Thursday, October 21, 2010

Occhipinti plays the city benefits card

Occhipinti for Council announces:

Occhipinti calls on Lenz to return $4,600 to Hoboken taxpayers

Hoboken 4th ward city council candidate Tim Occhipinti called on Michael Lenz to return $4,600 in incentives he receives for opting out of the county health plan and having Hoboken taxpayers pay for his health benefits. Lenz, who, in addition to making $24,000 as a part-time city councilman, makes approximately $70,000 at his county patronage job. He switched to the city health benefits plan when he was appointed to the city council.

At last week’s debate, Lenz refused to disclose how much he collected from this scheme. The facts are that Lenz saves $1,000 by not having to pay for county health benefits (the required 1.5% of his approx. $70,000 salary), and then collects an additional $3,600 from the county’s incentive program, which provides payments to those who choose to opt out of the county health plan. (This information obtained via Open Public Records Act request from Rita Holleran, Office Services Manager, Hudson County Personnel Division, 201.795.6255.)

“Michael Lenz should give this money back to taxpayers,” said Occhipinti. “For a man who preaches to everyone else about ethics, this is especially shady. This is a cynical manipulation of public benefits, but it’s a perfect example of the real Michael Lenz. Do as I say, not as I do. Give the money back, Mr. Lenz. Do the right thing and write a check to the taxpayers of Hoboken today.”

Occhipinti holds a private sector job and pays into his company health benefits. He said he will join several other current council members in not taking city health benefits. “I’ll save taxpayers $23,000 my first day on the job by not asking them to foot the bill for my health benefits,” he said. “Michael Lenz is costing taxpayers close to $115,000 in salary and benefits. On top of that, he gets to put $4,600 in his pocket. When you think of so many people struggling just to meet their COBRA health plan payments, this is just wrong. He once called himself a reformer? That’s not reform. That’s business as usual.”

UPDATE: The Lenz for Council Campaign offered this response:  

"Councilman Lenz is receiving the benefits to which he is legally entitled and which are available to every other member of the City Council.  Tim’s allies, Council people Mike Russo, Nino Giacchi and Beth Mason all have accepted those benefits.  At the debate last week, Mr. Occhipinti refused to say whether he would support eliminating benefits for all City Council members including his friends and allies like Mike Russo, Nino Giacci and Beth Mason, saying the only issue was himself and Mike Lenz.  We can debate what the rules should be, but the same rules must apply to everyone, not just to Mike Lenz and Mr. Occhipinti.  

Once again, Tim is trying to attack Mike Lenz and distract from the real issues and Mike's record of cutting taxes, fixing flooding, and working to bring a Southwest park.  In only a year in office, Mike has made real accomplishments while Tim continues to distract and distort."


Talking Ed Note: The logic here by the Occhipinti campaign is dizzying.  Now MSV has concerns about part time council members receiving fully paid health benefits but this for another day. For the moment the idea that Councilman Mike Lenz needs to forego accepting the option of taking health benefits as any other member of Hoboken's City Council is frankly disingenuous.  

It's too bad the Occhipinti campaign feels compelled to raise the issue in a limited way.  There's a real opportunity to raise the issue fairly, but it needs to be applied equally - to the City Council as a whole.  

Unfortunately, there's been a line of cheap politics streaming from the Occhipinti campaign and frankly Tim Occhipinti should put his foot down and insist it stop instead of signing off on it.  

If any Council member obtains a cash benefit not to elect an option to participate in their company's respective health plan, that's the business of the individual and their employer.  Just because Mike Lenz holds a county position, doesn't mean he should be abused with this kind of cheap shot.

Tim Occhipinti you said you were focused on integrity and professionalism.  This release qualifies as neither.  

The Editor

City Hall lays out tax decrease details for residents (and Councilman Mike Russo)

City of Hoboken announces:

Individual Share of Municipal Taxes Decreased by 9.0%

The 2010 Transitional Year budget recently adopted includes a 5% reduction in the municipal tax levy, the largest permitted by law during a transitional year. At the Wednesday, October 20 Council meeting, Councilman Michael Russo incorrectly asserted that taxes had actually gone up rather than down. In fact, while the City’s Municipal tax levy has been decreased by 5% during the Transitional Year, individual Municipal taxes have actually decreased by 6.6% during that time due to an increase in the City’s tax base. Since 2009, the Municipal tax levy has decreased by 5.7%, while individual Municipal taxes have decreased by 9.0%.

Below is an analysis of Municipal taxes since Fiscal Year 2009, the year Municipal taxes were increased by 77% by State Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi as a result of many years of fiscal mismanagement. Earlier this week, the City officially received confirmation that it has been released from fiscal monitoring. Click here to view the letter from the Department of Community Affairs.

