Listen to audio version of this article
The politics of it all inevitably intrudes on the projection of “good government,” and when you talk to Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., you get an earful about his commitment to government – not politics.
If every move now by the Democratic establishment is designed to make Governor Phil Murphy look bad or incompetent or both, Essex County Executive DiVincenzo’s leading role in attacking the water crisis has the (true or not) effect of consigning Murphy – and his local ally Newark Mayor Ras Baraka – to spectator status.
At today’s press conference, the three main players involved made sure to identify team work as the prime virtue at work.
But political perception is unavoidable.
DiVincenzo is a prime ally of South Jersey power broker George Norcross III, who’s in a claymatation death match with the governor. The county executive backs Norcross's choice for Democratic State Party chair: DiVincenzo countywide ally Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones.
Baraka backs sitting chairman John Currie, a key ally of the governor’s.
Now, “Baraka is forever in [DiVincenzo’s] debt,” a Murphy ally groaned.
The Essex County Improvement Authority will bond 120 million for the City of Newark “to use only for its pipe replacement program,” the county executive said.
“We are able to borrow money at a significantly lower rate,” said DiVincenzo, who – in the middle of ongoing political tensions in the Democratic Party – over the last number of days met with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, whom the county executive praised for addressing the lead contamination crisis.
DiVincenzo said the county is uniquely poised to help the city because it enjoys a triple A bond rating.
At this morning’s press conference announcing the emergency appropriation, the county executive also had kind words for Governor Phil Murphy. “He was on this issue,” DiVincenzo said. “I want to thank the governor for the support you have given the city.”
Baraka thanked DiVincenzo and the county.
“We’re going to get this done as swiftly as humanly possible,” the mayor said. “We [are going to] get this done as aggressively as we can.”