City Council – 2/18/2009
2/18/2009 Preview Update:
2/18/2009 Council Preview
Tonight’s council meeting agenda is loaded heavy with do-over votes, unpopular Mayoral initiatives, and some pre-election grandstanding. In between there are actually a few items listed that might actually improve the quality of life in Hoboken. Overall expect a very long meeting with a lot of talk and not much action, with a side order of the usual taxpayer outrage. Where do we begin? At the beginning.
Three Ordinances up for Public Hearing and vote
DR-391 is an ordinance designed by Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi to undo the mess Mayor David Roberts and his City Council majority made over three years ago when they decided to “privatize” the city’s Finance Department. Roberts outsourced the work to the firm of Donohue, Gironda and Doria, re-assigned the workers that were in the office, and bloated the budget by another $330,000 a year. Three years later that firm has been handily dispatched by Tripodi, who is rebuilding the Finance Department with this ordinance to formally create a “Department of Revenue and Finance.”
DR-392 and DR-393 are designed to give members of the council some cover from people who say they are not doing enough to cut the budget. DR-392 cuts the salaries of the City Council by 10%, and DR-393 cuts the Mayor’s Salary by 10%. Neither ordinance will do much to cut the tax burden, but the sponsors probably think it will look good on campaign literature this spring. The votes are further complicated by a resolution to pledge 10% of the council’s salary to “Hoboken-based charitable and service programs”.
READ MORE OF WHAT’S ON TAP TONIGHT AFTER THE JUMP!!
(2/18/2009 Council Preview, continued…)
Southwest Park Resolution
Resolution #1 is sponsored by Councilwomen Beth Mason and Theresa Castellano, who have been working with the Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition to secure funding for the proposed SW6 park. This resolution would submit an application to the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund for $3 million in grant money for open and recreational space and flood remediation. Mason joined members of HSPC at the county’s annual mandatory pre-submission meeting.
False Fire Alarm Ordinance
99.9% of the time when you hear fire truck sirens in Hoboken, our bravest are heading to a false alarm in one of the newer buildings. The new automated systems are often trigger happy, but right now there is no incentive for the building owners to fix them to lower the number of false reports. After consulting with the Acting Fire Chief and Fire Marshall, Councilwoman Mason is proposing a new ordinance that would include graduated fines for the worst offenders. The first false alarm would get a warning, the second a $25 fine, and then up to a $250 fine for the sixth alarm and beyond. I think it should be more, especially with all the OT!
Maxwell Place Waterfront Walkway $$$
Another ordinance authorizes the expenditure of $11,621,723 to continue the Maxwell Place Waterfront Walkway. About $8.5 million of that comes from a federal grant through the New Jersey DOT and the rest will be paid for by Toll Brothers (about $3.1 million). Critics have been saying for years that this is a sweetheart deal that goes back to when the Maxwell House factory was owned by Dave Roberts’ developer buddies Danny Gans and George Vallone of Hoboken Brownstone Company.
After the $8.5 million dollar federal grant came in to relieve Toll Brothers of their burden to pay for the walkway, Jim Doyle urged the city to ask Toll for some of that money back. The thought at the time was Toll was on the hook to build the walkway no matter what, and the federal grant money was a windfall bonus for them. Then Judy Tripodi came in and found out something alarming. Turns out the way the Roberts administration handled the agreements it was the city that was on the hook for the money, not the developer. Tim Carroll of the Hoboken Reporter reported Tripodi asked for the resignations of two city officials over the matter, but didin’t name them. We hear one of them was Community Development Director Fred Bado, and the other being former Business Administrator Richard England – but since the Reporter has dropped the story with no follow up, the whole issue remains an open question.
Roberts won’t give up on “The Western Edge”
When Dave Roberts started hitting up developers for campaign contributions before his 2005 re-election campaign, he made so many promises.
One of them was to his biggest campaign contributors from the Tarragon/Ursa partnership: to grease the wheels for a massive new redevelopment project on “The Western Edge” that would include several high-rise towers from 12 to 16 stories tall. Activists sued the city over Roberts’ illegal “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) with Tarragon/Ursa, which turned out to be a roadmap for a quid pro quo arrangement. Over four years after that MOU fiasco, Roberts is looking at the waning days of his time in office with his promise to Tarragon/Ursa yet unfulfilled. Today Tarragon is bankrupt and once again Roberts wants the Western Edge plan pushed through to the Planning Board tonight. Will it fly? Will it even get a sponsor and co-sponsor?
Council Health Insurance Ordinance
In another election year effort to appear to do something, anything to cut the tax burden, Council members Dawn Zimmer and Peter Cunningham are co-sponsoring an ordinance requiring council members to contribute a portion of their salaries toward their city-sponsored insurance benefits. A better question might be: why do part-time council members get city-sponsored insurance benefits that other part-time city employees are not eligible for? The issue has been touchy for years, as some council members have been getting double coverage from spouses also on the city payroll. Others employed by the private sector have taken stipends from employers in exchange for getting off their company benefits in favor of the taxpayer-paid plan.
Parking Utility Bonds back on the agenda
The council turned down an additional $2.2 million in borrowing to pay an already paid bill to Unitronics for the 916 Garden automated garage retrofit at the last meeting. It’s back on the agenda tonight with a more thorough memo from Judy Tripodi explaining why she thinks they need to pass it tonight. The memo is included in the resolution pack.
As always, people can sign up to speak on the ordinances up for second reading and any resolution, as well as on any topic for five minutes during the public portion. The meeting begins at 7pm at City Hall. Stop by Carlo’s on the way in to pick up a box of cookies to share because it will be a long meeting. Better yet – Futonland might be a better option.