City Council 2/21/2007 – Recap
In case you want to hear the Council comments regarding the pay-to-play ordinance. Labruno, Cammarano and Campos are heard speaking. Or download the 5 minute MP3 file. Kind of crappy sound quality, it might be easier to understand if you listened to it on your iPod with headphones.[audio:paytoplaycomments.mp3]
It was Standing Room Only last night at the Hoboken City Council meeting. Dozens of people came ready to address the Council on several hot-button issues, from Campaign Finance Reform to High-Rise Redevelopment to the trash-mongers at the “Garden Of Eden.”
Pay-To-Play: The Council Votes to Approve.
The People For Open Government successfully convinced the City Council to approve the anti Pay-to-Play laws it was promoting via petition drive. The discussion was in sharp contrast to the contentious debate back in 2002 when POG placed it’s first reform measure up for consideration, and the Council voted it down. POG brought in a large crowd to support the Redeveloper and Contractor restrictions, and several people spoke in favor of the measures.
Before the vote, Council members get a chance to air their views on the measure. Michael Russo and Nino Giacchi said they were “100% in favor” of the POG petitions becoming law without further comment. Others nodded in agreement, while some decided to air their concerns.
Perhaps the most interesting comment came from Councilwoman Theresa Labruno, who said no matter what law the Council passed, “Never will you stop people from being corrupt,” adding there is always a way people will be corrupted. Why do we install locks on our doors? To make it harder to break in. That’s the point. That is a sad commentary on the history of Hoboken and Hudson County politics, and the type of government people are used to putting up with around here like it’s just a fact of life.
Councilman Peter Cammarano typically took a more lawyerly approach to the ordinance, indicating he would be supporting it with several reservations. He said it would become harder for people to raise money for campaigns, and could cut a class of people out of the process. He went on to say some candidacies for Mayor in 2009 “die here tonight as we pass this ordinance.” Cammarano wanted to see some “Safe Harbor” provisions to protect less affluent candidates from self-financed campaigns.
In response to POG people who noted the first Pay-To-Play passed by a 9 to 1 margin on the ballot, Cammarano pointed to the many Gay Marriage bans on the ballot last fall saying he would “discourage anyone to equate popularity with right and wrong.” After presenting a thorough argument about what was wrong with the POG ordinances, he voted for them along with the rest of the Council.
But, this may not end here. POG President Eric Kurta was urging the Council to place the Contractor Donation reform law on to the ballot in May, but City Attorney Joe Sherman said it was not necessary. There may yet be some legal wrangling ahead. POG believes the law replaces another that was passed at the ballot less than 3 years ago, so it needs to go back onto the ballot to pass. The City claims that isn’t necessary, and a Council vote is sufficient.
Southwest Redevelopment Plan Withdrawn
A large crowd from the “Southwest Parks Coalition” turned out to complain about the plan being on the Council agenda before the “Public Meeting” unveiling it on Monday. They felt it was “out of order” to see the City Council vote to refer the plan to the Planning Board before it is seen by the public. The SPC made its case so well before the meeting the Plan was removed from the agenda before they even arrived. One member of SPC did rise to complain about how the public has been left out of the process to plan the new Madison Street Park.
Municipal Garage Plan Withdrawn
The Mayor’s latest attempt to throw out the community plan for the property was still on the agenda when people arrived to oppose it. After some discussion about how unnecessary it was to move forward with it, the resolution and ordinance were pulled from the agenda.
As a courtesy, people were still allowed to speak on it during the meeting. Members of the Observer Highway Redevelopment Advisory Committee thanks the council for removing the Mayor’s 12/10/8 story proposal once again and asked for support in working to find a solution to the ongoing saga.
Attorneys for Tarragon/URSA and MDK Development also addressed the Council. The developers seem to be almost as frustrated by the Mayor’s handling of this as the community is. Tarragon/Ursa’s attorney said his client wants a bidding process with a “Level Playing Field.”
Garden Of Eden Outrage
During the “Public Portion” at the end of the meeting, people who live around Bloomfield and Second complained about the noise and refuse caused by the new Garden of Eden market. Neighbors passionately addressed the council with their concerns (like they already have here on 411.) Councilwoman Theresa Castellano also told the Council about her efforts to get a handle on the problem.
