Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest of the Stable Redux: Justin L. DePascale

Justin L. DePascale is back with more on taxes and the surplus with his perspective on the failure of the Mayor's administration.  

To my fellow Hobokenites,

A week ago, I wrote a letter in which I spoke of a 20 million dollar budget surplus.  This letter drew some criticism on the validity of this monetary figure.  With this in mind, I began a more in-depth review of the three budgets that comprise the Hoboken tax base.  For those of you who do not know, the final tax bill in Hoboken is made of three tax levies combined.  The City of Hoboken, County of Hudson, and the Hoboken Board of Education tax levies make up the final amount.  After reviewing this information, I have come to a new conclusion.   I believe the budget surplus is just below 20 million, but could have been upwards of 27.5 million dollars. 

I know what the skeptics are saying, he must be crazy, but let me explain.  First of all, I am not a finance major in any respect, but as a police officer I have worked as an investigator for a number of years. 

In its simplest form, the City of Hoboken’s tax base has been pillaged by the County of Hudson as well as the State of New Jersey without so much as a quibble by Mayor Zimmer.  Shouldn’t we fight harder for our money?

  • The Hoboken share of Hudson County taxes have been increased by approximately 6 million dollars this year to an approximate total of 45 million dollars, per year, under Mayor Zimmer.  The total amount of tax increase paid to the County of Hudson for this budget year is approximately 12 million dollars, which means Hoboken alone has shouldered 50% of this total increase, unfair to say the least
  • State aid to Hoboken has been reduced by approximately 1.5 million dollars this year

First off, the readjustment made at the county level, although constitutional, has been generously allowed to occur by Mayor Zimmer without even appearing at a County Freeholder meeting. 

As reported by the Jersey Journal on June 26, 2010, “It’s the annual county milking of Hoboken.  Freeholders approved a budget allowing Hoboken to pay the lion’s share of the tax levy.”  The paper goes on to say, “The mayor missed a chance to publicly blast the county administration at Monday’s freeholder meeting. In the past, even the older Russo and Mayor Dave Roberts showed up to take their public swipes at the county officials over the pillaging of the Mile Square City.”  Why did Mayor Zimmer not try to save millions of tax payer dollars at the County Freeholder meeting? 

As Mayor Zimmer so proudly stood with Governor Christie, Hoboken was relieved of approximately 1.5 million dollars in State aid as mentioned above.  I am glad to see the Mayor has a good relationship with the Governor, but to appear with him at the announcement of the Governor’s plan to cap tax hikes to 2.5% is conflicting.  I believe this is a confliction because, while supporting the Governor’s 2.5% initiative, the Mayor allowed the County of Hudson to raise our county share of taxes by approximately 15% without a fight. 

Now the Zimmer administration is cutting the Hoboken Police Department as well as other City workers to create a fiscal diversion.  This diversion has been created not out of a fiscal necessity, but a political one.  The budget recently introduced by Mayor Zimmer, as she put is, “fully funded and gimmicks free,” but as I see it is full of public omissions and diversions. 

In conclusion, again I state the budget surplus should be in the area of 27.5 million and should be comprised of the current 20 million and the 7.5 million that was so cavalierly allowed to be taken from the Hoboken tax base.   

Thank You

How to save police jobs: open letter to PBA President Vince Lombardi

An open letter to Vince Lombardi: A Win For Taxpayers And Police

Hoboken resident Scott Siegel offers a specific plan to save jobs of police members.

1) 4 year (2 retro) wage freeze.

2) Accept demotions. Private companies are downsizing and demoting. Look at what’s happening to police and fire in every major city in this country. According to the last budget the average member of the Hoboken police force earns $105m per year vs. $65m for the average Hoboken family. Your men would still have highly compensated positions. Agree to a one time waiver of bumping rights.

3) Convert current health care plan to a lower cost nontraditional plan including reimbursable high deductible portion. Same Cadillac deal but more cost effective.

4) Pay 1.5% of salary, co-pay per month towards health care. Much less than private sector and your men will start to have some skin in the game. Hopefully this will lead to greater flexibility and savings down the road. Put in a rational drug co-pay as well.

5) All demotees and those making less than $50,000 are exempt from above payments.

6) Work 40 hours a week like everyone else. This will cut down on overtime.

