Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hoboken Zoning Board power shuffle and the operative color is green

The Hoboken Zoning Board, the agency charged with deciding development projects in the City of Hoboken is a focus again. After former mayor and convicted felon Peter Cammarano sold variances for $25,000 to an FBI informant back in 2009, the powers to appoint were offered by Mayor Zimmer to the City Council.

The City Council under a reform majority quickly took up Mayor Zimmer's offer taking back its former appointing powers.

It's been a wild ride every time those appointments are up in the council ever since.

Open seats were a log jam up until the Reform sweep in November 2013 as Beth Mason led a lawsuit against the council appointment of Jim Doyle the prior year after Councilwoman Carol Marsh resigned.

Hudson County Superior Court took note when Beth Mason and Councilman Michael Russo made themselves absent for consecutive meetings to avoid a vote and set up a Mason family backed lawsuit where Doyle's appointment could be legally contested after a council tie ended with Mayor Zimmer casting the deciding tie breaking vote. Off to court, the Old Guard council went.

Assignment Judge Peter Bariso would take a dim view of council members being paid by taxpayers and hiding from their responsibility in the temporary council appointment vote. He nailed it saying the taxpayers didn't pay for such "gamesmanship."  He ordered a new vote with everyone present but the defeat of the Old Guard council at its next meeting didn't end there as Beth Mason's family saw the legal decision eventually overturned in the Appellate Court. Time ran out on the expensive legal battle when the November 2013 election arrived making the matter of an appeal to the Supreme Court moot.

Hoboken voters took matters into their own hands overwhelmingly sending Jim Doyle back to the City Council at-large seat to serve a full four year term. Along with him for the ride, Council members Dave Mello and Ravi Bhalla were spirited back to re-election under Mayor Dawn Zimmer,  voted a second term as mayor.

During this drama and the severe impact on Hoboken after Hurricane Sandy, Zoning Board (and other board appointments) stalled with the Mason litigious checkbook backed 4-4 stalemate leaving an open council seat unfilled for a year. She fronted the family money for the Old Guard council to block any appointments although they repeatedly tried to hand Carmelo Garcia a rubber stamp on the Hoboken Housing Authority.

The Hudson Reporter describes those efforts as diversity. Hoboken reform oriented council members refused to agree and the former HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia eventually saw his extremely generous contract axed and followed with a federal probe (ongoing and expanding) in the agency.

Hoboken residents inside and outside the HHA call that federal investigation awaited justice.

At last week's council meeting, in a mish-mash of votes Carol Marsh and Michael DeFusco were reappointed to Hoboken Zoning board seats and Tiffanie Fisher fell short. The council agreed to delay appointment of four open Zoning Board seats.

Marsh's appointment made it on the slimmest of margins. For unstated and who knows what bizzare reason(s), Beth Mason abstained on the vote while council members Michael Russo, Timmy Occhipinti and Dave Mello voted no to her being appointed to a three year term.

The odd voting tallies may indicate a deal was agreed to allow both Marsh and Defusco to be reappointed but that's pure conjecture for the moment. (It's Sunday.)

While voting on three nominees, it looks like the City Council will return to the past free for all nominating "process." That's where as soon as the members sit down in their seats, people yell out motions to nominate and then the political gamesmanship of who backed who, who endorsed who is tossed around like monopoly money. These are Zoning Board seats after all.

And the operative word when it comes to the Hoboken Zoning Board is green.

Just in time for election season.



Former Hoboken Zoning Board member Michael Evers
spoke at last Wednesday's City Council meeting urging
"diversity" in its future board appointments.
Development views are genetic and religious in origin?

Talking Ed Note: Michael Evers, a former zoning board appointee himself, spoke last Wednesday asking for "diversity" on Hoboken Zoning Board appointments. He says that would make for a better zoning board.

As an aside, is adding federal agents to an ongoing investigation into the HHA a form of diversity?

It's strikingly odd this concept of diversity being argued for the Zoning Board (among other non-paid volunteer boards). Does one have diverse opinions on the concept of development in a mile square city based on the color of their skin, ethnicity, or religion?

I did not know that.

Is there an Eskimo in Hoboken available to serve on the Hoboken Zoning Board? Eskimo development views on Hoboken development are sorely missing here.

Proposed igloo design for Hoboken by an unknown, unnamed, as still unappointed
Eskimo to the Hoboken Zoning Board. Got development "diversity?"