More on the proposed salary cuts

12/22/2008:

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…

hoboken-salary-cuts.jpg

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

nino-giacchi-headshot.jpgAccording 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

dawn-zimmer-hoboken-councilwoman.jpgLast 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.

Thank you.
Dawn Zimmer
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”.

Feel free to add your comment below.

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16 Comments on "More on the proposed salary cuts"

CastlePointWatcher
Member
CastlePointWatcher

[quote comment=”123993″]The discourse over this is interesting and healthy. There are many reasons why those in power abuse it and use it for overly selfish gain. The failure of our private sector CEO’s and elected officials example our times. There are many variables causing this. I try to reason things out and believe that common sense is all too uncommon (The book “The Death of Common Sense). If our leaders continue on the current path, this great country will die before its time, and as history records, all great civilizatons have had their greatness pass away. Surely, we can manage this mile square city more efficiently The US has a new leader who may show us the way. In Hoboken we need change for the better.[/quote]

Agreed. I only wish it were easier to show people how easy it would be to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

truth1
Member
truth1

The discourse over this is interesting and healthy. There are many reasons why those in power abuse it and use it for overly selfish gain. The failure of our private sector CEO’s and elected officials example our times. There are many variables causing this. I try to reason things out and believe that common sense is all too uncommon (The book “The Death of Common Sense). If our leaders continue on the current path, this great country will die before its time, and as history records, all great civilizatons have had their greatness pass away. Surely, we can manage this mile square city more efficiently The US has a new leader who may show us the way. In Hoboken we need change for the better.

OldNewComer
Member
OldNewComer
[quote comment=”123978″][quote comment=”123976″]Perhaps, I missed the boat; but, the council positions are classifed as part time at $500.00+ per week. Dedication to serving the public by properly representing their interests should be a main motivating factor and not the $$$. Of course they should be compensated in comparison with surrounding communities. If salary was the way to get top performers, what happened in the Mayor’s case with his high salary which is over six figures. Did not his budgets result in overspending for six years under his watch. The $11 mil. deficit was the one that caused the state supervision (takeover) and exposed this financial nightmare. The example to lead starts with the little but important things. We want to see some leadership which puts the public first :!:[/quote] You are absolutely right. Does anyone know someone who has said they would run for Council or Mayor, if only the job paid more? Or for that matter the US Senate or the President? The desire to do public service is what makes a good elected official – not the desire for power and self enrichment (know any of these?).[/quote] For case of Senate or President, or anything expected to be a real full time job, that’s just not correct IMO. If you squeeze down salaries in that case, you get more corruption, very predictably. Singapore has almost no corruption, they pay high officials $1m+ salaries. I’m not suggesting that, but the reality is too low pay is a temptation to… Read more »
hobojoe
Member

I know several people who are well qualified to serve as councilpersons in this town. They would be more than satisfied with the current pay and do an excellent job.

So then why don’t they run? Put simply, they don’t want to stoop down to kiss some self-important political bosses’ ass to get their obscenely expensive election campaign bankrolled with dirty money.

That’s the real reason most of our elected officials are what they are today.

notnow
Member
notnow
I am sorry Truth. You seem to want to apply common sense here, where it just does not work. There is something terribly wrong with a system that continually fails to perform in an efficient manner. The intention of honor and dignity has failed us too many times. Perhaps if we had the death penalty for corrupt Politicians, than maybe you would be correct. Instead we catch them, indict them, then encourage their family and friends to run. This process has been repeated over and over in our State. We have the same problem with the Hoboken School Board. They receive no salary and no benefits, just the “honor” of serving, and look how far that has gotten us. We pay $28,000.00 per pupil, when the State average is about 10K, with horrible results. We have never tried applying better pay to politics, so we do not know if the results may turn out better. What we have tried over and over again was this theory of doing it for “Honor” and it has not gotten us very far. The sad part here is that no matter how much we debate here, our current Council has no power to do anything. They gave that power to the State, which was insane. With a little hard work and due diligence, they could have uncovered much of the inefficiencies themselves. For God sakes, we have members of the public that figured it out in a matter of weeks. The problem is simple.… Read more »
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