Sunday, November 27, 2011

Things Get in My Way

What happened to Beth Mason? When Hoboken's 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason began her political career in the early 2000s, she fought against corruption and fought for transparency. In 2003, she took the principled stand of resigning from the city's Planning Board, despite being Mayor Robert's designee for the position, because she disapproved of the direction Roberts was taking the city. She also co-founded Hoboken's People for Open Government (POG) which, in its early years, fought to release public records and fought to combat pay-to-play (contributing to a political campaign in exchange for future political favors). Finally, she decided to run for 2nd Ward Council, only to be defeated by a Robert's-backed incumbent. Mason persisted and, in 2007, she was elected as 2nd Ward Councilwoman. In a demonstration of her independence, she publicly announced she would forgo her Council salary and benefits.

Mason's Run for Mayor

Everything changed when Mason decided to run for Mayor in 2009. In the spring election, she lost by a significant margin to Peter Cammarano and Dawn Zimmer. Of course, Cammarano went on to beat Zimmer in a run-off election, but he was arrested only a month into his term for accepting bribes from an undercover FBI informant. That fall, a special election was held to fill the vacant Mayor's seat. Once again Mason ran against Zimmer and, once again, she lost by a significant margin. All told, Mason spent in excess of $1 million on campaign expenses; the majority of it her own money. Moreover, while her spending more than doubled Zimmer's, she received only a third of the votes that Zimmer did.

After losing the first Mayoral election, Mason, still holding her Council seat, reneged on her pledge to forgo her Council salary and benefits. Not only that, she demanded she receive "back pay" for the salary she had voluntarily forgone. Mason's public persona had changed and her supporters noticed it. Between the two Mayoral elections Mason lost many of her supporters, who defected to support Zimmer in the fall election.

The New Beth Mason

Since losing the mayoral elections in 2009, Mason has morphed beyond recognition. Just last year, she made large and ethically questionable campaign contributions to Tim Occhipinti's 4th Ward Council election campaign. Occhipinti was running as an opponent to a Zimmer-supported candidate. First, Mason and her husband each contributed the maximum individual amount of $2,600 to Occhipinti's campaign. Then, Mason's campaign committee, dormant since she ran for Mayor, contributed another $8K to his campaign. And finally, she contributed another $6K for "canvassing" expenses. By exploiting loopholes in campaign financing law, Mason's total contribution far exceeded the maximum legal individual contribution, making this a perfect example of the kind of campaign financing that Mason once fought so hard against.

Incredibly, Mason also contributed to Mike Russo's 3rd Ward Council election campaign this year. Mike Russo is a classic example of the kind of corrupt politician that Mason once fought against. In fact, in the months leading up to the election, FBI videos were released showing Russo accepting a bribe from the same undercover informant responsible for Cammarano's arrest!

Most recently, Mason's voting record indicates that the welfare of Hoboken is the last thing on her mind. The most deplorable example is Mason's attempt to kill the planned sale of Hoboken's only hospital. Much has been written about this elsewhere so it is sufficient to point out that killing the sale would have resulted in the loss of Hoboken's only hospital, layoffs of thousands of hospital employees, and a bill to the city that would have forced the city to declare bankruptcy. Mason has also voted against maintaining a budget reserve, and she's voted against routine budget line item transfers even after being warned in a letter from the State that voting this way violated a Councilperson's fiduciary responsibility. Mason's votes jeopardize the city's financial well-being, which would appear to be precisely the point. The reasoning is that if the city is financially damaged, then it will be viewed as Mayor Zimmer's fault, not Mason's, and then Mason will be in a position to finally be elected as Mayor.

Finally there are the questions that have arisen regarding Mason's uncanny premonition of an email scandal at City Hall before its investigation by the FBI was made public earlier this month. With one arrest already, and others expected, this is a story that is still being told.

What Happened?

Mason's ever-worsening behavior has not escaped the public's notice. There is even discussion of organizing a campaign to recall her from public office.

