Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sign of the Times: Ravi Bhalla's repeated and failed selection for NJ Assembly

And the drum roll, please...

Mayor Ravi Bhalla's repeated and failed choice to replace NJ Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro was Rachel Hodes.

Rachel Hodes is an executive member of the Hoboken Democrat Committee and is recently married to Ravi Bhalla's second Chief of Staff Jason Freeman in the Hoboken mayor's office.

As reported in Politifax, Ravi Bhalla repeatedly tried to have his non-Hispanic choice replace the two-term incumbent Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro over Brian Stack's objections.

The first half of this story broke last week by Politifax and the second half courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Horsey.

It's a sign of the times.

Talking Ed Note: The City Council added to the agenda a budget amendment backed by four council members to reduce non-essential spending by $1,000,000 and lower Ravi Bhalla's proposed 3% tax increase to 1%.

The four council members: Tiffanie Fisher, Peter Cunningham, Mike DeFusco and Jen Giattino require one additional council vote for passage tomorrow night.

Previously, the City Council had asked Mayor Bhalla to hold off on the introduction of the budget so they could work together to lower non-essential spending. Those requests were ignored.

The three council members who are on the bubble leading into the Wednesday vote are Ruben Ramos, Vanessa Falco and Michael Russo. Council members Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour are anticipated to be backing Ravi Bhalla and his approximate 3% tax increase.

Hoboken awaits a pending 2019 tax increase from Hudson County later this spring. HudCo never fails to deliver - tax increases to the Mile Square City.

The budget amendment: http://hobokennj.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=&MeetingID=1623&MediaPosition=&ID=2442&CssClass=

Monday, April 29, 2019

Four council members propose budget amendment reducing spending by over $1,000,000

Official release:

Hoboken City Council Members Propose Budget Amendment with Over $1 Million in Spending Cuts
Hoboken Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, Chair of the Finance and Revenue Subcommittee, submitted an amendment to the proposed City budget that cuts spending by over $1 million, significantly reducing the burden on city taxpayers. These changes lower the city administration’s proposed tax increase from 2.8% to 1% without compromising funding for emergency services or investments in infrastructure and other community programs that impact the quality of life of Hoboken residents.  This amendment is being supported by Council President Jen Giattino, Councilman Mike DeFusco and Councilman Peter Cunningham.
Fisher, Giattino, DeFusco and Cunningham are releasing the following statement:
“As elected representatives for the City of Hoboken, it is our responsibility to ensure taxpayer money is being used efficiently to make investments in the services and programs that best provide for the needs of our community. The administration's proposed budget calls for an increase in taxes by nearly 3%.  This must be a belt tightening year for our government and it is irresponsible to ask taxpayers to open their wallets further than necessary. The amendments we are proposing preserve funding for necessary services and community programming that impact the quality of life for Hoboken residents while allowing us to provide an additional $100,000 to our overworked fire department, our seniors and for the City Clerk’s Office that works hard every day for our community. While we are asking some departments to do more with less, these are fair recommendations that protect the delivery of the most vital services to Hoboken residents.”
The vote on the proposed amendment will happen during Wednesday’s City Council meeting at 7 p.m. after the public hearing and action taken on the City administration budget with the proposed 2.8% tax increase.

Councilman Mike DeFusco offered this additional official release:

Councilman Mike DeFusco Calls on Council and Mayor To Cut Overspending in Proposed Budget
Councilman Mike DeFusco is urging the City Council and Mayor Ravi Bhalla to support amendments made to the budget submitted by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher who Chairs the budget revenue and finance subcommittee.  These changes would save the city $1 million and size back a 2.8% tax increase to 1%. 

Councilman DeFusco is issuing the following statement:
“Despite having a larger tax base than ever before, the mayor’s budget contemplates raising taxes nearly 3% to compensate for unprecedented spending over the past year.  During his first two years in office, Mayor Bhalla has increased his office's spending by an alarming 40% to fund jobs for political supporters, politically convenient contracts and unnecessary lawsuits.  Simply put this is irresponsible governing that only benefits politicians and not residents. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues on the City Council to propose amendments to the budget which will save the city over $1 million while simultaneously increasing funding for our short-staffed Fire Department.  While no tax increase is acceptable, this is the City Council’s chance to take action and continue Hoboken’s track record of responsible spending.

The City Council will vote on the budget amendments at its regular meeting, Wednesday May 1 at 7 p.m.

Who did Mayor Ravi Bhalla try to see replace Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro?

