$2 worth of advice…
I wanted to bump this post from seven months ago – which is about the $1 per year “advisors” that Mayor Roberts appointed. You might want to read this again – as both Mo Degenarro and Richard Tremitiedi had great advice regarding the fiscal health of Hoboken.
Was anyone listening to them?
We pay some people over 100k a year for what?
As you may recall last fall, Mayor Roberts appointed two “$1 per year advisors” in Richard Tremitiedi and Mo DeGennaro.
They write letters and make recommendations.
While some of the information might actually be good, most of us believe these will be “tossed in the vertical file” because it could possibly mean more work for city employees.
Read both Tremitiedi’s and DeGennaro’s long “Efficiency Recommendations” letters after the jump. They’ll also be speaking about them at tomorrow’s city council meeting.
Here are both letters in their entirety (very VERY long!):
From Maurice DeGennaro
“Dear Honorable Mayor, City Council President and Council Members of the City of Hoboken,
The following is a full and comprehensive report submitted as an objective view on our appointment as Efficiency Coordinator for the City of Hoboken, service to the Mayor and Council as a volunteer for $1.00 per year. The following report criticizes, reports on previous recommendations to the city government, produces constructive criticism, and brings forth new ideas for producing income. Our objective is to make the government implement procedures and to do its job.
At the outset; approximately one year ago, I asked the City Council to request the city to streamline and overhaul the health benefit system of the city. As to date, this has not been done and I only personally know of one person that gave up duplication of husband/wife benefits, namely a Councilwoman-at-Large.
Comments were made at various council meetings about the budget- that constraints should be made. The condition of the budget is the same as it was during the previous election year- late, late, late, and no explanations. The city is being financially careless and expects the tax payer to foot the bill. The point of a bid process is to take bids and bring in the most money for the project. The city had an obligation to fulfill in the bidding process for the municipal garage and they took $4.6 million less then they could have gotten, how does that meet their obligation? The city should have executed a process that would bring in the top dollar, instead of putting a specific cap on that process. The top dollar should have been secured in a proposal. Instead, they expect the tax payers to pay the extra taxes. Basically, the city is stepping on the little people and expecting the tax payers to put up with it.
We have continuously asked the Mayor and City to cut back on expenditures. Since this has not been followed, we have begged the City Council to stop payment on the bills that are out of hand and excessive. This also has not happened because the council members need to stop blanket voting on bills. One council member votes correctly, by looking at each individual expenditure and bill before voting and then voting on each one individually-this is time consuming. We suggest that the Council members be given a package containing the bills to be voted upon and a checklist with each expenditure within the bill. Also, they should have to sign an affidavit stating that they have read and understand everything they just voted “I, Nay, or Abstain” on. This will keep the Council members from just signing a bill and authorizing expenditures that they do not want, or from just nonchalantly checking every item on the list. (There is too much political posturing.)
It is our recommendation that the council committees, before instituting changes in a particular business license in the city, consult the business owners. For whatever particular type of business in question, the business owners should be able to give their opinions and explain the effects of these changes on their businesses. Before decisions are made, the council should take into account the impact on the existing businesses and whether it is helpful or detrimental to the city. The ability to voice their opinions will help them to form a better relationship with the city.
All increases in business licenses, whether it be in the form of increased licenses or increased fees, the monies should be dedicated for bars, restaurants, health businesses or transportation, money should be used for that reason, not general budget purposes. Had the council members spoken to the correct people, or consulted the taxi owners, for example, they would have been able to draw up the correct ordinance and issued licenses for specific places. Instead, they did whatever they wanted and ended up with the problem they have today, which is that the licenses can be used anywhere instead of where they wanted the specific licenses to service the uptown and downtown areas. These meetings should be applicable to every business in the City of Hoboken, wherever it would be a severe impact-whether it be the city, business owners, or citizens of Hoboken.
If this cannot be done, then a survey on the impact of the city, in various instances, should be made at a minimal [very minimal] cost to advise us on the impact. Thus we can avoid various law suits against the city.
I have asked the city to implement the palm print system in city hall, the recreation department and public works. It would be instituted so that we could get a full, fair, and efficient amount of service from our employees. I will go no further at this time, then to stipulate that some of our employees are non-productive and that it has taken almost five months to initiate and is still is not finished as of yet.
