You’d better hope that unlike the lovely Miss Teschmacher, your mother doesn’t live in Hackensack, where even Superman wouldn’t be able to save the place from itself by the look of its nuclear-sized local politics right now.
Dismissed as a hospital janitor by the team looking to bump him out of office, Mayor John Labrosse actually works as a safety specialist for Hackensack Medical, the kind of profession that will prove useful no doubt over the coming course of this bloody early May 9th nonpartisan contest.
Two groups are vying with the incumbents to get into power.
The reform-tempered turned tempest in that teapot otherwise known as city hall Labrosse Team tries to make the case that one of those sets of challengers, Hackensack United for Progress, consists of a revamped version of the old, discredited and morally decrepit Chief Ken Zisa Team voters already tossed out of office. As a rejoinder, noted in this story today, Hackensack United for Progress seeks to answer the associative radioactive charge by making Vision Media of Secaucus the story, denouncing Labrosse and company as satellites of Hudson County’s traveling circus.
“Swibinski’s here, with his bag of tricks from Hudson,” a source told InsiderNJ when asked about Zisa, meeting the boogie man question by inflating his own preferred boogie man. As for Labrosse’s backers – “The Zisa ticket is hoping for collective amnesia from the voters.”
Then there’s the third ticket in the contest anchored by Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis (pictured), Hackensack Strong, which both sides at least agree on a single assessment: their fundraising capacity is weak.
But the councilwoman, appointed to fill a vacancy two years ago, appears positively unafraid.
“The people who who ran as reformers in 2013 didn’t live up to their promises,” said the para-educator in the Special Services department for the Hackensack Board of Education, shoehorning an argument between the two warring factions. “Instead of cutting taxes, they increased them by $8 million. Instead of ending costly lawsuits, they created more of them. The Labrosse-Canestrino administration has failed to do what it said it will do.”
That’s calm compared to the resting heartbeat of the rest of the contest.
It started last with month with rapidly intensified and intensifying heavy artillery. The challengers, led by Lara Rodriguez, former deputy clerk for the Bergen Freeholders, continue to write off Labrosse as a dreadful manager, whose administration has employed multiple city managers and multiple city attorneys and struggled to fend off lawsuits.
“Mayor John Labrosse has seen much of the community turn against him, including many of his most ardent supporters and former council member colleagues, as a result of his personal employment scandal involving the trading of $47 million in give-backs of Hackensack taxpayer money in exchange for a promotion and salary increase from his employer, Hackensack University Medical Center,” Caseen Gaines, Hackensack United for Progress campaign manager, complained over the weekend.
Veteran local Democratic leader Lynn Hurwitz backs Progress, which has some building trades backing early and old organizational advantages in what one source said will hardly be a “Sacco-like race” in terms of turnout. All sides involved say the population 43,000 county seat will generate 4-5k votes on Election Day. Tops.
In her effort to get rid of the indicted Zisa in 2013, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) engaged behind Labrosse, but this year she’s proving lower profile, with friends on both sides of that main (and brutal) divide.
The mayor’s allies say he’s done a good job of collaring developers and getting them to invest in the downtown business district after years of being spooked by Zisa. He started out with a huge amount of legal debt, a source told InsiderNJ, and now he’s moving redevelopment forward and building is going on everywhere in Hackensack.
Finally their most consistent argument for his reelection?
“He’s a really nice man,” a source said.
He was a Democrat. Then Zisa bothered him so much he registered as a Republican. Then Donald J. Trump bugged him sufficiently to prompt another party change, this time to independent – in time for this year’s election.
Vision Media, however, points to real bedrock achievements, particularly in the area of development and redevelopment.
In that controversial mailer, an at-his-desk Labrosse boasts that “Hackensack faced a $30 million financial hole and a Main Street downtown that was going nowhere fast. Homeowners were reeling from seemingly endless tax increases and the city’s future looked bleak.
“Today, city finances have never been stronger and the 2016 tax rate was actually cut for the first time in 10 years,” the mayor adds. “And about one billion dollars in new real estate value in our downtown neighborhoods is bringing impressive new development that will make Hackensack the envy of Bergen County. What a difference four years makes. It just goes to show you what happens when elected and appointed officials work cooperatively with leaders in business and development. From the day our new City Council adopted a carefully crafted Redevelopment Plan, it has been full speed ahead for Hackensack’s future.”
It sounds great!
But there are other people out there – we’re just guessing now – who may vigorously beg to differ.