Massa out; Fife stays in

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

One mayor was displaced and an acting mayor became permanent following municipal elections held in The Observer coverage area last Tuesday.

In North Arlington, Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi, a Republican, defeated Democratic Mayor Peter Massa, who was seeking his third four-year term as the borough’s chief executive by a vote of 2,211 to 1,737, including absentees. Provisional votes were unavailable at press time.

And in Harrison, Democrat James Fife, who was appointed acting mayor following the death of Mayor Raymond Mc- Donough in February, fought off a challenge from Republican Erik Brachman by a more than 2-1 margin, with Fife collecting 1,388 machine votes to Brachman’s 600.

Fife, who was nursing a bad cold last week was unavailable for comment, but Brachman, who said he spent “about $30,000” on his campaign – versus the approximately $20,000 reportedly spent by the Fife team – said that he planned to remain active politically and was considering a run for the Second Ward council seat now occupied by Victor Villalta next year.

Brachman’s pitch had been “to integrate redevelopment with the rest of Harrison on the other side of [Rt.] 280. Those residents think they’re being ignored.” And while he was “certainly disappointed” in the election results, Brachman asserted that “the numbers at the polls don’t indicate the true undertone of the people of Harrison.”

Fife’s Democratic Town Council running mates, incumbents Jesus Huaranga (256 votes), Laurence Bennett (432) and James Doran (372) in the First, Third and Fourth Wards, respectively, were unopposed; Second Ward incumbent Anselmo Millan outpaced independent Ramon Rodriguez, 373 to 101.

In North Arlington, Bianchi’s Borough Council running mates, Daniel Pronti and Kerry Cruz, also won, ousting Democratic incumbents Mark Yampaglia and Daniel Castro. Pronti polled 2,169 votes and Cruz had 2,132; Yampaglia, 1,742; and Castro, 1,657.

As of Jan. 1, 2015, when the winners get sworn into office, the GOP will boast a 4-2 majority, including the mayor. At that point, the council seat current filled by Bianchi – who was re-elected to a third term last year – will become vacant and the Republicans will have 30 days to recommend a temporary placeholder for the seat. Then, in November, there will be a special election to fill the unexpired term.

Spending by the opposing campaigns was fairly even, judging by reports filed with the N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission: the Committee to Elect Massa, Castro & Yampaglia garnered $27,195 while the Committee to Elect Bianchi, Pronti & Cruz netted $25,635.

Bianchi told The Observer he was “kind of shocked by the amount of votes I won by. I thought it would be closer. I never dreamed I’d get this many but I think the results show that people want change.”

“As mayor in the next four years, I want to try to turn things around in North Arlington and start getting redevelopment,” Bianchi said, “because if we don’t start moving forward, [property] taxes are going to slowly but surely keep going up and up.”

“On the Kearny side of the meadows, they’re building warehousing and industry and on the Lyndhurst side, they’re putting up townhouses and condominiums,” Bianchi said. “We have nothing in North Arlington.”

Starting in January, Bianchi said he would revive the concept for a North Arlington Redevelopment Board. “We had it years ago but it was dismantled around 2003 when the mayor and council became the redevelopment entity.”

But that’s the wrong approach, he said, because “the mayor and council have enough to do to run the town. You need business people from the town, regular people, former councilmen, real estate people [to serve on a redevelopment board] and that’s their sole job. They would arrange meetings with the [New Jersey] Meadowlands Commission, builders, to reach out to entrepreneurs,” possibly to encourage construction of “solar farms or windmills” on the landfills.

As for the 2014 municipal budget, which has yet to be adopted, Bianchi said he anticipated that the state Department of Community Affairs would shortly appoint a monitor to draft a spending plan that, so far, has eluded feuding Democrats and Republicans.

After the election, Massa posted a statement on the NAToday. net web congratulating his opponent and his running mates. “I have served with Joe for many years and I believe he will do the best he can to make North Arlington a better place for all residents. The campaign is over and now is the time to rally around Joe so that governance comes first.”

Massa thanked his family, running mates, the Democratic Party, borough employees and volunteers for their support over the years.

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