January 23, 2008

Elizabeth council member mugged & pistol-whipped

Today's Star-Ledger article about an Elizabeth council member being mugged and pistol-whipped around the corner from City Hall reminded me that citizens who attend freeholder meetings aren't allowed to park in the two (2) empty county employee lots.

At the April 19, 2007 meeting of the Board of Union County Democrat Committee Chosen Freeholders I made a public comment about the public not being made to feel welcome at county public meetings. You can view it on our Veotag account HERE.

Freeholder Sullivan either ignored or didn't comprehend anything I said and during his closing comments (freeholders never respond to you when you are at the microphone and can defend yourself) the bully went on a rant about Elizabeth being a safe place for people to visit and further proved my point that citizen input isn’t welcome.

Safe for whom I wondered? For Freeholder Sullivan who drives from his house in Elmora, which is the safest neighborhood in Elizabeth due to the fact that all the Elizabeth politicians live there, and then parks his car underneath the County administration building? His feet never touch the streets in Elizabeth where violence is reported daily.

You can see Sullivan's rant on our Veotag account HERE.

I personally feel safe attending freeholder meetings. However, Elizabeth is a very intimidating place to many people across the county. There is no parking on the street outside of the administration building. There is parking a block away and around the corner, which you will have to find yourself, and then you will have to walk the dimly lighted streets with no security around. The extensive security staff is all inside the administration building, protecting the administration.

Couple this with the fact that citizens are routinely harassed by freeholders, after making public comments and at best are ignored by them, and you get a government that isn’t anywhere near a welcoming neighborhood “of the people”.

While exercising my First Amendment right to freedom of speech, I was removed from meetings by the county police three (3) times in 2007. I will stay true to form in 2008 and defy tyranny while being removed from meetings as often as necessary.

Freeholder Sullivan stayed true to form on April 19th and during his closing comments he didn’t address the fact that the county website was listing the wrong directions, or that the public has no where close by to park despite there being empty county employee parking in abundance all around the building. Instead he ignored all the issues I raised and harassed me for making these comments.

Freeholder Sullivan ranted “I am highly offended by Mrs. Renna’s comments about Elizabeth isn’t safe! You are all safe here in Elizabeth!”.

Sullivan should send his comments to union@starledger.com

Elizabeth council member mugged
School principal pistol-whipped

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Star-Ledger Staff

An Elizabeth city councilman and school principal was robbed at gunpoint and pistol-whipped around the corner from City Hall last weekend after a night out with teachers from his school.
Frank Cuesta, a councilman at large and the principal of Elizabeth's Alexander Hamilton Middle School, suffered fractures to his skull and right eye socket during the attack, which occurred on Dickinson Street around 1 a.m. Saturday, he said yesterday.
Cuesta was also robbed of his wallet, keys, credit cards and $1,000 in cash by the unidentified mugger, according to the police report.
"It's been a very traumatic experience," said Cuesta, 54. "From what my friends tell me, I'm just lucky to be alive."
About 65 staff members from Hamilton Middle School gathered after work Friday at the Sun Tavern in Roselle Park, Cuesta said, as part of a social outing he had organized to "build morale and rela tionships" at the school. After leaving the Sun Tavern, Cuesta and several of his colleagues made their way to Dolce, a popular restaurant and lounge on Broad Street in midtown Elizabeth.
Around 1 a.m., Cuesta left the restaurant to walk one of his teachers to her car. The teacher, a 25-year-old Parsippany woman, was taking her pocketbook out of the car's trunk when a man in a hooded sweatshirt walked out of the nearby alley. He walked up behind Cuesta, put a black handgun to the side of his head and demanded money, the police report said.
After Cuesta handed over his wallet, keys and cash, the mugger struck him in the temple with his gun.
"It happened so fast. Before I knew it, he struck me in the head and I guess I went down," Cuesta said.
The mugger then turned his attention to the teacher, who had locked herself inside her car to call 911. After tapping on her car window with his gun, the man got into another car that was waiting nearby and drove off, the report said. The teacher was not injured.
Cuesta was taken to Trinitas Hospital, where he was treated and released later that morning. He said doctors expect him to make a full recovery without surgery.
Meanwhile, police are searching for his attacker, who was last seen riding east on Dickinson Street. Detectives are hoping that at least one of several private surveillance cameras posted near the scene will help identify the mugger and his getaway car, said police spokesman, Sgt. Stephen Negrey.
Jonathan Casiano may be reached at (908) 527-4012 or jcasia no@starledger.com.