Friday, February 5, 2010

The legend of Andrew Amato lives on...

Courtesy of the Wile E. Coyote, Eric Kurta:

Related: The Jersey Journal reported earlier on Mr. Amato's passing.

"Hoboken UMC will not close"

The Hoboken University Medical Center CEO, Spiros Hatiras just submitted a statement:

Smarty -  We agree with you that the recently released numbers speak for
themselves.  The hospital has cut 2008 losses by 50% and has a better
than break-even budget for 2010.  The concessions union members,
physicians, and other employees voluntarily gave us were shown in detail
to the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority's Finance Committee and
outlined at the Authority's most recent public meeting.  The loyalty,
commitment and generosity of our employees have impressed people in the
health care industry.  We can't speculate on Councilman Lenz's agenda
but we are certainly disappointed by his comments. Fortunately, he is
wrong.  Hoboken UMC will not close.  We are here for a long time to save
lives, improve lives, deliver new lives and continue to serve his

Spiros Hatiras

Minutes ago, Councilman Mike Lenz also emailed an additional comment for publication:

I read with interest your recent your comment on my comment, which was made in the context of explaining why it would be irresponsible to assume (as some would have it) that this is the tough year and that city finances will be much better next year.  To that point we have heard that song before.
I, like you, spent some time on the phone late today with Commissioner Tamarazzo and others and learned that a large amount of data has just been made available to the Commissioners, as recently as today.  I also recieved a cordial call from the HUMC CEO Spiros Hatiras assuring me that all requested information was or would soon be provided.  This is very welcome news indeed.  In order to survive HUMC must not only overcome its financial challenges, it must overcome the crisis of confidence exacerbated by the prior administration's secretive way of operating.  Mr. Hatiras has pledged to do much better, and these recent developments support his claim.
There may very well be too many local hospitals for all to operate without challenges, but with innovative programs, new investment, a capable and committed staff and the support of the local community, HUMC may well not only survive but thrive.  A key to doing so will be strong leadership committed to cooperation and transparancy.  I believe we have that in the HUMC Board.  I am strengthened in my hope today that we have that in Mr, Hatiras and his team.  The hospital's success is Hoboken's success, and I remain committed to supporting that however I can.
Michael Lenz  

"The hospital is about to close"

Claire Moses at sat down with Councilman Mike Lenz and discussed the current fiscal challenges Hoboken faces.  Along with it this standout comment, "The hospital is about to close."

This is at least the third time we've heard this statement, once in a direct conversation just a week or so back with the same Councilman.  When asked how he can make that conclusion based on the current changes at the hospital, Mike Lenz offered no evidence.

Although MSV aired earlier pessimism for the hospital, there's now EVIDENCE to at least side with cautious optimism.  Even if the Hoboken University Medical Center does not achieve all its objectives, its unions are on board with reductions along with the non-union staff for the duration of its contract and there's a plan in place to get them well into the black by year's end.  Nothing is static of course in an economy as troubling as this one, at the same time one of the keys to their success, emergency room admissions are up significantly and its continuance forebodes good things, not closure.

For a "numbers guy" this reeks of a an agenda that has nothing to do with any numbers evidenced.  The question we'd like to ask Councilman Lenz is why?

Councilman Lenz responded via email for this story:

I had a long and detailed interview with Hoboken Patch and we talked in depth about the Hospital.  In that time I certainly expressed my hope the hospital survive, and my fear that it would not.  While I likely did utter the overly pessimistic words attributed to me, it would have been more keeping with my considered opinion had the author chosen to quote me as saying "The hospital may be about to close" which is something I also said.  I regret being less precise in my language, and have taken steps to correct it.
That said, I do have a very real fear that the hospital may close, despite all the denials from its administration.  Part of that stems from a belief that our area has more community hospitals than it can support.  Part of that stems from a notion that the incoming Christie administration has signaled its lack of commitment to HUMC.  But a big part of my pessimism stems from the actions and inactions of hospital administration.  In several decades of watching public bodies I have forged a rule of thumb for guessing the truth:  "The less they're willing to tell you, the worse the situation really is."  Applied to this situation the prognosis according to that rule looks bleak.
Take just one example:  Ten percent labor cost give backs were negotiated?  Great, but for how long, and with what other concessions?  Does it cover everyone?  Were there workrule changes? Did we now make employment guarantees?  If the answers to questions like these would contribute to increased confidence they should and I suspect would be shouting them from the roofs.  That they are not, leaves me with concerns.