7) Enact a rational vacation/time off schedule.

8) Curtail back end pay such as longevity and unused vacation, etc. Limit overtime maximum final payout in the last several years. Grant no more than one year base pay upon resignation. But, grandfather in anyone who retires by this contract’s end to encourage retirement.

9) Buy fewer police cars. Walk the beat and get to know the community better. Buy lightweight/heavy duty coats, uniforms so you can walk year round. The more we know each other the more effective crime stopping will be. Plus a cop who walks a beat can notice unusual things better compared to just driving by.

10) As retirings occur replace clerical police with Class 2 officers. This should cost less with no need for police training beyond forms, reports, etc to be filed. Attrit one, then replace one until clerical spots are filled, then attrit to an agreed upon level.

11) Throw in any other givebacks that you offered Judy.

12) This should save us the kind of money that taxpayers will approve of and will generate good will between the police and the community. If it is short of $2.5mm let’s roll our sleeves up and dig deeper to save Hoboken police jobs.

13) Knock off the $20mm surplus. That’s bull. It’s $12mm. By distorting the truth you will only hurt your cause.

14) No layoffs if approved.

Why do this?

1) 20 year+ veterans: Gov. Christie has given the NJ Legislature until Christmas to pass reforms in pensions and healthcare. Next will come civil service and arbitration reform. The Assembly barely passed his budget. When it came time for the property tax cap they read the writing on the wall and passed it by a tsunami 73-4 vote. Take a cue from the BOE who are retiring in droves, hoping to be grandfathered in. Will it work? I don’t know, but the chances are better than if you wait for the reforms to pass.

2) Demotees: By waiving bumping rights you can protect the jobs of your brother and sisters that you emotionally stated you cared so much about. With reform coming spots will open up and promotions will be needed to fill retirement spots.

3) All else: The potentially laid off police will soon find out how much you really care. Are you posturing or are you real? They and I will find out soon enough.

4) Some speakers said we need all 152, others said we could attrit. Both can’t be right, if we can attrit we can layoff now too. It’s up to you to prevent this.

5) Remember: 10% of the citizens you protect are unemployed. Another 10% have given up looking for jobs. Many others are making less and are on the verge of losing their jobs. Most would gladly accept a demotion and the lavish benefits your men enjoy. The taxpayers have taken nearly 100% of the brunt of a decade of fiscal mismanagement. Do you want to save jobs or protect your gains? You can’t have it both ways. Choose wisely for the sake of your brothers and sisters.

6) Too bad you can’t kick in the cost of t-shirts, highly paid consultants and TV ads, your men could have used those funds.

7) Let me be clear. I never blame the individual for accepting a high salary. It is your credibility on the line. Feel free to come up with alternatives totaling at least $2.5mm net in today’s dollars and starting to marginally reduce future liabilities. If your numbers are real I’d support them. It’s time to begin in a small way to restore the social compact which is clearly broken in Hoboken.

Interim Corporation Council selected


Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced that she has appointed Mark. A. Tabakin, Esq. of Weiner Lesniak, LLP to serve as the City’s interim Corporation Counsel. He will attend the upcoming Council meeting on Wednesday, September 15.

The City last week initiated an open process to find a permanent, full-time Corporation Counsel. A Request for Qualifications was issued and is available on the City website. The deadline for responses is Friday, September 17th, and interviews with prospective candidates will be conducted the following week.

Mr. Tabakin has responded to the RFQ and is under consideration for the position of Corporation Counsel.

The City Council will be asked to approve the contract for Mr. Tabakin as the first item of the agenda as agreed by Council President Marsh and as discussed in Mayor Zimmer’s letter to the Council.

Click here to view the letter from Mayor Zimmer to the City Council, the Council resolution, and Mr. Tabakin’s resume.

Link: http://www.hobokennj.org/news/mayor-zimmer-appoints-interim-corporation-counsel/

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Latest Hoboken PBA video

Here's the newest and third video from the Hoboken police union:

City Council meeting is tomorrow with more drama to come

It's ten days before the deadline on the layoffs and tomorrow's City Council meeting promises to be heated with another jam packed room filled with police and their supporters. In that heated environment, Councilman Russo who has had two brothers on the police force  conducted himself worse than in recent memory.  He not only was out of order many times in the evening speaking out of turn and over his council colleagues, he decided he had had enough of one member of the public in the audience.  Their crime: not demonstrating acceptable non-verbal behavior.

