OK, let’s write about Steve Fulop – and things.
Well it took awhile but the Jersey City Incinerator Authority is going bye-bye because a bunch of employees, including the brother (Clayton Dabney) of the guy (Oren Dabney) who runs the autonomous agency, were allegedly caught taking money so that private construction debris can be mixed in with municipal household garbage.
When they dumped the co-mingled stuff in a landfill, you the taxpayer were paying all the tipping fees — sucker!
What does this mean, politically speaking? This is the slo-mo end of state Sen. Sandra Cunningham’s career as a political influence and legislator. This is also about Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop flexing those “I’m the boss” muscles and claiming the city’s African-American community as his own domain – no different than any other section of the soon to be largest city in New Jersey. Don’t forget, Ward F is the only ward he did not win when he ran for mayor. Now it will be a given.
Don’t feel sorry for anyone in the neighborhoods where once Ray Brown, Fred Martin, Glenn Cunningham, and many more walked. Over the past few decades, this community failed to grow new champions and leaders. Those who did crop up preferred alliances within the Democratic Party and accepted promises of titles for a few that can be worn on their sleeves for all to see.
Fulop has proven to be a sly guy, not someone to mess with. Oh, I don’t mean people are cowering under their beds, but rather it’s acknowledgement that he’s not just some nerd sitting in City Hall and has proven to be an astute politician – at least with the local yokels.
Sandra Cunningham’s fate has been decided by passing time and by the pre-primary mess over selecting a Jersey City candidate for the 31st District assembly seat. By time, I mean that whatever aura that rubbed off on her from being the widow of the city’s first African-American mayor has been fading with every election. She had one shot to run for mayor and now she needs a time machine to get that opportunity back.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop addresses the audience during the State of the City at City Hall, 280 Grove St., on Feb. 24.
As for the 31st District drama, Fulop wanted incumbent Assemblyman Charles Mainor out and he wanted it done peacefully. Fulop had to deal with Cunningham, who believes the choice of candidate goes through her. She also did not want to see the Jersey City Improvement Authority merged into the city Department of Public Works. The state senator had her buddy Oren Dabney running the JCIA show and the agency is the source of much African-American patronage.
This is why, upon taking office in 2013, the mayor hedged on streamlining government and eliminating the JCIA. It was politically expedient to hold off the unification. He had upcoming elections to deal with and I suppose the JCIA was a bargaining chip.
Fulop thought he had an agreement with Cunningham and her retinue (Joe Cardwell and Dabney) that Mainor would bow out of the Assembly primary in return for a promised county post. Cunningham proved a bit Iran-ish when she was not happy with Fulop’s first choice to replace Mainor, Councilwoman Joyce Watterman. It led to two more choices, settling on nonprofit founder Angela McKnight.
Then the fuse was lit. Fulop was never angrier than when he realized that Mainor was quietly still running a campaign for re-election. It didn’t help when Cunningham sat out the Assembly race and did not support anyone?
It all coaxed Fulop’s Jekyll to emerge. The use of local law enforcement to uncover alleged criminal activity in the JCIA, while laudatory, is unusual. Wonder what such a special unit could uncover elsewhere in city government?
Either way, there goes the patronage. It must have been pleasing to the administration to call Dabney to City Hall and, with a straight face, inform him that he would no longer be employed.
Then there was the incident.
Fulop’s eventual Assembly candidate and Democratic Party primary winner, McKnight, was in good spirit during the victory party. As the now well-repeated story in the African-American community goes, Sen. Cunningham walked across the party floor to congratulate the young woman but was intercepted by the Dem candidate’s father-in-law, Eugene McKnight, who legendarily told Cunningham, “You’re next.” That’s what they say, anyway.
If we must spell it out, the younger McKnight is already thinking of taking the senator’s seat next time around, presuming that the November election results are a foregone conclusion – and they are. She is a political rookie, perhaps clueless, and it is very premature to say she can really become a leader.
The results also make the father-in-law the closest thing to Duke of Ward F. “Gene” is the person who can run a tight organization capable of winning Ward F and he is in the Fulop camp. Who says Second Chance doesn’t work?
So what’s ahead for Cunningham? She can finish her term in office but the prospect of re-election is dim. She could always think about heading a nonprofit agency, something of the scope of an Urban League with its many employees and a multi-million dollar budget — just supposing. The senator will have some time to think about it but her role as a political heavyweight is essentially over, for now.
As for the African-American community, again, there’s no major captain available to take the wheel.
— I get this feeling that I should be congratulating the DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole law firm for the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank move of 2,000 more jobs from Manhattan to Jersey City in return for $188 million in tax credits over 10 years. Just wondering. Let’s go along with the idea that the state Economic Development Authority really does deserve all the credit – I mean congratulations.
— So I’m getting a couple of telephone complaints from some senior citizens about Fulop’s $700,000-plus home in the Heights. They can’t get over the taxes on the house, which is somewhere in the vicinity of $7,700.
“That’s about what I pay for a house worth a lot less than that,” said one caller. “People want to know, ‘Why isn’t Augie writing about that?'”
Recognizing an attempt to bait me, I go along and suggest that perhaps the house is sitting on an old railroad right of way. Or perhaps he needs a lot of radon detectors.
I suggest they should try appealing their tax bill using the mayor’s house as an example of why it should be reduced. What can I say? It’s good to be king.
— Over in Bayonne, we noted that the Bayonne Board of Education voted unanimously to promote Freeholder Kenneth Kopacz, a school principal, to the new title of assistant superintendent. The school board members said that it had nothing to do with politics.
This week, looking back, I’m glad they said that. Now I know those $1,000 donations made last year by (Ray) Greaves for Council 2014, Michael Masone and Christopher Piechocki, all school board members, to “Kopacz for Freeholder,” according to ELEC reports, did not influence their feelings about the promotion.
Even if they abstained from voting, it would have been a 6-0 vote in favor of Kopacz, but it does say something about the character of the Board of Education.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Agustin C. Torres’ columns appear in The Jersey Journal. A new one goes up at www.nj.com/hudson/voices every Saturday.