NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The first campaign finance report filed by a mysterious political committee advocating against electing the city’s school board has revealed their primary source of funding is Mayor James Cahill, who currently has the power to appoint the board members.
Two campaign committees controlled by the mayor, “Friends of Jim Cahill” and “Cahill Egan Escobar 2010” dumped a combined $17,772.46 into the coffers of The Committee to Keep Politics out of Our Schools. Those donations made up 85% of the committee’s reported financial support.
The remainder came from two organized labor committees: Middlesex Co. Labor Council COPE Committee, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. No donations at all were made by individuals.
By comparison, the “Vote Yes” campaign has spent less than $200 on their campaign to change to an elected board.
While the “Yes” side includes teachers, parents, and concerned citizens, the “Vote No” side appears to have a public face that consists solely of the mayor and his appointed board.
Their final mailing to voters began, “We hope you have read the letters and materials sent to you by our Committee and your neighbors.”
But none of the committee’s mailings to voters have identified any of their supporters, except for the Mayor who wrote a letter on their behalf.
An attached piece of literature identified the Board of Education’s eight members, with the tagline “They’re Qualified, They Care, and They’re Not Politicians.”
The only clue given in four pieces of mail distributed by the committee was its address: 8 Crest Road. It’s the private home of Thomas Valenti, a Democratic party official and supporter of Mayor James Cahill.
Valenti’s mother Blanquita was a longtime City Councilwoman, and running mate of Cahill’s. She currently serves as a Middlesex County Freeholder.
Nevertheless, the only individuals mentioned in the literature were the board members themselves.
Their first piece of literature attacked “failed political candidates,” including of the author of this article, for proposing the question to voters on this year’s ballot. The committee called the question “a personal grab for power” and pointed to school boards facing challenges in Paterson, Elizabeth, Perth Amboy, Atlantic City, and Newark.
New Brunswick is one of only nineteen school districts in New Jersey that still has an appointed board, out of over 600 districts total. The rest are elected boards.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.