City Council – 11/21/2007 Recap
11/26/2007 Leftover Turkey Recap:
You’ve seen the TV reports, read the papers, and heard the crazy talk about last week’s city council meeting, with most of it focused on the SWAT Team. With people back from the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Hoboken411 proudly presents some of the “leftover” items you may have missed in the frenzy.
See the teaser here, read the rest after the break.
Roberts Wants $8 Million More
Mayor David Roberts formally presented his fiscal year 2008 spending plan by focusing on how much more he thought the city could afford to spend. $8 million more, apparently. Roberts gleefully noted property values are up, and new condo projects are bring in new revenue, which means the city has a greater ability to borrow and spend money.
Budget and finance committee chairman Michael Russo indicated the public was invited to attend to open workshops on the budget this Wednesday and Thursday nights at City Hall. Before Roberts could get away, 2nd ward councilwoman Beth Mason asked the Mayor if he would be attending these workshops and making his case for the budget. After stammering through an attempt to get out of it by first saying he would make “the Mayor’s office available,” Roberts ultimately came to the conclusion that there was no way to get out of the invitation. You sensed the apprehension in the air.
Continue reading the full recap after the jump.
Resolutions: Bergin moved up
The appointment of new Public Safety Director Bill Bergin was moved to the top of the list as “Resolution 1-A.”
Council President Theresa Castellano went out of order and didn’t allow the public to speak until after the vote was taken.
Council watchdog Helen Hirsch said Roberts’ nomination of former deputy fire chief Bergin was another example of how “everybody knows everybody” in Hoboken, adding she thought someone from outside should be brought in to do a clean, objective investigation of the police department.
We’ll see about that, Helen.
Chief’s Contract Withdrawn
The resolution ratifying “language components” of police chief Carmen Labruno’s contract was removed from the agenda before the many TV cameras showed up. Chief LaBruno did not attend the meeting, though it seemed just about every other member of the police department not on duty was there. The Chief’s current contract is up at the end of the year, but he is rumored to have accrued up to three years of unused vacation time that the city may be on the hook for should they not renew his contract.
Parking Permit Hike Withdrawn
The Mayor’s proposal to raise funds by hiking the fee for a residential parking permit from $15 to $20 was withdrawn, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. In fact, Roberts also wants to hike the fees at the city’s parking garages and add many new meters where free parking spaces are now to raise funds to fill his budget gap. He didn’t say how much he wanted to raise fees, or where he wanted to put those meters during his budget address, instead spending the time to talk about things that had nothing to do with the budget, including Pier C and the hospital formerly known as St. Mary’s.
Investigating Fraud and Educating Voters
After some discussion about making the message as strong as possible, the council voted unanimously to approve Councilwoman Beth Mason’s resolution calling for an investigation by the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney of allegations of voter fraud made during recent elections.
4th ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer’s resolution “regarding clean elections” was rescinded, but a line from it calling on “all people in possession of any evidence of wrongdoing to turn it over” was included in the amended resolution.
Anyone care to guess the outcome?
Borrowing Again for Automated Garage
Instead of paying for the latest multi-million dollar investment in the fatally flawed 916 Garden Street automated parking garage from the Parking Utility’s annual profit of over $4 million, Mayor Roberts wants to borrow the money to pay the bill. The first reading of a bond ordinance to borrow $2.2 million to pay Unitronics for it’s work barely passed.
Council members Mason, Cunningham, and Zimmer voted no, while Castellano abstained. Though a simple majority of five votes passed the ordinance on first reading, it will take a super-majority of six votes to approve the bonding after a public hearing at the next council meeting. The first reading of the $2 million bond ordinance for road improvements also moved forward.
Municipal Garage Bids In
City Clerk Jim Farina acknowledged the receipt of two proposals for the sale of the Hoboken Municipal Garage on Observer Highway. The proposals are being reviewed before recommendations are presented to the city council. Councilman-at-Large Peter Cammarano insisted that it also be noted on the record that a bidder he favors sent a letter to the city about a rejected bid. Cammarano has been trying to steer the property to MDK Development.
Salary Ordinance pulled from agenda
The salary ordinance we told you about in our council preview was not discussed at the meeting. No explanation was given, but the rumor is there are people at city hall being paid more than the “maximum salaries” listed on the ordinance. This may have been going on for years, in violation of the law. What kind of damage control is being planned?
The council meets again Wednesday and Thursday in “committee of the whole” to discuss the Mayor’s $87 million budget proposal.
