There goes Lenz again!
The fallout continues
The overwhelming majority of witnesses to the ugly scene are supporters of Theresa, Maureen and Ruthy who have NOT signed on to any Mayoral campaign.
Some have been involved in Hoboken politics a short time, and others for decades.
Augusta Pryzgoda speaks out
Augusta Pryzgoda has been involved for over 30 years. She’s known as one of the “grand dames” of reform in this city. She’s run for School Board and First Ward council, but has not agreed to support any Mayoral campaign this year. Augusta enthusiastically endorsed Maureen Sullivan’s independent run last year, and happily supported Kids First this year when she heard Maureen and her neighbor Irene Sobolov were taking a lead role in the campaign. Augusta was there when Ravi Bhalla started in on Ines:
“I have always wished that there would be no city hall connections with the school district and that parents, not politicians controlled the school board. I’ve never seen Ravi Bhalla before Tuesday night, but I’ve known Ines for many years, and she has always been honest. During the waterfront referendum (fighting for Pier A park) I signed Ines and her husband John up to vote.
What I saw was Mr. Bhalla being so very rude when all of us were so very happy. I saw the way he spoke to Ines, and if he would have spoken to me that way I would have felt as she did that he was telling me to leave. Ines was saying she didn’t have to leave and he was repeatedly telling her why she “shouldn’t be there.”
He kept going on and on about Beth not endorsing a school board slate. Ines told him that she (Ines) was always there fighting for better education. Ravi on the other hand is a new person on the block who was rude. It was not his place to say what he said to Ines. It was a public celebration for Kids First, not a Dawn Zimmer rally.”
Below – see statements from Ravi Bhalla, Raul Morales, II, and a longtime Hoboken activist who is sick of Mike Lenz.
Ravi deflects the issue
Augusta’s comments are in contrast to a statement sent out by Ravi Bhalla today:
“While I do not know Jake Stuiver personally, I have known Ines for years and I have a high degree of respect for her and her service to our community. Ines served honorably on the Rent Board while I was counsel to the Rent Board. However, I sincerely believe it was important for Mayoral candidates to take a position on the future of our schools, and unfortunately no Mayoral candidate other than Dawn Zimmer endorsed either slate of school board candidates. I, along with my wife, donated a substantial amount of time and money to ensure that Kids First was elected and we are very proud everyone’s collective efforts for this important victory, irrespective of their affiliations in the municipal election.
However, on Election Day, I personally observed Raulito Morales, Jr., a member of the Mason ticket, together with volunteers for Frank Raia’s slate. In this context, and considering the Mason campaign’s decision not to endorse Kids First, I think it demonstrated poor taste for representatives of the Mason campaign to attend the victory celebration of a slate that they declined to support and appeared to be actively opposing earlier in the day.
I did not ask Ines and Mr. Stuiver to leave the event. However, in light of their official position with the Mason campaign, and my observation of Mr. Morales earlier in the day, I believed their presence was inappropriate at this event and expressed this opinion.”
Raul Morales II responds
In response to Bhalla’s attack on Raul Morales II, he sent me this statement:
“As a candidate for City Council, I am completely engaged in meeting voters and discussing the vision Beth Mason and I share for one Hoboken. I would like to take this time to categorically deny the insinuation that I was in any way campaigning for any candidates for School Board. Mr. Bhalla’s assertions are false. I had a full schedule of events Tuesday afternoon, including volunteering at Ben and Jerry’s for the Jubilee Center and meeting voters along with Beth for several hours at Columbian Arms.
Sometime around 1pm I was leaving my home at 13th and Washington and stopped to briefly say hello to one of my neighbors who I am hoping will support the Beth Mason team. I recall briefly seeing Mr. Bhalla at that time.
As an attorney myself I think it is telling how Mr. Bhalla has decided to selectively word his statement in an attempt to leave the impression that I was campaigning without actually coming out and saying it. Mr. Bhalla should be ashamed for using this incident as a cheap political stunt to gain attention. Mr. Bhalla owes me, Ms. Garcia-Keim and Mr. Stuiver an apology.”
Soares clarifies a bit
I also got a note from Tony Soares, who did not deny also yelling at Jake Stuiver, but want it noted that he did not arrive at Maxwell’s until after the Lenz incident and arrived alone.
