Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kurt Gardiner: "What I saw at the Ravi-Russo HDC takeover'

Official release:

Last night in a coordinated effort Mayor Ravi Bhalla executed a political coup of sorts with his consigliere Phil Cohen being elected the new chair of the Hoboken Democratic Committee ousting now former chair Tiffanie Fisher. I was present in my official capacity as Sargeant at Arms on the Executive Committee and witnessed the craven political machinations of Phil Cohen and other disgruntled winners of an election that yielded their leader only a 32% plurality. Last night was political payback pure and simple because Tiffanie Fischer in her capacity as an independent and policy oriented City Council person failed to take a loyalty oath expressing 100% fealty to their Dear Leader, Ravi Bhalla.

A quorum of 39 was required to initiate the meeting on the whole and thanks to the alleged work of John Allen, Ravi’s Chief of Staff (whose salary is paid for by the taxpayer) and Ravi Bhalla himself working the phones despite both denying it; they were able to barely secure a quorum. They obtained the magic number of 39 just a minute or two before the start of the meeting. It was close folks and without Phil Cohen and Ravi Bhalla making a deal with Mike Russo’s contingent of 10 or so committee members the quorum would never been met and the coup would have failed.

For those who still believe in good government take pause and contemplate the notion that Ravi and his henchman Phil Cohen cut a deal with Mike Russo just for the sake of taking over a committee that most people don’t know about and most of those who know really don’t care. Political ambition rarely gets more naked or petty than this. We shall see what Mike Russo hopes to get from this in the coming months. Can you say sweetheart Church Towers PILOT at the taxpayers expense? Watch this space.

What was also disturbing to witness was Nora Debenedetto’s prepared statement that lobbed numerous false accusations and was an outright smear job on Tiffanie Fisher before the vote was called. Nora accused Tiffanie of obstructionism during the executive committee meetings that I attended and nothing could be further from the truth. In executive committee meetings, Tiffanie as chair tried to work with everyone and did not try to block any initiatives, nor did any one on the executive committee bring up any of these issues until the coordinated email attack right before Mayor Bhalla’s partial meeting with Brian Stack. 

This was a political take-out from the get go. Phil Cohen in that meeting called for a signup for a meeting on the whole never specifying the reason knowing full well that the only agenda item was to replace Tiffanie. Phil has a track record of not being the most forthright actor in the room. This is just another example coming from a Beth Mason apologist. Nora’s divisive display coupled with Phil’s track record of being a divider do not bode well for the near future of the Hoboken Democratic Committee. They both would have come out looking better on this by simply admitting this was all about politics.

The other issue Phil Cohen flouted as a practicing lawyer was he blatantly violated the committee bylaws by electing himself in the same meeting. HMDC Bylaws Article II, Section 5 requires that vacancies in any HMDC office “shall be filled by the Municipal Committee at its next succeeding meeting following the date of the vacancy….” Because there are no regular meetings currently scheduled, any vacancy created today in the office of Chair (or any other officer position) cannot be filled until a new meeting has been called.  A Special Meeting can only be called when at least 14 days notice has been given to all members. Per HMDC Bylaws’ provisions at Article V, Section 2. Phil couldn’t even wait until the next meeting because that press release declaring pyrrhic victory had to go out pronto.

So where we stand now is the Hoboken Democratic Committee has now become the Committee to support Ravi Bhalla and his side deal with Mike Russo and enable his side deal law contract where he personally profits from color of official right by being Hoboken Mayor. Tiffanie Fisher worked hard to get 60 plus votes majority on the Democratic Committee and the only lesson she learned was no good deed goes unpunished. My takeaway is ethics get in the way of power seekers and idolatry of Ravi Bhalla is perhaps the Achilles heel of this administration or the path to upward mobility. Time will tell.

Tiffanie Fisher may have been voted off the island but the island is Easter Island. Idolatry on Easter led to to deforestation and ultimately agriculture failures and unsustainability. Now we got great statues and a nice tourist trap. When the Hoboken Democratic Committee serves only one politician it is certainly smaller and its sustainability only goes as far as that politician. I have participated in the Hoboken Democratic in the hopes that the local hyperpartisanship would stay out of it. That is clearly not the case now.