Author Archive: Tom Wyka

It seemed like a valid challenge

Promoted by Rosi

It’s December – correct?   Peace and goodwill is supposed to reign the day.  Apparently not so in politics.  Last week at an agenda meeting, I had to call out a councilman (John Cesaro) for his ideological grandstanding against COAH as “Social Engineering at its finest” in the midst of a discussion about granting a veterans organization trust fund money to establish a group home for vets.   His response?  …I’m merely being political – and it’s obvious I’m kicking off my 2013 run.

It’s kind of a disturbing scenario to observe elected officials developing a complex whereby they feel entitled to a level of status beyond reproach.  Every critic is merely a “political” enemy.

Shortly after his retort it dawned on me how to draw clear definitions between the need to criticize in the face of being accused of political opportunism,  the entire meaning of running for office, the role of political civility in light of incumbent “status” and reputation, and bundling it all up in the context of a Christmas wish.  This was my response last Tuesday.  Hope it hits the mark…

George Will once said “Some people run for office to be somebody – while others run for office to do something.”

I’ve always considered myself one of the latter despite what some people think.   And given that Mr. Cesaro has offhandedly drafted me for the Council Race in 2013,  I want to be clear on exactly why I run for office.  So I’m going to propose an interesting challenge to prove that.

So here’s the deal – I will not run for municipal office in 2013 provided the following…

Concession of Hope

promoted by Rosi

Running for Congress 2006 and 2008 was a learning experience of a kind that few people get who might think they understand the process.  Losing by the same percentage each time was also “enlightening” (I’ll avoid the word disappointing for now) – but the favorite analogy I created for this is it’s like hiking a high mountain where the top is obscured in clouds, but the farther you go and harder you work – you get to see a little further up the path, and you’re quite a bit wiser that anyone else that’s never dared to take the walk.  

The votes my running mates and I achieved yesterday are a mile marker up the path.  And we’re standing in the road having taken a long journey and wondering why we still came up short.  What I’ve come to understand through experience is – I don’t lament that realization very long.  I’ve come to enjoy the walk … the process.   We canvassed so much in this race and it was the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done.  How can you deny it if this is really in your blood – meeting voters face-to-face.  My running mates will tell you – that if there was ever an option of what we had to do on any given night – go to a community event – go to a fundraiser – even dialing for dollars (perish the thought) – more often than not – I’d say “let’s walk”  – Let’s cover some more ground – let’s meet some more people that never knew us before.

Two Days – Two P2P Editorials – We’re just gettin’ warmed up

On two consecutive days we’ve gotten press for the Parsippany Pay-to-Play reform effort…

Wednesday – “Parsippany Should Pass Pay to Play Ban”

The Morristown Town Council balked last year at approving an ordinance limiting pay-to-play for municipal elections. Supporters started a petition drive, got the ordinance on the ballot and voters, not surprisingly, approved it. We may see the same thing happen in Parsippany.

After being rebuffed by the council, a petition drive has garnered enough signatures to get an anti pay-to-play ordinance on the ballot this fall. The ordinance would limit contributions from vendors or “professional business” entities to $300 for local candidates and to $500 for county political committees. Total contributions from professional firms would be capped at $2,500.

The council has refused to adopt the ordinance. Its reluctance is hard to understand. Why would the council not want to make a public condemnation of pay-to-play? That would be both good policy and good politics.

Now that the petition in Parsippany has enough signatures to get on the ballot, the council has another chance to do the right thing.

Thursday – “Christie’s Corruption Fight” (and his own backyard)

Ah, but the difficult thing is bringing the changes about. You know there will be push back, perhaps even from his own party

For instance, its clean image notwithstanding, even Republican Morris County is not immune to the problems Christie wants to end. There are always,

it seems, a number of freeholders (there are currently two of them) who retain their municipal jobs, and thereby, put themself in potential conflict. There are also Morris County elected officials who hold full-time public jobs. And as for pay-to-play

– the practice of vendors and professionals getting government contracts by making campaign donations … we just saw the all-Republican council in

Parsippany refuse to adopt an ordinance that seeks to control

it. The council, of course, is not alone. The freeholders have refused to ban the practice as well, arguing, oddly, that it does not exist in Morris County. The observer is left to wonder why something that does not exist can’t be banned.

Sign up to support the cause as we move ahead…

www.BetterNJGov.org

Tom

DO try this at home …

To the Parsippany Troy-Hills Council:

Over the past few years – the subject of Pay-to-Play has been debated across our state.  This corrupt process, where government contracts and jobs are doled out based on campaign contributions from job or contract recipients, is a major concern to all residents of our state, county, and town.   The Daily Record noted recently that while necessary actions to ban this practice statewide have not materialized in the state legislature – there is nothing standing in the way at this time from taking action right in our own communities.

The enormous waste of taxpayer money that has actually occurred, and can potentially take place, because of these corrupt practices should be of great concern to every citizen and elected official.  With this concern in mind – I would like to introduce to the Council a model ordinance, drafted by Citizen’s Campaign, a non-partisan citizen empowerment group, for your consideration and adoption.

