With Bayonne mayoral race nearing, labor super PAC hits Davis over tax abatements

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Labor super PAC Stronger Foundations, Inc. has released a commercial hitting Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis for allegedly giving out “secret tax breaks” and approving “sweetheart deals for big developers.” 

“Jimmy Davis’ Bayonne, it’s a wonderful place … if you’re a big developer. If Jimmy Davis has his way, Bayonne will never be the same,” the 30-second TV spot that has also been circulating on social media says.

“Sky high buildings in residential neighborhoods, allegations of secret tax breaks and sweetheart deals for big developers. Jimmy Davis has sold Bayonne residents out for the last time. On May 8th, tell Jimmy Davis no to re-election.”

For astute political observers, the super PAC’s recent attack on Davis is no surprise given that the International Union of Operating Engineers Local (IUOE) 825 endorsed his opponent, former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, back in November.

A closer look at the PAC shows that it is run by Christopher Lalevee, the brother of Greg Lalevee – who is the business manager of IUOE Local 825.

Mike Makarski, a spokesman for Stronger Foundations, took further shots at Davis for focusing a lot of his campaign on bringing billions of dollars of development to the Peninsula City.

“Stronger Foundations, Inc. is an independent organization designed to inform the public about the importance of infrastructure investments throughout New Jersey, as well as provide information regarding the positions of legislators and other elected officials on these very same issues,” he told Hudson County View.

“While Mayor Davis is patting himself on the back claiming billions in new development – these projects are being subsidized at the taxpayers’ expense and risk, and are being done without paying prevailing wage or with any project labor agreements. Passing a PLA just weeks from an election doesn’t cover up four years of sweetheart deals to big developers.”

In February, the Bayonne council approved  a 20 percent Project Labor Agreement for developments valued at over $15 million – a deal that O’Donnell has previously called “completely disingenuous.”

In a statement, O’Donnell said he has seen the ad online and expectedly approved of the message.

“We also saw it online. Clearly there are many people recognizing that Jimmy Davis has given huge tax breaks to developers and special interests for projects that didn’t create jobs for Bayonne residents and will have city taxpayers on the hook for years to come,” the candidate said.

Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski responded that “mudslinging by Jason O’Donnell and his shadowy special interest allies” won’t change the result of this election.

“Bayonne voters trust Mayor Davis and they see how much the Davis team’s approach to development is benefiting residents, from the major investments being made in city parks to $10 million in new annual tax revenue being generated to rising property values and stable property taxes,” he said in an email.

” … Mayor Davis is running on his record of building a better future for Bayonne and no amount of desperate mudslinging from Jason O’Donnell and his shadowy special interest allies will distract voters from the progress they see all around them.”

Stronger Foundations previously got involved in two November 2017 races: successfully backing Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and coming up short when they supported Jersey City Ward E candidate Rebecca Symes (she lost to James Solomon in the December runoff).

As a super PAC, the entity is able to spend an uncapped amount of money, though they are not allowed to coordinate with anyone from a particular campaign.

According to filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission from January 15th, the most recent filings, the incumbent had raised a lot more money, but the challenger had preserved more campaign funds.

Based on those report, Davis has about $48,383 cash on hand (raising $269,546 since being elected in 2014), while O’Donnell has about $79,772 on hand (raising $87,100 since announcing his candidacy late last year).

The next ELEC filings, which covers January 1st through March 31st of this year, are due on April 9th.

Stronger Foundations is an independent expenditure so they therefore would not appear on any candidate’s ELEC report, though they are required to file their own reports.