March 27, 2006

Ledger's Fluff Piece on the Machine Mamma Misses Details

In a Sunday Star-Ledger story on March 23, Joe Ryan reported on Union County Democrat Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo, writing that nearly every campaign began at her dining room table. The article features a picture of DeFilippo and county employee Sean Faughnan and others leading the charge against the Union County GOP with sunlight streaming through her dining room windows.

Renna comments: Were they posing for Star-Ledger photos while working on campaigns during working hours? Was it a Saturday or a Sunday? Where they out to lunch or taking a vacation day?

Ryan reports: DeFilippo began her reign in 1995. Donations to the Democratic committee from firms working for the Union County Improvement Authority jumped 40 percent during her first three years as executive director.

Renna comments: 1995 is also when our taxes started to climb. While taxes remained relatively flat until 2000 few people take into account that in 1995 the State took over the operations of the Union County Courts and $17.2 million dollars was absorbed by the state and left in the county coffers. Ironically the last of the Republican freeholders where thrown out of office in 1997 by the Democrats campaign, led by DeFilippo at her dining room table no doubt, complaining that the Republicans wouldn’t give back a surplus to the taxpayers.

The Democrat’s took control and not only didn’t they give any surplus dollars back, but as of last year our annual debt service payment had risen to almost 10 percent of the county’s operating budget. Along with the debt, Democrats have been raising our taxes on average 10 percent a year, the Open Space Slush Fund included.

Left out of the Ledger article was the fact that Hillside's taxes went through the roof when DeFilippo was Town clerk. It took former Hillside Mayor Barbara Rowen's Hillside Citizens Action Committee to kick her out. Then Assemblyman Cohen tried to move Charlotte over to Roselle and was rumored to be mad as hell when The Concerned Citizens, via calls to the council members, said they would picket. Cohen stormed out of a closed meeting where his Worrior Queen's appointment to the Roselle taxpayers backs was shot down.

Then there was the defamatory campaign she led against her own town's Board of Education last year which resulted in the district losing badly-deserved Schools Construction Funding.

Pay-to-play is such a polite term for a crime which inflates our property tax bills and drives seniors from their homes and young people out of the state and away from their families. It’s obvious that the voters in New Jersey don’t know what this pay-to-play really means.

The media needs to use a more simplistic term – extortion. Where do the voters think the $650,000 in campaign donations to Union County Democrat coffers came from? It comes from millions of taxpayer dollars being dolled out to political contributors who in turn pad their bills for government contracts to cover their donations. That’s extortion, which is highly illegal in the business world. It’s a fact that Democrat legislators, who are the majority in New Jersey, won’t make “extortion” illegal. Hence the voters' ignorance for keeping them in power.

Ryan reports: DeFelippo stated “The Union County Democratic Committee doesn’t hold a patronage job next to the machinations of Richard J. Daley’s Chicago or Tammany Hall’s New York City.”

Renna responds laughing: DeFilippo, cunningly perhaps, left Frank Hague out of her analogy; this is whom I would more closely align the Union County Dems with. Consider Hague “I am the law” anointed his nephew as mayor of Jersey City and that Senator Lesniak anointed his nephew as county manager.

A lot was left out of the Ledger article about the lack of Democrat dissent. I suppose the Ledger can’t find anyone to corroborate the well circulated rumors. A government job with its pension rewards akin to hitting the lottery could keep a lot of people quiet. To name a few recent dissenters: Freeholder Louis Mingo's $65,000 county job was quietly “converted” for him after he “stepped down” and was allowed to keep his county vehicle up until last year; Freeholder Mary Routolo, now employed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority; and former County Manager Michael LaPolla, also at the Turnpike.

Patronage is also a crime which inflates our property tax bills and drives seniors from their homes and young people out of the state and away from their families. Consider that on the Union County payroll alone there are 876 county employees with the same surnames as elected democrat officials. Click here to view list. (Note black denotes Dem. committee chairs; green denotes county employees; red denotes elected Dem. officials. This doesn’t include the cousins, in-laws, friends, lovers, etc. that would have different surnames.)

