Fact checking Donna
Opinions are good, but facts are better.
Three years ago when I created Hoboken411 one of my goals was to provide a platform for people motivated to make our city a better place. “Making our community stronger with technology” is more than just a slogan on the masthead. Many 411 readers and contributors have brought a great deal of information to light that would never have been covered in the local papers. I do a lot of fact checking on this end before the information is published knowing whatever I put up is ultimately my responsibility. I can’t possibly fact-check the thousands of user comments each week, so when one of our featured contributors uses their bully pulpit to spread false information, this is the only way for me to clear the record.
Since being featured prominently on 411, she has quickly built the credibility of a relatively new voice, I feel it’s necessary to point out when that voice is being inaccurate. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the person I’m referring to is Donna Antonucci.
There’s something about Donna
Donna hasn’t been on the scene long, but has made her presence felt. Hard to believe she only started coming to City Council meetings about a year ago, where she has offered many insights worthy of attention.
Lately however, she’s fallen into the same old political clique of angry outsiders and operatives who spend all day on other websites spreading lies about anybody they disagree with or cannot control. That’s a real shame, since I encouraged and promoted Donna as a bearer of facts. Her professional presentation of information is often informative (albeit busy and confusing to most), but her recent comments about the political scene now call her credibility into question, and I feel I owe it to Hoboken411 readers to point this out.
What prompted this post?
I’ve fielded many complaints about Donna’s analysis of city financial documents, as well as her general attitude with anyone who doesn’t agree with her 100%. Up until now I’ve always given her the benefit of the doubt, dismissed the criticism, and have continued to feature Donna’s information. Because I’ve given her a long leash I feel the need – and the responsibility to you, the reader – to yank it back a bit when she posts misinformation about the candidates for Council-at-Large.
See Donna’s offending comments, and the truth – after the jump!
(Fact checking Donna, continued…)
Clearing up the facts
When I posted criticism about Peter Cammarano and his picks for council, I did so by citing facts and dispelling campaign spin. In offering her own “analysis” of the candidates to 411 readers, Donna presents false information as fact, and smear as gospel. Let’s clear things up in the order she muddled them:
On Angel Alicea…
“Alicea (Cammarano’s ticket) was fired from the Public Housing Authority because he left bills unpaid, tenants complained that the hallways smelled of urine. The council bascially voted him out of that job because he was a poor manager. Why would we want him making financial decisions for us?”
– Angel Alicea was not an employee of the Hoboken Housing Authority, so he couldn’t be fired. His term on the HHA volunteer board of directors ended and he was not reappointed due to a political power struggle for the public housing vote, nothing more, nothing less. He wasn’t a “manager” and did not have authority to sign checks to pay bills. Tenants supported him in droves, so complaints of urine in hallways had nothing to do with his ouster. Alicea lost his seat because he was part of a political machine that was at odds 3rd ward councilman Mike Russo and 4th ward councilwoman Dawn Zimmer. Russo and Zimmer saw Alicea as too powerful, and hatched a plan to get rid of him.
On Vinny Addeo…
“Addeo (Mason’s ticket) lives in Church Towers. I have no issue with someone from subsidized housing running, but Mr. Addeo is part of the 40% who exceed the maximum income limit to live in those buildings and I think it’s unethical that he’s there. I also suspect that there was political horsetrading going on about putting him on Beth Mason’s ticket, the votes he can bring in mayoral election in exchange for certain votes on the Church Towers resolution.”
– It’s telling the Donna points out that she “has no issue with someone from subsidized housing running” because it shows many of her peers do. Donna also repeats two falsehoods about Church Towers. The first is that there is a “Maximum Income Limit” to live there. There isn’t. There is only a limit on how much you can earn to move in. The middle-income housing program that has governed Church Towers allows every renter’s income to grow beyond the initial limits and continued to live in the building legally. That’s the way the program was designed, but since it’s a political hot potato tit has been convenient for some to repeatedly misrepresent it.
As for the allegation of “political horsetrading”, Mason actually had no leverage to trade on her Church Towers vote because without her there were already five solid votes needed to approve it. Her vote was moot, so nobody was going to “horse trade” for something they didn’t need.
On Anthony Pasquale…
“Anthony Pasquale (Mason’s ticket) Many of you may know this but Anthony Pasquale is related to the Michael Russo and I hope all of you know that Theresa Castellano is Michael Russo’s Aunt on the Russo side. Do you think it’s prudent to have 3 relatives sit on a council board? That’s crazy.”
