Reneging on an agreement with the City is being considered an act of war. Back in the day, it used to be another day to sit down give in to developer demands and grease the pockets of local politicos.

So tomorrow's vote isn't the final chapter in the Monarch saga. It's an important one however in the HudCo history of corruption and developer schemes allying with those holding the seats of power. 

Hudson County Board of Freeholders meeting: 6:00 pm @ the Wallace School: 11th and Clinton.

Related: The history of the powerful impact of the Barry family on Hoboken and beyond with the savage fight for developer profits most recently with the late controversial plan Vision 20/20.

Beth Mason and her usual treachery against Hoboken was captured in these MSV stories:

Voting down the legal funding for the Monarch:

Second ward resident pleas Mason "Do the right thing," back in 2012:

Residents angered by Beth Mason's destructive politics after Hurricane Sandy:

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.