City Council – 9/19/2007 Recap
9/24/2007 Recap from 9/19/2007 Meeting:
Hoboken411 was having a blast at the Yankee game Wednesday night during the city council meeting, so the recap is coming a bit later than usual. Here is the rundown on the meeting, thanks to a little help from my friends, as well as some quality time with a DVR’d Cablevision channel 78.
Read the straight-scoop RECAP after the Jump! (under the picture)
Carmelo Garcia bids farewell
The meeting began with a brief message from outgoing Director of Human Services Carmelo Garcia, who is leaving his city job to go work at the Hoboken Housing Authority. Garcia thanked the council for their support during his 6+ years in the job, and made a point of saying that he had submitted “leave of absence” papers. Later in the meeting second ward councilwoman Beth Mason asked city attorney Steve Kleinman if there was an actual letter of resignation presented to the Mayor.
Kleinman said it was his opinion that Garcia was no longer a city employee as of the close of business that day, and would no longer be on the payroll. Garcia has placed himself on a one year track to become the next Executive Director of the HHA, but some are concerned if that doesn’t work out he may seek to return to the city payroll. Garcia’s reference to a “leave of absence” in his farewell speech left people wondering what he was up to.
Relaxing the Rules for SW6 debut
Council President Theresa Castellano offered to suspend the rules so the Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition could formally present the council with their SW6 action plan, which simultaneously made its debut here on Hoboken411. HSPC Founder and President Sara Stojkovic gave a brief overview, along with Ann and Gary Holtzman, who worked on the committee to put the plan together. The council president referred SW6 to the planning and zoning subcommittee to further discuss the proposal.
Pier C Bond Ordinance re-do
Council members Mason and Peter Cunningham and former councilwoman Dawn Zimmer turned out to be right to be concerned about the Pier C bond ordinance introduced at the previous meeting. The ordinance was so flawed the city’s bond attorney suggested the council rescind it and start all over again with a new bond ordinance. The funding numbers offered by the city at the last meeting were wrong.
This time the administration offered new, corrected information to the council before they were asked to vote. Mason moved to have the word “expected” removed from the ordinance to help ensure the funding would be coming from the Port Authority and New Jersey Green Acres. Mason also asked that bond counsel be available at the next meeting when the council hears from the public on the issue and takes a final vote. The corrected ordinance was approved 8-0 on first reading.
Western Edge Redevelopment Planner
The administration asked the council to hire the planning firm of Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates to create a redevelopment plan for the Western Edge redevelopment zone at a cost of $45,000. Cunningham asked Community Development Director Fred Bado how the city knows it is getting a good deal for the money. Mason asked if there was a written proposal from PPSA, and Bado said there was. Mason said the council should see it before voting on the $45k contract and made a motion to table the resolution until they see the documents. The council unanimously agreed.
Black Smoke for John Pope
Council watchdog Helen Hirsch asked what experience John Pope has that will make him the right person to replace Garcia as Director of Human Services. Pope explained he brings 32 years of private sector management experience specializing in organizational redesign. Pope noted he received Malcolm Baldridge training and believes in “management by walking around”.
LaBruno said she was hesitant at first when she heard Pope’s name was being put forward. She didn’t say why, but she was most likely uncomfortable with Pope’s relationship with third ward councilman Michael Russo. Cunningham asked if there was an interview process conducted to fill the position. The answer was no. Cunningham asked if a search should be conducted, and Kleinman said it’s up to the Mayor to offer the name of the candidate he wants in the job to the council for their consideration.
Ultimately the council voted unanimously to hire Pope. Hoboken411 reported first that he was being considered for the job.
Hypocrisy Alert: Cammarano’s complaints
When Mason, Cunningham, and Zimmer complained about the lack of supporting paperwork provided before they were asked to approve $21 million in bonding for Pier C, Cammarano and Ramos were first to jump all over them for voting no or abstaining. At the meeting this week Cammarano made a big show about not wanting to vote on three items that were three items on the agenda that he didn’t see documents for until the just before the meeting.
It became clear that what Cammarano was actually annoyed about was the council president’s move to eliminate the 6pm caucus following information from Mason that it was being held without proper public notice or documentation of minutes. Cammarano and Ramos tried to make an issue out of this, but Castellano stood her ground and referred the issue to a special committee made up of the council president, Mason, Ramos, City Clerk Jimmy Farina and Kleinman.