We have questioned and criticized the public parking utility as to the increases and methods of operation. It is unfair that our tax payers were given an increase from $5 to $10 to, now, $15 for their first car, $30 for their second car, and $90 for their third car. It is even more unfair that the money was used as an infusion into the city budget operations and has not produced one parking space in the City of Hoboken. Our tax payers are being strangled instead of having produced parking garages or new spaces to be made in the city. This money should be dedicated specifically for parking and building of a new garage on the northern end of the city. It is also my personal opinion that the Public Works garage be put on the first level and that multi-story public parking garage be built above it, where citizens of Hoboken can park their cars and be shuttled into the city.
In order to correct this problem, I have suggested that in several parking lots owned by the city, or where practical, a shelf car lift system be instituted. In one lot alone, it would double or triple the amount of cars in that particular lot. They would be serviced by one of the 24 hour parking utility personnel if the car needed to be let down from the lift. It would be no real imposition on the personnel, as they are on 24 hour duty already. It would not make a difference if they have to release a car from the boot system or take a car down from the lift system by being on call. It would be warranted, as it would triply increase the amount of cars in the space and income.
Next, why is it that the coins collected by the parking authority are being counted and sent to Asbury Park instead of being brought in a lock box to a bank in the City of Hoboken? The direction of the Parking Authority Director and the City should be that the monies produced from parking should be used for creating new parking, whether allocating for the purchase of new property, building a garage, or making new spaces by building on city-owned land. We have not produced parking, which is a big problem for this city, and we have, instead, used all of the assets for infusion in the city budget. While we do not owe a parking space to the people, we should be able to accommodate people in the City of Hoboken so that business is not lost and sent to other areas.
In 2002, I brought up, in the perception of giving creative ideas on the constructive end, to the Mayor and CDA director, along with Assemblyman Kenny, that a cruise line be invited to use Hoboken as a Port of Call with weekly cruises emanating weekly. Hoboken, being a transportation hub and the terminal, which has been vacant for years, would have produced a weekly income in docking fees and business brought into the city because of our proximity to the transportation hub and NYC. We lost the cruise line to Bayonne, which has a weekly docking fee of $3000.00. In addition to the amount of business brought in and would be enjoyed by an area that is in the process of being built up. Because of various Homeland Security and various other securities being implemented there are no bon voyage parties and other things like in the past. Most people go on a cruise with one or two bags, unlike international sea voyage that were formal affairs years ago.
As to the Council Meetings, I feel that the City Council should extend participation to the public by extending the public comment portion to 5 minutes with a 1 minute warning and a 1 minute wrap up, total of 7 minutes. I don’t feel that 10 minutes per month is sufficient to address public comment, although the public is allowed to questions 5 minutes on a resolution, specifically on that matter. There has been much discourse about certain people getting more time and taking longer on their presentations. Although it is necessary for attorneys to sometimes address the council for their clients, they should be given the same privileges and restraints as John Q. Public.
On public comments, where individuals are allowed to address anything not on the agenda and ask questions of the directors, 10 minutes a month is not sufficient. I also suggest that the directors of the various departments stay for the entire meeting like the council members do, so that they may be asked questions by the public, instead of walking out before the public portion of the meeting. It seems our directors, who are getting a sufficient amount of money, should be willing to service public questions by attending these meetings and listening to complaints or constructive ideas. After all, it is their job. This does not apply to all directors.
It is also recommended that the city auditors be present to address the budget matters which are in terrible shape, with recommendations and ideas on how to solve our problems. As a volunteer I have put many hours into trying to change things in our city. I can only do so much. I believe that the public should be invited and advised of committee meetings, re transportation, policy and various other committees without their participation unless invited by committee chair people to participate. However all matters, with exception of personnel, should be an open session and transparent. All city records, bills, resolutions, documents, with exception of personnel records, should be on the internet so that we have the transparency and avoid law suits and time wasted in the form of producing these records for inspection by any tax payer who wishes to achieve this. We should make it easier for the city residents to have access instead of having to go through OPRA for public records and documents.
It is our opinion that unless there is a severe shortage of personnel that never, I repeat never, should a recording be used when you call city hall. I am sorry to say that I have called City departments, including various departments in the fire department, including headquarters and have received a recording, asking me to leave a message. City personnel should be available to answer the telephone. The only offices that I have called and not gotten a recording were the Mayors Office and the City Clerk’s office, even constituent services has a recording on a various times. I am not picking on one department, this is rampant throughout the system and it is a shame since we have the personnel available.