Municipal taxes per $100,000 assessed value
Municipal Tax Levy
Fiscal 2009
Fiscal 2010
$2,010.01 (2.4% reduction)
$60,025,000 (0.7% reduction)
Transition 2010 (annualized)
$1,874.80 (6.6% reduction)
$57,024,000 (5% reduction)
Total reduction since Fiscal 2009

As the chart demonstrates, and as confirmed by City Auditor Steve Wielkotz, the Municipal tax levy has been reduced by 5.7%, resulting in a reduction in each taxpayer’s individual share of Municipal taxes of 9.0%.

Councilman Russo may have been confused by the fact that the City is changing from a Fiscal year to a Calendar year. Until that change is complete, calculations based on Calendar years may be misleading due to the fact that taxes are not always collected evenly throughout the year. The change to a Calendar year should minimize any confusion going forward.

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A Russo Quarters Special - Mikie does finance

Councilman Mike Russo has an aptitude in math not seen in many parts and this classic video comes courtesy of Ed Mecka.  After last night's hilarity of grandstanding on the tax cut, take a look what the Russo family is willing to do to cover up a real scam costing Hoboken a ton of quarters - quite literally.

Check out the video via the link:

This video classic is not to be missed.  Share it with your friends who ask you what is wrong with Hoboken - because it's all here.

What do you think a council headed by Mike Russo has in store for us?

Mike Russo endorsement of Tim Occhipinti on video, but hey it's not political

Councilman Mike Russo makes his choice known for the fourth ward special election on November 2nd confirming the endorsement posted at the Mike Russo Civic Association on Adams street.  From the window you could read in green letters: Vote for Occhipinti.

Endorsement for Tim Occhipinti at the Association on Adams St.

Mike Russo - 'there's no tax decrease, I can prove a 4% increase!' politrickin

Councilman Mike Russo demonstrates why grandstanding is more fun than math.  In yesterday's City Council meeting, he claims a five percent decrease in taxes is actually a four percent increase.  While the fabrication is being thrown out like so much hot air, Councilman Russo gets into a lather sufficiently to coin a new term: Politrickin.

(There's some political whoring going on here alright.)

Councilman Mike Lenz breaks down the attack and tosses the lie aside like so much garbage.

Earlier Councilman Russo had requested applause for his candidate for the fourth ward Tim Occhipinti.  Nothing says what the future of the City Council government will be more than this clip.

A Russo led City Council with a fifth vote under his wing will produce more results like this except far worse.

Things are springing up to MSV from around town - Mike Russo is quite excited with the prospect he will be leading the City Council if Tim Occhipinti gets elected.  He's been very animated about it and this is but a mere taste of what Hoboken has in store if things go this way November 2nd on the special election.

Talking Ed Note: This clip, part of a new Politrickin series is dedicated to the Wiley Coyote, who has provided much inspiration with his fight and fortitude to make Hoboken honest.
Happy Birthday!

Russo 'endorses' Tim Occhipinti!

Last night's City Council meeting was the finale leading to the fourth ward special election on November 2nd and the battling and "polititrickin" was in full evidence.  Wait, what was that word?  Polititrickin.  Is that a real word?  Well not in the dictionary but it was coined by Councilman Mike Russo who voiced his concerns and it should become a famous word in the Hoboken lexicon.
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Councilman Russo - endorsement of Occhipinti 'not political'

That wasn't the heart of the entertainment for the evening.  The big news last night wasn't any of the city business or the face off in the regular Russo attack on Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs, that's all old hat and a side show.  (Councilman Russo asked him how many permits have been turned in related to the Hertz Connect Corner Cars program.  When the answer of 23 came up and now over 800 Hobokenites signed up, the Councilman quickly lost interest.)

What held the interests though of the Russos is the impending election and possibility of getting a swing vote they can use.  They mustered a resolution, symbolic of course opposing a gas pipeline over the southern line in Jersey City.  Why was this so urgent?  Well it's not like the pipeline is going up actually in Hoboken, but there again is that election thang.

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Occhipinti: Mike Russo and family endorsement
At the end of the meeting Mike Russo came out and made a speech to thank "a member of the community" for their work on the gas pipeline issue.  He said he didn't want to be "political" but he noted that Jersey City mayoral candidate Steve Fulop deserved some credit and then also a Hoboken resident: Tim Occhipinti.

With only a sparse crowd left in this relatively short meeting, Councilman Mike Russo then asked for applause for his fourth ward candidate, Tim Occhipinti.

Talking Ed Note: Not only has Mike Russo gotten behind Tim Occhipinti, it's a full out family affair.

Michelle Russo was seen taking a list of election poll challengers into the Hudson County Board of Elections earlier this week - on behalf of Tim Occhipinti.  The Russo Civic Association car has also been spotted parked illegally outside of Occhipinti's headquarters on more than one occasion.

Anthony Russo Jr. has also shown his support by adding Tim Occhipinti as a facebook friend:

Grist for the Mill Sidebar:  In addition to the earlier endorsement seen written in green on a whiteboard at the Russo Civic Association for Tim Occhipinti, a report only suspected until this time indicates that an active vote by mail/absentee ballot operation is being run out of the Adams Street location.  Mike Russo was quoted earlier on PolitickerNJ on the issue of vote by mail/absentee ballots for Tim Occhipinti.  To the idea Occhipinti could receive 600 in this election, Russo said, "I hope so."