Another activist “gets it”
One longtime Hoboken Political activist (active for well over a decade) not associated with any Mayoral campaign wrote me to say:
“When (Kids First) dropped (Lenz) I said “sign me up!” and I was one of the hard core volunteers for this team. He lost the race for Kids first last year. He is a very divisive person. Only newbies (or people who don’t do much research) trust him. Once you learn what is going on – you realize he is only in for a job and power. During this race I had many old timers say they did not vote for Kids First last year because of him.”
This is a sentiment I’ve heard from many people who were pleased to see “The Moms” taking the Kids First brand over from Lenz. Too bad he still felt the need to do everything possible to get his name associated with their victory, even if it meant he embarrassed many people in the process.
Political rain on a happy parade
Tuesday night’s Kids First victory party was four years in the making for some of the volunteers who have been working to achieve a “Moms Majority” on the Board of Education. Leave it to political opportunist Michael Lenz to ruin the mood.
Moments after an ugly scene at Maxwell’s Tuesday night I was getting text messages and emails from people appalled by what they saw and heard. Others followed up the next day, and I’ve been gathering eyewitness accounts.
The team of Maureen Sullivan, Ruth McAllister and Theresa Minutillo was supported by the largest coalition in Kids First history. People known to be supporters of both Dawn Zimmer and Beth Mason alike donated money and/or stood on street corners with signs and literature all day trying to get out the vote.
To most this race was about education, children, and taxes without regard to the Mayoral election.
Not to Michael Lenz and Ravi Bhalla. To them it was about their own political ambitions.
2009 team makes us forget 2008
From the ashes of last year’s crash-and-burn (masterminded by Lenz) came the Kids First surge of 2009. This year active moms stepped up and gave the team a new look, with newcomers and the born-and-raised alike taking key roles in this campaign. Despite his minimal role this year, Lenz is still trying to pass himself off as responsible for the hard earned victory. It was actually led by the candidates themselves along with Campaign Manager Liz Mulholland, Irene Sobolov, Felicia Drasheff, Kai Rebane and many other active Moms and Dads looking to improve the schools without regard to Mayoral politics or Lenz’s dreams of HCDO power sharing.
Bhalla hassles Garcia-Keim, Stuiver
Ines Garcia-Keim has been fighting for better schools longer than Ravi Bhalla has lived in Hoboken. She ran for Board of Ed years ago and has supported Kids First by raising money and holding meet-and-greets. Ines showed her support this year by making a campaign contribution and spreading the word that she was supporting the team. She did this on her own, exclusive of her role as Beth Mason’s campaign chair. In an effort to keep Mayoral politics out of the race, Mason decided not to endorse a Board of Ed slate. That didn’t stop many of her key supporters, including Ines, from supporting the team of their choice with their time and their money.
About a half hour before the results came in, Garcia-Keim and Mason Campaign Manager Jake Stuiver went to at Maxwells, where people were told to go after the polls closed. They arrived well before it was known that Maureen, Ruthy and Theresa had won, and were there to be with fellow supporters win or lose. They were welcomed warmly by Maureen Sullivan, Peter Cunningham and others. Ines supported Peter in his Fifth Ward runoff after running for that seat herself four years earlier. She also supported Maureen in her independent bid a year ago. Jake volunteered for Dawn Zimmer in her race against Chris Campos, and knew Peter from the campaign against Dave Roberts four years ago.
The trouble started when Lenz showed up with Zimmer, Marsh, Bhalla and Tony Soares.
Jake picks up the story from his point of view:
“So Ravi Bhalla – whom I’d never met before – came up and got in my face and told me that Ines and I had no business being there because Mason didn’t endorse Kids First and his ticket did. I said we were there as individuals, and that we HAD supported them, Ines had given them money, I had told many people to vote for them, and we had as much right to congratulate them as anyone, not to mention we’ve both been with them through multiple elections, whereas who ever heard of Ravi Bhalla four years ago?
So then he goes and says something to Lenz, and then goes and gives Ines the same garbage he gave me. While he’s doing that, Lenz comes over, grabs my hand with one hand and wraps his arm around my shoulder with the other, pulls me in real close so I can’t move, and then starts screaming at the top of his lungs, “HUDSON SHARK!!! This is Hudson Shark! I have an announcement everyone! Jake Stuiver is Hudson Shark, who posts horrible things about Dawn Zimmer and me on the Internet!!!”
Let me stop this right here and say without a doubt, that as the owner of Hoboken411.com – I can tell you that Jake is NOT Hudson Shark. The fact that he’s wrong has never stopped Michael Lenz from spreading such crap in the past. In a ridiculously futile effort to damage this site and the people who post here, Lenz publicly misidentifies his political enemies as people who post under specific screen names in an attempt to embarrass them. He has so many enemies in Hoboken he can only try to guess who is who, and he guesses wrong. Lenz himself is a specialist in the form of multiple-screen name internet slime not allowed here on Hoboken411, and is not welcome for many reasons.
By the way, since I am in the unique position to know for a fact that the things Lenz is posting about these people are false – I will be more than happy to assist anyone smeared by this guy. The current trail of Hoboken political misinformation seems to be: Lenz says it, Donna Antonucci repeats it, and the vocal minority of “Hoboken Revolt” people who don’t know any better repeat it again as gospel because “Hey, if Lenz says it and Donna agrees, it must be true!” But I digress…
Getting back to the scene Tuesday night
I’m told Jake looked “shocked” by Lenz’s physical contact (imagine if he did that to a woman) and public slander. Never one to miss an opportunity to yell at someone in public, Soares then tossed his own verbal assault at Stuiver, who along with Garcia-Keim left the bar rather than allow a scene to taint a hard fought victory celebration. Stuiver said:
“I am a big boy and can handle people saying mean and angry things to me, but I was offended, embarrassed and disgusted at how shamelessly they exploited and overran what was supposed to be about the kids. Maureen Sullivan apologized to me afterward and I told her it was far from her fault, I was sorry for her that it happened. I called Theresa Minutillo on her cell phone and she came out so I could congratulate her, and she too apologized. I didn’t see Ruth and don’t know her very well anyway. But it wasn’t them – it was the Zimmer people. They were truly disgusting and shameless.
If Lenz and Bhalla want to have a heated discussion I am happy to have that conversation at another time and place. Lenz has my number. He hasn’t used it since last summer, when he called to yell at me about my letter. Their choice of setting for this outburst is what infuriates me.”
While all this was going on uptown, another prominent Mason supporter was at City Hall trying to get the correct citywide election results for the Kids First team. Lane Bajardi spent seven hours at the Demarest School as a poll challenger, the first three standing on the corner of Fourth and Garden with his infant son encouraging people to vote. Lane kept in contact with Liz Mulholland throughout the day, sending numbers from various districts as many people worked together to get out the vote for Kids First regardless of their preference in the Mayoral election.
Once the City Clerk printed them out, Lane took the numbers up to Maxwell’s to share them during the celebration. As he walked in to a sea of smiles he was greeted with one frown – from Ravi Bhalla. As Lane greeted Ravi, he was struck by the look on his face, which changed only when Ravi realized Lane was wearing an official poll challenger badge for Maureen Sullivan indicating he had given of his time to help the cause.
“I didn’t know about the incident until much later, but after I was told it occurred to me that Ravi was very likely about to pull the same thing again until he saw my badge and realized he probably couldn’t. As a supporter of Theresa in 2005 and 2006 and again this year with Maureen and Ruthy I appreciated the victory moment, and couldn’t wait to congratulate not only the winners, but Rose Markle and Carrie Gilliard, who I supported in 2007.
It saddens me that a few bad apples with political agendas had to put a blemish on the evening and we are talking about this incident instead of the great opportunities ahead for positive change in the schools. I often attend School Board meetings, and have never seen Ravi at one. When I heard about what happened I waited until Ravi left Maxwells and was practically on Hudson Street before I privately expressed my personal unhappiness with his conduct.”
Lane added praise to the Moms who took the lead on the effort and said he “just felt happy” to have been a very small part of it. He noted neither the candidates nor the real powers behind the campaign (Including Liz, Kai, Irene and Felicia) ever asked anyone who they were supporting in the Mayoral campaign before requesting and accepting their financial or volunteer support, so he wondered why Bhalla and Lenz “could feel so empowered to harass people who had stepped up for Kids First.”
Some of you may start with the “There’s two sides to every story” bit on this post, but I’ve talked to enough people who were there to have gotten the straight answers about what went down.
Congratulations to Kids First on their victory, and a big giant raspberry to Mike Lenz for trying to make a scene.