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07 August 2009

Smith Hardly the Only Arrogant Politician

By Kevin Canessa Jr.

Some politicians are a lot more arrogant than others. But there are some whose arrogance falls in a category beyond what words can describe. Three such politicians are in our midst -- and their arrogance is as irritating and as unfathomable as I’ve seen in my entire life.

Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega Jr. and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez are three pols who were involved in the massive FBI sweep that ultimately caused Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano (in office three short weeks) to resign their offices. Elwell was the first to do the right thing, and after a lot of pressure from Gov. Jon S. Corzine, D-Hoboken, Cammarano finally called it quits last week.

Of course, it’s unfair to give any credit to Corzine, because if this weren’t an election year, you could bet the house he wouldn’t have called for Cammarano’s resignation. Just look back to previous scandals -- Sharpe James comes to mind -- where Corzine always wanted the justice process “to run its course.”

Regardless, give Cammarano and Elwell a lot of credit for doing the right, honorable thing in resigning.

But for whatever reason, Suarez, Smith and Vega (el President√©) won’t resign. They feel they can perform their duties they while fighting clear-cut corruption charges. Let’s face it folks, the federal government doesn’t bring charges against anyone whose case isn’t clear cut.

And to quote Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop, the “innocent until proven guilty” system of justice should not apply to public officials. The charges are enough for them to vacate their office.

Then again, at least in the cases of Smith and Vega, there’s that additional arrogance that blossoms from being a member of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Members of the HCDO have, for decades, believed they’re above the law. They believe the power of the organization, and the money of the organization, are always enough to buy freedom from guilt.

But the truth of the matter is, the arrogance of the HCDO -- the decades of being above the law -- is finally catching up. Two Hudson Dems did the right thing by resigning. And now, two others must soon follow suit.

If he had an ounce of integrity left, the HCDO Chairman and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy would not only have asked for their resignations -- he would have demanded them. But he didn’t. He took the cowardly route of saying that kind of a decision is personal -- and not one a party chairman should demand.

And he’s wrong.

Healy missed a golden opportunity to lead; instead, he squirmed.

Hopefully, when all is said and done, Healy’s influence won’t matter. Perhaps Smith and Vega won’t need party influence. Same for Suarez. Maybe they’ll resign on their own.

Or maybe they’ll do like most other accused Hudson County politicians do: They’ll wait until they’re found guilty before resigning, thereby leaving little time for their successors to prepare for office and to help their communities heal from the nonsense they’ve experienced.

Then again, this is Hudson County. Why should anyone who matters care?

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