– The most obvious error is the fact that Anthony Pasquale is not related to Michael Russo in any way. There is no family connection. Second, Theresa Castellano is not Michael Russo’s aunt. She’s actually a cousin of Michael’s father which makes her a cousin once removed from Mike. When called on her error, Donna instead claimed “Anthony Pasquale is Mike Russo’s Godfather”, which is also wrong. Castellano is Russo’s Godmother, but Pasquale is not his Godfather. Donna has yet to admit her error and correct the record, another serious problem I have with people who claim the high moral ground high on Hoboken issues, but fail to live up to basic factual standards. Donna continues:
On the CFO…
“I don’t particularly like it that we have two close relatives already not to mention the fact that until Nick Trasente was hired as the new Director of Finance and Revenue, Michelle Russo’s brother George DeStefano was the Director of Finance of the old Finance department. Can you say conflict of interest/lack of diversity?”
– This quote surprised me because Donna presents herself as an expert in municipal finance. George DeStefano was not the Director of Finance and Revenue. He was (and is) the Chief Financial Officer. The Director of Finance serves at the will of the Mayor and Council while the CFO is a state statutory position under civil service. Tenured CFOs can only be removed for cause, something Dave Roberts found out when he improperly tried to remove DeStefano and found himself at the losing end of a half million dollar judgment against the city that the taxpayers picked up the bill for.
On Frances Rhodes-Kearns & Pupie…
“Frances Rhodes-Kearns (Cammarano’s slate) She currently is on the school board. She voted along with Pupi Raia to approve the teachers contract back in February which guaranteed a 13% compounded increase in pay over 3 years. If you read closely, the classroom teachers get more like 1% in the first year which means administrators (Jack like to call them all teachers even if they are not in the classroom) are getting more like a 6% increase.”
– First of all, Frank Raia spells his nickname “Pupie.” More importantly, Donna neglects to include changes to the Teachers Union healthcare plan that will lead to more out of pocket expenses and will put a dent in the compounded increase she quotes. Her numbers on the raises for classroom teachers vs. administrators are also flawed.
On Raul Morales, II…
“Morales (Mason’s ticket), I understand is the son of the head janitor for the Applied buildings. I understand that scare tactics have been used to scare subsidized renters to vote in a particular way. (talk to Margharet the crossing guard). This association I see as a con.”
– Wow. Some might find “Head Janitor” as a pretty derogatory way of describing a person of Puerto Rican decent who is actually the Senior Vice President of Applied Housing Management. The father of Raul Morales II is pretty high up in the pecking order at one of the largest owners of apartment buildings in Hoboken. Many Applied residents are loyal to their landlord because they have provided affordable housing to those who were being burned out of their homes in the 70’s and 80;s.
On Michael Novak…
“Novak (Cammarano slate) – I am concerned that he works for Atlantic Environmental Services that does lots of work with developers which may make him biased towards overdeveloping Hoboken and not necessarily aligned with our master plan. I do appreciate how he voted on the Piccardo D Variance application. He voted to deny the application and the application failed as everyone knows.”
– Here Donna essentially quotes back what was reported here on Hoboken411 and adds no new information, but at least that has kept her from repeating more rumors and smears she picked up along the way. Oh, and Picardo is spelled with only one C.
On being “politically connected…”
“If candidates don’t think that non municipal worker/families/politically connected taxpayers are voting, they will vote in favor of municipal workers, their families i.e., ‘the machine’ and either vote down a Police/Fire contract that has many give backs or will pass a contract that doesn’t go far enough to bring relief to taxpayers.”
– Interesting here that Donna does not use her own logic to impeach the slate of candidates that she is supporting. Would it be a stretch to say she could use the argument above to attack Dave Mello, who is a teacher, Ravi Bhalla, who has been a municipal contractor for Hoboken and Union City, or “politically connected” HCDO vice-chair Carol Marsh, who has taken classes toward her goal to one day be appointed Hoboken City Clerk? Perhaps, but it clearly shows Donna has no interest in using her pedestal to play fair.
Donna wants it both ways. She wants to be seen as the impartial champion of the taxpayer demanding answers from all of the Mayoral candidates (as she did in a recent letter to the editor in the weekly paper) while simultaneously blogging for the slate she supports. I would encourage her to do some real homework before spreading lies under her own name here on 411.
Again, I point this out because of the many times I have featured Donna’s work and opinions over the past several months, including: