Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zoning, sewerage appts, Council chair and managing public comments


Last night saw not the three expected but four Hoboken Zoning Board positions come to the fore for appointment, transparency be damned - at least that was Councilwoman Castellano's excuse or as she put it, 'We learned it from you.'  That's from the kid's playground school of "No, you are."  Alrighty then.


The most interesting nomination in some respects was a young supporter of Tim Occhipinti - Michael DeFusco who previously is said to have been a supporter of Peter Cammarano.  It appears he contributed to each ($100 to Occhipinti) and last night he was awarded a prize at the tender age of 28 for one of the most important board positions in town.  Not too shabby.  But why was he selected among so many people on the applied list?


Below is his letter last November after the fourth ward special election to the Hudson Reporter speaking some powerful accolades about Tim Occhipinti.  The departure from reality in this letter began as soon as Tim took the seat.  There are many words to describe Tim Occhipinti and his performance last night was woeful in many respects, but the worst moment was him eager to take on State law ignoring the required ordinance on Corner Cars for two pods being moved.  He was adamant pushing to violate State law and do what he wanted right up until sanity prevailed (finally) and the issue was sent to subcommittee. 


Also newly named to a zoning board seat was Joseph Crimmins who earns some accolades for his intelligence.  Irene Smith was bumped from fourth to second alternate and former fire chief Richard Tremitiedi was a surprise for the final fourth alternate position.


Here's Michael DeFusco's November 21st letter to the Hudson Reporter.  At the Jubilee Center debate, Tim Occhipinti made a reckless, flippant charge asking how much a zoning board seat goes for suggesting the price was $1,000.  His terrible showing that night belies his going rate - it's down to 100 bucks.  Thanks Tim.

Dear Editor:

I would like to congratulate the 4th Ward’s newly elected councilman, Tim Occhipinti, for running a positive and issue-based campaign. Despite unwarranted attacks from his opponent, Tim stuck to the issues and the voters responded for change. Having known Tim for a number of years, I can affirm that the residents of the 4th Ward elected a good man whose integrity is rock solid, whose ideas are pragmatic and whose optimism is infectious. The 4th Ward desperately needed a dedicated representative, not a politician, to address a number of issues, and they’ve now found that in their new councilman.

Now, the time has come for City Council to get to work and, more importantly, work together to benefit our city. I believe that Councilman Occhipinti will be a strong voice for his constituents and bring a sense of reason to the council. To that end, I encourage the council members to work with their new colleague to pass legislation, not point fingers. I would hate to see politics get in the way of progress.

Michael DeFusco


Balance of power
What seemed so unlikely  a year ago has changed in an eyelash.  The Zimmer appointees left: Phil Cohen, Nancy Pincus and the very able and popular Jim Abel are now outgunned with the other four votes.  The redeeming issue with the seven seats?  You need six to get variances issued.  But it spells trouble if merely one of the three has a headache and can't make a meeting.  Of course Mike Russo has shown strong interest in getting Pincus' chair.  He'll be in for a real big fight if he takes that on but never say never with La Familia de Russo. 


What about that smell?
Speaking of buying, Frank Raia and his questionable voting contributions to Hoboken was overlooked in him obtaining another term on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority with not the five votes required but six count'em six of nine votes.  Does the Russo support guarantee he stays out of the 3rd ward race against a less than beloved Michael Russo?  It doesn't look like it hurts.  The sixth vote was not required but is believed misguided at best.  Councilman Dave Mello who provided that sixth vote will be hearing about that from people.  As MSV pixels hit the net, it appears Grafix Avenger's already has.  Yikes, that's going to leave a mark:


http://grafixavenger.blogspot.com/2011/01/keeping-it-real.html


But first a question.  Who told Beth Mason she could start issuing proclamations?  Is she now Hoboken mayor or speaking for the entire City Council issuing paperless proclamations for photo ops in Council Chambers?  Maybe she thinks public portion is also as easily amenable.


There was some significant improvement in the City Council, including a drastic elevation from Beth Mason in running the meeting overall (with some caveats) but the most stunning was the return to reason by Councilman Nino Giacchi.  He kept the meeting from derailing at a couple of points by being consistent in a return to logic and the law.  Most importantly on the matter of moving Corner Car pods, he pushed to have the matter moved to subcommittee.  Better late than never but he did get "the memo" apparently and his tinfoil hat is definitely no longer working.


It's an election year after all.


Related: The Hoboken Journal adds some additional insights and the ever popular Hoboken Patch does yeoman's work laying out the straight news on the zoning appointments.


