City Council – 11/7/2007 Recap

11/8/2007 Update:

The Hoboken City Council got back to work at full strength last night as Dawn Zimmer once again took the oath of office. Talk ranged from voter fraud investigations to the budget and potential layoffs. Bonding for Pier C was on the agenda along side yet another tax abatement for a big developer, and much more. Here is the recap:

Dawn Zimmer Returns

The room was full because of a large number of supporters who came to see Dawn Zimmer return to the fourth ward council seat. Along with many of the young professionals who were the core of her support, the two men who were her strongest bridges to the born-and-raised and senior citizen populations were also there to bask in their success. Former fourth ward Councilman Andrew Amato sat in the front row holding court, while Frank “Pupie” Raia worked the room with a smile.


Also cheering Zimmer on were a number of political opponents of Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who saw the victory as another battle in their war. Zimmer was sworn in with her husband and campaign manager Jenny Davis by her side.

Voter Fraud Investigation Follow-up

Following up on the allegations of voter intimidation, fraud, forgery, and other abuses in the spring elections, 2nd ward councilwoman Beth Mason offered a resolution at the October 17th meeting for the council to call on the State Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate all allegations of voter fraud in Hoboken. The council agreed to have city attorney Steve Kleinman write up a formal letter on council letterhead to request the investigation, and drafts went back and forth for council member approval in between meetings.

Last night during new business, Mason brought the request up again since the letter had not yet been sent. Mason congratulated Zimmer on her victory, and invited her to join the council by joining the council’s call for an investigation, noting the most serious charges were made in the fourth ward, with another highly publicized incident in the fifth ward. Mason noted the incidents were not isolated, and there were questionable incidents in her ward as well. Some Hoboken411 posters have noted issues in the sixth ward runoff as well. Mason said:

The residents of our city have a right to believe that all our elections are fair and clean. Councilwoman Zimmer and the rest of the City Council should ensure that the claims made are fully exposed for whatever they may be, not swept under the rug.

The City Council in its last meeting agreed to send a letter requesting the investigation of the recent elections, to both the US Attorney’s office and the New Jersey Attorney General.

I hope Councilwoman-elect Zimmer will concur in an effort to show the citizens of Hoboken that business as usual will not be tolerated.

A copy of the updated letter was then passed to Zimmer for her review and response.

Zimmer’s surprising response

When the question of inviting an investigation first came up at the last meeting, all council members signed on to the effort. After all, what council member is going to be on channel 78 as being against calling for an investigation of voter fraud charges?

After Zimmer was given the letter, other members went through their new business. When it came back to Zimmer, she responded to the call for an investigation of all fraud allegations by saying she would rather “focus on moving forward and healing wounds after a very divisive race.” Zimmer said she “needed to digest this” before signing on to the letter, saying she wanted to “focus on bringing the fourth ward together.”

Mason Responds

Mason said she was “a little disappointed” by Zimmer’s response, and by the tone of her voice she may have been a little annoyed as well. Mason said investigating voter fraud throughout the city is not about “bridging a divide”, but is about making sure the citizens of Hoboken can trust the election system, noting as elected officials they should “make sure elections are clean.”

This is not a new issue for Mason, who has been documenting and following up on suspected incidents of Hoboken voter fraud, including during the HCDO’s campaign to re-elect Mayor David Roberts in 2005. Regardless of whether or not Zimmer signs on, the council’s letter is likely to be sent to the State Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s office for consideration.


Ursa/Tarragon Tax Abatement

A public hearing and final vote was held to award 999 Madison Street Urban Renewal LLC a 25 year tax exemption for 217 market rate residential rental units at 10th and Jefferson. Originally Ursa/Tarragon planned to sell these as condos, but because “the market has changed” they’ve decided to rent out the units.

Several speakers opposed the abatement, including council watchdogs Helen Hirsch and Mo DeGenarro. Ines Garcia-Keim pointed out a big developer was asking the city for a 25-year tax break for a building that won’t be subject to the city’s rent control laws. She noted the smaller landlords who abide by the city’s rent control laws in town will face tax increases year after year while this developer gets the benefit of a tax abatement with carte blanche to raise rents as high as the market will allow. Garcia-Keim also noted as a mother with children in the schools it troubled her that “we are only concerned with the municipal portion of taxes, and not the schools”. The school district and Hudson County don’t get taxes from buildings the city decides to abate with Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (aka PILOTS).

Aaron Lewitt also noted how the developer was apparently not including any affordable rental units in the building, instead deciding to build their mandated affordable units elsewhere. He said racial and economic integration should be the goal, not segregation, saying he thought the developer didn’t want poor people in this new building.

Fifth ward councilman Peter Cunningham noted the developer was coming to the city for another tax abatement, but the city is still waiting for the community center and pool promised years ago as part of the Northwest Redevelopment plan. Cunningham asked “what happens if there is a reval?” The answer: other people will see their taxes go up while buildings with PILOTS will remain steady. Cunningham and Mason voted against the abatement, Zimmer abstained because she did not have time to review it during the election, while the rest of the council voted to approve it.

