Judy Tripodi Slams Mayor Roberts
It rained this past weekend, so your delivery of the free weekly paper probably disintegrated into a soggy mess of desperate real estate ads on your doorstep.
Tripodi gets top billing
But seriously, in case you missed it there was actually a solid front page article by reporter Tim Carroll billed as an “exclusive interview” with new state fiscal monitor Judy Tripodi. The story included many interesting nuggets of information concerning the pathetic status of the city’s fiscal health, and I’ve heard from many Hoboken411 readers that they would like the opportunity to discuss it here. Among the points in the article:
Tripodi said that last year’s budget wasn’t the only one that ended up being overspent. “The city has overspent its budget for the last six years,” Tripodi said. “It’s been 16 years since the last significant tax increase,” Tripodi said. “The problem wasn’t created in one year.”
Hmmm… what’s different about the last year that wasn’t the case for the previous six years? Oh yeah, three new council members were elected to the 2nd, 4th, and 5th ward seats who replaced three veteran council members who were reliable votes for Dave Roberts’ bloated budgets. Roberts was calling the shots with his council majority for every year that Tripodi says “the city has overspent its budget.”
Tripodi said… taxes in Hoboken have been artificially low for some time now… According to Tripodi, the city has just now caught up from years of flat taxes. In other words, city leaders who have kept taxes (and possibly their own political viability) stable for many years may now have to make amends.
Which “city leaders” have to “make amends”? Those who have been there longest and have a voting record of support for Roberts may come to mind first.
Now Tripodi is working to correct the fiscal ills of the city, but she doesn’t want people to expect immediate results. “I’m not Wonder Woman,” Tripodi said. “And I don’t like to take any action before I know all the facts.” She said her goal is to set up best practices and put the right people in place to get the job done.
That sounds like an indictment of the Roberts administration, which according to Tripodi has not utilized “best practices” and does not “have the right people in place to get the job done.” Another thing Tripodi says Roberts screwed up was his “Golden Parachute” buyout plan for highly paid long-time city employees and directors. Tripodi put a stop to it:
One thing she did recently was halt a proposed buyout for retiring city workers. She said it did not conform to state policies. She also said she will bring in an expert on purchasing. “On my watch, they’re going to be held accountable,” she said.
Then there is a question of waste, fraud and abuse. Tripodi told Carroll she found many issues that need to be addressed, including:
- Former employees still getting health care coverage even after they are gone
- Attendance issues
- Not enforcing internal rules and regulations
- Disorganized record keeping for vacation and sick time
- Redundant services
- Unnecessary government positions
See what else Tripodi said after the jump…
So what else did Tripodi say?
Who was in full control the day-to-day activity of City Hall over the past 7+ years? The administration of Mayor David Roberts, who was sold to the voting public as a “successful businessman” who would “run city government like a business”. Little did we know they were talking about Enron! The bloated payroll won’t be cut anytime soon:
For those expecting massive layoffs, Tripodi said that is not going to happen. She said the system for civil service employees is stacked in the employees’ favor, making it very difficult for the city to let go of extra workers. But there will be savings from retirements, demotions, and a few eliminated positions, she said. “I can’t do this all immediately,” Tripodi said. “I’m just getting through the first layer of the onion.”
Speaking of city employees, their union leaders will have a new face to deal with to negotiate their expired contracts. In the past Dave Roberts (and to be fair), many Mayors before him have used the union contracts as a carrot to help grow support through patronage for election time. It also doesn’t help when certain city council members use their votes to improve the prospects for family members on the city payroll:
Labor contract negotiations have already begun for police and firefighters’ contracts. Tripodi said that she told the union representatives at their first meeting, “Don’t come into the room unless your have givebacks in mind.” According to Tripodi, more than 75 percent of city spending is “non-discretionary,” or mandated by contracts and state statutes. So negotiating the right contracts is an important component to a balanced budget.
Though this interview was a start, transparency has not been Tripodi’s strong suit. She is very clear she wants to do things her own way, and that means more closed door private meetings on the budget than public sessions putting people on the record:
Recently, she quashed the City Council’s attempts to force city directors by subpoena to come to their meetings to answer financial questions. Tripodi said the council can meet with the directors outside of the public forum to get the information they need before sitting in committee meetings and making cuts to the budget with public input.
That’s just a sample of the world according to Tripodi. Her interview is also being interpreted as her way of counteracting the Mayor’s efforts to take some of her comments about the City Council out of context in an effort to resuscitate his chance at a third term. Tripodi clearly has issues with both the council and the Mayor, but is now on the record in great detail about how badly the city has been mismanaged over the last 7 years by David Roberts.
Remember Tripodi’s own statements when the Mayor tries to sell you a different kettle of fish.