New Jersey

The Sires Factor – Insider NJ

“I’m back” – Congressman Albio Sires announced on Tuesday afternoon in front of the West New York Public Library and presented his list of candidates for the West New York Commissions. Sires is running for mayor of West New York and is attempting to return to the office he held from 1995 to 2006. Born in Cuba, Sires immigrated to the United States as a child, making West New York his home. West New York itself is home to a large Hispanic community — the 2010 census reports that about four out of five West New Yorkers identify as Hispanic or Latino — and the officially bipartisan list that Sires espouses reflects this.

Praising the praise of his commissioner candidates, who all claim Hispanic heritage, Sires said he had some “unfinished business” since his time as mayor and wanted to get back to work. It is said that “all politics is local,” and for the Cuban son of West New York, that example couldn’t ring truer. He introduced each of the commissioner candidates at the windy and lively press conference with paternalistic pride. Victor Barrera, the first Ecuadorian-American Commissioner for West New York, promoted his work on elder services and parks and recreation improvements. Adam Parkinson, president of the West New York Board of Education, said his Cuban-born mother was actually a student of Sires’ when the congressman was a teacher at Memorial High School. Marielka Diaz, a Dominican-American small business owner, library and education councilor, is a young and ambitious woman who also comes from an educational background. Marcos Arroyo, a Dominican immigrant, was an advocate for rent control and has spent a quarter of a century dealing with housing and facility management companies across the state.

Yoleisy Yanez said she will not seek re-election but would support the Sires team if they go ahead with their campaign. “As an elected officer and as a woman, I am very proud of the work that we have been able to do, not only myself but my team on board with me or with Victor and everyone else. With that in mind, I would like to formally inform everyone that I will not seek re-election for the next term. I’ve been an educator for 20 years and I have a lot of responsibility for programs in the district that depend on special education. It’s a very demanding job to invest in because my work as a commissioner requires a lot of time and commitment… You have to be a 24/7 commissioner and I’ve done that. So again, I’m not seeking re-election, but I’m here today to support the Albio Sires list as they are a great team. All have experience in public service.”

“When I left Congress,” Sires said, “I said to myself, I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. One of the things I want to accomplish is to come back to West New York and finish some of the things I wanted to do while I was here [as mayor]. Before leaving for Congress, I was given the opportunity to serve this country in the United States Congress. It’s not something you refuse. But now I’m back and I’m standing here in front of this library. This is one of the projects we wanted to do years ago and it hasn’t been completed. This library is about a hundred years old and not even ADA compliant. Today libraries are more like community centers and that is one of my goals – to build a center for that community.”

Other goals Sires outlined included waterfront works, infrastructure and the development of overpasses to handle traffic and converting the current public library into a police station, with a new library and community center elsewhere.

“I want to make sure we give the police a place to come and be proud that they come in,” Sires said. “We’re going to make this the police station officers deserve, rather than going into a basement where they are now. There are many things we want to achieve. To achieve that I need a team and I’m very proud of the team I’ve put together.”

For some, politics serves as a platform for petty self-aggrandizement. For some, politics is a noble calling. Not exclusive to both conditions, for some, politics is a raison d’être that is no more evasive than a fish’s need for water. Sires’ records seem to prove this beyond dispute. Adept and natural, Sires swims and navigates the currents of public service while in office as mayor and later concurrently serving in the New Jersey Assembly from 2002-2006. At the end of his four years in the Assembly, Sires finally left his mayoral seat when he was elected to the US House of Representatives. There he succeeded another Cuban from Hudson County, one Robert Menendez, now the senior US Senator from New Jersey. Sires represented the 13thth and 8th congressional districts during his time in the federal legislature. Now, oddly enough, as he departs, the congressman seat will return to another Robert Menendez – the son of the aforementioned US Senator from New Jersey.

“I have to say that the people collecting signatures are very positive,” Sires said, “especially among the people who remember my time as mayor here. They are very positive that I will come back. I look forward to completing these projects, the things that are best for West New York.”

While Sires is attempting to resign from federal office to return to municipal office, current Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez appears keen to follow in Sires’ footsteps. Rodriguez has started a bid for the New Jersey Assembly. Should he be elected to that office, it would be an intriguing political phenomenon, noting that the West New York executive branch is a bridge to the state legislature. West New York itself is home to approximately 53,000 residents trapped in the shadow of the skyscrapers of New York and Newark. But as the seat of power, this crowded waterfront community has the potential to position itself as a tangible venue for Trenton: an echo of a few decades earlier, when neighboring Union City’s mayoralty grounded Menendez’s political rise.

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