I have also asked that the mayor appoint various volunteers to help come up with solutions to help the city as a volunteer for a $1 per year. He appointed Richard Tremetiedi, former fire chief and me. I have recommended that various others be appointed to volunteer as per Haney Ahmed, Helen Hirsch, and other interested and dedicated citizens. There is an abundance of people willing to participate and they should seek them out. It is also a recommendation that the mayor appoint one man to one job. On various boards the Mayor should have independent people that are not on city payrolls so that they can give a true perspective and opinion on their positions in the city. No city personnel should be working for the city and be on the board of education, planning board, etc, with exception of the appointment of council members required as per ordinance by the state. The Chamber of Commerce should be invited to attend various meetings so that their expertise can be given to help with various issues in the city.
On parks, I am for open space and have even agreed to the 2% tax, however, we have a one mile square city and the only direction you can go is up. In NYC, they have central park, but they have multi-story buildings. I am an advocate of parks, but we are not like Brooklyn, a borough of NYC, we are a city in our own right with limited space and if we are to acquire land for parks, the public should give up the height restrictions when necessary.
Any developments that are abated or give-backs to the city should be required to put their give back or monies up front. It was the public’s understanding that we had a recreation center and pool being given by developers and now all of a sudden we are not receiving the pool. In this aspect, the pool or the monies for the pool should have been entered immediately into a trust fund by the developer before approvals were granted or buildings were sold or transferred. I advocate a reasonable height be allowed in the city if we are to acquire the lands for park use or public use as we have an influx of more people and again, repeating, we have no place to go but up.
It was requested by the Mayor that I look into the horse situation in the police department. I called the county and asked them to adopt the horses. I called the freeholder and he said that if it was approved with the freeholder and mayor, they would enter a request the county would adopt the horses, since they are used by the city and state for various activities. Therefore I suggested that the county take the horses for their use. The mayor then advised me that he had come to an agreement with the chief on the horse situation. To this date I have called the police to ask where the horses are and no one knows where they are. I have not seen the horses in a while, but I have heard. To this date I know of no knowledge of where the horses are. According to the police dispatcher, the horses are still in the same location.
The vehicle situation in the city of Hoboken is horrendous. I cannot believe that between the police, fire and city that we have hundreds of vehicles and are paying enormous insurance and upkeep bills. It is my opinion that they should take all city vehicles, with exception of the mayor, fire and police departments, the cars should be sold and our inspectors and necessary people who require vehicles, should be given enclosed transportation or scooters, similar to golf carts that are allowed on the public streets in Hoboken. They are not to be used outside the city limits. If necessary there should be one or two cars that are available for use outside of the city. The scooters should be equipped with heaters to keep people out of inclement weather. As you said in the green instance for the taxi cabs, they should be battery operated and taken back to the station for charging at night. No vehicles should be taken home by the individuals, with the exception of the mayor. (People who use city vehicles and bill out to the city) And in the summer time, we should specifically use bicycles for police on patrol and we should also use bicycles or a similarity to the petty cabs for inspectors. There is no reason why we should provide luxury to our well paid servants in Hoboken.
Since the city has seen fit to designate walking zones, where no street parking is required and they expect the citizens to walk, why should we not expect our city servants to walk? Once you take notice of the amount of city vehicles and police cars parked around the city garage and sidewalk and on city streets on weekend, I have counted ten police cars and other vehicles on the sidewalks and street.
Finally, the last topic specifically cell phones. It has been pointed out by Beth Mason and Helen Hirsch about the misuse of cell phones. Cell phones should only be distributed to people of complete necessity. It should also be able to be turned off for outside the NJ area. I do not know why this isn’t done, and while I realize that sometimes it is necessary to make a call personal or otherwise, but the city should be tolerant for one or two calls, but beyond that they city employees should be mandated to reimburse the city.
The pet peeve that I have is that we all realize that government works slow however this government works beyond slow, they work dead slow. This report was not made to be only critical and not made to be sarcastic but to solely to enlighten the city fathers of whom we pay the Mayor a very good salary, the law department a very good salary, the city council people’s exceptionally good salary and all we get is 10 minutes a month.
