Sick and Tired – A Constituent Call to Action
We have a different reader who chimed in with their thoughts and feelings, along with additional commentary from the original constituent.
A second constituent writes:
“When “I” is replaced with “we”; when the culture of volunteerism becomes the standard; when expenditures for local political campaigns are limited; when the upwardly mobile, educated, professional, recent arrival comes to think of Hoboken as more than a way-station and realizes the importance of becoming a player rather than an as a spectator of the game called Hoboken governance, nothing better can happen.
Sadly, Hoboken is a small panel in the archaic tapestry called New Jersey which encourages tribalism at all levels. State boards, empowered to oversee local practices defer, albeit reluctantly, to Home Rule. If leaders of the many, well-intentioned “groups,” each with its own officers and fund-raising modalities, would abandon their tiaras, get down from their perches and form a united, cooperating front, the ludicrous behavior of the “governing “ body, could not happen. The local “pay-to-play” resolution was approved grudgingly, but that did not sew up the pocket openings. Nor did it prevent back room “deals” or manipulation of words and numbers. It did not erase the title “honorable” nor did it eliminate the prerogative of adding names to the payroll.
As long as a mayor has the authority to name department heads, without appropriate resumes and endow them with control of purse and personnel, (excepting civil service rules and contractual agreements,) there is not much hope that the City will be run in a business-like fashion. One councilperson scoffed at the suggestion that Hoboken should be run like a business.
For me the only solution to our problem is to change our form of government – not very difficult – to Council-Manager, requiring a professional CITY MANAGER. The search for such a person should be turned over to a head hunter who will submit resumes for evaluation by the council, along with a committee of citizens chosen by lot from an appropriate pool of volunteers.
I will not be around to see it, but with the diminishing stock of raw earth and continuing budget deficits, without major changes, there are only 2 alternatives: bankruptcy or burning. It can happen here, again!”
And additional commentary from the original constituent:
“Thanks for reading my 411 comment. I’m pretty overwhelmed by the response,
and completely honored by your positive feedback. I never would’ve guessed it would’ve been downloaded as much as it has (187 times). I think I need to clarify a few things for those that’ve asked.
My intent for writing the letter is not nearly as colorfully orchestrated as has been described, though I certainly understand the rationale to question (not much of a positive track record with our ‘Hoboken Politico’). I’m a constituent of Hoboken. I’m not affiliated with any political organizations. And I don’t have any political agenda. I’m one person who has watched, listened, and grown weary by the view in front of me. And one night I began to write, and I kept writing, and I sent it to 411 because I hoped my comments would resonate with others who felt the same way, in the same sense we all do when posting our views on 411. I also wanted to share this energy to foster action for change, as described in my letter and to the same degree as most Hoboken411 readers, and those who attend Council meetings.
I want to thank 411 and all the posters who use anonymous handles. I agree with those posters who support anonymous expression, and respect individual rationale for choosing this option, just as I respect those who choose to use their name. I believe either choice is valid.
Hoboken411, thank you so much for your opening introduction to my paper and subsequent thread comments. I’m truly humbled by your perspective. I’m so glad to have made an impact with your site enough to garner front page position. I truly respect the work you do and the outlet you have created for us to express ourselves. Thanks.”
I have the pleasure of presenting Hoboken411 readers with a very well thought-out “Open Letter” written by a very concerned constituent. I hope all readers that care about Hoboken take the time to read this and share their thoughts.
Nowhere have I ever seen so many of the ongoing issues with our City Government put together in one cohesive, logical and sensible document. It outlines the inherent problems that we’ve been experiencing, the exact causes, and suggestions on how to handle them better. I would highly recommend our City politicians (and any politician for that matter) read this document if they want to understand how to be a better public servant. It’s practically an instruction manual.
Additionally, this constituent feels that we have the resources as citizens to ensure that our City Council is run properly. It’s unfortunate that residents of any city would have to go to such lengths, but in order to have permanent, positive and lasting change, it often requires substantial time and effort.