City Director of Environmental Services Joe Peluso said he sent his inspectors to ticket GOE, only to have them the owners tell them they will do their business however they want regardless of the tickets. Apparently the owners think they can run their Hoboken market the same way they do in New York City. That was received by the City Council as a “declaration of war.” Not smart on GOE’s part. GOE sent someone from their trash hauling company to stick up for them. That effort failed miserably.
The Council directed the City Attorney to look into what legal action was available to remedy the problem. There was also discussion of Police and Health Department enforcement teams being sent to the scene.
Original preview below.
City Council Preview: 2/21/2007
Tonight’s episode: Follow the money!
The developer money, that is. The “mother’s milk” of Hoboken Machine Politics. Combined with cash from contractors who always seem to get the inside track on contracts for city projects and professional services, it keeps the machine humming. The Council will decide whether to turn the cash spigot down from “torrential” to a mere “free flowing” from developers, at the same time it will make decisions on the future course of two redevelopment zones on the south end of town. Will the City Council side with residents who want reasonable development, or keep the over-development bandwagon rolling?
Pay-To-Play: What will they say?
The evening will begin with discussion of the successful effort by the People For Open Government group to get two campaign finance reform ordinances onto the City Council agenda. Now that POG’s petition drive has been deemed a legal success, the Council gets it’s shot to weigh in. All eyes will be on the Council as they consider whether or not to support POG’s effort to restrict campaign contributions from developers with interests in Redevelopment Zones. Today developers in those zones trade campaign contributions for a wink and a nod when they ask permission to build huge buildings in the Mile Square.
It’s so popular with Mayor Roberts, he’s gotten the ball rolling on SIX new redevelopment zones in just the last two years, with more in the works. Now the City Council will have to make the call: vote to approve the POG ordinance, or vote it down and have it appear on the ballot for the public to decide in May. It’s quite a quandary for some of them, especially those who want to run for Mayor someday. Do they cut off a key supply of ready campaign cash, or risk being seen as against the public and with the developers who want high-rise condos everywhere. It should be a very interesting debate.
Southwest Redevelopment Plan
It’s here, and the early reviews are not encouraging. In a nutshell, the Mayor’s Southwest Redevelopment Plan includes lots of 12-story high-rise buildings, and very little park space. The plan includes a proposal for some lawns on top of a multi-tiered parking garage. Looking for baseball fields? Not here. Active use parks? Nope. A plan that includes the park promised in the “Master Plan” and an outline of how to have developers pay for it? Nuh-uh. Astroturf on top of a parking garage? Yup! Got that right here.
Does the plan allow a high-rise on Al Arezzo’s land? Yes!. Does it include the condemnation and destruction of small businesses and single-family homes for high-rise condos? Sure! How about a plan to deal with the flooding that spreads raw sewage over streets? Nope. Just thousands of condos to keep the big developers and land speculators happy. That’s about it.
Roberts is asking the Council to vote to move his developer-led plan to the developer-friendly Planning Board for their rubber stamp of approval. The Mayor wants the ball rolling before the pesky public can see the plan and speak out at a “public meeting” next week.
READ MORE ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE SOUTHWEST REDEVELOPMENT PLAN LATER THIS AFTERNOON.
Municipal Garage Plan
In spite of community opposition and City Council resistance, the Mayor has again placed a resolution and ordinance on the agenda to throw out the existing redevelopment plan for the Municipal Garage in favor of a much larger project. Roberts’ latest change is to include the possibility for a hotel on the garage site as part of a massive 12, 10, and 8 story building that would run up Willow Avenue from Observer Highway. The advisory committee never considered a hotel, but a developer close to one of the Council Members wants to build one there, and Roberts needs his vote to change the plan.
This would kill the 9/7 plan developed by an appointed advisory committee. The fact that this is even on the agenda is a surprise since the Hoboken Reporter’s front page story indicated the sale of the Garage Property was no longer included as a stipulation in the 2007 Budget.
Follow the money this election year. The caucus begins at 6pm, followed by the regular meeting at 7pm at City Hall.