Monday, November 3, 2014

COUNTY EXECUTIVE RACE: Why this Republican is Voting for the Democrat

I guess the good (and the bad) part about writing a blog is that you can be as biased and critical as you want.  The good--I can write what I want, when I want, in the most editorialized way I want in order to make my point.  The bad--by expressing my opinions and editorial comments, I may alienate and drive away those potential readers who do not share my sentiment.

We live in a world that is so very polarized.  I admit, I was polarized--a blind party loyalist.  I was one of those young active party supporters who spent his nights before the election putting fliers on car windows and signs on street corners.  Over the last 18 months, writing this blog and really digging into matters of public concern have caused democrat, republican, and different factions of local political groups to all become grey.   Call me naive, call me idealistic, but the only black and white matters are right and wrong.  And believe me there is a lot wrong with our government leaders, on every level.

I like to think that despite my editorializing of the controversial issues I do a good job of presenting the facts, being on the side of the right, and promoting good government above ALL ELSE.  I think my record shows that and I find validation in the fact that some of the people who were my strongest adversaries are now among some of my most regular readers and vocal supporters.

When evaluating right versus wrong and determining who is best to lead the County of Bergen, this republican loyalist (who actively campaigned for Kathe Donovan in 2010) will be voting for the democratic challenger, Jim Tedesco.

A hypocritical stance on pay-to-play.  Donovan supported pay-to-play reform passed under a republican freeholder board.  Donovan vetoed three subsequent attempts by the freeholder board to ease the pay-to-play restrictions put in place.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a supporter of putting an end to pay-to-play and political patronage.  However, the facts show that Donovan's hardline stance on pay-to-play is nothing more than a show for the media.  Donovan can put on this show because she has found the way to circumvent the very rules that she says she supports--having funds funneled through SuperPAC's.  In 2010 and 2011, over $150,000 in first-time contributions were made to the republican SuperPAC "GOPAC" by county contractors. This money was later funneled back to Bergen County Republicans (including over $100,000 to Donovan) through a series of transfers to the Republican State Committee, Bergen County Republican Organization, Meadowlands UnitedPAC (controlled by the Crifasi's--Joe Crifasi is the Director of Public Works under the Donovan administration), Trawinski for Fair Lawn Council (Trawinski was County Administrator under the Donovan administration), and Baratta for Fair Lawn Council (Baratta is Donovan's Chief of Staff). 

If you think Donovan's circumventing pay-to-play regulations is bad, she outright broke election laws.  Donovan admitted to breaking the law for issuing a taxpayer funded newsletter (campaign literature) less than 90 days before Election Day.  Donovan reimbursed the County for the cost of printing the newsletter but refused to pay full restitution (the employee time of producing the illegal newsletter and the cost of a second newsletter which was produced and distributed). 

Veto? Don't mind if I do.  Kathe Donovan is Bergen County's fourth County Executive.  In Kathe Donovan's four years as County Executive she has issued an unprecedented number of vetoes.  Executives McNerney and McDowell issued none and her third predecessor Pat Schuber, when interviewed by The Record, could only remember issuing one.  I stopped counting Donovan's vetoes when I ran out of fingers and toes to count them on.  That's right, in Kathe Donovan's four years as County Executive she has issued more than 25 times more vetoes than all three of her predecessors combined.  Kathe defends her use of the veto by saying that people don't like to hear her say no.  Sounds more like the other way around... And then of course there are the lawsuits.... 

She doesn't set policy, she litigates policy (at our expense).  Donovan is embattled in lawsuits with every elected official with whom she works--the County Clerk, the Surrogate, the Sheriff (who is a republican mind you), and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Rather than working with her peers, Donovan says "my way or the highway."  And when her peers don't give in, she sues.  When she loses, she appeals.  Some see her "fighter spirit" as a positive--I see well over $1,000,000 in legal fees being spent on (a majority of) losing battles.  

Extravagant spender.  On herself, not on the taxpayers! Kathe says she "held the line" on property taxes and is fiscally conservative.  I call bull.  Kathe Donovan spent over $100,000 on travel and entertainment.  She also has a full time security detail of three Bergen County Police Officers (at the cost of the taxpayer).  All this while cutting services to our children.  Tedesco's team has identified $5 million in cuts to Bergen Community College (causing a 25% increase in tuition and fees), $1 million in cuts to the Technical Schools, and $500,000 in cuts from programs for special needs children. 

