Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Winners & Losers: Picking up the pieces amidst the Ravibot rubble

Some on each side of the ledger will be obvious and some not so obvious.

There's no arguing that Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his infamous cast of FacePunchers are losers, joined by the tarnished fading legacy of former mayor Dawn Zimmer. Whoever thought she'd cast her lot with a council ticket endorsed and underwritten by big development special interest powers across the Soprano State?

It's only the beginning of the bizarre turns and missteps as we map out the new Hoboken political landscape. Oh, it's being remapped as we speak.

Recall earlier the predictions here the Ravi-Russo Alliance was coming to an end with the November election?

One close political observer noted dryly after the polls closed, "Russo booked out of that deal with Ravi faster than the Flash. Who's going to break the news to Emily?"

So, with the dust settling on the aftermath here's the comprehensive list.


Ravi Bhalla - an obvious pick since his council slate was all but slaughtered by Hoboken voters less Phil Cohen who began his run in May and almost ran unopposed due to some early FacePunching with a transparently evil letter sent to Nick Maganuco's employer, a Manhattan-based financial institution.

The Hoboken mayor was big on power and projecting it even without much of any opposition on the City Council which cooperatively passed over 90% of what he wanted other than his 3% tax increase and endless praise for his broken promise out-of-the-gate second job.

Only two months into serving as mayor, Ravi Bhalla held a fundraiser at 10th & Willow declaring war on the City Council (secretly excepting Michael Russo of the Ravi-Russo Alliance) and waging a scorched earth campaign through his first two years against anyone he or his FacePunchers deemed in the way.

Losing four out of five ain't bad? That's the Mendoza line with Ravi Bhalla being offensive without the "silk hands." He overplayed his. Badly. Now, he's stuck with two-years of real checks and balances on a City Council that remains much the same. No rubber stamp for you!

Dawn Zimmer - the former mayor was let out of the attic and almost simultaneously endorsed the Ravi Bhalla council ticket as the powerful big development union PAC, Stronger Foundations. Then she went out targeting Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino with their big development funded opponents claiming the opposite. The tarnish is sure to settle in and leave fading rust. Not the way to end your Reform legacy but she just did.

Migdalia Pagan Milano - on paper it was the most cynical of candidate selections. Plucked out of obscurity working for the mayor's office in the newly formed office of constituent services, the plan to harvest the might of the Ravi-Russo Alliance went horribly wrong. A reliable source claimed almost two weeks out her backing would be cut leaving her with nothing but a pile of big development mailers in her crashing wake. That astounding source proved to be 100% accurate even if it seemed unbelievable at the time. Migs went down faster than the Lusitania and Titanic.

Cristin Cricco-Powell - the darling "me too" candidate where me too meant stealing City Council President Jen Giattino's record and positions on overdevelopment while cynically taking money and online advertising from the same Soprano State big development interests behind Ravi Bhalla. Started off respectful but quickly veered off with negative and quite personal attacks. Sixth ward residents quoted they were told Jen Giattino was backing the Monarch Project uptown. Even Dawn Zimmer got into the act but all the negative campaigning failed. Solution-focused at the council forum, Cristin Cricco-Powell has a big future as US Senator of Austin, Oakland, and Portland. Don't tell her that's not viable. She deserves it or at least a Reality TV show facsimile.

Ravi Bhalla FacePunchers - these overpaid tone-deaf numbskulls in the mayor's office believed arrogance over competence would carry the day. If they spent half their time thinking how to make Hoboken better and focus on service they wouldn't be updating their resumes and begging HudCo powers for jobs. If John Allen escapes, who will run the day-to-day operations? Running race-baiting operations out of the mayor's office against the City Council wasn't a good look.

Councilman Jim Doyle - he saw his name penned in political operative narratives backing people he'll never have a beer with discussing policy let alone endorse. At least this time there won't be another special interest TV commercial attacking him after he was the lone vote against the Hilton Hotel. His continuing hell will be suffering two more years on the City Council as Hoboken activists keep asking, "who saved the non-transparent NJ Transit Redevelopment Plan?" Raise your hand Jim and suffer the indignity with that day after the election vote that will live in infamy.