Last week, Politifax reported Mayor Ravi Bhalla put up a chip for a favor to State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

The chip, a small payoff for the Hoboken mayor delivering most of the local Democrat Committee votes to Stack in his failed bid to gain control over Hudson County government backfired.

Politifax got half the story correct. Brian Stack last year told Ravi Bhalla he could name his pick for Assembly replacing Annette Chaparro who has served almost four years in two terms backed by former mayor Dawn Zimmer

Stack gave a single condition to the selection as reported. All Ravi Bhalla had to do was choose a Hispanic woman.

Instead, he submitted a candidate who did not fit that criteria. Stack rejected Ravi Bhalla's candidate.

Then Ravi Bhalla came back again a second time.

Same problem. Stack rejected Ravi Bhalla's proposed Assembly candidate again.

Word gets back to Union City early this year Ravi Bhalla is returning with a selection. Sources outside Hoboken close to HudCo say that again, Ravi Bhalla planned to put up the same and most definitely non-Hispanic candidate a third time.

Is he deaf?

Brian Stack had enough. He put the entire issue to rest at a meeting and said, "it's over." He renewed the incumbents and said the matter was closed. Annette Chapparro would return as the candidate for a third term as reported earlier here on Hobokenhorse.com last month.

So who is the non-Hispanic candidate Ravi Bhalla kept putting up to replace Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro?

A shadowy Ravibot to be named later failed to be approved by Brian Stack and is not going to replace the two term
Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro.

Stay tuned.

The answer first out later today to Premium members.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Councilman Ruben Ramos: Road disruptions in Hoboken & park upgrades

Official release:

Dear friends, 

We have some important activity in SW Hoboken starting as early as this week including park upgrades and road disruptions: 

Long awaited trees were installed on April 22nd and fencing along the northern perimeter of the park will be installed no later than Memorial Day weekend.  The new fencing will match existing fencing that surrounds the rain gardens.

Starting this week, PSE&G will begin to fulfill its obligation to repave the roads where they have recently completed construction projects.  Please note, PSE&G will be milling and paving the following streets: 

  • Monday, April 29 
    • MILLING, Jefferson between 7th and 8th 
    • MILLING, Jefferson between 9th and 10th
    • MILLING, Jefferson between 11th and 12th
    • MILLING, 6th west of the intersection of Jefferson and 6th 
  • Tuesday, April 30
    • MILLING, Jefferson between 4th and 7th
  • Wednesday, May 1
    • MILLING, 5th Street between Jefferson and Grand
  • Thursday, May 2
    • PAVING, Jefferson between 9th and 10th
    • PAVING, Jefferson between 11th and 12th
    • PAVING, 6th west of the intersection of Jefferson and 6th
    • PAVING, 5th Street between Jefferson and Grand
  • Friday, May 3
    • PAVING, Jefferson between 4th and 8th
    • LINE STRIPING, Jefferson
  • Monday, May 6
    • MILLING, 2nd Street between Monroe and Harrison 
    • MILLING, Monroe between 2nd and 3rd
    • MILLING, Monroe between 4th and 5th
    • LINE STRIPING, Jefferson
  • Tuesday, May 7
    • MILLING, Monroe 5th and 8th
  • Wednesday, May 8
    • PAVING, 2nd Street between Monroe and Harrison
    • PAVING, Monroe between 2nd and 3rd
    • PAVING, Monroe between 4th and 5th
  • Thursday, May 9
    • PAVING, Monroe 5th and 8th
  • Friday, May 10 & Monday, May 13
    • LINE STRIPING, Monroe
Thank you for your continued patience during PSE&G's construction work.  Please share this with everyone you think might be interested in this information.  And don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any time to discuss any matter that is important to you.  

Ruben Ramos
Hoboken City Council, 4th Ward

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Politi-bomb! Ravi Bhalla tried to eject Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro

Mayor Ravi Bhalla tried to eject Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, a loyal Democrat serving in the NJ Assembly.

And worse, he tried to replace her with a non-Hispanic! 

This would be the second Hispanic woman for elected office Ravi Bhalla has opposed and eventually met with defeat. The first was radical Green Deal Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who upended Joe Crowley in Queens.

This according to a report in Politifax:

"END RUN Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla wanted his own way in several matters. For one thing, he wanted to name his city's Assembly candidate. (That's not so unreasonable. After all, Hudson mayors are customarily awarded the perk of picking legislators.) So, he went to Brian Stack, who holds sway over LD 33. Stack told him that he could have any Hispanic woman he wanted, but, Bhalla insisted on a non-Hispanic. As a result, Annette Chaparro, who was originally Dawn Zimmer's choice, will get the line and another term."

Another tidbit relates to the far more obscure Hoboken Democratic Committee and Ravi Bhalla brushing up again against Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.

The big news here, however, is how Ravi Bhalla tried to oust Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro and not with a Hispanic woman as urged by State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

More to come!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sign of the Times: With Washington St. reconstruction, the end is near

Workers on upper Washington St. in recent days heading to completion. The project has been ongoing since 2016.

The great news on the Washington St. project, it's almost completed. So, there's much to celebrate with the town's main drag being converted from a Third World roadway. Congratulations to those who are bringing it to completion: Mayor Ravi Bhalla, his administration, former mayor Dawn Zimmer and all the workers who made it happen.

The bad news? Well, that's, unfortunately, a long list too with deadlines long expired and a projected $12 million price tag that will likely see a final tab surpassing $20 million when it's all said and done with a consulting bill more than double to boot: pardon the pun.

The impact on businesses for the almost several years it took to complete impacted significant revenues, for those who survived to tell the tale.

Many businesses didn't survive and Washington St. has many vacant storefronts today.

More to come.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For Earth Day, Ravi Bhalla remains silent on North Bergen power plant

Silence is golden. Especially if you're Mayor Ravi Bhalla eyeing a bigger prize: a congressional seat in Hudson County.

So on Earth Day, Ravi Bhalla emanated virtue signaling blowing wind in every direction but the North Bergen power plant where gas will flow to New York City if the project sees final approval.

Here's a report by Hudson County View with staged pomp and circumstance as Ravi Bhalla signs his Climate Action Plan featuring nary a word on the biggest climate and environmental controversy in the area.

On hand to sit by and applaud his self-congratulations are council members Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle.

Last October, Councilman Jim Doyle submitted a resolution in opposition to the $1.8 billion gas power plant proposed in North Bergen for New York City. His resolution was quickly and quietly removed from the City Council agenda by the Bhalla Administration as Ravi Bhalla then attended the annual Nick Sacco Ball the following day where HudCo politicians go to kiss his ring.

Albio Sires is believed by some ready to end his political career with a final two-year congressional term. Sacco will be a kingmaker in selecting who inherits the seat in the heavily controlled HudCo Democratic district.

Ravi Bhalla wants that seat and remains utterly silent on the biggest climate issue in the area.

Larry Wainstein, a mayoral rival to North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nick Sacco launched a lawsuit alleging the power plan would violate the civil rights of North Bergen residents and points to an executive order by Governor Phil Murphy.

From the Hudson County View story:

“This action cites Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 23, which states, in his own words, ‘low-income communities and communities of color have been exposed to disproportionately high and unacceptably dangerous levels of water, air and soil pollution,” he said during a press conference at his headquarters last night.
“With accompany potential of increased public health impacts. It is clear that the people or North Bergen are being discriminated.”
NJ Governor Phil Murphy has endorsed Nick Sacco's re-election for mayor in North Bergen.

Monday, April 22, 2019

New hotel approved by City Council in 6-2 vote for upper Jefferson St.

Last Wednesday leading into the holidays, the City Council passed a redevelopment agreement for 1300 Jefferson St.

The redevelopment agreement passed on a 6-2 vote. Council members Jim Doyle and Tiffanie Fisher voted no and City Council President Jen Giattino, reportedly away in Iceland did not vote.

The redeveloper agreement is concerning for some due to a lack of 10-day public review. The City Council last December added that requirement by resolution.

A new hotel is proposed at the location where hundreds of residential units and a bowling alley previously failed to obtain approval.

From the approved redevelopment agreement:

The redevelopment agreement was shuttled on to the agenda by the Bhalla Administration on behalf of the Just Block 112, LLC, a private partnership using non-union labor. 

The new hotel proposal will require approval from the Hoboken Planning Board and will include a second building with 207 residential units.

Talking Ed Note: The downtown Hilton Hotel announced to much fanfare last fall is on hold with litigation in opposition.

The complete redevelopment agreement for upper Jeffersion St. is available at the link starting on page 251:

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Councilwoman Jen Giattino: 'Parking meter Q&A'

Official release:

Many of you have questions about Hoboken's visitor side metered parking zones. 
Where/What is a visitor side metered parking zone?
Generally the south and east sides of the street in permit parking zones. Non-permit holders pay to park for up to four hours.
Who has to pay meter in visitor side metered parking zones?
Who does not have to pay meter in visitor side metered parking zones?
Residential Parking Permit 
Business Permit 
Visitor Permit
Visitors with hangtags(available at City Hall but will be online shortly)
Why have visitor side metered parking zones?
On-street parking capacity in Hoboken is limited. Visitor side metered parking zones generate more turnover from visitors and help improve parking availability for resident permit holders. 
How do Handicapped or disabled person's pay for parking in visitor side metered parking zones? 
With a valid disability license plates or placards pay for the minimum amount of purchasable time (15 minutes) within the visitor side metered parking zone, then no additional payments are required for the remaining 3 hours, 45 minutes that the vehicle is allowed to park within the zone. After four hours, the vehicle must be moved out of the zone. 
How do I add license plate numbers to my account?  
From Parkmobile app, tap on “more” on the bottom of the screen, then “vehicles”. From there you can add and store up to five license plates at a time. 
I have my Mom and Aunt's license plate added to my account so when they visit it is simple for me just to pay.
Do you believe you have received a violation in error?
Email the Hoboken Parking Utility at parking@hobokennj.gov to schedule a time to meet with a Parking Enforcement Supervisor. Include as much evidence as you can to demonstrate the error, including a photo of the ticket, photos of the parking situation, and your Parkmobile parking session receipt.Based on the supervisor’s review, they may provide a written report to the municipal court for the judge to take into consideration when making his or her determination. You may still need to schedule a court date and appear in court.
Where do residential permit holders have to pay?
Everywhere you had to pay before. These are primarily in commercial zones. Director Sharp is working on a map to clarify locations, but in the meantime, if you don't see the sign below that says ALL OTHERS PAY BY PHONE 4 HOUR LIMIT residential permit holders need to pay the meter. 

