Monday, November 7, 2011

Peter Cunningham on Election Day tomorrow - Vote Gardiner for Freeholder, Vote "No" on Rent Control Ballot #2

From the desk of Council VP Peter Cunningham:

Hi everyone, sorry for the late notice.

Quite a busy weekend culminating with the closing of the Hospital
transaction on Friday, and lots of soccer Saturday and Sunday... It
had been a great week for the family too with Halloween and all, with
perhaps the scariest thing to occur at Wednesday's council meeting
where routine accounting measures were voted down by the minority for
NO GOOD REASON other than to show their continued ability to block
this Administration like they did with the hospital; refinancing the
Parking Utility Bonds and bonding for General Improvements.

I have talked to many about tomorrow's vote and how disappointed most
are with little interest to go to the polls.  So I will give some
limited thoughts, opinions and recommendations, and you decide.  While
it is a privilege to exercise your right to vote, with exception of a
couple of candidates and issues, you might want to "bullet" vote your
way through this one.

1) All Democratic incumbents are likely to win by a large margin.  But
you can vote Republican and send a message to the incumbents that you
are not satisfied with their job.  When we say job, we mean supporting
reasonable initiatives to reducing our tax burden and supporting other
reform initiatives.  

Kurt Gardiner, running for Freeholder as an Independent, is someone I am 
supporting for Hudson County Freeholder.
His site is http://www.gardinerforfreeholder.com/.  Kurt will fight
for lower County taxes which have continued to go up in the last four
years completely overshadowing the hard work done we have done at city
hall AND on the School Board.  Kurt will not take a County car; will
recommend salary cuts and Operational Audits of County Government; and
say NO to any County tax increase.

2) The Referendum on Rent Control is the other initiative of interest.
It's a confusing question, and I hope that at this point many of you
are prepared.  I have spoken to many and as we are reasonable people,
I believe the following are important issues to consider.  The
Ordinance Z-88 was voted in (9-0) by all City Council members this
Spring.  In my opinion, it's fair and balanced for both the tenants
and landlords as there was something that each party gave up to come
to a consensus (you may write me for details).  The Judge mandated
that Hoboken fix it's Rent Control laws as they were "arbitrary and
capricious."  Ordinance Z-88 will reduce the legal liability and thus
the financial burden waged against the city for over 20 years.  The
costs have been staggering for the city, landlords and tenants.  For
tenants that are concerned rents, this law will not arbitrarily raise
any one's rent.  Hoboken continues to have the strongest rent control
laws in Hudson County.

Let's listen to the Judge, and do something that's fair and balanced.
Please consider voting NO to preserve Z-88.

Please let me know if you have any specific questions, and feel free
to pass this note around to your neighbors.  Thanks as always.  Peter
-- 

    Peter Cunningham


Councilwoman Jen Giattino endorses Kurt Gardiner for Freeholder

From the desk of 6th ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino:


Ravi Bhalla - Tomorrow vote for Kurt Gardiner

From the desk of  Democrats for Honest Government Ravi Bhalla:


Dear Horsey,

I write to offer support and an endorsement of my good friend, Kurt Gardiner, for county Freeholder for the 5th District, which includes Hoboken and portions of Jersey City Heights.

When Mayor Dawn Zimmer and I first ran for elective office, we were not politicians, but rather citizens sincerely concerned about the direction of Hoboken, and wanted to serve to make positive change for our community.  Last Friday’s sale of the Hoboken University Medical Center is just one example of how regular people focused solely on Hoboken’s best interests, can bring their respective talents to the table and achieve historic change for the City of Hoboken.  It is also an example of how an ordinary person with extraordinary determination – Mayor Zimmer – brought together like-minded residents to successfully work for the greater good of Hoboken.

We must also remember that Hoboken is not an island unto itself.  A large portion of our tax levy is County taxes that are impacted by the decisions of our county legislators, also known as Freeholders.  It is important for us to understand the impact that policies at the county and state level have on Hoboken, and for well intentioned and talented residents in Hoboken to step up and run for elective office not just at the local level, but at the county and state level as well.

Kurt Gardiner is one of those persons and I humbly request you cast your ballot for Kurt tomorrow.  For as long as I have known Kurt, he has been an honest, thoughtful, and humorous straight-shooter.  Kurt does not pull any punches, even with me.  There have been times where Kurt has disagreed with a position I have taken, and he never hesitates to call me and express his disagreement.  Kurt is a courageous man who I believe has the intelligence, energy and ability to stand up to business as usual at the county level and advocate for the best interests of Hoboken and Jersey City residents.

My endorsement of Kurt is not a reflection of my views of our current Freeholder, Anthony Romano.  For as long as I have known him, Freeholder Romano has been a professional and true gentlemen in all of our interactions.  Freeholder Romano works very hard and I sincerely believe also has the best intentions of the residents of the 5th District.  So you have two good candidates to choose from.
 
At this time in Hoboken’s history, however, our interests would be better served through the election of a qualified candidate emerging from outside the confines of traditional Democratic county politics.  That person is Kurt Gardiner and I sincerely hope you will cast your vote for him tomorrow.

Sincerely,
Ravi S. Bhalla
Democrats for Honest Government

Pro-referendum advocates make their case

From the desk of pro-referendum advocates:


On November 8th
Vote YES to Reject Ordinance Z-88 and Defend Tenants’ Rights!

Citizens of Hoboken:

Hoboken’s November 8, 2011 General Election ballot contains PUBLIC QUESTION #2: “Shall the Ordinance Z-88, adopted by the City Council of the City of Hoboken, which amends certain provisions of Chapter 155 of the City Code, entitled “Rent Control” be repealed?”

You should vote YES to reject Z-88 for two reasons:  first, it is unfair and harmful to tenants, and second, to force the Mayor and Council to consider the rights and concerns of all affected citizens when they create or amend laws, not merely those with the most money.

Ordinance Z-88 harms tenants in many ways:

·      Z-88 changes the base year (from which legal rents are calculated) from 1973 to 1985, so all illegal rents charged during those years are legalized.
·      Z-88’s “period of repose” provision prevents a tenant from recovering more than 2 years of illegal rent overpayment.  This cheats the tenant and rewards the landlord who charged an illegal rent.  It also penalizes landlords that did follow the law
·      Z-88’s “statute of limitations” provision prevents a tenant from recovering ANY illegal rent overpayment if the tenant does not request a legal rent calculation within 2 years of receiving a “disclosure statement” which “discloses” that there is a Rent Control (RC) law and that “a copy of the Landlord’s Registration Statement will be on file with the Rent Regulation Office and available to a tenant upon request”, misleadingly suggesting that the registered rent is legal when it may not be and eliminating any motivation for the tenant to request a legal rent calculation.  There is also no penalty if a landlord does not provide the disclosure statement;  its purpose is only to begin the 2 year statute of limitation period.
·      Z-88 permits a landlord to submit “alternative proofs” to justify past rent increases to substitute for missing registration and vacancy decontrol forms which existing RC requires for rent increases.  Unfortunately, these “alternative proofs” need not be valid evidence at all:  a certification from the landlord could suffice.  Z-88 would thus permit an unscrupulous landlord to insert one or more illegal vacancy decontrol forms and illegal registration statements based only on his certification and no other evidence.  The ordinance does not require any other proof.  Prior tenants who might refute such certifications may have left Hoboken and/or be unaware that the RC hearing is even happening.  This would not only legalize a present illegal rent, they would also allow the present legal rent to be jacked up far beyond what the current tenant is paying, encouraging the landlord to evict that tenant so the next tenant will pay the much higher rent.
·      Z-88 gives the Rent Control Board the “equitable authority” to depart from the RC law when they think it is “fair” to do so, completely undermining the law if the majority of the RC Board does not ideologically consider RC to be “fair”.
·      Finally, Z-88 specifies that more changes to the law will follow, making it more difficult for affected citizens to protest with a referendum petition as they lose their rights one step at a time.

These Z-88 RC changes reward landlords who violated the law and encourage them to evict tenants who pay legal rents.

All nine of the councilpersons who voted to pass Z-88 indicated on the record that they had problems with it, but they voted for it anyway, forcing concerned citizens to collect 3,158 referendum signatures and go to court to get the issue on the ballot for the voters of Hoboken to decide.

If you or any of your friends and neighbors are tenants that will lose RC protections and possibly their homes, you have the opportunity to take part in a democratic process and do something about it:  Vote YES to reject Z-88 to defend tenants’ rights and to force the Mayor and Council to properly represent you!   Let your voice be heard:  democracy and justice can prevail over money!  Vote YES to reject Z-88!

HobokenFairHousing.com


Update: If you missed it, scroll down the page to read the position of the Mile Square Taxpayers Association.

MSTA: Vote "NO" on Ballot Question 2

Update: Both sides of the referendum on the rent control ordinance are now posted together so people can see each side's relative positions.


From the desk of the Mile Square Taxpayers Association: 



Mile Square Taxpayers Association
Official Position on Ballot Question 2
Summary
Hoboken’s rent leveling ordinance has been the subject of nearly 2 years of intense scrutiny and debate, leading to a 9-0 vote by the Council to adopt amendments to correct administrative and legislative issues that lead a judge to conclude the ordinance is arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional and that the rent leveling office’s records are unreliable.  

