Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Stop the LockDown NJ: Memorial Day Protest in Trenton 1:00 PM

Stop the LockDown NJ announces:

Friday, May 22, 2020

DeFusco & Bhalla in throw down over mayor’s law firm representing NJ GOP in suit against State

In a late-breaking holiday weekend story, Councilman Mike DeFusco fired a guided missile at Mayor Ravi Bhalla after it was learned the Republican law firm where Bhalla holds a second job has filed a lawsuit against Governor Murphy over his allegedly illegal lockdown edict.

Ravi Bhalla is Of Counsel to the law firm and the city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri fired back with a personal attack about the councilman allegedly going to the gym in Manhattan leading into the pandemic and visiting seniors "door to door" calling it a risk "jeopardizing" their lives.

Rapid fire returned pointing to the unseemly habit of a City spokesman acting as a permanent campaign manager for Ravi Bhalla in defending his second job activity with the Republican law firm.

The Hudson County View has a superb breakdown on the full throttled exchange.

Related: Meanwhile, Governor Murphy feeling the pressure from the lawsuit challenging the state's extended near lockdown announced gatherings of 25 in public places is now approved. He's encouraging social distancing as part of the process.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ravi Bhalla comes clean: 'I tried to slip a 5% tax increase past the goalie'

Last night the Hoboken City Council declined Mayor Ravi Bhalla's request to increase taxes 5% on an interim basis pending the introduction of Hoboken's 2020 budget.

His request will be carried by the City Council for approval at the next meeting in two weeks.

Close observers recognize there's likely another double-digit tax increase coming on top of the interim tax increase of 5% when the full budget is finally introduced by the Bhalla Administration.

Ravi Bhalla points to losses of a million per month in tax revenues during the pandemic. This is in addition to the estimated $14 million some claim existed prior. The all-in figure speculated is roughly in the ballpark of a $20 million budget deficit projected for 2020.

The Hoboken mayor is pointing to his dialogue with elected figures in Congress for aid but there's no appetite in DC to bail out states and municipalities with red ink prior to the pandemic.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla let the Hoboken public know he had
tried to push through an interim 5% tax increase after the fact.
Media widely reported on the less than transparent action yesterday.

Talking Ed Note: Finally, Ravi Bhalla has come clean and admitted to at least part of the problem and his "secret Santa" request for a tax increase without any notification to the public. Does anyone believe former mayor Dawn Zimmer would have acted similarly?

Related: The City Council approved the elimination of the Constituent Office on second reading 6-3 reducing two positions there. Ravi Bhalla is going to veto it and force a delay with another City Council vote to override likely following in two weeks.

The Hudson County View covered that story noting 26 other municipal positions not connected to the mayor's office were eliminated without any fanfare from the mayor.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Surprise: Mayor Ravi Bhalla as Secret Santa puts up initial 5% tax increase for summer

In a secret move unrevealed to the public, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, sitting on a time bomb of a budget deficit since early this year estimated in the ballpark of $20 million, has snuck in a 5% tax increase onto the City Council agenda for tonight's meeting.

While Hoboken taxpayers won't be surprised there is a tax increase coming, they will be taken aback there's an immediate and secret tax increase of 5% being thrust upon them with no notification. So will the City Council which has yet to see any budget from Ravi Bhalla.

Ravi Bhalla has acted similarly in the past with one of the all-time largest developments downtown in NJ Transit. In a similar effort, the public was given no notification last year his administration would put up the massive redevelopment for council approval.

As Yogi Berra would say, "it's deja vu all over again."

The announcement of the pending tax increase legislation didn't come from the mayor's office but in from Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. The Ravi Bhalla secret Santa surprise is sure to raise eyebrows.

This would be an interim tax increase allowed under NJ law with an obviously bigger one to follow with introduction of Ravi Bhalla's budget.

Fisher made the revelation in an email release to the public earlier. In it she writes:

Did you know there is a 5% tax increase on tonight’s City Council agenda?  So your total tax bill in August would be increased 5%?  Did you read about it any communications from the mayor’s office?  
If you go to the online agenda for tonight's meeting, scroll down to resolutions, and under section 8 “Tax Collector”, the third one listed is a resolution titled “Resolution Authorizing Estimated Tax Billing Per N.J.S.A. 54:4-66.3”.  Obvious, right?  If this captured your curiosity, you could click on it to read the resolution.  You know what, I’ll just copy it here as it is short…

