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