More Cops and Firemen requested
Cammarano gave an update from the Public Safety committee indicating the Fire Chief wants to increase the umber of Captains from 32 to 36, and Battalion Chiefs from 7 to 9. He also said the Police Chief wants to increased the number of Sergeants from 33 to 35 and Lieutenants from 17 to 20, in addition the hiring of new patrolmen. Police Union leader Vince Lombardi indicated they want any new hires to be full fledged patrolmen, and not a mix of full timers and part-time “Class B” hires recommended by Mayor Roberts.
Councilwoman Labruno — who is married to a Fire Department Battalion Chief whose brother is the Chief of Police – suggested the ranks of the police may be “top heavy” and that if the latest crime statistics are to be believed that perhaps the top brass should be on the streets patrolling if Hoboken is in “such dire straits” crime-wise. This didn’t go over to well with members of the police department who attended the meeting.
Fourth Ward Notes
This was the first meeting since Zimmer agreed to vacate the fourth ward seat. She watched the meeting seated in the audience while Chris Campos appeared at his first meeting since June. Neither addressed the council. Councilwoman-at-large Labruno moved from her normal seat on the right side of the table and sat in the fourth ward seat between Ramos and Cunningham. Ramos and Labruno live in the fourth ward (on the same block).
The budget, bonding for millions, the appointment of a new director, and the Western Edge Redevelopment Area are all on the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting. How many of these items the council actually gets to may be another story.
FY 2008 Budget Introduction – or not?
The posted agenda says Mayor Roberts will be introducing the fiscal year 2008 budget at the beginning of tonight’s meeting, but word on the street is the document may not yet be ready for prime time. Either way, the first resolution on the agenda is for “Additional temporary appropriations until such time a formal budget is adopted.”
Bonding Votes Delayed
The two bond ordinances authorizing the city to borrow $2 million for road improvements and $2.2 million for the Parking Utility will not be discussed tonight. The public hearing and final vote on these have been put off until the October 3rd meeting “to allow for sufficient time for legal advertising”.
Pier C Park Bond Update
It turns out council members Mason, Cunningham, and Zimmer may have been right to be asking questions about the $21 million dollar bond for Pier C Park. The administration is withdrawing the ordinance that moved ahead on first reading at the last meeting, and is offering a new, presumably more complete ordinance, which may be made available for discussion tonight. Nobody can seem to find a good answer to the question “Why are we borrowing so much money for a park someone else is paying for?”
I’d also like to see a different name. “Pier C” is generic and bland. I would name it “Fruity Park”… much more fun.
Traffic Light at Newark and Hudson
The council will also consider the ordinance that will finally allow the city to turn on the new traffic light at the intersection of Starbucks and Commerce Bank, uh… make that Newark and Hudson. A unanimous vote is likely.
Did you overpay your property taxes?
There are two resolutions to reimburse taxpayers who were overcharged. One is for a total of $98,760.92 to several taxpayers and the other is for a whopping $65,030.00 for the owners of 322-332 Jefferson Street. The Tax Court awarded the owner that amount.
Western Edge Redevelopment Planners
Now that the city is moving ahead with the latest Tarragon/Ursa inspired redevelopment zone designation on the Western Edge, the next step is to high planners. Phillips, Preiss, Shapiro Associates gets the nod from the administration for a $45,000.00 contract, if the council agrees tonight. PPSA will then begin working on a “Redevelopment Plan” for the parcels in the zone, all of which Tarragon/Ursa either owns or has a contract to buy. The developer has had plans to build high-rises on the properties for years with the back room approval of Mayor Dave Roberts. People will be watching to see if PPSA is given it’s high-rise marching orders from the Mayor, or comes up with a different plan on it’s own.
White Smoke or Black Smoke for John Pope?
When the leaders of the Catholic Church take a vote but fail to come to a consensus on a new Pope, black smoke rises above the Vatican. When a new Pope is elected, white smoke signals the choice has been made. The question tonight for John Pope is, will the Hoboken City Council send white smoke up for his nomination to be the next Director of Human Services? Keep an eye out for gray smoke on resolution #8.
Florio and Kenny, again
Speaking of gray smoke (or smokescreens, if you believe the street talk on the still mysterious “fall” of State Senator Bernard Kenny), the council will be asked to amend the FY2007 contract with Florio and Kenny “to fulfill unpaid obligations for services rendered”. Sounds ominous.
No Caucus Tonight
The City Council meeting begins at 7pm with no caucus scheduled. Resolution 12 will “amend the rules of procedure for the Hoboken City Council” but nobody seems to know exactly how, because the agenda says it “will be available at the meeting.” I guess we will find out at the caucus… or then again, no.