More on the proposed salary cuts
For reasons beyond me, the fallout from a debate over an (almost) election year effort to cut the salaries of members of the City Council continues.
As I wrote last week, this was hardly the biggest thing to come out of a meeting that included two and a half hours of insightful public comments about the Dave Roberts budget fiasco.
Even so, there are those who want to keep talking about this minor meeting footnote, so here we go…
How this all started
First you should know this all started early in the week before the meeting when first ward councilwoman Theresa Castellano submitted an ordinance that would cut the salaries of the council by 10%. Castellano submitted soon enough for consideration and approval by State Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi, who has final say on the council’s actions these days.
Since the Castellano ordinance only effected the council, she was given the green light to proceed. Later that week fourth ward councilwoman Dawn Zimmer proposed additional ordinances that would have cut the council’s salaries by 15%, and threw the Mayor and his directors in there as well to share the pain. Zimmer also proposed a hefty co-pay for council members who signed on to the city’s full health benefits as part of their $23,000 a year part-time job, all worthy suggestions for debate. However, while the council can take a vote on just about anything it wants, at this point the final say is with Tripodi, who council President Nino Giacchi says has problems with Zimmer’s proposed ordinances.
See what Zimmer had to say after the jump…
(Hoboken Salary Cuts, continued…)
Referring the ordinances to committee
According to the council rules, resolutions can be adopted immediately while ordinances must be voted on for introduction (first reading) before a public hearing and final vote is held at a later meeting. They can’t adopt an ordinance in one vote. Castellano’s 10% ordinance was on the agenda first, and she offered to table it for committee discussion instead of putting it head to head in what would be a divisive debate over her ordinance vs. Zimmer’s.
Giacchi agreed that the ordinances should be discussed first in committee, and offered Zimmer the opportunity to table it for further discussion. When she refused, he attempted to use his discretion as President to remove all of the ordinances (Castellano’s and Zimmers’s) and move on. That led to an angry outburst by Zimmer who demanded a vote on first reading.
The bottom line is the council was not prepared to vote on any of the ordinances, and on advice from the city attorney they ultimately voted on a motion to refer all the ordinances in question to committee. By a 7 to 2 vote (with Zimmer and her co-sponsor Peter Cunningham dissenting) the ordinances were referred to committee. A 7-2 vote is not a close vote, and it was clear during the debate that none of the ordinances had the votes to be carried that night anyway. Nevertheless, the debate continues.
Zimmer weighs in with this statement:
Pay-Cuts Must Start at the Top
Last Wednesday night, the City Council considered four ordinances, each dealing in some way with Hoboken’s out-of- control personnel costs. If adopted these ordinances would have: Imposed salary cuts of 10 percent or 15 percent on the City Council;
- Required salary cuts of 15 percent for the Mayor and City directors;
- Instituted substantial insurance premium “co-pays” for those City Council members, like myself, who are enrolled in the City’s health care plan.
I introduced three of these ordinances, and with Councilman Cunningham, supported immediate action. Since the full Council tabled them, I support their prompt release from committee, and adoption at the next meeting. This action is not hasty: It is long overdue. Payroll and benefits represent the vast majority of the City’s budget. Many of our City employees, particularly at the top, are compensated far more generously than their colleagues in nearby municipalities. We simply cannot afford this. It is not possible to return to fiscal health without tackling personnel costs head-on. Hoboken needs to cut costs while maintaining essential services, and salary reductions must be a part of the plan we implement to solve our City’s fiscal crisis.
Addressing salaries and benefits of the City’s decision makers first is not just a symbolic act. It is the start of a long overdue top down process where all personnel costs are brought under control. Many Hobokenites fear that only the people at the bottom of the pay scale, those who can least afford it, will pay the price. The measures I proposed with Councilman Cunningham will make clear from the outset that sacrifice must be shared by everyone. As elected officials, our job is to lead. I call on my colleagues to join me, and Councilman Cunningham, in taking these extremely important steps forward. And I call on the public to voice its support for these measures.
4th Ward City Councilwoman
For his part during the meeting Giacchi stressed that he wanted to pull the ordinances so the council would not look “silly” by voting on them only to have Tripodi dump them. He also said forcing a vote was designed to put council members on the record in a way that smelled “of politics”.
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