Rescinding the Council’s action would return Hoboken to a chaotic rent control environment in which property owners would be subject to liabilities despite performing under the ordinance, leading to continued litigation and a frozen market for rent control properties in Hoboken.  
Background 
The Council researched the Ordinance and held 9 hearings within an 18-month process beginning in September of 2009.  Z-88 is the result of that process, during which tenants and landlord arguments were considered and helped shape the amendments that were passed 9-0.  Subsequently, the Council rejected the Petitioner’s motion to rescind the law, leading to the question appearing on the ballot. 

Amendments Review 
The Amendment has five essential components:

Requires Disclosure to Tenants 
Z-88 adds an important protection for tenants, for the first time requiring that they are notified of their right to request a legal rent calculation from the rent leveling board.

Allows Alternative Evidence 
The central problem that caused the rent leveling ordinance to be deemed unconstitutional was the requirement of a vacancy decontrol form being on file at the rent leveling office to qualify for increases in rent. This form was never produced by the rent leveling office – rent-leveling board administrators testified in depositions for a Superior Court case that they instead instructed property owners to note decontrols on their registration statements.  More recently, the rent leveling office changed this policy, producing a form and requiring it.  The Court found that landlords cannot be expected to file a form that was not accepted by the rent leveling office, and the Council subsequently adopted the Z-88 amendment to re-establish the constitutionality of the law. Elementally, allowing accused persons to provide evidence in their own defense is an inalienable right. In a circumstance where the rent leveling board’s records were deemed unreliable, accepting and assessing evidence provided by landlords, which would be in possession of leases that demonstrate their compliance with rent increase standards, is only fair.

Implements Time Limits
Z-88 provides a tenant with a 2-year period of repose to request a legal rent calculation and provides for a 2-year maximum refund of overpaid rent, which would be tripled under the Consumer Protection Act and result in 6-years of refund of overpaid rent.  Rents would still be rolled-back as far as 1985 if found to be over-charged.  This is the most generous return-of-rent and repose period in Hudson County.  

Empowers Rent Leveling Board Rulings
Currently, most violations of the rent-leveling ordinance result in cases in Superior Court.  The Z-88 amendments provide some powers the rent leveling board to adjudicate matters – but those powers do not exclude any party from appealing to Superior Court.  In instances where the rent leveling board makes a ruling that is abided by both parties, significant legal expenses are saved by the City, the landlord and the tenant.  More than $500,000 in rent control related legal fees have been borne by Hoboken in the last year.

Creates a base year of 1985
This is the first year record keeping of rent registration was formalized and is the earliest, although still unreliable, opportunity to assess legal rents.

Policy and Legal Implications
Litigation motivation.  Tenant attorneys working on contingency fees in Hoboken exploit the administrative gaps in the law and rent leveling office to create “phantom violations” in which a property owner may be charging a legal rent but is still not in compliance with the technical language of the law.  Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is impossible to overcome the flaws in the Ordinance -- in fact, the current owner of the property is liable to return rents they did not even collect.  Settlements and awards have routinely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with lawyers soliciting entire buildings that are then driven into bankruptcy by the findings.  And once the rent is rolled back, the buildings are virtually value-less. This is not the intention of the rent control law, and more elementally, it is unethical to recognize that you are taking property from one person and handing it to another with no legitimate exchange of value.  The single impact from the Z-88 Amendments is to prevent that abuse. Z-88 does not eliminate any tenant legitimate protection, it eliminates an attorney’s windfall.  

Condo conversion manifest.  Without Z-88, property owners are encouraged to convert rental properties to condominium to avoid liabilities.  This is the most serious threat to maintaining affordable rental stock in Hoboken.  

Inequitable tax burden.  Poorly functioning rent control laws further burdening single-family homeowners with higher taxes (because rent control restricts income to buildings, they pay less in tax than they otherwise might).  By unnecessarily and unfairly rolling back rents, single-family homeowners must pick up the burden for town expenses.  By incurring increased legal expenses, single-family homeowners must pick up the burden, as rent control properties only pay tax on an income basis and their taxes cannot be increased unless their revenues are increased.   

Threats of judicial action.  Ultimately, if Council action does not cure the problems in the Hoboken Rent Leveling Ordinance, judges will continue to do so, perhaps naming landlords the prevailing party in a pending class action against the City whose financial implications are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Implications of poorly administered law.  The biggest problem in Hoboken is that the rent leveling office is managed in arrears rather than affirmatively.  If at the point of registration rents were assessed for compliance by the rent leveling office, there would be no need for legal rent calculations.  But poor procedures and poor record keeping have led us where we are, and without the administrative capacity to mange its ordinance affirmatively – which is what almost all other municipalities do – these amendments are necessary in order to establish an authoritative and functional rent leveling office.  