Stan Grossbard - an insider architect of negative campaigning inside the Ravi Bhalla eternal campaign, he was convinced more Big Lies, smearing and attacks would produce the same result as in 2017. There wasn't a quick fix terror flyer available this time. Karma is a you know what?

Councilwoman Emily Jabbour - who will commiserate with her at City Council meetings when plans go awry? Michael Russo won't be fulfilling that role anymore.

Ravibots - All self-righteous attitude without the good government policy, they thought the mantle of Reform would stick no matter the growing turds of hypocrisy from the boss. They kept bragging to each other in their bubble how they were going to lay waste and destroy everyone in their cult of personality leader's path. There are two full years of crow eating. Start chowing down and enjoy the view of Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit towers with it.


Councilman Mike DeFusco - Whether you like to hear the words "European markets" or not, you're going to hear it a lot more. He was the top target of Ravi Bhalla yet the mayor's campaign unplugged efforts against him to invest in all-out attacks in the second and sixth wards against Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino. They're scared to death of DeFusco competing for the big outside special interest money and his never-say-die Terminator attitude on the campaign trail. He's already running joined by Michael Russo as they begin their respective efforts for Soprano State funds and the mayor's chair.

Councilwoman Jen Giattino - being in the heart of Hoboken, her good government light was a beacon Ravi Bhalla and his cohorts badly wanted to see extinguished. She grew her vote totals from 2015 and showed she was willing to take on all comers and boy did they come. Ravi Bhalla, his wife, Dawn Zimmer, and even a former NHSA commissioner went out knocking on doors throughout the sixth ward, all for naught. Redemption tastes all the sweeter and came with hard work, moxie, and guts. Giattino won by about 10 points pulling away and proved she has it in spades.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher - her good-natured policy wonk style was challenged unlike in her 2015 election. After Giattino, she was the top target of the mayor's office. Everything and the kitchen sink was thrown against her. High-priced out of town political communications gurus, the most campaign mailers against in any council ward race (six) and Ravi Bhalla spending inordinate amounts of time repeatedly going through buildings even illegally into the Hudson Tea.  Some low-information voters bought into the attacks but she countered with strong factual campaign efforts of her own and won the day with over 1,000 votes adding provisionals  Policy leadership is her next challenge.

Councilman Ruben Ramos - he won re-election easily but the shocker of it all is he also reportedly won the 4-2, the home of Dawn Zimmer and her base of support in the fourth ward. Did she forget to make an effort in her own backyard? Ramos didn't and will play a big role in shaping development in Hoboken as a result.

Phil Cohen - he lucked out when Councilman Peter Cunningham announced he would be retiring from public life after 12 years on the City Council. Getting an early start in May with campaign funds crushing his two opponents combined gave him the lift to narrowly avoid a runoff. He may luck out again if the City Council approves Ravi Bhalla's NJ Transit Redevelopment plan before he takes office in January. Will he publicly voice concerns and push to make changes prior? Wait and see.

Nora DeBenedetto - she received all the Old Hoboken vote and was the beneficiary of a massive financial effort on her behalf by the mayor's office generating a bigger vote against Tiffanie Fisher then in 2015. It doesn't matter that Dawn Zimmer didn't know who she was; that's how proxy wars are conducted. Those collective efforts failed against a hard-working councilwoman/opponent. Nothing to be ashamed about in trying.

Councilwoman Vanessa Falco - showed some loyalty to the head of her ticket getting out the vote for Mike DeFusco on election day. Her focus on affordable housing sees an advocated boost as a result.

