Friday, October 30, 2015

A Scary Get Out the Vote Story

A Low Interest Year

It's really hard to generate interest in a school board election, especially when there are no state or federal elections happening at the same time. But the school board has elections every year and this is one of those low interest years.

In 2011, the last time there was an election like this, all three reform candidates were defeated. Who defeated them? Candidates financed by people with a history of redirecting school funds to friends and family. And this year is shaping up to be a repeat performance.

The Usual Suspects

The usual suspects, Carmelo Garcia, Frank Raia, and Michael Russo, have united to support a cobbled-together slate consisting of perennial candidate and Raia-favorite, Britney Montgomery (city council 2013, school board 2014, and now school board again), perennial candidate and scary-angry ex-school employee John Madigan (school board 2002, 2003, 2010, 2011), and newcomer Alanna Kauffmann who, judging by her debate performance, is far out of her depth.

I leave it to Hoboken Donkey and GrafixAvenger to provide an overview of the candidates. As for, Garcia, Raia, and Russo, volumes have been written (here, here or here for example) on how they tirelessly work to divert taxpayer funds from the city and schools to benefit themselves and their friends. Madigan himself was a recipient of one of these jobs, until it was deemed "inconsequential" and eliminated by a reform school board in 2010.

Scared Yet?

Which brings me to my video. The prospect of any one of Montgomery, Madigan, or Kauffmann being elected and sitting with the reform school board we've worked so hard to elect is appalling. Their role would be to disrupt board meetings (something Garcia himself was renowned for) with the goal of discouraging parents from participating in improving our schools. This, in turn, sets the stage for low parent interest in future school board elections, which leads to further election victories for the bad guys.

In no time they will regain control of the school board and start stealing from the classrooms to provide jobs and perks for friends and family. So if this isn't a scary enough story to motivate you to vote 2-4-6 Kluepfel, Dallara, Velez for Hoboken Board of Education, you must be dead!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hoboken Critter Alert!!

Beth Mason, Hoboken's 2nd Ward Councilwoman, alerts Hoboken residents to its perilous critter situation.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Beth Mason Fail!

Well, Hoboken's 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, seems to have stumbled in an elaborate dance with New Jersey's Election Law Enforcement Commission. Mason, her lawyer husband, Richard G. Mason, and a number of sundry Mason operatives, have been charged with nineteen counts of ELEC law violations, related to Mason's failed mayoral campaign in 2009, and her ward council campaign in 2011. Extensive coverage of this story is provided by Hoboken's plucky journalist-bloggers Grafix Avenger and Hoboken Horse so I won't go into details here, except to mention two startling sums. These charges aren't simply about forgetting to submit a campaign receipt or two. Horse tabulates the total number of violations to be 387.  And, GA calculates the total possible fine on all counts to be in the neighborhood of $14M! 

There's more to this story than simple schadenfreude. Mason spends lots of money promoting her public face of good governance and transparency. But, as they say, actions speak louder than words. The ELEC charges against Mason stem from bad governance and opaqueness, and constitute more evidence of her true, not-so-hidden agenda.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I Sue You!

When your only tool is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. Such as it is with Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason who is suing the City for the release of documents exchanged between the City and one of the law firms it's contracted in the past. Mason's tool of choice is the lawsuit - a great tool for depleting the resources, both time and finances, of its target. For this reason it's a terrific tool for revenge and obstruction. Of course, it's a terrible tool for carrying out the day-to-day duties of a ward councilperson. But when revenge and obstruction are all your councilperson is interested in, then that's what ward residents have to settle for. For the record, let's take a brief look at Councilwoman Mason's history of lawsuits against Hoboken and its residents.

Most recently, there is the aforementioned lawsuit against the City of Hoboken that some believe is tied to politically motivated attacks against recently re-elected Hoboken Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla.