Playing politics with people's lives.  Whatever your feelings on the Bergen County Police Department's merger with the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, the dedicated hard working men and women of both departments are the innocent bystanders in this POLITICAL fight between politicians.  Kathe Donovan, however, continues to take her frustrations out on the officers. 

For over three years, Donovan has attempted to interfere with the Sheriff's Department's 2011-2014 contract.  Despite the union settling their contract, Donovan has publicly announced she "refuses" to sign it.  She has filed unfair labor practice complaints, motions, lawsuits, and appeals, in an attempt to get a seat on the opposite side of the negotiation table from the Sheriff's Department Local 134.  She has lost every round with judges asserting that she has overstepped her bounds and proclaiming that the Sheriff, and Sheriff alone, has the right to negotiate a contract with his officers' collective bargaining unit. Donovan thinks the Sheriff's Officer's 2% raises are too high, however she gave her Chief of Staff a 14% raise!

Donovan allegedly withheld the pay and benefits of six new hires to the Sheriff's Department by refusing to sign their request-for-personnel (M1) forms.  When the matter was pulled into the public spotlight, the forms were promptly signed (more than four weeks after the officers were hired).

Donovan has also interfered with the operations of the Bergen County Sheriff's Department in her attempt to stop Sheriff Saudino from acquiring two Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP's) from a Federal program (at no cost to the taxpayer).  Donovan justified the interference by noting that the Sheriff's Department did not have approved guidelines for use of these "military vehicles."  When asked for a copy of the guidelines for the Bergen County Police Department's two BearCat "military vehicles," none were able to be produced.  Despite Donovan's claims that the maintenance costs are prohibitive, and that there is no place for these military vehicles on the streets of Bergen County, she has not announced that she will be calling on the Bergen County Police Department to sell, or otherwise surrender, their two military style vehicles.  This is all further proof that her decisions are based on her political stance and not public safety or the best interests of taxpayers. 

Political hiring is rampant at One Bergen County Plaza. Ed Trawinski, Jeanne Baratta, Alan Marcus, Joe Scarpa, Joe Crifasi, Frank Valenzuela, the list of Bergen County Republicans that got jobs goes on and on.  And we all know the one nearest and dearest to my heart--Thom Ammirato.  Donovan's administration hired Thom Ammirato to a no show political job which was exposed by Hackensack Scoop and resulted in an agreement not to prosecute being executed with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office in exchange for a resignation.  When called before the Freeholder Board to answer for the hire, Donovan ducked the board.

After deciding that I could not vote to reelect Kathe Donovan, I went to a Tedesco campaign event to learn more about the alternative.  Jim Tedesco is a volunteer at heart who has spent 37 years serving the people of Paramus as a volunteer fire fighter.  Jim served seven years as the Mayor of Paramus and another two as a council member.  Jim has a vision for Bergen County and has promised to end the divisiveness that dominates Bergen County government.  Jim plans to restore funding to education programs and veterans services, promote economic expansion, address transportation issues, and has vowed to never sell the Bergen Regional Medical Center.  

Promises are easy to make.  We were all duped four years ago.  Sometimes we have to put a little faith in the promises of the alternative and when all else fails, go to meetings and raise hell to keep the politicians on track.

Do your civic duty.  Vote on Tuesday, November 4, 2014!


  1. WOW!!! Never knew all of these things. I usually see things from the outside, but this takes it in real deep. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Looks like Joe Scarpa, and Frank Valenzuela will be looking for new jobs now. I can't imagine who would hire this gruesome twosome now.

    Oh, BTW, the Rochelle Park board of Ed just hired former Westwood school superintendent, and well known generator thief, Geoffrey Zoeller, as their new Superintendent of 'Schools'....even though RP has only one school. Zoeller will only be paid $130K. I don't know how they expect a man of Zoeller's stature to keep body and soul together on only $130K per year. Keep your generators chained up, folks. I'm the cynical type, I'd like to believe that there was some wheeling and dealing going on to bring aboard Geoffrey with a 'G' in exchange for a bit of quid pro quo.

    Fine bunch of people running RP, with solid Republican values, both in the municipal building and the board of ed.

    1. And what about the other Republican ex-mayor of Rochelle Park, Phillis Stromeyer? Will she be out of her cushy county job as well?