Bonding for Pier C

At long last, with all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted, the bond guarantee of twenty million dollars for Pier C Park was approved last night after a public hearing where no one spoke, and the council took a unanimous vote. Still, yet another construction season has gone by without a single pile in the water for the park.

Stop Sign Cameras Coming

After a discussion about how little they know about the plan for the Police Department to post cameras to catch stop-sign runners in a pilot program, the council voted to approve the ordinance that would allow it to have the force of law. Cameras will soon be mounted at “undisclosed locations” and tickets will be issued by mail. Something to think about the next time you “roll through”. Don’t be surprised to find a Google map of all locations here on 411 shortly after they’re installed.

Stevens Parking Garage Proposal


For the last six or seven years the Fund for a Better Waterfront has been at odds with Stevens Institute of Technology over the college’s plans to build a giant, open parking lot on the riverfront. That proposal was hampered by lawsuits, and later by Stevens’ inability to pay for the garage on its own dime. Now Stevens wants the city to bond to help pay for their garage in an arrangement yet to be determined.

Parking Utility chief John Corea introduced city parking consultant B, who showed sketches of a proposal to build a 535 spot garage that would include graduate student housing facing Sinatra Drive and the Waterfront Walkway. The proposal is similar in concept to one that FBW had proposed to Stevens years ago.

Sixth ward councilman Nino Giacchi suggested to Corea that a community advisory group be formed to work on the final proposal, and that FBW should be included in that group. Giacchi said there should be a community consensus on the design of the garage. FBW’s Ron Hine agreed, and expressed optimism that a consensus could be reached.

Parking Permit Fees Rising?

A resolution to raise the cost of an annual resident parking permit from $15 to $20 was tabled at the request of third ward councilman Michael Russo. Three contracts for services were also left without sponsors due to the lack of a budget proposal from Mayor David Roberts, who canceled a Halloween Night special meeting to drop the budget in the council’s lap, and then went to Italy on vacation. The proposed contract for Police Chief LaBruno was also tabled.

Response to Layoff Notices

While the Mayor was away on vacation, he had his office send layoff notices to employees. Russo said not one person that lives in Hoboken and respects the city’s residency requirement for non-public safety employees should be laid off before people who don’t live in Hoboken get laid off. Mayor Roberts has allowed several people to work for the city despite the residency requirement, including his public relations guy who lives in Union City.

Tributes and Congratulations

Council President Theresa Castellano asked for moments of silence for Regina LiCalsi, who she called the “Heart and soul of the recreation department”, and Vinnie Barbo, who was the longtime senior citizen and multi-service center program director. The council also congratulated Ruben Ramos on his election to the state assembly. Ruben stressed that he was “here for everyone” and looked forward to bringing Hoboken’s concerns to Trenton. Councilwoman Terry LaBruno took time to thank Chris Campos for 6 years of service on the council. LaBruno served as Campos’ campaign treasurer. Campos did not attend the meeting, and neither did Gerry McCann or Arnold Williams.

You can watch the whole 3+ hour meeting on Cablevision channel 78. The next council meeting is scheduled for the night before Thanksgiving, though it’s possible the Mayor will call for a special meeting to unveil his budget.


5pm Update:

News from Dawn Zimmer, Councilwoman Elect:

“I am thrilled to announce that I will be sworn in tonight at 7:00 at City Hall at the start of the City Council meeting. Since the provisionals will not change the results, and the 4th Ward has been without representation, Jimmy Farina, Hoboken’s City Clerk, has decided to certify the results, and swear me in tonight.

I am exhausted, but very excited to get back to representing the people of the 4th Ward and Hoboken. The people of the 4th Ward have made a clear choice, and now I want to begin the process of bringing the community back together again. I cannot thank all of my supporters enough for their incredible dedication, hard work, and perseverance.

Thank you all for your support, especially to those that stood in line for 1 1/2 hours last night waiting to cast their votes!”

Dawn Zimmer


Council back to “full capacity”

Council chambers should to be packed to the gills tonight with supporters of victorious 4th ward candidate Dawn Zimmer, cheering for her when she returns to her vacated council seat.

Hoboken City Council Meeting

In brief, some of the items on the agenda are:

  • The amended $20 million dollar Pier C ordinance, which was off by 1.2 million dollars originally, and created some friction between council members Cammarano and Mason.
  • Stop sign & red light “photographic system” to bust blatant violators.
  • A 25 year tax abatement for a developer.
  • 33% increase: Raising the parking decal permit from $15 to $20 per year.
  • Parking meters near the Monroe Center.
  • and more…

You can catch the taped meeting on Cablevision Channel 78 a couple days from now.

