Aronsohn, Anti-Valley Expansion Group Feud Over Endorsement of Hauck, Pucciarelli
Head of anti-expansion group Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR) says the incumbent councilman's endorsements are just politics; Aronsohn says endorsees would help change village government for the better.
Citing a need for new voices on the dais, incumbent Councilman Paul Aronsohn endorsed council hopefuls Albert Pucciarelli and Gwenn Hauck at the candidate's debate but has apparently lost favor with hospital expansion foes Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR) in the process.
"It's a very significant concern," CRR Chairman Pete McKenna told Patch shortly after Monday night's debate.
The organization – which has fought Valley Hospital's $750 million 'Renewal' expansion proposal – endorsed Aronsohn, Mayor Keith Killion and candidate Jane Shinozuka roughly a week ago. All three have either opposed the 'Renewal' proposal voted down by the council in November, or publicly taken a stance against it.
While the organization has not yet officially responded, McKenna said he personally was upset and surprised with Aronsohn's endorsements of one candidate who in the past has spoken out in favor of the expansion plans, Hauck, and another who if elected has pledged to abstain from future expansion hearings, Pucciarelli.
"As an individual, if he sees this as a way to govern, I'm not sure I even want him back on the council, no less [as] mayor," McKenna said, adding Aronsohn has a "right to align himself with whoever he thinks will further his political ambition."
Aronsohn – who when first announcing his candidacy said he was not running on a slate – defended his endorsements.
"I'm still an independent candidate, I'm not running on a slate," he said, adding there's a "natural gravitational pull" toward like-minded candidates in an election.
"If you are fed up with 12 percent salary increases and retroactive pay raises for management; if you are fed up with business as usual here in Village Hall; and if you believe you and your families deserve good, responsible government, I urge you not only to vote for me Paul Aronsohn next week," Aronsohn said in his closing remarks, "but I also urge you to vote for my friends Gwenn Hauck and Al Pucciarelli. Because together, and only together, can we bring about new change to Village Hall."
In a follow-up conversation, Aronsohn remarked that he remains steadfast in his view of the Valley Hospital expansion saga, now about half a decade long and an issue that brings with it much contention, and potentially many votes.
"No one on the council or running for office this year has been a more outspoken critic of Valley's proposal," he said. "I'm the only one calling for the Master Plan amendment to be rescinded."
The candidate expressed surprise that CRR's public face would be miffed and taken aback by his endorsement on Monday night, saying in interviews with the grassroots group he made clear he supported both Pucciarelli and Hauck.
"He made clear he supported Al and Gwen and that he would do whatever it took to unseat Mayor Killion," McKenna responded in a follow-up conversation, saying the "explicit" public endorsement wasn't expected.
Aronsohn stated he "honored Killion's service" but said he found "fundamental differences" between them in their approach to government, sparking in his view a need for a new-look council.
McKenna, in a conversation Monday night, also said he found Aronsohn's slamming of Village Manager Ken Gabbert's 12 percent raise as coming across "very petty" given how it's a $20,000 drop in a $40 million-plus bucket.
The CRR leader said he felt Killion's candidacy was strengthened with his Monday night debate showing.
Killion declined to comment on Aronsohn's endorsements Monday night.
Pucciarelli, who in turn expressed support for Aronsohn and Hauck, said Aronsohn ran it by him prior to the debate, and he had nothing but good things to say about the incumbent.
"I have enormous respect for Paul," Pucciarelli, a planning board member, said. "I seem to fall in line with him on just about every issue; not all issues, but most issues. I also respect his energy...he's also very principled. When you talk to Paul...he says exactly what he says in public as he says in private."
Hauck, who said she was not informed by Aronsohn prior to his public statement Monday night, expressed similar sentiments as Pucciarelli, giving the thumbs up to both.
"We're on the same page on almost everything," she said.
No CRR-endorsed candidates in municipal and school elections have yet suffered a defeat on election day.
The Ridgewood Village Council elections take place on Tuesday, May 8. Six candidates are running for three seats, each with a four-year term. Check back for a full recap on the Candidate's Debate on Tuesday.