Mayor Zimmer: State of Spin City
Mayor holds pep rally for supporters at Stevens
Dawn Zimmer made a lot of promises two years ago when she ran for Mayor.
Most people remember she promised to cut taxes by 25% “in the first year alone,” but didn’t deliver.
Others remember her debate pledge to “hold quarterly town hall meetings” where the public would get the chance to put her on the spot about the job she was doing. She hasn’t done that, either.
Instead we get manufactured events like last night’s “State of The City” speech at the Debaun Auditorium. The Mayor invited her biggest campaign contributors, board appointees, and the many city employees she’s hired since August of 2009 to cheer her on in front of a captive media. The audience wasn’t made up of average Hobokenites who have better things to do on a Tuesday night – in fact, even dozens of Stevens students filled the empty seats to provide an illusion of a larger attendance. It was for setting up the fundraising season for Zimmer’s six council candidates. This event was designed to get the newspapers to spill more ink on her, as well as hijack Channel 78 airtime away from the City Council meetings. It worked.
State of The City: A campaign season kickoff speech
Just hours before the speech, Zimmer sent a blast email attacking Council President Beth Mason and 3rd ward councilman Mike Russo as “machine” politicians.
It was hardly the way to set a tone of cooperation and reconciliation, as Zimmer feigned from the podium for the cameras. Zimmer has always had two sets of rhetoric. One for her most vicious supporters driven by hatred of their opposition, and the “I’m just trying to do the best I can” act that has fooled just enough of the Hoboken electorate for her to get this far. The big surprise of the night was the number of mentions she made of Peter Cammarano – just one.
NOT the First annual Mayoral address
For the record, this is not – as Zimmer would have you believe – the “first” State of The City address from a Hoboken Mayor. It’s just the first time using a re-branded name! Dave Roberts used to give an annual budget address to the City Council, where he would take up about as much time (about 38 minutes) going over his accomplishments, as well as the challenges ahead for the city. Other Mayors have done the same over the last 150-plus years. Same Spiel – different venue!
Only Zimmer – with two political operatives in her office on the city payroll – could turn this regular update into a press event. Unlike the President’s State of The Union address, no member of the opposition party was given a chance to respond with equal time. Instead, Mike Russo sent out a press release responding to some of the Mayor’s unkindest cuts and exaggerations.
Full text of the Mayor’s speech, and opposition response – after the jump!
Response from Councilman Michael Russo
3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo responded as follows:
“I was happy to read the text of the mayor’s State of the City Address. I’m pleased that she took the opportunity to speak to the residents of Hoboken. I was disappointed that the address wasn’t webcast, which would have given all of us an opportunity to see it live. Because, as is often the case with Mayor Zimmer, what she chooses to say isn’t always as revealing as what she chooses to leave out. For instance:
- The mayor says:
“Personnel costs represent the vast majority of our operating budget, and we cannot cut spending without addressing salaries and staffing levels. My Administration has not and will not shy away from making those difficult decisions.”
The mayor failed to mention that on the very day she announced the police layoffs, she handed out raises to her public relations man and her personal aide. She has also increased the number of directors and increased the salaries of several others, making the city more top heavy. In fact, the mayor’s administration failed to meet the state’s transparency guidelines and withheld information from the council and the public about a correction plan letter from the state comptroller.
- The mayor says:
“Going forward, we must avoid being penny wise and dollar foolish. If the City Council works with me to maintain a responsible level of Cash Surplus, we can improve our bond rating and achieve even more savings in the future. Our surplus is not a luxury — it’s a necessity if we’re going to be able meet the future needs of our City.”
The mayor fails to mention what the actual surplus is. The mayor’s so-called fiscal responsibility is easy to accomplish when you have millions of dollars in taxpayer money set aside for pet projects and politically convenient “tax relief” come election time. It’s not her money. It belongs to taxpayers, and Mayor Zimmer should give it back. Now. As for working with the council, it would help matters a great deal if Mayor Zimmer were more open and transparent about how much money is in the surplus.
