Monday, March 25, 2019

Councilman Peter Cunningham: Parking woes, budget, higher taxes & surplus depletion setting Hoboken up for more failure

Official release:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy Spring everyone!   I want to take this opportunity to share a few issues of importance that have arisen recently.  As many of you know, I have served on the Parking & Trans Sub-Committee of the Council since the Zimmer administration when the Parking Master Plan was adopted.  And dynamic pricing was an important issue.
There are several issues to address in Hoboken, but I’ll address two critical issues now:  1) Repeal of the Dynamic Parking Plan; and 2) Use of those Parking Revenues to replenish parking revenue surplus.
The Dynamic Parking Plan increased meter rates in areas of high parking demand.  Rates increased by over 200 percent in some of these areas.  The Committee supported the administration’s new pricing, although some of us, like myself, questioned the appropriate amount.  Understandably, there was significant blowback from residents and Washington Street businesses.  When I again questioned the amount with the Director of Parking, the answer was no, “we are going to collect data.”  
At this week’s Council meeting, well over a week since my discussion with the Director, Councilman Russo and the administration introduced a measure to repeal the Dynamic Parking Plan and add four hours of free parking for residents.  While I support the rollback on a temporary basis in order to review the pricing, I do not support four hours of free parking.  Parking is already free for residents in metered locations outside the central business district.  Can you imagine the unintended consequences of free parking in addition to the budgetary impact?  Thankfully Councilman Russo’s measure was not voted on, but we voted on Councilwoman Fisher’s measure to repeal the Dynamic Parking only.  Oddly enough, Councilman Russo abstained on the repeal even though his measure supported that repeal.  If you see the Nixle alert from the Mayor, he thanks Councilman Russo for legislation he not only didn’t introduce but abstained on the repeal.  It is important to note that these parking revenues play a significant role in the administration’s municipal budget. 
During the same meeting this Wednesday, the Administration tried to introduce the budget.  This budget has a proposed 2.5% increase in taxes, significant draw down of the city’s surplus which did not account for the Dynamic Parking Repeal.  Those revenues were projected to be in excess of $1.5 million dollars.  How can we accept a budget that severely depletes surplus with no means to regenerate with a 2.5% tax increase projected by the Mayor!  
In my opinion, the administration needs to make changes to this budget prior to re-introduction to the Council.  I am aware of statuary costs mandated by the state such as the pension fund increases, but additional cutting is absolutely necessary before it comes back to the council.  The Mayor should explain to the people of Hoboken why there’s a proposed increase in taxes, a significant draw down of our precious surplus, and the impacts on our surplus policy and credit rating. 
The people of Hoboken deserve improved services for the taxes we all pay, transparency with the professionals we hire and truth on policy passed by this City Council for the benefit of Hoboken resident and its businesses.  
Thank you for listening and please feel free to share these thoughts.  And of course, if you have any questions, please reach out.

cunninghamforhoboken@gmail.com