Hoboken residents - enough showed they were not sleep-walking and were immune to the Big Lies platform out of the mayor's office. It's short-lived as they are immediately thrust into the challenge facing down the Bhalla-pushed NJ Transit Redevelopment. Victory may be short and trumped quickly by City Hall cynicism, ambition, and statewide development interests. Time to pick up the pieces and act before it's too late.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Sign of the Times: Veterans Day in Hoboken

A beautiful sunny fall day served as the perfect backdrop to the Veterans Day ceremonies in Hoboken at Elysian Park today.

In attendance with dozens of members of the public, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Freeholder Anthony Romano, City Council President Jen Giattino, Councilmembers Peter Cunningham, Jim Doyle, Tiffanie Fisher, Emily Jabbour, and BoE trustee Melanie Terkirian.

John Carey who managed the ceremonies acknowledged the elected officials in attendance offering superb comic relief saying of their presence, "You're all covered."

The ceremony included prayer and concluded with a recorded rendition of Taps by Asst. City Clerk Jerry Lore.

Veteran John Carey (l) with Mark Villamar and US Veterans at Hoboken's Veterans Day ceremony in Elysian Park

Hoboken Honor Guard flanked the Veteran's Day ceremony 

Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and Freeholder Anthony Romano

City Clerk and US Veteran Jimmy Farina stands abreast of the Hoboken Honor Guard

Some of the dozens of Hoboken residents in attendance at the Veterans Day ceremony in Elysian Park.

Among many Hoboken US Veterans in attendance, former Hoboken Fire Chief Richard Tremitiedi (2nd from left)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Councilwoman Jen Giattino: Join us at 11:00 Monday at Elysian Park to honor our Veterans

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,

Please join me tomorrow at 11am in Elysian Park to support our Veterans!

In 1919, President Wilson commemorated the first Armistice Day with these words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

After World War II and the Korean War, Congress recognized a need to expand the meaning of the day to recognize all of our Veterans and not just those of World War I.

Tomorrow is a day to thank and show our appreciation for all that have served our Country. Looking forward to joining you in supporting our Veterans at Elysian Park. 


Thursday, November 7, 2019

NJ Transit Sneak Attack! Ravi-Russo-DeFusco resuscitate vote for massive NJT redevelopment!


In a sleight of hand, it's off, no, it's back on the council agenda, the massive Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit Redevelopment returned and suddenly found its way back for a vote following Tuesday's council elections.

The massive two-phased plan slated with a 29-story residential tower downtown made a magical reappearance on the council agenda last night courtesy of a big special interest behind-the-scenes push.

The NJ Transit Redevelopment wasn't on the agenda and would require a council majority vote to overturn the ruling of the chair, City Council President Jen Giattino, who refused to insert it on to the Wednesday council agenda.

While a weary Hoboken public looked elsewhere, the five needed votes to insert the agenda item appeared like Japanese zeroes falling out of the sky at Pearl Harbor.

Council members Mike DeFusco and Michael Russo led the sneak attack against the public forcing a vote to overturn Giattino, winning 5-3-1.

Joining in the banzai Tora! Tora! Tora! attack: council members Vanessa Falco, Emily Jabbour, and Jim Doyle.

Voting to keep the Ravi Bhalla NJ Transit Redevelopment off the agenda for any vote: City Council President Jen Giattino, Councilman Peter Cunningham and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. Councilman Ruben Ramos abstained.

Et tu Jim Doyle? Yes, that's no typo, Councilman Jim Doyle voted to overturn Council President Jen Giattino with
Emily Jabbour to put up a vote on the massive "no study" Ravi Bhalla NJT Redevelopment.

The succeeding vote to approve the massive redevelopment on first reading never seeing any economic/feasibility study, traffic or shadow study then sailed through on a 6-3 vote.

The three council members opposing the Ram-It-Through Ravi NJT Redevelopment vote: City Council President Jen Giattino, Peter Cunningham and Tiffanie Fisher. (Yes, the good government trio standing up once again for Hoboken.)