The Key components of this legislation are as follows …

>   Sets limits on contributions from professionals, such as attorneys, auditors, and engineers in the year prior to negotiations.

>   Bans all political contributions by contractors from the beginning of negotiations through the performance of the contract.

>   Limits contributions to $300 to town candidates and local political parties, $500 to county political parties, and limits professional firm to $2,500 in aggregate.

>  Individuals who break the law, or try to circumvent it are banned from receiving no-bid contracts for 4 years.

Please keep in mind that my intention to put this ordinance in place is not to insinuate any past or present wrongdoing as Citizen’s Campaign advocates a no-blame approach to adopting these measures.  However, this is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to the citizens of Parsippany your dedication to preventing situations that violate the public trust.   I look forward to discussing this ordinance with you at your convenience.   Please feel free to call me to discuss your ideas or concerns at 973-xxx-xxxx.   I look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Tom Wyka

Moving Forward

Tom Wyka offers his own campaign post-mortem, with a promise to stay involved, some plugs for others doing good work, and a nice bit of well-earned thanks to the people who powered his unsuccessful bid. Tom is a bright, passionate, eminently decent guy of whom we have not heard the last, thankfully. -JG

Unfortunately the Obama campaign did not have a lot of coat tails for NJ Congressional races overall. It reminds me of an interesting article I read by David Sirota a while ago (click here to read about the idea of “presidentialism”). There’s a lesson here for us: we need to get people thinking about not just the White House, but also about Capitol Hill – all the way down to townhall – and carry a strong consistent message to all levels.  

“Presidentialism” … Amen, Sirota

This is a fantastic commentary on the “Presidential-palooza” by David Sirota and  how we’ve neglected local politics (that needs just as much attention – if not much more).

I hope and pray that this “new” enthusiasm carries us after November to sustain the real work that needs to be done.   Not just every 4 years.

(Link to his entire column, but the lead up gives a good plug to DFA and a contrast to MoveOn…)

Click here for Sirota blog and column

BTW – I highly recommend OurFuture.org newsletters

Oh to be out there talking to voters….

… Instead of spending every evening, weekend, and a few “extended” lunch hours dialing for dollars.    Talking to folks that are tight this year because of the economy – if you were counting on them for small donations … or have already dropped a pretty penny on Obama, or “competitive” races, if you were targeting them for larger donations.

But that’s the political system that we put up with, year after year:  One built on three and four figure dollar-a-plate dinners,  One fueled by incessant phoning to the deep pockets by the folks that we sent to D.C. to actually mind the store, or the challengers that aspire to unseat them.   As the financing cycle continues, the conversations with the electorate are left on hold

It certainly might sound like sour grapes for a candidate like myself, but in reality, it’s sour grapes for the entire electorate.  Except for the staunchest Libertarians and Cato aficionados, who are now mobilizing to add their voice to the conservative bullhorn with groups with Orwellian-sounding names (shocker there), most of the public thinks there’s a problem with the influence of money in politics, that dollars do not necessarily follow good ideas like they do in the market place.  

Bill Moyer put it very eloquently (as expected) when I met him last weekend… if money is the equivalent of free speech, then the poor have lockjaw.  

Those who recognize the root of our problem with regard to a responsive government long for a day when our democracy is about ideas and not dollars, as JerseyGator laments in his post here.

We’re not that far away.  You can take it back.  There are bipartisan bills pending for federal clean and fair elections from the White House to the “People’s House” (or what we would like to call it again).  

I’ll be proud to co-sponsor these efforts and pass on a better political system to the next generation –  but you can add your voice today to take buy back your democracy, whether your incumbent is a Dem or GOP.  Click here.  

Thanks,

Tom Wyka

Democratic Candidate NJ-11

Connecting to voters on what matters

Promoted from the diaries — Juan

We had a wonderful rally this past Sunday with Senator Lautenberg, myself, Dan Grant (Freeholder Candidate for Morris County) and Diane Weeks (Candidate for Morris County Clerk).

I took the occasion to point out how we connect to voters in the Wyka Campaign, on the issues that really matter to them…

Rodney “always there” for vets?

The first time I ran into Robert Tracey, the noted veterans’ advocate of Morristown, I was at a Bill Bradley book signing in Mendham, passing out flyers for my congressional campaign.  Mr. Tracey kindly waved me off with a smile saying that he strongly supported our incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen, indicating that he’s “always there” for veterans.  In politics, conventional wisdom says that you need to spend your time engaging the “persuadable” voters, and I sensed that Mr. Tracey was probably not going to be very receptive if I tried to engage him in a lengthy discussion about his congressman’s voting record.  It’s painful for me to resist these opportunities – as I’ve always prided myself in educating the electorate.  I believe in what Jefferson said when he stated “an informed democracy will behave responsibly”, but this probably wasn’t the time or place to talk about how our incumbent is currently rated the worst representative in NJ according to Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group for disabled veterans with a history dating back to WWI.  Yet our same representative is quick to steal photo ops with vets any chance he gets, and touts votes for veterans benefits that are non-controversial and passed by overwhelming majorities.

Unlike our congressman, I’m not a veteran myself, and no deed that I can lay claim to even comes close to the sacrifice that these people have made for our country…..