Here is a printable version you can download. Enjoy.
An Open Letter to Fellow Constituents
This is a letter I felt compelled to write, and began writing after the City Council meeting last week. Although I have sat with these feelings and observations for some time, I left the meeting frustrated by the continual cyclical self-serving transactions that occur among our Council members and the Administration. I am not reinventing the wheel so to speak (though I have created one), but I want to put my observations and feelings out there to either resonate (or not) with other constituents of Hoboken, because something needs to change. I believe we operate in circular patterns until we are ready to change our behavior and move in a linear fashion. For every action there is an equal reaction. I am writing this in an effort to continue the demise of cyclical barriers that do not meet the objectives of the constituency; and to promote forward, active, linear progress that does.
I believe there is a fundamental flaw in the system. It is lack of accountability, yes. But it goes deeper than that, and I can feel it, but it is hard to formulate verbally and concisely in the new five-minute rule allotted to public speakers at Council meetings. It is about incongruency of behavior of our elected representatives. I listen and observe, and I see behavior and actions that do not seem to comport with each other. Authentic behavior is logically simple: if a=b and b=c then a=c. The behavior of someone who speaks authentically and truthfully follows this template because everything they say supports itself. They are consistent, and their actions align congruently. If authentic intentions are contained in the hub of a wheel, then all spokes (i.e., behavior) will emanate from and support the hub. However, when there is incongruency, the spokes will not comport.
SEE THE REST BELOW:
What I have observed from this administration (and again I realize I am stating the obvious) is seemingly incongruent behavior instigated through their statements, beliefs, actions and votes. From an analytical standpoint, it only takes one incongruent action to extrapolate the meaning to the greater belief system of the person committing the action. I will provide examples below to demonstrate this, however here is one example: Councilperson Nino Giacci says he cares for the parks and children of this city. And we can take him for his word unless he does or says something that concretely contradicts this statement, and for which he provides no logical rational for the behavior. A constituent complained to Councilman Giacci of long-standing, dangerous maintenance issues in Church Square Park last week. It is not congruent to knowingly subject dangerous conditions to the very children he claims to care for. To remain true to his intentions, CP Giacci would need to explain how the situation is perhaps out of his control (because if it were in his control, parallel to the “hub,” the problems would already be fixed) and what steps he has taken to regain control of the situation. However, he only said the issues had been discussed, and offered no further rationale. Logically, this is incongruent, thus inauthentic behavior (and leadership).
For the People, Not for Themselves
A genuine councilperson has the task and inherent desire to care for his or her constituents; has a genuine desire to better the community; and to decide issues based on the needs and interests of the constituents. That is a truly organic concept. To not only be able to, but also want to solely represent and advocate for the people. It can be a beautiful thing when it happens, because it feels right. I believe this is why there was such jubilation when Zimmer, Cunningham and Mason won their elections because we could feel their authenticity, true intent and desire to represent us. Oddly enough because these objectives are not considered the norm, those who embody these basic beliefs are called Reformers (go figure).
But when a leader’s actions are not congruent with their words or the best interests of the people, it is like a filth, like a pungent odor, knowing that what is being said is merely for effect, as a foil to divert attention, to shut us up, or to dodge accountability. It is akin to a gritty, dirty film sticking to the walls of the council room, like the used condoms washed up on a reader’s post-flooded stoop after last week’s flood.
And it is this incessant theme of incongruence among the members of this administration that reflects the inauthenticity of their words, actions, intentions, and interests of the people. Until we demand answers to the core issues and force accountability (on the record for the viewing public), the administration will continue to turn diversions into opportunities for self-posturing and political claptrap.
Many Recent Examples
The public forum addressing the Astroturf in Church Square Park started off in the right direction with the first public speaker who spoke succinctly with the message – The Mayor lied to us. Here is proof. He intentionally made a deal behind the public’s back. Here is proof. A continuation of this discussion could have gone like this, “This Council was given faulty information on which to base a vote, therefore the contract was initiated in breach, and the construction should stop immediately. Now, what are you, this body that represents us, going to do about it?” That is all that is needed to be said. Followed by silence. No diversions, no subjective conversation on how the park should look. Just silence for the Council to respond, in front of the Constituency and the cameras. With consistent persistence and no diversions, members of the administration would have to eventually take accountability…or not. Either way, the words they choose are on record.