Talking Ed Note: MSV wishes to apologize for not having the important video on the hospital up.  It's still not available from the city and an earlier decision was made to use that instead of the limited video taken.  As soon as it comes, we'll make it available.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

City of Hoboken announces:




WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY & DISCOUNT GARAGE PARKING

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory from 9 pm Thursday evening through 8 am Friday morning. Snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are currently predicted.

Residents are reminded not to park along emergency snow routes. As soon as streets are snow-covered, cars along these routes may be towed. A state of emergency does not need to be declared for towing to occur. A list and map of emergency snow routes is available on the City website: http://www.hobokennj.org/departments/transportation-parking/emergency-snow-routes/. Residents who believe they have been towed should call Mile Square Towing at (201) 217-3133.

Enforcement of alternate side parking regulations will be suspended during and for 24 hours after the end of the storm.

Due to the predicted storm, a special rate of $5 per 24 hour period is being offered in Garages B (28 2nd Street) and D (215 Hudson Street) to residents with a parking permit decal or Temporary parking permit placard beginning at 8pm on Thursday, January 20 through 8pm on Friday, January 21. In addition, Hoboken residents with disabilities who posses either a handicapped license plate or hang tag for their permitted vehicle may also park in the Midtown garage (371 4th Street) for the same reduced rate. Garage space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents who wish to extend their stay in the garage and who have a parking permit decal or Temporary parking permit placard are reminded that overnight parking (8pm to 8am) is available at a rate of $5.00. This rate is available in Garages B, D and Midtown every day of the year.

Property owners or occupants are responsible for clearing sidewalks of snow within 6 hours of the completion of a storm, and residents are urged to assist elderly or disabled neighbors with clearing snow from their properties. It is illegal to shovel snow back onto streets or onto fire hydrants.

For updates, monitor the City website, http://www.hobokennj.org or sign up to receive free email or text updates from the City via Nixle by visiting http://local.nixle.com/city-of-hoboken.


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Hoboken launches Rx savings program

City of Hoboken announces:




City of Hoboken to Launch New Prescription Drug Savings Program

January 19, 2011 – Hoboken, NJ – On January 25th at 10:00 AM Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Heinz Foundation President Jeffrey Lewis and Financial Marketing Concepts Inc., (FMC) will hold a press conference to launch a new prescription drug discount program at Hoboken City Hall, 94 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030.

Once launched, the new Coast2Coast Rx card will allow all city residents -- regardless of income, age, or health status to participate in the program and save on the cost of their medications. This program has already saved cardholders an average of 45% in 2010 on the cost of prescription drugs. Even pets and family members living outside the city are able to take part in the program. The Rx card will be distributed free of charge and may be used at all pharmacy chains and most independent pharmacies in Hoboken and throughout the nation and includes over 60,000 drugs in its formulary.

“With healthcare costs on the rise, prescription drug discounts will help ease some of the financial burdens Hoboken families are facing at a time when they need it the most,” said Mayor Zimmer.  Jeffrey Lewis added “There are no eligibility requirements, so the Rx card is expected to have a sizeable impact on uninsured residents, residents facing high insurance deductibles and will allow savings for persons in need of prescriptions not covered by their current plans.” 

Providing savings for residents through the Rx program will come at no expense to the City of Hoboken or its taxpayers.  In fact, FMC will pay Hoboken a donation of $.50 for filled prescriptions and it doesn’t increase cardholder cost.   Besides the discounts on prescriptions, the card also provides 50% to 80% discounts for lab and imaging tests, further helping cardholders save even more money on their healthcare costs for these services. 

Martin Dettelbach, Chief Marketing Officer of Financial Marketing Concepts, Inc., of Ponte Vedra BeachFlorida, the issuer of the Coast2Coast Rx free discount card, says “We are pleased to work with Hoboken to help individuals, their families and pets combat the rising cost of healthcare.” Dettelbach added, “We appreciate all that the City of Hobokenand local pharmacies are doing to help those in need.” 

The Coast2Coast Rx card will be available for residents at most participating pharmacies, governmental offices, libraries and health facilities.  Residents will also be able to print the Rx card, check their prescription prices and view the nearest participating locations at www.coast2coastrx.com and go to the Print Free Card menu button, click on city in the dropdown list, then click on the City of Hoboken.

The Coast2Coast Rx card will provide residents with a valuable tool to help maintain their health and wellbeing at an affordable cost. 

Scott Siegel challenges 2nd ward Councilwoman Beth Mason on $20 million surplus lie

Scott Siegel a Hoboken 2nd ward resident and regular speaker on issues at City Council meetings followed up a challenge to 2nd ward Councilwoman Beth Mason on her insistence there is a $20 million surplus. At the previous City Council meeting, Beth Mason refused to admit her previous statements on the surplus were incorrect.


