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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Horse Sense: Pop the Pupster and send him on his way to exile

Why the Hoboken City Council must select a NHSA commissioner who is not Pupie

It's January and the Hoboken political class is chirping who will emerge to challenge Mayor Dawn Zimmer's bid for a third term this November.

As all aspects of politics and particular to Hoboken are oft akin to a circular firing squad, there's a commissioner's seat up for a council selection.

Let the firing commence!

Frank "Pupie" Raia is an anachronism. He happens to be one of the most colorful characters in Hoboken Sopranos history and on occasion is the most entertaining interview no matter the subject matter. He does more than a modicum of good with local groups such as Hopes and his family acts similarly, often quietly in non-publicized, charitable activities.

Then, there's the dark side. As a developer who came up from the rough and tumble streets of the Mile Square City, Raia benefited with land deals making him wealthy or very wealthy as he's known to tell everyone. His regular entry into politics with more failure than success saw him as the Board of Education President a decade ago. An independent audit reviewing that period reeks to this day with the bad practices, mismanagement and outright corruption.

Of course there's the sizable vote farming operation mostly in the Hoboken Housing Authority and senior buildings yet with us today. Raia's name has come up more than once alleging pay for votes. MSV broke the acquiescence on the practice in 2010 where Raia and the Masonista ape were both named in the alleged effort. 

The ensuing publicity and statewide attention led to an investigation by the NJ Attorney General's Office but didn't dampen the swarmy practice of hunting out votes for allegedly $35 or $50 a pop. In 2013, MSV followed with a post-election report where voters lined up to collect on their "duty."

This activity took place outside the Raia hangout on Jefferson St. What more needs to be said?

Frank "Pupie" Raia (l) with notorious Masonista and frivolous litigant Lane Bajardi back in the day at the scene of
the Hoboken City Council. Raia teamed up with Beth Mason in 2013 running a disastrous mayoral ticket where
he finished in seventh place among council at-large candidates. 

Realism of the Hoboken political variety demands an examination of last year's North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) vote. It was inconclusive if Raia would actually get another term sending his "service" at over three decades on the NHSA board when the council convened. In the end, public pressure from Hoboken's reform oriented grassroots finally popped the bubble of the Pupster's bid.

Some of those same votes can be expected to be repeated. Councilman Michael Russo who almost faced a mano a mano war for the third ward council seat with Raia is certainly going to lead any votes in his favor for old time's sake. Alright, it's not for old time's sake but at least for the Old Guard's sake. That's to be expected.

The two votes lining up for Raia from the reform oriented council were the chief concern. Last year Councilman Peter Cunningham lent his support to Raia when not a single person in a town of over 52,000 submitted an application other than the 25 year incumbent. That offered some cover when Kurt Gardiner, a reform stalwart made a late entry to the position.

This year however there will be no such excuses for any councilman. Councilman David Mello prefaced his vote last year calling the Pupster his "friend." It wasn't pretty but when the landslide tally commenced, Mello got off the Pupie friendship train and hopped on the Gianticus Express.

Now we're in an election year coming off one of the most decisive election victories at the Board of Education, always a precursor for the mayoral race. Who among a reform party slate needs Raia? No one.

So this time come next week there's no excuses. There's three perfectly suitable applicants available to bring fresh perspective to the NHSA. Pop the Pupster bubble, press flush and end it already. 25 years on one Hoboken board is beyond enough. See ya in November.