Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ravi in Review: City Council President progress report

From the desk of Hoboken City Council President Ravi Bhalla:



Dear Friends,

I report with pleasure that we are moving with determination to make our great city a better place.  Here is your update on how the City Council and the Administration are moving Hoboken forward:

Tax Decrease! At the July 20th City Council meeting, the Council adopted a 2011 budget includes an 8% tax decrease in municipal portion of your property taxes. This is great progress in the right direction. While I had hoped for an even greater tax cut, we were able to achieve this decrease while maintaining a budget surplus of approximately 5% of the overall municipal budget. Maintaining this surplus is critical to maintaining a healthy balance sheet so that the city can improve its bond rating.

Moving Elections to November: The City Council passed a law, signed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer on Monday, that moves local elections from May to November. This means that local Hoboken elections will coincide with federal, state and county level elections.  I am proud of this achievement. It is a meaningful reform that will decrease the number of times you have to go to the polls to vote, and save taxpayer dollars associated with multiple elections. Most municipalities in New Jersey hold their elections in November, when people are most acclimated to voting.  With this new law, Hoboken will now also be electing its local leaders in November.

Corner Cars: Under the leadership of Director Ian Sacs, Hoboken implemented the “Corner Cars” program, a public-private partnership with Hertz meant to increase resident transportation choices and reduce the burden of finding parking in Hoboken.  The program has been a tremendous success and has received national acclaim as an innovative approach to address the problem of inadequate parking.  Over 1,600 residents have already signed up for the Corner Cars program.  Yet, for months, the prior City Council failed to officially pass a law to allocate the spaces used for these corner cars.  Fortunately, on July 20th, the City Council passed a measure making the Corner Car spots official and legally permissible.  I look forward to the continued success of this program for the benefit of our residents.

Progress towards a park in southwest Hoboken: The City Council passed a Resolution supporting the Administration’s use of the lawful powers of eminent domain for a park in the southwest of Hoboken.  This resolution is significant because, irrespective of your views on eminent domain, it formally provides the Zimmer Administration with a necessary negotiating tool to finally deliver a park in the southwest of Hoboken.  As a result of this vote, Mayor Zimmer also agreed to repurpose $3 million in county grant money towards the purchase of land in the Southwest.

Saving Our Hospital: An important step was taken towards saving Hoboken University Medical Center last week.  A public hearing was held to determine whether the State Health Commission will recommend that a Certificate of Need be issued by the Commissioner of the State Department of Health, a pre-requisite for the sale of the hospital.  I personally attended the hearing and provided testimony to the Commission imploring them to save our hospital by supporting its sale.  A cross-section of community members and other stakeholders also spoke in favor of saving our hospital.  I am hopeful that soon taxpayers will be relieved of a $52 million debt obligation and the hospital will be sold to a private entity.

Finally, although it does not relate to my public service as your councilman, in the spirit of full disclosure I want to inform you that in my private capacity as an attorney, I was “admonished” by the Disciplinary Review Board.  My admonition was based on the fact that a settlement check was issued to one of my clients prior to the funds clearing my law firm’s trust account.  Although the funds cleared and there was no client loss or complaint, the bank charged my firm a $70 fee.   This $70 fee caused a violation and a finding that my firm's trust account was not maintained in accordance with court rules.  I have since addressed these record keeping errors by retaining a specialized accountant to review and reconcile my law firm’s trust account on a quarterly basis to ensure its compliance with court rules.

An admonition is the lowest form of attorney discipline.  It is not a finding of dishonesty or fraud, nor is it finding relating to my public service.  Nonetheless, this was an error for which I take full responsibility.  I hope that in my time in public service, you have seen that where I make a mistake, I acknowledge it immediately rather than make excuses or denials, and then take corrective action.

As always, it’s a pleasure to be of a service to you.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at rbhalla@hobokennj.com or call me at 201-647-6090.

That Jen Girl does clean: announces local clean up effort this Sunday

From the desk of 6th ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino:


Greetings from Jen Giattino for City Council
Please join me and my family on Sunday July 31st at 10am
in Church Square Park for a community wide
"CLEAN IT UP HOBOKEN" Day.

