by Christopher M. Halleron
The 2017 Hoboken Mayoral Race is starting to look like a sunny Saturday afternoon at Pier 13—it’s crowded, and everyone wants to have the right people at their table.
As of press time, we’re currently at a half-dozen candidates (Karen Nason, Ron Bautista, Michael DeFusco, Ravi Bhalla, Anthony Romano, Jen Giattino), barely a week since the fairly sudden departure of incumbent Mayor Dawn Zimmer—with rumors of more to come.
(4:00 p.m. UPDATE: Make it seven, with former councilman Angelo Valente entering…)
This imminent power vacuum in Hoboken City Hall is kicking up a lot of dust. Over the past week, strategists, planners, and committee people have gathered behind closed doors in small groups to sift through that dust and decide who they think should and shouldn’t be running for Mayor of our town.
If you take a second to look up the word oligarchy, you’ll see it is defined as “government or control by a small group of people.” What we’re supposed to have is a democracy, “a government by the people,” in which the people decide who they’d like to see as their leader.
To that end, I say the more the merrier.
Having a crowded field essentially returns the power to the people of Hoboken. Rather than the cabal politics and gridlocked voting blocs that have chronically stifled our municipal government, there’s a better chance that the officials who come to power in the forthcoming election will actually be held accountable to those who voted them into office.
Sure, that may sound a bit wide-eyed… but consider the reality that while we as citizens are facing a number of options for Mayor, the special interests and political organizations are also facing divergent paths—having to split their resources and support among more and more candidates. In other words, whomever is elected this November will be less beholden to whomever helped pay for their campaign. For Hoboken, that’s a very big step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, more challengers make for a better challenge—resulting in better-tested candidates. This year’s mayoral hopefuls can’t just sit back and say “Well, I’m not him/her,” because there are so many “hims/hers” in the mix. They’ll need to better define themselves, be more specific with their platforms, and work harder to find honest answers that will separate them from the other candidates.
You’ll likely hear a lot about “splitting votes” and “fragmenting the base.” For better or worse, that ship has already sailed. Here’s a tip: want to know how to win an election like this one? Be the best candidate you can possibly be. Then people will be more likely to vote for you, instead of someone else. Tah-dah!
Of course, that means that it’s entirely up to us not to screw this up…
If the 2016 Presidential election proved anything, it was the need for greater civic involvement at all levels. Local elections are the most intimate tier of politics, as they often have the greatest impact on the individual.
Rest-assured, you will come into direct contact with some, if not all of these candidates. Question them—think about what you want to see from your local government and ask them their point of view. Endorsements from others are lovely, but the concerns of others may not exactly mirror yours. With so much at stake, this needs to be more than a popularity contest. Think specifically, engage your candidates and challenge them to address YOUR concerns with actionable plans.
Let’s not kid ourselves, this is Hoboken—the political equivalent of saying “THIS IS SPARTA.” There will be blood. It will get ugly. As citizens, we can dive down the rabbit hole of petulant drama and enjoy the circus, or we can stay focused and hold our potential political leaders accountable for their ambitions.
Make these people earn your vote. And when the time comes on Election Day (November 7), be sure to follow through on it. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.
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Christopher M. Halleron is the Publisher/Editor of hMAG.
As a columnist and journalist, he has covered various aspects of life here in the ‘greater Hoboken area’ and beyond for the past two decades.
His opinions are his own.