The member of the audience in question: Leon Gold.  Leon has been an active observer of city meetings and was also on the steering committee of Hoboken Revolt before he resigned and was elected in the spring to a seat on the Board of Education.

In a room so filled to capacity, it's hard to believe a sitting City Councilman would act in such a way as to call out and complain about a member of the public.  MSV hasn't ever seen that before but there was a somewhat comparable incident back in 2007.  Do you have any idea who and what was involved back then?

Here's Councilman Mike Russo speaking on the police layoffs and launching his attack:

Leon Gold responds. The first few seconds of his comments were missed in the switching to recording but you certainly get the heart of the matter:

And heres' the 2007 clip mentioned where Councilwoman Terry Castellano calls out a good government citizen in the audience from People for Open Government (POG).  Apparently, she's upset and would like to take a shot with her other colleagues at their efforts back when they were beginning to examine the influence of developer monies in Hoboken.

Notice the hyenas all aligned together and remember that when Councilwoman Castellano whines about being in the minority. This is how that "minority" worked before with a certain soon to be jailed ex-mayor. Listen for her chiming in to Peter Cammarano with "thank you, thank you" for his condescending efforts here.

Talking Ed Note: Before Scammarano hits the clink, maybe someone can inform the election law specialist that laws apply to all members. Laws are not applicable to one group or another. They are not "your laws" but our laws.

Cammarano will have a couple of years to learn the distinction.

The Cartel - now available on DVD!

From filmmaker Bob Bowdon

Dear Friends of The Cartel Movie --
Hallelujah!   :)   

The Cartel Movie has been picked up by a major distributor, and the DVD release date has finally been set.  The worldwide release will be December 1, 2010.  That's when anyone & everyone will be able to visit our website , put in an order for the DVD, and bask in the good feelings that will flow from helping reform public education.
But no reform movement runs by itself.  We'd like to ask for your help.  And we're not talking about money.
The biggest hurdle in marketing any film is getting people to know it exists in the first place.  So today, we're asking all the subscribers on our website; i.e., you, to tell just one new person -- someone who is not a part of your household -- about The Cartel . Get that person to sign-up for screening updates on our website.  

Our goal is to double our subscriber list before the release.  (Of course, we'd be even happier if you got two, or three, or maybe ten new people to sign-up, but for now, all we're asking for is one.) 

You see, for a period of two-and-a-half years, The Cartel was a self-financed labor of love for me.  Early on, I wasn't even sure I'd ever finish the project, let alone sure anyone would ever sit down and watch it.  But the film ultimately came together, in no small part because of invaluable help I got from lots of people, many of whom never asked for a thing in return.  Since then, The Cartel has been profiled on MSNBC, The Fox News Channel, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune and countless other major media outlets. 
Now, as we near the finish line, we just need a little more help.  From you.
 And while there's an aspect to this appeal that's admittedly self-serving -- we'd obviously like to sell a lot of DVDs to make back the production costs and more -- I would have never devoted years of my life to this if I weren't truly disgusted by the dismal performance and blatant greed of much of the education establishment.  Fortunately, I'm just as convinced there is a way out.  School choice could be a catalyst for meaningful, positive structural reform. 

The bottom line is there's no question that 
The Cartel movie has really opened eyes and changed minds.  We just want to "open" and "change" a few more in this final push. 

Can you help us?
(The secret is that subscribers to our website will be offered a private DVD sale before the advertised release.  Shhh.)

So that's all we ask.  Tell at least one person outside your household about 
The Cartel , andget them to sign-up on our website . We're talking to you. Yes, you. The sign-up link is here:

Oh, and thanks. 
And the children, whose schools you just might help improve, thank you too.

