Jersey City, that often ignored sliver of land in New York City’s shadow, got a flood of national media attention this week. All it took was Councilman Steve Lipski allegedly urinating on a crowd of Washington, DC concertgoers.
That would be political suicide in some places, though not necessarily here. Lipski yesterday performed his mea culpa at a city council meeting, revealing that he was a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon that night for the first time in two years. And, at least for now, Mayor Jerramiah Healy is not disowning the councilman, his political ally.
“This is a legal issue that will be resolved in the courts. Mayor Healy is focused on moving forward and continuing to make Jersey City a greater place to live and work,” said a statement issued by Healy's office yesterday
What’s less clear is weather Healy will keep Lipski, who represents Ward C, on his slate in May, when both are up for reelection. Two sources close to Healy insisted that he had not started forming a slate yet. Asked whether the incident would figure into Healy’s decision making, one said “How could it not?”
Lipksi’s situation could put Healy in a tough spot. It could appear hypocritical for Healy to chastise Lipski when he has two embarrassing alcohol-related incidents on his own record: a photograph of him passed out nude on his front porch and a disorderly conduct conviction from 2006. But it could also make his ticket the butt of many jokes.
Jimmy King, who runs a civic association and ran against Lipski in 2005, said that he’s not going to “kick anybody while they’re down.” But he did say that it could cost him some votes.
“I’m sure it’s not going to help him, but that will be entirely up to the voters. They’ll have to make that decision if he decides to run,” he said.
King, for his part, said that he’s been approached to run on the slate of just about every prospective mayoral candidate – except Healy.
“A lot of people in my ward are asking me to run. I’ve been thinking about it,” said King.
Yesterday, Councilwoman Willie Flood told reporters that Lipski told her had had merely spilled a drink off the balcony. That was contradicted, however, by a concertgoer who told the Jersey Journal that he witnessed the act. Lipski, the spectator said said, “had this grin on his face, and you could see his manhood in his hand” with a "long arc and stream of urine coming out into the crowd."
Update, 3:35pm: In an interview with PolitickerNJ.com, Healy offered some fresh quotes about Lipski. While Healy said that Lipski's arrest will be taken into consideration when he chooses his council slate, he seemed to indicate that he's not politically dead.
“We’ll take everything into consideration, of course. But Steve has been caught up in a terribly embarrassing and personally humiliating situation. He has been very candid and forthright, and he did it last night in front of a bunch of press at city council. He understands that he has a longstanding issue that he’s taken steps to address it and he’s going to take further steps to wrestle with this demon….
Steve has been a hard working, intelligent, productive council person, and I think he’s been an asset not only to his ward but to the hard working residents of Jersey City for all the years he’s been on the council. He makes one terrible misstep – and by terrible I mean terribly humiliating… we’re going to let this play out in court."