Mayor Ravi Bhalla coming off a crushing defeat of his council ticket on Tuesday has immediately jumped back into the fray to stake out his claim to big development campaign monies.

Once again, no Nixle notification, nor alert to the Hoboken Railyards Task Force so the public could not show up and voice opposition in the public portion.

With the two successful votes and backroom big development pressure reemerging leading into the council meeting, Ravi Bhalla is officially competing with both Mike DeFusco and Michael Russo for the big development monies about to pour in and define the 2021 mayoral campaign.

Hey, I didn't know Jim Doyle and Emily Jabour could fly big development Zero fighters?

Talking Ed Note: The Ravi Bhalla Administration is planning to schedule a public hearing for the massive plan during the week of Thanksgiving ensuring Hoboken residents are distracted and busy with travel and holiday plans.

The final vote is expected to be on the council agenda at the December 4th meeting.

The fight for special interest money is on and Ravi Bhalla wants first dibs.

Now, tell me again who is good government reform and who is for big development - special interests?

The Ravi smear mailers on the last campaign against Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher aren't even dry and the big development sellouts are back showing their true colors.

All that's left is for Ravi Bhalla to undo the 2011 pay-to-play ordinance and see the big Soprano State big development loot roll into his coffers.

I warned ya.

City Council President Jen Giattino: "Thank you!!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,
I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support from all of my friends, family, and neighbors who gave their time and contributed to this campaign in so many ways -- registering voters, knocking on doors, addressing so many postcards, hanging up Vote Jen Again signs, and spreading our message far and wide
When I first ran eight years ago, I promised the residents of the 6th Ward that I would always be here to listen to their concerns and represent their interests. From increasing park funding and open space to improving our infrastructure and protecting our tax dollars, that has always been my guiding purpose. And when the polls closed on election day, it was clear that that is the type of representative voters here want.
Thank you to everyone who gave their time and energy to this campaign. It is because of you that we successfully fought off two challengers and a deluge of dark money. It was not easy, and I know how hard everyone worked to make this happen. I am truly grateful, and I am looking forward to continuing to serve the people of the 6th Ward. 
#Vote Jen Again

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "Thank you!"

Official release: 

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Now with the election behind us, I can tell you that I am only feeling positive and energized about what lies ahead!  As I mentioned in my "We Did It" email yesterday, I did want to thank everyone who were responsible for our shared victory.  The list is long, but I will try to be concise (one of my new term resolutions is going to be working on being more concise and brief…)
  • First and foremost, my parents.  They came down from Rochester and fed me, drove me around, made phone calls and handed out literature!  My Dad had a great closing statement as he walked the line at the ferry and buses with me “Vote for my daughter…” which I know got me hundreds of  votes! J
  • My Aunt who made over 3,000 phone calls from Rochester over the last week of the campaign.  Incredible.  She has already signed up for more phone banking in the future!
  • My friend Emily who filled in all the gaps I needed over the last few weeks of the campaign.  
  • My GOTV manager Al who put organization around the most chaotic part of an election and who kept me on the right path when I was tempted to veer off…
  • My envelope stuffers – Emily again and Avery and Sidney (the returning stars from my 2015 campaign) – who stuffed, labeled and stamped 2,000 envelopes.
  • My champion Margaret who took over my social media support!  
  • A long list of friends – new and old - who just offered to help me door knock, hand out literature, make introductions, canvass, make calls, and challenge on Election Day including Renee, Laura, Joe, Heidi, Bonnie, Cynthia, Bob, Michelle, Scott, Jon, Barbara, Marcello, Teresa, Jo Ann, Ann, Laura, Roman, Eric, and Diane (I am sure I am missing some!).    
  • My PR firm, Vision Media led by Phil Swibinski and his team of Cait, Dan and Claire who helped me with all my press statements and literature – amazing leverage I didn’t have in my last campaign.
  • My amazing printers and mail house Dave Passante of Royal Printing, Phil Parker of Onyx Printing and Melanie Martone of Full-Service Mailers who gave me the best service anyone could ask for on one of the most critical parts of a campaign – mailers.  
  • My t-shirt guy Victor Jaramillo of We Print Marketing who made amazing t-shirts for me in short order over the two days he was moving his operations to a new location!
  • My 2nd Ward restaurant owners Clemence, Dave, Armando, Mike and Anthony who let me fundraise, friend raise, and celebrate in their restaurants (ChocoPain, Madison, LaIsla, Stingray and Bin 14).
  • My girls on this side of the river and the other side who have been there supporting me through this crazy experience called a Hoboken election.
  • My family and friends on social media who have been cheering me on from afar.
  • My dear friend Jen who commiserated, conspired and collaborated with me during our two parallel races.
  • My voters, for believing in me and showing up on Election Day.  I am so very humbled by your support.
  • Those who didn’t vote for me… I know some of you voted for my opponent and some of you voted against me – and there is a difference.  But I see you and will be a better representative because of you, just let me know what you want to see me do better.
  • And all of you who donated to my campaign.  Getting my message out and reaching people costs more than it should and I am grateful for your financial support.  I am tallying up the total cost today and tomorrow, but I anticipate it will be close to $30,000.  I would still WELCOME ANY POST ELECTION CONTRIBUTIONS to help offset these costs that I will otherwise self-fund.   
We often hear the phrase, and I personally have used it many times – “It Takes A Village”.  I am so grateful for the village that came out to support me.  Thank you, everyone, for your support and for all your congratulatory emails yesterday.  Looking forward to four more years of More Voices (always better) and Engaging with, Informing and Advocating for you.
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Hoboken cherry on top

