City Council – 9/5/2007 RECAP
10/17/2007 video flashback:
Yep, this meeting was over a month ago, but here’s another glimpse at how the City Council votes (this was about the Pier C funding, which some council members felt was incomplete, and didn’t protect the city financially).
What a downer, nothing earth-shattering transpired, especially compared to the last special council meeting. But here’s a summary:
Veteran’s Memorial – What’s the holdup?
At the beginning of the meeting the council voted to suspend the rules so members of the Hoboken World War II Veterans Memorial Committee could complain about the latest delay holding up construction. The city has apparently been planning a memorial on property it didn’t even know whether or not it owned! Construction Code official Al Arezzo has refused to issue permits for the project because he says the land is property of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and is outside his jurisdiction.
Committee Chairman Roy Huelbig criticized Mayor Roberts and Community Development Director Fred Bado for the delay, saying they should not have assumed the land was city property, He also wanted to know when they found out it was actually Port Authority land. Mr. Huelbig is a recipient of the Purple Heart for his service in World War II. He said he has spent the last 5 years getting jerked around by the city in an attempt to get the memorial built, and he was clearly very frustrated with the administration.
Veteran Tom Kennedy said some Hoboken veterans who donated money to the memorial fund died waiting to see it built as the city has mishandled the process. Mayor Roberts gave the commission for the work to architect Dean Marchetto, a campaign contributor whose proposal for the 9/11 memorial was rejected by the public. Marchetto’s first proposal was roundly criticized, and his second was considered far too expensive. The project has been scaled down, but is now facing this new delay.
City Business Administrator Dick England told the vets the city is now seeking the proper permits directly from the state Department of Community Affairs, which has taken up residence in Hoboken because of the various investigations into the conduct and relationships of Mr. Arezzo.
READ THE REST OF THE RECAP BELOW…
Temporary Emergency Appropriations
Second ward Councilwoman Beth Mason asked why the Temporary Appropriations offered by the administration were so much larger than those approved by the council in previous years during the same timeframe. She was apparently not impressed with the answer, and was the only member of the council to vote against the spending.
Your Taxes Just Went Up!
Fifth Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham asked why the council was being asked to raise “revised preliminary municipal tax levy” by over $1,000,000.00 over last year to $29,985,555.00. Cunningham suggested the council should stick to last year’s levy and not raise taxes. He said there was no rush to drop the tax bills in the mail, and the council should not be automatically approving more spending without so much as a proposed budget.
Councilwomen Mason and Dawn Zimmer agreed and voted against the tax increase. Peter Cammarano, Ruben Ramos, Terry LaBruno, Nino Giacchi, Mike Russo and Terry Castellano voted for the 2.34% tax levy increase.
Pier C Bonding Moves Forward
In order for the city to borrow money through bonding it has to pass a bond ordinance. The Council votes to consider the ordinance on “First Reading” at one meeting, and then holds a Public Hearing and Final Vote on the ordinance at the next meeting. The administration wants to borrow $21.2 million dollars for the long delayed Pier C Park.
People were confused about why the city would need to borrow so much money for a park that is supposed to be paid for by agencies other than the city. If others are paying, why go to the expense of bonding? The administration claims the city has an $18.2 million commitment from the Port Authority and another $2 million from the state, but it did not supply any supporting documentation to the council that back that up.
Council members Mason, Cunningham, and Zimmer expressed concern about the city ending up holding the bag for the project. When pressed by the new council members, Mr. England had to admit that the “expected” $1 Million grant from Hudson County was not based in fact, but just what they hoped to get. All of these amounts are “expected”, and no provision is made for going over budget on a project that can’t seem to get off the ground.
The debate will continue at the next meeting after the Pier C bond passed on to Second Reading by a vote of 6-2-1. Zimmer said she was voting against it “until the funding is secured”. Ramos and Russo attacked Zimmer and Cunningham for supporting the open space tax, but not approving the Pier C bonding.
Public Hearings ahead for More Bonding
The First Reading on the bond ordinance for borrowing $2.2 million for Parking Utility repairs was approved by a vote of 6-3, while the $2 million dollar bond for road improvements in the Northwest Redevelopment Zone moved forward with 8 yes votes and Beth Mason abstaining due to a lack of information about the bond, which is apparently a “do-over” of the previous road bonding.
Hudson Street Traffic Light
The council voted 9-0 to pass the ordinance needed to actually turn on the traffic light at Hudson and Newark. Apparently it’s been ready for several weeks, but it’s taken this long for the administration to propose the enabling legislation to turn it on. A public hearing will be held at the next meeting.
No More Caucus!
