In the first official meeting of the Hudson County Board of Commissioners, formerly known as freeholders, Anthony Vainieri (D-8) was named board chair for the 5th year in a row, as the feud over the county’s deal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) waging on.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The reorganization meeting, which has historically never had a public portion, lasted for just under a half an hour and went off without a hitch.
Vainieri, the board chair since 2016, retained his post by a tally of 8-0-(1), the same vote total that named Commissioner Anthony Romano (D-5) vice chair – with Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2) abstaining in both instances.
O’Dea was the vice chair in 2020 and did not receive a leadership post this time around, with Commissioner Jerry Walker (D-3) being named chair pro tempore by a unanimous vote (9-0).
The only hint of drama came about two hours prior to the meeting, with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s office announcing that the sheriff’s office and the United
States Postal Inspection Service were investigating “a suspicious package” discovered at his home on December 13th.
Jim Kennelly, a spokesman for DeGise, said the package resembled a fake explosive device that “made a loud popping noise and shot confetti and other materials in all directions at a high velocity,” though ultimately it did not present any immediate physical danger.
“There is simply no place for this kind of aggressive threatening and intimidation of public officials that this latest incident is another unfortunate example of,” Kennelly continued.
When asked why the incident was not made public sooner, he said that DeGise is concerned that what happened to be him may be connected to other recent incidents.
Then, about an hour before the vote, Vainieri blamed the package, which some sources characterized simply as a glitter bomb, on activists still adamantly opposing the ICE contract, also claiming that several commissioners have received threatening phone calls.
“Over the past several days and weeks, a number of county commissioners and other public officials, including myself, have been receiving dozens of threatening and terroristic phone calls because of our position on housing ICE detainees,” he said in a statement.
“In addition to a fake bomb that was sent to the county executive’s home, all of these threats of violence are clear acts of harassment and intimidation. They will not succeed and they must be condemned by all decent people, including those officials who oppose the county contract with Homeland Security … Hopefully, the anonymous cowards who are responsible will be brought to justice.”
Vainieri also doubled down on his position on renewing the ICE contract through potentially 2030 was the right call, exclaiming that the majority of county residents believe “that immigrants who come here illegally and commit violent crimes should be punished and deported.”
He continued that anyone who calls for open borders or defunding the police “extremists.”
In response, Hector Oseguera, a member of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, called Vainieri a “Trump Republican disguised as Democrat” not fit to serve as chairman, also pushing back on the notion that all detainees have committed violent crimes or that activists are threatening officials.
“No one seeks to ‘turn loose’ rapists or murderers, and resorting to such disingenuous mischaracterizations only betrays Commissioner Vainieri’s bad faith refusal to understand our calls to actions. No one in our coalition engages in violence or intimidation of any kind, nor would we countenance such acts,” he began.
“It strains credulity to believe that the County Executive’s house, under constant surveillance, would receive a suspicious package on a Sunday without the county sheriffs knowing exactly where it came from. Even more suspicious that they waited three weeks, until the day of Commissioner chairmanship vote, to release.”