Lastly, on tonight's agenda is a resolution waiving the estoppel(waiting) period on the ordinance that was adopted at the last council meeting to roll back meter prices. This means rates will revert back, Thursday, April 18.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'The major benefits to Hoboken under the new Suez contract'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
Since 1994, Hoboken has repeatedly sold its future water revenues to fill unexpected budget gaps.  But tonight, for the first time in 25 years, the City Council will be voting on a new contract with Suez that returns our water revenues to where they belong – back to Hoboken.  This is the biggest step to date towards solving our infrastructure issues which have been a top priority for me because it is a top priority of all of you.  
Click above to hear my remarks at Friday's press conference or here to watch my interview with Hudson County View.  If you have not yet done so, you can read the announcement from the City as well.  This agreement and new contract with Suez accomplishes so much for Hoboken:
  • Generates significantly more revenues for Hoboken to invest in its water infrastructure – enough to cover all $33M of the necessary upgrades in Hoboken's Water System Renewal Plan. 
  • Provides for new state of the art leak technology that will help us detect leaks as early as possible.
  • Establishes an operational best practice framework going forward for operating our water system.
  • Resets our go forward partnership with Suez.
  • Changes to a fixed fee structure to manage and operate our water system.
  • Creates a water utility that will be fully self-funding
And the best part is that all of this happens with:
  • No negative, but potentially positive, impact to taxpayers, and 
  • No additional increases in water rates (other than annual CPI/inflation).
How did we do this you ask?  Read on….
The concept was actually quite simple.  With the mayor’s support, we got a bunch of people in a room and changed the conversation about the contract.  We discarded the notion that you had to start from our existing bad terms to try to make them better.  We instead decided that "Hoboken keeping all of its water revenues" would be the new starting point - flipping the entire structure of the contract on its head and starting from scratch:   
  • Existing:  Hoboken receives just a small fixed amount of revenues and Suez keeps the rest. 
  • New:  Suez is paid a fixed amount and Hoboken keeps all the rest of the water revenues. 
After all, it's Hoboken’s system, it's Hoboken’s water, and Hoboken is responsible for all of the repairs and upgrades to the system.  Not Suez.
BTW, that “bunch of people in the room” included my City Council Finance and Infrastructure subcommittee that I Chair, Hoboken’s Business Administrator Stephen Marks and Director of Environmental Services Jennifer Gonzalez, our financial advisor Dennis Enright of NW Financialour legal advisor Joe Baumann and his team at McManimon, Scotland and Baumann.  And sometimes Suez.  All of us worked collaboratively throughout this process to deliver the best outcome for Hoboken.  #MoreVoicesAreAlwaysBetter. 
After making Hoboken the first priority, we moved to determine what the market cost was to run a water system like ours and who else does this other than Suez?  The Administration thoroughly researched alternatives and we were advised on what was available in the market going so far as to draft an RFP for a new water provider.  This laid the groundwork for our parallel discussions with Suez:  Hoboken wants an improved partnership and deserves a better deal, at market terms and where Hoboken’s water revenues can be used for system upgrades and repairs.  
The single most important question to me is how the water revenues generated by all of you who pay for water (directly and indirectly, everyone pays) are split between Hoboken and Suez.   Here are some figures to give you order of magnitude (all numbers are approximated):
  • $9 million – Total revenues from all water bills in Hoboken.  
  • $4 million – Cost to buy water.  
  • $5 million – Net revenues = total revenues less the cost to buy water.  
This is the amount that ultimately gets divided between Suez and Hoboken.  
  • $33 million – the amount needed to fund the upgrades in Hoboken’s Water System Renewal Plan covering almost 20% of Hoboken’s water system.  
Not only is how much Hoboken gets important but so is how much it leaves on the table for Suez.  For example, if Hoboken gets $1.5M, it may sound good if Suez gets $1.5M.  But how about if Suez gets $3.5M?  Then suddenly $1.5M doesn’t look that good… We needed to know who gets what.
We actually did it!  Hoboken goes from receiving $350k per year under our existing contract, to $3M+ per year plus upside over time (from volume and inflation increases) in our new contract.  These higher revenues allow Hoboken to:
  • Fund all $33M of upgrades in Hoboken’s Water System Renewal Plan, and 
  • Repay the $10M+ liability we owe to Suez, amortized over 15 years, with 
  • No increases in water rates (other than inflation/CPI).
Here is visual to show you what getting more of the revenues looks like:  
  • For Hoboken – Increases to $3M plus future upside or 60% of net revenues. Currently receives a fixed amount of $350K or 7%.   
  • For Suez – Reduces to a $2M fixed payment or 40% of net revenues under new contract.  Currently receives $4.65M plus future upside or 93% of net revenues.  
Hoboken owes Suez >$10M for costs Suez incurred since 2014 on Hoboken's behalf under the existing contract.  These included increases in bulk water rates and emergency repairs and would is addressed as follows:  
  • Existing Contract - No Extension with Suez:  Hoboken would owe ~$11.5M and would need to increase water rates by 16% to repay it.   
  • New Contract Extension with SuezHoboken will owe closer to $10M (discount given) that Hoboken can repay through the water revenues it will receive, with no further increase in water rates required to repay.  
This is where it gets pretty technical but here is a visual of how our contract discussions have evolved:
I have attached a full page pdf version as well that may be easier to read.  The dark blue box tracks Hoboken’s share (increasing), the bright blue tracks Suez's share (decreasing), and the red boxes at the top show the additional water revenues that would be needed through rate increases to address our $10M+ liability.  Our new contract has the highest revenues for Hoboken including any future upside and requires no water rate increases. 
In 2017 we considered a different proposal that ultimately did not receive support of the City Council.  Although definitely a major improvement vs. our existing contract, the 2017 proposal was more of a repackaged version of prior extensions (1996 and 2001requiring significant water rate increases to fund the benefits to Hoboken including the amounts owed to Suez and annual increases for capital with Suez still receiving most of the revenues and any future upside.   Led by my then Finance and Infrastructure Subcommittee comprised of me, Council President Giattino and Councilman Cunningham, we asked many of the questions we posed this time around, but without sufficient responses, with the previously undisclosed and mounting liability, and with a proposal that still seemed to have Suez keeping most of the revenues, we recommended to the City Council that we should try to do better for Hoboken.  
Our new contract proves that we could do better and that it was worth fighting for.  Tonight I am proud to recommend that the City Council vote to approve. 
Working Together For Hoboken
This has been a long time coming and something I have personally been working on for almost two years as negotiations began with Suez under the prior Administration.  I want to say that although I led the effort to get the best economic deal for Hoboken, this was 100% a team effort.  Believe it or not, most of the time the Mayor, the City Council and the Administration work great together for the benefit of Hoboken.  
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the operational improvements we are achieving as well.  It was the main focus of Director's Marks and Gonzalez to ensure Hoboken receive the best possible service and that Suez be held to the highest operational standards going forward.  In exchange, Hoboken would give more focus to the operations of our system than in the past and make minimum annual investments in our system of $1.5M which is a no brainer given our needs and now with available funding.  The signs of a true partnership.
I want to take the opportunity to thank all eight of my Council colleagues who each have been part of this process as either member of the infrastructure subcommittee over the last three years or as supporters.  Specifically, Council President Giattino who has actively helped shape all conversations along the way and Council Vice President Ramos who got all of us - including Suez - back in the room in September amidst significant angst after the series of terrible water main breaks last summer.   Also to thank Mayor Bhalla who provided the environment for us to work together and get it done.  And finally to Suez who has been willing to make significant economic changes to our agreement to benefit Hoboken and yet still be our partner for the next 15 years.
When I ran for election in 2015, one of the biggest issues I heard from residents was how our aging and failing water infrastructure was negatively affecting their quality of life.  The picture below I took on August 28th, 2015 just three days before I turned in my petitions to be on the ballot.  During my entire term as your City Council representative, I have made restoring our water infrastructure one of my biggest priorities.   This new contract is going to go a long way towards achieving this goal and I could not be more proud to help get this done working together for Hoboken.  
As always please forward this to everyone you think may be interested and feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.      
Best wishes, 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Federal Court: Frank "Pupie" Raia and Dio Braxton must stand trial together on June 11th