There is also the lawsuit filed against Hoboken  Councilpersons Bhalla, Cunningham, Giattino and Mello that prevented newly elected Councilman Jim Doyle from serving as interim Councilman after Councilwoman Carol Marsh resigned in October 2012. This lawsuit blocked a reform majority on City Council allowing Mason and her fellow Council plaintiffs to obstruct city progress for more than a year.

Then there is the sordid SLAPP-suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) filed against two dozen Hoboken bloggers in August 2012. While Mason's name is not on the complaint, the names of two of her closest supporters are. More damning though is that Councilwoman Mason publicly disclosed the lawsuit's existence prior to its receipt by the targeted bloggers. Needless to say, the bloggers were not, and are not, Mason cheerleaders.

Prior to Councilwoman Mason's failed attempts for election as Mayor in 2009, Mason filed at least eleven lawsuits against the city, the school board and the city's now defunct hospital board. Back then, these actions may have been viewed as heroic attempts to shine light on possible corruption. But, as I've written about elsewhere, in light of Mason's behavior after losing these elections, all her actions are now suspect.

In 2008, the New York Times estimated that Mason's lawsuits cost the city about $200,000. Just imagine the total cost to her constituents, our city's bloggers, and the city to date.

I Sue You! from Greg Bond on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Get Out the Vote!

Don't be a Low Info voter. If you love Hoboken, then on November 5th get out and vote for the people who will keep making this city great: the Kids First team for Board of Education, and the Zimmer team for Mayor and City Council.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Funny Valentine

On Valentine's Day 2013, I was present at the Hoboken Housing Authority public meeting to video the proceedings. Minutes after I had set up my equipment, Hoboken Democratic Committee-person Matt Calicchio, who is also an employee of Hoboken Second Ward Councilperson Beth Mason, began an evening-long campaign to obstruct my camera. When he wasn't blocking my camera he was handing out Valentine's Day chocolates to meeting attendees (but not me, unfortunately). The chocolates included a "Love Your Neighborhood" message from Councilwoman Mason. Mr. Calicchio's antics were no surprise to me. He has a well-known reputation for dirty-politics, the "low-lights" including alleged public harassment of a Hoboken School Board member and her young daughter last year, and alleged harassment of Hoboken Mayor Zimmer in 2007.

Who's Your Mama?

As I've written in the past, Councilwoman Mason once spent her ample personal funds bringing transparency to Hoboken politics, ironically including paying for videoing Hoboken City Council and Hoboken School Board meetings. Now that her attempts to become Hoboken's mayor have been thwarted, she hires the likes of Mr. Calicchio who intimidates those who seek transparency and good government in Hoboken.

Why the Interest in the HHA?

The Councilwoman's interest in the HHA would seem peculiar at first. Most HHA buildings are located outside of her ward. But the HHA is known to be a guaranteed block of votes and Councilwoman Mason, now having given up on becoming Hoboken's Mayor, is rumored to have set her sights on a seat in New Jersey's State Assembly. Since Hurricane Sandy, Councilwoman Mason has paid virtually no attention to Hoboken, and focused her attention on currying favor with New Jersey State Senator, and Union City Mayor, Brian Stack, who has a reputation for delivering votes himself. With her checkbook and her HHA votes, it is thought that Councilwoman Mason may convince Senator Stack that she is worthy of receiving his support (and his block of votes). This would explain Mr. Calicchio's presence at the HHA meeting, the Councilwoman's chocolates for HHA residents, and the fact that Councilwoman Mason also employs a relative of HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia. As for interfering with my right to video the HHA meeting, this was probably nothing more than Mr. Calicchio improvising in a way he thought might please his boss, since anything to obstruct progress in Hoboken is bound to please her.


