City Council meeting: 5/19/2010
Public shows up in droves to oppose Muni Garage relocation
Last night’s meeting was one for the ages.
People unhappy about negotiations to move the Municipal Garage to a residential neighborhood dealt Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s five council allies nearly two hours of blows.
The meeting began on a sour note when a standing room only crowd was told by Council President Peter Cunningham that they would have to wait through the entire meeting agenda before he would allow them to address the council. This was later described by one speaker as “pissing off people who were already pissed off.”
After Cunningham made his ruling, 3rd ward Councilman Mike Russo moved to suspend the rules. Russo, Theresa Castellano and Beth Mason voted to hear the public while all five of Zimmer’s allies (Marsh, Mello, Bhalla, Lenz and Cunningham) chose to make them wait nearly three hours for their turn at the microphone.
Newcomers, Born-and-Raised, and even a priest unite against plan
For nearly two hours a packed house of objectors rose to speak at the microphone to blast the council and administration for secretly planning to move trash trucks, dumpsters and 24/7 operations to the former Pino’s lot on Jackson and Monroe between 5th and 6th. The speakers were passionate and well informed. Some recently bought their condos and lived there less than a year, others bought into the city’s residential vision for the west side many years ago. Even a priest from St. Ann’s church rose to impress upon the council how relocating the garage there would be an error in judgment.
Not a single person spoke in favor of the secret plan, which Hoboken411 reported led to final-stage negotiations and city appraisals of the lot in question. Zimmer’s Zoning Board Chairman Tony Soares signed up to speak, but left before his name was called. Earlier in the day Soares made statements online that he was in favor of moving the garage to the Pino’s lot, and that it would be better than building condos there. In the face of massive opposition, Soares chose to leave the room rather than share his views at the council meeting.
What happens now?
The fact that Hoboken411 brought the secret negotiations out into the open has severely crimped the administration’s plans. The strong, well-organized opposition will make it harder, but not impossible for the council to move forward in the months ahead. They are under a deadline to move out of the existing garage site, and went into a closed executive session to discuss it further. Despite Council President Cunningham’s babbling about “misinformation,” at no time did any member of the council deny the Pino’s lot is the main parcel the administration has been focused on for months. Hoboken411 will stay on top of the story broken right here, and ignored by other media until the Mayor’s public relations team sent out a damage control press release.
What do you think? Comment below on last night’s meeting and what you think will happen next!
See video archives of the meeting after the jump!
(5/19/2010 City Council, continued…)
Hoboken City Council Meeting Preview: 5/19/2010
An new trick to hide the real cost of Hoboken’s ever-expanding budget, more wrangling over where to locate the new Municipal Garage, and a slew of contracts for politically-connected law firms are on the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting. Read on for your exclusive Hoboken411 preview of the highlights:
Changing the budget year to protect incumbents
As 411 told you two weeks ago, the Zimmer/Lenz administration wants to change the city’s budget from a fiscal year schedule to a calendar year. This incumbent-protection device is designed to add state add revenue to a six-month budget year in order to artificially drop the tax rate while simultaneously increasing spending.
Take it directly from Finance Committee Chairman Michael Lenz’s mouth:
Once the additional aid money is in the budget, Lenz said he may have a 5% tax cut to sell the voters ahead of the November Special Election for the 4th ward council seat.
A full year’s state aid spent in 6 months
Outgoing State Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi said the reversion (to a calendar year budget) permits anticipation of a full fiscal year of State aid during the 6-month transition year and may allow the City to address certain budget challenges such as prior years deferred charges and accumulate surpluses and reserves to ensure adequate cash flow for the calendar year 2011 budget.
A full year of State aid totaling $11,113,035.00 would be spent by Zimmer in just 6 months from July to December. According to the city’s financial consultants, this would allow Zimmer and Lenz to use the state aid to claim they cut taxes ahead of the November 4th ward Special Election, even though they only used a 6-month budget gimmick to do it.
Three other ordinances, but only one may be considered
Under intense pressure from the public following the Hoboken411 exclusive on where the Zimmer Administration has been planning to place the new Municipal Garage, Council President Peter Cunningham has pulled the $2 million bond ordinance for that purpose off the agenda. Residents are still mobilizing, and will be able to speak during their public portion at the end of the meeting.
The council will also vote to borrow $425,000 for “Various Capital Improvments” and consider changes to the “Hoboken Citizens Service Act” to ask people who apply to sit on public boards to disclose their campaign contributions to the Mayor and Council members who are appointing them. Since this is a Beth Mason-sponsored reform watch for the Council President to try to drop the subject. Zimmer’s team has been packing public boards with big campaign contributors.
Ka-Ching! Politically connected lawfirms hit Zimmer paydirt
About 6 months after the Mayor appointed him, a contract for Corporation Counsel Michael Kates is on the agenda. A second contract gives his law firm a special counsel contract on top of it. The contract raising eyebrows appoints the law firm of State Senator Ray Lesniak – one of the most powerful Democrats in New Jersey – as the city’s new Special Legal Council for General Employment Matters. Basically, negotiating contracts. Bringing Weiner Lesniak to Hoboken may open up all sorts of doors for political campaign contributions for Dawn Zimmer’s team in the upcoming elections. It may also give public contract-seeking Councilman/lawyer Ravinder Bhalla new employment opportunities.
Mateo Perez will also be named lawyer for the Rent Leveling Board. He holds the same job under West New York Mayor Sal Vega. You’ll recall Vega ran for State Senate on a failed HCDO ticket with Carol Marsh for Assembly. Perez’ resume brags that he also represents the West New York Housing Authority in “all eviction proceedings,” which might give tenants appealing to the Hoboken Rent Leveling Board some pause.
The meeting starts at 7pm at City Hall. Up the front steps and to your left. Watch the video live here tonight if you can’t make it.
Archived Video of 5/19/2010 Hoboken Council Meeting
Video Part I
(press play button in lower left hand corner to watch)
Video Part II
(press play button in lower left hand corner to watch)