Fact Check: Keith Furman
Do you know who Keith Furman is?
As the newly appointed Vice Chairman of the Hoboken Planning Board, Furman is a powerful public official open to fair scrutiny of his political activities. That includes his eyebrow-raising public performance at last week’s City Council meeting. A major campaign contributor who led the charge for higher taxes two years ago is now the chief apologist for the failure to cut taxes this year, even though Furman pays a fixed PILOT on his own home.
It’s time for full disclosure, and another Hoboken411 Fact Check.
First, the Furman comment that sparked this post
The Zimmer slate ran on a “Detailed plan to cut taxes by 25% in the first year alone.”
Instead they passed a budget last week with no real relief. They knew they’d take hits for this during the annual public hearing on the budget, so Team Zimmer mobilized a few allies to change the subject. Keith Furman was one. He escorted Councilwoman Carol Marsh into the council chambers and signed up to speak.
Furman’s assignment: read the Zimmer talking points for her council colleagues to refer back to later, and take a few shots at the opposition before surrendering the microphone:
Did you catch that line about needing tax relief? Buried in the spin, Furman uttered these words:
“We all desperately need tax relief.” – Keith Furman, 3/17/2010
Actually, Keith Furman doesn’t “desperately need tax relief” because Keith Furman lives in a tax abated building. Even if Zimmer had kept her promise to cut taxes, Furman’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) on his Northwest Redevelopment Zone apartment would stay the same.
Living with PILOTs means freedom from tax hikes
Furman lives at 1200 Grand, an Ursa/Tarragon development with a 20-year PILOT. Furman pays no School, County or Open Space taxes. He only pays a deeply discounted PILOT to the city. When taxes go up, Furman is unaffected. Even if taxes go down, his PILOT holds steady. That stability adds to the marketability and value of his condo.
This isn’t the first time Furman has played it loose with his own property tax status, either. Ahead of the runoff election last June, Furman wrote a letter to the weekly paper. The second line began with the words, “Our taxes were dramatically increased…” Furman’s taxes didn’t increase at all, let alone dramatically, but it added drama to his letter to avoid the facts of his own PILOT.
PILOTS, Open Space Tax, and appointments
1200 Grand is across the street from the former Henkel/Cognis property often discussed as a potential park. The problem? No money to pay for it. When Mayor Dave Roberts proposed a new Open Space Tax in 2007, council members Zimmer and Cunningham pounced on the issue. Furman co-chaired the “Vote Yes For Parks” initiative with his significant other Sandra Reinardy.
This put him in the uniquely Hoboken position of living in a PILOTed building while simultaneously leading the charge for a new tax.
After the jump, see over $4000 in Zimmer campaign contributions, Furman’s appointments by Zimmer, and what the future may hold.
(Keith Furman Fact Check, continued…)
Over $4k in Zimmer Team Campaign Contributions
Furman is among the largest single contributors to Zimmer’s campaigns. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission says Furman donated $3681 between March and November, with Reinardy kicking in another $600. When Zimmer became Mayor she rewarded his loyalty with a spot on the Planning Board. Furman was also named chairman of Zimmer’s inaugural, which included a game of musical dates and times. Furman is one of several large campaign contributors appointed to boards by Zimmer and her majority, sparking criticism of an alleged “Pay-to-Play” appointments mentality.
Signs posted after Furman complains about new camera
You know the new second camera recently set up for City Council meetings? Furman complained because it shows members of the public in the audience at a public meeting. Furman managed to get over his camera shyness last week to deliver a political message. He never mentioned his ties to the Zimmer campaign, or his appointment by Zimmer to the Planning Board during his speech.
A future appointed Fifth Ward Councilman?
City Hall sources say the bearded Furman is often seen coming and going from the Mayor’s office. Rumors are swirling that current 5th ward Councilman Peter Cunningham might throw his name in the ring to be the next city Business Administrator. That would create an open seat Furman could be a candidate to fill. Already a trusted ally of the Mayor, Furman would be counted on to continue the rubber stamp voting pattern Zimmer has enjoyed so far from her 5-member majority.
So now you know a bit more about Keith Furman… at least enough to put his public comments into proper context.