11/22/2007 Turkey Update Preview:
Here’s the News Channel 4 update about tonights meeting. I’ll throw the Eyewitness News recap on the “Take Action” thread.
Hoboken City Council Preview
It should be quite a night for the Hoboken City Council. Along with the ongoing national joke that the Hoboken SWAT Team has become, there is always the Mayor’s budget proposal, further discussion of bonding for road improvements and the parking utility, plus further debate about how strongly to address allegations of voter fraud in the recent elections.
Here is your trademark Hoboken411 preview:
Mayor Unveils FY2008 Budget:
Taxes are going up, and spending is going through the roof. That’s the bottom line on Mayor David Roberts’ budget proposal for the fiscal year that began July 1st, and is now nearly half over. The pre-Thanksgiving spending plan is expected to top $87 million, which means it comes with plenty of stuffing and all the trimmings. That’s up $9 million worth of gravy over last year, and is a whopping $32 million larger than the last budget approved before Roberts started his mayoral spending spree six years ago.
Though he hasn’t exactly been bragging about it, Roberts is expected to include more one-shot revenue deals to make up for the massive structural deficit Hoboken continues to carry. While the Mayor will give a brief presentation with his budget talking points, his custom is to turn around and leave the room as soon as he is finished to avoid any tough questions on the spending plan from the council and the public. Save some room for pumpkin pie.
Parking Utility Permits Going Up?
A resolution raising the cost of annual residential Parking Permits from $15 to $20 is back on the agenda. It’s one of the taxes and fees the Mayor wants to raise to help bridge gaps in his spending plan. Roberts also intends to raise municipal parking garage fees, though he hasn’t offered specifics yet.
Changing the Police Chief’s Contract
Resolution #4 “ratifies the action of the administration’s negotiation of the language components within the Hoboken Police Chief’s January 2005 through December 2007 labor agreement.” There is no supporting documentation for just what that legalese means, and exactly how it changes Police Chief Carmen LaBruno’s contract. Considering all that’s gone on the past few weeks in the HPD there are likely to be some questions about this one.
Speaking of the Police Department…
Missing from the posted agenda is anything related to Mayor David Roberts’ announcement that he would offer the name of retired deputy fire chief Bill Bergin as the city’s new Public Safety Director. This is a position that the council has to approve of reject, but the appointment is not on the agenda and Bergin has been acting as though he already has the council’s blessing. Has Bergin been investigating employees and going through city employment files without the advice and consent of the council? This could get interesting.
Addressing Voter Fraud and Educating Voters
There are three resolutions on the agenda regarding the reports and allegations of voter fraud and irregularities, following second ward Councilwoman Beth Mason’s calls for investigation. The first resolution “calls for an investigation by Attorney General and U.S. Attorney of allegations of voter fraud made during recent elections within the City of Hoboken.” A companion resolution “develops a voter education initiative led by the Mayor and City Council conducted by the League of Women Voters and the HAVA Coalition.” HAVA stands for Help America Vote Act.
A third resolution on the agenda says it is “regarding clean elections in Hoboken.” This is fourth ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer’s response to the Mason resolutions.
Ordinances: More borrowing, again
The ordinances up for a public hearing and final vote are not likely to spark much comment, but the ordinances up for first reading could get some people talking. Once again the administration is asking for approval for $2 million in borrowing for road improvements that have already been done, and $2.2 million to pay for the work done to retrofit the 916 Garden Automated Parking Garage. If they pass first reading, public hearings will be held at the next meeting.
How much are they paid?
Another ordinance makes changes to the city’s salary ordinance, including classifications and allocations for all positions not governed by a separate contract in the municipality. Most fire and police positions are not included in this ordinance. 1.5% of the city budget for TEN people??
Some highlights of the proposed maximum allowable salaries:
- Business Administrator (Dick England): $149,184.13
- Mayor (Dave Roberts): $129,895.39
- Corporation Counsel (Steve Kleinman): $129,796.40
- Parking Utility Director (John Corea): $114,265.83
- Construction Code Official (Al Arezzo): $114,265.83
- City Clerk (Jim Farina): $110,821.33
- Chief Financial Officer (George DeStefano): $110,821.33
- Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator (Joel Mestre): $97,614.59
- Secretary to the Mayor: $90,026.51
- Program Monitor (???): $90,026.51
- City Council Member: $24,129.29
As always, the council will also consider new business and any public comments at the end of the meeting. It all begins at 7pm at City Hall. Better eat something before you go because this could be a long one!