Thursday, September 12, 2013

BREAKING: Appellate Court rules new election for rent control question

Last November's razor thin outcome on the rent control question, garnering over 16,000 votes is ordered back on the ballot this November by the NJ Appellate Court.

The ruling comes after a contentious appeal surrounding 114 voters out of town who filed they were not given an opportunity to vote on Ballot Question #2 on rent control changes.  Hoboken voters had the option of voting out of Hoboken provisionally but only email voters could vote on the ballot questions due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

The difference in the election was 52 votes in favor of the rent control advocates.  They contend that an examination of the actual 114 provisional ballots and the voters proves they won the election but the court has not allowed that evidence according to one rent control advocate.

Hoboken's rent control election
is probably more intriguing then the movie.
The same ballot question is ordered back this November.

The ruling if not overturned on appeal by the NJ Supreme Court would mean that Hoboken voters will once again vote on the same rent control question this November.


Mile Square Taxpayers Association has issued a statement.  It's printed in its entirety and MSV anticipates one from their opponents who fought against the ballot question last November.

MSTA announces:

In a scathing indictment of the integrity of a cycle of litigation brought by Hoboken Fair Housing Association, today the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a Superior Court order to place a public question on rent control on the November election ballot.

Summarizing a four-page decision that deconstructs every contention made by HFHA and its named petitioner, Cheryl Fallick, the Court wrote, "We find Fallick's appellate contentions without merit and, except as addressed herein, they do not warrant discussion.”  The Court soundly rejected Fallick’s claim that there was no legally competent evidence that 114 voters from Hoboken actually cast provisional ballots outside of Hoboken.  “The evidence on that point was undisputed.  In fact, the 114 number was conceded by the Attorney General, who vigorously defended the election results.”
  “Since The Hoboken Housing Improvement Initiative first collected signatures to put rent control reform on the ballot in June 2012, HFHA has brought 7 separate legal actions in an attempt to prevent voters from voting to enact necessary reforms to rent control,” says Ron Simoncini, executive director of Mile Square Taxpayers Association, which was represented in the matter by Charles Gormally of Brach Eichler in Roseland.  “They have aligned themselves with a public interest law firm, an attorney specializing in exploiting the misadministration of the rent control law by the Hoboken rent leveling office to squeeze settlements and judgments from landlords, and the City of Hoboken’s legal department and special counsels. 
“And this in the face of a judicial decision that found Hoboken’s rent control ordinance was unconstitutional as applied and a general acknowledgement by public officials and residents that rent control in Hoboken is broken.  Hoboken Fair Housing Association will stop at nothing to protect its political relevance, misrepresenting even court orders, when in fact not one existing resident in Hoboken will be affected by the Amendment that will appear on the ballot.   
“HFHA’s cynical program included timing an appeal so that it postponed a vote on the matter until the November 5th election and could have deprived the voters of the right to vote entirely.   The support of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who named a self-avowed rent control advocate to the Rent Leveling Board early in her administration and has been turning a blind eye to the abuses inherent in such an arrangement ever since, is especially troubling.  In the previous rent control election 8196 voters supported the Referendum to reform rent control and in the election before that more than 68% of the voters supported a Council-adopted ordinance to prevent legal abuses against property owners.  Rather than attempt to resolve problems with the rent control ordinance, the Administration blindly supports HFHA initiatives, ignoring libelous statements on its website and permitting erroneous application of its rent control laws.  HFHA has sued Hoboken on several occasions and still finds support in the Administration.”

Why Hoboken Will Revote on Vacancy Decontrol?
In an attempt to accommodate voters who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, the State announced it would allow voters to vote at any polling place and assured them that they would be able to vote on all of their local elections.  However, Hoboken ballots were only available in Hoboken, so voters who cast ballots outside of Hoboken were not able to vote on the local elections, despite being told they could. The Vacancy Decontrol public question was decided by just 52 votes, and because as many as 200 voters cast ballots that did not offer the question, Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington determined that voters were disenfranchised of a constitutional right and she ordered a new election.

Horse Sense: Reflecting on Hoboken's lacking a 9-11 Memorial

Hoboken's temporary 9-11 memorial in Pier A Park fell apart sadly and the permanent one which went through agonizing public input sessions with major contributions from family members who lost loved ones living in Hoboken seemed all but done early this year.

It was on the agenda for final approval in March at the City Council.  Eight members were present with one awaiting swearing in who won his council seat case pending an approval.  Can you guess how the vote for Hoboken's final 9-11 Memorial went?

MSV was there and filed this story:



Clearly frustrated with being limited in power even while they have blocked the fifth swing vote on the council with their manufactured lawsuit out on appeal, the Hoboken Sopranos took maybe their most audacious obstructive action, voting down an emotional issue in the form of the 9-11 memorial.

The project, a replacement for the smaller scale, interim glass design that broke was ready to go ahead in its new form, but in the end, flexing their political power courtesy of the legal wrangling, the vote failed 4-4.

Councilman Michael Russo kicked off the conversation with some blistering grandstanding complaining about the memorial taking more than a decade for completion.  Councilwoman Terry Castellano insisted the 9-11 committee needed to be brought up to speed since 2010.  Tim Occhipinti who saw his pocket parks plan fail to ignite his unannounced mayoral candidacy with only a few people speaking in favor who live across the street requested the memorial be tested in a Stevens engineering wind and water testing machine.  Councilwoman Beth Mason relied on her old standby she needs more information.  (It's all on the city website.)

In response, Council President Peter Cunningham made it clear there would be a vote as the memorial was ready to go and Director Brandy Forbes informed Councilwoman Castellano there had been many conversations and conference calls since 2010 the last of the councilwoman's recollection.

Councilman Ravi Bhalla spoke plainly on what was transpiring before him and said politics shouldn't enter into the process with the vote before them.  His pleas for unity on the matter to approve the 9-11 Memorial was met with on and off mic heckling by Timmy Occhipinti.

Voting yes to approving and building the 9-11 Memorial: Council members Ravi Bhalla, Jen Giattino, Dave Mello and Council President Peter Cunningham.

Voting no: Council members Terry Castellano, Timmy Occhipinti, Beth Mason and Michael Russo.

Followed by much gnashing of teeth and moaning by the no voters, not dislike a chapter out of the Bible with devils being exorcised.

Go ahead Timmy, run for mayor on this.  
Got hypocrisy?

Councilman Michael Russo stops to pose in the lobby of City Hall for Da Horsey's photo.
Minutes later he would complain about "blogs" taking photos outside the bathroom, which is around the corner
150 feet away.  He followed that leading the Hoboken Sopranos to vote down the 9-11 memorial.  Good job Mikey.

Talking Ed Note: On the City's Facebook page one person complained there was no memorial but MSV noted there was a temporary one that broke and the final memorial with extensive input from the public and the victim's families was complete and everything ready to move forward last spring.

While MSV won't say an approval in March guaranteed the permanent memorial this year, it's an absolute certainty voting down the 9-11 memorial last March insured that would be an impossibility.

Hoboken's Old Guard council take a bow.  MSV's prediction Timmy Occhipinti would run for mayor has proven out too.

Had enough?