WHEREAS, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted municipal, county, and state governments, the 2020 budget process and property tax billing process may not be as timely and certain as they have been in past years; and,
WHEREAS, the City of Hoboken (“the City”) has not introduced its 2020 Municipal Budget and the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services may be delayed in reviewing the City’s 2020 Municipal Budget prior to adoption due to the current fiscal uncertainties, and the Hudson County Board of Taxation may be delayed in certifying the City’s 2020 tax rate once the City’s 2020 budget is adopted; and,
WHEREAS, without a certified 2020 tax rate, City of Hoboken Tax Collector will be unable to prepare and mail property tax bills in accordance with statutory deadlines for the third quarter installment of 2020 taxes; and,
WHEREAS, because of these above-mentioned uncertainties, the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services issued Local Finance Notice LFN-2020-07 which strongly recommends that municipalities issue estimated property tax bills for the third quarter installment of 2020 taxes, and,
WHEREAS, the Tax Collector, in consultation with the Chief Financial Officer and Finance Director, computed an estimated tax levy in accordance with NJSA 54:4-66.3, and each signed a certification showing the tax rate and tax levy for 2019 and the range of permitted estimated tax rates and levies for 2020; and,
WHEREAS, the 2020 estimated tax rate and estimated tax levy are within the permitted range, the Director of the Division of Local Government Services does not need to approve the estimated tax levy;
WHEREAS, the City seeks to authorize the Tax Collector, if she deems necessary, to prepare and issue estimated tax bills for the third quarter installment of 2020 taxes.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the City Council, City of Hoboken, County of Hudson, State of New Jersey as follows:
1.  The Tax Collector is hereby authorized and, if she deems necessary, directed to prepare and issue estimated tax bills for the third quarter installment of 2020 taxes. 
2. The estimated tax levy for 2020 is hereby set at $196,600,000.  

So… did you find the 5% increase anywhere?  Does $196M mean anything to you? Do you see any actual information about the 2020 municipal budget or why the administration believes a 5% increase is warranted?  As Co-Chair of the Revenue, Finance and Infrastructure subcommittee, I have asked the administration to provide some information about these items.  I told the administration that it is not fair to ask the City Council to approve a 5% increase without it, but moreover it is not fair to the residents of Hoboken who either pay taxes directly or indirectly.  As of this writing I am told they will be uploading a memo providing more color.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla is unavailable for comment and his staff avoids answering uncomfortable questions which this certainly generates. 

Talking Ed Note: Hey Ravi, "got transparency?" 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Horse Sense: Mayor Ravi Bhalla goes all-in to protect his top heavy mayor's office

There's one principle prize Mayor Ravi Bhalla upholds on local government, "It's all about me."

If you want to see where his investment in time and energy is from the second floor of the mayor's office, this when he's in the office at all versus his second job chasing HudCo contracts for a Republican law firm fronting him much dough, tomorrow is the show.

Several positions are up for a second reading for budge deficit reduction. Two of the positions are for the "luxury" office of Constituent Services, another is an engineering role. The savings would be into the six figures as Hoboken shows no sign of a budget heading into June.

Ravi Bhalla is holding that key information from both the public and the City Council. He has good reasons to keep the budget top secret. The City Council was aghast when preliminary numbers last winter came in showing millions of dollars in red ink. The council saw the figure as north of $12 million with some analysis estimating it at $14 million.

Fast forward to the pandemic and the mayor's office will not admit to their spendthrift ways. The only official response is a vague and tepid admission it's now in the $10 million dollar ballpark.

Weak sauce.

The unofficial word on the street is that the pandemic adds another few million or more with some offering outside of the mayor's office, mum to these realities; the actual figure may top $20 million.

Meanwhile, Ravi Bhalla is doing what he always does. Fight for the fattened insider salaries in the mayor's office and keep the fat thick and insulating. When his staff isn't launching political attacks on council members, throwing them out of City Hall when they are on site helping residents, they've found time to send their friends and the usual noisemaking battering ram to issue flippant charges of racism.

Unfortunately, the political investment at present in protecting mayoral staff comes under dire financial duress for the Mile Square City and after dozens of Hoboken workers for the City have already undergone the chopping block. Dozens more await the ax which Ravi Bhalla had measured for them to the tune of 79 city workers in total.

The all-around hypocrisy here is waning rather thin.

The only real argument which can be mounted with any fiscal sanity is the engineering role which has saved and may save far more in the coming months justifying retention of that salary. Perhaps the City Council should give that a closer look and weigh the distinct advantages in that role.

Otherwise, there's plenty of cutting Hoboken needs to be acting on, sooner than later.
Councilwoman Vanessa Falco

Council VP Vanessa Falco yesterday issued this statement to the media.

"It’s astonishing to see Mayor Bhalla take a position on the City Council’s effort to more appropriately fund City Hall since he remained silent when 26 people were laid off or forced into early retirement last month. Many of these employees were lifelong residents of Hoboken and played an integral role in the day to day operations of the City. All we are doing is simply asking the Mayor to better allocate the funds within his own office. Instead of handing out nearly $70,000 a year in stipends to three political insiders imported to City Hall from his 2017 campaign who already bring home a six figure salary. We were all elected to office with the responsibility of addressing constituent services, and that’s exactly what will continue to be done until those positions can be better funded in our budget.”

Hudson County View breaks down the particulars.

This Horse Sense editorial is dedicated to all the Hoboken City Workers who were shown the door recently without so much as a tear out of the mayor's office. None of them however were political insider hires of the mayor.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Hoboken "Love Local" Relief Fund Concert

The complete program for Hoboken small business with The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro.
The fund recently passed $100,000 in donations.