What else?
Breaking News, Announced Today: 

The Cartel, 
Winner, "Audience Choice Award" 2010 Atlanta Documentary Film Festival 

In the words of the cheerleaders from my high school days: "Fire Up!"
-- Bob

P.S. Your music collection deserves 
The Cartel Soundtrack.  Sample it for free at "The Cartel Soundtrack" on iTunes, or use the MP3 download link:

BoE Meeting tonight @ 7:00

SEPTEMBER 14, 2010

DATE: Tuesday, September 14, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. Stated Session
LOCATION: Board Meeting Room
1115 Clinton Street
Hoboken, New Jersey 07030


1. Board President Report and Board Committee Reports.
2. Approval of minutes.
3. Report of Interim Superintendent.
a. Personnel: postings, resignations, re-appointments, appointments, program staffing, transfers, full and part time staff, training, stipends, substitutes.
b. Curriculum and Instruction: Curriculum and instruction matters; field trips
4. Business Administrator: financial reports and actions; payment of bills and payroll; food service program; facility matters; grants; student placements and services; workshops.

Any matters relating to the above items that may come before the Board. Please be advised that the Board may be required to go into closed executive session during this meeting to discuss litigation, negotiations and personnel items. Action may be taken on all agenda items.

Published by order of the Board of Education
of the School District of the City of Hoboken

Robert H. Davis
School Business Administrator/
Board Secretary

Mitzvah Efforts slated for October 10th

Volunteers Can Choose from 10 Different Service Projects around the Area

HOBOKEN -- The United Synagogue of Hoboken is proud to announce Mitzvah Day 2010, which will take place Sunday, Oct. 10.

Volunteers from the synagogue community will participate in their choice from 10 activities serving a variety of people, including children, seniors, the disabled, people serving overseas in the military and those in need of blood donations, among others.
The annual event, which began in 2005, is an opportunity for the USH congregation -- adults and children of all ages -- to come together and serve the greater community on a mass scale. Part of the goal is to give members a positive experience with a volunteer opportunity they may be interested in continuing regularly throughout the year. The day is also an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, have fun and make a significant contribution to our surrounding community.

This year’s activities include food sorting and distribution at the Hoboken Emergency Food Pantry, a blood drive, maintenance projects for the Jubilee Center and Boys & Girls Club of Hoboken, a Hoboken Housing Authority Health Fair featuring nutritionists from the congregation working with HHA residents and bike rides for kids, visits to homebound seniors, making activity kits for children in hospitals, making cards to send to military servicepeople, animal-shelter assistance and hosting a luncheon for developmentally disabled adults.

All projects begin at 11 a.m., and the day culminates at 4 p.m. with dessert
and coffee at the synagogue, 115 Park Ave.

Please sign up by Oct. 1 by going to hobokensynagogue.org/MitzvahDayForm.php or e-mail mitzvahday@hobokensynagogue.org for more information.

The Housing Authority health fair will again feature educational contests through which children can win bicycles. If you have any used children’s or young-adult bikes you can donate, please call Jake Stuiver at 201-978-8977 or e-mail mitzvahday@hobokensynagogue.org.

Assembly members advance penalties for electronic device use when driving


(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Caridad Rodriguez and Craig J. Coughlin  to prohibit public transportation operators from using a wireless telephone or electronic communication device while their vehicles are moving was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.

The bill – approved 75-0 by the Assembly in February - stems from a commuter train crash in California that killed 25 people. Investigators found the operator of the passenger train sent a text message 22 seconds before the collision with an oncoming freight train.

“Some people have become so addicted to their electronic devises that they put others in danger without even thinking about the consequences,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It’s unfortunate that we even have to consider a bill like this, but history tells us it’s a real risk.”

“This is common sense, but unfortunately we often have to legislate common sense to ensure public safety,” said Rodriguez (D-Hudson). “The last thing we want to see is a tragedy in New Jersey like the one in California that cost so many so much, yet could have been avoided.”

“This is a public safety initiative,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “All drivers, no matter their vehicle, need to be paying full attention to their surroundings.”

New Jersey already bans individual motorists from using texting and talking on a hand-held cell phones while driving.

Under the bill (A-407), use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device shall include, but would not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging or sending an electronic message via a wireless telephone or electronic communication device.

An operator of a moving public transportation vehicle would be allowed to use a wireless telephone or electronic communication device only in an emergency or when radio communication failure occurs.

A violation would be considered a disorderly persons offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months imprisonment or both.

“Hopefully this bill would send a strong message that public safety always supersedes any need to send a text message,” Diegnan said. “A text message can wait. Public transportation safety cannot.”

The bill was advanced by the Senate Transportation Committee.