|The alliance does have a shiny pickup truck marked "SUPERVISOR." Of what? Around 2:30 on Monday afternoon, there was little foot traffic on Main Street, and some of the people were homeless or appeared deranged.|
This morning, Victor E. Sasson drove over the same roughly patched streets he brought to the attention of voters during a 3-month campaign for City Council in Hackensack.
Sasson used potholes and the city's failure to pave his street since 1979 to dramatize how property taxes continue to rise and city services decline in "Zisaville."
When the campaign ended this week, street paving and most other quality of life issues in Sasson's platform had become part of the promises made to voters by the 10 other candidates in the race.
And city officials appeared to be making some of the changes Sasson sought on behalf of himself and other property tax payers.
Last, not least
Sasson finished last on Tuesday, with 344 votes, but his consolation prize is the victory of the 5-member Citizens for Change slate, headed by incumbent John Labrosse.
Best of all, the Coalition for Open Government, a quintet of mental lightweights and Zisa allies, was defeated, signaling that decades of corrupt rule in Hackensack will soon end (see Page 1 of The Record today).
Although 344 seems like a small number, those vote could have swung the election to other candidates.
|John Labrosse, right, speaking to supporters on Tuesday night at the Elks Lodge on Linden Street in Hackensack.|
LTACH and you
The victory of the Labrosse slate also repudiated the strategy of the Prospect Avenue Coaltion to organize residents around a single issue, and to hell with the rest of Hackensack.
Hundreds of high-rise residents attended forums with the candidates, and grilled them on their positions regarding a 19-story Long-Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) proposed for a small parcel between Prospect and Summit avenues, near Golf Place.
The developer is appealing the city zoning board's 5-0 decision to reject the plan, and the coaltion wanted to make sure City Attorney Joseph C. Zisa Jr. and former zoning board attorney Richard Malagiere would continue to fight against LTACH in Superior Court.
Key members of the coalition even urged Prospect Avenue residents to split their vote and elect a City Council with three Zisa allies and two members of Citizens for Change -- in other words, maintain the status quo.
Labrosse and his running mates had said they would cut loose Joe Zisa and Malagiere, as did Sasson.
Such a 3-2 council would be great for the coalition -- because the attorneys would be able to continue fighting LTACH and lining their pockets with legal fees at taxpayers' expense -- but terrible for the rest of the city.
Sasson and Citizens for Change didn't coordinate their campaigns, but their positions complemented each other as they made voters aware of a 65% hike in property taxes amid declining services.
Kathy Canestrino, the Labrosse running-mate elected on her second try, hammered away at the $6 million in legal fees the city paid in 3 years, all of it generated by the legal problems of Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa, the former state Assemblyman and convicted ex-police chief.
A select group of lawyers got rich suing or defending Zisa, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but who remains free pending the appeal of his conviction a year ago for official corruption and insurance fraud.
And Sasson told voters Hackensack is a tax-poor city, deprived of tens of millions of dollars, because of the tax-exempt status of Hackensack University Medical Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Bergen County.
Sasson urged HUMC and the others to give back to the city in lieu of property taxes.
Change has started
He didn't have to get elected to see that process begin.
Mike Mordaga took over on Feb. 4 as the city's first civilian police director, and went to work on problems ranging from street crime to moving violations by drivers to all the time his officers spend driving the homeless to the HUMC emergency room.
Mordaga paired county sheriff's officers with city cops in cruisers, and sent them out to stop crime and improve the quality of life by having residents feel safe walking the streets.
He's also asked the county police for assistance.
And Mordaga ordered a crackdown on such moving violations as speeding and blowing through stop signs.
Finally, he asked HUMC to staff a room at the county shelter on South River Street -- where three free meals a day keep the homeless in Hackensack -- to cut down on his officers' trips to the emergency room.
|Sasson's lawn signs may come in handy in the next campaign.|
Sasson's street will be paved in the fall, the city manager said recently.
And the city no longer sends a noisy truck to collect his garbage and recyclables before 6 a.m., giving his family and neighbors some sorely needed peace and quiet.