Remarks as prepared for delivery by Phil Cohen:
Council members and members of the public, my name is Phil Cohen. On Feburary 20th, I came before the City Council and I asked Ms. Castellano, Ms. Mason, Mr. Occhipinti and Mr. Russo a question, and I never got an answer: The question was this: Will you agree to cover the City’s costs opposing your manufactured lawsuit against Hoboken’s taxpayers -- or, do you seriously expect Hoboken’s taxpayers to pick up this $16,163.08 tab? Tonight I’m here to report that bill that you are sticking to the Hoboken taxpayer continues to pile up. I’d like to hand up these invoices I received in response to my public records request. These are three requisitions from the City’s lawyers, McManimon & Scotland, for three months of legal services rendered. The invoices now total $20,206.41. For only three months of Hoboken’s legal fees for a case you have dragged out six months, with no end in sight!
Remember what your lawsuit was about? One thing: Was Jim Doyle properly appointed to the City Council? On February 1st, Judge Bariso decided the case. You lost.
This is what Judge Bariso said:
“Mayor Zimmer correctly used her power to cast a tiebreaking vote . . . This Court cannot countenance the notion that the Municipal Vacancy Law was intended to encourage gamesmanship.
Some people sitting in your shoes, folks elected to serve the citizens of Hoboken, might think, after reading Judge Bariso’s February 1st opinion: “Well, we took our shot. Jim Doyle should have been appointed last September, we successfully prevented him from serving on the Council for five months, so let’s just get on with it, accept reality, and focus on important things, like re-building our parks ruined by Hoboken Sandy or finishing the September 11 memorial.”
But this is Hoboken, where being a minority member of the City Council means never having to say you’re sorry. So, instead, you decided to APPEAL, and drag out this case some more.
Now, I served on the Zoning Board for 4 years, as an unpaid, volunteer commissioner. Maybe because there’s no Channel 78 videocast of our Zoning Board meetings, or maybe because we were just good citizens who cared, but the 7 Commissioners and 4 Alternates on the Zoning Board worked well together and actually respected each other. It didn’t matter whether you were appointed by Mayor Russo, Mayor Roberts, or whether you were someone who supported Tim Occhipinti, or Mike Lenz, it didn’t matter. On the Zoning Board, we all worked well together, and we did the peoples’ business together. And make no mistake, the Zoning Board is a working board, hearing several applications at each meeting – each one important to the applicant, and each one important to the applicant’s neighbors.
I’d like to hand out a printout from the City’s website.
This printout reflects that since January 1st, there are 4 vacancies on the Zoning Board. As long the Council Minority’s appeal drags out, this dysfunctional 4-4 City Council won’t even consider filling those vacancies. I would like to give Councilman Occhipinti credit for agreeing in December to meet me over a cup of coffee after I reached out to him to discuss my interest in serving on the Zoning Board and being re-appointed despite the 4-4 gridlock. We had an honest discussion. We didn’t agree on much about Hoboken politics, but we had a good talk. After our meeting, he told me Councilman Russo wanted to talk, so I texted Michael and he texted me. Michael ultimately decided he didn’t want to meet me, so we never met. But he did go out of his way to attack me from the Council dais for even trying to sit down with him and discuss my candidacy for the position.
So, drag out your appeal of your dismissed lawsuit; refuse to even consider compromising on Zoning Board vacancies; and then stick every Hoboken taxpayer with the bill for fighting your lawsuit and appeal. So, let me conclude by asking Ms. Castellano, Ms. Mason, Mr. Occhipinti and Mr. Russo the same question that I asked you February 20th, and maybe you’ll answer this time:
Will you agree to cover the City’s costs for opposing your unsuccessful lawsuit that you filed against Hoboken’s taxpayers -- or, do you seriously expect Hoboken’s taxpayers to pick up this $20,206.41 tab? Thank you.