Union City mayor’s turkey giveaway: Charitable act or political stunt?

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All year long, local soup kitchens and food pantries come out to serve the needy in New Jersey. But around Thanksgiving, it seems that a different group of people appear on the scene with free turkeys – elected officials.

Union City mayor and state Sen. Brian Stack organizes one of the state’s largest turkey drives. He and dozens of volunteers cram into a rented box truck and distribute the turkeys door-to-door in his legislative district. It is a three-day effort to give out 27,000 free turkeys.

The turkeys are paid for by donations to the Brian Stack Civic Association, Stack’s nonprofit organization. There have been a few lawsuits over the years from police officers who said that they can't get promoted unless they contribute to the charity. All of the cases have been settled out of court or dismissed. Stack denies any of it.

Some of Stack’s political opponents say that when the people of Hudson County go to the voting booth, they are going to remember the person who gave them the free turkey. Longtime Stack critic Joe Blaettler says that is just as much the point as feeding the needy.

“Giving out the turkeys is secondary,” he says. “The primary goal is to build political capital, advance his political agenda. I remember, I don't know if he still does it, years ago he used to put a picture of himself in the bag with the turkey.”

Stack’s picture is actually on the bag that the food comes in.

To be clear, charitable donations, regardless of personal gain, can be a good thing. There are many people in need in Stack’s district. And people in the district seem to love the donation drive, including the volunteers who help distribute.

“it was really nice. Really organized, well done,” says resident Lenora Lopez.

Even Gov. Phil Murphy came out to help out with the giveaway.

News 12 New Jersey did try to speak with Stack about the giveaway, but he was not available to comment.

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