Thursday, September 14, 2017

City Sgt. Schultz: I know nothing, nothing about these million dollar Suez liabilities

People in City Hall just don't know how the $8.35 million dollars in liability happened

Most people didn't see last week's City Council meeting where the eruption of a $8.35 liability owed Suez, the water vendor was discussed. Many don't care for reasons political and personal but the public is learning of it and about as thrilled as the last time they "discovered" bills in the $10 million ballpark in a prior administration.

Councilman Jim Doyle at last week's discussion on Suez
and the $8.35 million liability owed. He along with the rest of
the council declined to sponsor the Administration's proposed contract.

Notice the calm demeanor of the council who was rebuffed from asking questions of the City auditor prior to the meeting.

Then ask yourself, what does not compute? The discussion shows a striking lack of intellectual curiosity among those working within the administration on the exploding million dollar costs.

But is it logical to assume no one knew?

Here's the video from some of the key moments with the City Council and city auditor. Eye opening.
It will remind many of the old Hogan's Heroes show with Sgt. Schultz who would often say in a pinch, "I know nothing."

Shades of Hoboken government past with double digit costs owed in the millions.

The city auditor writes in a letter released at the meeting there are significant costs.
No one at City Hall had the slightest desire to quantify those "significant" costs in seven figures annually?

Is that right?

The City's auditor Steven Wielkotz is asked about reporting and disclosure requirements. He states he had found out about the actual $8.35 million liability a day earlier as nothing was disclosed to him.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher inquires about the obligation to disclose and the million dollar costs associated with the bulk water costs being tabulated annually.

Councilman Dave Mello follows along similar lines and Mr. Wielkotz admits if he had been told he would have been under a professional obligation to include the "material" costs at least in a footnote.

"Until yesterday, I did not know what the numbers were. They were never supplied to us. So it's hard to disclose something when you you don't have the information," Mr. Wielkotz says.

Councilman Ruben Ramos follows with the $1,000,000 dollar question, "How do you enter into negotiations without knowing those numbers? How does the mayor?"

City Council President Jen Giattino poses another question. "If we owe $1.2 million.. liability from last year, would you say it's okay you don't have to disclose it, you don't have to appropriate, it doesn't have to be in the audit because you're going to negotiate sometime in the future?

"I have an obligation as a professional to disclose what I believe needs to be disclosed that's material in nature. If I knew about it, if it was quantified, year by year there would at least have been some disclosure," Mr. Wielkotz replies.

Talking Ed Note: Reference is made to a 2015 conversation within the Administration. It's all but admitted without a complete figure running in seven figures with the bulk water costs, millions annually since 2014 are piling up.

Yet no one sought to tabulate what the million dollar cost actually was?

Councilman Ruben Ramos wondered aloud how one can negotiate a new contract extension without tabulating the millions in monies owed as part of the City's negations with Suez? The question points to ignorance not being an option. Someone clearly knew and avoided seeing it tabulated and disclosed to the City Council members and Mile Square residents.

The millions in liability were clearly known and discussed just not disclosed to the City Council and the Hoboken public.

There's an election coming this November. Mayor Zimmer is trying to get Councilman Ravi Bhalla elected mayor as her successor.

Any questions?

Related: To hear more on this segment of the meeting scroll ahead to the 1:15 mark:

Team Bhalla Unveils Education Plan

Official release:

Councilman Ravi Bhalla, candidate for Mayor of Hoboken, together with his at large slate of Councilman Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour and John Allen, today unveiled his education plan, saying it will be a high priority for him to work with our schools to keep improving educational opportunities for all of our children.

Bhalla said, “Strong, thriving and high-performing schools are critical to our vision for Hoboken as more families call our City home for the long term.”  He noted that he has two school aged children and has witnessed the dedication and commitment of teachers and administrators in the Hoboken Public School District and the charter schools.

Bhalla’s plan includes supporting early childhood education, securing private investment in our schools through the redevelopment process, ensuring better coordination between City Government and the School District through the establishment of a City Council Sub-Committee on Education, and  increasing recreational space and opportunities for our students. 

While acknowledging that the Mayor and the City Council don't have the authority to make direct operational or funding decisions,  Bhalla stated there are many ways in which the Mayor and City Council can collaborate with and support the efforts of our schools.

The main ideas are outlined below:

Supporting Early Childhood Education
We are  fully supportive of exploring the use of current or future City owned facilities to make additional space available to accommodate the high demand for Hoboken's Early Childhood Education, a free program for pre-K 3 and pre-K 4 students that has been an outstanding success. This would also free up classroom space for children in higher grades.

Private Investment in Schools through Redevelopment Process

We believe that developers should invest in our schools too, so our school infrastructure can keep up with the increased demand. Whether those investments are in new classrooms, additional programming, more teachers, or a new elementary school or high school,  We believe it is important to work directly with our Superintendent, Board of Education, the charter schools and other stakeholders to identify the appropriate ways in which the City can, through the negotiation of redevelopment agreements, obtain these necessary investments.

 City Council Subcommittee on Education
We  propose the creation of an ad hoc Sub Committee of the City Council to focus on education, which will serve as an important platform for the Council and Mayor to maintain regular dialogue with the Superintendent, Board of Education, the boards of the charter schools, and other stakeholders. This will allow the City government to identify areas where it can support the efforts of all of our schools in an appropriate manner.

Additional Recreation Space for Children
The City has new recreation facilities and open space coming online in the immediate future and next couple years. We are also proposing a new, state-of-the-art multi-serivce center.  Providing space for after school programs for our children, including for example the successful Passport to Learning program, is a priority for us.

Supporting all schools
Hoboken has a number of excellent non-traditional schools, including charter and private schools.  I am fully committed to supporting the programming at all of our schools and collaborating on various projects, events and recreation activities.