Monday, February 5, 2018

Councilman Mike DeFusco: 'Give voters the choice' on runoffs

Official release:

As we enter mid-winter here in Hoboken, I hope that this email finds you warm and well.  I wanted to quickly touch base with you and provide an update with what’s going on in town.

2018 is the year to activate a market at Hoboken Terminal
On January 17, I was proud to sponsor, and for the Hoboken City Council to unanimously pass, a resolution formally urging the mayor to move a plan forward which would open access to the waterfront and activate an outdoor marketplace and waterfront plaza outside Hoboken Terminal, this year. The market would be located at Warrington Plaza, the fenced-off and underutilized property located just north of the NJT Terminal and PATH entrance. It’s crucial that the City does its part to keep this project moving, especially because the proposal meets the existing redevelopment plan for the site and the conditionally designated developer has already expressed support for the idea.

The Warrington Plaza Market plan would transform the property into a retail and food service hub, where neighbors and commuters can walk and enjoy food and drink from local purveyors and proprietors. It will create a necessary opportunity for existing local businesses and new entrepreneurs to reach new customers and expand their businesses, adding much-needed revenue to our city and a platform for economic diversity.
Runoff elections: giving voters a choice

In response to overwhelming resident feedback over the crowded and confusing municipal race last November, the City Council approved a ballot referendum which would allow our community to collectively and democratically decide whether or not to re-institute runoff elections.

Mayor Bhalla has vetoed the ordinance.  This critical issue should be decided by the people, not by entrenched politicians like the mayor who benefit from a flawed current system.  

Mayor Bhalla was not supported by 67% of Hoboken voters, earning less than 1/3 of city-wide votes. Seeing that runoffs would return our city to majority rule, the veto calls into question his ability to actually win a majority vote. It’s further disappointing to see the mayor not just deny Hoboken residents the opportunity to have their voices heard, but to also see him spread misinformation and half-truths to distract from the facts.  

Mayor Bhalla cites reduced voter turnout in a recent Jersey City runoff, but he fails to mention that the last time Hoboken held a runoff election for mayor in 2009 turnout actually increased from the general election. Meanwhile, he suggests that he supports an instant runoff system that, while certainly worth exploring, is not currently allowable by state law.  Further, the mayor references “massive vote-buying” which although has significantly decreased over the years, is not unique to runoffs and is a separate issue altogether.

Sadly, this is a smokescreen meant to distract from the fact that Mayor Bhalla is concerned that re-instituting runoff elections would hurt his chances of re-election. This is a deeply cynical ploy that puts politics over our city's values of transparency and openness.  At this Wednesday’s City Council meeting we will endeavor to override this politically motivated veto and return the decision to voters in the form of a ballot question next November — giving everyone a chance to decide what’s best for our City.

Read more here:
Watch former Councilman Mello, who ran with Dawn Zimmer and Ravi Bhalla twice, explain why runoff elections are essential for independent candidates to have a chance at electoral success.