Then there are the municipalities and school boards and state jobs. County Manager George Devanney’s mother and ex-wife can be found on the state-run Kean University payroll; his current wife is on the Berkeley Heights payroll; one brother works for the Turnpike authority and another works for the City of Elizabeth. No wonder Lesniak wants to sell the Turnpike to keep his family's pension gravy train rolling.

The dirty campaigning by the Democrats wasn’t reported in the Ledger. Again I’m sure there could be no corroboration for the outrageous slanderous flyers claiming to be from factious organizations that are distributed by children who are given cash on the street with no names exchanged; there are also anonymous phone calls made by the county Dems with more lies and slander. What cowards they are.

I know my home town of Cranford was rife with out of town campaign workers during the last campaign. One was seen urinating on a tree on a busy Cranford street in broad daylight. Just as a good friend of mine was going to pull over to do some campaigning for decency, a Corzine for Governor van picked the vagrant campaign worker up. It’s a sad statement for voter ignorance that Corzine won the election in the family oriented, wholesome (except for the mayor at the time) town of Cranford.

What could have been corroborated by the Ledger and should be reported on every year is the upwards of $367,000 of county tax dollars being spent on mailers and a cable TV commercial at election time and the county employees who show up on ELEC reports as paid campaign workers. There’s also the campaigning by the supposedly non-political Union County Alliance.

What also wasn’t reported, is the tax-payer funded county office of public information that churns out press releases for local papers ad nausea. This million dollar department also produces the cable broadcast show “The Freeholder Forum,” which mostly feature freeholders who are up for re-election. It’s so obvious that these employees work on freeholder campaigns. You can see them everywhere on the campaign trail during working hours. I once inquired of a reporter if he asked the head of the Public Information department if he is on a lunch break when he’s discussing campaign issues. Not being a part of the brotherly sacred journalist pact myself, I couldn’t get any corroboration from the reporter.

I have personal campaign stories that never saw newsprint and I’ll corroborate a few right here. When my husband Joe was running for freeholder he was escorted off of the grounds of Merck and Co. by security guards where Democrat freeholders where also campaigning. Another day on the mean streets of the Union County camapaign trail he was told by a county employee that he wasn’t allowed to campaign at the county summer concerts held in Echo Lake Park. Which is kind of funny considering the taxpayer funded concerts are nothing but one big showcase and campaign rally for incumbent freeholders.

Then there’s the sheer numbers that ensure Democrat victory in Union County that haven’t been mentioned in the Ledger to date. It’s not just Republicans that can’t wrestle a seat from the well financed powerbroker-controlled county Democrats. In recent years, Democrats not connected to the county machine, as well as two independents and a Green Party candidate, have lost in primaries to the machine.

The numbers in Union County freeholder races don't change much from year to year. The machine Democrat freeholder candidates win by the same margins. The only thing that causes a fluctuation in freeholder race numbers is the top of the ticket; presidential and gubernatorial elections bring out more voters who more than likely will vote straight down their party line.

The Democrats don't win because of "their services"; they surely don't win because of their charming personalities, or good looks for that matter. They win because all nine freeholder seats are at-large and Union County is overwhelmingly Democratic. The Republican freeholder candidates win the race in most of the towns but the large population of just a few cities outdoes the efforts of the rest of the county.

Using 2003 numbers:

Towns in which Republican freeholder candidates won the election were:
Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Fanwood, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, New Providence, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit and Westfield.

A breakdown of registered voters of the above towns by party affiliation is: 54 percent unaffiliated and independent; 22 percent Democrat; 24 percent Republican. With a combined total of 106,306 registered voters.

Towns in which Democrat freeholder candidates won the election were:
Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle, Union and Winfield.

A breakdown of registered voters of the above towns by party affiliation is: 49 percent unaffiliated and independent; 41 percent Democrat and a paltry 10 percent are Republican. With a combined total of 142,600 registered voters.

So when’s the revolution?