Passaic Council Is A Mess

28 01 2008

PICTURE THIS: Passaic 2008. The City Council has scheduled a vote to fill the vacancy on the council created when Marcellus Jackson resigned after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge. Three council members are present for the vote on Tuesday. Three members, including the president, are absent. The mayor is there in case he is needed to break a tie. But with three councilmen missing, there’s no vote.

In any other city, the main story would be that the missing councilmen — Council President and Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Chaim Munk and Daniel Schwartz — wanted to dodge a difficult vote. Terrence Love, the likely replacement and a Passaic schoolteacher, has the support of the other three council members. Earlier this month, the council deadlocked 3-3 on appointing Love.

Some Passaic residents want Jeffrey Dye to get the seat. He unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in 2005. Approving Love comes with political consequences. Perhaps the council members who were AWOL want to avoid them. Mayor Sammy Rivera told the Herald News last week, “Gary has his own political agenda.”

That may be, but he is not alone. The “Sammy and Schaer Show” has been anything but harmonious of late. “Sammy” — Mayor Rivera — is under indictment. In fact, he was arrested with former city Councilman Jackson. Rivera claims he is innocent, despite federal officials claiming they have him on tape saying he is all too willing to accept a bribe.

Leave that on the side and focus on the facts. The council appears split down the middle. The mayor has the authority to break the tie. So the same person who is under indictment, caught up in the same corruption probe that led to Jackson’s admission of guilt and resignation, probably will be the deciding vote for Jackson’s replacement. Is that irony or just Passaic?

Schaer was unavailable for comment on Friday. He may not want to take a position on either Love or Dye, but he has no choice. Equally unpleasant is that the mayor who is busy trying to raise funds for his legal defense can still have a major impact on Passaic government. It is outrageous that given he was caught in the same net as Jackson, who has pleaded guilty, that Rivera gets a say in who replaces Jackson.

I don’t know why people are walking on eggshells if the eggs went bad long ago. Passaic needs to clean its house. First on the list is reducing the smell of sulfur. According to federal authorities, Rivera boasted that he had the needed votes in his pocket to get what turned out to be a sham insurance contract approved by the council.

The people of Passaic should demand that whoever replaces Jackson be independent of Rivera’s sway. They also should be concerned about the integrity of all elected council members.

Schaer may not win a congeniality award, but he’s a smart politician. Maybe he will run for mayor. Even if he chooses not to run, he has more at stake politically than any other player. He’s found a solid niche in the Assembly. Rivera is correct: Schaer has a political agenda.

Rivera’s agenda is primal: survival. The odds are against him. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie has a 100 percent conviction rate against public officials to date. The Giants should be so favored Sunday.

The AWOL councilmen have a responsibility to the people of Passaic. Whether Munk had jet lag, as reported, and that is why he missed the council meeting, or whether there were legitimate reasons that Schaer and Schwartz were no-shows, there can be no excuse for their absence at the next scheduled council session.

There are boundaries, real and imagined, that separate the Jewish, Hispanic and black communities of Passaic. Leaders forge alliances, shape compromises and find a way of governing for the greater good of all. They take stands, even unpopular ones.

But most of all, they show up.




One response

28 01 2008

Does anyone have any idea why Gary, Daniel and Chaim are so opposed to Terrence Love’s replacing Jackson?

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