Here is Scott Siegel's submitted article on the matter beginning with a quote from Beth Mason as he stated would be published when he confronted the City Council on the issue Wednesday night:


Beth Mason Lies Again About The “$20mm Surplus”

“Finally, as you may be aware, at the February 16th City Council meeting Mayor Zimmer will introduce her 2011 Municipal Budget. Many residents are wondering what will become of Hoboken’s approximately $20 million (and still growing) surplus. From the very day the surplus was uncovered I have been an advocate of using it to provide property tax relief”.

At last Monday’s Emergency Council meeting I confronted Beth Mason and Tim Occhipinti over their usage of the $20mm surplus lie. Neither was willing to admit their error. Now, Beth kicks off her campaign with this bold face lie front and center. Its one thing to lie to your constituents, but it is even more insidious because Ed Drishti, a police union head repeated this $20mm fable at a recent council meeting. He obviously believes there is a $20mm pot of gold at the end of Beth Mason’s rainbow. How do you think this will affect his bargaining position? Whatever the police end up with they will feel disappointed and demoralized believing in Beth Mason’s phantom pot of gold. This is unfair to our safety personnel.

The real surplus is approximately $10mm based on last summer’s Annual Financial Statement (AFS). The $20mm lie is derived from adding $8mm to the factual cash surplus of $11.83mm. The $8mm is the remnant of Dave Robert’s infamous $10mm underfunded budget. It will be reduced by approximately $1.7mm each year over 7 years, per an agreement with the State of NJ DLGS (Division of Local Government Services from whence Judy Tripodi arrived). Our vendors were paid off 2 years ago. There is no money there to return to taxpayers. If we wrote it all off in one year Hoboken would have violated various fiscal covenants, so the state allowed us to use an accounting gimmick. Let me repeat this- there no $20mm pot of gold, the pot is empty. In the 4th quarter of 2010 $1.83mm of the factual, real cash surplus was returned to taxpayers. This left a balance of $10mm as Michael Lenz stated at Monday’s meeting.

The reason we need the $10mm surplus is dual fold. Currently Hoboken has an “investment grade” rating of “BAA1” by Moody’s. This not high enough to finance our debt on our own. We are forced to utilize the Hudson County Note Pool program (one year debt instrument). This is not a prudent way for Hoboken to finance. It is equivalent to a homeowner having a one year ARM (adjustable mortgage. You should never finance a long term asset one year at time as many foreclosed homeowners found out. For example if Hudson County paves a 2nd Ward road (see Beth’s “accomplishments” for that lie) it should last for 7 years on average. Therefore you should finance (via a tax free General Obligation bond backed by “ad volorem” property taxes) this cost over 7 years. By having all our debt short term, the Hoboken taxpayer is playing Russian Roulette with their property taxes. Currently the US government is running a massive budget deficit. This is leading to inflation. Gas prices are over $3 a gallon in some places and global food riots are occurring. As Mayor Zimmer said we should attempt to achieve a high grade “AA” rating. This would allow us to sell our debt ourselves at a lower interest rate, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and eliminate the imprudent structural fiscal imbalance we currently maintain.

Secondly, we need funds to repair our decrepit infrastructure and acquire much needed open space. Under Beth Mason’s plan taxpayers will have to foot most if not all the cost on our backs. We need surplus dollars so we can get matching grants possibly halving the cost. Moody’s recommends a 5-10% surplus just for the bond rating.

In Beth Mason’s world we will also have little to no funds to deal with health care increases, potential lawsuits losses, the state mandated 22% increase in pension payments, union retro pay, tax appeals, cuts from Trenton and unforeseen contingencies. This outright lie must end. Please review the attached documents and spread the word. This fiscally irresponsible monster must be stopped.

Attached are the relevant documents from the AFS. The first is titled “Trial Balance”. This is the reconciliation page that appeared on the pro Beth Mason website Hoboken411. At the bottom of the page you will find a line item named “Fund Balance”. This is Beth Mason’s phantom $20mm figure. Notice that it does not say surplus. This is Beth Mason’s big lie. A Fund Balance is not a surplus Beth.

The second page is entitled “Surplus Current Fund”. Beth Mason and her operatives never bothered to look at this data. That is how fiscally irresponsible elected officials operate. Under “Analysis of Balance” circled and notated are the magic words: “Cash Surplus”. This is the first mention of the word “Surplus”. The circled number totals $11,833,216.28. $11.83mm is not and will never be $20mm


Supporting Documentation from City records: