Monday, February 17, 2020

Councilman Phil Cohen: "Hospital Zoning, Art in the Park, and Pet Waste"

Official release:

 
Dear Neighbor,
 
I want to wish each and every one of you a Happy Valentine’s Day and a happy Black History Month. So far this month has already been chock full of excitement. Here are some of the items that have taken place or that I think would interest you to know. 
 
Hospital Zoning
At our City Council meeting last Wednesday evening, my Council colleagues and I unanimously approved on first reading an emergency ordinance to zone our hospital property as a hospital district, to prevent it from being used for future residential development. Although the future of our hospital is once again uncertain, working with Mayor Bhalla’s administration, we are doing our part to help secure a future with a hospital continuing to serve our community.  By acting to diminish the appeal of the hospital’s land to a real estate developer seeking to profit from the hospital’s precarious financial status, we are working to increase the likelihood that the hospital continues to provide critical public health services to our community. To read more click here
 
Spring Recreation
Since 2018, the City has expanded recreation opportunities for children through the re-launch of the flag football program, the introduction of tennis clinics, the expansion of basketball for children with a new division for girls, and this year — a new girls’ volleyball league. 
Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and the City of Hoboken are pleased to announce the launch of recreation tennis, and for the first time, girls’ volleyball for the spring season. Registration will open on a first-come, first-serve basis for both sports at 12:00 pm on Friday, February 14th and will remain open until March 2nd. To register, visit http://www.hobokennj.gov/register.
 
Art in the Park
On February 11th registration began for Hoboken’s popular Art in the Park program, a six-week creative arts program this summer for children ages 1-4 years of age. You can sign up at www.hobokennj.gov/register.
This picture of Anna, 17 years ago, shows how much my family has enjoyed this terrific program which is run so well by Nora Martínez DeBenedetto. Though Anna is in college now, our Art in the Park program is still here, going strong and better than ever!
It’s not too soon to plan for our fun Art in the Park program.  Register today!
 
Pet Waste Station Adoption 
Note the empty roll on our 11th Street pet waste station, which I personally “adopted”, and which used to have 200 bags. It’s pretty clear that our pet waste station is being well-used, and our 11th Street sidewalks look pretty clear too! 🐕 🐶 💩 🐕 🐶
This initiative from Mayor Bhalla’s administration seems to be working well. Let me know if you would like to adopt a Pet Waste Station if you don’t have one nearby, and we will follow-up or visit www.hobokennj.gov/petwaste for more information. Let’s keep our streets clean together! 
 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mayor Ravi Bhalla issues dozens of layoff notices and readies higher taxes

A slew of municipal layoff notices in the dozens hit the street with the mayor's office preparing a budget expected to deplete millions more this year from the surplus and an inevitable tax increase higher than the one he proposed last year.

Welcome to the world of Mayor Ravi Bhalla's Hoboken.

An economic boom is underway across the country but in the Mile Square City, its depression era municipal job cuts, splurging on the surplus and a fat tax increase for Hoboken taxpayers.

How'd this happen? Let us dial back a single calendar year. What were Ravi Bhalla and the office of mayor doing? Rolling out a three-percent tax increase to residents while issuing themselves fat double-digit raises.

Later that spring, the City Council would go line by line and identify areas for additional savings in an effort to roll back the Ravi Bhalla tax increase to less than a little over one-percent.

How did Ravi Bhalla and his office respond? They took the battle to Trenton in an effort to counter any of the City Council's reasonable spending reductions.

So here Hoboken sits staring at a blank wall asking why?

Mayor Ravi Bhalla scooting 

The rest of this story is premium content and will go out to members this week.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Bern this!

Bernie Sanders (D) wins the New Hampshire primary.


Denied a caucus win in Iowa early last week, Bernie Sanders would not be stopped from an evening victory declaration in the New Hampshire primary this time.

Announcing his objective to transform America, Sanders topped all Democrat Party candidates with over 76,000 votes in the New Hampshire primary last night.

In second was red diaper baby challenger, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg boosted by his Iowa victory declaration under a cloud of irregularities yet unresolved and leaving the Associated Press unable to declare a victor there.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar saw an upswing to third as she attempted to stake out a middle position among candidates burying fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren to fourth place.

Warren coming off a fifth place finish in Pocahontas County Iowa last week and third overall saw her presidential ambitions stumble in New Hampshire as she sinks to a 1024 to 1 long shot.

Further down the list, the mainstream or DNC Media's declared frontrunner, former VP Joe Biden cratered, this time coming in fifth and earning zero delegates for the Democratic nomination as predicted here.

Biden blew off his last New Hampshire event flying to South Carolina where he hopes to mobilize a stronger showing. He'll look to rescesitate his campaign with his unique pitch to voters. He called one New Hampshire student a "lying dog-faced pony soldier" in a public forum over the weekend.

With about 90% of the tallies counted late Monday, the Associated Press published the results:



Elsewhere, former New York City mayor, Mike Bloomberg (D) who has spent approximately $300 million to date in his presidential bid is lying in wait to make an outright purchase of the Democrat Party. He's set to spend many hundreds of millions more in an outright oligarch-like bid unseen in US political history.


On the Republican side, President Trump easily won the New Hampshire primary against nominal opposition.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Joshua Sotomayor Einstein: Breaking down the Ravi Bhalla bait and switch

Joshua Sotomayor Einstein breaks down the bait and switch Mayor Ravi Bhalla offered in his State of the City speech. At the time of submission, the Bhalla Budget Debacle was thought in the area of $7.5 million and not the potentially worse range surfacing in the last City Council meeting, $14 million.

In his “State of the City” address, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla continued the age-old tradition of touting initiatives began under the past administrations as personal victories, highlighting policy initiatives that are beyond the power of the municipality, using a Band-Aid approach to major issues, and ignoring the elephant in the room – the $7.5 million dollar budget hole. Masked as an apolitical update on city developments, the thinly veiled partisan speech was a sad, though not unexpected, continuation of Bhalla’s addiction to politics-as-usual. 
The mayor began his talk on infrastructure by hyping the North West Park, a six acre public space with a $100 million plus price tag that could have been free to the tax payer had city hall let an apartment complex be built on half an acre, but for which the city decided to spend the public’s money on. (The cisterns being built under the park have been brought up time and time again as a panacea against another horrific flooding, but the fact remains that as water runs towards the lowest point, in another massive flood situation, the cisterns {which will fill} will not magically elevate most of Hoboken above sea level.)