Hoboken's corruption past meets the present as a trial is set for June 11th surrounding the criminal allegations of vote buying.

The Jersey Journal reports Frank "Pupie" Raia and Dio Braxton facing allegations of buying votes in 2013 will stand trial together beginning June 11th, per an order of the court.

Another alleged member of the conspiracy Liz "Church Lady" Camis was the first arrested in the vote-buying allegations using Vote by Mail ballots. She's pled guilty and is likely to appear as a witness for the government.

A vintage photo of Frank "Pupie" Raia attending a Hoboken City Council meeting.
He's set for trial June 11th with Dio Braxton. Both are alleged participatns in a conspiracy to buy votes

From the NJ.com story:

Frank “Pupie” Raia, the Hoboken politico and real estate developer who federal prosecutors have accused of overseeing a cash-for-votes schemein the 2013 municipal election, lost a bid to have his case severed from his alleged co-conspirator.
Raia’s lawyer, Alan L. Zegas, told the judge overseeing his case that he would be denied a fair trial if he were forced to face charges alongside Dio Braxton, who is accused of promising Hoboken residents $50 per vote at Raia’s direction. Both men have denied the charges.
NJ.com points to the history of political corruption and alleged voter fraud in Hoboken, a story Hobokenhorse.com first broke in 2010 and steadily reporting on since.
The charges facing Raia jolted Hoboken, where it’s long been an open secret that local political machines paid for votes using mail-in ballots. Prosecutors allege Raia ran one of these operations by directing his allies to promise voters $50 in exchange for applying for and casting mail-in ballots in 2013. That year, Raia, a Democrat, was an at-large council candidate in the city’s nonpartisan municipal race and supported a voter referendum that would have weakened rent-control laws. He and the referendum lost.
The complete story is available at the link:

City Council President Jen Giattino & Councilman Mike DeFusco Propose New Pet-Friendly Ordinance to Replace Ban on Dogs from City Parks

Official release:

DeFusco, Giattino Propose New Pet-Friendly Ordinance to Replace Ban on Dogs from City Parks
Councilman Mike DeFusco and Council President Jen Giattino are working together to change Hoboken’s outdated law prohibiting dogs in City-run parks. Last week, Mayor Ravi Bhalla began strictly enforcing these antiquated laws without warning, resulting in unnecessary tickets and fines being imposed on Hoboken residents. The current ordinance allows dogs to walk through parks only to gain access to dog runs. DeFusco and Giattino will co-sponsor a replacement ordinance during tonight’s City Council meeting that will permit dogs into City parks, while penalizing careless owners who don’t clean up after them $2,000
Councilman DeFusco and Council President Giattino are releasing the following joint statement:
“For years the vast majority of Hoboken dog owners have acted responsibly when bringing their canine companions into our public parks. Over enforcing this policy will not solve the issues of dog litter, it only alienates dog owners and prevents Hoboken’s furry friends from enjoying open space with us. As dog owners ourselves, we understand the frustration of Hoboken residents who have been penalized for simply allowing their pets to stretch their legs. This is why we are revising a dated ordinance that makes Hoboken a more pet-friendly community. The new policy will help maintain the beauty and cleanliness in our parks and make sure Hobokenites can enjoy them whether they’re walking through them on two legs or four.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

First glance: new Suez Water contract is a huge win for Hoboken

Saddled for decades with a water contract originating back to the corrupt dark days of the Anthony Russo administration, the new water contract announced Friday is a big win for Hoboken.