So what happened to Beth Mason? Her behavior is consistent with a thwarted quest for power, lashing out at the person who bested her: Mayor Zimmer. In this context it's reasonable to ask if she was ever interested in the betterment of Hoboken. Was her early behavior just part of a cynical strategy to attain power? Or did she sincerely care about Hoboken at one time, only to abandon her principles in order to get ever closer to power? In any event, there is plenty of evidence that, today, she doesn't adhere to any of the principles that reformers would recognize. And that would seem to be a suitable introduction for a lament.....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hoboken High School Open House 2011

On November 16 2011, Hoboken High School held an open house. Take a look and see all the great things that are happening at HHS.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Soul Patch

In 2007, Hoboken Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo voted in support of a $52 million bond to finance keeping Hoboken's St. Mary's hospital open. Fast forward to 2011, the hospital now renamed Hoboken University Medical Center is on the verge of bankruptcy and Hoboken is faced with losing the hospital, along with over 1000 jobs, and taxpayers are on the hook for paying back the $52 million.

In an effort to save the hospital, the hospital board put the hospital up for sale with terms that ensured the hospital would stay open and that the buyer would assume the hospital's debt. The bidder selected by the board requested that, as part of the deal, $5 million be paid to them in order to assist with paying back creditors. Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer requested that the City Council vote to support bonding the $5 million in this last ditch effort to save the deal.

When it came time to vote, Councilman Russo launched into a rambling, disjointed speech, whose underlying message was clear: he would rather see Hoboken without a hospital than see the Mayor help save the hospital. He would not vote to support the deal because he hates the Mayor.

To read more about Councilman Russo's corrupt approach to politics, see

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Tribute to the Tribute in Light

Ten years ago I was walking down 6th Ave in Manhattan when I saw the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Not long afterwards I saw the second plane hit the South Tower. In the decade since then, I've been unable to come to terms with what took place that day. It was simply too immense. The death of so many innocent people. The destruction of two towering landmarks that I saw every day.

For me, the Tribute in Light is a haunting and beautiful memorial to not just those who perished that day, but also to the two towers themselves.

This is a time lapse movie taken of the Tribute in Light the night of September 11th, 2011. For those viewing the tribute from Hoboken's Pier A where I made the movie, the lights appeared to be partly obscured by motionless, low clouds. But the time lapse reveals a more dramatic and dynamic view. At times the clouds swirling around the towers unsettlingly evoke the moments before the towers fell. At other times, however, the clouds brighten and shine, and the towers rise heavenwards.

Music: Excerpt from "Da Pacem Domine", in Arvo Pärt's "In Principio."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Greg Lincoln Makes a Splash!

Greg Lincoln made a splash at the HOPES Father's Group Block Party on May 7, 2011. The kids were clearly enjoying themselves on this beautiful spring day!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Greg Lincoln Speaks at the Rally Against Russo Corruption at Hoboken City Hall

On Wednesday April 6, a crowd of people gathered outside City Hall prior to the City Council meeting, to protest the revelations of 3rd Councilman Mike Russo's corrupt behavior in the FBI tapes released by the authors of the Jersey Sting. At the City Council meeting that followed, Councilman Russo was forced to resign his positions as City Council Vice President and City Revenue and Finance Chair.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mike Russo Agreeing to Accept Bribes from FBI Informant Solomon Dwek

As described in the new book, The Jersey Sting, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin, this video shows current Hoboken 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo agreeing to accept bribes from FBI informant Solomon Dwek, the same informant responsible for the arrest and conviction of former Hoboken mayor Peter Cammarano, and many others.

The complete FBI video, from which this video is an excerpt, includes other admissions of corruption by Councilman Russo, including how he made a backroom deal with current Hoboken City Council President Beth Mason to control City Council and the development approval process, in order to fast-track requests for favored developers. See the full FBI tapes here.