Why can’t the city fathers operate the city like a business? Why can’t we take off the political hat on Sunday night and put on the business hat on Monday morning. Why can’t they operate without the premise of “Do as I say, not as I do” and stay within the framework of the law the way they expect the citizens of Hoboken to stay within the framework of the law? This is the first written and overview report and I will continue to submit reports whether as a $1 a year volunteer or as someone who may be fired for telling the truth about Hoboken.
I would like to state that the Mayor and various departments in the city have been extremely cooperative, as they feel that changes are necessary for a better operating city. Some of the input in this letter was contributed by workers in the departments and I thank them for their remarks.
Respectfully submitted and awaiting a favorable reply form the citizens of Hoboken.
Maurice J. DeGennaro”
From Richard Tremitiedi:
Subject: Efficiency, Economic and Quality of Life Recommendations
Relative to my role as a special consultant to the mayor and after attending council meetings, budget workshops, and select discussions with professionals, administrative and elected officials, please be advised as follows:
(1) To help the city deliver municipal services in a more cost effective manner it is recommended that a detailed operational audit of all city departments be performed by an experienced, recognized authority. Since considerable funds have already been expended or encumbered from the current fiscal year’s budget, this longer term forensic approach presents a realistic time frame for planning to curtail future expenditures. The council has listened to one presentation on this service. The recommended time frame should be approximately 6 months.
(2) Since public safety is of paramount importance and represents approximately $30 million of our current budget, special unbiased advice is recommended for the Department of Public Safety. For the Police Department, such assistance is available from the New Jersey State Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, N. Y. The Fire Department can get input from the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services in coordination with the Division of Fire Safety, New Jersey City University and John Jay College. The completed time frame should be 6 months to one year.
For a longer process and commitment to excellence, accreditation for the Police and Fire Departments is highly recommended. For the Police Department, the New Jersey State Police Chief’s Association has a special program for New Jersey. For the Fire Department, there is the Center for Public Safety Excellence, a non-profit 501 (C) (3) corporation, which provides training and career resource services to fire service agencies throughout the United States. This organization began in 1986 when the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International City-County Management Association developed concepts for continuous improvement of the fire service. The time frame should be two to five years for completion.
(3) All the budgetary recommendations of the City Council, especially those of the Finance Committee which was submitted to the Business Administrator should be followed-up. Particular attention should be given to:
- Reducing the cost of medical benefits to city employees
- Audit of the city’s transportation fleet
- Increased revenues from recyclables
- Reducing the cost of special service contracts
(4) Parking Utility surplus revenue should be used to provide parking solutions, i.e. to purchase property (lots) and to pay off its internal debt and not to be used as a revenue source to fund the operations of city government. In addition a separate account should be established and yield the best possible interest. The cash receipts from the parking meter collections should have proper internal controls and be deposited as per law and city auditor recommendations.
(5) There should be serious negotiations with New Jersey Transit on the development of railroad property. The objective is for the city to receive funds to provide parks and recreational space such as basketball and tennis courts as well as soccer and baseball fields. Affordable housing can also be included in the mix.
(6) PILOT payments, also known as abatements, should be scheduled more carefully and should be of shorter duration. This is important so as to not overburden the conventional tax payer who could be adversely affected with any future increases in the school or county tax levy. This will also soften the shock to some owners of the older buildings that may be adversely impacted with any future re-evaluation of property in Hoboken.
(7) The sale of city assets should be avoided. When such sale is deemed necessary, all revenues should be used to provide for long lasting capital improvements. The experience of the Observer Highway garage sale, the proceeds of which were used to “plug” previous budget deficits should serve as an abject lesson. For years we have been paying bond interest which currently amounts to approximately $108,000 per month and may now have to borrow an additional $4 million to have the anticipated sales proceeds included as revenue in this fiscal year’s budget, which is still not adopted.
In the final analysis, our dilemma is the same as the State of New Jersey – we spend too much! We are spending more than our revenues! Of course, we must strive to increase revenue; however, controlled spending is the area that must be given top priority in order to have a balanced path to fiscal responsibility. When preparing the new fiscal year’s budget, it is a good budgetary practice to forecast two to three years into the future. Accordingly, every department and division head must manage with this in mind and be held strictly accountable. It is up to the Mayor and City Council to lead by example and exact the control and discipline that is necessary to oversee this great city.
As always, I am available to provide additional explanation or information as may be required.