Conclusion 
Sustaining Z-88 is essential for a normal functioning rent control environment in Hoboken, as it:
- restores constitutionality to the rent leveling ordinance;
- overcomes unreliable record keeping by providing ability to supply evidence;
- requires that tenants are provided notice of their rights;
- eliminates phantom violations that place unfair liabilities on property owners;
- removes the title clouds from buildings, thawing the real estate market;
- supports 18 months of Council research to arrive at Amendments;
- motivates property owners to maintain rental property rather than convert. 

Talking Ed Note: Rent control advocates opposed to the updated rent control ordinance are invited to submit their view on the ballot question.  Please make your submissions to smartyjones@me.com.

You have a choice: the short end of the Stick or have a Giant lead your fight against Hudson County's Tax Machine

A specter is haunting Hoboken - the specter of Giantism.  It's buzzing around in Jersey City Heights, it's been virally spreading throughout the Mile Square and it's entering into the consciousness of Zimmer Zombies everywhere.

Kurt Gardiner's campaign is creating a buzz.  His platform for accountability, lower taxes and more services has struck a nerve.  Hoboken doesn't want to hear about some paved roads while getting the short end of the stick.

Today and tomorrow are the decisive hours.  The mobilization and fight on behalf of the hospital and Hoboken was a big victory for all of us.  Now the battle continues.

Will you fight?

Or will you sit by and allow business as usual?  Just consider:



Let's continue the fight for Hoboken tomorrow Election Day!

The Angel Alicea complaint, plus more Kurt Gardiner endorsements coming today packing a wallop

MSV is making available the complete unedited complaint by former Public Safety Director Angel Alicea.  After reading it, there's plenty to say but for those who prefer to read it first for themselves, it was sent out yesterday to MSV subscribers - and now it's available here for MSV's readers.

For the moment, note the allegations made and who they are against and the timing.
(Talk amongst yourselves.)

Also today, there's going to be more endorsements for Kurt Gardiner.  Keep it tuned here.

Have you notified all your friends via email on the Giant choice for Freeholder today?


Angel Alicea Complaint

Mayor: hospital saved, $52 million bond removed, Election Tuesday and a fundraiser


Dear Friends,

Great news!  Hoboken University Medical Center has officially been saved.
On Friday the funds were wired and I received a certificate from TD Bank
that the City is no longer responsible for the $52 million bond guarantee!

On Thursday, November 17th, please come and join a celebration at
my house, and help make sure we can continue to move Hoboken in
the right direction.   (See invitation here).  

I cannot thank all the Authority members enough, and in particular,
Chairwoman Toni Tomarazzo, for their tremendous contributions to
our community.  

I also want to thank all of you who gave your support on Sunday night.  
Thanks to the many citizens who raised their voices the message was clear: 
Our Hospital and our financial well being are not toys for cynical politicians
to play with - the political games that are threatening the health of our
community must stop now.


Tuesday, November 8th Election:
Please remember to vote this Tuesday.  While many of the races are not
in doubt, there are two important items that I’d like to highlight:

Rent control:  The new rent control Ordinance being challenged by
referendum maintains the core protections of our existing rent control
system and was passed unanimously by the City Council with my support. 
It is not perfect, but represents a genuine attempt to resolve serious issues
with the existing law.  Those issues led a court to rule that elements of the
existing law were applied in a manner which was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The new Ordinance seeks to create a fairer rent control system for both
renters and owners, while helping to protect the City from significant
potential litigation exposure.    The legislation does not increase in any
way the legal rent that may be charged on any apartment. 

The ballot is confusing.   A “No” vote supports the new legislation and
will allow the modest changes approved unanimously by the City Council
to become law.  

Freeholder: The Board of Chosen Freeholders is, in effect, the City Council
of the County. Kurt Gardiner is running as an independent against the incumbent
Freeholder, Anthony Romano. This is technically a partisan election, but no
Republican is on the ballot. Kurt stepped up to ensure that voters would have
a choice, since uncontested elections are not consistent with our democracy.
I urge each of you to learn about the candidates and cast your vote for the
individual who you feel will best represent Hoboken’s interests in the County.


Thank you all for your support, and I hope to see many of you on November 17th.

Dawn


 Talking Ed Note: The mayor's fundraiser at the link has a suggested donation amount but all supporters and donations are welcome.