Bill Matsikoudis, head of the Jersey City Civic Committee 501(c)(4), explained the urgency in filing a lawsuit against the Mayor Steven Fulop administration, calling attempting to move municipal elections “an unlawful and ambiguous binding referendum.”
“We knew that there was not going to be any response. We had to act quickly because of the fact that the ballots are going to get printed in the next few weeks,” Matsikoudis, corporation counsel under Mayor Jerramiah Healy, said in a one-on-one interview.
JCCC has filed a new lawsuit in a last ditch effort to keep Jersey City municipal elections in May.
On January 13, 2016, the Jersey City Council adopted Ordinance 15.028 directing the Municipal Clerk to submit the referendum question:
“Should the Charter of the City of Jersey City, governed by Mayor-Council Form C, be amended as permitted under that plan, to provide for the holding of its regular municipal elections on the same date of the general election in November, pursuant to N.J.S.A 40:69A-34.1(b)?”
Matsikoudis challenged the council to change the referendum, or at least include an interpretative statement to indicate that the runoff elections will be moved from June to December, as well as that the city should confirm that the ordinance does not change the elections from non-partisan to partisan.
He understands that no one wants a partisan election, but this should certainly be explained in the referendum.
“He (Mayor Fulop) is citing a statute, the Faulkner Act from 1951, that allows you to move, by a binding referendum, a non-partisan election from May to a partisan in election November. Its gets a little bit into technicalities of the law but it’s illegal, but more important, the question is misleading,” explained Matsikoudis.
On February 3, Matsikoudis says he followed up with Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro via email and received a reply explaining that the rest of the council and Corporation Counsel Jeremy Farrell are looking into the issues he raised.
Six months later, at the August 17 city council meeting, Matsikoudis followed up with Lavarro during the public portion of the meeting, only to discover that nothing further on the matter had been done by Farrell.
Matsikoudis is also against consolidating the elections since it will produce minimal savings and history showed that in May 2013 the Healy vs. Fulop mayoral race had a higher turnout than the gubernatorial race that pitted incumbent Chris Christie (R) against then-state Senator Barbara Buono (D-18) in November.
Back in November 2015, Lavarro said during a council meeting where the referendum measure was discussed but ultimately tabled that such a comparison was unjust since Healy vs. Fulop was the most money ever spent in an election in city history.
He also noted that consolidating elections was a campaign promise that needs to be seen through.
“We need a separate election day to keep partisan politics out of our local elections so that we can focus on the issues of concern to our local community once every four years like property taxes, crime development, job creation at the local level- without the distraction of the state wide partisan elections that we have when the governor’s up for elections, the state Senate and the general Assembly,” said Matsikoudis.
Matsikoudis, an outspoken nemesis of Fulop throughout this year, is an all but declared candidate in the 2017 Jersey City mayoral race that would likely pit him against Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2), Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) and perhaps even Fulop – depending what happens with the referendum.
Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill and Lavarro did not return emails seeking comment.