Mamta Singh is running for County Commissioner
Founder of the wildly popular JC Families organization (which hosts various events and maintains a lively social media presence) has announced she’ll be running for County Commissioner against incumbent Yraida Aponte-Lipski in District 4. This district contains mostly parts of Wards C and D, with a little bit of E in there as well.
I’m pretty excited about this race. With very low voter turnout, a June election, and with few people even realizing that they’re represented by a County Commissioner at all, this ought to be pretty competitive even if Mamta winds up being outspent. Yraida Aponte-Lipski is a name familiar to people obsessed with Hudson County politics but beyond that, she’s hardly a household name. And Mamta has a very strong network that she can tap (JC Families’ “community connects over 40,000 families and provides regular opportunities to network and celebrate all Jersey City has to offer” according to the Hudson Reporter) and hopefully convince to turn out for her.
This might be a good opportunity to put in a few words about what, exactly, a Commissioner is. Previously referred to as a “Freeholder” (the name was recently changed to Commissioner, due to the former name having racist connotations), Commissioners sit on a board of nine and advise on county governance — they’re kind of like the city council but for the county.
It’s often a little confusing to disentangle county governance with city governance, but that difference has a lot of implications for Jersey City. For instance, JFK Boulevard is a county road, not a city road. If you want to advocate for something like speed bumps or for more parking availability on JFK, you have to take your request to the county. (Here’s a map of the county vs city roads, and a list if you prefer your info in that form.) Likewise, if there’s changes you’d like to see in Lincoln Park, anything related to that has to go through the county as well, while a place like Hamilton Park is under the jurisdiction of the city. (Here’s a map of the county parks.) And let’s not forget our notorious and troubled county prison, site of numerous inmate deaths a few years ago, with the most recent death occurring just this past November. Lastly, there are the county schools (here’s a list of those). In total, they oversee a budget of $634 million as of last year.
Nobody said Hudson County politics weren’t going to be confusing. But what this means is that while the commissioners don’t immediately appear to have a ton of power or be super high profile, they do oversee integral parts of our city that affect every other part of our city. It’s also important to point out that all the current office holders are supported by the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), and most have run with only minimal challengers in the past.
In addition to Mamta Singh, former Harsimus Cove president Eleana Little is also running in Jersey City, and Rob Bautista in a district that’s largely Hoboken. There are other candidates likely to toss their hats into the ring soon. I’ll be very curious to see if anyone challenges incumbent Commissioner Bill O’Dea, who has been fairly responsive to progressive feedback and criticism overall. Will progressives want to challenge a candidate who agrees with them on at least some issues already (some, but not all), and then also has lots of fundraising, organizing, and — that rarity in the county commissioner world — decent local name recognition to boot? We’ll see.