When the Kearny Town Council got together Tuesday, Oct. 24, it was as if someone had turned on a time capsule that brought everyone inside that chamber back to 1998 — and then set off a few fireworks once everyone got there.
What normally involves matters of routine got particularly contentious at the public speaking portion of the meeting as resident Angela Kolbinger took to the microphone.
Kolbinger, a resident of the Second Ward for 50+ years, covered a gamut of gripes she had with interim Mayor Peter P. Santana. She didn’t hold back much and was extremely loud and animated in her questioning.
“I left you a message, Pete, never heard back from you,” Kolbinger excitedly said. “I am upset with you. I am upset with every councilman who has done what they have done to Carol Doyle. I am sick. I am so disheartened that you, Pete, would allow, 25 years, ago, the woman in your picture, her father didn’t become the judge.
“Why do we have to bring up my past, your past? You could have stopped that. But you choose not to do that. I am out there, Pete, and I am home sick and still fighting. People don’t like what you did to her and I don’t think you’d like it done to you.”
Kolbinger later said she was referring to former Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who as chairwoman of the Kearny Democratic Party, unilaterally removed Doyle from her county committee seat last month.
It didn’t end there, however.
“I didn’t like the comment you gave me the one night we were outside and you said you’re disappointed in me because I put up Carol Doyle’s sign,” Kolbinger said. “And I said to you, ‘I interview every councilman running.’ I interviewed you too … you had the control but you didn’t stop it. You made everybody make a choice. You’re just as bad as the other mayor. That’s how he operated our town and I am not having my town operated like that. You should have just left well enough alone in the beginning and just ran it — let’s throw the dice and who wins, wins — … but did you ever ring my doorbell? No.”
Kolbinger went on to say that despite assurances to the contrary, she believed Santana would still “go through with the parking,” meaning a parking utility.
“You’re destroying this town,” she said
Kolbinger also took great exception to a previous council meeting when a gentleman spoke up about having a list of numerous illegal apartments, many of which are in the First Ward. She asked first-year Councilman George Zapata, who represents the ward, if he saw the list and it further erupted into a bruhaha.
“Did you see this list?” Kolbinger asked Zapata. “It’s a yes or a no, a yes or a no. Did you contact (the person) to help him with his problem?”
As she finished this question, Town Clerk Patricia Carpenter noted the 10 minutes allotted to her (as with all speakers) were up — but she still demanded an answer. And got one — sort of.
“My mother taught me from a young age to respect my elders,” Zapata said in retort.
Kolbinger then interrupted, again demanding more.
“I don’t care how your mother brought you up — I can tell she brought you up well,” Kolbinger said. “What respect do you have to give me? Answer the question.”
“I can’t accept the premise of the question,” Zapata said.
“Good, because that means you didn’t do it,” Kolbinger said as she walked away. “That’s your opinion,” Zapata said in response.
At this point, Santana responded to some of Kolbinger’s remarks.
“With regard to the illegal apartments, we have already clarified, with legal advice, the town cannot go into anybody’s properties,” Santana said. “That is on the Constitution. A property owner has Constitutional right over their property. The government cannot go in.”
From her seat, Kolbinger then inaudibly interrupted Santana’s retort — and the aforementioned Doyle chimed in.
“Angie, it’s disruptive, to all of us, calm down,” Doyle said.
Then Santana continued, noting the concept of a parking utility is now off the table and will not be part of the town’s plans moving ahead. Kolbinger had mentioned that, too, earlier. He also responded to several other gripes, including about Verizon service in the Council chambers and the reality that Hudson County Commissioner Robert Baselice received $25,000 for his parking study — no less, no more — and he is not in line for any further payments or for a job in town.
Santana also said he never got Kolbinger’s phone message as referenced early on in the meeting.
“You have my personal cell number and you know I always answered you and spent two hours with you on the phone,” Santana said, a point Kolbinger appeared to acknowledge.
And there was more
Melanie A. Ryan, of the Fourth Ward, also addressed the governing body. She wanted to know why the first seven months of reports on the town’s new ambulance service with RWJBarnabas Health, had not been released on the town’s website.
“We were told we were getting ambulance reports,” Ryan said. “We were told in October, that you (all) got the September and August meeting. (But) where is January, February, March, April, May, June, July? And why are they not available for the public to review?”
Town Administrator Steve Marks said he hadn’t been instructed to release those reports to the public.
“That was something that was promised to me by (former) Mayor Santos when I first came here after my brother-in-law dropped dead on my front lawn because the ambulance didn’t respond, so don’t tell me I don’t know what was said to me,” Ryan said, her tone much louder than usual. “That ambulance did not respond. We were supposed to have two ambulances in town and we only had one … where the hell was the second ambulance?”
At this point, the matter was dropped.
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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.