Hoboken Budget Battle: The State
Decisions due tomorrow in Trenton
Joe Doria’s Department of Community Affairs is the setting for Richard Turner’s Local Finance Board to make the call on how to clean up Dave Roberts’ budget mess before too many more people notice.
The LFB meets tomorrow morning in Trenton, with a 10am agenda spot for “City of Hoboken: Proposed Supervision Act.” The State will outline provisions on how to limit the political damage of Dave Roberts overspending his budget by $12 million. Watch for Roberts to continue to kiss the keisters of Doria and Turner in an attempt to spread his overspending out over several years so the average Hobokenite won’t notice it in their tax bills.
Will it be a takoever? Who is the monitor?
Doria and Turner may avoid a full takeover of the city if only to allow Roberts to save face. After all, they all go way back together (see below). As for a State Monitor, they are expected to offer three names for city consideration, with only one expected to be considered. The rumor for months has been that one of the names to be offered will be state Division of Local Government Services Assistant Director Judy Tripodi. She would then assume the role of City Business Administrator left vacant by the resignation (from that position) of Dick England.
If you happen to be in Trenton tomorrow you can catch all the fun in Conference Room #129 at 101 South Broad Street.
If not, just keep an eye right here on Hoboken411 for the latest, and read more about “The State” after the jump, and read how the New York Times covered it here.
SEE THE JUNE 2008 UPDATE AFTER THE JUMP…
You’ve seen the battles, you’ve heard that “The State” is coming in, but….
Exactly Who is “The State?”
We’ve all been hearing about how “The State” may come in and oversee Hoboken’s finances, but who is “The State?” Is it a team of experienced, apolitical fiscal gurus who can whip Hoboken’s books into shape? Nope. Scratch the surface and you find “The State” is really just an arm of the same Hudson County political machine that put David Roberts in the Mayor’s office twice and blew up the city budget from $52 million to $102 million in seven years. “The State” is more likely to protect Roberts and punish those who uncovered his mismanagement than do anything to truly help the taxpayers of Hoboken. Here are two of the key players.
NJ DCA Commissioner Joe Doria
Joe Doria is the Commisioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which oversees local government spending and things like the investigation into Construction Code Official Al Arezzo’s business dealings. Doria is a career Hudson County politician who spent decades in the state legislature and served as Mayor of Bayonne (south of Jersey City). He left that job last year when Governor Jon Corzine plucked him from a budget battle to make him head of the DCA. Many people have pointed out that having Doria oversee the Hoboken budget is a darkly comical idea.
This irony is not lost on Thurman Hart, an adjunct instructor of political science at New Jersey City University and writer of the Xpatriated Texan blog.
In an op/ed last week for the Newark Star Ledger he wrote:
- “I have to wonder at the wisdom of whoever sent Joe Doria to straighten out Hoboken. Doria had the same problem in Bayonne when he was mayor – in fact, they managed to somehow borrow their own money from the Development Authority in order to balance his last budget that – surprise – fell short before the end of the year. It’s like sending a pimp to reform the prostitutes.“
- “Of course, the state is in no better shape. A fiscal shape that, as State Senator and Assemblyman, Joe Doria helped pad around the edges. A metaphor for the nature of this relationship strains the imagination – it’s kind of like hiring Charles Manson to talk to the boys in juvenile lockup about the benefits of clean living and community spirit. But only if Charles Manson were somehow working as assistant warden as well. “
Joe Doria is the Dave Roberts of Bayonne. After spending his city into a $23 million budget deficit Doria became so unpopular that his friend Governor Jon Corzine spared him the humiliation of having to lose an election by appointing him the head of the Department of Community Affairs. Now Doria wants say over what happens in Hoboken, and what people say he is most likely to do is protect the Hudson County Machine’s turf from a some of the City Council members looking to fix Hoboken’s government.
Doria on board to protect Roberts?
Dave Roberts has lost his mojo, and dissident factions of the City Council smell blood. Doria is now working to protect the HCDO’s hold on Hoboken, regardless of whether the machine’s candidate for Mayor in 2009 turns out to be the heavily damaged Roberts or the junior machine man in waiting Peter Cammarano.
Hoboken Reporter political columnist Al Sullivan also writes about Doria’s involvement in Hoboken:
- This is a bit ironic, since Doria left Bayonne in a budget crisis when taking the state job, and must now oversee some of the hard choices he managed to mostly avoid in Bayonne, such as laying off municipal employees. The central question in Hoboken, however, is who will oversee the naming of professional contracts? Will the City Council be allowed to put out requests for proposals that will get a range of responses, or will the state be naming those professionals as part of a no-bid process?
Some say Doria is on a mission to block any effort to put out an RFP for forensic accountants and management consultants to come in and look at the books. Why? Because that might actually uncover waste, fraud and abuse allowed to fester by the Mayor and his county overlords. There are already signs that as one of his first acts Doria will try to kill the council’s effort to put out an RFP for professionals like Alvarez and Marsal, SafirRosetti, Kroll, or any other internationally known consulting form which could come in and do a bottom up review of the Hoboken’s budget and operations. If the council complains too loudly, he will likely try to punish them by petitioning a court to take away their spending powers.
Council members Beth Mason, Peter Cunningham, Theresa Castellano, Mike Russo and Dawn Zimmer have signed a letter calling for the city to put out on RFP for those professional services. When it was brought up at the last council meeting City Attorney Steve Kleinman said he would put the RFP out if the council requested it. They have. Now will Roberts and Doria kill it?
Then there is Richard Turner
Right alongside Doria is Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who chairs the DCA’s Local Finance Board. Turner has been right there to serve as Dave Roberts’ man on the LFB every time he asked for a CAP waiver or permission to borrow tens of millions of dollars. Turner helped with the backdoor borrowing deal involving the municipal garage, and smoothed the way for Hoboken taxpayers to be put on the hook for $52 million in bonding for St. Mary Hospital.
Turner is a powerful guy, since he is also a top aide for Congressman Albio Sires, as well as one of the key allies of Union City Mayor Brian Stack in his feud last year with other Hudson County power players. Turner was also to make peace with Stack’s rival, West New York Mayor Sal Vega. Turner also has great influence over the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, ran West New York for Sires when he was Mayor, and some say would love to lay claim on Hoboken.
The bottom line
So there you have it. The two guys calling the shots for the state in the Hoboken budget battle are buddies of Dave Roberts who along with him have been part of the Hudson County Machine for over 20 years. They are lined up against the council who need public support now more than ever.