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 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.