Bhalla then reiterated his support for a light rail stop north of the viaduct, a plan the Port Authority has had on the books since 2014. On the regular water main breaks, resultant flooding, and the perennial sink holes Hoboken faces from an ancient water delivery system, the mayor celebrated his as-of-yet-unfinished goal of replacing 2.7 miles of water mains, less than 6% of the entire system, by the end of 2020.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla, can you be censured by the public?
After infrastructure, Mayor Bhalla spent a significant amount of his political speech peddling his “Zero Vision” agenda of making life more difficult for residents by killing parking spots, narrowing Hoboken’s already anorexic roadways with barrier based bike lanes, (often driven over) curb bump-outs, and adding the equivalent of thousands of new “micro” vehicles for which traffic rules are rarely if ever enforced. The barrier based bike lanes, which were resoundingly rejected by the public during the open discussions in the run up to the botched Washington Street redevelopment, had their second debut at a community meeting in October of 2019 to a chorus of residents, cyclists included, again rejecting them.
Though Bhalla seemingly actually believes shrinking the streetscape while clogging it with thousands of unpoliced scooter-ists will result in fewer accidents rather than increase roadway chaos; he has conveniently set his goal of zero injuries and fatalities long after he is likely out of office (2030). Peddling the falsehood that there is such a thing as a free lunch, the mayor practically begged for applause when he mentioned that the municipal bus service known as the “Hop” is “free of charge for residents,” as if residents were not already paying for the city bus through taxes.
Next up was the mayors attempted national-level virtue signaling in which he attacked President Trump for not upholding the Paris Accords, a non-treaty never brought by President Obama to the Senate for ratification. Once again, Bhalla put the goal posts for his supposedly sincerely held priority of having the city government go carbon neutral far into the future – 2050. Continuing the topic of faux environmentalism, the mayor pivoted to his ban on the formerly recyclable shopping bags abusing the English language by maintaining his incorrect labeling of them as “single use.” Interestingly, Bhalla failed to bring up the new municipal public dog waste bag stations that have popped up around town which offer free plastic dog waste bags. This, even though many residents once saved their recyclable shopping bags for re-use, disposing of dog waste among them.
Based on the amount of time given the varied topics the mayor spoke on, one could be forgiven for thinking Hoboken was but until recently an urban-hellscape-meets-concrete-prison devoid of any parks or public space rather than the beautiful charming city that it has been for decades. Though opponents of individual property rights have celebrated the seizing of the New York Waterway marina property at the old Union Dry Dock as a fait accompli, Mayor Bhalla acknowledged the theft is not yet a done deal, stating that “I would be remiss if I did not reiterate my administrations unwavering commitment to securing Union Dry Dock to create a water front park.” Of course, tens of thousands of Hoboken residents are satisfied with Hoboken’s already existing parks and public spaces encompassing 90% of the waterfront and do not want the taxpayer to pay $30-60 million dollars in eminent domain compensation, legal fees, and park construction costs. 
The mayors next topic was that of businesses in Hoboken, during which he counterintuitively claimed both that business life in town needed “revitalization” while implying it was doing well. Bhalla ignored the dozens of empty store fronts on Washington Street and across town, as well as the reputation City Hall has of making life needlessly difficult for small business owners but did mention the recently created Special Improvement District (SID). Like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, the city budget, which allegedly included beautification and cultural events, such as the SID is supposed to engage in, did not shrink nor were pre-existing municipal funds transferred to the SID. Rather the Hoboken SID, which unlike any other SID across New Jersey covers the entire municipality, charges yet another tax on many commercial and residential properties in order to “support” business. 
The full list of the mayors factually challenged fairy tales is too long to continue. But the highlight was Bhalla’s assertion that he has a “fiscally responsibly approach to spending” as if the long list of items he claimed credit for had not needlessly cost Hoboken resident’s through tax increases, hiking permit fees, a predatory parking authority that is used to pad the municipal budget, and much more. Hoboken deserves better than the politics-as-usual, parks above all else, political patronage, and virtue signaling agenda of a mayor committed to doubling down on the same poor practices which resulted in the Hoboken budget hole of $7.5 million. Fortunately, Bhalla will likely be a one term mayor, unfortunately for Hoboken, it’s going to be a while until the next mayoral election in 2021.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Report on the demise of the Lepers?

Courtesy of the local CBS affiliate:




The Battle of the Lepers means more than a mere bar crawl. There's bragging rights and that's politics as the City Council will affirm and likely implement some form of taxation on the bars promoting these bar crawls.

Who will be screaming for credit no matter how it fares in 2021?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Horse Sense: Hoboken enters a BA quagmire

The departure of Business Administrator Stephen Marks with his resignation this month closes the chapter to a Hoboken where financial stability and low taxes were a benchmark.

Following in the footsteps of the very able Quentin Wiest, Marks learned from someone who mastered the details, saw the big picture and acted decisively to keep the City's numbers in the black. As one example, Hoboken saved two million dollars when it made the bold move to self-insure its health plan for employees and retirees.

Stephen Marks
The biggest downside in a move such as this? You can only reap those benefits once and then the genie keeps rearing its head. So how do you maintain cost controls in a small NJ municipality?

Wiest departed Hoboken in the fall of 2016 and Marks took over without the same business experience but walked into some emerging problems.

Hoboken is facing a $7 million dollar budget deficit. The way it's talked about from the mayor's office, it sounds like a meteor landed on City Hall and it was just bad luck the hot rock crashed into the Mile Square City.

Reality says different. Hoboken knew revenues were down for obvious reasons in parking and the Municipal Court. The construction on Washington St. led to a seven figure drop in revenues and with the lengthy delays it could have been worse.

While Mayor Ravi Bhalla accelerated the Washington Street reconstruction faring better than it had under former mayor Dawn Zimmer, was it a secret revenues would be impacted? Hardly, and those projections are known to the mayor's office as they were incurred over many months. So why was nothing done about it?

