Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Raging Against the (Bergen) Machine

I make no secret of the fact that I loathe machine politics on principle. Corruption and cronyism go hand in hand once someone is established as a party boss. Whether it be no-bid contracts given to preferred political donors (pay-to-play), or loyalists to the Boss being promoted over dedicated civil servants, machine politics is the antithesis of what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created our fair Republic. It allows authoritarians to create their own little fiefdoms, often at the expense of the people's will and tax dollars .

Such is the case in our little corner of New Jersey known as Bergen County. The boss in question is Joe Ferriero. He rules with a nearly iron fist, replacing party committee delegates who do not see things his way. His backing is what propelled Paul Aronsohn to the Democratic nomination, and why Aronsohn was agreeable with skipping the primary and having the results of the Bergen County Democratic convention be binding. The success of Ferriero is amplified by the failing Bergen County Republican Organization, chaired by Guy Talarico. Now, comfortable with his hold on Bergen, it appears Ferriero's looking to spread his wings into Sussex County as well.

However, all of this strong arming is not without resistance. I first saw this bit of resistance on BlueJersey, and it was, supposedly, sent to media outlets. I think it's important to repost in it's entirety. The more people that know what's going on, the better for our system of government and the chances for change.

I am a Bergen County Democratic Committeewoman from Tenafly. I am writing this to let the public know about a change being brought about by the Bergen County Democratic Chairman, Joseph Ferriero. I also will explain what has been going on behind the scenes that has caused a State Senator to use the unprecedented step of having a rally months before the Primary for her re-election campaign.

As a Tenafly Democrat I don't easily forget that this was the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We don't take kindly to folks who would have our vote NOT count, whether it is for State Senator or Assembly, or even County Committee. We have a right to choose who represents us. In NJ, we don't vote for the Governor of NY, and likewise, we don't want folks from outside District 37 choosing the state senator to represent district 37. We picked a State Senator who won 75% of the popular vote in a general election. I think we did the people's bidding. We represented our Democrats well. Loretta Weinberg has made us all proud.

It wasn't easy to elect Senator Weinberg to the NJ state senate even though she is so popular. Consider what occurred in the past year and a half:

1. Someone actually forged signatures to deny County Committee men and women from Bergenfield the right to vote for Loretta Weinberg after they openly supported her.

2. Challengers at the Bergen County Democratic Organization tried to deny five of our Tenafly Committee men and women from voting for Loretta Weinberg after we openly supported her before the special election. It took a court case to get our votes counted.

3. Even AFTER the court battle, challengers tried to deny nearly ALL the Tenafly and Teaneck County Committee men and women the right to vote at the special election for Valerie Huttle after we brazenly supported Valerie Huttle for Assembly against Michael Wildes. I watched personally at that election when the press was not allowed access - as nearly every African American member of the county committee as well as almost all my Tenafly county committee men and women were challenged to vote (The Black Caucus as well as Tenafly openly endorsed Loretta Weinberg). I know this because they challenged ME until I started to argue too much. It also explains why there are some Democrats who did NOT support Mr. Wildes last year. They still remember the undemocratic way that special election was carried out in Hackensack in his name to punish Valerie Huttle for her support of Senator Weinberg.

4. As retribution for trying to do the will of the voters, in the Primary election this past June, the Chairman personally threw ANY open supporter of Loretta Weinberg off of the County line - the Democratic ticket - EVEN if they were an incumbent. I know this because I was one of them. The primary was held only ONE week before Mr. Ferriero's re-election vote. He moved even County Committee Chairs to column 4 on the ballot and found his own loyal picks to place in column 2. Only a few of his plants got elected that way. Nearly all of us who supported Senator Weinberg retained our seats.

5. Only one week after the attempt was made to eliminate us from the County Committee by placing us in Column 4 of the ballot, Mr. Ferriero was re-elected. After all I had seen as a newly elected Democratic County Committeewoman, I had to stand up and nominate an opponent at Mr. Ferriero's re-election in June, even though I knew it was a protest vote. I wanted to send a message. That we are vigilant and we will do everything in our power to make sure our Party Chairman answers to the Democrats of Bergen County. Not the other way around. I stood and watched democracy here die, as Ferriero supporters shouted down Mr. Robert Gulack, the opponent, during his speech. Before the mayhem began, Mr. Ferriero's staff was so busy placing placards with his name on them all over the gym, that they forgot to place our nation's flag in the front of the room. How fitting, for when we went to pledge allegiance, the only thing we had in the front of the gym to pledge allegiance to was a smiling Joe Ferriero.

6. And now Chairman Ferriero and attorney Dennis Ourey, Esq., wish to change the bylaws of the Bergen County Democratic Organization so that the election to choose our district 37 State Senator - Loretta Weinberg - is done on a county-wide basis instead of just District wide. So his friends in other districts can choose our State Senate candidate for us. I pray this undemocratic tactic too will fail.

At the risk of airing our party's dirty laundry, I must let Democrats in Bergen County know that there are those of us fighting and fighting hard to make sure their voices are heard even though the Chairman is trying to take democracy AWAY from us. NJ doesn't vote for NY's governor, why should someone OUTSIDE my legislative district be allowed to vote for MY state senator?

What is at stake here? Everything we hold dear. The ONLY way to get the politics out of government and the money out of politics is to give control of the Bergen County Committee back to the people of Bergen County. It is the only way we can retain control of our own elected officials so that we can appoint our own professionals based on merit and service to the community - not party loyalty. It is nothing less than government BY THE PEOPLE that we are trying to preserve.

Democratic voters in each town are supposed to tell their Democratic County Committeemen and women what they want. The County Committee members then based on that, choose the Democratic candidates for their own towns and convene at the district level to choose Democratic candidates for their legislative district and at the county level to choose the Democratic candidates for the county and state.

That is how Democracy is supposed to work. I don't know what Mr. Ferriero has in mind but I don't think Democracy has anything to do with it. I promise I will fight tooth and nail to make sure those bylaws changes he initiated to strengthen his hold on power do not pass. And I will do everything in my power to spread the word far and wide to every county committee rep everywhere that you MUST vote NO to the proposed change in the bylaws. We saw what a disaster a unitary US presidency is. A powerful unitary Party Boss is no better.

Carol A. Hoernlein, P.E.
Bergen County Committee - Tenafly District 7

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