Belleville PBA endorses mayoral candidate for first time ‘in decades’

In a rare and stunning move, the local police union is making an endorsement for mayor of Belleville.

The local PBA is throwing its support behind incumbent Mayor Michael Melham’s reelection bid.

The endorsement, posted to the Belleville PBA’s official social media channels read: “Belleville PBA Local No. 28 is proud to announce our support for incumbent Mayor Michael Melham in his re-election campaign for Mayor of the Township of Belleville. Mayor Melham has time and time again shown his support for law enforcement and first responders through the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the sweeping anti-police movement. He has shown his support by standing with Local No. 28 and our community.”

Melham is running for re-election on Tuesday, May 10 with his slate of candidates, Deputy Mayor Naomy DePeña and Councilman-at-large Thomas Graziano. The mayor faces a challenge from Steven J. Rovell, a sitting councilman whose seat is no up for grabs this year.

In receiving the endorsement, Melham said he was “extremely humbled, and absolutely thrilled, to have the support and official endorsement of the men and women of our fine Belleville Police Department.”

The endorsement is noteworthy because the Belleville PBA has not endorsed a candidate for local office in decades.

“That’s why Local 28 voluntarily stepping out with its official endorsement means so much, especially during these trying times,” Melham said. “This was not solicited; rather, it happened organically with the men and women of Local 28, knowing I’ve had their back, unconditionally for years. In return, they wanted to show me that they have my back in this upcoming May municipal election.”

The mayor added: “We seem to live in a world that’s upside down. Good is bad and bad is somehow good. These hard working men and women put their lives on the line, every single day, for us. Sadly, it has recently become all too popular to make them scapegoats, often by elected officials. Bureaucrats have been no better, creating legislation after legislation, neutering law enforcement and perpetuating a culture of disrespect. This sickens to me.”

Melham expressed his appreciation to Police Chief Mark Minichini, as well as the PBA, including PBA President John Hood and PBA Vice President/State Delegate Steven Plumer.

“I sincerely thank you for your strong show of support and commitment to my re-election and to our collective vision of creating a Better Belleville for all Belleville residents,” Melham said.

The Belleville Watch, meanwhile, a local organization that follows the township’s politics very closely, and that is often critical of the mayor, wrote that it found the endorsement to be too early on in the electoral process.

“It’s odd that a union would make an endorsement even before all candidate petitions are even certified, the process of which begins next Thursday,” the Watch said. “Oftentimes union leadership meets with and interviews all candidates before making its endorsement.”

The author also said he believes Melham is anything but union-friendly.

“Does PBA Local 28 not remember last year when Melham categorically dismissed voting for school board candidates endorsed by the teachers’ union? Or the disdain in his voice when he blames ‘contractually mandated salary increases’ for tax hikes and budget shortfalls,” the Watch wrote. “He’s talking about the PBA, FMBA and other unions representing township employees. A politician with such a contemptuous attitude toward organized labor doesn’t deserve a union endorsement.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.