Monday, July 9, 2012

Councilman Peter Cunningham poised to step back into Council Presidency

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE

 

Councilman Peter Cunningham currently serving as the Vice President of the Hoboken City Council is poised to step up to the legislative body's Council President seat with the annual reorganization slated for Wednesday.

Sources close to the City Council suggest Cunningham is once again undertaking the role in a sensitive period with several of his majority colleagues facing at-large campaigns next spring: Dave Mello, Ravi Bhalla and Carol Marsh.  Should all three seek re-election, the time and energy required juggling the responsibilities of leading the council meetings and managing legislation while running for office is very difficult.

The term of Mayor Dawn Zimmer is also up making the election a litmus test of Reform's ability to mobilize a message to Hoboken's electorate where the margin of error is razor sharp.  Losing any one of the four elected positions ends its ability to move legislation forward.  The Old Guard is already mobilizing a major financial effort to take over the government and the City's $100 million budget. (More on that later.)

MORTe, the Italian word for death - consisting of Beth Mason, Tim Occhipinti, Michael Russo and Terry Castellano has consistently attempted to block legislation presented by Mayor Zimmer and the council majority notably on bonding ordinances where a sixth vote is required.  In doing so, MORTe stymied many efforts.  Among many, it delayed overdue improvements to the Hoboken Police Department over months before finally agreeing to do so.  Most recently, it also  refused to allow updated equipment for the HOP bus system and infamously came within an eyelash of sabotaging the sale of Hoboken University Medical Center and bankrupting the City in one fell swoop under the "leadership" of Beth Mason.

This is the second time Cunningham will serve in the role as City Council President.  He previously held the position back in 2009-2010 when Mayor Dawn Zimmer was elected and Reform came into its own leading both the executive and legislative bodies.  He was originally elected as the 5th ward councilman back in 2007.

Councilman Cunningham has been in the middle of several major battles to defend Hoboken's most basic interests: protecting its revenue from theft.  He urged action by his council colleagues during the parking utility's million dollar looting scandal warning, "there's money going out the back door!"

He repeatedly clashed with Councilman Michael Russo calling for the council to request an audit of the Hoboken Parking Utility under then Director John Corea when more than a million dollars in quarters disappeared to a south Jersey mob connected vendor who took over the City's parking meter collections in no bid contracts.  Russo repeatedly said it was outside its jurisdiction and refused to support a resolution making the request.

Russo infamously called the missing million in consecutive meetings - over four million in missing parking meter quarters, "an error in my calculations when I was doing my own due diligence."

Cunningham led the effort to refinance the Municipal Garage an effort where common sense finally prevailed saving the City millions going from a poorly thought out leasing arrangement to outright owning the facility.  He's been at the forefront for many years on fiscal issues especially focused on the budget.

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Councilman Ravi Bhalla currently serves as Council President and concludes his year of service with the selection of his replacement at the start of the Wednesday meeting.  His term is an unqualified success.  He almost always demonstrated a deft touch in running the often contentious meetings.  His continuous improvement in managing the legislative body from session to session showed remarkable restraint and superb judgement.  

This even in noting one of his rare mistakes when he asked MSV and Nick Calicchio to leave a meeting as Da Horsey said nothing while being harassed by the Old Guard Calicchio brother.  No one is perfect but Bhalla has been the best Council President we've seen in a decade at the helm.        

There's a new sheriff taking over the council helm.
Considering MORTe's election behavior, it's required.

Talking Ed Note: Councilman Cunningham is a steady hand and the 24-7 politics is sure to rear its ugly head more than most would like leading into the City's spring elections.  

Since his last one year term as Council President, loutish unprofessional behavior has increased with the frequent petulant behavior of Tim Occhipinti who sees himself as a 2012 mayoral candidate.  That doubles the meeting's disturbances frequently undertaken by Councilman Michael Russo's lack of decorum.

Al Sullivan's weekend column has some interesting aspects on the 2013 spring mayoral race sizing up but he's clearly getting conflicting information.  He handled it reasonably well and some of what he's saying does match with what MSV is collecting for an upcoming story.

Assemblyman Ruben Ramos' mention isn't one of them.  His fundraiser in April at the Elysian didn't get him much traction and it's only gone downhill since.  Ramos is said to be very unhappy about it and the Russo clan in no shape or form has signed on.  That includes Mike Russo.

The Old Guard isn't getting behind Ruben Ramos.  If it's any solace, they ain't getting behind Tim Occhipinti either and that's a Cryan shame and a travesty for developers all over New Jersey.