The details are not fully clear and the contract itself isn't available but the ties to the historically bad contract where water revenues were surrendered in return to plug a budget deficit led to huge losses, seen and unseen.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced the new agreement with Suez on the
problematic water contract. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher spoke
on the negotiations and was joined by councilmembers Jim Doyle
and Emily Jabbour last Friday.

In one visible aspect, Hoboken was limited to 300K annually in infrastructure repairs to its antiquated water system with segments fully a century or more old. As the pipes began to burst, the 300K annually was quickly surpassed and residents inflicted with a growing million dollar and unpaid bill.

When former mayor Dawn Zimmer proposed late in her second term a new deal, all of the bad was buried along with a suggested outstanding $8.5 million bill. The sovereignty question and competitive analysis were sorely missing in her proposed contract. The council balked and no council member sponsored it for a vote. The infrastructure portion of the bill continued climbing into the double-digit millions as the City Council sought a competitive bidding process to reclaim sovereignty for the City, much-needed dignity and any semblance of fair pricing.

Finally, Mayor Ravi Bhalla after some initial saber rattling about suing for past sins signed on to the dotted line in decades past worked with the City Council to hammer out a new deal with Suez more favorable for the City of Hoboken.

The thoughtful and timely focus appears to have finally turned around an abysmal situation. More details and analysis is required but there's plenty of reason to be positive with the daylight in over $30 million in committed infrastructure without the significant increases proposed in the Zimmer proposal, as reported on the Hudson County View.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'Washington St. & Budget hearings'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:

****ALERT:  Milling and Paving on upper Washington St. starting tomorrow (4/15).  Click HERE for the notice just sent from the City about diverted 22, 89 and 126 buses.  Warning... I think the instructions aren't quite correct... and I have informed the City.  But you can get the gist with this, just be on the look out for a corrected one.  

Tomorrow night (Monday) is Budget Hearing #3 that will cover the following departments: 
  • Community Development (Development, zoning and affordable housing) – 6-7pm
  • Health & Human Services (Recreation, seniors, and rent control) – 7-8pm
  • Parking and Transportation (self explanatory...) – 8-9pm 
You can tune in online HERE (click on the April 15th date) or on FB Live.  Please tune in or better yet, attend in person and participate in the hearing!  

  • If you are someone who has raised questions or concerns about how we plan to manage development, affordable housing, rent control or our recreation and senior programs, then this is the hearing for you
  • If you are someone who wants to know HOW MUCH DOES HOBOKEN MAKE FROM PARKING METERS and other types of permit fees and what we do with these revenues, then this hearing is for you! 

Restating what I said previously:  As Chair of the Finance and Infrastructure subcommittee, I will be presiding over the hearings.  The budget that has been proposed by the mayor has an almost 3% tax increase and includes depleting our surplus.  Our job now is to determine if there is any further opportunity for us to reduce the burden on taxpayers, yet still support the necessary services to improve (or at least maintain) the quality of life of our residents.

Please join or watch this important hearing!

As always please forward this to anyone you think may be interested in this.  And feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.      
Best wishes, 

Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward

Engage. Inform. Advocate.

“More Voices are Better”

Friday, April 12, 2019

City of Hoboken announces new Suez agreement

Official release:

Agency Logo
April 12, 2019,

City of Hoboken, NJ

Community: Mayor Bhalla announces new contract with SUEZ for water main operations

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla today announced that the City of Hoboken and SUEZ have agreed to a new water service contract that would invest at least $33 million in water infrastructure upgrades through 2034. The new contract, which is subject to City Council approval, establishes a new public water utility and includes an average of $2.2 million in water investments per year, over six times the amount of the current contract.

“This contract with SUEZ provides for unprecedented investments in Hoboken’s water system,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “Hoboken has been suffering for years with increasing water main breaks due to a previous, woefully inadequate contract that provides for no proactive water main upgrades. The renegotiated agreement will finally allow Hoboken to make the critical upgrades to our water infrastructure that have been badly needed for years. I am hopeful the Council will agree and vote in support at Wednesday’s Council meeting.”

