In a free-ranging InsiderNJ interview this afternoon, Belleville Mayor Michael Melham explained his reasons for backing Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli over Democratic incumbent Governor Phil Murphy.
“It stemmed from a one on one conversation that we had,” Melham said. “My press conference on the water situation was viewed as a wipe [at Murphy]. But they didn’t see the months of frustration I had living in the shadow of Newark [during the developing lead pipe crisis].”
Melham described a call he had with then-Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe.
“As I border line-begged for filters for Belleville, I has to listen to them say no, just before they handed Newark a million dollars for a PR campaign to teach people who to use the filters. It was infuriating to me, and as I tried to speak up, I was disconnected from the call.”
Melham said he has no problem with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka – the contrary – or with the LD29 Democratic lawmakers who represent Belleville.
Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo?
“I’ve called him the Robert Moses of our county parks,” the Belleville mayor said.
He just doesn’t back him.
It wasn’t just the water.
“Taking that freedom away from people was a bad move,” Melham said, referring to the governor’s decision to implement all-vote-by-mail election.
Does the mayor fear, however, a potentially suddenly embarrassment-animated county party organization going into Belleville next year to interfere with his own reelection chances?
He doesn’t, he said.
DiVincenzo backed Republican incumbent Governor Chris Christie in 2013, so the idea that he would be miffed now by Melham – an independent – going with Ciattarelli, seems intellectually dishonest, at the very least.
Not that such a condition ever got in the way in New Jersey.
Melham talked too about his thoughts on Ciattarelli and the Republican’s campaign positions, his LG options, redistricting and how it might impact Belleville, and New Jersey politics.
For the (FULL!) InsiderNJ interview with Mayor Melham, please see below: