In the second of three excerpts from our interviews with Pasquale Menna and John Curley, the mayoral candidates size each other up.
And, as always, the shadow of Mayor Ed McKenna looms.
redbankgreen will have one more excerpt on Nov. 1, as well as individual profiles of Menna and Curley shortly before the Nov. 7 election.
How do you get along with Pat Menna?
I get along with Pat, but I dont trust him. Ive seen Pat speak out of every side of his mouth.
Pat can be a very pleasant, charming individual. I just dont trust him, and he knows it. He puts a finger in the wind before he commits to a particular side in an issue. He says he opposed the parking garage. He was undecided until the last minute, when he saw the enormous opposition of the residents. Meanwhile, Id been out pounding the pavement, letting people know that this thing was about to be rammed through. One thing I’ve found out about Mr. McKenna and his cronies is that if you put enough angry people in front of them, they’ll back down.
Do you think Pat Menna is one of McKenna’s “cronies?”
Yes. I think he has good intentions, that he wants whats best for the borough. But I dont think hes strong enough to bring about change. Hes lived too long in McKennas shadow. We need new blood, a new infusion of ideas.
Is Pat Menna fit to be mayor?
Yes, I think that certainly he is fit to be mayor. Pat and I just have a different view of the direction in which the borough should go. But I think that hes quite capable.
The Democrats have called into question your fitness to be mayor. In their campaign literature, they say you havent got what it takes. What do you say to that?
My response is that what it takes to serve the people is a commitment to the people. Just because Im not a local land use attorney or a local contractor does not preclude me from serving in public office. Ive been serving for the last four years and Ive been very responsive and concerned about the individual needs of our residents and our businesses.
Fair of not, youve got a reputation of something as a hothead.
Ive got passions. And I think if people want honesty and integrity in government, then they should support me.
Keep in mind, in all my time I have been in a minority position, and have been met head-on at every turn by a bully of a mayor who cant even say, Thank you, councilman, when I make a report or give a recommendation. I can be a pleasurable, congenial guy. But when I see something that is not correct, or perhaps illegal or unethical, I will stand up and say that. I have backbone.
Do you feel you work well with John Curley?
I have worked with him. I think that there has been a degree of respect between the two of us.
Do you like him?
I respect him. Would I take him out to Lutece for lunch? No.
Do you trust him?
Baring the deep recesses of ones soul, no, I dont trust him. I probably at one point would have, but not from what Ive seen.
Do you think John Curley is fit to be mayor?
I believe that John doesnt have, number one, the temperament. He doesnt have the dispassionate, unemotional outlook that it takes to be a leader. I think that his statements in the past, which have been on the record, in terms of saying he doesnt give a damn about Riverview hospital, are irresponsible. Theyre the biggest employer in town, with 500 residents who are employees, and they have 2,000 other employees. Its a major medical center thats a boon to this community. And theyre never going to leave, so its not a question of whether theyre a tax ratable or nottheyre here to stay. I think a chief executive has to be more diplomatic.
His statement that he doesnt want anybody calling him if theyre coming before the planning board or zoning board is also irresponsible. I mean, somebody may want to improve their delicatessen or something like that, and theyre going to say, you know, Does it make sense for me to do it or not? Youre not going to tell them if its going to be done or not be done. But I think you have an obligation to treat all of your residents, whether they are people who own property, or developers, or are immigrants who have no voice, the same way. And thats why I say I dont think he has the temperament.
I also think his personal vendetta with Ed McKenna should never have been brought to the table, whatever that may have been about. And youll have to ask themI dont know what thats all about because I still cant figure it out. All I know is that at one point, when John first ran for council, they were inseparable. But youll have to ask them.