2016's Dark VBM Forecast

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ONE year ago...

The 2015 VBM effect on Hoboken School Board election outcomes may be the best predictor of what to expect in 2016.

One reason is that the "teams" behind each slate in 2015 are the same in 2016; each team represents the respective governing philosophy of Hoboken's two political factions, Reform and the Dark Side.

For Hoboken's uninitiated, here's a Reform and Dark Side primer.

Reform generally supports Mayor Zimmer, her Council allies (Jen Giattino, Ravi Bhalla, Peter Cunningham, Dave Mello, Tiffanie Fisher, and Mike DeFusco),  her administration. The Dark Side generally supports Mike Russo, Frank Raia, Beth Mason, Ruben Ramos, Anthony Romano, Peter Biancamano, Anthony Petrosino, Joe Branco, and so on.  The past couple of mayors that went to jail- Anthony Russo, Peter Cammarano- were Dark Siders.  So was former Hoboken Parking Utility Director John Corea.

Reform embodies transparency in governing- honest, clean governing. For example, 2015's Reform's BoE slate, Reach Higher, filed all legally-mandated campaign financing reports, then closed out their campaign account with a zero balance.

By contrast, the Dark Side enjoys operating in the dark.  The  Dark Side enjoys keeping the general public in the dark.

In 2015, the Dark Side BoE slate, A Smarter Future, did not file  a single campaign finance report.   For breaking campaign finance law, the Dark Side rewards its friends.  Campaign Treasurer Frank DeGrim was nominated for a seat on Hoboken's Zoning Board of Adjustment Mike Russo and Tim Occhipinti ( the Dark Side booted Tim once  he stopped being their useful idiot).

When the lights go out, 4 million quarters disappear.

When the lights go out, sticky fingers dip into BoE coffers.

When the lights go out, Mayor Zimmer's email are systematically stolen and distributed to the Dark Side.

When the lights go out, $5,000 "contributions" are accepted for zoning variances,

When the lights go out,  vote farmers buy a harvest of VBMs. 

The Dark Side backers of  2016's Parents United backed (and vote-farmed for) 2015's A Smarter Future (John Madigan, Britney Montgomery, Alana Kauffmann);  Reform is supporting 2016's Forward Together and supported Reach Higher (Sheila Dallara, Addys Velez, Tom Kluepfel).

Only Dallara and Velez lost; Madigan and Montgomery won.  The election results:

So... what are the lessons of 2015? 

(1)  Dark Side candidates averaged nearly 4 times more VBMs than their Reform opponents (as a proportion of their respective individual vote totals.)

(2) Dark Siders scored nearly 4 times the number of VBMs than did Reform candidates.   

John Madigan received one-fourth of ALL VBMs cast in 2015 for BoE candidates. 

(3) On the machines, Reformers cleaned the Dark Siders' clock.

 Oh, and for the uninitiated in Hoboken's Dark Side vote-buying harvest, it happens every year.

In 2014, Peter Biancamano was washed on to the Hoboken School Board on a tsunami of VBMs.  Fellow Dark Sider, "Bubbles" Rhodes Kearns, even with her 452 VBM harvest, could not surmount the machines.

Cheating is Dark Side-style democracy.  Let Parents United tell you they are "not political" when their VBM totals wash in courtesy of an 'extra-legal' political farming operation. 

Folks, honest government in Hoboken has an uphill battle.  Reform votes at the machines.  We need turnout.  Of course, in a presidential year, perhaps volume will 'trump' the predictable paper harvest.

And GA cannot repeat this enough: the same people who presided over the pilfering and mismanagement of the Hoboken school budgets are backing Parents United.    

And you know in politics, you dance with the ones who brung you. 


  1. This time it is vote 1 - 2 - 4.

  2. You forgot one of the Dark Side's greatest allies, Leon Gold and his 2014 Salon interview which many interpreted as Leon calling Charter Families racial bigots.

    Using private funds to extend a pointless lawsuit against charter schools was also seen a reform voting charter parents as a direct attack on their educational choice.

    While the dark side will always be the dark side in the last couple of elections they've had some help from anti-charter forces.

    1. There is NO equivalency between the Dark Side and an honest, volunteer, unpaid public servant who has been instrumental in the advancement of our district as a member of the Reform school board majority. In fact, the ACLU amicus data brief says more elegantly what Gold stated bluntly. No one on the School Board is "anti- Charter", they are "pro-District." Every board, and charters have them too, looks out for the best interests of their district children. I find your comment ignorant, but you are entitled to your opinion.

    2. This charter parent supports the lawsuit and applauds the Board of Ed for sticking up for the district students. Regardless of either of our opinions about Hola, Leon Gold is not corrupt and is working with the law, not breaking it.

  3. thank you for writing this! i am a proud yuppie, who recently got married and is thinking of starting a family. foolishly, my husband and i bought a home here in hoboken without looking up the school districts. I plan to attend both meetings to make an informed decision. does any one know when parents united will be meeting again? (ps. great site!)

    1. Definitely do your research, but please note that there is a long term shadow over our schools - and that is the corruption and criminal activity of a small group of people who used to run the town. 2 out of the last 3 mayors went to jail for stealing from the city and taking bribes. And a current city councilman - the son of one of the two mayors who went to jail - was also caught on FBI surveillance tape agreeing to take a bribe, but was not indicted because he was rumored to rat on others. It is real - not a made up story. And THAT city councilman along with a couple of others, runs an operation that pays for votes in our projects. And THAT city councilman and his "friends" (which include other elected officials), are behind Parents United. 2 of the three Parents United candidates are moms who have never been involved in our schools - not attended one PTO meeting, nor attended a school board meeting. And the third - is a teacher in a neighborhing town, has never once gone to a PTO or school board meeting, and is childhood friends with that certain Councilman referenced above. Unfortunately this is Hoboken. And the current school board has been behind ALL of the progress in our schools. And the corrupt and criminals want to take back the majority so we can go backward, NOT forward, to a time when the board hired friends and handed out stipends, and did not at all focus on the children in the schools. THIS Board actually works for the children - The Forward Together slate has two incumbents and one parent who has been very active in the schools for a number of years. THey have ALL been working for the kids. None of Parents United have. THe Forward TOgether slate is endorsed by the Mayor and 6 city council members (excluding the one referenced above). THe Parents United slate has the backing of ALL of the reputed corrupt in Hoboken. It takes your breath away that this exists. And that we have to deal with it. But this election is critical... the board majority is at risk. So I hope you vote Forward Together 1-2-4. (BTW - there is a School Board debate on Thursday night Oct 20th from 630-830 at the Elks Lodge at 10th and Washington that is worth attending - http://www.hobokenhorse.com/2016/09/hoboken-board-of-education-candidate.html)

    2. Unknown, you're not foolish for buying here w/o looking at the school districts- I did the same in 1996, and in 2005 chose the public schools over other options. I got involved in Hoboken politics because of conduct I witnessed by the then school board 'majority' under the control of the people who are now backing Parents United. I did not realize the extent of incompetence and CORRUPTION of these persons, now supporting Parents United, until I researched old School Board audits and EXPERIENCED the classroom improvements under Kids First (Reform), and other strides taken under honest, competent management of Board members, Kids First, Reach Higher, now Forward Together. What's in a name? Not much. The other slate, Parents United, are proxies for persons who literally used the BoE budget as a slush fund. Thousands of dollars evaporated from "petty cash," $48K was spent on hundreds of personal cell phone accounts, steak dinners, trips to Atlantic city, a payroll showing 1,050 employees most missing information like names, work sites, etc. I've written about this extensively in years past, see for yourself. This gang uses a professor in Austin, Texas as a political operative- this "professor" has single-handedly trashed public schools for years on his "education blog" posting fallacious data- and he is still serving in that capacity, feeding Peter Biancamano his talking points and political strategy. It is enough to make a decent person throw up.

      So, in summary you will NOT be making an informed decision by merely attending meetings. You need to understand where we were under the management of the Raia-Garcia-Romano-Russo School Boards and were where we are NOW. It has taken years for Kids First to right the ship, and it would be tragic to hand the school board budget back to proxies of Raia-Russo-Romano. That is all they are. Lovely people, maybe. But no one I know can recall seeing them at a school board meeting, nor advocating for Hoboken District classrooms.

      That is the challenge for persons unfamiliar with Hoboken's dark past. Anon @ 11:49 AM has done an excellent summary.

      I can tell you as a public school parent, the Reform members of the Hoboken School Board have never let me down. They have done an honest job and a thankless one. I have not even discussed the massive vote-buying operation operated by the people behind Parents United.

      The only candidates I trust with the children of the District are Sobolov, Evans and Dallara. They are in it for all the right reasons and each has a record of commitment to the children of the Hoboken District. They are not buying votes, they are asking for them.

  4. This summer I was riding a train through Glen Ridge.

    I was talking to another passenger, a teacher and parent from Glen Ridge. We talked about schools mostly. In comparing what my Hoboken first grader had learned vs. her Glen Ridge third grader, I learned a few things.

    Math: Hoboken 1st graders were introduced to multiplication and devision at the end of the year. Glen Ridge students started that at the end of 3rd grade.

    I can't be happier than I am with a school that is really working with me to educate my little munchkin.

    1. Then do yourself a favor and at no point look at the Grade 3 PARCC scores for Glen Ridge and Hoboken public schools.

      If anyone sends you a link that looks like this do not under any circumstances click on it and do any analysis. Everything is fine.


    2. I would rather see honest test scores than the rigged ones from the old administration. They looked good, but that was because not all children were being tested.

      My kid reads above grade level and her STAR assessments are at 94% in math.

    3. Anon 1:08 PM- my kid went through Hoboken public schools, her standardized test scores were through the roof, she won top Honors award(s) in John Hopkins advanced math- the Hoboken teachers are great, so are the resources in the schools. You don't want your little sunshine to be exposed to kids at all performance levels and from all different backgrounds? Okay, I see your point. Stay away from Hoboken public schools.

      Anon @ 2:14 PM- good for you! I went to NYC public schools, with all kinds of kids from everywhere on the planet, some high achievers, some not. And? I am baffled by attitudes of those like 1:08 PM.

  5. And you're a world-class researcher... right. Unless, GR's population of kids looks like that of Hoboken's, you are comparing apples and oranges. At the last board of ed meeting, Dr. Johnson stated that Hoboken's population of students is the most difficult group she has ever encountered in terms of assessment. There is such a vast difference in abilities and foundational experiences that test scores do not reflect this challenge. If you are a college-educated parent, your kid will be more than fine. I will care about test scores when they actually matter... like my kid's scores when he applies to college. For now, I care more about whether my child is in a diverse classroom and is learning how to be a global citizen because he is exposed to kids from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. (And it goes without saying that I care whether he is academically challenged by district teachers and he most definitely is.) In a truly global economy and a powerhouse one like NYC, it is imperative that my child learn to respect and work with people from different cultures (look at the mess that Trump is).

    1. Ahh, but your kid will not be fine if the scumbags from the past get back in control of the BOE or if you send your kid to that quasi-private school they have their hooks in.

  6. Could not agree with Anon 1:45 more. Why are the scores different? Let's not scratch the surface and think about it.

    I read a PU candidate's BS letter on a different site and the comments to that letter make clear the PU slate is a proxy for Pupie and the district school haters from HoLa. I guess control of one school board is not enough. They want to control ours as well. Sounds swell to me. Really looking forward to Biancamano doing Pupie's bidding as our school board pres (retching noises).

  7. Not for nothing, but "PU"? Really? Did anyone think that one through? So they are only about parents, not kids, and they stink. Brilliant.

  8. 1 - 2 - 4

    Because our children's education matters, your vote matters.

  9. Did those vote buying scumbags ever file their campaign finance reports?


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