Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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Councilwoman Pirro Returns; Resident Seeks ‘Sanctuary’ Status for Secaucus

The Mayor and Town Council held its regular public meeting on February 14, Valentine’s Day. Attendance was sparse with only one stalwart regular attendee (ex-Fire Chief George Schoenrock) in the audience. A few other residents were present, including Michele LaRue who addressed the council towards the end of the meeting. For the first time in months, the full contingent of council members was seated on the dais. Third Ward Councilwoman Susan Pirro returned to her seat following an absence of several months due to illness. (She participated in the last several meetings via teleconferencing.) The councilwoman was greeted warmly by her colleagues; Pirro, in turn, thanked residents for their cards, thoughts and prayers during her ordeal.

Mayor Mike Gonnelli opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the late Mayor Paul Amico whose funeral was that very day. The longtime mayor died on February 9 at age 103. First Ward Councilman Rob Costantino called Amico a “Secaucus treasure.” Costantino remembered meeting Mayor Amico when he was just a kid, having moved to Secaucus with his family, and then getting to know the mayor over the years. The councilman recalled being amazed at Amico’s filing system that he kept in his “bunker” office in the basement of his home. The retired mayor kept an index card on all residents that he would update as needed. “My brother’s card had an asterisk that denoted he had gone off to college!” Amico’s bunker “was frozen in time,” said Costantino. The councilman and his colleagues served as pallbearers at the funeral. “I was happy to know him.” Costantino alluded to Mayor Gonnelli, who was Amico’s protégé. “Mike leads in the same way. People will be saying the same things about Mike.”

Councilman Costantino, chair of the Finance Committee, reported that the town’s annual finance statement is being readied with the auditors “on pace” with it. Councilman John Gerbasio, chair of the Police Committee, reminded residents that the Police Records Room is open late on Tuesday evenings until 7 o’clock. Mayor Gonnelli displayed a rendering of a statue of a “patrolman” that will be erected somewhere in town, most probably in front of Town Hall.

Michele LaRue, of Lincoln Avenue, was the only resident to address the council. Her topic was the issue of “Sanctuary Cities/Counties,” and she asked the Secaucus council to consider making the town a Sanctuary City for immigrants. Her full statement to the council follows:

I’m here to urge the Council to declare Secaucus a Sanctuary City. I understand that, to date, North Bergen, Jersey City, and Union City have declared themselves Sanctuary Cities. All of Union, Middlesex, and Ocean counties are “sanctuaries.” Via email, February 6, in response to my request that Hudson County join them, the Chairman of the Board of our Chosen County Freeholders, Anthony Vainieri, replied: “I will discuss with County Executive and freeholders.” I believe that we would have to get all 12 mayors to agree before we can say that Hudson is one. So, I’m starting here. My ancestors arrived in Hudson and Burlington Counties in the late 1600s. When my husband and I moved to Secaucus in 1976, most everyone was Polish or Italian—maybe Irish: the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants. Secaucus today is a rich alphabet soup of Gomez, Ngo, Cho, Patel . . . and LaRue. We work together, play together, and raise our children together. We’re all immigrants. And we look out for each other.

Mayor Gonnelli asked the resident to meet with him in regard to the issue she brought up. Apparently, LaRue planned to meet with the mayor on Wednesday, Feb. 22. (Look for an update on the Sanctuary City issue in our March 2 edition.)

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