In a phone interview late this afternoon, Toni Tomarazzo, a December appointee to the Hoboken Hospital Authority overseeing HUMC stated,  "I know that the management of the HUMC has made a commitment to produce any and all information requested by the authority (the Hospital Authority).  We are in the process of working closely with them to obtain that information.  It is our expectation that the information will be provided timely and in a useable format and that the Authority members and the public will be able to use it to further understand the state of the hospital," adding - "We will receive the level of detail with respect to the budget."

Claire Moses in a phone call Friday earlier indicated she changed the quote from The hospital "is closing" to "may be" in a spirit of fairness.  MSV stands by its accuracy and thanks for the clarification.

Photo: Councilman Mike Lenz at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
All rights reserved.

Can you hear us now?

Councilman Ravi Bhalla announced this Friday afternoon:

old our hoboken banner

                                                CC pic

Star Ledger Editorial Endorses Mayor Zimmer's Demand for Release of Hoboken Police Audit

        At this week's City Council meeting, members of the public demanded that the State of New Jersey meet its longstanding obligation to release the audit it conducted of the Hoboken Police Department.  This document was prepared and provided to Mayor Zimmer in draft form, and she was advised that it would be released shortly after cosmetic changes to the document were completed.  Months passed and the audit still has not been released.  At the most recent January 30th City Council budget hearing, State Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi advised the City Council that the audit would be released "soon" but failed to provide a firm date and also claimed that she has no control over its release.  This delay is unjustified and entirely unacceptable.
        Earlier this morning, the New Jersey Star Ledger released an editorial stating that Governor Chris Christie should demand that the Hoboken police audit be released immediately.  Significantly, the Star Ledger noted that taxpayers in Hoboken have a right to review the audit before labor contracts are signed, so citizens know both where the waste is, and how it will be cut.  The editorial also draws a direct connection between this issue the Mayor and City Council's ability to deliver on its promises, stating "The new mayor and council of Hoboken have pledged they're ready to change the city's culture of waste, abuse and excess.  This report is a necessary tool."
       City Council members have not been provided a copy of the police audit.  Yet, the Council as a whole may soon be requested to vote to ratify labor union contracts related to the police department.  Any decision on these contracts appears premature and improper pending the release of the audit.   Accordingly, I join in the call of the Mayor, many of my council colleagues, and now the Star Ledger editorial board, in demanding that this audit be released to the public without further delay.  I also commend Mayor Zimmer for her bold leadership on behalf of the residents of our city.


Ravinder S. Bhalla

Ravi Bhalla for Hoboken City Council
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The link to the editorial can be found here.  Mile Square View again emailed both state officials in yesterday's story with the link to the Star Ledger editorial.  Again, we have asked for the release of the report and when Hoboken can expect it.

The Starting Lineup - Confirmed

Other than actually running for office in Hoboken, the second toughest gig in town might be coming in as a Director these days.  At the City Council meeting last Wednesday night, the finality of confirmation went through smoothly although many in the audience were awaiting a blip.  Thankfully, it never came.  But let's salute the new Directors first.  They've been subjected to a trial by fire more difficult than candidates on Survivor.  They all deserve a ton of credit for their efforts to this point.

From where this horse is sitting, there's satisfaction in seeing the professional quotient elevated to benefit all Hoboken.

Photo: from left: City Clerk Jimmy Farina, Director Leo Pellegrini, Health and Human Services, Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Director Brandy Forbes, Community Development and Director Ian Sacs, Parking.

Photo Courtesy: Jerry Lore

Related:  Claire Moses of scribed the main events of the meeting Wednesday night.  Da Horsey will be revisiting this weekend to capture the heat.  Yes, there was some.