Council President Castellano announced there would be no more 6pm caucus for the council, and that all business will be handled during the regular meetings that begin at 7pm. This comes after Councilwoman Mason noted there have been no minutes taken of the caucus meetings, which is a violation of the state open public meetings law.
Mason also noted there is plenty of business done during the caucus that doesn’t air on Channel 78, and that shortchanges the taxpayers who are watching their government in action. City Attorney Steven Kleinman said there are several issues with the council’s bylaws that apparently don’t jibe with state law brought to his attention by Mason, and he was working on changes to bring the city into compliance following his conversations with the second ward councilwoman, who is known statewide as an advocate for open public meetings and records.
You’ll find a massive round of new borrowing, more rejected bids, temporary budget appropriations, and a new traffic light among the items on tonight’s City Council meeting agenda. Here’s a preview:
Over $25 Million in Bonding Proposed
Three bond ordinances are being introduced on “First Reading” to the council:
- $21.2 Million for construction of Pier C Park
- $2.2 Million for Parking Utility Improvements
- $2 Million for Road Improvements
The largest is a bond to build the long delayed Pier C Park. The plan to be outlined tonight would have the city borrow the $21.2 million for the construction, and then look to get $18.2 million back from the Port Authority, $2 million from the state, and $1 Million from Hudson County. All of these amounts are “expected”, and no provision is made for going over budget on a project that can’t seem to get off the ground. Already the city has eliminated key items from the original plan, including the sand volleyball court in the original design.
Read the rest after the Jump!
Parking Utility Borrowing – Why?
Each year the Parking Utility brings in a windfall of three to four million dollars in revenue that the Mayor uses to plug his annual budget gap. Instead of reinvesting that revenue into new parking garages, and fixing the older ones on Hudson Street, the cash is spent to avoid tax increases that would rouse the attention of voters. Instead of using the Parking Utility Revenue to repair the garages, the council is being asked to borrow $2.2 million to get the work done.
More Bonding for Street Paving
Another $2 million dollar bond is being offered for road improvements, again planned for areas in the Northwest Redevelopment Zone where the city failed to negotiate with developers to have them fix the roads next to their new condos. The money will go to fix streets and sidewalks on Grand, Adams, 12th and 13th streets. The work also includes repairing the drainage structures in that area. Streets in the northwest wear the scars of years of heavy equipment used in the construction of new Upper Grand condos. This ordinance follows a $2 million dollar bond approved by the previous council to fix streets just east of this area before the last election.
Temporary Emergency Budget Appropriations
The first resolution on the agenda allows the city to keep spending “until such time a formal budget is adopted.” This goes on meeting after meeting until the Mayor presents his proposed budget, and the City Council works on it to their satisfaction. The council will also be asked to certify a “revised preliminary municipal tax levy” for the third and fourth quarters of calendar 2007. The tax levy is now just a hair shy of $30 million at $29,985,555.00. It wasn’t all that long ago that the entire budget of Hoboken was $30 million, and now it’s close to $80 million.
More Bids Rejected
The city received four bids ranging from $1.2 million to $2.3 million for the remediation of the Todd Shipyards site at the Weehawken Cove. Since all the bids were more than the city was planning to pay for the environmental cleanup, the administration is asking the council to reject all the bids. Another resolution gives Birdsall Engineering another $24,500.00 for its work at the Todd Shipyard north of 15th and Park.
A $249,000.00 bid to install a fire escape at City Hall will also be rejected. The Fire Escape has been missing since the old building behind city hall was demolished. If this were the case in your building it would probably be deemed uninhabitable.
New Traffic Light
A lot of people have been asking why the traffic light that was installed at Newark and Hudson still hasn’t been turned on. The answer is because the administration is just now offering the enabling legislation to the council. An ordinance to allow the light will be introduced, with a public hearing planned for the next council meeting. This may seem a little like putting the cart before the horse, because even if a bunch of people came out to oppose the light there is no chance the council will reject the ordinance and take the light down.
Petitions and Communications
Mayor David Roberts is reappointing Joseph Crimmins, and appointing Walter Johnson to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Crimmins is a former chairman of the ZBA. His brother George was Former Mayor Anthony Russo’s Business Administrator, and is now Executive Director of the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority. The police headquarters is named in honor of their father.
But who gets Carmelo’s Job?
Ever since reports surfaced that City Director of Human Services Carmelo Garcia was planning to take a job as Deputy Executive Director at the Hoboken Housing Authority people have been wondering who will get his 6-figure City Hall job. Whomever the Mayor picks will need a majority of votes on the City Council, which may be difficult considering the current makeup of the governing body. There is nothing on the agenda about the position, but people are talking about it.
The council caucus begins at 6pm, followed by the regular meeting at 7pm. Walk up the front steps of City Hall and make a left toward the Council Chambers.