Well, as we're beginning to learn something was done. Ravi Bhalla spent money on his office like a drunken sailor coming in to port for holiday. He created a much-heralded "Constituent Office" insulating himself from the public as he collected on his second job, landed HudCo legal contracts for his Republican law firm friends and took trips fundraising with an eye on his next political job.

The mayor's office budget increased almost 50% and fat double-digit raises went to his inner circle who spent more time promoting the boss than implementing savings on plummeting revenues. This when they weren't orchestrating vile political attacks on members of the City Council and anyone deemed an "Enemy of the State."

Marks himself got caught up in this "bow or be destroyed" mentality. Some insiders claim he was the person giving the order to City Hall security to throw out City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher who were sighted on the third floor trying to help a resident at the rent office.

Now Hoboken needs to look ahead and find a new Business Administrator. The circumstances will make it harder but at this late stage in the budget cycle, the attraction will be less than appetizing. Some luck will be needed and some common sense overdue from the mayor's office.

Let's hope that political reality finally hits home.

In the interim, good luck to Stephen Marks who had some good years before the lean years.

A report on the budget dilemma from the City Council meeting last night:



Talking Ed Note: Meanwhile, the details on the Ravi Bhalla budget deficit is getting worse.

According to the report on Hudson County View:

"While outgoing Business Administrator Stephen Marks announced last month that the budget deficit was in the ballpark of $7 million, Fisher said that the actual figure should exceed $10 million and could actually approach $14 million."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Feds: Louis Picardo sentenced to 12 months for tax evasion

Official release:

USAO NJ Seal 3
United States AttorneyDistrict of New Jersey

A Hoboken-based accountant was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for evading more than $914,000 in taxes on income he earned from his accounting practice and various rental properties he owned, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Louis Picardo, 64, of Hoboken, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with four counts of income tax evasion. U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler imposed the sentence on Feb. 4, 2020 in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Picardo served as the Tax Collector in Hoboken between 1973 and 2008 and was a partner in Cannarozzi & Picardo LLC, a Hoboken-based accounting firm. Picardo also was a member of multiple entities (the “Picardo Entities”) that managed both commercial and residential properties in Hudson County. Picardo failed to report approximately $3,725,853 in taxable income that he collected from Cannarozzi & Picardo and the Picardo Entities on federal income tax returns he filed with the IRS for the tax years 2012 to 2015, resulting in a tax loss to the United States of approximately $914,908.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Picardo to two years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $914,908.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to the sentence.

The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Sean Farrell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division and Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
20-050

Councilman Mike DeFusco Will Introduce Ordinance to Mandate Permitting Process for Pub Crawls

Official release:

Councilman Mike DeFusco is sponsoring sweeping legislation that will establish a better system to manage pub crawls and create additional oversight when these events come to Hoboken. As part of the ordinance that will be introduced during Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, participating bars and businesses will be required to pay an application and permit fee. The revenue generated through this process will be used to directly offset the skyrocketing costs of public safety enforcement and environmental cleanup associated with holiday pub crawls. 
Additionally, the ordinance would allow bar owners to utilize their outdoor cafe space during certain hours on pub crawl days, which allows for them to responsibly serve more patrons and offset the costs of the permit.
“Holiday pub crawls have long been a nuisance to the quality of life in my downtown neighborhood,” said Councilman Mike DeFusco. “While we cannot limit a person’s right to visit multiple bars in celebration of a holiday, we as a city cannot afford to foot the bill for additional safety and cleanup costs, especially as this administration continues to overspend and put Hoboken in a multi-million financial deficit. Introducing a commonsense permitting process will ensure the city recoups some of the operational costs for pub crawls. Many of Hoboken’s bar owners rely on high traffic days to meet their bottom line for the year and this proposed legislation will incentivize owners and help them, succeed while not over burdening taxpayers.”
Councilman DeFusco first proposed legislation that would regulate pub crawls following last year’s LepreCon, which resulted in six arrests, 12 tickets and 322 calls for emergency services. Despite receiving initial support from the City Council and the approval of residents most directly impacted by pub crawls, the measure was stalled by the administration to push their own political agenda. Since last year’s LepreCon, two additional pub holiday pub crawls have taken place in Hoboken, putting taxpayers on the hook for upwards of $200,000 in additional security and cleanup costs.