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honchoWestsider IICatWestfulhobojoe Recent comment authors
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Bottomline Quimby is addicted to borrowing and spending….

and there is no accountability in town government

We have a town that can’t fund it’s payroll without 1 shot deals,what does the Mayor do???? He issues 50 million worth of bonds to prop up a hospital that can’t treat the town’s most famous politician when he’s run over!

We have a 2 nd highest paid police chief with the worst record who authorizes a trip to New Orleans that turns the department into the laughingstock of the nation!!!

And his #1 Lieutenant gets the town hit with a $20 million dollar lawsuit….

And Quimby wants to renew his contract!

We have a unautomated white elephant parking garage on Garden!!!

The list goes on….
Here’s a few suggestions for the Council

Immediate hiring freeze

No new hires as city employees retire

Downsize 10% across the board all departments starting with non-resident employees

Salary freeze for everybody else

New CFO who starts outsourcing City services

Bag the hospital as soon as possible before real estate market completely collapses


Westsider II
Westsider II

The BUDGET — mayor and council responsibility — IS a mess. The BOOKS — CFO and BA responsibility — ARE NOT a mess.

[quote comment=”55157″]I was at the Council meeting the other day, and from what I gather, the budget is still a mess.[/quote]

Throughout the ninties the city of Hoboken annually — and illegally — overspent the adopted budget by millions of dollars. That came to a stop in the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years when the acting CFO, who you believe was not qualified, refused to overspend the budget and was fired for his pains. He filed suit for wrongful termination and was awarded over $150,000. Make of it what you will.

The next year, AND EVERY YEAR THEREAFTER the city kept illegal overspending to a nominal amount.

Today, city finances are still a mess, AND WE KNOW BY EXACLY HOW MUCH. You may argue that doesn’t matter. I disagree. But those are the facts.

As for trimming the budget, we have three Council folks willing to do that. Cunningham, Mason, and Zimmer. The situation will only change when we can count to five.

Getting those two additional council folks, not attacking those aiding in that effort, is my focus. I would hope it would be yours.

Westsider II
Westsider II

Actually Jolly Roger didn’t respond to my point at all. [quote comment=”55136″]As usual, Westsider II posts a long lecture (#409 and #411). I will just respond to a few points: [quote] Jolly Roger sees this as a strength — no conflict of interests. I’d argue it has been our fatal flaw.[/quote] [/quote] My point was that if reformers have disdain for those in their ranks who seek and serve in municipal positions, we will never understand what is really going on, and won’t have allies within the system we need to make meaningful change. [quote comment=”54999″]I frankly think it naive to believe that elected officials CAN meaningfully reform a governmental entity when virtually the entire paid staff is working full-time to thwart their efforts….I believe it would be easier to reform our schools, if resident educators committed to reform sought jobs as Hoboken teachers. I believe it would be easier to reform our police force if residents committed to reform with an interest in law enforcement sought jobs as Hoboken cops. I believe it would be easier to reform city finances if residents committed to reform with financial skills sought jobs in managing city finances. These reform supporters in public jobs might better accept reform minded directives from the elected officials. They might support reform on the job. They might even see situations in which they could suggest reform solutions. I just don’t see how nine part-time Council people, even with a Mayor on their side, are going to turn… Read more »

Westsider II
Westsider II

[quote comment=”55007″]But I certainly agree there should be monitoring.[/quote]

Agree wholeheartedly, and not only for those on the public payroll. Everyone in public life should have their motives and actions scrutinized, and where appropriate, questioned and challenged.

Public life is life in a fishbowl, and those unwilling to accept scrutiny should get out.

That said I do object to the double standard often implicitly imposed (most recently and notably in Dawn’s election).

In that case, Dawn when availed herself of perfectly accepted forms of political campaigning long utilized by her opponents cries of “not a reformer” rained down. Among these legal and appropriate tactics:

1) Active use of absentee ballots to encourage her supporters to vote.

2) Building alliances with people and political organizations who might not support every aspect of her agenda, so long as she was not committed to deviate from her stated goals.

3) Hiring professional campaign staff, to compete with the professionals or semi professionals working on the other side.

4) Giving out trinkets of limited value such as pies, and yes — lottery tickets — to spark conversations with potential supporters, and

5) Hiring residents to WORK to get the message out about her campaign.

None of these things are illegal, or even inappropriate. All of them have been done by her opponant. All of them, if done well, can be effective.

If we as reformers avoid such tactics because “reformers don’t do that” not only will we lose, but IWHO, we will have brought it upon to ourselves.


[quote comment=”54986″]On the other hand, those making a living at it may have a conflict of interest and should be closely monitored. I guess this would be like Nixon should go to China, but not make behind-the-closed-doors deals that mostly benefit him or his buddies personally. :mrgreen:[/quote]

Perhaps my greater tolerance for professional politicians springs from my gut level belief that all politicians are at least a little dirty because power corrupts. Even if someone were doing politics for free, they’d still have power. So I don’t think you can ever have a clean government.

But I certainly agree there should be monitoring.