City Council Meeting 9/6/2006 – With recap
Update 9/7/2006: Read summary of Council meeting at the bottom!
Here’s a brief overview of what should be on the agenda for tonights meeting.
BULLETIN: MAYOR DAVID ROBERTS PROPOSES MASSIVE INCREASE IN MONTHLY CHARGES FOR CITY-OWNED PARKING GARAGES AND LOTS, AS WELL AS NEW TAX ON BARS AND RESTAURANTS TO FILL BUDGET GAP.
CITY COUNCIL TO TAKE ACTION TONIGHT.
The Mayor’s budget to be proposed tonight comes with a resolution to raise parking fees, and an ordinance to create a new Bar and Restaurant Tax.
Under the Roberts proposal, rates will go up $25 a month at most Parking Utility facilities:
The Parking Utility is the only City Department that runs on a multi-million dollar surplus each year. It is a cash cow. Since he took over the Parking Authority, Mayor Roberts has raided these funds to help fill his perpetual budget gaps.
Roberts is also proposing a new tax on restaurants and bars to help make up for his deficit spending. An Ordinance will be introduced to create new “Recycling Fees For Commercial Establishments Licensed To Serve Alcoholic Beverages.” No word yet on the size of these new recycling taxes. The Ordinance has not be posted for the public, but will be made available at tonight’s meeting. The Council Caucus begins at 6pm, followed by the regular meeting at 7pm.
While Roberts is looking to raise more revenue from citizens and restaurant owners, he is also proposing a 20 year tax exemption for the developer of luxury condos at 800 Madison Street. This developer is also a major campaign contributor.
9/6/06 Council Meeting RECAP:
Things got a bit testy at the Hoboken City Council meeting last night. The three strongest supporters of Mayor David Roberts showed they were still a little bruised from the battles they lost at the August meeting, and took out some of their frustration by hurling insults and shouts at the council members who dare to question the wisdom of the Roberts administration.
At-Large members Ruben Ramos and Theresa LaBruno and 4th ward Councilman Chris Campos once again went to bat for the Mayor, and found themselves at odds with Michael Russo of the 3rd Ward and Theresa Castellano of the 1st Ward.
Many members of the public stood up to speak out against Mayor Roberts’ proposed 25-dollar-a-month increase for parking at most of the City-owned parking lots and garages. They noted the Parking Utility made a four million dollar profit last year, none of which went to building any new parking facilities, or upgrading the old ones. All the money went to fill the Mayor’s annual budget gap. They said raising the parking fees was just a way for the mayor to put a tax increase on a select few without suffering the criticism for raising taxes citywide. Since most of the parking spaces in question were in the 1st and 3rd wards (and the 916 Garden lot in the 5th ward was excluded from the rate hike) Russo and Castellano led the case to stop the resolution. In the end, 2nd Ward Councilman Richard DelBoccio also opposed the increase, but they were outvoted by Ramos, LaBruno, Campos, At Large Councilman Peter Cammarano, Michael Cricco of the 5th Ward and Nino Giacchi of the 6th Ward. It was widely accepted that the parking fee hikes had nothing to do with funding the Parking Utility, and everything to do with filling this year’s budget deficit. We find this ridiculous to put the $700k burden on the less than 1800 residents that use the garages in question. And the fact that the main argument from John Corea was that “they needed money to fix the garages”, when if fact they had millions in excess. USE THE SURPLUS TO IMPROVE THE GARAGES! Then give what’s left over back to the city. Made zero sense.
The other David Roberts Tax on the agenda was mysteriously pulled from the agenda before the caucus. The new “recycling tax” on bars and restaurants was not discussed, but is sure to make a re-appearance soon. Owners of bars and restaurants would be wise to spread the word that the Mayor is looming to tax them, and get organized against the move now.
Another controversial item on the agenda was pulled at the last minute – the latest proposal to give a 20-year tax abatement to the developer of 800 Madison Street will return at a future meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting the Mayor made a rare appearance at the council meeting to announce his budget – now over three months late – is ready for their review. It is a $74.9 million plan, up from the $52 million dollar budget he inherited when he took the top office in 2001 and 1.9 million more than last year. Few details beyond Roberts’ brief speech were available, but he said the budget includes $3 million in one-shot revenues. The City Council will review the budget, and hold a public hearing on October 4th before voting on it. The budget will apparently be viewable in the 9/15/06 Jersey Journal. There will be a tax increase. It’s still unclear how big it will be. Do the math on your tax bills to see for yourself how you will be affected, (unless you live in one of those new condos with the tax abatements). We heard it’s $1.44 per $1000. Roberts bolted from the council chambers after his speech, avoiding any questions from the council, public, and media. How honorable of him. Nothing like an accessible member of the city government, right?
Remember how the proposed World War II War Memorial wasn’t going to cost taxpayers any money? How private donations and state and other outside grants would foot the bill? Then the city was going to kick in $250,000 to help things along?
Well, the pricetag keeps going up, and taxpayers are going to end up with the bill. The council approved a $728,000 contract with “T&M Contracting” (of Hoboken, of course) for work on the memorial. But wait, it continues… this amount only includes the base to be built for the memorial, not all the brass rifles and helmets to represent each brave soul lost in battle. That could add another $500,000 to the pricetag! So far the state has come up with $250,000 and the Veterans groups haven’t raised any significant cash at all to pay for the memorial. That means the City of Hoboken is now on the hook for about a million dollars to pay for it. Where will the money come from? The city will take it out of the Bond money they borrowed for 1600 Park Avenue and other promised parks. How will they pay for those parks? Apparently that will be an issue for another day. Don’t expect to be playing Frisbee at 1600 Park any time this decade. Ironically, the $728,000 approved today is very similar to the increased revenue from the parking increases at the city garages. DOES ANYONE SEE THE CONNECTION?
The acrimony seen during the meeting carried over into the audience afterward as Councilwoman LaBruno shouted at some dissident members of the public. It was quite a scene. She blabbered about “doom and gloom” from the attending citizens, rather than being thankful for a spaghetti dinner at the pier. Ms. LaBruno, THIS IS WHAT COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE FOR!! TO EXPRESS OUR CONCERNS ABOUT THE CITY, NOT TO KISS YOUR ASS AND SAY HOW THANKFUL WE ARE. We save that for Thanksgiving, actually. And Hoboken is not the only town that has seen major improvements citywide over the past 20-30 years. That is what is called “societal improvement”, and it happens in most towns. So don’t make us feel so “grateful” that we have some things that we should have had YEARS AGO!
The next meeting is September 20th.