The Daily Record

Condemning DeCroce — Ever So Politely

Daily Record — Thursday, December 23, 2010

Commentary By Fred Snowflack

As protests go, this one was not the best I've ever seen.

Alex DeCroce, the Assembly Minority Leader from Parsippany, caused a ruckus last week by suggesting that some of those on unemployment are happy to be there; delighted to sit home and collect a maximum of $600 a week. The amount and length of unemployment benefits is a legitimate topic of discussion, but that discussion should not begin by castigating and insulting those without a job.

To say DeCroce's comments lacked finesse would be an understatement.

Wednesday afternoon, about 75 people protested DeCroce's remarks outside his legislative office on Route 10 in Whippany. The protest was organized by New Jersey Citizen Action and included mostly members of various unions, one of whom, Lew Candura, was wearing two hats.

Candura is both the business agent for Local 696 of the Sprinkler Fitters union and chair of the Morris County Democratic Committee.

He said DeCroce should talk to his constituents in the 26th District, many of whom are without jobs. Candura also wanted DeCroce to sincerely apologize for his comments.

DeCroce did say he was sorry, but his apology was more political statement than anything else. He spent most of it attacking the Democratic leaders in Trenton.

And that apparently is all we are going to get. DeCroce, in fact, was not even on the scene as the protesters congregated around the sign outside his office. He was in Trenton.

Signs were held aloft, calling DeCroce a "Scrooge," and saying he deserved a lump of coal for Christmas.

One protester, in fact, came dressed with a Halloween mask depicting an unrecognizable creature and carrying a large sack.

"It's coal," said Dan Hurley of Washington Borough in Warren County.

Hurley, who is in Candura's union, said he's been out of work for a year.

"To think, we want to sit home and collect unemployment is the last thing we want," he said. "A lot of us are going crazy sitting home."

In agreement was Rob Critchley, a roofer from Great Meadows, also in Warren County.

"Unemployment is not allowing people to get ahead," he said. "It keeps the lights on and keeps food on the table."

The sentiment among protesters was genuine, but it was a largely dispassionate crowd. No yelling or screaming. Rather tame, actually. Some talked about "remembering in November." Do not believe that. DeCroce is not going to lose an election in Republican Morris County.

Operating under the theory that anything can happen at any time, there were about a half dozen Hanover Township police officers on the scene and also, we were told, two state troopers in plain clothes.

Police must be dispassionate by design. But the Hanover officers know the fear of unemployment first hand. The township council is debating a plan that would lay off a number of municipal workers, including two police officers.

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