- The mayor says:
“When I took office I recognized that perhaps the biggest fiscal challenge we faced was the risk associated with the $52 million bond guarantee for Hoboken University Medical Center … The Board rang in the New Year by signing a letter of intent for the sale of the hospital that meets the seemingly impossible goals of preserving Hoboken University Medical Center as an acute care hospital while also removing the City completely from its bond guarantee.”
The mayor fails to mention that the proposed buyer of the HUMC was itself purchased by a Real Estate Investment Trust, a fact that has serious implications for the future of our hospital remaining an acute care facility.
- The mayor says:
“Our crumbling waterfront clearly demonstrates that it is just as irresponsible to not spend money on the things that you need as it is to spend money on things that you don’t need. If we had spent more wisely when we built our waterfront and done the necessary maintenance, perhaps we would not now be facing an estimated $20 million dollar price tag to rebuild. But as I told the New York Times a few weeks ago during a tour I gave them of our waterfront, I cannot take back the decisions of the past, but it is my job to solve the problems for the future.”
The mayor seems to think that our waterfront was always the jewel of North Jersey. Before she even moved to town, many residents from all across Hoboken fought for the open space that we all enjoy today. When it suits her purposes, the mayor will take credit for waterfront accomplishments, like Pier C Park and the park at Maxwell Place. But when it’s not politically convenient, she pushes the blame on every administration that preceded hers. It’s time for the mayor to stop blaming everyone else for the problems of current-day Hoboken.
[Hoboken411 note: One of Zimmer’s 2009 campaign quotes was: “I believe that it is time to fix our poisoned politics. The time for finger-pointing and blaming has passed.”]
- Then, she says:
“With shipworms eating our waterfront, termites at City Hall, and flooding, I sometimes feel like I am taking on the plagues of Hoboken.”
This line is especially offensive to me and to many long-time residents of Hoboken. It says a great deal about the mayor’s true colors. Her sometimes-condescending comments are very revealing. There are no plagues in Hoboken, Mayor Zimmer. This is a beautiful city with wonderful people. I hope, as you get more comfortable in your job, you’ll consider it a blessing to serve her citizens.
- The mayor says:
“In addition, we’ve also been expanding services for our seniors, including yoga for seniors, the addition of Wednesday night bingo, and new activities on a monthly basis. Just last month, we also joined with the Heinz foundation to launch a prescription drug card that is completely free and available to all residents, regardless of age, income, or health status. It could be particularly helpful for seniors who are in the Medicare Part D “donut hole.”
Yoga and bingo and corporate-sponsored prescription drug promotions are wonderful things, but it shouldn’t be a burden for the Parking Utility to send one employee to one of these Bingo games to sign seniors up for parking permits. I’ve requested one for a senior center in my ward and was told that the Utility had no staff available at 7 p.m. Parking close to home for a senior, and a caregiver, are much more of a necessity than another Bingo game. Ask any of the seniors in my ward.
- Then she says:
“We have expanded public transportation with the introduction of the HOP, introduced the Corner Car program, and worked with the business community to encourage their employees to park in garages.”
What the mayor fails to mention is that she canceled the senior bus in favor of the HOP. It wasn’t until after protests from seniors that the service was restored. Any senior will tell you that they’ll take their Senior Bus over another Bingo game, too.
I believe Mayor Zimmer when she says she wants to work with the council, and that she wants what’s best for Hoboken. I hope that we can go forward engaging one another constructively as the municipal budget approaches. Maybe the mayor can renew a time-honored Hoboken tradition when the mayor attended all city council meetings. She’d be most welcome.
Entire Zimmer Speech
The entire crowd consisted of: Avid Zimmer supporters, family, friends, council people, appointed directors, some reporters – and Stevens kids who were likely asked to fill the seats. The hot air in the auditorium nearly lifted the building off it’s foundation.