The following election results courtesy of the Hudson County Board of Elections for each of the City Council ward races contains the additional Vote-by-Mail totals.

Since many voted in 2017 using VBMs and didn't change their request, they were sent the paper ballot form. This impacted the election results more than usual, so here are the updated figures.

Leading the vote-getters citywide, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher who came in just shy of 1,000 votes. This is remarkable for several reasons.

First, Fisher was the object of scurrilous attacks and smear mailers directed by Ravi Bhalla's eternal campaign. Second, she was literally going up against a once-formidable Reform Movement machine that elevated her as a standard-bearer when she ran with Mayor Zimmer's council slate in 2015.

After the untimely death of the Reform Movement in 2017, when Zimmer choose political expediency with the insertion of Ravi Bhalla; Fisher delivered for Hoboken with her professional financial acumen but even her good-natured way of working with others did not protect her after she aligned with Councilwoman Jen Giattino in 2017.

Earlier this year, while in City Hall with City Council President Jen Giattino to help a resident with a tenant problem; she was thrown out by building security - by order of the mayor's office. The mayor's taxpayer-paid communications manager Vijay Chaudhuri said she didn't have an appointment although one isn't required to visit the Hoboken Rent Leveling Office.

That ugly incident landed up on the cover of the Jersey Journal and symbolized perfectly the lack of decorum within City Hall and of the mayor's office for those not prostrating themselves before the powers of the local executive.

The first priority should be Hoboken, not petty, vindictive politics.

That is one of the messages delivered loud and clear by voters to Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his cast of FacePunchers.

Click on the chart to enlarge.

Click on the chart to enlarge.

Councilman Ruben Ramos: "Thank you"

Official release:


Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for once again entrusting me to be your Councilman for four more years! With a clear mandate, our neighborhood came out in support of our campaign and the progress that we have been able to deliver together. I look forward to continuing to build off of the change we have brought to Hoboken along with my Council colleagues that all won re-election last night. To everyone that came out to vote, talked to their neighbors and volunteered for our campaign I am eternally grateful. 
Thank you,

Councilman Ruben Ramos
Hoboken City Council, 4th Ward
Real Leadership for a Better Hoboken
*Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see more updates on Hoboken.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "We did it!"