MSV confirms there has been active recruitment for a resident to go to the Russo Civic Association and fill out a vote by mail ballot for Tim Occhipinti!

Operation Bounty remains in effect with a $2,000 reward.

Correction: The facebook page is Mike's brother, Anthony Russo Jr. not senior.
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Big Update 'On the Waterfront' - County to step up on Sinatra Drive


While making progress on reconstruction of the collapsed walkway at Castle Point Park and Sinatra Park, the Zimmer Administration remains in regular contact with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise regarding the status of the collapsed road on Sinatra Drive North.

County Executive DeGise has assured Mayor Dawn Zimmer that the County will fix the road for the long term to ensure that it does not collapse again. The County today announced that the nearly century-old timber relieving platform supporting 15 to 20 feet of sand and soil and the Sinatra Drive roadway near 14th Street experienced catastrophic failure due to a combination of age, marine life infestation and load stresses. The County will completely replace the timber platform with a new concrete structure. According to the County, the $1.7 million project will be completed in May, 2011. The County has also said that they will replace another section of the road just north of the collapse built upon a newer timber platform unless further investigation proves that the newer platform is sound.

“This is the third time that this particular road has collapsed. We have been extremely lucky so far that nobody has been injured, but we need to take action to make sure this never happens again – not just at this particular location, but along the entire waterfront,” said Mayor Zimmer. “I am advocating strongly to have this project completed as quickly as possible, but I do appreciate and thank County Executive DeGise for recognizing and agreeing that this road needs to be fully repaired in a sustainable way. My Administration will continue to take steps to fully evaluate the entire waterfront. I look forward to continuing to work with Freeholder Anthony Romano to advocate strongly for Hoboken’s best interests.”

Mayor Zimmer continues to convey to the County the importance of completely repairing the roadway as expeditiously as possible.

Complete Waterfront Evaluation
In addition to the County-owned portion of Sinatra Drive, the City is continuing a process that began last fall with the City’s former engineer to evaluate the integrity of the entire waterfront. City engineers completed the mapping process to identify the owners of each section of the waterfront. As the City’s new engineer, Boswell Engineering is conducting an evaluation of the entire waterfront by boat at low tide. In addition, the Administration is currently working with Boswell to draft an ordinance to clarify and require that property owners take specific actions to maintain the waterfront.

Castle Point Park Walkway
City engineers recently completed geotechnical studies for the collapsed walkway section of Castle Point Park. Engineers have proposed creating a sheet metal bulkhead around the walkway and filling it in with lightweight concrete. The City engineer is working to acquire the appropriate permits from the DEP.

Frank Sinatra Park
City engineers recently completed geotechnical studies at Frank Sinatra Park and have met with the DEP to review and discuss plans. Following an additional meeting with the DEP, the Administration hopes to introduce to a City Council subcommittee a concept for Frank Sinatra Park that would significantly reduce the time frame and cost to rebuild the park.


9-11 Concept plan introduced

City of Hoboken announces:


The City of Hoboken today is unveiling the conceptual plans for the City's 9/11 memorial. A public hearing is scheduled for November 30th at 6 pm in the basement conference room of City Hall to discuss the proposal.

"I'm very thankful to the 9/11 Memorial Committee and the Parks and Quality of Life City Council subcommittee for their efforts and the progress we have made,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. "I want to specially thank Community Development Director Brandy Forbes. We were at risk of losing state funding for the memorial, and without her strong advocacy, we would have lost more than $250,000. It is my goal to have, by the 10th anniversary of the attacks, a permanent memorial to properly remember and honor those Hoboken residents who were lost.”

The proposed memorial is oriented toward the World Trade Center site and will have complete ADA accessibility.  Lighting will be utilized to highlight the glass panels.  The plan features two symmetrical, semicircular platforms, each one and a half feet high.  Each raised semicircle would hold half of the glass panels.  The two platforms with the panels would be representative of the twin towers.  Because they are raised, visitors would have a place to sit and place mementos and flowers.  A beveled edge circumscribed around the interior could be etched with text as determined by the 9/11 Memorial Committee, the City Council, and the public.  Thanks to the efforts of Fire Chief Richard Blohm, the memorial will incorporate a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.  There would be no change in grade for the walking surface. This concept offers clear visibility through the site and would be inviting to visitors.

Three related items will be considered at the Council meeting on Wednesday, October 20th: The scheduling of a public hearing to discuss park plan changes to accommodate the memorial, a resolution regarding the $250,000 in funding from the Department of Community Affairs, and a resolution to award a contract to Remington and Vernick for the remainder of the design and bid work, document preparation, and construction oversight.

Click here to view the proposed location and conceptual drawings for the 9/11 Memorial.