A nice summary, from the Hoboken Reporter newspaper in 2012, of Matt Calicchio's history with lawsuits, political dirty tricks, and Councilwoman Beth Mason. Link

A 2007 TV news clip dealing with the interruption a School Board Meeting video that Councilwoman Mason was paying to record. In an interview, Mason explains how interrupting the video violates the spirit of open public meetings. Link

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Hurricanes and Election Campaigns

Satire Feels Wrong After a Hurricane

Here's a very late video "treat", or perhaps "trick", depending on your political persuasion, that I had prepared before Hurricane Sandy's arrival for a Halloween release. Of course, that was before Sandy ruined Halloween, and everything else, for everyone in Hoboken. Immediately after Sandy, the satire seemed out of place when so many people were still trying to get back on their feet. So I decided that the video shouldn't be released. With the Kids First victory sweep now three months behind us, the video is irrelevant, but I've decided to release it anyhow because the tune is still catchy!

(The Original Post)

What happens when a hurricane interrupts an election campaign? For me, the campaign instantly becomes a triviality. Making sure your family and neighbors are safe is all I've thought about since Hurricane Sandy struck Hoboken almost a week ago. And then we receive news, while we're still without power, on our wind-up radio, that the nation is determined to hold the election on Tuesday, despite the fact that much of Hoboken, is still recovering, still without power, still seeking refuge. With only two days until election day those of us who care about the outcome of the election find ourselves torn. Do we not campaign out of respect for our community's current predicament? Or do we turn our attention to an election that has been called without regards to our predicament?

Forced Into an Election

We're being forced into this election too soon. Nevertheless, I know that, hurricane or not, the outcome of this election has long-term importance for Hoboken Public Schools. If the Kids First reform slate of Ruth McAllister, Jean Marie Mitchell, and Tom Kluepfel lose this election then majority control of Hoboken's Public Schools will return to former School Board President Frank Raia's "Move Forward" slate. While the slate itself seems harmless enough at first glance, save for the slate's uniform unfamiliarity with Hoboken Public Schools, what is most alarming is who is behind the slate. To anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Hoboken politics, a glance at the photos of the Move Forward's kick-off party says it all. A consolidated who's who of politicians and supporters responsible for raiding the coffers at both the School Board and the City. But three years ago Hoboken voters elected reform majorities to both the School Board and City Hall. And in that short time they've been cleaning up the corruption with a vengeance.

A Litany of Atrocities

At the School Board, the Kids First majority has uncovered a litany of atrocities: rigging the results for state education tests in order to obtain "Most Improved School District" status, providing hundreds of no-show and no-bid jobs and contracts, and running enormous tabs at restaurants. Meanwhile, school textbooks were long overdue for replacement and school buildings were falling into disrepair. All of this and much more has been rectified under a Kids First majority. Under Kids First the School Board has, for the first time, been honest about the financial and academic status of Hoboken's Public Schools. They've hired a new Superintendent, Dr. Mark Toback, who is implementing an aggressive plan to get Hoboken Schools back on track. They've eliminated the bogus jobs and canceled the contracts, successfully defending themselves against retaliatory law suits. Not only that, but our school district received an award for financial accounting excellence last year for turning the district's finances around and keeping Hoboken's tax levy flat for three years running, despite enduring severe financial cuts from the state.

Vote to Continue the Progress

Those behind Raia's "Move Forward" slate are desperate to regain control of the School Board. There is no question that under their control, Hoboken's Public Schools will quickly "Move Backward" to the sorry state they were in prior to Kids First majority control. If we must vote on Tuesday, before we've recovered from the disaster that has visited us, then we must vote to continue the progress that Kids First has brought to the Hoboken Public Schools. To maintain a majority the entire Kids First slate has to be elected. On the ballot please vote columns K, L and M, for Tom Kluepfel, Jean Marie Mitchell, and Ruth McAllister.


For a list of the financial atrocities we could have expected under a "Move Forward" majority, see the KPMG audit of the Hoboken Public Schools from 2004 to 2006 that was buried when Frank Raia was President of the Hoboken School Board.

For an honest appraisal of the current academic state of Hoboken's Public Schools, I highly recommend reading Jason Yoon-Hendrick's two recent, extensively researched reports recently published in Hoboken Patch.

Photos of the "Move Forward" kick-off party.