Key dates and events in Merseyside politics to look out for in 2016

Key dates and events in Merseyside politics to look out for in 2016

2016 looks like it is going to be a busy year in Merseyside politics, with Liverpool’s mayoral el…
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DWIs, double dippers & revals: 2015 in Jersey City politics

City Hall’s revolving door To recap: Carly Baldwin, the public-safety spokeswoman hired in October 2014, was gone by July; Ryan Strother was fired as the recreation director in August; and Ryan Jacobs, Mayor Steve Fulop’s new mouthpiece, quit last week after about five months on the job. Fulop is known in City Hall for being a demanding boss with a hot temper. One person who left the city payroll this year, when asked how it felt, told The Jersey Journal, “Like being let out of jail.” Jim McGreevey and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year The former governor did not have a great 2015. First, activists doomed his plan to open a prisoner re-entry center inside the former Sacred Heart Church priory. Then The Jersey Journal reported that he landed on the county payroll and retired after four months, putting county taxpayers on the hook for his and his daughter’s health benefits. And there was the Eugene McKnight thing. Perhaps with an eye on a better 2016, McGreevey quietly moved to Jersey City this year, choosing a West Side address that would allow him to run for mayor, the Ward B council seat, the District Two freeholder seat or even as a state lawmaker for the 33rd Legislative District. McGreevey 2017? Chico It’s not uncommon for a politician to be arrested and charged with drunken driving. But not every politician is arrested and charged with driving drunk while behind the wheel of a public vehicle equipped with a GPS that was tracking the car’s every move. That’s what happened to Ward B Councilman Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, whose March DWI led to an investigation by The Jersey Journal that not only found the public vehicle he was using went on frequent after-hours trips throughout the city (and beyond), but also that the times Ramchal was presumably driving in the car didn’t match up with when he said he was working at his day job, for the Hudson County Improvement Authority. The HCIA canned him in June and Ramchal now faces possible indictments for assault by auto and theft of service. Though Ramchal remains on the council dais, his foes think he’ll be an easy target if he runs for re-election in two years. Diane Double-Dipper Once upon a time Steve Fulop was a councilman with few allies who lambasted council members for holding on to two public jobs at once. But Mayor Fulop was mum in March when The Jersey Journal reported that one of his allies, Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman, landed a non-advertised job in the county’s legal department, making $65,000 on top of her council salary, for a total of $99,266. Coleman’s nearly six-figure pay didn’t stop her from telling the audience at a Juneteenth ceremony at City Hall that she struggles to pay her bills. Maybe she can pull a Sacco and get a third publicly funded gig in 2016. Election move confusion Fulop had been hoping that by now the council would have voted to move city elections to November, a big priority for his political future. Alas, a pesky group of activists led by his chief local antagonist helped to torpedo that plan, so now voters will make the final decision in November 2016. To be continued … The house that may jump-start a reval The $7,700 annual property tax bill on the roughly $800,000 Ogden Avenue home Fulop purchased in July raised some eyebrows, including those of state Sen. Michael Doherty, a Warren County Republican who told The Jersey Journal he spoke to Gov. Chris Christie about Fulop’s tax bill and complained that the city’s stalled property revaluation (the last one was three decades ago) allows people here to own “mansions” and not pay their fair share of taxes. In November, Doherty’s dream came true: the state told Jersey City it may force the dreaded reval. The housewarming may have a Doherty piñata. FOL v. Fulop David slew Goliath in May when Friends of the Loew’s, the tiny nonprofit group that manages the city-owned Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre, unexpectedly defeated the city in court. A judge ruled that FOL can remain at the Loew’s until 2020. Fulop expects to be in Trenton by then, so the decision effectively killed his plan of having concert promoter AEG Live renovate the aging movie palace and transform it from a community theater into a regional entertainment destination. Don’t mention FOL in front of the mayor’s close allies unless you want to hear a few four-letter words. Cowan drops suit Fulop received what may have been the best news of his year in late August when former Police Chief Robert Cowan abruptly dropped a whistleblower lawsuit that threatened to provide a drip-drip-drip of bombshells throughout 2016 and possibly longer. Among Cowan’s allegations: that Fulop forced Cowan to drop an internal affairs probe of a January 2014 incident in Robbinsville, where Sgt. Vincent Corso, a top union official, was pulled over by police and accused of driving drunk. Robbinsville never charged Corso, but the whole scene was captured on the cops’ dashboard cams, including the part where Corso suggests to officers that he can leave his car in Robbinsville and walk home — 43 miles, to Lincroft. The cherry on top for Fulop: Cowan can’t refile the charges. Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.
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Police chief’s story of politics behind protests beggars belief

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