Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shame, Blame and the Great Game (a la Hoboken)

With all politics being proverbially local, it’s little wonder horribly overpoliticized Hoboken parallels so much of the global geopolitical turmoil. Just take a quick, bug-eyed look around you:

Civil war spilling over into the Heights – no, not the Golan Heights via Lebanon or Palestine; that’s Jersey City (JC) Heights via Hoboken and Hudson County in general. The Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) led by JC Mayor Jerry Healy and the Other, Lesser Hudson County machine led by Union City Mayor Brian Stack have dragged preponderantly Democrat Hudson County through its own civil war for over a year now. The hot and pivotal battle at the moment is over who gets the JC Heights/Hoboken Freeholder seat in this June’s primary – and an inchoate truce hangs in the balance. But even though the viceroy Freeholder has yet to be named, one thing has been decided without getting a single Hoboken voter’s opinion: Hoboken will be slapped down like so much sauerbraten on Stack’s plate. The Great Game plays out above our heads.

Pre-emptive strike leads to dominoes falling throughout the region – no, that’s not the Roosevelt-idolatrous Bush 43, ‘fit as a bull moose in a china shop’, and the Ass-kiss of Evil, Donald Rumsfeld, swashbuckling their way across the Middle East. It’s current Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons and Hoboken Councilman Peter Cammarano crashing noisily through one political career after another. Stack will own the Freeholder: HCDO and Stack have to agree on which lifeless pawn he uses – BUT it can’t be born-idiot Maurice Fitzgibbons anymore, their erstwhile joint endorsee for Freeholder. Fitzgibbons has made several political gaffes lately, ones so excruciatingly quotidian and uninspired that the suitable words fail us until there has been time to invent them for the next column. This all along, and even more so in the immediate future, complicates the Hoboken mayoral race next year as Hoboken is three-quarters of the freeholder’s polity and 100% of the mayor’s. Potential Freeholder/Hoboken Mayor alliances abound; Ines Garcia-Keim/Beth Mason, Frank Raia/Michael Russo and the ‘indescribably malicious’ Fitzgibbons/Cammarano are all trying to get the jump on each other way in advance. Listen carefully as the latter pair bring down the house – of cards.

Social-conservative political leader caught in immorality play – no, that’s not Republicans on the take, on the make, without a break (yet again). That’s just Hoboken’s old-school political machine and its DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) arrogantly breaking every rule of law as if they had God-given right to. Start with the Old Hoboken mayoral/freeholder teams above. Cammarano, an election lawyer on the side, is now under investigation by the State for serious campaign-finance and election law violations; Fitzgibbons, the self-proclaimed Hoboken Uniter, has engendered total mutiny within the Hoboken Democratic Organization to the tune of having the Party in debt late in its fiscal year – with gross irregularities in the Party books to boot. Both show the distinct promise for other election finance violations in the near future as well as tenderizing the whole old-boy network for ruin. Fitzgibbons received kickbacks from the now-censured school-board member Carmelo Garcia, who’s running for school board again anyway. City Clerk Jimmy Farina and Anthony Romano leverage their own school-board seats and multiple hats into numerous election and fundraising violations that could have them censured as well or removed from office. And now the Hoboken Police Chief steps down after a raft of scandal washes by his desk: sex-tinged SWAT teams, departmental racism, money games of all kinds, even election law violations are alleged to the fore.

LaBruno, Cammarano, Farina and Romano – the sound of it is enough to curdle your mutz, not just one’s Italian blood. (Mine slogs through my turgid veins in fist-sized knots.) No wonder we hear of a "Hoboken Mafia" - the legendary network of low-brow political-finance gamesters who scud about like so many cockroaches fleeing our flooding cellars here. But why be surprised? None of this is truly new - and like any good salami, history repeats itself. We’ll hear much more of such shenanigans in the near future. The redeeming virtue of the coming stories is this time we’ll be hearing them in the media and from the authorities instead of just on the benches in front of City Hall.

Stay tuned here – the Great Game in all its Hudson Co. shame is about to become its own reality show. Mangia!



Anonymous said...

"the filth and sweat is abiding."

dave.axelrod said...

For friends in Hoboken concerned with safeguarding our right to speak at city council meetings, I wanted to make you aware of a 'stealth attack' on freedom of speech hidden in a new resolution slated to be approved at the next council meeting [3/19/08]

This serious threat to our right to speak out in opposition to city government or elected officials at Hoboken City Council meetings, is contained in a new resolution called RESOLUTION ADOPTING NEW RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN, and the dangerously restrictive language is buried in the section titled "decorum."

For members of the city council, "RULE XV" "Decorum: (a) By Council Members." states: "While the Council is in session, the members must preserve order and decorum ..."

On the other hand for members of the public, we are confronted with the following language: "Decorum: (b) By the Public. A member of the public who addresses the Council shall not make personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane remarks to any member of the Council, staff or general public. Any person who makes such remarks ... shall, at the discretion of the presiding officer or a majority of the Council, be barred from further audience before the Council during that meeting." [!!]

(The council members are apparently not held to the same standard as to lack of "decorum" as are members of the public, who can be dragged out of the meeting room, and possibly arrested, by "such member or members of the Police Department as the Chief may designate, [who] shall be the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Council meeting." ["RULE XVI" "Enforcement of Decorum:"])

[I have provided these excerpts for your convenience. You can read the entire ordinance by going to the council meeting agendas page at and clicking, under resolutions, on the March 19, 2008 date.]

Of course the words "personal, impertinent and slanderous," in particular, are subject to wide interpretation, and have been historically been used in various venues, by those in positions of authority, to attempt to stifle statements of dissent or opposition from the public. The additional extreme threat of embedding these calculatedly-vague terms into the written language of an ordinance, comes from giving supposedly legal authority to the council president's personal "discretion" to instantly muzzle any remarks he or she decides to. There is not even a provision for a member of the public to appeal the council President's decision! Censorship of our speech would now be more easily done with the legal "handle" and cover of claiming that something we say violates "decorum."

So now it will be in violation of a city ordinance to be "impertinent" to the city council? It is interesting to note, by the way, that the most common dictionary example I found of the usage of the word impertinent (as synonomous with "impudent") is that it is "impertinent of a child to lecture a grownup," and a child "should be disciplined for his impertinence!" Is it the council's intention to imply that speakers from the public are like children who need to be disciplined? I submit that it is the city council that would be impertinent to the people of Hoboken by passing an ordinance containing such authoritarian, demeaning and potentially repressive language.

Everyone who believes in defending the right of the people to speak out on important issues should try to be at the council meeting on Wednesday and let our voices be heard during the discussion of this resolution. Let as many people as possible know that their freedom of speech rights are being threatened, and they should let their councilperson know, by phone or at the meeting, that they oppose the passage of this resolution as it is now written.


Note additionally that in "RULE XIV" "Manner in Which the Public May Address the Council - Time Limits:" the "Presiding Officer" (i.e. the council President) is given complete "discretion" to decide who will be allowed to go beyond the time limit: "(d) ... Any speaker addressing the Council during this public comment period will be limited to five (5) minutes unless the presiding officer, in his or her discretion, decides that more time should be allotted to the speaker." [!!]

Take care, and hope to see you in support of civil liberties.
Yours for a better world.

[P.S. I am a 70-year-old, long-time resident of Hoboken, and this is the first time I am using this site. So please bear with me if this is not the right place to put this comment, and let me know how I can use the site better.]