The new agreement was based upon the framework of the initial SUEZ negotiations led by former Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her administration in 2017.

“I am pleased that Mayor Bhalla's administration and SUEZ have agreed to a revised contract that provides critical funding for annual water main investments,” said Mayor Zimmer. “This achievement is the culmination of negotiations begun by my Administration and completed by Mayor Bhalla.  Thank you to the many public servants from both of our Administrations who worked so hard to make this happen.”

The agreement with the City and SUEZ calls for the establishment of a new water utility.  The revenue from the bulk water consumption would then be placed in the new water utility, and the City would then reinvest the majority of the revenue into water main upgrades. The water system would no longer be operated as a private water concession, but instead as a new public water utility. SUEZ would continue to maintain and operate the water system, however all revenues generated from water bills would be invested by the City as opposed to SUEZ.

An average of $2.2 million, over six times the amount required in the current contract, would be invested by the City each year for water main upgrades according to the contract, which includes $1.5 million in proactive upgrades and $700,000 for maintenance and repairs.  Additionally, the contract also includes $2 million in smart leak detection technology, which will record water consumption data in real-time to detect leaks.

Under a contract and several extensions negotiated by a prior administration beginning in 1994, several multi-million upfront payments to the City were used to fill budget deficits and were not invested into infrastructure upgrades. The previous agreement required only $350,000 per year for capital repairs and upgrades, which has been substantially insufficient for even emergency repairs.

Under the terms of the new contract, at least 18% of the City’s water mains will be upgraded by 2034, while the old contract upgraded only 5% of the system from 1994-2017.

In addition to the renegotiated contract with SUEZ, the Bhalla administration and the former Zimmer administration have independently invested over $17 million in water main infrastructure upgrades through the City budgeting process.  This includes $7 million for the complete replacement of century-old water mains along Washington Street and a combined $10 million in water main replacements in identified priority areas. $5.2 million of these replacements will begin construction this summer.

“SUEZ is proud to continue its partnership with the City of Hoboken and to be part of the critical transformation of its water system,” said Chris Riat from SUEZ Water. “Our priority, as well as the City’s, has always been ensuring the safety and reliability of the residents’ drinking water. We look forward to working with the City to modernize Hoboken’s infrastructure for years to come.”

“Our new contract and improved partnership with SUEZ allows Hoboken to reclaim most of our water revenues and self-fund all necessary improvements to our aging water system,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. “This is a great outcome for Hoboken and I will encourage my City Council colleagues to approve this new contract.”

Councilman Mike DeFusco: Suez agreement is "great first step" for Hoboken

Official release:

Statement from Councilman DeFusco on Hoboken’s Agreement with SUEZ
On Friday morning, Hoboken announced the City has reached an agreement with SUEZ to continue operating the city's water system. The deal will include much-needed investments in the city’s aging water infrastructure, and it stems from the kind of open, direct negotiation that Councilman Mike DeFusco called for between the city and the private water operator last year. At the time, Mayor Ravi Bhalla had threatened a lawsuit against the company, an action that could have destroyed any chance of progress if not for the intervention of the City Council.
Councilman Mike DeFusco issued the following statement:
“Last year our city was on the verge of making a historic mistake in once again jumping into a protracted lawsuit that would only benefit lawyers instead of the residents of Hoboken, by entering into a lawsuit with SUEZ. 
Last summer, I demanded that the Mayor start a dialogue with the company and work towards an agreement that would make the investments in our water infrastructure that are so badly needed. The leadership shown by the City Council, particularly Ruben Ramos and Tiffanie Fisher, rescued our city from a legal battle that would have served no one and allowed us to reach a responsible agreement with SUEZ. This is a great first step to making much-needed investments in our water system, but this is not a silver bullet, it will not entirely fix the century-old problem. We can and need to do more and I look forward to improving infrastructure across Hoboken.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

There's no joy in Mudville

Or Shadowstan.

After taking a second job he promised not to do a mere month into the office of mayor and alienating a good chunk of the Hoboken electorate, Ravi Bhalla finds more troubling discontent behind his shoulder.

The Shadow.

Whether it's due to the politically inept or ignorant climber John Allen running the show or a complete lack of attention or care, the jig is up not two years into a four-year term.

Was buddying up to Carmelo Garcia's bomb thrower and appointing her to a major Hoboken board the last straw?

It didn't help.

The rest of this content is Premium content and will go out to members later today.