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Thursday, August 9, 2018
Councilman Mike DeFusco: "Can Hoboken be fooled?"
Since I first challenged a long-time incumbent and ran for City Council three years ago, you've always known me as someone who’s willing to stand up against the patronage system and entrenched politicians that typify the political establishment in New Jersey.
But more recently, I uncovered that Hoboken taxpayers have unknowingly spent $10,000 over the past seven months funding the Mayor’s appeal of an ethics violation where he was reprimanded for voting on a business partner’s contract with the city. The City's continued funding of his defense wouldn't be an issue if Ravi Bhalla hadn't lied to our city’s legal team, which directly led the city to enter into this folly in the first place. Instead of acknowledging his clear mistake, Mayor Bhalla instead has doubled down and ordered a city attorney to quietly defend him, without any transparency towards residents or the City Council.
How has our Mayor responded to these continued scandals? By lashing out at me for leading the charge to hold him accountable and trying to distract from his own problems by making false claims against me.
A DISTRACTION FROM THE ISSUES
To distract from the mounting controversy, this week a close friend of the mayor’s Chief of Staff was sent to file a bogus ethics complaint against me. Their baseless allegation is that I am somehow benefiting a campaign donor by authoring an ordinance that helps homeowners affected by the city's oppressive flood ordinance, access their backyards without arduous municipal bureaucracy. This is something that the Zoning Board has urged the City Council to consider every year since 2012, and after half a decade of recommendations, it was approved by an overwhelming 7-2 vote.
The fact of the matter is that the donation was from a well-respected restaurateur in my district, not a developer or special interest as the mayor sensationalized and it had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to take up the zoning issue. On the date of the contribution, the donor didn’t even own the property that he would later bring to the Planning Board. As soon as I became aware that this donor was submitting an application, I recused myself from that meeting to avoid any appearance of a conflict. There is absolutely no merit to the mayor’s lies against me and worse, his attempt to defame a Hoboken-based small business for petty political gain.
Over the past two weeks, I have had the chance to listen to more community feedback on this issue and I plan to re-introduce revised legislation next month with additional assurances that limit this to the smaller, family-friendly, homes most negatively impacted by the city's flood ordinance. Much like the original ordinance, the revised will continue to maintain the 30 percent rear yard standard currently required, ensuring green space, light and air is preserved for all residents, while still allowing them to access their backyards. This is an opportunity to make a small but important change to the way our city treats homeowners, and I’m not backing down from it.
Ravi Bhalla might think that this political hit job, a gross misuse of his office and taxpayer resources, would silence me. He could not be more mistaken. He might also believe that he can scare Hoboken with wild accusations about donors and developers that don’t have a grain of truth to them. But I'm not going to stop fighting to hold his scandal-plagued administration accountable, or to keep moving our city forward. I know that Hoboken won’t fall for this kind of misdirection and that residents want the City Council to continue putting the needs of our city over the personal interests of the Mayor.