The debate got sidetracked off the main issue however. It turned into a session of pleading to the Council, “Maybe we can do this, and here’s a suggestion…” From what I observe, this is all irrelevant to them because their decision to lay the A-turf (make another playground, move the b-ball courts, etc) was politically based (i.e., campaign paybacks, backdoor deals with developers, etc). From what I gather, they know the park is ugly and unnatural but these issues are moot because the deal is the reason for the changes, and not for the children’s best interests. Congruent with this observation, their eyes glaze over when people speak…you can see that vacant look of, “Say whatever you want, my mind is already made up. I’ve already made the deal. Oh, but I’ll feign interest, nod my head pretending I agree, and say a few meaningful sound bites for the Mayoral run (“Those kids thought I was Santa Claus!”).” And so every suggestion on bettering the park, every emotional plea from the BNR’s about playing there since they were kids washes over the Council’s faces with the same indifference as the ripped bags of garbage floating in the floods of the sewer water last week. They have already signed the deal with the contractor, their hands are tied, even if they think it is a mistake, they cannot change it. And so they will agree to everything said about the betterment of the park because it is subjective, it is emotional, and it sounds good “Hey, this Council loves parks too, and I think you’re absolutely right.” It looks good on campaign posters, and more importantly, it is the very diversion they seek from having to answer the real comments and questions that demand accountability.
In this instance, the Administration had a choice to make – to either take accountability… or not. Much like the Mayor’s choice to control the content of the Flooding meeting Monday night, he met quickly with a few of the more verbal proponents of the A-turf the night before the Council meeting to quell the anger and hopefully, their voices. I ask the very few people in attendance, did it stop the Astroturf? No. And the City Council? They blamed (1) ignorance and (2) the People, saying something to the effect of, “We just went with the information given to us, and well, none of the constituents showed up so….” (watch the video on Ch 78). Subtext seems to be: “(shrug shoulders), Y’know if you don’t show, we can’t be expected to be accountable for our actions.” And despite proof of outright lying, the Council’s response was only, “We can’t cancel the contract. We don’t need any more litigation.” They can do anything they want. They choose not to do anything. It is the outright incongruence of their words and actions that is of grave concern to the future of our city.
The Spokes and the Hub
As likeable as Councilwoman LaBruno is, she was either well aware that her attendance at a ribbon cutting was for false promotion of a pool in the NW Redevelopment area for political posturing, or she was honestly misinformed. At the point when Leah Healy brought this to her attention at a recent Council meeting, CP LaBruno had to make a choice – to practice congruent leadership or not. If she was well aware that the pool was a political tool, she could have chosen to take accountability and come clean, or she could have done something else. If she was truly misinformed she could have taken a stand against the developers for misinforming her and in turn held herself accountable for misinforming the people of Hoboken, or she could have done something else. Her decision: She chose to say that she did not know the pool was not a done deal, and she chose to vote in favor of the developers anyway. Her actions (spokes) were incongruent to her intentions (hub).
CP Russo knowingly expressed inappropriate behavior, and disrespected a constituent when he verbally shouted at her during a Council meeting July 25th. As they say, it is not the mistake, it is how we choose to handle it. While visceral moments happen, CP Russo then had a choice as to what he would do afterward. He had the opportunity to be a congruent leader by personally taking accountability for himself and apologizing to the constituents for his unprofessional behavior, or he could have done something else. His decision: he chose to remain silent, stare down at the table, make no eye contact with anyone, and let CP Castellano apologize on his behalf (watch the video on Ch 78). And this person who failed to take accountability for himself or show respect to the constituents believes he has the leadership abilities to lead this city. This single action is congruent with ineffective leadership, because an effective leader would have not chosen this action. CP Russo’s actions (spokes) were incongruent to his intentions (hub).