Official release:


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This victory was because of you, and for you.  I will send out a more exhaustive, long, detailed, note later today (as you would expect of me) about the entire village of people who made this happen, but for right now I just wanted to say thank you to all of you.  And to tell you that I am energized as we look ahead to the next four years and am 100% committed to always doing what is best and right for Hoboken.
A huge congratulations to all of the incumbents on City Council who won last night, to the newest member who will represent the 5th Ward, Phil Cohen and to the 3-4-5 team for our Hoboken Board of Education.  I am looking forward to working together with the entire Council, Mayor Bhalla and his administration, and our Board of Ed to do more good for Hoboken.
And I also want to acknowledge the hard work of my opponent, Nora Martinez DeBenedetto.  As one of my neighbors said to me this morning, she had considerable visibility in the race, often seen knocking at doors, at transportation lines, and events trying to meet people and connect with voters.  Ultimately that is what elections are about.  Connecting with you.  When Nora and I spoke last night I told her that I felt her effort was incredible and that I hope she will only come away feeling very proud of it. 
Looking forward to the next four years with all of you!  I am excited for what lies ahead.   So very much more to come… 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

Sign of the Times: The Spirit of Reform is reborn in the winner's circle

Irene Sobolov, Councilwoman Jen Giattino, Deirdre Wall, Theresa Minutillo and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher last night.

Some of the revelers last night at Moran's after the Hudson County Board of Elections tabulated the outstanding Vote-by-Mail ballots declaring both Councilwomen Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher winners in the sixth and second ward election.

The spirit of the Hoboken Reform Movement lives.

Final results of Hoboken's City Council races

Official winners as tallied by the Hudson County Board of Elections (less VBMs):

First Ward: Councilman Mike DeFusco wins over Migdalia Pangan Milano

Second ward: Councilwoman Tiffanie M. Fisher defeats Nora DeBenedetto

Third Ward: Councilman Michael Russo defeats Ronald Bautista

Fourth ward: Councilman Ruben Ramos defeats Lisa Sprengle

Fifth Ward: Phil Cohen avoids a runoff winning vs. Tim Crowell & Nick Maganucco

Sixth Ward: Councilwoman Jen Giatinno defeats Cristin Cricco-Powell & Frank Rosner

Both Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher won the VBMs in their respective races.
Those final figures are not tabulated in the above figures.

BoE: 3, 4, 5 - Alex De La Torre, Joyce Simons, and Sheillah Dallara are the winners.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Early unofficial results with wins and heading to Friday for final tallies

9:55 PM

UPDATE: Both Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher join the winner's circle as they won most of their Vote-by-Mail in their respective wards making them unofficial winners.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla graciously conceded.

First results: 9:25 PM

HobokenHorse.com has some initial but UNOFFICIAL results outside of first, third and fourth wards.

First ward: Mike DeFusco is winning in a walkover against Migdalia Pagan Milano.

Third ward: Michael Russo is unofficially seeing an anticipated victory.

Fourth ward: Ruben Ramos is expected to see re-election with a considerable victory.

And now the rest of the City Council ward races:

Second ward: Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher is leading on the machines with 53%.

Outstanding Vote-by-Mail and provisional ballots will determine the final outcome adding 157 Vote-by-Mail plus about 100 provisionals to more than 1600 machine votes total.

Sixth ward: City Council President Jen Giattino is holding a steady lead with more than 51% in a three-way contest.

The final tally of VBM and provisionals will determine the outcome. She is likely to see a victory with a fairly conservative claim to the 140 VBMs outstanding.

Fifth ward: Phil Cohen is trying to stave off a runoff against Tim Crowell. He appears to be the sole winner for his slate.

Update: Phil Cohen confirmed as the winner in the fifth ward with 52% of the vote.

On the BoE, some early numbers suggest 3, 4, and 5 will win easily.

Talking Ed Note: As it turns out, the provisonal ballots are not decisive with the majority of the VBMs entering into the totals of Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher. So, no Friday tally is necessary.