Most Hoboken residents are unaware that there is an ordinance regarding the distribution and postings of handbills and circulars.
The ordinance states "no person shall throw, cast or distribute any handbill, circular, card or other advertising matter whatsoever, in or upon any street, public place, front yard, on any vehicle, or any place on a pole or public sign".
However, everywhere we turn we see advertisements posted on utility poles and boxes, stuck on car windshields, and littering our sidewalks, streets and open spaces.
It is time to make Hoboken more aware about this issue. It is time we come together as a community and start to clean up our streets. The Department of Environmental Services is working on the enforcement of this ordinance. 

"CLEAN IT UP -  HOBOKEN" is not only about raising awareness but encouraging a joint effort between city employees and their community.

Keeping our streets clean has always been important to me and I am determined to raise community awareness about how we can all help with this matter.  
I have been personally taking down signs, flyers, and other advertisements along with spreading the word about this matter. I have also been been contacting the offenders to inform them that these postings and distributions are not allowed.

As part of my initiative, I am asking for friends and neighbors (grownups and children), to come out on July 31st to help remove advertisements and clean up the streets.
I will meet volunteers in Church Square and then it'll be off to clean up Hoboken.

If you are interested in participating in this community awareness event, please send an email to elissabrachfeld@gmail.com.  Though, of course, anyone is welcome even last minute.
Feel free to forward this email to anyone else you think may be interested in helping out and encourage them to sign up at the bottom link for future emails about news and events.

"CLEAN IT UP -  HOBOKEN" will not only raise awareness, but will be the start of us coming together to restore Hoboken to the beautiful place we all know it can be.

Thank you!
Jen

Freeholder Anthony Romano and Challenger Kurt Gardiner agree on two debates

The Hoboken Journal announces:

Gardiner vs. Romano - Let the Freeholder Debates Begin

Anthony "Stick" Romano and Kurt "The Giant" Gardiner have agreed to two debates for the upcoming Freeholder race coming this November. We both did so through a trusted intermediary who was offered the carrot and chomping at the bit for open debates (hint). The dates will be set after Labor Day. The debate will consist of one forum and one TV interview/debate at a County TV Show. Both campaigns will work out the exact format after the Summer. Stay tuned.

No, this won't be Lincoln vs. Douglas like former Mayor Peter Cammarano turned felon (endorsed by Romano in 2009) once touted but it will a chance for the District 5 Freeholder constituents to see where the candidates stand on the issues. Think of it this way, the District went from having someone running unopposed and backed by the County Machine to running scared enough that he felt compelled to challenge his unknown challenger to not one but two debates. I of course readily accepted as I had planned on offering a debate challenge myself. I am humbled before the potential voter to at least be able to offer them a choice for this public office. Let the debates begin!

Attention Media and Constituents: This is the real deal as I called Anthony Romano in person today to confirm that we will work out the debates after Labor Day. Any follow up questions can be addressed to kurt.gardiner@gmail.com. Feel free to reach out to me on concerns over Hudson County issues as well.

Councilman Tim Occhipinti supports Raia's petition effort

Not surprisingly, Tim Occhipinti also came out publicly to support the petition by Frank "Pupie" Raia to reverse November municipal elections.


What's fascinating is since Tim Occhipinti's controversial election where problems were forwarded to the highest state law enforcement agency in New Jersey - the Attorney General's Office, there's never been any hesitancy to move on "5 majority members of the city council deciding," for the public.

Occhipinti never thought a 5-4 vote necessitated a public referendum, or paused to act with any consensus on any issue whatsoever.  It was full steam(roller) ahead with the new Beth Russo "majority" - this even with no word from the AG's office on the problems with his election.  Those issues forwarded by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office have not led to any bill of health since.

Occhipinti notes the deadline to collect 3,000 signatures is August 12th.  He's thanked Frank Raia for his support after the controversial November election so it's little surprise he's backing the developer now.

Talking Ed Note: A commenter notes the correct petition figure is 2100, not the 3,000 noted by Occhipinti.