CPs Giacci and Russo expressed their views against the park tax initiative in the last Council meeting, stating that their constituents would not agree to a tax to acquire parkland in other wards. What has been described as their sole intention of voting against the “reformers” is plausible and arguably unethical. Both representatives had an opportunity to work for the benefit of all residents to acquire new parkland. CP Russo had another opportunity to show leadership qualities by putting aside his personal agendas for the greater good of the city. Not only did both say they would vote against it with an air of arrogance and insult, but their rationale was so nonsensical and disingenuous, I believe it borders on breach of fiduciary duty. Not only does this come from a person who advertises himself as passionate for parks (If you don’t vote for the redevelopment (and the pool), you vote against the children), but his and CP Giacci’s self-serving decision comes at the detriment of the residents of all wards. It was a vulgar display of abuse of power to those of us who invest ourselves and our money into this city. Their actions (spokes) were incongruent to their intentions (hub).
As mentioned above, information given by a constituent at last week’s Council meeting regarding the disrepair of Church Square Park was a valiant attempt to hold CP Giacci accountable for the upkeep of his ward, in particular one of Hoboken’s most historic parks. The degree of hazardous maintenance issues, including exposed electrical wires, broken glass fixtures, and public bathroom used as a makeshift homeless shelter, show a direct correlation with CP Giacci’s level of leadership and care for his ward. Further, when brought to CP Giacci’s attention he had the opportunity to take accountability and instill congruent action. What he chose to say instead was, “We’re looking into that,” but gave no other details. When the constituent wanted a concrete answer regarding the bathroom, Giacci only said, “It’s been discussed.” It appeared as a classic disrespectful blow off. In holding CP Giacci accountable, and to further promote concrete answers by not accepting incongruency I ask CP Giacci, “No, that is not an acceptable answer. What did you discuss, and when will the bathrooms be cleaned and the electrical fixtures fixed so our kids don’t get electrocuted?”
Moreover, the correlation of his lack of congruent care was further confirmed when CP Giacci voted against a change in last week’s Council agenda to allow the public forum (on the Astroturf in CSP) to move up from its original slot at the end of the meeting. His actions are especially telling, as he earlier voted against levying a tax for park acquisition in other wards yet voted against altering the agenda to discuss public concern about a park in his own ward. CP Cunningham initiated the motion asking for a show of hands to assess how many people attended specifically for the public forum on Astroturf. The majority raised their hands. CP LaBruno seconded the motion, stressing the importance with parents in the room who needed to get back to their families. CP Zimmer also agreed. With this consideration and courteous attention on the table, CPs Cammarano, Russo, and Giacci had yet another opportunity to show effective leadership abilities. All voted to let the people, the parents and the children wait with no rationale at all (watch the video on Ch 78). Their actions (spokes) were incongruent to their intentions (hub).
An administration confirms their care and responsibility for parks and children by building several playgrounds, but then leaves dangerous maintenance problems unattended within these same playgrounds. An administration confirms their care for the city and constituents, but then consciously ignores these same constituents’ demands and pleas for flooding help this past week, and consciously lies about timetables for action knowing it will take much longer, and much more money. The incongruency alone suggests the children, constituents and infrastructure are not their priority at all but rather the developers, contributors, and personal political gains are. Its actions (spokes) are incongruent to its intentions (hub).
If CP Giacci were an effective, authentic leader, the hazardous maintenance problems would be at the top of his agenda. Based on his incongruence, it is not. If he were a true representative of the people, the CSP public forum would have too been at the top of his agenda. It was not. His actions (spokes) were incongruent to his intentions (hub).
Much Talk, Little Action
Church Square Park has become a symbol of this Administration’s priority. It looks botched up, bruised, mismatched, and abused because they have literally whored out that park to the developers and campaign contributors. Hot plastic grass, hot toxic rubber surfaces, dead trees, inflated contracts. They tell us what they want us to hear. But the backdoor deals have been done whether they sleep at night or not. They will not change it, and sometimes they cannot change it (because they have already signed the deal with our blood). And anytime someone forces them to take accountability, they blame someone else or divert off topic. The first speaker during the public forum on CSP was on the right track. She laid out the facts that could not be contested. Instead of taking action, the Council scattered and made Mayor Roberts the scapegoat, an easy thing to do when he is not present, and convenient for the Council because they can divert accountability. As long as we supply diversions, they will be happy to talk and posture.
I do not believe that the majority of the Council is looking out for the best interests of the people of Hoboken. I believe that they are working to serve their own interests. They are making backdoor deals with developers and campaign contributors with our money and then covering up by breaching their fiduciary duty to the people of Hoboken in self-serving interests. They support any diversions in Council meetings to avoid accountability, and sit with a glazed look, the subtext of which says, “There’s nothing you can say to change my mind because it’s already made up, but I’ll feign interest because I need your vote.”
I believe in the potential of this city; in the people who live here; in strength in numbers; that good things can come from honesty, integrity and authenticity. I also believe the developers own this city. They own the City Council and whether we know it or not, they own us too. Al Gore was right when he said he believes leaders can accomplish more systemic good for the people by not holding public office. With power comes “responsibility” – the ability to respond. I believe the majority of our Council, Administration, and the Mayor have allowed self-serving interests to mar their ability to effectively serve the people of Hoboken. And I believe they have failed in their ability to respond adequately.
Raising the Bar
Call to action: I ask that we raise the bar higher than we have already raised it, for the purpose of getting our city’s needs met, ensuring our elected officials effectively represent these needs, and holding them accountable for their actions. We need to ask the questions that need to be asked, and not settle for political claptrap. If you have a question or something does not seem right, get up and ask just so it is on the record and for the home viewers to see. Questions like, “Why is the parking director allowed to play an unusually high amount of golf during the weekdays?” We have three new council members who admittedly have a learning curve. If we can help them by getting up and asking questions to clarify, or further an issue, please do so, for our benefit, the council members and those watching on Ch 78. Keep pushing for answers if they give claptrap responses, “That is not an acceptable answer.” Keep digging until they are forced to give an answer. Not surprisingly as we have seen most often, they will not take responsibility, and will blame someone else or get annoyed and flustered (when this happens you know you are getting close) – but at least it is on the record, it is on TV and they will eventually have to stand behind their words whether they are authentic or not. We seem to understand that backdoor deals have been made, so it seems that seeking accountability (who, what, where, when and how) is necessary over reasoning with them (because they have already made up their minds on most issues before they walk in the door).
There has been a movement of political change for years. And while there are several proactive factions working as checks-and-balances to the government, Hoboken411 has provided a loud, cohesive presence. I would like to see another faction, the purpose of which is to analyze our City Council through the council meetings in order to be more proactive at the meetings and to further promote accountability of our elected officials.
This would include:
- Breaking down budgets and expenditures
- Analyzing contracts
- Looking into political contributions/givebacks
- City hall privileges (for instance, handicapped parking)
- Keeping track of who says what
- And creating a report card on each Council member.
I already see this in a myriad of Hoboken411 threads. It is just a matter of pooling our resources. We are a group of highly intelligent, resourceful and experienced constituents. I am amazed at the resources we have among us seen throughout these postings: building experts, accountants, journalists, researchers, historians, teachers, environmentalists, landscape experts, lawyers, etc. I suggest we pull our resources together and use them to our advantage to provide a direct checks and balances of our City Council and the administration.
We are not going anywhere, and we are only gaining momentum. When there is truth, congruence, and authenticity, it is not difficult to maintain that formula. The majority of the Administration is fighting it now, but they will have to start listening, they will have to start being accountable, because we are not sitting down and we are showing up, and our representatives are being elected. It is only a matter of time. I urge people to go to council meetings (every other Wednesday), to get involved with the reform organizations, and to read this site and spread the word.
Thank you for reading.
– A Constituent