The latest collision between Mayor Wilda Diaz and the Perth Amboy City Council foretold of a coming contest, as Diaz – the unlikely bank teller turned giant killer when she gave Joe Vas the heave ho out of office in 2008 – seeks a fourth term, irksome to her foes on the governing body.
Diaz engaged Councilwoman Milady Tejeda in a conflagration of embittered words as Council President William Petrick – stymied in his efforts to gavel out the meeting- attempted his most controlled Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood voice for the camera.
“You are being exposed to the Wilda Diaz circus,” Petrick said, with Diaz’s voice sounding in the background, objecting to targeted cuts, which she said the council made in bad faith. “It is a terrible shame.”
Moments earlier, Councilman Joel Pabon and the rest of the governing body and Diaz jousted over budget layoffs from the city payroll. Pabon said he told the mayor he needed one person from her side and one person from the Business Administrator’s side to show the door. “I reached out to the prosecutor. You [the Mayor] did not defend those positions that were cut. I ask you to give me information on what those people did. You never presented anything to me.”
But Diaz said the people cut [professional women, Diaz said] – more than in the budget her administration she presented (5.4 as opposed to 3.7) – were victims of a political surgery. The council defunded the mayor’s executive office—and two women who are currently suing Petrick over harassment.
The council objected.
“Since I’ve been here, there hasn’t been any cooperation,” said Tejeda, who accused Diaz of talking over everyone. “You think this is the way to get people to come here. Employees got a $20,000 raise. I really didn’t like to see anyone defunded. Bring me the data about these defunded positions which was never given to me.”
“You targeted them!” Diaz objected.
It all adds up to one thing: a 2020 citywide joust.
Most expect Councilman Helmin Caba – chair of the local Democratic Party – to take a run at Diaz. But political enemies of the mayor’s worry about multiple challengers geting in one another’s way and tripping on themselves as Diaz again glides to victory.
Diaz and Caba are already on interfacing sides of the 2020 presidential contest.